Getting Ready for Starting School 3 - All By Myself!

It’s scary how quickly children grow up, isn’t? Here they are in their last few months at nursery and it seems like five minutes since life was all about nappies, feeds and sleepless nights! Tiny newborns transform into wobbly toddlers and soon they’re entertaining you with their funny questions and exhausting you with their endless energy.

Most pre-schoolers are keen to have a go at doing things by themselves and it’s a really good idea to encourage this as much as possible. P1/Reception teachers are realistic - they know some children will need a little extra help with practical tasks particularly in the first few days and weeks but the more independent your child is the more confident they will feel which will really help them settle in and enjoy school. I know it’s sometimes quicker to do things for your child and doing up one small person’s zip only takes a moment but try multiplying that by 25 and you’ll get an idea why infant teachers deserve some kind of massive gold star for patience!

Much of the first few weeks at school involves what can only be described as training - where to hang your coat up, where to put your bag, how to line up in the classroom, where you can play in the playground, what to do when the bell rings, where the toilets are, how to eat your lunch….the list is very long. Learning classroom routines is an important part of school life but there are definitely things you can do to help which will also make your child’s teacher VERY happy!

  • Encourage your child to fasten up their coat or jacket by themselves. Buttons, zips, toggles and poppers are all tricky for little fingers and might need a bit of practice so rather than getting harassed when you’re rushing to get out the door, pop their jackets on when you’ve got more time and let them have a go then.

  • Ask your child to fold their clothes when they take them off or get them to help you fold and put away clean laundry. Only buy school shoes with buckles or laces if they are able to fasten them by themselves otherwise go for Velcro! This will really help when they’re getting ready for PE lessons.

  • If your child is going to be having a packed lunch try out their lunch box in the weeks before they start school. Include the types of food they’re likely to have and make sure they can open and close the lunch box, unwrap cling film on sandwiches and open/close drinks bottles and containers.

  • Having a “proper” school lunch can be quite daunting for little ones. School dining halls are often busy, noisy places and children may have to negotiate carrying a tray, collecting food and drink and finding somewhere to sit. Lots of schools offer parents the chance to have a school lunch with their child which is a great idea and usually they’ll get lots of help in the first few weeks but learning how to use a knife and fork can make a big difference (I say this as someone whose heart sank when baked potatoes were on the menu!). This link has some great tips and ideas to help your child learn this skill.

  • Make sure your child can go to the toilet independently, knows how to wipe themselves and can flush the toilet and wash their hands when they’ve finished. Little boys should be taken to a gents toilet so that they know what to do if the school has urinals. Knowing how to use a tissue to blow their nose is important too!

Years ago I read that you should never do anything for your child which they are capable of doing for themselves. That’s maybe a bit extreme - sometimes doing things for another person is a nice way to show we care - but teaching your child some of these basic skills will definitely make life easier for them when they start school.

Elaine Kent