Starting school at any level can be a challenging experience. Whether your child is starting pre-school for the first time or going as a returning student to the next grade or restarting in-person school, after a period of online classes during the pandemic, it does help to adequately prepare your child for school. Apart from working on school readiness, it also helps to introduce your child to the concept of school and what to expect.
Considering most children are on their summer break, their routines might be different and not in tune with school timings. It helps to slowly change bedtimes and mealtimes similar to their school schedule as starting and establishing a new routine takes time and practice. This can ease your child’s transition to the school schedule Setting a consistent routine for children can help them feel secure, and relaxed while helping them know what to expect. Forming a routine that allows your child sufficient time to finish daily activities and also set aside time to connect and spend time with you will help your child adjust better to the demands of school. Forming a morning routine that includes sufficient time for freshening up, having breakfast and getting ready for school is important. Similarly, ensure their evening routine is comfortable and relaxed, allowing sufficient time to wind down with a bath, some bedtime stories, reading, some special time talking about the day’s events and of course an early bedtime that ensures your child gets enough sleep. Some children respond better to visual charts to understand what’s expected of them as they go about their day.
Reading and storytelling are powerful tools of communication with children. Setting aside time for reading can not only help establish a love for reading and improve vocabulary but also spark imagination and thinking, which are important building skills for school. With younger children who are starting pre-school, you can also read books about school to give them an idea of what to expect in school. Make reading a part of your daily routine. Setting a cozy reading nook and keeping age-appropriate books handy for your child can nudge them towards developing a love for reading.
This is helpful especially if your child is starting preschool or starting at a new school or returning to in-person classes after a long period of remote learning. Many children might have only seen their classrooms virtually and not had the chance to meet their teachers personally. Being familiar with the campus, classroom and atmosphere can put them at ease when they eventually begin school. It’s a good idea to visit the school a few days before school starts to show your child their classroom and if possible, also arrange to meet their teacher. Giving them a tour of the playground, library and other facilities at their school can help form positive associations with the school. Talk to your child’s teacher in advance about any questions and concerns you have.
Take your child shopping for their school supplies and requirements; stationery, a school bag, a water bottle, uniforms, shoes and anything else they may need. Wherever possible involve your child and let them choose, like a new book to celebrate going back to school or a box to carry their snacks. This will bring in some excitement about starting school, and make them look forward to being back at school.
Some children might be more anxious than others to start school and be away from their parents. Talking to your child about what their day at school will look like can help them know what to expect. Reassure your child that you will be back at the end of the day to pick them up. And while you might be nervous about how they will fare in a new environment, it is important you don’t let your child pick up on this anxiety. Expect a few tears, especially in the first few days of school but stay calm and positive for your child. Keep your goodbyes brief and quick at school drop-offs. Lingering and soothing your child for long periods will make them feel more anxious about leaving you. Give them a few days and they’ll look forward to being dropped off at school.
While you want to prepare your child for school, it is important you don’t overprepare your child. Talking to them about school and preparing them can start 2-3 weeks before school starts, instead of laying too much emphasis on starting school, months in advance. This can make your child feel like starting school is a huge experience and overwhelm them with anxiety and nervousness. Keeping it simple and casual instead of making it a big event works better. You can casually talk about school as you go through daily activities with your child. Eg; “When you go to preschool, you can carry your snack in a box, like this one”.
This can be done with small everyday tasks, like feeding themselves a snack, putting away their toys after playtime, clearing their plate after mealtimes or dressing up. Depending on their age, pick appropriate chores for your child to do, so that they gain independence in self-care. You can look through our list of tips and tricks to get your child more involved in household chores. Being able to independently use the toilet, feed and dress themselves and be responsible for their belongings will help them settle at school much better. Support your child and encourage the little steps they take towards independent self-care.
When your child is adequately prepared, starting school can be a more positive experience, filled with excitement and eagerness. We hope our tips help you and your child look forward to starting school.