19 Tips for to Help Make Your Child's First Day of School Easy
The first day of school can be a stressful experience for children and parents alike. Preparing early can help alleviate some of the fears and make the transition into school more comfortable for all involved. Here are some hints to help both child and parent.
Leading Up to the First Day
Talk with your child about what is going to happen. In the weeks leading up to the first day, make sure you take the time to explain to your child what school is and why they are going. School will always be a scary proposition for some children, but the more you are able to engage them in conversation about what to expect and how they are feeling, the more confident they will feel going into their first day.
Start learning the school day routine early. About a week before school starts, begin following a schedule for an easy school day. Start with an early bedtime so your child can get plenty of rest. Get them up early with enough time to get dressed and have breakfast without any running around with added stress. If you want your child to help prepare their own lunch, then make sure there is enough time for that as well. Kids thrive on routine and their days at school will be full of it, so the sooner you can introduce them to what’s expected of them on school days, the less scary school days will become.
Get the right shoes. If your child can’t tie their own laces yet, get a pair of shoes with Velcro closures instead. They need to be able to put on and take off any footwear by themselves. If they are having trouble with the different feet, you can mark each one with an L and R or something else that will help them know which shoe goes on which foot.
Label everything. Every item of clothing, everything going into their schoolbag, including the bag itself, needs a clear label with your child’s name. Don’t forget shoes, lunchboxes, and hats.
Teach your child to recognize their full name. Not only will this make their life easier at school but will help them identify their own things that you made sure to label! The last thing you need to be doing is buying replacements for things you’ve just bought.
Let them practice eating out of a lunch box. For the week leading up to their first day, prepare and pack your child’s lunch in a lunch box for the day and let them get used to eating out of it. They will learn how to unwrap their food and what can go into the bin and what should be brought back home. (We’re looking at you spoons!) Make sure they can open and close any food containers you are planning for snacks along with yogurt containers, granola bars, and wrapped cheeses. Most kids don’t have any trouble peeling a banana, but oranges are not only almost impossible for kids to peel, they are incredibly messy as well, so think about replacing them with an apple.
Take them on a dry run. Swing by the school and show your child where you will be bringing them. If your child hasn’t already attended any pre-class introductions, speak to the Principal about a small tour where you can show your child around their new environment. Bonus points if you can show them where their classroom and the bathroom will be.
Make sure you child knows how to go to the bathroom and how to wash and dry their hands by themselves. They should also know how to take off and put back on any coats or jackets they might be wearing.
Organize a play date. If you know any other parents that have kids who are going to attend the same school, a play date can be a great way to make sure your child sees a familiar face on their first day.
Keep talking! Ask your child questions about school; what are they looking forward too? What are they worried about? The more you can explain and normalize school life, the less fear your child will have. Be enthusiastic and excited about what they are going to learn and try to make sure they know it’s okay to be a little nervous or scared of their first day.
The First Day
Make an early start. Don’t be in a rush on the first day. Get your child up early so you can both take your time getting dressed and eating a nice healthy breakfast.
Let your child help pack their own lunch. Let them choose between snacks and make sure they understand what things they should be eating for a snack and what to save for lunch.
Double check schoolbag. Make sure you have packed anything extra your child might be required to bring on the first day. Some schools ask for things like tissues, an art smock, or spare clothes. Now is the time to double check whether you got it all.
Be positive. Your child will probably be feeling nervous and scared. Keep the morning light hearted and don’t forget to ask questions so you can reinforce all the positives about school. Children pick up on their parent’s emotions so be calm, have fun, and keep a lid on any fears or sadness you’re having about this new part of your child’s life.
Know ahead of time where to drop off and pick up. Some schools prefer parents not to bring their children all the way into the classroom for drop off, so plan ahead and make a point of showing where you will be waiting at the end of the day. Tell them what time you will be waiting and reinforce that they will be seeing you again soon.
Don’t cry! This can be a tough one, especially for those parents who have not used day care services, but your tears will only confuse your child after spending all that time telling them what a great place school is.
Don’t linger. After saying goodbye, don’t hover outside where your child can still see you, you’ll only prolong any separation anxiety they might have. Kids are tough and any tears will be short-lived, and they have a chance to take in all the exciting things in their new environment.
Say hello to other parents. You’re going to be seeing a lot of these people over the following years and they are going through exactly the same thing you are. This is a great time to swap details and start developing a parent network.
Take a moment for yourself, you’ve earned it! Depending on what the rest of your day looks like, go out for a coffee or lunch and unwind. This can also be a great time to catch up with any new parents you’ve just met who are probably feeling just as lost as you are.
Be waiting when school finishes. Be where you told your child you would meet them with a big smile on your face. Try to make the next few minutes all about them. Ask them how their day was. Find out what they did, who they met, what was awesome, and what wasn’t. If your child doesn’t want to talk about it straight away, though, don’t push. Wait to get home before asking again.
Keep talking and stay involved. Honest communication will be one of your greatest allies in the coming years. Make sure your child feels comfortable talking to you about all aspects of their day, good and bad.
School will be one of the most important journeys of their life, and you want to encourage open conversation as soon as possible. The greater the interest you show in their day, the more likely they are to share anything that might require closer attention.
The first day of school is an important milestone for your child. Hopefully, these tips will help you get the most out of this special day and provide a happy, healthy start to the school year.
For additional tips to prepare your child for the first day of Kindergarten, check out this article.