Over my years of teaching Prep you establish a few tricks that help children to make a smooth transition into school. Whether it be their first year of Kindergarten or School there will be a lot for families and children to take on board.
While there are an abundance of things you can do these are my top essentials that will make life easier for all.
Containers and drink bottles
Did you go out and buy all new snack and lunch containers or the latest drink bottle? Can your child open and close them? Pack their lunchbox, fill their drink bottle and then head out to a park or for a picnic. Let them get their own things out, manage the lids, the wrapping or packaging and then put it all away again. Yes the teacher will help but they have a class of children so the more independent your child is the better.
Also think about the kinds of foods you are sending, will they sustain your child throughout the day and help them to learn? Our little man Harrison is like me, he loves a smorgasbord! Variety is key. There are some great groups on Facebook for lunch ideas such as Lunchbox Ideas Australia. It doesn't need to be gourmet but you do want to try and incorporate some fruit, vegetables, protein and carbohydrates. We do a baking session and fill our freezer with homemade things that are great as lunch box fillers for little ones and adults alike. They are also good to grab for breakfast when in a rush such as cheeseymite scrolls, berry and banana bread, homemade muesli bars and fruit and seed muffins.
Pack a spare pair of underwear and socks in a plastic bag in your child’s school bag. Even though your child may have been toilet trained for a while, school is different! The toilets are often further away and they are busy and can become distracted. By the time they ask it may be too late. If you can add a spare school dress or pair of shorts.
Packing the necessary equipment into their own school bag will help them look after their belongings. It’s hard to take care of your art smock if you don’t know you have one or what it looks like! Show your child what is in their bag and how to pack it. Let them practise packing and unpacking their bag. A clear label on their items also helps.
While we’re on that, label everything! In particular hats, drink bottles and containers. Oh and if you’re using separate small containers label the bottom and the lid!
Explaining the routine
Decide what your morning routine will be so your child knows what to expect. Talk about their jobs and the plan. Will you be dropping them at the door? The gate? Going in their room? Staying for 5 minutes or leaving straight away? Children can become anxious if they don’t know what’s coming next. The same goes for your pick up routine. Where will you be? What if you’re late? Try to be clear and consistent as it helps your child to feel comfortable and safe.
Prepare yourself! Have a clear plan in your mind of what you will do. Be positive, keep it brief and remain calm. You might stay longer the first day but after that try to stick to a daily drop, bye and go. Walk your child in, tell them you’re going to be leaving in 5 minutes, remind them that you have to go to work or do jobs while they are at school having fun and learn new things. Help them find an activity or friend and say ‘I love you, have a great day’ kiss, hug, goodbye and smile as you go. If your child is upset remain calm and reassure them with the same words above then leave. Trust me the teachers are trained to handle these situations and 9 times out of 10 children settle quickly once families have left. In my 9 years of teaching Prep I think I would have made half a dozen phone calls to parents when children have not settled. 6 phone calls in around 1800 days isn’t too bad!
While each family have different evening routines it’s important to take time to reflect on the day and get organised for the next one. Unpacking and repacking bags the night before helps to not forget something and makes for a calmer morning. Discussing your child’s school day shows them that they are valued and what they’re doing is important. Yes you will get a lot of nothing answers but the more your family invest in this time the more the conversation will develop. Instead of ‘what did you do at school today?’ try some of these -
Where did you play at recess or lunchtime?
What made you smile today?
What was something interesting that happened today?
Tell me one nice thing that happened to you today?
When did you feel most proud of your self today?
What did you try and get better at today?
Have a calendar in a designated space, with a folder or clipboard where you will collect notes and record important dates and events. Does your child have to take a library bag on a certain day? What about outside of school activities?
Knowing what you will do with notes and important information before it is found scrunched up at the bottom of the bag will also help with the smoothness of this transition.
If you're after some more information about getting ready for school you can see our blog series on School Readiness. We will continue with this series looking at fine motor skills and numeracy skills in the coming weeks.