Starting school advice: 50 tips to prepare you and your child
When my daughter started school a few years ago, I was looking for some advice to manage the transition. Who better to ask than my readers, some of whom have school aged kids. So I asked for their help on Facebook such school lunches, uniform and shoes, tips for the first day of school, volunteering at the school, how to make friends with other mums and whatever else is important to know. As always, they didn’t disappoint. Here’s some of their fabulous advice.
Let’s start with uniforms. Aside from looking so cute, my questions included how many clothes to buy and when to buy them. I learned that you can start purchasing uniforms now but buy slightly larger to accommodate growth spurts. Label everything and remember the more uniforms you buy, less washing through the week.
Reader tips about school uniforms
- I’d wait until a few weeks before school starts before buying the uniforms and shoes in case your little one has a growth spurt over December and January. (Gemma T)
- Velcro is your friend! They will learn to tie their shoes eventually but it’s not worth the stress in the morning. (Bernadette J)
- Also get 2 hats as 1 will go missing and it will take a while to get back to the rightful owner (even if it is labelled!). (Tracey C)
- Prepare yourself for the lost property nightmare!! I found two uniforms plus the sports uniform was perfect. Agree 2 hats. Or else they can’t play without one. (Anita P)
- Need 2 dresses and one sports. Buy second hand if only child. Jumpers always second hand. Shoes, go cheapo for first term, they will grow and you will see how quickly they trash them. (Simone O)
- I would recommend 4 everyday shirts and one sports shirt as otherwise you are constantly washing shirts. (Emma B)
- Uniforms suggestion: 3 shirts for boys, 2 shorts, 5 socks. (Anna K)
- To avoid blisters, get kids to break in shoes while walking around the house in January. (Julie S)
- Uniforms – if money isn’t a problem wait til the last term e.g. now, if you have money struggles pick up some things through the year, look in op shops and some schools have a second hand uniform shop. Wait til January for the back to school sales for the rest. (Sarah P)
- Uniforms suggestion: 3 shirts for boys, 2 shorts, 5 socks. (Anna K)
This is an area where I definitely could use some help. After a few years of childcare with lunch and tea supplied, it’s a bit daunting to think about organizing five days worth of snacks and school lunches. From the comments of my readers, pay attention to the containers and pack less than you think as kids only have 10 or 15 minutes to eat lunch. I did some research and found some great ideas for school lunches on Pinterest. . Also, check out the Cancer Council ‘Eat it to Beat It’ program. We received a really useful booklet with loads of healthy ideas for school lunches broken down into carbs, protein and fruit and vegetables.
Reader tips about school lunches
- Keep school lunch simple and don’t pack anything they can’t unwrap themselves. And write their name on all their lunch containers with permanent marker, including the lids. (Gemma T)
- I try and buy containers that don’t separate lids. It does my head in if only half the container comes home. (Tracey C)
- I open the lid of the squeeze yogurt and replace loosely before packing. (Janice O)
- The first year generally most of the food comes back !! Keep it very simple. Label everything and expect to lose all your plastic containers within the first year. (Teval G)
- Don’t stress if it seems like they aren’t eating much first few weeks/months – the excitement of play over rules eating. Mid year my daughter got sick of sandwiches so we had to come up with alternatives to mix it up – salads and quiches made a good lunch. (Kristel B)
- Use containers they can open to pack sandwiches etc.labelled of course. Lunch bag that has separate sections, so recess in one, lunch in other. Too often kids each their sandwich at recess as didn’t know! (Sinead O)
- Don’t expect them to eat like they normally do. They are too excited and want to play. Keep fruit/lunch/recess really simple and easy to access and undo – took me a while to not overdo the lunch box. They will then be starving after school. Practice using the lunchbox and understanding there will be three breaks and which food is for when. E.g. from Day 1, if I have a treat in the lunchbox like a homemade muffin or slice I make it really clear that’s for recess and the other food (usually protein based) is for lunch so eat first. (Anita P)
- Lots of food ideas, sandwiches, wraps, popcorn, fruit, muffins etc. Nothing with nuts. Some schools no eggs. Nothing that takes too long to eat, they’ll want to go play with friends. (Sarah P)
- Pack easy foods, more nibbly stuff then huge meals and some kids eat heaps and other don’t. (Nadine K)
- Don’t wrap sandwiches in cling wrap. Most kindy kids can’t open them and the teacher spends the whole time opening lunches. (Christie A)
Getting prepared for the first day of school
It’s a few months to the start of the school year, but here are some tips to manage the transition to ‘Big School’.
- Talk about starting school in a positive manner.
- Focus on all the friends they will meet and new things they will learn.
- Encourage kids to be independent as there will be more kids in class and teachers will have less time to help them. Make sure they can go to the toilet themselves (teach boys to use urinals).
- Implement a regular sleep and waking routine for your child. Kids need to be in bed at a reasonable time so that they wake up refreshed ready for school.
- Fine motor skills are important so encourage kids to practice drawing, painting, cutting, writing their name and sorting items.
- Read books about starting school to your kids. Here a Newy with Kids blog post containing recommendations for books about starting school.
First day of school
After all the build up comes the excitement of the first day of school. Here are a few tips to make it smooth as possible.
- Have everything prepared the day before like school bags, uniforms, shoes, lunch etc.
- Get up early so there’s no need to rush and place additional pressure on your child.
- If your child has a friend starting school as well, make plans to meet at school for additional support.
- Take lots of photos of this special occasion.
- Be sure to say a proper goodbye to your child and resist the temptation to sneak off. If they start to get upset, hand them over to a teacher and leave.
- Although it’s a very emotional time for parents, don’t cry in front of the child. Be cheerful and positive as not to upset your child.
- Be there early to pick them from their first day of school.
- Ask them questions about their day and be positive about them returning to school the following day.
First couple of months
From the advice of my readers, it seems that starting school is a transition for the entire family. I especially appreciate the advice that kids will be tired and to be prepared for meltdowns and crankiness.
Reader Tips for the first couple of months of school
- Try to keep an open mind and go with the flow those first few days of chaos. With 60 new kindergarteners starting school, things will be hectic … It’s not a reflection necessarily on the school or the teacher. I was ready to pull mine out and home school after the first week. I was stressed about her starting and felt there wasn’t a nice learning environment in chaotic classroom. My fears were put to rest when I started volunteering. Routine emerged quickly and all was quite lovely. Just give it a bit of time. (Janice O)
- Expect that they will be really tired for the first month or so. You need a bucket full of patience for the meltdowns ….bring your routine forward…feed and bathe them early. (Mel A)
- Don’t worry too much about how clever your child is, just concentrate on them settling in and having a good time. Don’t organise or do much after school. For the first few months as your child will be exhausted and in bed early. We did dinner for afternoon tea and a snack before bed for a while until boys settled into the new full on routine. (Nadine K)
- I agree that to try and keep after school stuff to a minimum for a while as they are very tired. Be prepared for them to be cranky as I think they hold it all in and then vent afterwards. (Renae M)
School community, volunteering & meeting other parents
It’s not just kids who will be introduced to a new community of friends, it’s also parents. I met some lovely parents during kindergarten orientation and ended up volunteering at the school as well as contributing via the P&C.
Reader Tips about school community, volunteering & meeting other parents
Here’s some tips from my readers on getting involved and meeting new parents
- Drop off and pick up you will get to know the mums and dads who are there doing the same. Your child will make friends and you will quickly get to know those mums. Be prepared for the never ending stream of birthday parties. I was surprised how many invited the whole class…but it makes sense I guess since and is a good way to meet parents. I enjoy volunteering but had to give up home reading as my baby got too heavy for the carrier. I also did in class reading groups and this was great for getting to know the class and them to know who you are. It’s lovely when the kids know you and come up to talk to you. Also, there will be plenty if opportunities to attend school events, etc. Try to do this as much as you can. I’ve been so impressed with all the great things the school does with the kids. ( (Janice O)
- Volunteer for canteen once a term if you can. There are also numerous and ongoing opportunities to volunteer to help in class (reading, maths group, etc) so try to help out if work allows as this is a great way to see your child in the school environment and to also meet the other kids. Arrange kinder play dates in the local park after school and get everyone to bring a plate – great way to get to know the other parents. (Emma B)
- Ask the teacher how you can help and do some class room reading. I realised this was the best way to get to know all the kids and keep an eye on how my child was doing. (Anita P)
- As far as meeting new parents, my general attitude is to smile and say hello to people, when you go past them into the school and if you are waiting for school to come out I do the same and ask what class their child is in, and before you know it you will meet parents with similar interests. I also do my utmost to not involve myself in gossip and move away if I hear it. Going to the first P&C meeting can be helpful I find as I know ahead of time what they are planning etc. I help out occasionally at canteen and on fete days etc. (Renae M)
- If your eldest is starting school make friends with a family that already have at least one child at the school. It’s so helpful to have them as a resource for confirming details and asking questions. The school try hard to communicate, but to be honest they are pretty poor at telling new parents everything they need to know. (Natalie W)
- Check the bag every day before you leave school for drink bottle/ lunchbox/ hat etc. I’ve lost 2 little thermos containers this year by getting slack with checking and someone obviously knows they’re worth $30 each as they were gone when we got there the next day. Whereas there are always lunchboxes around. (Anita P)
- If there is problem with kids friends, I try and stay out of it and try and get them to work it out, but if gets out of hand, speak to teacher and they usually sort it out. (Renae M)
- Teach your child proper hand washing and hope for the best. There often isn’t soap in the bathrooms. (Yuck) but they have it in classroom. (Janice O)
I know it’s not a pleasant topic but I had to include head lice as it can be a problem at school.
- Lice jump from head to head via so tie or braid hair back. On fringes, use hairspray or gel to keep hair from flying around. Remind kids not to share or swap hats. (Karen W)
- Use a lice preventive spray. They work. (Alicia)
Hope these tips help! Thanks to my readers who shared their expertise.
If you have any more advice to share, please feel to comment below.