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How to prepare for your child's first day at school

How do you get your child's school career off to a stress-free start? Here are a few tips

    In a few weeks, Prince George will start reception along with thousands of four-year olds throughout the country. This exciting transition to “big school” is a milestone for both child and parent but how can we ensure the process is stress-free?

    For many parents, the concept of “school readiness” denotes that their little ones should be able to read a chapter book cover to cover, add up their weekly shop and even speak basic Mandarin. What, however, does “being school ready” really mean? Partnerships for Jewish Schools’ Early Years Cluster has compiled the following tips:

    Spend Time preparing together:

    * Chat with your child about starting school. 

    * Find photos of you and other family members at school and share happy memories from your own school days.

    * Read books together about starting school. 

    * If your child seems anxious, try focusing on what they’ll like best — maybe the sandpit, playhouse or new friends. 

    * Talk about any concerns or worries your child might have. Provide reassurance by discussing what to do and who to tell in these situations. 

    * If your child has a favourite security toy or blanket, try to get them used to being without it during the day. 

    Physical Readiness:

    * Help your child to be confident about getting to the toilet in time, using toilet paper and flushing.  

    * Chat about handwashing with soap and water. A great way to demonstrate how germs can linger is to let your child cover their hands in paint (pretend germs!) and then try to wash it all off. 

    * Practise putting on their school clothes, taking them off and folding them neatly or laying them over the back of a chair. Clothes with elastic waists and shoes with Velcro are easier to handle for young children. 

    * Practise using a full-sized knife and fork and carrying a plate or tray. Or if they’re taking a lunchbox, opening containers and packets. This is also great for their fine motor skills.

     * “Catch it, bin it, kill it” will be important to fend off those germs and bugs — using a tissue, binning it straightaway, then washing hands to kill germs. Nose-blowing can be difficult, so play games to practise nose control eg blowing a feather into the air.

    * Get your child into the habit of hanging their coat up, putting their toys away, clearing the table, and so on, to prepare them for doing this at school. 

    Classroom Etiquette: 

    * Encourage your child to hold their pencils with a tripod grip (thumb and first two fingers holding the pencil) in their dominant hand (some children will still switch hands, which is perfectly normal). 

    * Practise cutting skills by drawing some straight and squiggly lines and getting them to follow the lines with scissors. 

    * Preparing your child to ask the teacher for help will enable their needs to be met in the hubbub of a busy classroom. 

    * Young children need to be able to sit, listen and respond to instructions. Playing “Simon Says” encourages strong listening and response skills.

    Your Checklist:

    * Practise the school morning routine including the journey, getting dressed and eating breakfast in time to leave. 

    * Read all the mailings from school about equipment and dates. Do you know what they’ll need for the first few days and when the key school events are?  

    * Prepare a photo chart for your child of who will be picking them each day.

    * Consider having a phrase or routine for separating; many little ones want parents to linger but establishing a strategy will enable them to settle in quicker. If they are expected to go in on their own, talk through with them what they will need to do on arrival.

    * Although labelling everything is both laborious and tedious, name tags are reallly essential for your children and teachers.  

    Over the next few weeks have fun together — share stories, sing songs, play games and talk about anything and everything. Your child’s first few years fly by and before you know it you’ll be driving on the M1 to take them off to study Mandarin in Birmingham.