Starting school, Tips for Parents is a round-up of all my and others’ precious knowledge of things that would have made that first day of school and subsequent days in the classroom so much easier. Looking back at my children’s education experience, there are so many things that I wish I had known before they started school: tips, tricks and things that made my life easier and helped me help them.
Starting school tips for parents
Honestly, most of these things are just common sense and become routine the longer your kids are in school, such as getting enough sleep and a good morning routine, however, it is not only children that have anxieties about school, often it is us the parents that actually project our own insecurities and experiences on to our children when actually schools have changed so much since we went to school (heck, the internet didn’t exist when I was at school)! Lots of parents try to ensure their children can spell their name before they start kindergarten when actually it is more important to be able to use a knife and fork.
Make sure you check out our tips on How to Save on Back to School Shopping
Label everything, yes everything – but actually don’t label it – save yourself the time and hassle of ironing or stitching in name labels and order a Stamptastic stamp. I used these for the boys and they last are super easy and you only need one! Your children will lose clothes and bring home the wrong shoes or even socks (trust me, I have been there). So this is so important and will save you ££££. This permanent stamp works really well for me. I just use our surname (perfect when handing it down in a family) and it really lasts, we have things that have been stamped 5 years ago and passed on that still have the name stamp in them. Get £4.99 discount when you order the School Name Labels Deluxe Bundle using the code MITMH15
By the right size, a uniform is often cheaper than clothes (Aldi has a great selection and I can vouch for them). Look for adjustable waist, trousers or skirts with a built-in turn-up (for growth) and reinforced knees. Buy short-sleeved shirts, schools get warm. If you don’t have to buy school-branded then don’t – find a local embroidery shop that can add the school logo if required. This also goes for a school bag or backpack, don’t send them in with a massive bag that will slip off their shoulders and be hard to carry or you will just end up carrying it for them! I would suggest that you allow them to get a funky backpack and brightly coloured coat, that way you can spot them in a crowd on the playground and also it gives them some individual style in a sea of uniformity.
Lots of schools will offer second-hand uniforms for sale, so check that out too. Children grow fast, especially when they are young so often the clothing will have lots of wear left.
When it comes to shoes, look for ones with rugged toes and check the kid’s sizes regularly. Remember that they will have to get changed for PE so make sure they can tie laces if they have them or opt for velcro fastening. Comfort is important.
Young children thrive with a routine so make it simple but effective for everyone. Encourage your child to do as much as they can for themselves, so start them early with an alarm and a chart explaining what is expected of them. No TV or distractions before they are dressed for school, have had breakfast and brushed their teeth. Also, practice your school routine a couple of pf times too, it helps you plan how long you need to allow to get ready and walk to school.
Whilst we are talking about breakfast. Try and get your child to skip the sugary cereal and opt for eggs or porridge, that way you are not worrying too much about what they eat during the school day. I designed visual prompts for their routine and bags (you can find them here)
No matter what they do eat, you can guarantee that they will be ravenous when they come out of school, so make sure you have a healthy snack at hand (even if you are going to the park or a play date after school).
When it comes to routine, sleep is key and a regular bedtime and wake time will be invaluable, remember they will be emotionally shattered in those first few weeks, but they may also have the energy to burn so a trip to the park on the way home from school is a brilliant idea.
It also pays to have a routine as a parent too for me this meant checking their bags for letters and newsletters and responding immediately, keeping an eye on the school website and making sure I added dates to my calendar and dairy as soon as I got them – I swear by Boxclever Press for academic year calendars and dairies. It also helps to ask the teacher for a list of all their new classmates names.
My personal belief is that homework is OK if it supports a child’s learning, however, it isn’t essential for primary-aged children and at that age is more for the parents than the child.
We focussed on reading and spelling at home and left the rest to the school with the proviso that they inform me if the boys were ever falling behind.
Over the years my opinion on homework hasn’t changed in fact it has been reinforced. I believe that family time and play are so important in the early years and that homework time is better spent on sports, life skills or just having hugs.
So these are my tips – We used the hug button but in these post covid times, the pen will just wash off so here are some other ideas to help preschoolers adjust on their big day.
My other top tip is to take all the photographs each and every year, even when they are teens (pay them if you have to).