Do you have a child starting school for the first time this year? Okay big deep breaths, and relax. It can be a stressful time for child and parent, so we teamed up with school book & educational supplies retailer, The Book Haven to ask parents for their top tips to make the transition to big school an easier experience for all. Here are 20 practical tips from parents for your child starting school:
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Starting in a new school is both an exciting adventure and a daunting process for parents and children alike. But with a little bit of planning the process can run smoothly and everyone will soon settle down into a routine. These tips are also useful for children moving from primary school into second level too.
Practical Tips From Parents For Starting School
#1. Buy School Books Early
Buy the books as soon as you get the book list from the school. I have been caught out leaving it to the last minute and having to wait for books to come back into stock after the school year has started.
The added benefit with this are the offers that are available from book retailers like Book Haven early in the summer.
Don’t forget to get stationery too. Copybooks, pencils, erasers and colouring pencils or crayons are often on the list.
I usually buy a bit more stationery than I need and keep it home as inevitably during the school year, your child will misplace items and will need to top up at short notice!
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#2. Cover School Books
Cover books with clear film or book covering so children can still identify the book by the front cover. Label with name on the front cover, so the teacher doesn’t have to open 20 books to hand them out. Most schools keep the books in school so tell your Junior Infant this, otherwise there might be tears when the teacher “takes their books away!”
Often bookshops offer book covering free or at a reduced cost if you order so many books with them. But if you have to cover yourself, then easier to buy the ready-made covers that slip onto the book rather than the roll of covering film which is a bit fiddly.
How The Book Haven Can Help
Book Haven have 10 stores nationwide. Schoolbooks can be ordered online and collected free from your local store or you can choose to have them delivered directly to you.
They have a handy ‘My School Booklist’ section which enables you to retrieve your schools booklist and ensures you get the correct editions for your child.
#3. Choosing Colouring Pencils
For younger children, twistable colours that don’t need sharpening are usually the best option. They can be bought in packets of 10 or 15 colours and are safe non-toxic, they last for ages and are allowed in schools unlike markers. Label each one with child’s name.
#4. Label everything
Label everything from clothing to bags, lunchboxes, coats and uniforms. Don’t forget to label pencil cases, pencils, rubbers, etc.
Children never keep track of who has borrowed what. And children will remove their outer layers when out playing or for art. It will help avoid disputes if everything is labelled.
Check semi-regularly that they are still labeled. Some of the iron-on ones come off after repeated washes and clothing pen labels can fade.
#5. Quick Method To Identify Bag & Coat
Even if your child can read their own name, chances are there will be several children with the same brand of school bag and coat. Adding a fun key ring will help them quickly identify which is theirs.
#6. Help Your Child To Help Themselves
Use the summer to teach children how to help themselves. Tasks like blowing and wiping their own nose in a tissue, not on their sleeve! How to cough into their elbow and how to wash their hands properly. And if they need help going to the loo, be sure to encourage to go by themselves over the summer too.
In addition, get them to practice taking on and off their own shoes, doing up their coat, opening and zipping their school bags.
Being able to do these things themselves gives them a sense of confidence.
#7. Choosing A Lunch Box & Drinks Bottle
Be sure to choose a lunch box and drinks bottle that your child can easily open and close by themselves.
Shop for them together with your child so you can see before you buy that they can manage them.
Try to pick a drinks bottle that has an extra cap over the lid to save spilling. And keep in mind how easy everything will be to wash and stay smelling fresh.
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#8. Making Lunch Manageable
Several small containers within the lunchbox or bag are a great idea for making lunch more manageable.
For example, have one with a few crackers, one with a few grapes or tangerine segments, one with some carrot sticks, one with cut-up sandwich and a cheese stick.
This makes it easy for a child to choose an item to eat quickly and spread out their lunch over the day so they don’t eat everything at small break and end up hungry at big lunch!
You could also consider buying a lunchbox that has separate compartments. (Just make sure they can open each one!)
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#9. Avoid Messy Snacks
Check with your school on their lunch policy. Healthy snacks are usually the order of the day. Avoid snacks that can drip, spill or get everywhere if they are knocked over.
Many schools will ask you not to provide your child with yoghurts in any form. Apart from the risk of it spilling in their bag or on the floor, yoghurt can up all over their uniform!
Also keep in mind how the lunch will smell. Children don’t want to get a name for being the child with the smelly lunch!
Finally, adhere to any allergy notifications from the school. Or if your child has a severe allergy, inform the school ahead of time so other parents can be prepared.
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#10. Make Ahead
Make up the lunchbox the day before rather than in the morning and pop it in the fridge, you won’t feel so stressed in the mornings when you are busy trying to get everyone dressed, fed and out the door. A logistical exercise, if ever there was one!
Another good idea is to have a selection of lunch box items on a shelf and in the fridge for your child to choose and make their own lunch from. It gives them a sense of independence and they are more likely to eat everything if they have chosen what has gone into the lunch box!
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#11. Be Quick & Firm
Get your child to school in plenty of time. Send them into school with a quick hug and ‘have a good day’ message and walk away.
Try not to linger when you drop them off. Children will pick up on Mum/Dad being anxious or upset and once one starts usually a few more will follow!
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#12. Allow Time To Settle In
Try not to worry about “someone didn’t play with me” stories. This is all new to them and they can take a few weeks to settle.
Best friends will usually change during the 1st year of school too, so be prepared for this.
And sometimes junior infants can seem settled to start with then seem to become unsettled (maybe as the realisation hits them that this is really it!) – this is normal, don’t worry about it too much.
If you have any concerns about your child, get an appointment to have a chat with their teacher.
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#13. Swap Numbers
During the 1st few days, try and swap numbers with at least one other parent. That way, if you are running late for pickup you can contact someone to keep them until you arrive and you can do the same for them.
Plus it lets you get to know other parents which is handy for arranging future play dates and parties.
Make sure you save the other parents’ phone numbers in your phone, no good to you when you are stuck in traffic and they are on the fridge!!!
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#14. All Change
Get your child into the habit of changing out of their uniform as soon as they get home from school.
This will really help save on washing and on wear and tear. Check for any major stains and do a quick rinse that night, rather than discovering at 8 a.m. the next morning!
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#15. Take Care Over Birthday Invites
Most schools will tell you this is their policy but try to avoid the scenario of handing out birthday invitations in the schoolyard unless you are inviting the whole class!
Another good reason to swap phone numbers of parents so you can do invites by text to avoid upsetting any kids that are not invited.
When my children started school, parents all agreed to a ‘birthday policy’ of giving €5 in a card to the birthday child for parties they attended. It is such a good idea if you can get parents onboard. The birthday child can then choose their own present and parents don’t have to struggle to get a gift for a child they may not know well.
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#16. Park & Stride
If driving, allow time to park a little way from school and walk in. This will help you avoid the parking melee at school gates. It will also give you a few minutes of exercise together in the morning and a chance to have a chat.
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#17. Check Their School Bag
Check school bags every day for school notes or invitations. Your child will forget to tell you there’s a note so make sure to ask them if they got anything from their teacher to give to you.
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#18. Give Them Time
After a busy day at school your little one will need time to decompress. Don’t fire questions at them the minute they come out, tempted as you may be! Wait for them to talk and listen to what they have to say without interrupting.
Have a snack ready for when they get home, they will be hungry! Sit with them and encourage conversation.
#19. Have Routines
Most children enjoy order and routine. Establish a good morning routine which builds in a bit of time for any last minute hitches.
Your children will be tired, especially in the first few weeks. Stick to their usual bedtime routine and it will make life easier on everyone.
#20. Realise That You Know Nothing
Be prepared to realise that you know nothing and their new teacher knows everything! (even if you feel you could be said teacher’s mother!!)
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Have your say! Do you have a tip for a parent of a child starting school? Share it in the comments below.