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How to Prepare for the First Day of School

Starting school is a huge milestone in every child’s life. Even if your child has attended day care or preschool, the first day of “big kids’ school” is a new concept. New friends, new building, new schedule, new teachers…it can be a bit overwhelming for the child (and sometimes the parents too!) Here are a few tips on making that transition into school easier.

First of all, there are skills that children should have before they even step inside school. These basic skills could be the key in helping a child become successful in his/her first school year. Experts suggest that children should be able to:

  • Listen without interrupting.
  • Follow two-step directions.
  • Speak in complete sentences.
  • Share with others.
  • Understand “big” and “little,” “more” and “less,” and “top” and “bottom.”
  • Recognize letters in their own name.
  • Name at least five colors.
  • Count from one to ten.

Of course, all children are different and learn at their own pace. If your child is at least beginning to grasp these concepts, then it’s a good start. Occupational therapists also suggest some basic motor skills including being able to hold a pencil and draw a circle and line and cut with scissors. These skills are learned through everyday play. Nursery rhymes arts and crafts, and play groups are all situations where very important skills are learned. Be sure to have rules in place in each of these circumstances. Encourage taking turns and sharing.

Next, be sure to talk to your child about school. Let him/her know what it is like, with a teacher, play time, other kids, classrooms, and playground. Be specific, including what time school starts, and what time it ends. Let them know what you will be doing when they are going to school too, so they’re not left worrying about what you will be getting up to! It is a good idea to try to implement this schedule as much as possible in the coming weeks before school starts. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but making sure that kids go to bed at an acceptable hour and getting up when they need to is a good start. Also, schedule nap time for when the class takes it. Having no surprised on the first day then will be a major benefit!

Ask your child how they are feeling about school. Are they scared? Excited? Happy? Address these feelings and reinforce positivity. Let them know that other kids probably feel the same too, so they’re not alone in this.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit an Open House day at school. You and your child will get the chance to meet the teacher and see the classroom before school officially starts. Hopefully, at this time, your child will meet other kids they can look forward to seeing their new friend on the big day.

Talk about the positives of school and why kids go there. Mention that we get to learn and play a lot while being with friends. There are so many activities that will be done throughout the day, including games and time playing outside.

You’ll probably have some school supplies you have to get, and while the things might be very specific, take your child along anyways to pick out the things you need for big kid school. This can help get them excited about attending.

When the school does start, leave them a note in their lunchbox or backpack. Just a heart from Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, brothers, and/or sisters just to remind the child that they’re being thought of during their first day of big kid school!

Also on the first day, walk into school with them and help them find their own spaces, like coat hanger, where they put their backpack, and their seat. Get involved in the first activity with them. This may be finding a book and sitting in a certain area or a bit of playtime.

And it can be hard, but try not to cry in front of your child! This may cause upset and make them think that going to school is a bad thing that makes Mommy and Daddy sad when really, it is a good time! They won’t understand how huge of a milestone this is for parents too. Also, be open to meeting other parents. They’re going through the same things you are, and if this is their first child going to school, then perhaps you can reassure them and offer a bit of support to each other.

The first day of school is an indication that your child is growing up! This is a very bittersweet thing for parents and whole new chapter in both parents’ and children’s lives. Cherish this moment and make it as fun and positive as possible.

Preparing for Back to School


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