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Stepping Into School

Whether your little one is starting school for the first time, moving into the next grade or starting a new school, it will likely feel like a big step forward in your child’s learning journey. 

It is a time of mixed emotions for your child and for you as their parent or caregiver. There will be highs and lows and lots in between! 

Like lots of new events in our lives, the more we can prepare and plan the more we hope to feel comfortable and adapt to new challenges. Over the summer holidays, Kids That Go have been helping our clients and their families get ready for the new school year and so we wanted to share some of our ideas with our Kids That Go community. This list is not exhaustive but may help to think about what your child may need in their first days of school. 

 

A few days before school starts:

 

Understanding the school environment: 

  • Hopefully your child has visited the school before, so they have seen their school and maybe even their classroom, met their new teacher and have an idea where the playground is and where the toilets are. 
  • Build on their memory and take a trip to the school. If you are allowed, explore and rehearse the route to your child’s classroom and the toilets.
  • If you have other children at the same school, they may like to show your child around and so that they also know where their young sibling is. If possible, organise a play date or to walk up to school with another child starting at the school. This can make it fun and share the excitement in starting school together. 
  • Drawing a map after visiting the school can be a helpful exercise in consolidating a visual memory of where their classroom is. It does not need to be exact or to scale and fun if your child enjoys drawing. 
  • If possible, print a photo of the new teacher and write their name on it with the classroom name. Laminate and place it in a pocket of your child’s school bag. Your child may like to decide where this will go so that they know where to find it again if needed. 

 

Uniform:

  • If your child needs to wear a uniform, have a practice ‘dress-up’ – use it as a photo opportunity to send it to a friend/relative who can share in your child’s special day. This offers the opportunity for your child to get used to wearing different clothes and make changes if a garment is not fitting comfortably. 
  • Consider washing the uniform a few times to soften the fabric and help it to smell like home. Some children get irritated with seams, tags, or labels which may need to be removed. Well worn undergarments especially worn shoes will help to avoid distractions from uncomfortable clothing and footwear that may rub. 

 

Preparing the school bag:

  • Have a practice packing the school bag with your child so that they know which pocket has their water bottle, lunch box, munch and crunch, and hat. 
  • Help your child individualise their bag so that they can distinguish it from their classmates. A clear name or favourite key chain is a great way to help them easily find their bag. 
  • Prepare a self-care bag with your child with a change of clothes in the event of a wee or poo accident. It is helpful to have spare undies, socks, shorts/skirt, a plastic bag for wet undies and some wipes to help with an independent clean-up. 
  • Talk about how to clean-up if they have a wee or poo accident. Include who they can tell to get help, if needed. 

 

Lunchboxes and lunchtime

  • Practice hand hygiene after going to the toilet and think about clipping a small hand sanitiser to apply before food breaks. 
  • Making lunch boxes that your child will enjoy, including serving healthy options along with a preferred food, can help with your child eating and enjoying their food. 
  • Practice a picnic with their lunch box. Check they can open and close it, including the containers inside of it. Bento box styles can be helpful in separating foods and having a variety of foods to choose from. 
  • Encourage your child to drink water with each meal break so that they remain hydrated as much as possible. Find out where the water bubblers are too, if they do not have easy access to their water bottle or have mislaid it.

This is a great resource to explore with your child, that goes over a child’s first day at school: https://education.nsw.gov.au/schooling/parents-and-carers/going-to-school/getting-ready-for-school/starting-primary-school/the-big-day/daisy-s-first-day

 

Or, you might like to create your own! Write and draw a story about going to school with your child. Here is a great resource that has a download version to upload photos to: https://education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/curriculum/early-learning/transition/starting-school-social-narratives

 

First day and initial weeks of school:

 

In the mornings: 

  • Allow lots of extra time to get ready to go to school so that you and your child do not feel rushed.
  • Remind your child where the toilets are and chat with the class teacher on how the teacher would like your child to request going to the toilet. Some children use a keyword or sign and may like to choose a buddy to go with. 
  • Remind your child where you or another carer will meet them after school.
  • Sometimes adults get caught up in traffic on the way to school. Reassure your child that even if you are late, you will be coming to pick them up. Tell them to stay with the class teacher until the person collecting them arrives for them.

 

For throughout the school day: 

  • If school allows, the child may like to take a personal item from home to connect them to you. Alternatively, consider placing a card, photo, or drawing of your family, a loved pet or home in your child’s pocket or bag to reassure your child that you are thinking of them, love them and that you will see them at the end of the school day. 
  • Pop a note or a picture/drawing in their lunch boxes from you. This can be a lovely surprise and again reminds the child of your connection to them. 

 

After school: 

  • Children are likely to be much more ‘fragile’ after their first day and weeks at school. They are ‘holding-it together’ for the whole school day so their thresholds may be low for more demands. As parents/carers, you may see some heightened behaviours of excitement, emotional distress and fatigue requiring a measure of predictability after school and especially at the end of a school week. You may notice that your child needs to ‘burn-off’ some energy and needs a big play in the playground with new friends or a big play at home. Some may prefer calm, quiet time watching their favourite kids show until dinner time where they can re-charge their batteries. 
  • Playing with toys, creating a visual story or drawing with your child can be a gentle way to engage after school; share any worries in a play based / creative approach. Instead of asking “what did you do today” – open conversations (for example at mealtimes/drive home in the car) with “what was funny or silly that happened in school today”? Model with sharing something that you did today that made you laugh or feel disappointed. 

These early days at school are a huge milestone in you and your child’s life. We at Kids That Go wish your little person great, little steps to success that build on your child’s unique qualities, confidence and have heaps of fun along the way. 


ROS PULLMAN

Occupational Therapist

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