It seems like only yesterday your child was a babe-in-arms, eating pumpkin puree, and now they’re a fully-fledged primary-schooler, packing a bento lunchbox and forming bunny ears with shoelaces.
If that’s you and you’re navigating the first week of primary school with your little one, there are a number of steps you can take to help make the transition smooth.
Collett Smart, a mother, teacher and psychologist, has seen the first week of primary school from every angle. In a chat with Hope 103.2’s Katrina Roe, she offered the following advice.
Teach Them Basic Practical Tasks
It’s easy to overlook the many basic tasks that you do for your five-year-old every day, that they’ll now need to do for themselves. For example, something as simple as turning their jumper outside-in when they need to put it back on.
“Often we tend to do that for our little ones and forget that when they get to school, the teacher’s got 25 jumpers turned inside out,” Collett said.
Other tasks you could teach them to do for themselves include:
- Packing things into their school bag and zipping it up properly
- Peeling a banana / mandarin
- Taking the lid off a tub of yoghurt
- Unwrapping a sandwich
- Locating their lunch money
- Putting school notes in a safe place
Prep Them with Conversation Starters
Your child will spend their first couple of weeks at school meeting lots of new people: teachers, staff, bus drivers and class mates. Help them develop their social skills by teaching them a few lines they can use to start a conversation.
And let them know it’s ok if they feel shy.
“Reassure your five year old that everybody’s feeling nervous,” Collett said. “Give them words to say, like, ‘Hi, my name’s Molly, what’s your favourite sport?’ Little children are nervous and they don’t know what to say, so helping them along is great.”
Coach Your Children to be Ready for the Classroom…
Moving into primary school requires a bit of a leap in behaviour standards for new kindy kids. Parents can help their children prepare for the classroom environment, by practicing their manners at home.
“Start to have some expectations of them like sitting at dinner until everyone’s finished,” Collett said. “At age five, it’s quite a big thing to sit at your chair for another two minutes, but it will help them prepare for waiting their turn at school.
“And teach them about waiting their turn for someone to talk—especially the youngest.
“Your youngest will often struggle with this the most, because they’re used to being the baby and everyone hanging on their every word, and now they’re one of 25 and they have to wait until other people are finished.”
…But Don’t Stress Too Much About their Behaviour Yet
Although a child will fare well in kindy if they’ve got great manners and self-control, don’t worry if they’re not quite there yet.
Collett, having been a kindergarten teacher herself, says it’s OK if your child has some maturing to do; teachers know how to handle behavioural issues.
“Teachers are trained to know what to do about behaviour, so it’s not something we have to worry about too much,” she said.
Settle into a Predictable Routine
Kindergarten children will settle more quickly into a good school experience if you keep them to a repetitive routine each day, says Collett.
“Routines make children feel very secure and very comfortable,” she said. “Teach them to ‘Dress first, then eat, then brush your teeth, then have a play, and then we will leave’.
“Keep the routine going in the afternoon, so they settle quickly and get used to what happens, and have a good bed-time at night.”
No Screens Before School!
Collett’s biggest tip – and it’s a big one – is to keep screens and other technology turned off in the mornings before school. Teachers will agree with this one.
“Do your best at no tech before school in the mornings,” Collett urged. “It affects their concentration a great deal. If they use technology they are zoned out by the time they get to school.”
Give Them Healthy Morning Activities
If your child has formed a routine of watching TV in the mornings as a toddler or pre-schooler, now is the time to change that habit. Collett suggests preparing an activity that will keep them occupied while they wait for ‘mum’s taxi’ to leave.
“Set up a reading area in their room, or a play area, or drawing—something quiet.”
“Set up something for them to do in the morning that takes the place of TV that they might be used to,” she said. “For example the night before, set up a reading area in their room, or a play area, or drawing—something they can do that’s quiet, not zoning them out or overstimulating their brain.”
Keep Reading to them at Night
Your child may be a ‘big kid’ now, but they’re not too big for bedtime stories.
“Carry on reading at home at night,” says Collett.
It’ll increase their love of books and learning, improve their language skills, develop their reading skills, and give them a soothing night-time routine to help them settle into their new life as a primary school student.