Getting Your Preschooler Ready for Big School
Education| By Amy Vagne | October 7, 2020
Make getting ready for big school easy for your preschooler with these tips on everything from preparing for the first day to knowing how to use a lunchbox.
Starting big school is a huge milestone in your little one’s life – and yours. Off they go, in their oversized hat and uniform, into a whole new world of homework and packed lunches, five days a week for the next 13 years – gulp! Transitioning from preschool to primary school can be stressful, so make it easier with these tips for getting ready for big school from Sydney kindergarten teacher Matthew Charlton.
Learning to Read and Write
Kids learn to read and write at school, so you don’t need to rush out and hire a tutor for your 4 year old – but it is a good idea to cover the basics before they start. Teach them to write their own name (first and last) as this will probably come up in class on Day One. Hopefully, through preschool or Sesame Street, your child is already familiar with the alphabet, but it won’t hurt to spend time helping them brush up on their ABCs before school starts. “Aim for letter and sound recognition, if possible, as this is the foundation for learning how to read,” says Matthew. You’ve probably read countless stories to your preschooler over the years, but check they’re familiar with how a book works, he says. “Can your child open a book the right way and does he or she know to read from left to right?”
What To Try
Improving Social Skills
“Expect a few teething issues as your kid settles into school,” says Matthew. It’s normal for them to feel nervous or sad and most are surprised they have to keep turning up day after day. “There are lots of rules at school that may come as a shock to a preschooler. It might help if you set them up with basic knowledge: things like sitting cross-legged on the floor, putting their hand up and listening to the teacher,” he suggests.
Remember, making new friends doesn’t come naturally for everyone, but there’s plenty you can do to boost your child’s social skills. First step is to work on their manners. Teaching them to say “please” and “thank you” will start them off on the right foot with classmates and teachers. Another essential tip is to teach your little tyke to introduce themselves by saying, “Hi, my name is…”, when they meet someone new. Anything you can do to encourage resilience or quash separation anxiety before the big day is a good idea.
Toilet Training – Part 2
Nappies may be a distant memory for your 5 year old, but are they an expert when it comes to bathroom behaviour? Unlike grandparents or the carers at daycare, your child’s new teacher won’t be on hand to help them wipe their bottom and wash their hands. “Kindy kids have to fend for themselves,” says Matthew. Managing the whole process is up to them, from deciding when they need to use the bathroom to locking the stall door and flushing the toilet. If your kid’s not confident, it’s time to practise: let them take the lead and carefully go over each step, so going solo will be a cinch.
Using Lunch Boxes
For most kids, bringing a packed lunch to school each day is a huge change. “It seems like a small thing, but lots of kids struggle with this in the beginning,” says Matthew. “They don’t know what to eat when and they can’t open their lunch boxes. Teachers don’t always have the time to sit and help.” Try a few test runs with their new lunch boxes and drink bottles – you could even have a picnic in the park or your backyard. Keep in mind what foods they do and don’t like, so you pack a lunch box that excites them.
Hot Tip: Try labelling lunch boxes or bags with numbers, so that kids can easily find and eat the right food in the right order. Fruit for Crunch & Sip gets a number one; recess snacks get a number two; and a sandwich or pasta salad for lunch gets a number three.
What To Try
Set Up a Routine
The key to school success is having a solid routine in place for your family. “For kindergarten kids, it's so important that they get plenty of rest because they need their brains to be completely fresh with all the new information coming their way,” says Matthew. “Try to lock in a regular bedtime and wake-up time, so they develop a solid sleep pattern.” Getting ready on busy school mornings can be a whirlwind, so streamline the process: iron uniforms and hang them up the night before; lay out breakfast supplies, so kids can feed themselves. If you’ve got the space, set up a station by the front door with a hook for hanging their backpack and a plastic tub for stashing hats, jumpers and library bags. Train them to pack away their gear as soon as they get home from school, so it’s ready to go the next day.
What To Try
Back to School Shopping
Purchase and prepare all the gear your child needs well before school starts. Most primary schools will provide a checklist of necessary items to shop for, such as backpacks, lunch boxes and drink bottles, plus school shoes, hats and pencil cases. A smart way to get ahead is to use the Officeworks School List Service. You just upload the school list online and then a team of shoppers collate the best items for you (and will substitute better priced items, helping you save, too).
One final tip? “Parents should label belongings with a child’s full name, so it doesn’t get lost,” suggests Matthew. Try a permanent marker or invest in name-label stickers, which with things like drink bottles and lunch boxes should also be a safety requirement in these times. “Also [get kids to] try on their school uniform to make sure it fits and is comfortable,” says Matthew. “You could even practise waking up and getting ready for school as you might on a typical school morning.”