Zach turns 4 in April so will be starting infant school in September. Less that 9 months to prepare him (and me!) for this big change. Having worked in schools I thought I would come up with some top tips to help make a smooth transition for children as well as parents:
Toilet training. The occasional bag of shame is just about ok but having a child still in nappies isn’t really acceptable unless there is a medical reason. It is not the responsibility of staff to be cleaning up bodily fluids every five minutes, detracting from their vital education role.
Table manners. Cutlery can be tricky as children are still developing their motor skills but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be trying. Eat some meals together if you don’t already so they know how to make QUIET conversation. If you plan to have packed lunches then check what is allowed and make sure your child can at least attempt to open packets and bags for themselves.
Don’t underestimate the value of a home visit. The teacher is not there to judge your house or domestic capabilities. They are they to show your child that they are someone trustworthy, that is safe to chat to and someone you would willingly invite into your home (not a vampire!)
Buy the correct uniform so your child doesn’t feel out of place. Plan ahead with shoes: so Zach has almost grown out of his current ones and I will choose black for his next pair so that they are suitable for school if he doesn’t need another pair by then.
Practise getting changed into and out of PE kit and uniform. Zach is capable of taking his clothes off but still struggles to dress himself at the moment. Make sure they can get in and out of their coat and shoes as well. Tying shoelace and ties, only if absolutely necessary: Matthew still can’t do it!
If you can, increase the hours at preschool so they get used to a longer day. But also have special time together with your little one as they will soon be so busy and tired, and the weekends disappear so fast!
Practise the school run and go along for any play sessions the school offers so they can see the classroom and playground.
Communicate with staff about any issues or concerns that you feel are relevant. Update them on any family or social changes that could affect their learning such as a new baby or a change in a parent’s job.
All of the above are practical ideas for helping your child prepare for school and independence. However, the academic side of school cannot be forgotten and children should be encouraged with their reading, writing and maths. This doesn’t mean trying to teach them to review the literary classics or attempt algebra!
Let them see you reading and assign it a value: it is a precious gift! Point out letters and numbers on signs so that they recognise them.
Speak to the school and preschool about the learning methods they use so that you can support learnng at home.
Simon Hood from the Sooper Books Get Kids Reading campaign says “With the introduction of phonics, teachers are seeing a gap between the new reading curriculum and how parent/nurseries are preparing kids for school. The best reading preparation for school are teacher-approved phonics resources to help form sounds correctly in line with the teaching syllabus.” If you need help or advice on reading then take a look at this campaign which includes free stories to engage little ones (all teacher approved!)