The summer holidays are fast approaching, and for those of you with little ones leaving nursery ready for primary school in September, you may find you’re feeling increasingly nervous on their behalf. Here are some great tips by Carol Evelegh from The Kindergarten for you to help put your own mind at rest as well as preparing your child for the big changes ahead. This article is packed full of great tips and lots of things you can work on and put into practice over the coming weeks. Good luck!

In the holidays:

Introduce longer days into your child’s routine

  • Parents should do this gradually and not make any sudden jumps that will be a shock to the routine of their child. For example, in the summer term before reception starts parents should try to implement at least one full or longer ‘school / nursery’ day a week and then slowly build this up. This means that when the time comes to start school the longer school days won’t be a shock.

Be consistent with change

  • Doing something once will not have any benefit for a child. Making changes to a child’s routine needs to be consistent for it to become fully incorporated into their expectations and reality.

Arrange parent-to-parent meet-ups before school term starts

  • This is an absolute must as it is a great way to familiarise your child with their soon-to-be new friends, so when school starts not everyone is a brand new face. This is also an important thing for parents to do as it can encourage a support network amongst parents.
  • Try and arrange play dates with parents and children from your class – you can ask for class lists though the school office.

Prepare your child for school dinners

  • Try new foods: It is very important that when a child starts school they go in with the confidence to try new foods so they don’t begin fussy eating habits. Ensure your children have a varied diet, look ahead to what the school dinners at the school are like and make them at home. For example if your child normally has their meat, vegetables and potatoes separately on the plate they will hate the shepherds pie on the menu. Therefore try hard at home to make them confident eaters before starting school.
  • Introduce the idea of healthy eating: It is important, even at a young age, that children understand healthy eating. We spend a lot of time with our children at our nurseries on this; we have healthy eating days, weeks, walk to school days, we cook together, have breakfast days together – all the time talking about food, what is healthy and unhealthy. These are some good activities parents can do quite easily at home so when it comes to lunchtime the child is happy to eat vegetables and pretty much anything else!

Try and get outside with your child for play time and exercise

  • Exercise is a big thing to ensure your child stays healthy and happy. All children need to be outdoors, they need to run, enjoy being physical and active.
  • We have forest-schooling within our nurseries which is such an effective, holistic outdoor learning experience for the children where we incorporate seasons, interests and nature and really help build their self-confidence and self-esteem – and a very easy thing for parents to replicate at home through family walks in the park or woods or simply exploring the garden together!

Don’t be afraid of information overload when talking about their new school

  • You cannot overload them – so long as you are hugely positive share, share and keep sharing!
  • Talk to your child about their new school, get them involved in buying the new uniform, let them choose their new socks etc. Let them choose a new water bottle / lunch / snack box – this will be exciting for them and they will look forward to using them and showing them to their friends when they start their new school
  • Take them to visit the school, tell them what it is going to be like, who their teachers will be and so forth.
  • Talk to them about any friends going with them or about all the new friends they are going to make.
  • Most of all tell them what a wonderful place it is and how much fun they will soon be having there

Just before school:

Make sure your child eats a good breakfast

  • Food is hugely important. If a child goes into school having had good breakfast they will be full of energy, ready to start the day, have better concentration.

Make sure your child gets good nights sleep!

  • Sleep is also very important; children need to have proper sleeping time. Children like the timetables and structure the classroom offers and the same applies at home. But don’t suddenly start a new routine on the day they start school, build up to it and try to nail good sleeping habits the best you can before they start school. We all know this can be very challenging but it is worth the effort for the long-term benefit. Not just for the child but for your entire household.

Create good school relationships yourself to avoid the tearful school drop-off

  • Separation anxiety is all too common and what is very important in helping your child overcome this is for your child to see that you – as parents – have a good relationship with the school, with the teachers, the other Mums and Children – this will make your child feel like school is a safe place to be.

When school starts:

Don’t compare your child to another

  • No child wil ever be at the same level – they all have strengths and weaknesses. Each child must always be viewed as an individual, where one may be strong in maths, the other may be strong in English. You cannot prepare for this but the most important thing is that you never compare your child to another child.

Emphasise making MORE friends not new ones

  • Make sure you explain to your child they are not leaving their nursery friends behind – that they will still them, they will still live in the same area, they will still have playdates and birthday parties. Activities like putting party / play dates into a calendar together at home are helpful to highlight this.
  • Starting a new school is not about making new friends, it is about making MORE friends and it is key your child sees it this way.

Praise your child at school to build their confidence

  • Talk positively and proudly about the school and praise your child for becoming more independent. This, again, is about making small steps to building confidence and trust for your child in their new environment.

Build a school and home link:

  • Be sure to support the curriculum at home through play. If there is an interesting topic go to the library and get a book out on the subject. Doing these types of activities establishes a home school link, which helps with confidence and establishing independence at school.

Don’t worry if your child is grumpy to start with!

  • It is very important for parents to always remember – just like starting a new job – they (their children) will naturally be more anxious when starting a new school – everything is new. Their children will be tired, grumpy, but look out for the mood swings and expect them and don’t come down hard on them for it.
  • When your child comes home from school, don’t overly question them on their day, instead let them come to you.
  • Don’t expect them to be chipper every day – some children like to share the experiences of their days, other children take years to start opening up. What is key here is ensuring they have a steady balance at school and at home.

Article written by children’s education leader and founder of The Kindergarten’s nursery group Carol Evelegh

About The Author

Carol Evelegh is one of the UK’s leading voices on children’s education and owner of The Kindergartens, a group of 12 outstanding London nursery schools. With over 38 years’ experience teaching children aged 2 to 13 in both the state and independent sectors Carol’s knowledge and understanding of the UK school system, and the pivotal role of balancing educational excellence with emotional and social wellbeing, has led her to
become a trusted and influential name in the education sector.

Carol spent 33 years working with Thomas’s London Day Schools firstly as a reception teacher in her twenties before going on to be Deputy Head of Thomas’s Kensington and then Director of Thomas’s Kindergartens
before becoming the inaugural Head of Thomas’s Clapham. Carol left this role in 2012 after 19 years of headship to focus on The Kindergartens, which was founded in 1991 by her late husband Philip. Carol is also a governor at leading independent senior school, King’s Canterbury, Kent.

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