In a few weeks time, back to school will be upon us and for some children and parents, it will be the start of a brand new journey. The start of reception year. This was us this time last year and I remember all of those feelings all too well.
Nerves, excited, niggling worries, apprehension, so many questions… and most of this can’t be answered by other people because, as you’ll see, each child will take to reception differently and it’s not until you are in there and doing it that you’ll be able to gauge how this year is going to go. All you can do for now is prepare both yourself and your child the best you can.
Here are my tips for preparing your child for the start of reception:
Pre-school and School Preps
Pre-school or nursery should have already laid the foundations for the start of school. Most will talk about what is going to happen, they will identify what areas your child needs to work towards prior to starting school, they may ask children to bring in any uniform that has already been bought and they will practice the start of a school day with lining up, sitting at desks and answering a register.
They will also feedback to you what you may need to be working on during the summer holidays. The most common areas being toileting alone and getting dressed and undressed. These are the expectations at school as no one will be on hand to help with these because the setting is very different from what your child has been used to in the past.
You will also be invited along to open days, settling in sessions and possibly to some classes at the new school. I would highly recommend getting to all that you can so that you can both see how the school works, who the teachers are, how they interact with the children and gain an insight into what a lesson may be like. The choice of school may have been decided but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be changed. This is the opportunity to see if you really do like it, if you think your child will be happy here and to see how they react. Of course, you aren’t going to be making any drastic changes from one settling in session but I think you will get more of a feel of the place.
The teacher will come and do a home visit a few days before the start of the school term. This is as much for them as it is for you and your child. They can see where you live, what family life is like, they can ask you questions and just get a better idea of what your child’s needs are. From your side, you can double-check any details of school, you can bring up any concerns you may have and get to know the people who will be looking after your child a little better. These are very relaxed meetings so don’t be nervous and don’t feel that you have to go to great lengths and bake them a cake or anything! They have plenty of homes to get around so they won’t stay too long and they certainly are not judging you.
The best thing you can do in order to help your child to feel ready for school is just to simply talk about it (this also helped me because I wasn’t at all ready for this next stage!) By gently explaining the new changes, how they will be going to a new school and that it will be every day, that they will make new friends and so on will help to reassure any anxious minds. Children don’t always show how they are feeling about everything and many bottle it up as they don’t know how to communicate these new emotions so they just need some reassurance from somebody close to them.
As mentioned above, your child will be expected to be able to go to the toilet, wipe themselves, wash and dry their own hands all on their own. Pre-school are very good at encouraging this behaviour but if your child is still struggling– bum wiping is often the hardest part– you have 6 weeks to practice all of these at home. By just doing this every single time they go to the toilet, the routine will stick with them.
Getting undressed and dressed for PE is also a biggie because they will suddenly have a uniform that may have zips, buttons, velcro or laces or buckles on shoes and all of this is very tricky for a 4-year-old. During the first term, it was very obvious to us parents which day was PE day because all the children came out looking as though they’d got dressed in the dark!! Now, I know most people don’t like to buy the uniform until near the end of the holidays in order to get more wear out of it but you can still have a go at doing up and undoing buttons on other items, using other jumpers to practice getting them on over the head and getting your child to undress themselves each day before bed etc.
Most schools will encourage you to take up the free school dinner scheme which means your child will be required to use a knife and fork. This can be another tricky task for some and if your child is like mine, they probably mostly use their hands to eat?! Again, it just takes a bit of time and regular practice. Show them how to use a knife and fork, how to hold them correctly, how to cut up food and how to get fiddly foods such as peas onto a fork.
Recognising Their Name
By the time children leave pre-school most will already be recognising their name and perhaps be able to write it. You want to keep this up during the school holidays so they don’t forget before the start of reception and to really perfect it, after all, some children have some very long names and there may be a lot to remember!
This will be taught at school but it is always a good activity to try at home just to help to strengthen their hands. The number of times Jake has come home and said my hand hurts after a busy day of writing has shown that they are using muscles that aren’t usually flexed. The best thing to practice is to master spelling their names.
This may be a tough task for some children to manage and at 4, there are going to be many distractions. They will learn how to do this over the year but talking to your child about what school will ask of them and explaining how important it is to listen to the teacher will help them to realise what is expected of them once they start reception.
At 4 years old many children will still have certain words that are hard to say, may come out a little wrong or may be confusing. As long as a teacher can understand them, they will be fine. However, if you are aware that they aren’t often very clear, that they use other words (nicknames for items, family made up words etc) then this may need to be something you change over the summer. Speaking clearly is going to help your child immensely, especially when they have to ask for more help, ask to go to the toilet or say they are feeling unwell. Just chat with them as much as you can in a way that a teacher would, in a way that may challenge them to think a little more and encourage them to speak up if you cannot hear them. If your child is still struggling, just bring it up with the teacher during the home visit. We all have some funny words we may use at home and the teachers will fully understand that. If there are any additional needs, the teacher will need to know these too or they may bring these up with you during the start of the term.
If you know the children and/or parents who will also be in your child’s class, why not arrange meet-ups over the summer so they can build friendships? A great way to communicate with one another throughout the year is to create a Facebook page for all of the parents to join. Here you can ask questions, check details of school events, arrange play dates and just get to know one another.
So, that is your child prepared for the start of reception but what about you? Are you ready Mum and Dad? I certainly wasn’t and you can read all about that here.
There will be so much that will crop up once your child starts so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make sure they can count to 100, recite the alphabet or spell out their entire name, there is plenty of time for that. Just be there to support them, to listen to their needs, to respond to how they are feeling and remember that the transition to school is a big step that can take a while to fully settle in to.
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