Starting school – preparing your child

Well, that has flown by hasn’t it? One minute you’re leaving the hospital with your tiny bundle of joy in a car seat that you have no idea how to use, and the next you’re looking at school prospectuses and tripping over Lego models! To help you get through the next stage, Lemonjelly have put together some tips that’ll prepare you and your child for that first year in school…

Starting school can be an anxious time for both child and parents, so here are a few ideas to get you ahead of the game and feeling ready for the next big step in their childhood: school.

While some children have already entered a setting that differs from home – day nursery, childminder or school nursery perhaps – for others this is the start of a new adventure: playing and interacting with new friends, sharing, taking turns and settling into a new routine. Whether your child has been in a different setting or not, school is a very different kettle of fish.

Emotional preparation

Starting school is a huge deal to kids (and of course their parents!) which often leads to anxiety about this big new change. Ultimately it’s a wonderful thing that they’ll be learning, developing and building character – not to mention growing! – but it’s definitely a whole new world and therefore quite scary.

Hopefully you’ve had a chance to visit the school your child will be attending – usually reception classes have a fantastic transition period for children. This might include mornings in class accompanied by you, or playing games with their new teacher in a communal space to get to know them. These sessions are often followed by home visits or opportunities in school for parents to ask questions.




All of the above will have started easing the worry so it’s your job to continue it. During the holidays, to ease their anxiety, you might want to do a few of these things to familiarise them and to build their confidence about starting school:

  • Go on a special trip together to buy uniform and essential items for starting school, such as a lunch box, new shoes, coat and any stationery they might need. Make it into an adventure rather than a chore and try to do it 1 on 1 without other little ones to distract attention
  • Talk about their new teacher in a positive way – “I wonder where Mrs Harris is going on holiday this year? We could ask her when we see her in September…”
  • Read stories about starting school – Harry and the Dinosaurs Go To School or Lucy and Tom Go To School are both brilliant. Borrow them from the library and read them every day over the summer break, picking out the fun and exciting activities that are going on in each book. If your child seems worried about starting school, use books to draw out these fears and reassure them. Most fears are about the unknown, especially where things are. Use the books as a conversation starter and talk through any fears thoroughly to the best of your knowledge
  • Arrange a couple of playdates over the summer with another newbie to the school.


What do they need to know?

Preparing for school is much more about their dispositions for learning and emotions than it is about their achievements and abilities. The true aim is to send in a confident, independent and happy child to school. A child who is ready to learn.

Here is a brief list of areas that would really be helpful for them to have mastered securely before they start and a place to begin if your child is ready and keen.

  • Encourage their independence in dressing/undressing, taking their shoes on and off
  • Practice using the bathroom independently – especially wiping their bottom and washing/drying hands.
  • Read to them. “If you want your children to be intelligent read them fairy tales” – Einstein.
  • Find the maths in the everyday without “teaching”: Count steps; notice shapes when you’re out and about; ask them to get spoons for the whole family for ice cream. Make it fun!
  • Teach them to recognise their own name. Be playful with it.
  • If they are interested, and they enjoy mark-making, you could teach them to write their name – please remember to teach a capital first and then lower case. Saves a lot of time and energy later on!


classroom aprons hanging up in school

Starting school is usually a pretty exhausting business for everyone involved! It’s socially, emotionally, physically, and mentally draining. Your child will be spending every moment in school trying their best to fit into a totally new environment with people they barely know.

Don’t be surprised if they come home feeling very tired and reluctant to talk about their day. (Top tip: don’t ask “How was your day?” Instead try: “What songs did you sing today?” Be specific and they might respond more favourably!) You might be tempted to book playdates, or organise a new after school activity but we’d say leave it until Spring. A trip to the pond and a session feeding the ducks would be a better idea, followed by a meal, bathtime, then snuggles with a story and – above all – an early bedtime.


We understand there is so much to think about, but the fundamental thing we want you to take from this is that you don’t need your child to have mastered EVERYTHING. School is where the real learning begins, and your main task is to ensure your child goes every day, well rested and fed.

Are you worried about your child starting school? Leave a comment and we’ll see if we can help, or maybe one of our readers might be able to offer advice.


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Lemonjelly Childcare Solutions