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13th Aug 2016

This Is How To Get Your Little One Ready for ‘Big’ School


Getting ready for school, going back to school, starting school; its all we hear about at the moment. And then there’s the costs – the uniforms, school runs, healthy lunches boxes..gasp. But do we stop to think about the emotional shift for children?

Many will sail through the next phase of their schooling, but for some, just like adults, they will benefit from some gentle guidance and additional support in the process of ‘school readiness’.

We chatted to Dearbhala Cox Giffin, Director of Childcare at Giraffe Childcare for her top tips on a smooth start to school.

“Starting ‘Big School’ is probably the biggest transition for a child – it’s the start of a whole new phase of their lives so there are a few things you can do which will help them prepare. If your child is already in a crèche, the team will be already working with you to prepare them in very simple ways – talking about ‘Big School’ so they’re familiar with the concept and looking at and drawing pictures of school.

It also helps if parents chat to their child about their school days and their happy memories or show them photos of mum and dad in a school uniform.

The following steps and tips can play a vital role in ensuring a smooth transfer:

  • Discuss school positively at all times.
  • Visit the new school – most schools have an introductory day.
  • Discuss the new teacher, referring to them by name.
  • Involve your child in all school preparations, let them choose their lunchboxes, drinks carrier, pencil case and stationery.
  • Ensure that your child has plenty of practise using their new lunch box, pencil case – this can be tricky for them!
  • Practice independent toileting in their new uniform so as buttons and zips do not pose unnecessary challenges.
  • Read stories and poems about school life.
  • Share your own positive experiences of school- such as yard time and games you played. You may have some photographs?
  • Discuss and plan the new routine together – how will you get to and from school?
  • Provide Velcro shoes to avoid open shoe laces – Tying shoe laces will come later!

In International research, school readiness has been described as a foundation on which later learning is built, children who develop well at earlier stages can elicit interactions and experiences that accelerate their development and facilitate achievement in later life.

It’s clear that school readiness involves more than cognitive ability; ready children are socially, personally, physically and intellectually prepared within developmentally appropriate expectations.

While it’s normal for parents to feel a little nervous about their child starting school, remember that children pick up on adult emotions, so it’s important that parents stay relaxed and feel positive about the change. Separation anxiety is normal so be prepared for some tears over the first few days and have a plan for dropping your child to school, say goodbye and reassure them that you will see them later. Try not linger as this can sometimes add to their anxiety.

Also, remember that starting ‘Big School’ can be exhausting so keep after-school activities to a minimum for the first few weeks and early to bed!

With a little gentle guidance, routine and support, your child should settle happily within the first few weeks and will skip home full of happy tales about their day.”

Dearbhala Cox Giffin, Director of Childcare, Giraffe Childcare.