Gearing up for the new school year can be just as challenging an aspect of raising a child as any, yet often parents find themselves feeling alone and abandoned when they search for advice.
Your Bounty pregnancy guide talked you through your pregnancy week by week; you undoubtedly had books advising you on weaning, teething and toddler tantrums; but now your little darling is almost five it seems no more information is forthcoming.
There are many ways in which you can help your child prepare for school, not just for their very first term but every September.
Focus of putting routines in place
Establishing routines early on is very helpful – when children go to school they are expected to follow a particular routine that starts from what time they get up in the morning and dictates their every move throughout the school day.
Familiarising your child with routines helps ease the passage from home to school, especially in those first few frightening weeks.
Begin by setting a bedtime and getting up time before school starts. You will know how long your child takes to get used to new things, so let them guide you. Some will be happy with a new routine after they have performed it twice, others will need a few weeks to get used to it before they stop feeling nervous.
Try to incorporate set meal times into the routine as well, but make sure you leave time aside each day for free play and relaxation.
Help your child become a bookworm
Reading is one of the most important skills a child can learn; it not only opens the door to learning but can become a truly enjoyable pastime which keeps on teaching for life.
No doubt you already tell your child a bedtime story – try to extend this by reading familiar books and running your finger under the words as you say them.
When you get to a phrase your child likes, pause and get them to ‘read’ it. Even though they will begin by reciting from memory, eventually they will come to associate the string of letters with the word they are saying.
For older readers, encourage them to indulge in their hobby as often as possible, and don’t worry too much about them reading something ‘worthwhile’ – the more children are allowed to read what interests them, the more likely they are to continue to enjoy reading for many years to come.
Introduce role-play scenarios
If your child is particularly anxious about starting school, it can be a good idea to let them ‘practice’. This can take many forms – role-play works well in some situations. When role-playing a classroom scenario let your child dictate as far as possible – this gives them the opportunity to voice any particular fears they may have in a safe environment.
See if your school will allow you to come in and take a tour before term starts. If your child already feels confident that they know where their classroom is and have met their teacher it can make beginning school seem a lot easier.