Family Matters Magazine for Parent in West Kent

Preparing Your Child For Starting School

Starting school is an exciting time for young children and their parents. It can be a daunting time, too. But with a little preparation and encouragement, most children will settle in easily at school.

  • Chat with your child about starting school. What do they think it will be like? What are they most looking forward to? Is there anything they're unsure or worried about?
  • Look at the school's brochure, prospectus or website together and talk about the pictures. Find photos of you and other family members at school, and chat about happy memories from your own school days.
  • If possible, visit the school with your child before they start – either on formal open days, or fêtes, plays and other events.
  • Read books together about starting school
  • If your child seems anxious about school, try focusing on the things they'll like best – maybe the sandpit, playhouse or new friends. Perhaps they have some friends from preschool who will be starting reception at the same time.
  • Practise the school morning routine, including getting dressed and eating breakfast in time to leave.

Being Prepared

As the start of term approaches, try to get into the school routine, so your child gets used to getting up, going to bed, and having meals and snacks at the times they will on school days. Bath time and stories instead of TV and tablet games all help children to wind down before bedtime. Making time in the evening to chat about your day for 10 minutes can be a lovely routine for sharing fun times and any worries. Nutritious meals and plenty of sleep will help them to concentrate, learn and thrive at school.

If your child has naps, it would be wise to try

phasing this out. This should be more manageable for them if they have a good bedtime routine. Maybe offer a down time after lunch rather than a nap.

Some reception classes do provide a space for little ones to nap if needed, but if you can introduce the longer day before the school term starts, it should help with transition.


It will make life easier for your child (and school staff!) if your child can master these self-care skills before they start school:

  • Going to the toilet - Support your child to be confident about getting to the loo in time and wiping properly, using toilet paper rather than moist wipes. Do you have a different phrase for going to the toilet at home? Letting the class teacher know what this is will ensure they understand what your child is trying to ask.
  • Washing their hands - Chat about the importance of good handwashing with soap and water, especially after going to the toilet or handling animals. A good way of showing how germs can linger is to let your child cover their hands in paint (pretend germs!) and then try to wash it all off.
  • Dressing and undressing - Let your child practise putting on their school clothes, taking them off and folding them neatly in preparation for PE lessons, especially if there are fiddly fastenings such as shirt buttons and zips. Clothes with elastic bands and shoes with Velcro are easier to handle for young children.
    Teach your child tricks such as putting labels at the back, holding cuffs to stop sleeves riding up, and wrinkling tights to put toes in first.
  • Feeding themselves - Children having school dinners need to be able to use a full-sized knife and fork and carry a plate or tray. If your child is taking a lunchbox, make sure theycan open it as well as any containers and packets inside.
  • Tidying up - Get your child into the habit of hanging their coat up, putting their toys away, clearing the table, and so on, to prepare them for doing these things at school. Why not turn it into a game? Many schools use a piece of music to indicate tidy up time and motivate children to help. Try this at home and ask which song your child would like. 'Mission Impossible' is a popular one.

The First Few Weeks

Many children settle into school life easily, while others take longer. Don't worry if your child is tearful and clingy for the first few days – it's quite normal. Although you might feel terrible leaving them, they will most likely be playing quite happily within a few minutes.

If your child seems exhausted at the end of the day,

let them have some quiet time or even a nap when they get home. If they're starving hungry, a healthy snack and drink can help restore energy levels.

Keep talking to your child about their feelings about school, and put aside some special time to chat about their day. Some children are enthusiastic at first, but once the reality of going to school day after day sets in, they can become reluctant. If this happens with your child, use a calendar to help them understand when weekends and holidays are coming up.

For more advice and tips go to