If your four-year old is heading off to school soon, then you might have mixed feelings about this milestone. Wondering where the past few years have gone and being weepy-eyed about your baby and toddler groups together are all normal feelings to have. Even if your child seems more than ready to start their next adventure at primary school, it’s only natural to be anxious about how they’ll handle the formal school day.
With the help of your nursery, and by supporting your child at home, you can make sure that they’re fully prepared for this next stage.
When your child joins reception, they will be working within the Early Years Foundation Stage framework, so it’s useful to understand what your child’s Early Learning goals are. There are seven areas:
Your child will be assessed throughout the academic year to determine whether they meet or exceed the above goals, or if these skills are still ‘emerging’ which can sometimes be the case with summer-born babies or if a child has a special-educational need or disability.
If you would like to get ahead with some early stage phonics and maths activities, check out resources like Jolly Phonics, Reading Eggs, Maths Seeds and Oxford Owl’s Early Maths Skills. These are all a fun way for your child to interact with letters and numbers through play.
To help your child get ready for their journey at primary school, it’s important to understand that there will be fewer members of staff per child than they’ve been used to at nursery or preschool. Often, there is only a teacher and a teacher assistant looking after 30 children. This means that your child will be expected to become more independent and learn how to complete tasks like getting themselves dressed for PE, zipping up their coat, putting their shoes on and using the toilet by themselves.
As a parent it can be tempting to do everything for your pre-schooler, especially if you’re in a rush to get out of the door in the morning. But the more time you can spend practising buttons, zips, and pulling trousers or tights back up, the more confident your child will be to act independently at school.
If your child isn’t sure what to expect from the classroom environment, you can demonstrate what happens at school by using role play. This is a creative way for your child to learn and make sense of situations they feel unsure of. Role play is also an excellent communication tool as it allows them to explore language in greater depth and become more aware of their surroundings and those around them.
You can set up your living room or kitchen table and practice being the teacher. There’s no need to be strict, but adopt a kind but firm teacher voice, and set up some fun educational activities like learning the alphabet or counting to ten. When your child has got the hang of the game, reverse the roles so they have fun playing teacher too.
If your child’s new school offers settling-in sessions then try to attend as many of these as possible, even if it means missing nursery on a couple of occasions. Becoming familiar with the school environment is essential so your child will know basic details like where they should hang their coat, where the loo is and how they will line up for lunch.
Settling-in sessions are also a great opportunity to mix with other children. If your child doesn’t know anyone else that will be going to school with them, this is your chance to help them make friends. Swap numbers with some other parents and maybe host a playdate or trip to the park so there will be some familiar faces on their first day.
It’s worth mentioning that open days and settling-in sessions have been a bit different during the pandemic. Some schools have been offering virtual tours, and if that’s the case for you, then try to make the most of the situation. You can still sit down with your child and watch a video of school life to show there’s nothing to be nervous about. Encourage your little one to ask lots of questions so you can put their mind at ease.
Reading is such an important part of your child’s development and the number one activity you can invest in to help them reach their milestones. Not only are you exposing your child to language, but you can also read stories about transitioning from nursery to school. Some popular choices include:
Your child will become even more immersed in reading if you pause to look at the pictures, talk about the different characters and ask lots of questions to check their comprehension of the text. Above all else, make reading fun for them!
The last summer holidays before primary school can be emotional for parents. But they don’t need to be, there will plenty more holidays to come! Whether you’re going away for the summer or are staying locally, there are so many adventures you can have with your child.
Try to pack in as much as possible and save treasured items like seashells, postcards, cinema tickets or pinecones from nature walks. These physical memories will help your child to remember all the fun they had with you. One of the first activities of the new term at big school is often to share what they’ve enjoyed doing over the summer – whether that be drawing a picture or telling their classmates during ‘show and tell’.
Above all else, remember to act confidently in front of your child. If they think you’re nervous about school, then they’ll become fearful too. So, be brave and use the tips above to make that transition to school a huge success.