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Starting School Checklist

You’ve made it through the squishy newborn stage, the terrible toddler tantrums, the threenager attitude and in a few weeks your once was ‘little bundle of joy’ is starting preschool or reception. How did that happen so fast? As the big day speeds closer you’ll no doubt be filled with worries about how they, and you, will cope. Will they miss me? Will they eat their lunch? Will they know where the toilets are? It’s natural to be anxious, after all you’ve been the number one provider for them for the past 3 or 4 years and it feels weird sending them out into the big wide world. But, fear not, we’ve put together a ‘Starting School’ checklist of things to help you, and them, prepare for the next big chapter of their lives. And trust us, you will both be ok.

When my little one started reception last September, I couldn’t imagine her being away from me. She hadn’t been to nursery and is August born so she had only just turned 4. She seemed so little trying on her uniform that was slightly too big but oh my, was she excited. She had picked out her school bag and lunch bag and pinafores with bows on and when the day finally came she couldn’t wait to get there. I spent that first day clock watching, wondering what to do with myself and couldn’t wait until it was time to pick her up. What made it easier was knowing that I’d done all I could to prepare her. Here is our checklist for starting school or preschool:

Things to get

  • Download your free Starting School Checklist.
  • Uniform and PE kit. It’s a given. If possible, make sure you have enough uniform to last the week. I don’t know about you but I can really do without having to remember to wash and iron uniform mid week so I do it all on a Sunday and have a clean set for each day of the week. They will more than likely come home with their lunch down them or white board marker scribbled on their polo tops, so it just makes life a bit easier. Second hand shops are a really good place to source cheap uniform and check your school’s Facebook group for parents passing their small stuff down.
  • Lunch box and water bottle. Your child may want to take a packed lunch for a number of reasons; familiarity, special diets or pickiness and you may feel better knowing they’re taking a lunch they will eat. We have a blog post on low waste lunch ideas you can check out for inspiration. I’ve found a bento box style lunch box has been fantastic for school and fits nicely inside an insulated lunch bag. Top tip – pack their lunch the night before and keep in the fridge, it will save precious time in the morning.
  • Name labels. Label everything. From the obvious coats, jumpers and dresses down to the not so obvious shoes, water bottles and even their school bag.
  • Winter coat. This may not seem like the first thing you’d think of while prepping for school in a heat wave but it’s better to have a warm coat ready for that day at the end of September when you wake up and think it’s a bit chilly, than have to rush to the shop and grab what you can find out of what’s left.
  • Hair bands and clips. If your child has long hair they’ll need to wear it up for school and trying to find a hair band 5 minutes before you need to leave in the morning is no fun. Where do they all go? It’s a mystery that I don’t think will ever get solved, however you will thank yourself for making sure you have plenty.
  • School bag. Useful for carrying a set of spare clothes in case of an accident. I felt a bit over the top sending my little one in with a change of clothes every day but the one day she was sick and needed changing they came in useful. Also useful for carrying reading books, snacks and water bottle. Letting your child pick their own bag will help make them feel more in control and can help a reluctant child get excited about starting school. I had a keyring made with a picture of me and my little one on for her to put on her bag and told her if she misses me she can look at it, which went down very well.

How to help kids prepare for starting school

  • No one is going to expect your child to be able to read and write when they start school, so don’t panic. By all means encourage letter recognition and mark making but don’t stress about it. If you child can recognise their name when it’s written down that would be handy but it’s not essential.
  • Make sure your child knows that their teacher or teaching assistants are the ones looking after them and they are the ones to go to if they have any problems e.g. if they need the toilet or feel unwell.
  • Read books on starting school, talk about the routine they will have and reassure them that you will be coming back for them at the end of the day.
  • Try on their uniform so they get used to it. Practice buttons and zips so they feel confident when changing for PE or taking coats and cardigans on and off.
  • Practise your morning routine. This Daily Task Chart is a fun, visual reminder of what your child should be doing each morning and when they get home. It gives them a little more independence and certainly saves a lot of nagging.

The first day, week, month and beyond

Your child will probably be very tired after school. Not only from all that important playing and socialising but from having to be on their best behaviour and following instructions all day. It’s exhausting for them. You may find they need to go to bed earlier for a while after starting nursery or reception and they may be a bit more grouchy and emotional than usual. After school restraint collapse is a real thing and can be hard to deal with but just being there for your child to let it all out and get back to being their normal selves is the best thing you can do.

As the days and weeks go on you will find that schools love to have days when the children can dress up. Think Children in Need, Red Nose Day, World Book Day etc, and with that comes the searching for the £1 donation as you’re walking out the door. Top tip – keep a small jar of £1 coins near the door so you can grab one on your way out.

Birthday Parties. Your weekends will never be the same again. The invitations will come flying in soon after starting school and you’ll probably find most of your weekends will be taken up with parties. Top tip – keep a drawer full of small party gifts you can wrap up at the last minute.

Whatsapp group. Most classes have Whatsapp group chats for the parents in the class. This can be super useful with reminders about upcoming events and things that need doing. If there isn’t one for your child’s class, why not start one? It’ll help break the ice with other parents and get you chatting to the people you will see every day at the classroom door.

Whether your child is starting nursery or reception, it’s a big, exciting step and the start of a new chapter for you both. Before you know it they will be settled in and coming home proudly handing you their art work and telling you stories about their day. You will wonder what you were worrying about and realise that actually, maybe they, and you, will be ok.

Written by Rosie, Mum of 2

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