Inspiring Confidence for the first days of school

I still quite can’t believe that almost twelve months ago Monkey started school. The time has flown by, rushing from one school holiday to the next with a new adventure at each turn. Yet despite this I can remember his first days like the back of my hand. Monkey’s school had a staggered approach so it meant that his first day was actually an afternoon. My husband had come home from work and I was still on maternity leave so we both took him

I felt a bit funny that morning not really sure what to do with myself. Monkey was very excited and looking forward to seeing his teacher again and playing with his best friend. Who was also going to the same school although in a different class. He kept asking if it was time to put his school uniform on and his school shoes must have come on and off at least six times. I had printed out a little sign for him to hold up when we had the first day at school picture. I thought I would weep but I didn’t, his excitement was infectious. Having practiced putting on his school uniform at nursery when the time, (came after a big lunch didn’t want him getting hungry) he raced upstairs as quickly as his legs would carry him and was almost dressed before I even made it to the top of the stairs.

He looked so smart in his new uniform, his book bag and clear water bottle. Everything was labelled and ironed, his PE kit was folded neatly. Walking along the school drive into the playground and into the classroom was such a special moment. The school had done such a good job at getting them ready for this moment I did not see one upset child. Monkey run off and was entertaining himself with various toys which had been put out to ease the transition away from the parents. He almost didn’t say goodbye. We left and he was already forming friendships. Thankfully this wasn’t a one off and we have never suffered with the ‘mummy I don’t want to go to school‘. I am sure it will come in the years to come though.

Thankfully we have survived the first year pretty unscathed although there was the issue with fishcakes… Every Friday is fishcake Friday. Monkey has always eaten fish, he’s also always had the ability to make himself sick. Well he has decided he doesn’t like fishcakes at school and so for a couple of weeks on the trott he would make himself sick in his dinner. Now the school had to send him home, but they knew just as I did that he was fine. I can still remember the teaching assistants face when I picked him up for the second time. After that we had a pack lunch on a Friday and I have only ever forgotten it twice… not bad!

We were very lucky with just how quickly Monkey settled but there was a fair amount of work that went into it before hand. And it wasn’t about the ironed uniform was or the perfect first photos. We gave a lot of consideration about how to help him emotionally deal with starting school. Some of the things that the school and we did to get him ready:

  • School settle days – the school had a number of half days before the Summer holidays, some where we stayed and some where we didn’t. It was a very gradual process and revolved mainly around story times. Like most children Monkey loves stories so this really works for him. It also gave us something to hang onto and talk about at home.
  • Books – I brought a couple of books that talk about starting school which helped with the conversations at home. School was something we spoke about a lot. It became part of everyday life.
  • Uniform & Shoes – Monkey came with me to buy both and he loved picking them out, racially the shoes which had flashing lights on. After we had brought the shoes we went to the ice-cream parlour and he chose the biggest ice-cream going. Which serves me right for letting him choose whatever he wanted on the menu.
  • Getting dressed – The nursery Monkey went to, and at home we practiced putting on and taking off his PE kit which really helped his independence.

But not all kids take to it and may need a little more support when it comes to building the confidence for the first day of school. So I asked some mums I know about how they helped prepare their little ones for the first day:

  • My little girl was very worried about being away from me. We went to the beach and picked a small, pretty pebble, which was heart shaped. We took it home and decorated it a little. I put it in her little hand and told her to keep it in her book bag. If ever she’s missing me or feeling sad etc she should go and get the pebble, remember how we got it and know that at the very moment Mummy is thinking of her too and loves her very much. “Sparkly pebble ” has really helped – Vikki
  • Give them ideas of conversations to start with new friends, asking what they like to play, watch on TV o their favourite story – Jen
  • I taught Erin how to introduce herself to people. She would say ‘hello I’m Erin what’s your name, shall we play together. Really helped her learn her classmates names too. She is really confident these days – Emma
  • Looking through the school website together, especially the photos of what school life looks like. Our school has a blog page with lots of photos from all the year groups which really helped. We asked for some printed photos too to look through over the summer holidays before they started – Jo
  • A visual timetable is often a help as it can help to order the day. It’s especially helpful if your child has not done full days before. So you would have the breakfast, brush teeth and get dressed symbols/photos of uniform then picture of the school and a lunch box/tray and then photo of who will be picking up and the home symbol – Becka
  • f they are not allowed to take their teddy bears or toys to school, a good idea is to attach bag clips or key rings to their school bags which they have chosen themselves. My daughter chose a Peppa Pig one. It reminds her of home and also helps identify her bag in a hurry – Alison
  • One thing that we did with Eva, as she struggled massively, was to draw a tiny heart on the palm of her hand and the same on mine. I told her that when she looked at it I would be looking at mine too and she didn’t have to feel scared as I was right there with her. It really helped her! – Laura

Marks and Spencers have built a campaign around just this. They have asked a group of teachers to share some funny, sweet and interesting anecdotes of what really happens when parents leave their kids at the front gate. Wanting to reassure both children and parents that the teacher is there to be their guide, to inspire confidence, and that they really have seen it all before. The #TrustMeImATeacher is now live on their website and its definitely worth a read.

One lesson for me these last twelve months is to learn to cherish that school run. As all too soon it it will be over and they won’t want to hold your hand on the way up to the school gates. Or come running out of class with their arms wide open shouting ‘mummy‘ or ‘daddy‘ with their book bag trailing somewhere behind them. Try not to hate the rain, or those last five minutes before you leave the house – running late again, the reluctance to put on the school shoes after being asked for the fourth time. Embrace the school years as much as you can, the assemblies, parents evenings, country dancing and sports days. As for us, well we are getting ready for year one and I am determined to make it out the house on time this year..

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41 Comments

  1. Claire

    What a great post. I’m pleased monkey has done so well. My eldest starts school in September and like monkey she is very excited. Her school have done lots of settling sessions too. We’ve also been reading lots of school books and have most of her uniform sorted.

  2. L dove

    Ah I love this, thank you for including my suggestion. It sounds as though monkey has done so well in reception year, and well done to you too as I know it’s difficult – especially that school run! It can be so hard for them to settle in, you know we’ve been through the mill with Eva, but I’m hopeful that year one will be a little easier. And I do am hoping we won’t be late this year!!

  3. Becky, Cuddle Fairy

    These are some wonderful ideas to help kids settle into starting school. It really is a huge change & takes a lot of getting used to. I love Laura’s idea of drawing a little heart in her hand & in her daughters.

  4. Ami ThroughAmisEyes

    What a wonderful post filled with so many different ideas. I would never have thought of some of these. Thankfully I’ve got a couple of years until I have to worry about this yet but I guess it will be here in no time at all!

  5. Rosie Corriette

    Completely agree about it taking a lot of work beforehand to build confidence ready for a child’s first day at school; we too also had the staggered approach which in hindsight I’m really grateful for as it allowed Boo to feel settled at her own pace without feeling rushed… Aren’t children marvellous!

  6. ghostwritermummy

    I love this post. I cannot believe that Bella is going into year one soon, it seems like five minutes ago that she was starting. Now i have three in school I can honestly say that once they start, time seems to really fly. I only have Elsie left at home now and then thats it!

  7. Laura - Dear Bear and Beany

    I can’t believe our babies have done a whole year of school and we are about to enter year 1. I remember Laura telling me about the heart idea and it brought a tear to my eye, such a beautiful idea. But what made me sad now is reading that one day Alice won’t want to hold my hand or come running out of school. Oh how I love this right now and I never want it to end, but I know it will x

  8. Michelle Twin Mum

    The school run is definitely a time to be cherished, I have such great chats with the kids on the way to school and we share cars and lifts now for efficiency and I miss our alone times. What great tips you’ve compiled for those feeling nervous for the first time. Mich x

  9. paula cheadle

    I am glad Monkey has done ok in going to school, my grandson’s first week last year was a nightmare, as he did not want to go

  10. Tracy Nixon

    What a lovely post! Now we need a post on how tearful mums can cope with waving their little ones off on their first day of school lol!

  11. The Mummy Bubble

    There are some really lovely tips here. I’ve got a few years before I have to worry about this, but you know how time flies with kids! I like the bag clip idea, I think my daughter would like that for her nursery bag! #bloggerclubuk

  12. Mama Grace

    Some great tips, especially tasks together like looking through the school website. It’s a journey for everyone and these allow for conversation and exploration. #BloggersClubUK

  13. Kayleigh

    Oh fishcake friday doesn’t sound good! The year really has gone by so fast I can’t believe mine is going in to year 2! I’m glad he had a pretty good year 🙂 #bloggerclubuk

  14. Rachel

    Such lovely ideas! My son is nowhere near school age yet, but I hope to remember some of these when the time comes.
    #BloggerClubUK

  15. Annette, 3 Little Buttons

    I love these tips! We’ve had the stay and play meeting and now it’s the run up to the big 1st day at school! The time is going very quickly. It’s so exciting and nerve wrecking at the same time – for me that is. Little Buttons is taking it all in her stride at the moment. So nice to hear Monkey settled in so quickly. #BloggerClubUK

  16. Susie / So Happy In Town

    We live so close to the school but still I never make it out of the house on time. You’re so right though about the time flying as my eldest daughter is about to go into year 6 and I really really don’t understand how that has happened. It was only a couple of years ago (in my head anyway) that I was prizing her off me when she started reception as she just wanted to be with mummy. Now she wants to walk on her own. It’s all a big blur and I’m trying to savour the time with the youngest but even he’s now going into year 2 and it felt like he started yesterday. And the middle one, well she’s going into year 5 so at the top end of the school too. Still holding my hand though but I wonder how long that will last. #bloggerclubuk

  17. Michelle Kellogg

    Both of my boys had a hard time transitioning to elementary school and they had both been in pre-school so the routine of school was okay but moving from pre-school to elementary school is huge for little ones. The rules are different and the structure is also different. They also don’t nap once they reach Kindergarten so that was rough on them as well. They both had rough kindergarten years but we somehow made it through. Now my oldest is about to start his sophomore year in high school and my baby boy is going into the 5th grade. I can hardly believe it but those transitions do get easier. I’m glad your son did better than both of mine. He looks like such a happy little boy:) Thanks so much for hosting #bloggerclubuk

  18. Rhi

    My daughter is heading into year 1 as well. This year has flown by. It’s been nice to see her develop and change but also hard to deal with her lack of confidence at the start of the year. She’s had a wonderful teacher who has done a great job nurturing her and her classmates #BloggerClubUK

  19. Aleena

    I feel like September next year is going to hit me in the face before I know it, and I’m actually really excited for Amelia to start school! I hope that she takes to it, and we’ll be starting to prepare gently this year, just as you did. Amelia responds well to stories, so I’ll be on the look out for some books about starting school. I’m glad Monkey has settled well (aside from the sneaky voms haha!) #BloggerClubUK

  20. Sadie | Be Your Own Example

    My middle son starts school next week, and he’s totally confident (as am I) thanks to the settle days before the holidays. Much better than when my 15 year old started school, where they basically had no introduction at all. But I love some of the other ideas here too.
    #bloggerclubuk

  21. Louise (Little Hearts, Big Love)

    Such great tips for helping children settle in to school. Making sure Jessica was confident with getting herself dressed was a big one for us. I always try to avoid tights on PE days to make it easier for her. Can’t believe that we’re about to head into Year 1! #bloggerclubuk

  22. ellie spider

    H started reception today – we also had intro days at school and she went to the nursery there last year aswell – we practiced getting uniform on and off and opening lunch box as well

  23. Hayley Todd

    This is such a great post, the first day of school, well actually, the first few days at school, even weeks can be very difficult to adjust too and I found that the introductory days where our LO could meet her teachers, have a look around her classroom, meet some of the children she would be there with did help her a little.

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