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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This is a collaborative post.