Child Sense: Preparing your child for the first day of school

Priscilla J. Dunstan

Starting school or preschool for the first time will bring changes to your child’s life that will have them feeling a bundle of emotions. No matter how confident they appear, your child is likely to also be feeling a mixture of fear, anxiety, curiosity and excitement. Understanding how your child is likely to approach this big event, and what you can do to help relieve some of their anxiety, will help make the transition easier for all.

Tactile children will be anxious to know what they’ll actually be doing when they’re at school. Taking them through a few of the activities at home before hand will help them understand and boost their confidence about their new experience. Set aside some time every day before school starts, to “play school” and go through the motions of arriving, lining up and sitting at a desk drawing. If possible, take them to the school’s playground and let them play on all the exciting equipment, they will be thrilled that their school has such exciting things to do.

An auditory child will benefit greatly from talking through the school day before it happens. They will be full of questions,” Where is my school?” “How do we get there?” “What will I eat?” “Can I bring my teddy?” “Who will help me with my shoelaces?” “How do I get home?” Taking the time to talk through the details will help with their anxieties. Having them also talk to older children and relatives about their experience at school will help. Auditory children like schedules, so practice the schedule you will be doing when they go to school, this will allow you to explain things as you go, without being rushed.

Offering your visual child images of what they will be doing at school, either through picture books or family photos, will give them a picture in their own mind of the new world they’re about to experience. Another good way to get a visual child excited about this new experience is to take them shopping for their school clothes, bag, pencils, etc. While looking at all the new things, discuss where and how they will be used.

“You will need coloring pencils for when you have to color your worksheets at school.”

“These shoes will be good because you can also run around in them at playtime.”

Although all children benefit from visiting school ahead of the first day, this is particularly true for taste/smell children. Being naturally nervous, they will especially benefit from having met their teacher ahead of time. This child seeks comfort and security in personal bonds and having a head start on their relationship with their new teacher can make all the difference to their first day of school. Try to organize a play day at the school playground with another child who is also starting kindergarten, this way they will know the playground and also another child for their first day.

The first day of school is a monumental event, which will be remembered for years to come. Try to prepare your child by going through the routine ahead of time, visiting the school and introducing them to another child also starting. Be calm and positive, this is a big day for everyone.