How to Prepare a Child for School
As a parent, it is your instinctual response to want to prepare your child for every new situation they will encounter in their life so that they have positive experiences and are well-equipped to navigate the world on their own. One of the more formative experiences you will prepare your child for is starting school. Before their first day of preschool, your child will have no understanding of what school is, which makes it necessary for you to help prepare them so they have success at school.
If you are wondering how to prepare a child for school, you are not alone. Early childhood education will have a lasting impact on your child’s overall relationship to learning and being in school and it is vital to prepare them to have the most positive experience possible. To help you prepare your child for the transition from summer to the classroom, we have compiled a guide of helpful tips to implement into your routine that will set your child up for educational success.
How to Prepare My Child for School: a Guide
Preparing your child to enter school or to move up to a new grade level can be a daunting task. How do you ensure that they are ready and form a positive association with school? The key to setting your child up for learning success is helping them to be ready. School readiness means helping your child to form the skills they will need to succeed in early childhood education, such as communication skills, social skills, academic skills, and independence to complete tasks on their own.
For children at all levels of education, it is important that they are prepared and ready to tackle new challenges that they will face in the classroom. While some of the tips outlined below will be geared towards young children entering school for the first time and other towards older children transitioning to a new grade after summer, all of the below tips about preparing your child for school are helpful tools that you can implement into your daily routine. By following this useful guide, you can make sure your child has the skills and confidence needed to be successful in school.
Enroll Your Child in Early Education
If your child has no experience with school yet, it can be very helpful to enroll them in early education to help prepare them for school. Preschool helps to teach young children the skills they will need in school. In early education, children are given instruction on sitting and listening, contributing to classroom conversations, working with others, sharing, and doing classroom activities, such as making art or using glue.
Attend the School Orientation
If the school your child will be attending has a school orientation session prior to the beginning of the school year, this can be an optimal opportunity to familiarize yourself and your child with the expectations, the teachers, and the other students in the school. Attending a school orientation session allows you to introduce your child to their teacher, meet other parents and children that are also getting ready for the new school year, and to ask any questions you may have about the rules of the school, facilities, and curriculum so that you can help to prepare your child to the best of your ability.
Visit the School
While this may seem a simple step, taking the time to visit the school your child will be attending can be hugely important to prepare them for their first day, particularly if it is their first time being in school or attending a new school due to a change in grade level. Even for children attending the same school but moving up a grade level, visiting the school can help lay the groundwork for success in school. If your child attends their first day and is unsure where to go, this can lead to them feeling uncomfortable and frightened. By taking them to school before the first day, you can show them the classroom they will be in during the upcoming school year and how to get there from where they will be dropped off.
In addition, during your school visit, it is important to show them where various bathrooms are around the school and where they will eat their lunch and snacks throughout the day. It can also be helpful to show them where the auditorium is and explain the fun activities they may participate in or witness there. Introducing fun social activities will give your child something to look forward to in the new school year. By visiting the school and showing them where to go and where everything is located, you will be instilling confidence in them that will help them navigate their first day with minimal issues.
Pay Attention to How They Talk About School
To adequately tailor your approach in preparing your child for school, it is important to be mindful of how they talk about the upcoming school year. When talking about going back to school, does your child seem excited or worried? If you notice your child developing fear and anxiety about going to school, it is important to intervene quickly to help them form a more positive outlook on their classes.
Keep the Discussion About School Positive
Children pick up on the tone of different conversations and topics, even if they may not always fully understand the context or reasoning. When talking about school with your child, be sure to keep the conversation positive and geared towards communicating that school is an exciting opportunity for them to look forward to rather than be wary of. If your child does voice concerns or seems to be displaying behavior that alerts you to them feeling uneasy about the end of summer and going to school, sit them down and talk to them about what they are worried about and why. Being able to have an open line of communication with you will help them to process any hesitancies or fears they may have and allow you to help them see school in a more positive light.
Establish a Schedule
One of the most challenging aspects of transitioning from summer to being in school can be the dramatic shift in schedule. To combat this, be sure to implement a fixed schedule of waking up and going to sleep that mimics their school schedule a few weeks prior to the beginning of the school year. Try reading to your child or having your child read to you before bed so they are mentally stimulated and get into a routine. This will allow them and their bodies to adjust to a more fixed schedule and will give their sleep patterns time to regulate. It is vital that your child gets adequate sleep. Taking this step will help prepare them to be alert and confident on their first day of the school year.
When a child is not getting adequate sleep, they can experience difficulty focusing, concentrating, and may display challenging behavior as a result. As you draw closer to the beginning of school, it may also be useful to adjust their eating times to align with what they will experience during the school year.
Help Encourage Bathroom Independence
As a young child, going to the bathroom at school can be a jarring experience compared to being in the comfort of their own home where they are familiar with the surroundings. To help avoid bathroom related issues, guide your child to develop the skills and knowledge they need to have bathroom independence in school. This means explaining the difference between the bathrooms at the school for boys and girls. In addition, it is also important to help your child develop the practical skills they will need to navigate the bathroom independently with ease. This can include things like teaching them how to open the door to the bathroom stall, lock it behind them, pull down their pants, go to the bathroom, properly clean themselves up, pull their pants back up, unlock the bathroom door, and wash their hands at the sink. While these may seem simple, giving your child the confidence and practice they need to navigate these steps with ease will help to reduce worries about going back to school and using an unfamiliar bathroom.
Introduce Your Child to Classmates
At any age, experiencing something new can be much less intimidating when you are with a friend. For a child, this holds true as well. Whether your child is attending school for the first time or moving to a new grade level, it can be helpful to arrange playdates with other children that will be in their class in the upcoming year. This will help them develop the social skills they will need to utilize in the upcoming year and help them to feel more supported and accepted entering the new school year. Instead of walking into a classroom and feeling alone, they will already have a child or children that they know and can spend time with.
Teach Your Child to Monitor Their Belongings
At many schools, walking around the campus you are likely to find jackets, shoes, and backpacks left behind from students who forgot their belongings at the end of recess, lunch, or the school day. To help your child be prepared for school, it is important to teach them to monitor their belongings and create routines to help remember their things at the end of each school day. One activity you can do with your child to ensure they are prepared with this skill is to practice eating lunch and snack foods out of their lunchbox prior to school starting. Once they are done, have them pack their container back up and place it in their backpack. During this time, you will be able to recognize if the lid on their food container is too difficult to get open and closed or if some of the foods you intended to pack in their lunch are too tricky for them to open on their own. Another activity you can do with your child is to have them practice packing and unpacking their backpack before the school year starts so that they become familiar with the practice.
Play Games with Purpose
In school, your child will likely be asked to do many things they do not do at home, such as raising their hand, waiting to be called on, and then responding only when their name is said. This can be a challenge for students to adapt to. To help practice some of these skills at home, try to turn them into fun games so that your child is learning and enjoying themselves at the same time.
Make Saying Goodbye Fun
As a kid, one of the scariest and saddest parts of going off to school for the day is having to leave your parents behind. For some children, these emotions can manifest themselves in the form of tantrums, crying, and not wanting to go to school, which is a challenging way to begin the day. To help counteract this, try to make a special routine for saying goodbye that makes your child feel happy and excited to go to school. This routine will be dependent on your child and what works for them, but try a few different strategies until you find one that works.
For more Children’s Bureau resources, check out our child development blog today.