As the new year starts, there is excitement and anticipation among many 4–5-year old’s who are starting school. The transition to “big school” from preschool, playgroups or time at home can be a tricky moment for both children and parents/carers. We often hear of more tears coming from parents than the children on their first day!

Here are some practical tips you can implement to ease the transition into primary school. We encourage you to try these strategies in the school holidays before Term 1 and throughout the rest of the school year

I Can See It, I Can Do It

Visual schedules can benefit any child and can help provide structure for both you and your child. A schedule may look at a day, week, or month.  It is useful to include daily activities like packing your school bag, weekly activities such as library, and special events, for example, excursions and sports carnivals. If you have before/after school activities, it can be great to include these too. Sit down with your child and show them the schedule and have it in an easy to find place for them to look at during the week. The fridge or their bedroom door are two great places. It is important to remind children about any different changes in their routine. If your child does not cope well with changes, you can help prepare them for changes by explaining to them what to expect. This helps to appease anxiety related to the changes. Visual schedules can also help to reduce anxiety, support your child’s independence, and help with transitions between activities. You can keep it simple and sit down with your child and stick on pictures or draw it together.

Getting Ready

Involve your child in the process of getting ready for this new adventure. Practice trying on their uniform and let them come shopping with you to get a bag, lunchbox, and stationery. This allows your child to have some choices and control in this time and may make them feel more comfortable.

Stick to a Routine

Routines make it easier for both children and adults to know what is expected of them and what might happen next. It is useful to have a set morning and afternoon routine for your child. For example, coming home from school, getting changed, having an afternoon snack, having some free time to play outside/inside and then continuing with dinner and bedtime routines.

It’s About the Journey

Familiarize your child with the journey to school. Take a practice drive, walk or public transport trip to school. Talk about what you see on your trip and the next steps for when you arrive at school. Let your child know when and where you will pick them up.

Self Help Skills

Encourage your child to be aware of their belongings and clothing items. It’s also useful to make sure they can open their lunchbox on their own and use the toilet independently.  Show them how to ask for help and talk about who they can go to if they need any support at school.

Familiar Friends

Remind your child about the friends they know who will also attend their school. This will give them reassurance that they will not be alone. You can also organise play dates with these friends, if possible. This gives them an opportunity to reacquaint with friends in a positive and familiar environment, if they have not seen each other in a while.

If your child is shy or has difficulties making friends, you can talk to school staff about a buddy system for your child.

Keep Positive

Both you and your child are doing their best to adjust to this new routine. Remember to praise your child’s positive attempts, for example, if they help you to pack their bag.

The First Day

Plan something fun and exciting to do after school on their first day. For example, a picnic at the park, an at-home cinema, a special snack. Keep in mind your child may be very tired from their first day, and you may want to keep big activities for the weekend.

If your child is anxious about starting school, pack a comfort object for them to have at school. Involve your child in deciding what this object will be. It can be a favourite toy or a photo of you and your child.

Including a loving note in their lunchbox can put a smile on their face and help them feel connected to you while they are at school.

Let Your Child Rest

Holidays can get very busy. Make sure you allow some downtime in the few days leading up to the start of the school year. This will allow your child to unwind and start the school year well-rested.

Go Over School Resources

Your child may already have completed an orientation program at their school so it can be useful to go over any resources or information that was provided to you.

Check Hearing and Vision

Now is a great time to arrange for your child’s hearing and vision to be checked. Issues with hearing and vision that are not picked up can be a big challenge for children in the early stages of school.

speech pathology jargon
tips for big school

These tips may also benefit children starting high school or changing schools throughout the year.

Starting school is a new step for both you and your child, so putting in place some supports is a great way to help you both! It is a good idea to regularly touch base with your child’s teacher and school if needed.

Beam Health can support you and your child if they need to develop their emotional regulation, social, motor, or cognitive skills, or communication. For specific resources on communication milestones and development please see Speech Pathology Australia’s website.

We have also developed this funky little poster profile to put together with your child for their first day….First Day of School Milestone Poster

Get in touch

Vivien Edwards

Speech Pathologist, Beam Health

Emilie De Rop

Occupational Therapy Lead, Beam Health

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!