Whether they’re starting infant, junior or secondary school, going into a new year of education can be nerve wracking for children – but also for their parents. If you’ve got kids you’ll be all to familiar with the back to school blues and even more familiar with how nervous you felt packing them off on their first day.
But this is a necessary and unavoidable part of life, and all you can do is try to make it as seamless and fun an experience as possible – for both of you. If you’re currently in the throes of getting your kids into a school routine, we’re here to help.
Here are 8 ways you can make starting school fun for your children, so you can nail the school routine and make everyone’s daily life more enjoyable.
1. Get them excited about school supplies
Going to the shops and buying all your supplies and new stationary is a back to school tradition and can be a great way to get your little one excited about starting the new term. Take them shopping and allow them to choose their own pencil case, stationery, backpack, lunchbox and any other supplies they may need for the big day. This helps them to feel more confident and prepared for starting school, and let’s face it, who doesn’t love a brand new notebook and pen!
They might need a new uniform or they might be allowed to wear what they want (though this is rare at school age and doesn’t usually happen until college). Either way, try to get them excited about their brand new uniform or school clothes. Make sure these fit them perfectly and they feel smart. Sending them off in an ill-fitting outfit could knock their confidence.
2. Get them involved in planning and packing their lunch
Over time packing lunch can become a bit of a faff and a task you often leave until the morning, but while they’re starting out and you are trying to get the kids in a routine, it’s best to be proactive. Take them to a supermarket and allow them to help you choose snacks for their lunchbox. Of course you don’t want to let them run riot down the biscuit isle, but do let them choose a sweet treat that will have them excited to tuck in at lunchtime, you could even pack their very own personalised cutlery!
3. Share stories of your school days
We are often fed horror stories, particularly when starting secondary school, about the teachers or older students, and these can play on a child’s mind. So reassure them and get them ready for starting school by telling them tales from your school days. Tell them about your friends, your favourite teachers and the subjects you were good at. You could also tell them about any fun school trips you went on or after school clubs you were part of.
4. Meet with friends over the holidays
Whether it’s their existing friends or new starters that you know are going to be in their class, arranging play dates or days out during the summer holidays can help them to bond. This way when the time comes to go back to school they’ll feel confident that they know more people, after all nothing is more daunting than feeling like you’re going to walk into a class of strangers. The more people they know and the more friends they see over the holidays, the more excited they’ll be to get to school and spend time with them.
5. Take first day photos
Another back to school tradition is the first day photos. This can help them to feel like it’s a special occasion. It can also make them feel grown up and proud of their smart new school uniform. The reality is these photos are for us to treasure and coo over as the kids grow up, but it can also help to get them excited about their first day.
6. Make getting ready and getting to school fun
It can be a good idea, especially with younger kids, to practise the school run before the big day. You could even turn this into a game of seeing how long it takes you to get ready or how long the walk to school takes. Then each day you can try and beat your personal best and get the kids excited about trying to beat their time. You could also introduce star charts or treats for getting ready on time and without a fuss. This can incentivise them to get up and get going. It’s also a fun way to start the morning.
7. Celebrate the milestones
In the first days and weeks it can be a good idea to make a big deal of their milestones. For example, have a special dinner planned for their first day, whether you go out or eat at home you can choose their favourite meal. At the end of their first full week treat them to a fun day out at the weekend or a gift. This can help them to see that school is an exciting and important time in their lives and that they can still enjoy their free time too – it’s certainly not all going to be about doing homework!
If they make new school friends why not invite them over. Organise activities with their parents or as they get older invite them to stay over for the night. This can help them to form strong and lasting relationships with their friends, because let’s face it our friends are half of what makes school so great.
8. Ask them about their day
Finally, make sure you ask them about their day. This way they can recall what they’ve learnt, anything that made them laugh or anything nice their teacher said about them. Then reinforce this, keep them excited about learning and praise them when they’ve had a great day. It also means you can flag any issues early on and address any problems before it affects their perception of school.