First day at school?

Just a week to go to the rentrée and for hundreds of children this will mark their first day at school.

Even if they have already been to the maternelle, real school is a major milestone (for the children too!)

Read what child experts advise, including child care guru Penelope Leach, in order to make the first day, and weeks, pass smoothly.

Preparing for the first day

Do talk about starting school and get books from the library but don’t overdo it. You don’t want your child to be scared, or over-excited. 

You may be tempted to start preparing them for school by teaching them the alphabet, numbers, or how to write their name.  But don’t push it – they have years ahead to learn.

Prepare them instead for their new social life friends are more important than learning at this stage. Perhaps invite a special friend over to play between now and starting school so they have someone to greet on the first day.

Have fun over the next few days but avoid planning and exhausting week of adventures as the first weeks of school will be exhausting.

Establish sensible sleep patterns now so that they are properly rested for D-day.

Make sure that as well as dressing and undressing, your child knows how to use the toilet properly and get his or her underwear on and off; bottom-wiping and hand-washing are also important things for your child to know before starting school.

Also, odd as it may sound, make sure they know how to sit cross-legged. Small children are often asked to do this and the more they know how to do for themselves the less chance they will feel embarrassed or humiliated. 

For the same reason, buy pull-up trousers and skirts and Velcro-fastening shoes unless they know how to cope with zips, buttons, buckles and laces, 
If it is likely that your child has the same coat or rucksack as other children, try and make the item unique – for example with a patch or sticker – so that it is easily recognisable and they don't get anxious about picking up the wrong one or someone else accidentally.


Get clothes and bags ready the night before and plan what you will have for breakfast. And make sure they have breakfast! Look out for any food spills on their clothes. 

Don’t forget to take that first-day-at-school picture.

If you live near the school, it’s good idea to walk to school as children like to know where they’re going. Walking past landmarks reassures them where the school is. If your child is really nervous, maybe a friend can walk with you. 
Wait until the teacher starts to call the children into line before saying goodbye.  If you rush off while everyone is still milling around, your child could panic. If they are still crying, don’t worry. Most children stop about two minutes after their mum or dad disappears.
Don’t forget to tell your child what time you’re going to be back at the end of the day – and make sure you’re on time. 
Bring a snack with you – they are likely to be very hungry at the end of the first day.
Don’t ask your child what they’ve learned at the end of the first day, instead ask who they liked and try and keep track of who their friends are. 
If you work, try, if possible, to arrange your hours so that you can pick them up, at least during their early days at school and avoid, if you can, after-school clubs as another classroom with lots of big children may be too much for them.

The first weeks

Although it’s important for your child to make new friends, don’t go overboard arranging a social life. Keep extra-curricular activities to a minimum while your child gets used to their exhausting new timetable.

Starting school is a big adjustment for children, so be prepared for weeks of tiredness and some out-of-character behaviour. This is completely normal, 

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