Top Tips for Preparing to Transition to School

In the months before school

Enrol your child. The earlier you enrol your child the better so we encourage you to do so as soon as you know where your child will attend. The Ministry of Education allocate staffing quotas based on predicted enrolment numbers. The more accurate picture a school has of their incoming students, the better able a school is to make staffing decisions and cater to their incoming students to the best of their ability. Late enrolments can lead to schools receiving less funding than they may have really been entitled to.

Get to know your child's school and their transition schedule. You can find our more here

In the weeks leading up to the first day

There are many things that families can do before school starts to make children's transition easier. Practising changes to your daily routine will help build your child's sense of security and reduce the stress of getting to school. Visits to the school will help familiarise your child with the school and build their confidence.

Remember that you know your child best- some children feel most confident with a lot of preparation whereas for others too much may be overwhelming. You can tailor the techniques below to suit your child. Younger children in a family may not need as much support if they have seen their older sibling preparing for school and been around the school environment often.

  • Travel to and from school several times to practice the school run. Try going at the usual school drop off and pick up times as this will help you and your child get to know what to expect (eg how busy the traffic and school grounds will be)
  • Practice the school day routine. This may include the morning routine of getting up early, packing their bag etc. Setting up a regular bedtime routine will allow your child to wake up fresh and ready for the day.
  • Take lunch to the park. Help your child pack and unpack their own lunch from their bag and open it by themselves. Ensure their lunchbox and drink bottle is easy for them to access independently. Help you child to understand which items are good for morning tea and what to save for lunchtime. If your child is confused by this idea, consider lunch box options that allow you to have two compartments, on for lunch and one for morning tea, or put all morning tea items in a ziplock bag. Removing packaging where possible is a good idea, especially if your child is likely to be too shy to approach a duty teacher if they have difficulty opening it.
  • Create a visual checklist with your child. This list could include things that need to be done in the evening and morning before they leave school. Decide on where things like uniform items, school bag, book bags and sports gear needed for school will be kept so they are easily accessible to your child and they can learn to get organised and ready for the day with more independence over time. Have regular spots for things will help getting out the door less stressful.
  • Visit the school on weekends. Your child can practise using the climbing equipment and become familiar with the layout of the school without a lot of hustle and bustle.
  • If there are other children you know starting at around the same time as your child, arrange opportunities for them to play together. Seeing a familiar face will help your child feel confident and more relaxed on their first day and during the first weeks of school.

Plan Ahead for Changes

Starting school is a big change for your child that can lead to a range of emotions. You may find your child is excited but they may also be exhausted, even if they are used to long hours at their ECE setting. Take the time to notice their mood, and think about how you will support your child to manage these feelings.

  • As exciting and tempting as the options for after school activities may be, consider waiting until your child has fully settled into school and become fairly consistent in maintaining their energy levels and mood at the end of a school day. You have plenty of time to get involved and explore your child's interests over the course of their schooling.
  • Plan some relaxing time after school. Follow your child's lead on what works best for them.
  • Help your child get a good night's sleep. Having a regular routine such as taking a bath before bedtime or reading a book may help your child relax. If you are unsure of what time most children their age go to bed, seek the advice of other parents or speak to the teacher about how your child's energy levels are throughout the day. As a rough guide, most 5 year olds go to bed between 6:30pm and 7:00pm. They may be ready for bed earlier in the first weeks of school.

Help Manage Separation Distress

In the lead up to school, you may be concerned about how your child will cope with being separated from you. Perhaps they took a long time to adjust to being without you when they started preschool or Kindergarten. In your planning for school, you might like to consider:

  • What will help my child separate comfortably from me in the morning?
  • what has helped my child in the past?
  • Would my child benefit from taking a special object from home?
  • What will I do to help myself cope? (eg catch up with friends after drop off or exercise to take my mind off worrying)

It will also help to

  • Talk to your child's early childhood educator and new school teacher- they can help to put some ideas in place to support your child to separate from you
  • Develop as positive goodbye routine together (eg sharing a high five, special farewell saying, a bear hug or other loving gesture. Keeping it fun, light and routine from day to day is important
  • Always say goodbye and reassure your child of when and where you will collect them at home time. This helps them build trust and a sense of security.
  • Avoid lengthy goodbyes as they may increase distress
  • Talk positively and enthusiastically about what your child will be doing when they are away from you (eg you will have a story and have fun meeting new children today) They will pick up on your cues if you are feeling nervous so try to be mindful of what you communicate about your own emotions.

Information adapted from: