Starting Preschool

It’s that time of year again, when we dust off the school clothes and start worrying about making new friends ...and that’s just us parents. If your child’s heading into big-school-land for the first time, either reception or senior school, we’ve gathered together some top Mumsnet tips that should help ease the transition for both of you. Good luck!

Starting Pre-school or Reception

  • Make sure they’ve mastered the basics (bottom wiping is mildly crucial) and if they need packed lunches sharpen up their lunchbox skills to include opening the lunchbox (zips are good) taking the lid off yoghurts without spraying themselves and getting into packets of crisps/cartons of juice (can they pierce the carton with the straw? Now there’s a summer holiday activity for you.) iota
  • Arrange a couple of get togethers before school starts so your child finds at least a few familiar faces on the first day. The school admin department should help with contact numbers if you don’t know anyone. LIZS
  • Make sure they can manage shoes on their own, both getting them on the right feet and doing them up. Drawing half a face inside each shoe so they match when they’re the right way round can help, and velcro is a wonderful thing (don’t expect to do laces till the juniors at least!) lydz
  • Try and teach your child to recognise their names or at least the first letter (narrows the options down for getting the wrong stuff.) RTKangamummy
  • Stock up on nit lotions and combs. Tea tree oil is a good preventative and if your daughter has long hair, tie it or plait it as it helps to keep the nits at bay. bon
  • Buy a starting school book, we liked the Charlie and Lola one "I am absolutely too small for school." katelyle ...or ... “Off To School” by Ann Schweninger - a lovely book about a rabbit’s first day at school including a child who cries and a hero who gets a bit anxious on arrival (but it’s all sorted by breaktime.) pollywollydoodle
  • As well as name tags inside, stick or sew something they’ll recognise on the outside of their book bag, PE kit etc. I thought school would be like nursery but our experience was that the children were expected to be pretty independent from day one. jellyhead
  • When buying uniform, go for at least three of everything – one on, one in the cupboard, and one in the wash - more is good, but three is the minimum. lydialemon
  • Small children are used to having their social lives organized for them so it’s worth explaining what might happen at playtime. Despite being a very sociable child, my daughter hadn’t quite worked out that sometimes she needed to ask someone to play with her or to ask if she could join in a game rather than just watch and wait to be invited! keyworthkid
  • Take in a carrier bag with a spare pair of clothes to leave on their peg - if they do have a little accident they will feel more comfortable in their own clothes rather than school spares. (The memory of having to go home in a pair of red hotpants remains with me to this day.) Motherinferior
  • Instead of getting one set of name tapes per child, we get all ours made as 'The Peachy Family' (and then a mobile number) simpler and better for hand me downs too! Peachy
  • Dont interrogate them on the way home (no matter how desperate you are for news). Put angle poise lamp back into bag and walk in silence " Dogsby
  • My sister, a veteran of five school-starters, suggests the following: a small snack for the way home (not too sugary or they might have a sugar-high swiftly followed by a crash.) When home, get them to do a wee (they may have been holding on at school) and snuggle them down on the sofa with milk, comfort toy and video for at least 30-60 minutes. Keep them apart from their siblings until they've had a chance to rest and bring forward bedtime for a while. issymum
  • Don’t over-schedule the first year with after-school activities, and don’t give in to guilt that you’re scarring your child for life by not getting them to do ballet/art/music/drama/mandarin after a full day at school. earlybird
  • As a teacher there's nothing worse than snivelling parents making fond farewells inside the classroom. Children settle in much better if you send them in, smile confidently and wish them well... then you can go and weep round the corner, like I did! cluttered up
  • Organise what you will wear on the first day. You spend so long planning and preparing their things, but if you can’t find your shoes/ jeans/ handbag on the first day you’re going to be late and flustered. biza
  • Don't forget the "first day" picture! Or a hankie. Indeed lots of hankies (probably more for you than them.) Goldilocks ...or alternatively... Open door. Shove kid in. Run like the wind. iCod

Starting Secondary school

  • Plan the route to and from school and have a few dummy runs, being late is a lousy start. Make sure they know the ultimate destination of the school bus (makes it easier for them to check that they’re on the right one) and have a contingency plan if they miss it. whiz
  • Buying a new pencil case/ pen/ rubber/ colouring pencils seems to make anything more bearable for my children. It does mean a special trip out and then ages to choose the right pencil case, but seems to make them strangely happy. tearinghairout
  • Talk through how you’ll say goodbye and where, the last thing they need is an emotional embrace from a parent in front of their new peers. poppal
  • Don’t be distressed if your child isn’t in the same form as their friend from Junior school. Sometimes if they start off with a "best mate" they will tend to stick together and not bond with others. In separate classes, they can make a new set of friends but always have their old friend at break times. fee77
  • Find out the policy on uniform for Autumn term - if the majority of them go back in summer dresses/shorts, your child may feel awkward if they’re in a winter pinafore and tights or long trousers. Nothing like conforming to make you feel more at home! LIZS
  • Right from the start get them to pack their bag the night before ready for the next day. Make a copy of their timetable (it always gets lost) and stick it on the wall at home so you can do last minute PE/music/swimming bag checks. Lollys
  • Label everything. Especially label the sports kit and all the shoes/trainers etc. Just because they can all read, write and count now, doesn’t mean they won’t lose things all the time. Rara
  • Tell them if they get lost (and most will at some point) to ask an adult or a prefect (if the school has them) will be cross. honeymonster
  • Check with the school how much a school dinner will cost... one enterprising child of a Mumsnetter tried to tell his mum he needed £5 a day! hmb
  • Don't underestimate how exhausting starting a new school will be. Make sure they have time (and a space) to do homework, but let them have chill out time too. NPT
  • Promise them that they will settle in, it may take time but it will happen. Even the biggest sixthformer was a little squit once. hmb

And finally...

...reassure them that stories about kids having their heads flushed down the loo have been doing the rounds since I was in school...and that’s in the days of quill pens and parchment. They are just stories. Martianbishop – Year 7 teacher

Many thanks to all who submitted a tip, you can find pearls of wisdom on any educational topic here.

Enjoy the rest of the holidays, and whatever you do, have fun with the kids!


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Last updated: about 3 years ago