Practical advice for those first few weeks of ‘big school’

Children all over the state will be starting ‘big school’ soon – a huge transition for children and families. With new routines, more structure and an unfamiliar environment, it can be a daunting time. There is bound to be some fear, anxiety and tears (and that’s just the parents).

So we spoke to transition-to-school expert, Dr Lyn Cronin – lecturer for UOW’s School of Education and member of Early Start’s Play, Pedagogy and Curriculum theme – for some useful tips on facing this change with confidence and care.

Social skills are important

“Don’t worry about your child’s academic skill – this will come,” Dr Cronin said. “Social skills are the most important factor as a child begins school. If they are confident socially they will start to feel a sense of belonging that will then aid in their learning.”

Dr Cronin suggests role-playing conversations with your child that they will have at school, such as how to make a friend or join in a game, or approach their teacher.

“Role-playing examples in a comfortable environment can make all the difference when it comes time to applying it in a real situation such as in the playground,” she said.

She also suggests practising taking turns, being patient and what to say when things aren’t going their way.

“Playing board games, such as snakes and ladders, or memory games are a great way to practise taking turns, being patient and winning and losing gracefully”.

Most families would have attended their formal orientation sessions but try to also include some informal play dates with the children that will be in your child’s class before starting.

“Organise a park play date before school starts, just knowing some familiar faces will ease the anxiety for all,” Dr Cronin said.

“Be sure to clue in your child’s teacher with information on your child’s interests, strengths and any particular behaviours they need to be aware of”.

Play!

Dr Cronin believes imaginative and physical play is still important. “Allow as much opportunity for play as possible. Imaginative play allows for a child’s cognitive development and problem solving skills. Physical play helps children develop the core strength they need to sit for longer periods of time at school,” she said.

Information is power

The more your child’s teacher knows about your child, the better teacher they can be.
“Be sure to clue in your child’s teacher with information on your child’s interests, strengths and any particular behaviours they need to be aware of,” Dr Cronin said.

Reading!

Reading to your child allows them to develop new concepts and ideas as well as vocabulary and language skills that are so important for literacy skill development.

“Incorporate opportunities for stories, talking and listening and numeracy in everyday experiences,” Dr Cronin said.

Get the basics right

“Ensure your child gets adequate sleep and a nutritional breakfast – the first few months will be particularly tiring,” Dr Cronin said. And try and avoid too many extracurricular activities during this time too.

Dr Cronin also suggests making sure a child has tried on their uniforms, worn in their school shoes, is comfortable opening their lunch box and can recognise their name and belongings. Ensure you pack a spare pair of underwear too.

Get involved!

Dr Cronin says, “it’s very important for parents and carers to feel comfortable and have a sense of belonging to the school community and this will translate to the children.”

Dr Lyn Cronin suggests:

  1. Embracing school and community relationships
  2. Establishing a positive relationship with teachers/school community by being a familiar friendly face at school when you can
  3. Developing positive communication with the office personnel they will be invaluable over the coming years
  4. Developing positive communication with other parents and carers
  5. If you have time, get involved with class/school activities particularly in the early days
  6. Becoming familiar with the school environment and routines

“It’s a big milestone for any family,” Dr Cronin said, I wish all families a smooth and successful transition to school.”

Early Start’s 2020 Speaker Series resumes on 11 March at 6pm, featuring Dr Lyn Cronin discussing Transition to School. Stay tuned for more details and how to book.

Research = Experiences

Play is one of the most powerful ways to learn. That’s why all our experiences are informed by early childhood researchers from UOW.

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