We take time with Five Minute Mum author and mum-of-two, Daisy Upton, to get the lowdown on all her ideas and tips to help see you through the first term of primary school.
Your little one is at school for the first time, and you’ve bought the best school shoes, and back-to-school supplies, and stuck name labels on absolutely every bit of kit but if you're still feeling a bit anxious about school and your kid settling, you're not alone. So as part of our Back to School Month, we share ideas and advice from former teaching assistant, author, and mum-of-two, Daisy Upton.
Book for new school starters
Five Minute Mum: Starting School: The Ultimate Guide for New School Starters, £7.99, Amazon
Daisy’s latest book ‘Starting School’ is all about preparing children for school and the mum-of-two leaned on her in-class experience to help. This is the first of Daisy’s books aimed at children, with her three previous books (Five Minute Mum, Five Minute Mum on the Go, and Five Minute Mum Time for School) aimed more at grown-ups looking after kids. ‘Starting School’ is meant to be read with kids - this guide reflects modern schools.
Daisy tells us; “A lot of the books I read to my children had old-fashioned classrooms and blackboards and it’s slightly different nowadays. And I wanted to write something that when a parent and child walked into the school it would feel really familiar to them.”
She adds; “The cliché is true: one minute you’re on high alert to catch milky burps, then you blink and you’ve got a four-year-old who is trying on a school jumper. “I have been on both sides of the school gates. But even preparing my little ones for starting school felt quite daunting and like a big deal, because it is. For us and them.”
Daisy reassures us that teachers expect children to start school not knowing anything at all, and will teach letters and counting right from the beginning. Instead, she says children need to know basic skills, like:
Going to the toilet and washing hands
Using their voice and words
Daisy talks us through the best ways to work with your little one not only ahead of school but during the first month or so, helping to bed this information in and remind them.
1. Getting dressed
Daisy tells us; "For shoes, cut a sticker in half and pop one half inside each of their school shoes to help them match up left and right. Let them regularly have a go at doing their coat themselves, try not to zip it up for them. If their little fingers are finding it tricky, play with play dough at home to build hand strength."
2. Going to the toilet
In the months leading up to your child starting school, Daisy recommends having regular five-minute chats with them about going to the toilet.
"During one of those chats explain that in school they will need to ask a grown-up when they want to use the toilet. They’ll have to remember to wash their hands on their own too. We sing ‘Wash wash wash your hands, scrub them nice and clean, in and out and round and round, make those handies gleam!’ to the tune of Row Row Row Your Boat.
3. Asking for help
This is a biggy - asking for help and empowering your little on to use their words should be happening every day. Daisy agrees: "This is quite a hard skill to teach. However in any of the games we play whenever my little ones get frustrated at not being able to do something, I always calmly remind them that they can ask for help and often mention to them that at school the adults will do the same."
In Daisy's book Starting School, there are example conversations to show the children what asking for help is like and why it is always OK.
4. Recognising their own name
"They don’t need to be able to write it although it’s obviously wonderful if they can, but being able to spot the letters in their name is helpful," Daisy tells us. There are games for this on her website fiveminutemum.com "A nice way to start is by playing ordering games, whereby you mix up the letter order of their name and see if they can put it right again," suggests Daisy.
5. Coping with anxiety
It is totally natural for children to feel anxious or daunted about starting school. Here are some of Daisy's ways to help:
Hearts - Draw a small heart on the palm of your child’s hand, then draw a matching one on your own. Explain that any time your child feels worried, they can press the special heart on their hand and it will send a cuddle to you – and you will send one back! Practice doing this while you’re sitting together, and then remember to draw a heart on their hand on the first day.
Calm chats - Every few days, take five minutes to have a quiet moment with your child. Remove any distractions, and just have a little chat about school. Mention their favourite things, and ask them how they feel about school. Tell them what you enjoyed most when you went to school.
Practice trip to school - Practise the walk or drive there together before school begins. If you walk, point out the things you see so that they start to feel familiar. Take a little treat for the journey home again, so it feels like a positive experience.
6. Making friends
Daisy tells us; "In my Starting School book there is a page to help show the children how to make friends. It’s a skill we often think children intuitively have but sometimes they need a little extra support. Talk to them about how to ask what someone’s name is and how often knowing that is a great first step to getting to know someone."
This year is called RECEPTION for a reason. It’s a welcome year. It’s a ‘let’s get settled into this new way of life’ year. Everyone needs to find their feet - including you, the grown-ups. So go easy on yourselves and your little people. It’s really just the beginning of the next big adventure.
Daisy Upton’s book Starting School is out now, published by Ladybird RRP £9.99
The new school year brings with it a whirlwind of emotions so follow our back-to-school month page for tips and ideas, such as how to help a sensitive child go back to school and how to navigate packed lunches and school healthy eating policies with a fussy eater.