Despite what the calendar might say, summer starts and ends with school. Exactly when varies with every district in every region, but generally it’s late August/early September. And it can be stressful, confusing, rushed, and filled with emotions for both parents and children – especially young children, and little ones stepping into a classroom for the very first time. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips and suggestions that we think will help make that first week for your family a great one.
Got a First Timer?
Sending your little one off to any kind of school situation for the first time can be a hurricane of emotions for everyone! Depending on your child’s disposition (shy to adventurous and everything in-between), put a preparation plan in place. Are they excited about the first day? Great! Then play up the adventure and support their excitement. Are they feeling nervous about knowing what to expect? Schools often have open houses before that first day, where your child can see the classroom and even meet the teacher, so that first day feels a little more familiar. There are many read-aloud books that can help kids get excited about the first day, too (we especially love The Pigeon Has to Go to School). Be positive and talk up all the fun experiences in store for them, like arts and crafts, recess in that new playground, making new friends, and – Imagine all the new things they’ll learn! But don’t negate any apprehensive feelings they might having; listen to their worries, and make sure they understand that they’ll be safe, that the teacher is there for anything they might need, and that you’ll be there, on the dot, to pick them up in a few hours and hear all about their fantastic day.
And we mean that literally, and figuratively! You probably have a pretty set sleep schedule for your little one, but it likely has some variations, especially during the summer. Now is the time to clamp down. At least a week before that first day, be stringent about lights-out and wake-up times, keeping in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 10-13 hours of daily sleep for kids 3-5, and 9-12 hours for kids 6-12 (totals include naptime). Start that bedtime ritual accordingly, and maybe even plan on a few more story-time books to help send then off to slumberland. On that first day, when they wake up energized instead of groggy, you’ll be glad you did!
Got a Shopper in the Family?
Many kids love using back-to-school as the perfect excuse to pick out some new clothes or get a cool new backpack or lunchbox. Make it an event – let them pick out their favorite notebook colors, some new pencils and crayons, and maybe even get a few stickers to decorate their water bottle. This is another great way to get them excited about the first day.
A Sneak Preview
Leading up to that first day, boost their confidence by giving them a little preview of some of the things they will be learning in school – counting, sounding out letters, word recognition or learning the pledge of allegiance. You can easily find your state’s curriculum guidelines online, outlining what’s to be taught that year, and a little prep work will go a long way in allowing them to feel confident. Also instilling the routine of doing a little “schoolwork” every day will put them in a great frame of mind.
Every teacher will appreciate you outlining what will be expected of your kiddos in terms of manners and rules. Make sure they know the basics: line up quickly and quietly when told to. Listen carefully to instructions. Don’t talk to classmates when the teacher is speaking. Don’t forget to raise your hand. Be cooperative and helpful. Always use your inside voice in the classroom. And most of all, be kind to everyone. Even if they are entering the third grade, it's important to remind them of these basics!
Put a little surprise in their lunchbox each day to let them know you’re thinking about them. Maybe it’s a post-it with a funny face you drew, a fun eraser, a favorite treat, or a silly joke. We love this idea so much we even made a few lunchbox notes for parents in our free printables section here!
Several of us here at Playper have twins, so we know this one all too well. You may be asked by the school whether you want your twins in the same classroom or not. Some schools have policies to separate twins automatically, some ask the parents for a preference, and others just assign the kids to a class without specific regard to their sibling status. Whatever your situation, make that part of the discussion before that first day. Every set of twins is different – some might be anxious about being separated but others might enjoy the change. Just be sure to check in with both separately to see how things are working out for them, not only after that first day but throughout the year.
Mark the Milestone
Whatever grade they’re entering, you and your child have reached an important milestone.
Include them in all the things that go into getting ready for that first day. The night before, help them pick out what they are going to wear to save time. Pack their backpack the night before, too, and make sure their water bottle is filled and ready to go. If they have a friend the same age going into the same school, include them in the first-day outing to make it an event. And don’t forget to take a first-day photo with all their gear in hand!
Finally – You!
It is a milestone for parents and family members as well. Getting choked up is perfectly normal and expected, but try to hold it until after drop off or after the school bus pulls away! Make sure to take care of yourself too, because while it’s an exciting time, parents can also be apprehensive about our little ones growing up. Then once you’ve gotten into the swing of the new school year, start getting ready for the next first day of school because the years fly by! Enjoy and treasure these milestone moments as much as you can.3