You’ll probably be in one of two camps with regard to school prep, the first one being that you bought everything in April when the little delight’s place was confirmed. This was me last year, roll on September, the pinafore was too small and the summer dress looked like a mini skirt, not the greatest first impression. If you’re in the second camp you’re probably feeling the panic taking hold about now with just over a week to go, this is me this year, if Clarks have sold out of the ridiculous flashing shoes in a 10f I may have to mount a nationwide search. Whatever camp you sit in rest assured our handy tips below will have you feeling relaxed and ready to go on the 5th September.
Starting Year R
To start with I feel that I should say, DO NOT PANIC, the school send out all these checklists and stipulations before you start but are really much more relaxed than this would indicate. The main thing is that the kids get to school on time, have eaten breakfast and are happy. The uniform requirements and other requests are really not the end of the world if you get them wrong or confused, teachers have seen everything before so totally understand. Expect to cry at least once throughout their first year, either because they’re crying as you peel them off your leg (even the happiest child will do it once) or you’ve forgotten their damn special person toy and its raining and you’ve been up all night with the youngest (definitely not me lol). Find the nearest friendly mum and cry on their shoulder, they’ll need the favour repaying, believe me!
Uniform, what will you need? Trousers/shorts/skirts/summer dresses/pinafores, polo shirts, we can wear white or green, we started with white but I don’t have a great track record with white washing so quickly figured out that green was much easier. The logo’d green one seems to wash and dry not needing an iron, bonus, ours was from Skoolkit. Jumpers/cardigans, the school will encourage buying logo, however, it really doesn’t matter and one is sufficient for any church services, performances etc. We’ve found that M and S cardigans wore ok but their pinafore shrunk (could have been my washing skills to be fair!). Again the logo’d ones are more pricey but are easy to wash and if you hang up to dry don’t seem to shrink.
Pinafores and trousers seemed the best from Sainsbury’s, again, the pinafores wash and dry with no ironing needed. Tesco summer dresses were great and hassle free, but come up small, my small Yr R daughter is coming to the end of her 6-7 yrs dresses already. You’ll also need socks, we found the Sainsburys ones that you don’t have to fold over for girls the best, the others seem to fray. Buy at least 10 pairs as these seem to be eaten by the washing machine, lost when changing for PE or generally when they decide to undress at school, strange children. Thinking of PE and using the toilet make sure whatever you buy can be taken off/put back on by them as the teachers/classrooms assistants try to help but don’t have 30 pairs of hands. It may be worth not overbuying the more costly uniform items as they’ll probably want to wear what their friend has, my daughter decided that trousers were the way forward after I’d bought 3 pinafores as she didn’t like the way they zip up!!!! Arghhhhh!!!
On the subject of losing things, label well and copiously, I stupidly started with sew in labels, wasted at least 2 hours last August doing this and sustained many needle prick injuries. After this shambles I quickly discovered stick in labels, these are amazing and don’t come off easily. I’m actually tempted to stick one to each child’s head so that when we’re out I don’t loose them. I’ve now adopted the tactic of, if in doubt label it, that way if you loose something at least you have a way of identifying it when you’ve got your head rammed in the lost property box.
We personally don’t bother with a rucksack and just use the book bag but the older the kids get the more they need to take back and forward so this becomes necessary. Try to make the book bag as identifiable as possible, otherwise you’ll end up bringing home some other kids reading books and meltdown will ensue, a quirky key ring helps. Also if your little angel is prone to having little wee accidents pop some spare pants and socks in a nappy bag in the bookbag, make sure you check frequently though otherwise you get a nice eau de pee smell when you next remember to do some reading.
We didn’t need PE kit until Summer term but at this time it was hard to get hold of, if you can find out what their PE kit will be then it might be worth buying whilst all the uniform is in the shops, just buy a generous size. Tesco was great for PE T shirts and track suits when I bought them, plimsolls come up big so buy a size below their fitted shoe size. On the subject of shoes, we’ve gone down the Clarks route and found that they’ve lasted well, needing only 2 pairs for year R. Accept the fact that they will be scuffed within a week but just polish or use the easy shoe cream when you get chance and they come up well. There are also lots of good independent shoe shops.
Coats, don’t do what I did, buy one that is extremely warm but has the most crappy zip in the world. To the point that it either can’t be done up or is stuck up and your child has to wriggle out of it Houdini style before the Christmas nativity in church! Saying that, warmth is the way forward, we had the thick one and a thinner waterproof one for autumn/spring. Be prepared for the fact that they will be sent out to play in all weather so a pair of old wellies to leave in school is ideal. Remember hats/gloves/scarves for cold weather and a sun hat for warmer weather. Expect these items to be lost, gloves are hard to label, even with my sticky miracle ones!
Prepare for a barrage of emails as soon as you start, from one telling you that the crossing lady isn’t working today, even though she’s already been off all week, to another asking for money for a PTFA fair on Friday. Even after a year I haven’t got in the habit of writing down all these dates and requirements and can be seen running into the playground begging for loose change for whatever cause needs it this week. I would recommend, and I’m going to do it this year, keeping a column free on your calendar purely for school dates. If you use an electronic calendar pop them on there. Find a space on your pin/magnet board/kitchen worktop for all the paperwork that comes home and every piece of artwork that you feel obliged to display.
We have a psycho tired child so the start of school was bound to increase this by devilish proportions! She ended up going to bed at 6pm but was still rising early, as early as 5am some mornings. We tried getting her to stay up late but to no avail, mornings were still hellishly early. This did settle towards Christmas and then got worse again after the Easter holidays. Go with it, during the summer holidays she has been much better, generally waking at 6.30 or later. We found that there wasn’t much point doing a lot after school initially so don’t have too high expectations of playdates. It does seem to settle down once they get used to the demands of the school day.
I worried a bit about our daughter not knowing the alphabet or any phonics, she could just about write her name. However, its amazing how much they pick up even in the first half term. The way they teach the phonics with the songs and actions is great and seems to sink in really quickly. If you can find out which way of teaching that your school is using its helpful to look it up on You Tube. We use Jolly Phonics and there are some great videos out there covering the songs and actions used to teach the sounds of the alphabet. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend looking at it with your child pre school, but I wish i’d had a closer look before school started as it would have saved frantic learning by youtube as we tried to practice her phonics after school. We found that the best preparation for the kids in terms of ability to learn was being sociable, happy to join in and capable of physical play, climbing etc. This way the learning comes naturally as they now teach through play. Its just as important to be able to use the toilet, wash your hands on your own, use cutlery, dress your self and do up your coat at this stage.
Think about what habit you start with regard to snacks after school, towards the end of the year I was just greeted with ‘snaaaaak’, never mind ‘hi mummy i’m so pleased to see you’! Cue a huff when I hadn’t brought the correct choice of snack or none at all if I dared to forget. I now wish I’d started with a fruit snack. On the subject of food, if you’re planning on making use of the free school dinner for infant school children remember to chat about the menu choices over breakfast, we can chose between red (meat) or green (veggie) options. Our kitchen handily has the menu choices on their window for all the forgetful parents like me on the way into the infant play ground, so we automatically have the red or green conversation on the way in. Although don’t expect to have a clue what they actually chose when asking them after school!
Getting blood from a stone
Get used to the fact that you won’t have a clue what they do between the hours of 9 and 3 (ish). I have adopted an interview style technique to gain any insight into what my daughter has done all day, the ‘what did you get up to today’ question that I was first using was being answered by a very insightful ‘nothing’, or if she was in a particularly foul mood, ‘nothing, why do you have to keep asking me that’. So on advice from other parents I moved onto, ‘so what was the most exciting/funny thing that happened today’ or the one she seems to love dishing the dirt on ‘who was on the amber/red light today?’ You’ll also find that typically the answers flow thick and fast at about 7pm just as you’re trying to edge out of the bedroom. This is also when any arguments with friends seem to be mentioned. Expect quite a few of the stories to revolve around the toilet, I’m surprised she seems to know any of her phonics for the amount of time she spends in the loo, at least she’ll have a budding potential career as a toilet attendant if nothing else.
We found it useful to have the incentive of receiving a present at the end of her first week at school to encourage a happy start. We then planned a few nice days out at weekends and holidays to keep the interest going. It did seem to help in making going to school a positive thing.
Returning to school
I have to say I’m struggling a bit here as I’m falling into the no prep camp this year. The obvious ones to think about are uniform, shoes, bags, PE kit, stationary etc. I must have a look in the wardrobe to check we’ve got everything. Fish out the PE bag and check that its washed, that’s sure to induce a mummy meltdown on the first day back. We’ve planned our holiday for the last week of the holidays so the following isn’t going to work particularly well for us, but you may want to start about adjusting bedtime/getting up towards your school day schedule. Of course if you work you’ll be doing this anyway and just looking forward to not paying for holiday childcare! One to think about too is obviously moving towards school day meal times and eating a good breakfast to prepare for the school day.
For the older kids its a good time to get thinking about any homework they might have been set, you still have just over a week to complete it. If you have infant age kids and haven’t had chance to do much reading during the holidays it would be worth running over the phonics and recapping any tricky words, we were given a sheet that they should know by the end of year R so that would be a good start. There are lots of fun learning based apps so if you can get them to sit down for 5 minutes this might be the way forward, youtube has lots of great videos e.g. the jolly phonics, if nothing else this will jog their memory.
Even if they’ve been looking forward to seeing their friends for days its natural to have a few jitters on the first day, i’m planning on dropping and running, I always find they settle easier if I make a quick exit. We’ll chat about her friends on the way to school and the things she enjoys doing there (visiting the toilet lol). You could always write a little note for their bag to show you’re thinking of them during the day. It might be worth thinking about any changes and preparing them, as they move into a new school year. For example, I’m told that the change from Yr R to Year one is quite substantial in terms of less free play.
Have a think about any after school clubs they’re doing and check that you have a way of getting there/picking up. It sounds silly but 6 weeks is a long time in a child’s life so remind them of their routine and what is expected of them at school. Get back into school routines, laying their clothes out the night before or preparing packed lunches. Locate their book bags and put somewhere easy to find on the first day back, I have a funny feeling I’ll be scrabbling round in the under-stairs cupboard at 8.25am on the 5th September.
Good luck whether you’re an old hat or new school mum, blink and it’ll be school holidays again!! Becky xx