Our Top Ten Tips for Starting School

Starting School (or kindy, or  childcare ) is an important milestone in the eyes of a child (and parent) which although exciting can also leave some children feeling anxious and worried. There are many simple strategies that parents can put in place to help ease first day fears. Here are my Top Ten Tips to help your child prepare for the big day!

 1.  Read Books About Starting School

A child starting school for the first time might have trouble imagining what it will be like. Stories about school can introduce them to the school day, answer any questions they may have and help ease any first day fears.

The Little Big Book Club recommends:


Jessica’s Box

Peter Carnavas

New Frontier 

ISBN: 9781921042911

                Will Jessica find a friend on her first day of school? Watch closely as Jessica reveals

                the contents of her BOX. Could this be the answer to her dreams of friendship?


Look, There’s a Hippopotamus in the Playground Eating Cake

Hazel Edwards


ISBN: 9780143501404

                I’ve got a new school bag.

                I put my red drink bottle and my red lunch box in my school bag.

My hippopotamus in packing his school bag too.

The little girl from There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake is starting her first day of school! She takes her hippopotamus with her and together they face those first-day-at-school experiences – meeting your teacher, eating lunch in the playground and making new friends.


Miss Mingo and the First Day of School

Jamie Harper

Walker Books

ISBN:  9780763641344

                        A non-fiction storybook that brims with learning and laughter.

There's an elephant in the classroom? And an alligator, a koala, a centipede, an octopus and many other creatures. Welcome to Miss Mingo's room on the first day of school. The teacher, a flashy flamingo, invites everyone to share something special about themselves, and share they do. From enormous Hippo to teeny-tiny Ant, everyone in this diverse classroom is unique. Find out how long Giraffe's tongue really is, how much water Pelican's pouch can hold and lots of other fun facts.


Charlie and Lola: I Am Too Absolutely Small For School       

Lauren Child


ISBN:  9781846169045         

Although Lola agrees with her brother that it would be useful to learn to write, read and count, she can’t go to school because her invisible friend is too nervous to go. This title in the ‘Charlie and Lola’ series deals sympathetically with children’ fears surrounding the first day at school.


First Day

Margaret Wild and Kym Gamble

Allen & Unwin

ISBN:  9781864481105

On the first day of school...
Alex hopes she will make a friend,
Salma wants to learn to write NOW
Stephen is a little bit scared,
and Penny is as wriggly as a tadpole.
Khalil is the best at tying shoelaces,
and Jun just wants to count...10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 ZERO!
But what is the little dog, Josh, up to?
A sunny story for little ones starting out and for anyone remembering their early days at school.


Just Jack

Jane Tanner


ISBN:  9780670071920

Jack was getting ready for his first day at kinder. He wouldn’t know anyone. How would he make friends? Then Jack has an idea. He put on his red-and-blue suit, his yellow cape, his special socks, his gumboots and, last of all, his shiny black mask. SUPER JACK WAS READY FOR ACTION! And all the other kids loved him! But what will Jack do when his costume needs a wash? Will his new friends still like him when he’s just Jack?

*Just Jack is currently out of print so you may not find it at the bookshop. We suggest trying your local library.*

 2.  Become Familiar With the New School Environment

  • Find out if your school provides transition visits for new students.
  • Drive or walk past as often as you can and talk about all the fun your child is going to have there.
  • Some schools are open to the public after hours. Check with the school first and make the most of this opportunity to walk through the grounds and play on the equipment.

 3.  Have a Uniform Dress Rehearsal

  • Try on the uniform and praise your child on how grown up they look. If the uniform is a colour or style your child is not used to, trying it on in advance may help alleviate any first day tantrums.
  • You might even want to take a photo of them in their uniform the day before rather than add another thing to do on the first morning.
  • Encourage your child to wear their new shoes around the house in the days before school starts so they get used to the feel of them. Wearing sandals with socks for a few days can help prevent blisters.
  • Make sure all of your child’s uniform is labeled. The first morning can be quite stressful so you don’t want to be rushing around then.
  • Pack a spare set of clothes as toilet accidents can still happen at this age, especially when children are in a new environment.

 4.    Have a Lunch Box Picnic

  • Let your child choose a new lunchbox. Letting them make the decision gives them some control over the new situation.
  • Pack your child’s lunch box and have a picnic together. This is a good opportunity to show them how to open it, undo wrappers and learn what order to eat their food in.
  • Packing their favourite foods will help them enjoy the first day, now is not the time to be introducing your child to new and unfamiliar foods. Make sure you are aware of any food policies, for example, no nuts, that the school might have.

 5.       Establish Home Routines

  • At least a week before school, start an appropriate school bedtime routine. Begin by waking your child 15 minutes earlier in the morning and going to bed 15 minutes earlier at night until they are in a good routine.
  • Get up a bit earlier on the first day so you can have a relaxed breakfast and have extra time to deal with any hiccups that might occur.

 6.       Practice School Routines

  • Help prepare your child for situations that are unique to schools, including:
    • Using a library bag.
    • Changing into a sports uniform.
    • Asking to go to the toilet.
    • Putting their hand up to ask a question.
    • The school bell.

7.       Help Develop School Readiness Skills

  • Sitting together for ten minutes each day for a story will help your child learn to sit still and listen.
  • Give your child lots of opportunities to practice both reading and writing their name.
  • Have lots of pencils and paper available for your child to draw on. Being confident in using a pencil is a huge benefit when starting school.
  • Games like Simon Says can help your child listen to, understand and follow directions.
  • Help your child learn to get dressed and use the toilet independently.

8.       Play Schools

  • Playing ‘schools’ with your child is a fun way to introduce them to new school experiences.
  • It can also help you to find out what they are thinking and feeling.
  • Start by sitting some favourite cuddly toys with your child. Call the roll and read a story together. Role model some of the experiences your child may encounter. Remember to keep it fun and positive.

9.  Saying Goodbye

  • Find out from the school how long they like you to stay on the first day.
  • Often a quick goodbye can be the easiest.
  • If your child is upset when you leave, rest assured that 9 out of 10 times they are fine within a minute of you leaving. Ask the teacher for help, they are very experienced at this! Don’t hesitate to phone the school or ask them to phone you to reassure you that your child has settled.
  • Putting a goodbye routine in place can help prevent tears, for example, put their bag away, do one activity together and then one goodbye hug and kiss.
  • If you think your child is going to miss you, consider letting them take something small from home to keep in their bag like a photo of you or a note you have written them.

10.  After School

  • Make a special effort not to be late as your child may worry that you have forgotten them or are not coming back.
  • Children are often hungry and thirsty after school. Take a healthy snack with you for them to eat on the way home.
  • Expect your child to be tired and grumpy. The school day can be very tiring so try and have a quiet first couple of weeks. If possible plan to go home straight after school and keep to a school bedtime routine on weekends.
  • Some children may want to tell you all about their day while others will not be so forthcoming. Encourage them to share their day with you by asking open ended questions like:
    • What was the best part of the day?
    • Who did you play with?
    • Did you have a story, what was it about?
    • Were all your friends at school today?

Starting school is a big step but with some forward planning and lots of support from you it can be a happy and positive experience.

(Tip 11 – It’s ok for you to cry once you have left the classroom! Bring some tissues and plan on meeting a friend for a coffee and shoulder to cry on)

(This article was first provided for South Kids magazine)

Do you have any tips? Please feel free to share them in the comment section below :)