Starting school for the very first time is often a bit of a nerve-wracking time for our little learners. They don’t really know what to expect and they might be feeling a little bit nervous about the transition. This is especially true for children who suffer from anxiety. Today I’d like to share five simple ideas to help you support your child starting school this year based on my experience as both a Prep teacher and a parent.
Grab some sensory tools
Over the years, we’ve collected some wonderful tools to support our little learner’s as they start school. One of which is our Dinosaur Roar and Unicorn Soar brave oils from The Brave Space which we’ve used for starting school and also for other parts of our day that our little learners are a bit anxious like bedtime. Each roller includes a beautiful blend of essential oils for your child to roll on their inner wrists, take a deep breath and calm their bodies when they’re feeling a little bit worried.
We also picked up a beautiful Worry Stone from Growing Kind which our sensitive child kept in their pockets during our Read For School transition days at Big School. To use the stone, hold it between your index finger and thumb, gently moving your thumb back and forth across the stone. It’s a discreet way to manage your little learner’s anxiety and it’s certainly become a favourite for our sensitive child who grabs the worry stone whenever we’re about to do something new.
Recently, I visited Twigs Toy Boutique and grabbed a few quiet sensory tools for our sensitive child to keep in their calm down box including a Wooden Hand Massager and a Marble Fidget Toy. They would make great additions to a calm down kit inside your child’s classroom too so this is something you can definitely chat to your child’s teacher about if you feel they would benefit.
Read books about starting school
On our blog last week, I shared some of my favourite Books About Starting School. Books are a wonderful way to support little people with big transitions like starting school. They transport children into a brand new world in a really fun and pressure-free way, making new things seem just a little less scary. We read books about school often in the lead up to starting school. Right now, we have all our favourites in our living room so we can read them all the time!
Create a social story
Following on from picture books, you might like to get in contact with your child’s teacher or guidance officer to see if you can get some photos of their classroom and/or important staff so you can familiarise your little learner with real examples. You can then use these photographs to write a social story outlining what to expect in their classroom. You can add pages for where to wait before school, where to put their bag in the morning, where to put their lunchbox and drink bottle, what adults they can ask for help if they need something, how to sit on the carpet and line up, where they sit for lunchtime, where they play etc. Below you’ll see an example of a page I created just with some images from Google but having real examples from your child’s real classroom will be very helpful.
When I was in the classroom, we took lots of photos of our routines in the first week of school so that we could create social stories about those routines to support some of our anxious children or children that needed some extra support within the classroom. If you have an anxious child, it’s a great idea to see if your child’s teacher can send you some photos before school starts so you can run them through these new experiences before they start.
Create a one page profile about your child
I originally saw this idea of a ‘one page profile’ on the Unpacking Disability blog. The idea is that you are able to share a little bit of information about your child with their teacher before they start school. Sometimes our sensitive children might have strategies in place for when they’re feeling overwhelmed (or you might know some specific strategies don’t work with your child) so this is a great way to share some helpful information with your child’s teacher before they start school. We added information about our child’s strengths and their interests so that their teacher had a starting point for relationship building too! You’ll see a generic example of this below!
If you’re a teacher, you can create an All About Me sheet about yourself too – this is a wonderful thing you can do to support your sensitive children who are preparing for starting school!
Draw a heart button on your child’s hand
When our eldest started Kindy, she was very nervous at drop off time. We started drawing a little heart on the top of her hand and the top of my hand – we used permanent marker so that it would stay all day long. We told her that whenever she missed us or felt a little nervous, she could press her heart button and it would send a hug my way and I could do the same for her. This is based on the story, The Kissing Hand, which is a beautiful story about Chester the racoon and his mum when he was feeling a little bit nervous about starting school.
At the end of the day, all we can do is talk about school positively and focus on all of the wonderful things our little learner will do and achieve in this new stage of their lives. If you have any concerns about your child if they’re more anxious than you’d expect, please do reach out to your healthcare provider for support.
If you’re looking for some printables to support your little learner as they head off to school, we also have lots of fun school readiness printables and activities in the store which you can browse here.