Former OHbaby! editor Ellie Gwilliam has sent all her three girls off to school, so we reckon she's something of an expert! Here she shares ten helpful things she did in preparation for Day One. (Well, some she did, and some she wished she'd done with the benefit of hindsight.)
1. Find out the name of your child's teacher and talk about how wonderful it will be to be in his or her class. Relationship is very important to small children, and the fear of unknown can be reduced if they feel they know the person available to hold their hand.
2. Name everything… shoes, jacket, bag, socks, lunch box, drink bottle, clothes… the teacher will love you for it.
3. Choose a school bag that is big enough to fit the copious amount of things they come home from school with… not just their lunch box and drink bottle, but also spare clothes, togs and a towel, book bag, artwork, raincoat, shoes that have been tossed to the side and no one has the energy left at then end of the day to get them back on little feet. The trip to the car with an exhausted school newbie will be all the easier if the zip on their bag can easily close and you don't leave a trail of belongings behind you. Note: Make sure the bag isn't so big they can't carry it however. Click here for more tips on finding the right school bag.
4. Save the school's phone number on your mobile phone. You never know how soon you might need it, and it's a handy number to recognise in the caller ID.
5. Befriend a parent of one of your children's friends and get their number ASAP. Sounds a bit desperate and stalkerish, but it's really helpful to have someone you can call to collect your child when you have a 2.48PM emergency, like for example running out of petrol on your way to school pick up. Who would do that, honestly.
6. Make sure your child can open their lunch box by themself, and knows how to open and securely close their own drink bottle.
7. Pack a healthy, energy boosting lunch that your child will eat, without packaging they cannot open. Include a range of quick and easy to eat foods… mini sandwiches, servings of pre-cut fruit and veges, small crackers, mini muffins or cookies etc. The actual eating part of lunch time will probably be all over in about 2.5 minutes, so a whole apple and a huge filled roll will appear too daunting and not worth the hassle to hungry child who just wants to keep up with the other kids already on their way to the monkey bars. Find more lunchbox inspiration here.
8. Teach your child to tie their own shoelaces. New entrants teachers don't have time to tie 40 bows on 20 little pairs of shoes. So maybe just buy shoes with Velcro. Again, the teacher will love you for it.
9. Allow your child plenty of rest in the lead up to starting school, and keep their schedule as light as possible for at least their first term. Brace yourself for a VERY TIRED small person while they get used to the school routine. And brace yourself again - that could take all year.
10. Tell your child you love them, that they are brilliant, unique, and will do fabulously well at school. As often as you can, in as many different ways as you can. Top up their self-esteem tank, and regularly refill it as they now share six hours of their day with hundreds of other children on a united quest for knowledge - and the latest pencil case/sneakers/PillowPet/Zhu Zhu Pet/any pet or that matter/Lego/Trashies/MoshiMonsters/teacher's attention/friend's attention… It's a competitive jungle out there and even the youngest school students soon work out that they just want to keep up.
Ellie Gwilliam still buys only shoes with Velcro fastenings, and yes - she did run out of petrol on the way to school pick-up.