Preparing for school

You can start preparing your child for their transition to school in the year before they start. Talk to your child about school and ask what they think about starting school. Your child's early years service or school may provide transition-to-school programs and activities.

The year before school

Preparing your child for the start of primary school will help them feel more confident about the changes that are about to happen and what to expect at their new school.

The year before your child starts primary school is a good time to begin to focus on different aspects of school life. Having discussions about school and encouraging your child to become more independent can help them better adjust to the new learning environment.

Things that you can do to help your child prepare include:

  • asking your child what they think about starting school
  • encouraging your child to ask questions about going to school
  • helping your child stay healthy, making sure they have regular health and dental checks and keeping immunisations up-to-date
  • encouraging your child to try to do things on their own such as dressing, going to the toilet, washing their hands, unwrapping their food and opening and closing their drink bottle
  • talking to friends and other families about what school is like
  • attending transition-to-school programs and activities at your child’s early years service and school
  • talking to your child’s early childhood educator about things you can do at home to help your child’s learning and development
  • talking to the school about how you can engage in your child’s learning and development at school
  • asking the school what time your child starts on the first day and where to take them.

Over the summer holidays

With school just around the corner, the summer holidays are a good time to prepare for what your child should expect on their first day at school.

Preparing your child for primary school

  • Practice the journey to and from school with your child
  • Arrange playtimes with other families whose children will be going to the same school as your child – it can help if your child knows another child at their school before they start
  • Encourage your child’s independence and self-help skills e.g. dressing, packing school bag going to the toilet, washing their hands, unwrapping their food and closing his/her drink bottle, choosing or making nametags for bags, lunch boxes
  • Label all belongings
  • Confirm your before and/or after-school care arrangements, show your child where the Outside School Hours Care facilities are and talk about how they will get there
  • Check what time school starts and finishes on the first day and where to take your child
  • Be positive about starting school and enjoy your child’s excitement. Talk with your child about school. Ask about the things they are looking forward to when starting school or what might be worrying them
  • Visit your local library and read books with your child about starting school
  • When talking about school use the teachers name to help your child become familiar
  • Establish routines for dinner, bath time and bedtime. Five-year old children need about 11-13 hours sleep each night
  • Encourage your child to dress themselves, so they can manage things like taking jumpers on and off
  • If buying new clothes and shoes choose those with easy fasteners that your child can manage by themselves

The first day of prep

There are a range of things you can do to help your child have a successful and stress-free first day at school including:

The night before

  • Help your child to pack their school bag. Include items the school has recommended.
  • let your child know who will take them to school and pick them up on the first day
  • check what time school finishes and arrive in plenty of time to collect your child

In the morning

  • put sunscreen on your child in the morning
  • make sure your child eats a healthy breakfast
  • show your child where you will meet them at the end of the school day
  • leave home on time allowing time to say goodbye and be positive when you say good bye
  • remind your child of the time you will be back to collect them using a relevant routine e.g. after lunch, after story time etc. At first, you may stay a while to ensure your child feels secure, but once they have settled in, a short and reassuring goodbye encourages independence

At the end of the day

  • Talk to your child about what happened at school
  • your child might be overwhelmed and not remember everything that has happened during the day so instead of asking “How was your day?” or “What did you do today?” ask specific questions like “Which friends did you play with today” or “Which book did you read today?”

For more information

  • For more information regarding your child's transition from kindergarten to school, see: Transition to School