Deep breath… it’s your child’s first day in Reception. You spend the day worrying about how they are getting on and cannot wait to pick them up, full of questions: What’s your teacher like? Who did you play with? Did you eat lunch? What did you do? Did you enjoy it? Have you made friends? Of course, a four-year-old is not going to have made detailed notes and be able to give you a blow-by-blow account but the chances are they have had a happy, busy day. Sometimes, however, getting over the hurdle of the first day or two is only the start.
It can take some children a little while to realise that they will be going to school Monday to Friday; and just have weekends at home. Your child may therefore start to become a little clingy in the mornings, once the initial excitement of starting school has begun to wear off and tiredness sets in.
It can be hard if you have a wobbly child in tow, but try and stay calm, kind, and positive if your child shows signs of being upset when leaving you. Your child will be quick to pick up on your distress; and may make them feel that there really must something to worry about if mummy or daddy are upset as well!
If you have any concerns, no matter how small, do speak to your child’s class teacher (away from your child’s little ears!). The teacher is there to support you and your child and ensure that the move to Reception is as smooth as possible. If there is an issue with transition points, such as being left in the morning, the teacher will be able to put in place strategies to help: for example, giving your child a task to carry out when he or she comes in. It also helps if you let the teacher know of any particular interests your child has, so that an appealing activity relating to that interest is available.
At this independent school in Farnham, the Pre-Prep (Nursery to Year 2) children often have the opportunity to all play together at break times. Older siblings are also encouraged to pop down to the Early Years area. Knowing their siblings are close by, provides reassurance for the younger ones, and of course the older children relish their more grown-up status! There are also timetabled ‘show and tell’ sessions. Encouraging children to share something special from home – be it an object or an activity – increases their confidence and benefits their social skills as they enjoy engaging with and listening to their peers.
Talking to your child about their day is also very important. It is crucial to show an interest in your child’s school life; but remember not to get that list of questions out. It can help if you keep your questioning specific to something you know your child has done. For example, your school may well operate an online ‘learning journal’ where the teacher posts pictures of your child undertaking various activities during the school day. This can be a great way to keep in touch with your child’s school life; and be a peg to hang questions on. Saying, “It looked as though you were having a lovely time with the playdough today – what were you making?” is more likely to receive an enthusiastic response than the more general, “What did you do today?”
You may also find that your child behaves beautifully in school but exhibits unusual or more challenging behaviour at home. This is not uncommon when children start Reception: after working hard during the day and acclimatising to the school’s behaviour expectations, children may let it all go when they get back to their familiar surroundings. Challenging behaviour at home can also be down to being just plain tired – new situations, new people, new ideas, new expectations for behaviour, new social interactions – these are tiring for adults and exhausting for children.