How to help my child on their first day of school or nursery

Aug 28, 2018 - Parenting , School - By Carine Robin

As September is fast approaching, parents often wonder how the first day in school will be for their child.

In this blog post, I wanted to share tips with you about the first day in school.

And, reassure parents that your child is likely to be ready for school. A recent discussion in my Facebook group reminded me of this as the poster discussed the list of recommendations and tips sent by her child’s future school.

First, let’s discuss “school readiness”. I remember that it was a hot topic when I worked in the Early years. We are pushed by the Government, here in the UK, to ensure that the children in our care are ready for school.

The school readiness can be defined as the skills a child should have by age 5 to adapt to the school system.

It’s obviously relevant if you choose to send your child to a mainstream school. And pointless if you choose to home educate.

But that term, at least here in the UK, has been used also by health visitors, children’s centers, nurseries and preschools to assess the children’s independence and ability to learn.

I don’t think a child should check any boxes before he enters into any “formal” settings, but I want to make sure you understand what it means.

Here are what it’s expected from your child around aged 5:

  • Between the ages of four and five, children should be prepared to be separated from their parent or main carer.
  • Children should be able to clearly demonstrate their ability to listen and follow age-appropriate instructions
  • Children should show an interest in a variety of subjects, paying attention to the subject or activity they are taking part in
  • Children should have enough of a range of vocabulary and language to express their needs, feelings, thoughts or ideas
  • Children should be able to identify themselves by name, age, state factors in their life, name family members etc…
  • To be able to interact in an age-appropriate way with another child or adult
  • Children should be able to interact, share and play, taking responsibility for their actions, understanding the repercussions for their actions
  • Focus on and also show interest in the work they are undertaking
  • To be able to observe, notice, discuss and ask questions about their environment and experiences
  • To be able to engage with books, have some understanding of words and language
  • Respond to boundary setting
  • Vocalise their needs such as toileting, thirst, hunger illness etc

While the government aims that children achieve those skills by age 5, the issue is that most children start school at 4 years old, even if it’s not mandatory until their 5 birthday.

What the Montessori education shows us is that their reach many social skills only when they are 5 or 6 years old.

In fact, we expect far too much from a young 4 years old.

I like how the Unicef talks about this topic, exploring how the child is ready for school but also how the school should be ready for the children and parents should prepare themselves for the transition.

I believe that a slow-paced, respectful childhood at home will provide all the necessary foundations for those skills. I’m sure that if you prepare a beautiful home with activities that follow your child’s interest, your child will be ready for whatever comes next.

I know that the Montessori system of education emphasizes all those skills, naturally. Those skills are developed through the practical life activities, the community life and the creativity and questioning that we foster in the classroom.

Nevertheless, you have chosen to send your child to school so let’s try to make the transition as easy and respectful as possible.

In this blog post, I share tips for the first day in school or nursery.

In fact, your attitude towards school will set the tone for the year ahead.

Tips for the first day of school:

  1. Make sure everything is ready the day before and if the school run is totally new in your house, wake up yourself earlier to ensure there is no rush.
  2. Talk with your child about your own first day in school in a positive way.
  3. Take a picture of them on their first day of school. Make it a special day to remember, that will add to the positivity of the event.
  4. Be cheerful and confident that your child will be ok at school
  5. If your child is particularly anxious, you can give them a little token to remember you or draw a heart on their hand. Check if the school allows your child to bring in a teddy or blankie to school. Most reception teachers should be fine with this
  6. If you are allowed in the classroom, show your child around. Help them find their coat peg, show them the toilets, their seat and all the essentials.
  7. Don’t make a fuss when you leave. For your child not to feel anxious, it must be a very cheerful and casual leave. That will show them that you trust the teacher and you trust the school to take care of them.
  8. On the same note, hold down the river and don’t cry in front of them. It’s the start of a new transition not the end of an era. Be happy for your child (and cry at the coffee shop with the other mums)
  9. Say hello to the other parents and arrange a meet up as soon as possible. It will help your child if you make friends with the other parents. You will soon organize playdates and you will be together for many years!

The first after-school day:

Your child will probably be tired and overwhelmed. A 4 or 5 years old will be unlikely able to share what he has done all day. So here are a few tips.

  1. Make sure the snack and dinner are ready or quick to make.
  2. Focus on your child but don’t be disheartened if she doesn’t want to connect straight away.
  3. Be ready for a melt-down. All day, your child had to adjust to a new environment. Children must work hard at self-regulating when in school and of course, when safe back home, they will relax and will need to let go of those emotions.
  4. If it’s possible, go out on that day. Chances are that they didn’t have more than the mandatory breaks, although the Reception class might have an outdoor classroom with a free flow system. Still, your child might have chosen to stay indoors.
  5. Be ready to play with your child and to be playful. Find an activity that makes your child laugh out loud. Laughing will help your child to destress and to release oxytocin hormones.
  6. Don’t ask tonnes of questions and avoid the dreadful question “what did you do today in school?”. A better way would be to simply ask what the best thing and the worst thing about her day was.

I was planning to blog about this earlier as school is starting back next week for many of us. Asthis post is published later than expected, it focuses on the first day. I hope these tips reach you in time to reassure you for the first day.

Let me know how you and your child have coped on the first day.

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About the Author: Carine Robin is a qualified and experienced Montessori teacher and founder of The Montessori Family. With over 15 years of experience, Carine offers a blend of professional insight and personal understanding as a mother of two and qualified child psychologist. Inspired by the success of her Montessori subscription box, she created The Montessori Family to provide a comprehensive resource for parents and teachers globally. This platform aims to support child growth and well-being through curated educational activities. Additionally, Carine maintains the UK's most popular Montessori blog and administers the largest Montessori UK Facebook group, making her a central figure in the Montessori community.

Carine Robin
Comments (2)


Sept. 1, 2018, 8:45 a.m.

Great advice! Thanks for putting this together!

Noteworthy Mommy

Sept. 1, 2018, 3:25 p.m.

Very helpful tips. I’m afraid many kindergarten programs in the US are pushing academics onto children far too early. Give them time and an opportunity to socialize with their peers. Give them time to play and be creative and to problem solve and create. Give them time to explore nature and the world around them. Give them an opportunity to ask questions. Give them a nurturing environment and caregivers who see children as unique individuals and children will be successful.