The first day of primary school is a big adventure for young children, filled with a mix of emotions. They may feel excited, nervous, curious, and even a little bit scared. It's completely natural for them to experience this whirlwind of emotions as they embark on this new chapter of their lives. As parents, we may feel the same!

We want to ensure our little ones are prepared to start this exciting journey. It’s very easy to get caught up on what you think your little one’s should be able to do before they start school- you might be worried they can’t write their name yet or that they struggle to count, but please don’t worry about the academics because this is what school is for! Instead focus your efforts on emotionally preparing them because if they have a good understanding of what school is all about, they will be much more likely to settle in feeling safe and secure, and ready to explore and learn!

This is a pretty big topic so I am splitting it into a series of 4 (with the last coming out after they have started).

Each month I will give you some things you might like to start introducing, slowly helping them to understand what school is and feel a sense of trust and safety so that when they start, nothing comes as a huge shock for them.

My top tips for this month

By now you will probably have an idea of which primary school your child is going to (unless you are waiting on a place). But either way this is a great time to start dropping school into conversation. You don’t want to overwhelm them but there are some great ways to get your child thinking ahead.

You want to start making school a “safe” place and not a “scary” place for them in their minds.

Try these 3 things...

starting primary school

Be careful not to make it sound "scary"

Avoid saying things like; “you won’t be able to do that when you go to school” or threatening to tell their teachers about their behaviour- this creates an image in their mind about a scary place where they are likely to get told off (don’t worry if you have already done this there’s still plenty of time to turn things around!). We want to help them to trust their teachers and feel safe around them.

starting school

Framing school in a positive light, making it feel safe and fun!

Mention school when they do something well or something they enjoy, for example, a great drawing - “Wow that’s such a lovely drawing, I bet you will get lots of time for drawing when you start school”

Just be careful to keep it fairly accurate, you don't want to tell them they will be doing something at school that you know they won't as this will disappoint them when they start.

Share your experiences

Tell them stories about things you enjoyed when you went to primary school. It helps to hear your experiences and to know that their trusted person has also been to school too. Children take comfort in stories, and you can use this opportunity to mention some of the fun you had, funny moments and times you felt happy. You can of course also mention some of the things that took a little getting used to, but let them know how you overcame the challenge.

This is an important one so we have plenty more tips to come on making school feel like a safe and fun environment over the next few months!

Something else you can start now is helping them with their independence.

encouraging kids to be independent for starting school

Helping them to feel more independent

Encourage them to put on their own coat, use the bathroom on their own, and how to open their lunch box (if they will have one) or packets of food like bags of crisps.

This will boost their confidence, and help them find the school day a little easier (but please don't worry if they are unable to do these things yet!).

You might want to choose one task to work on at first and make it part of your daily routine.

Top tip: if your child is showing signs of being overwhelmed or anxious about the thought of school you don’t need to relate these tasks to school (because they may feel pressured to succeed or worried about what will happen if they are not able to do these).

That’s it from me for now! Keeping things nice and simple and easing your children gently into the idea of starting school.

We also have some expert advice on toileting to share with you from Little Life Steps, for those who may find this useful.

Going to the toilet at school

For many parents the thought of their children using the toilets independently at school can be a worry especially if they get a lot of support at home. We asked Susan from Little Life Steps if she could share some of her top tips on preparing you child for using the toilets at school.

helping kids use the toilet at school

Asking to go to the toilet

Some children may not want to put their hand up to announce they want to go to the toilet. Practise this at home through play so they can get used to it.

teaching children how to wipe their bottoms

Bottom wiping!

Make a game out of it... your child may love practicing on his dinosaur wiping the bottom with real tissue. Or having a race competing with dad to see who can wipe the dinosaurs bottom the quickest. In my video I show how you can teach using marmite and chocolate spread and before you known it, they will become a wiping expert in no time. 

In addition to my bottom wiping video, I have also added a free fun chart to use with your child. This chart can motivate them to keep practicing. You may choose to make your own simple one with a piece of paper and some markers, if you don't want to use my free one. The key is to make it fun and interactive, so your child is excited to use it.

You could highlight the importance of wiping from front to back, using the right amount of pressure, and reaching all the areas. 

using school toilets

Using the toilets at school

Sometimes, children are fearful of certain aspects of the toilets-such as the loud sound of hand dryers. Here's my top tip if they do have a hand dryer which you can practice in the run up to September. Give them something to occupy their mind- counting 1,2,3 or singing a song out loud 🎵🎵What number can they count to before the dryer stops? Can they get to the end of the song before it stops? 

This can reassure them as it tells their brain it will be coming to an end.

kids washing their hands at school

Hand washing

You will notice the bugs going around once your child starts school, many are preventable by good handwashing techniques and knowing the common areas of the hands missed by children. Show them how to wash their hands (you can use this fun video and rhyme)

toilet training before starting school tips


Susan also offers some free tips on supporting your children with toilet training here  but please speak to your childs school if you are worried about this and they will be able to tell you what their process if for children in nappies and how they can support you. Little Life Steps is running a free Super School Ready Course. It's full of information and tips on how you can encourage your child to use the school toilets amongst other things, find out more here.

Thank you so much Susan for your top tips!

What's next?

I hope you have found this helpful, we will be back again at the end of June with some more tips and advice for helping your children feel emotionally prepared for primary school 😊

We will be covering topics such as visualising school, practicing separation and preparing picky eaters.