So you’ve got their new uniform and a pencil case packed full of everything your child could need for their first day of school, but does it feel like you’ve forgotten something? The first day of school can be a little overwhelming for you and your child, so we’ve put together the ultimate first day of school guide to ensure they have the best start…

Getting your child ready for their first day of school

A child’s first day of school is a huge milestone, it’s where they’ll be spending most of their weekdays for a long time, making friends and shaping their futures. So as a parent, you’ll want to do everything you can to make sure their first day of school is the best it can be. 

Preparing their uniform and all the books and equipment your child will need is important, but it’s also important to make sure that both of you are mentally prepared. 

Saying your goodbyes and see you laters at the school gates on the first day can be a little hard, but that’s why we’re here – to help make the transition to school and coping with that first day of term as straightforward as possible for both of you.  

A back to school checklist

Before you get yourself prepared for your child’s first day of school, it’s still a good idea to just ask yourself – have I definitely got everything that they’ll need? 

Don’t panic too much, the first week or so of school will really just help ease them in. So if they are missing anything you can just pick things up as the first couple of weeks go on. 

Making a back to school checklist will help keep you organised, not just for their first day of school but every year of school to come. With a good back to school checklist under your belt, you’ll be able to more easily get everything sorted over the summer, so they can go back prepared and you can relax a little ahead of their first day of school. 

Tips for parents on your child’s first day of school

So their first day of school is just around the corner, and you want to make sure they have the best day possible, so their school journey is off to a good start. 

With these tips in mind, you can make sure that their first day goes as smoothly as possible. 

Prepare your child in advance

Not every child will be the same – some will be excited and fearless about going into their first day of school, while others might be nervous and shy. It’s completely alright for them to be apprehensive and a little unsure at first, but with your support, you can get them through the emotions on the day and know that they’ll be looked after by the school. 

Before their first day though, you can help get your child prepared mentally and emotionally with a few activities. 

One really fun way to get children excited about their first day of school, and get them engaged with reading, is to try reading books about going to school for the first time. Take a look through Waterstone’s Starting School collection for a great list of stories that’ll help get them excited.

You could also get your child involved in the preparations. If you’re using our back to school checklist, why not ask them to make their own list of things they think they’ll need. Make a game out of it that’ll help get them excited at the same time as practising their writing and handwriting. 

Help them feel secure

If your child is experiencing the first day of school worries, it could be coming from a need to feel secure or comfortable in school – the first day of school and back to school nerves can be very common. 

This could be the first time they’ll have been away from home and without you for the first time. So try to focus on ways you can help your child feel secure on their first day. Talk about the school schedule, so they know the order of the day and the routine they’ll be going through each day, and that it won’t be long before you’re there to pick them up again. 

Before long your child will be secure in their school routine and ready to take on each day at school. 

Prepare for some separation anxiety

This one can be difficult, especially with your own emotions probably running high too, but there’s a good chance your child will experience some separation anxiety on their first day of school. After all, this is probably the longest they’ll have been away from you in their life so far. 

So, be ready for some potential tears on the way to school and at the gates, or even the night before. Your child might seem okay on the outside but even so, it’s good to talk to them about their first day of school and see how they’re feeling. 

Most importantly, don’t minimise their feelings by telling them not to cry or that there’s nothing to worry about. Instead, listen to what they’re worried about and reassure them that it’s totally normal to be a bit worried, but that they won’t be alone feeling that way. Most other children will be feeling the same, and soon they’ll all realise that school isn’t scary, and they’ll feel much better as they settle in and make friends.  

Prepare for your own emotions

Remember your own emotions too! 

You might’ve got wrapped up in the parental stress of preparing your child for their first day of school that you forgot to check in with your own feelings. The first day of school is a big step, and stirs up feelings of pride, sadness, joy or any range of emotions – it’s okay to feel all of that, and remember it’s okay to have a bit of a cry as an adult too. 

If your child does notice you getting emotional, be honest about it. It’s good to promote a healthy relationship with emotions – tell your child how proud you are of them and that it’s making you feel emotional, but that it’s okay. 

Try to let yourself prepare before the first day of school – feel through your emotions and get out what you need to before you drop off your child, so you can try to avoid any tears (even if they are happy ones) as you say goodbye. If there are any tears, remember, just be honest – emotions are okay!  

Try to have some emotional support in place

Let a friend or family member know that you might need a little bit of help on the first day of school, even just a phone call in the morning after you’ve dropped off your child. That way you can have someone help you process your emotions if you need. 

Don’t feel like you have to take yourself straight home if you don’t have to either – you can always go for a little walk somewhere to clear your head before you get on with your day. The first day of school is a big day for you too, so do what you have to. 

Tomorrow is the big day! 

Try not to panic, although it’s easier said than done. You’ve planned all summer, you have everything your child will need for their first day of school (and anything missing can easily be picked up in the first couple of weeks).

So, let’s look at what you can do the night before the first day of school to make sure everything goes smoothly tomorrow. 

Get everything they’ll need ready

Make sure your child has got their uniform ready and laid out somewhere, ready to put on tomorrow. Check all their bags and belongings are labelled and packed, all ready to go with them on their first day of school. That way there’s no running around tomorrow morning trying to get things ready at the last minute, so you can keep the morning as stress-free as possible.   

Get them excited

You can get your child involved in checking everything is ready – make checking that everything is packed and labelled into a game, so they’re excited for their first day of school (and you get a bit of a helping hand with it). Remind them of how much fun they’re going to have and how exciting it’ll be to meet their teachers and classmates. 

Getting your child excited about school is the best way to ignite their spark for learning, starting them off with the right attitude for their first day of school. 

Print off our first day of school plaque

Get them really excited for the first day of school with our printable plaque that they can hold up in their first day of school photos!

A printable sign which reads 'My first day of school' which can be coloured in and held up by a child for photographs of their first day of school.

On the first day of school

The big day is finally here! Your child is wearing their uniform, they look adorable and emotions are maybe running a little high, but if you follow these steps then their first day of school should be a smashing success!

Get that first day of school photo! 

Everyone does it and you should too! You’ll only wish you had otherwise. Get a photo of your child in their uniform with everything ready for their first day of school. 

It’s not just for you, it’s a memory for them to look back on too and it’ll get them smiling first thing!

Don’t forget to get them to hold up their first day of school plaque!

Set off a little early

The last thing you want is to be running late on their first day, adding more stress to what might already be a bit of a stressful day for both of you. 

So, set off for school a little early on the first day. It can give you a chance to go meet other parents and children before they go in. 

Also if your child is particularly nervous you might be allowed to walk in with them and maybe meet a member of staff that can look after them, and guide them to their classroom so they don’t worry so much about you not being there. So arrive early and give yourself the time to do that. 

Keep the goodbye quick and drama free

It might seem counterintuitive to leave quickly if your child is worried about their first day of school, but sticking around for a long goodbye will allow both of you to get more and more emotional. 

After all the preparations for their first day of school, you’ll be able to keep the goodbye at the school gates (or in the school if you need to head in with them) brief. Use reassuring language, tell them you’ll see them very soon today, and remember the teachers will be used to dealing with upset children. Your child is in good hands. 

Talk to other parents

You might already know some of the other parents at the school gates, whether they’re close friends or people you went to school with yourself. Consider saying hello and making a few new friends yourself. It can be a great way to make a start on building a parental support network if you should ever need help, or if they do, and can help release some of the stress and emotions you’ve built up leading up to the first day of school. 

First day of school checklist

To help with making the first day of school as smooth as possible, we’ve put together a handy checklist along with our early years resources to help you get ready…

During the summer

  • Add important dates of the school year to your calendar

  • Start getting their stationery ready – pens, pencils, etc.

  • Go to a school open day with your child

  • Do some summer learning and reading

  • Practice some writing – can your child read and write their name?

  • Make sure your child can use the toilet on their own

  • Socialise your child with other children

1 month before

  • Get their school uniforms

  • Get their PE kits

  • Label all their clothing and belongings (any items that can easily be lost!)

  • Try a practice school run

The week before

  • Schedule in any haircuts – get them looking ready for their first day of school!

  • Start shopping for and figuring out school lunches

  • Make sure they’re getting plenty of sleep

  • Set up an “out the door” zone where your child can leave their school bag and shoes, ready to put on and go

  • Start waking your children up at the time they’ll need to wake up for school

  • Plan meals for the first week of school (maybe a special one for after the first day!)

The night before

  • One last check to make sure they have all their stationary and schoolbooks ready in their bag

  • Double check their clothes and other losable items are labelled

  • Have a good meal

  • Make their packed lunch ready for tomorrow

  • Make tonight a special family night – play games, read together and have fun!

The first day of school!

  • Take the first day of school photos!

  • Pack their lunch

  • Make sure they have their bag

  • Make sure you know what time to collect your child

  • Meet with other parents – double-check everyone’s on the same page about pick-up time

  • Breathe – you made it to their first day of school!

Want to make sure you’ve definitely got everything ready? Download our handy, printer-friendly first day of school checklist!

Shows an example of a first day of school checklist, which is available as a pdf downloadable.

The resources to get through the first day of school and beyond!

Your child is about to go on an amazing journey from their first day of school, and you’ll be there every step of the way to watch them grow. 

It might not always be easy, and that’s where we come in. At Explore Learning we’re here to help you and your child through the school year, whether it is maths tutoring, English tutoring, or our free online learning resources. we’re here, every step of the way, starting with the first day of school.

Take a look through our resources, and see if there’s anything we can help you with before or after their first day of school 

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