… don’t worry!
This time last year, I was all ‘woe is me’ and all ours days of freedom and term-time days out is over. I wrote posts about our ‘last week of fun‘ and how I was feeling on the last day before he started school – but a year later I can see the fun hasn’t ended, this year HAS been fun.
You won’t lose your baby. Somebody told me that by the end of the Reception year, you will think ‘where has my baby gone?!’ Well, it’s true, my boy has grown up incredibly, with his speaking, his confidence and his independence. But he is still my baby, and he still has that innocence and finds the silliest things hilarious. Your child will know more and will ask a million more questions than they used to, but will still be your baby. You WILL cry on the first day and that’s okay.
Teachers will help your child learn to be independent. At the start of the year I was so worried about how my boy would cope, would he be okay going to the loo by himself, would he be okay with his packed lunch, would he be able to open his crisp packet, would he be able to get changed for PE? So many worries. But I needn’t have worried, both the form teacher and the teaching assistant have helped my boy and the other children learn to do all these things and be more independent.
Going to the loo. Obviously your child should be potty-trained by now, but it’s still a worry is they will be able to cope on their own. For the first two days my boy was afraid to use the loo and wouldn’t go all day. It was a proper sized loo without a kiddy sized seat, so I can see why. But on speaking to his teacher, she helped him conquer his fear and by day 3 he was proudly telling me that he went to the loo after lunch and pulled the white tissue and washed his hands. There were one or two accidents in the weeks after, but the school had a cupboard full of space clothes for these incidents – it’s completely normal to have accidents in the early days and the teachers are prepared. Do not worry! By October there were no accidents at all, kids learn so quickly, especially when they have made friends and want to show they can do it themselves.
Daytime naps. Are you worried that your child still has daytime naps, how will they cope with a full school day? I guess this applies if you have a younger child, with my boy being a May baby, he is in the younger side of the year. He was used to having an hour or two hour lunchtime nap. When he started school, the first week was fine, but by week 2 he was exhausted, cranky and moody after school, throwing tantrums and generally not being himself. One day that week he had fallen asleep on the carpet at school. So I had to adjust things, I knew he was too tired. Straight after school we’d get into our pjs at 4pm and have dinner then (as it took him an hour to eat). At 6pm we’d switch all the lights off and have a little disco with disco lights for 20 minutes. Then at 6.30pm he’d get into bed and watch some trains on TV and he’d be fast asleep by 6.45pm. He would wake in the morning at 7am. With this new routine, he got his full 12 hours sleep, didn’t need a lunchtime nap and was happy again. So if your child is still having daytime naps, don’t worry, you can adjust your routine.
Eating lunch. It is a worry whether they will eat or will they be hungry all day. But children make friends and copy each other. My boy would tell me all about what his friends had in their lunchboxes. Because they are all eating together, they want to eat. My boy couldn’t open crisp packets, so I got resealable snack bags from Tesco and filled them with his snacks so I knew he could open them. I got Systema bottles for water. My boy has a ‘train’ lunchbox which he LOVES. This is one of the main things that made him excited to go to school, taking his new lunchbox – so a top tip is to get one that your child REALLY likes. You can get really unique designs from eBay. No one has the same one as my boy.
Also they have water jugs and cups, and a bowl of fruit in the classroom. They give them milk and snacks in the afternoon. I think all Reception children in the country get free milk, so your child will have eaten something.
How will my child be able to get changed for PE? Remember, all the kids are in the same boat here, it is expected that they will take a long time to get changed and the actual PE bit is short! The main thing here is that they are learning to get changed themselves, and you’ll be surprised how quick they can get changed after a few weeks. You can help by naming all your child’s clothes – use a black Sharpie pen and write the name BIG! Don’t forget inside the socks and plimsolls too.
Mum friends – will you make any? The school run is quite a daunting thing. It is so crowded at drop-off and pick-up time, hundreds of parents, buggies, dodging cars, fighting against the crowd coming out if you come a little late. And in the early days, it can feel quite miserable if you have no one to talk to when you have made it to your child’s classroom. I felt unbelievably lonely in the first few weeks. I had stopped working, had a new baby, and I thought oh my god, is this my life now?? Which was strange as I had stopped working to be the one that took my child to school. We don’t have a PTA at our school and it felt like all the parents spoke in their own languages and I was an outsider. But it only takes one friend to open up the doors and then you’ll find your crowd. That is what happened to me, mid-October I found my mum friend, and her son happened to be my son’s best friend. And that was that, we’ve been going to school together every day since that day and I can call her a close friend now. And after making one friend, I felt confident to talk to other mums. And then my son had the ‘party of the year’ for his birthday and we got to know even more of the parents. And I learnt that actually everyone knows English, so even if they are speaking another language, don’t be put off, they can still be your friend.
The fun days are not over. I was sad that we’d only have weekends and half terms to have days out. We were used to quieter term-time days. But my boy started to like other children, preferring to play in groups rather than on his own. So actually weekend and half term days out have been better now. And there are inset days for term-time days out too.
Walk to school if you can. The walk to and from school is part of the fun for us, and you’re spending more time with your child that way. In the early days he’d walk so slowly, looking at everything, spotting cars, counting house numbers, that we’d leave the house extra early. Now he almost runs to school with his best friend. They laugh and giggle about silly things, like washing machines in people’s driveways, spotting planes in the sky, and most recently they were squealing with excitement at the street-sweeper. And of course there’s the famous wall where they stand and HAVE to have a photo taken. The walk to school can be so much fun.
How you will do the school run with a new baby? I was panicking about how I would get us ready in time when I had a 2-month-old baby to look after. But it was easy in the end! It went a bit like this when she was newborn – wake 7am, feed baby, change nappy, 7.15am wake Tyler, switch TV on, give breakfast in bed (cereal or toast), I eat at the same time (Lily was lying on the bed with us), make packed lunch, 7.45am get Tyler dressed, then I get dressed, Lily stays in sleepsuit, feed her a bit more milk. 8am put coats, scarves, gloves, shoes, hats on (takes ages in winter – set aside time for this!), 8.15am leave house, Lily falls asleep in buggy, 8.45am arrive at school. See, easy! Obviously as Lily got older, she started to have breakfast with us too. and was sitting on the floor while we got ready.
To help with time, I have a drawer set aside for school uniforms only, so I can grab what we need easily.
How to make dinner quickly. Kids are usually starving after school, and if you are organised, you will have cooked dinner earlier in the day, or have it ready in the fridge, and you’ll remember to bring snacks with you for the walk home. I am NOT this organised person! I know, terrible. I relied on quick fixes – McCains 5 minute fries, 10 minute chicken nuggets, or 7 minute cheese & tomato kids pizzas, and Microwave Steam Fresh vegetables in 3 minutes.
Your child will talk! My boy was a shy little thing, only really talking to people he’s close to, his family. I was amazed one morning when he got to school and ran to his teacher and said “Miss, there was a traffic jam!” I since learnt that he’d been telling her all about the buses he sees and their destinations and different trains. I was so happy that he was now confident to talk to people other than his family. And I noticed it wherever we went now, he was suddenly talking to anyone! Your child’s confidence will grow so much in Reception and they will adore their teacher and teaching assistant.
Being in Reception has been such a big learning experience for me and my boy, I have LOVED it, watching my boy flourish into this chatty friendly child who can read and write! Everyone in the class is his friend, boys and girls, I’m always hearing ‘Tyler!’ being shouted out from all directions. I’ve enjoyed the experience of being a school run mum, it certainly is a world away from working in an office and commuting to London, and I’ve settled into this new routine.
If you have a child starting Reception this September, you can help them get ready over the holidays too, like easing out the daytime nap, getting them to be comfortable using the big loo, practice the walk to the school, and practice getting changed. This will give you peace of mind too. And don’t worry, it will be the best year for your child. He or she will love it.