Starting school is not just about the first day. It’s a process that begins when children and families start to prepare in the year before, and continues as children experience their first days, weeks and months of school.

The central theme is one of change, as children and their families adjust to what happens at school. Everyone reacts differently – some children can’t wait to walk through the school gates while others will feel sad about leaving their early childhood education and care (ECEC) service and worry about making new friends. 

Children who make a positive start to school are more likely to feel excited and motivated to learn, have good relationships with others, and develop a sense of belonging within the school community. Over the next few months, you might like to try these practical strategies to help children prepare for starting school:

  • Travel to and from school as a practice run. Walk, cycle or drive to school at the usual drop-off and pick-up times so you child will know what to expect. 

  • Practise the school day morning routine. Help your child get into a routine of getting up, showering, eating breakfast, putting on their school uniform and packing their school bag. 

  • Practise lunch time routines. Set up a pretend picnic in the backyard or at the local park. Teach your child to open their lunchbox by themselves and explain which foods are for playtime and which are for lunchtime. 

  • If you can, visit the school on weekends. Your child can practise climbing on the play equipment and see where they will eat lunch. 

  • Arrange play dates with other children who will be starting at the same school. Seeing familiar faces will help your child feel confident during the first weeks of school – and is a great icebreaker for parents and carers, too!

You may also be interested in the KidsMatter Starting School resources on Thinking about transition to school, Getting ready for school and Getting help when starting school