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How to help my child on their first day at school

Schoolgirl with backpack on walking to school

Whether it’s their first day starting primary or secondary school, they’re moving up to a new year group or they’ve recently changed schools, your child’s first few days in a new setting can take some getting used to. For that reason, it can be helpful to prepare as much as possible in the weeks leading up to this change in order to make the transition run smoothly and help your child settle in without a hitch.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the two main ways you can help your child prepare for their first day of school - physically and emotionally. So without any further ado, let’s get stuck in.

What does my child need for their first day at school?

Depending on the extent of the transition your child is making, you might only need to pick up a few extra bits and pieces, or you might have a slightly bigger shopping list awaiting you. For instance, if your child is moving from year 9 to year 10, you might need to get them textbooks and study materials to assist them as they embark on their GCSE years, whereas a younger child starting school for the very first time will need a lot more items by the time term starts.

The items and equipment that your child needs may vary from school to school. For instance, some schools may require calculators or football boots from a specific supplier, whereas others may have more relaxed guidelines. The best thing to do in this case is to speak with your child’s school and find out exactly what is required with plenty of time ahead of you - this makes it less likely that you’ll find yourself in a back-to-school rush trying to get everything ready.

With that said, it’s also true that the majority of schools have similar requirements in terms of the items that are needed. Although your child might require additional supplies depending on the classes they are taking or the clubs they join, there is a core group of items and equipment that most children will need to get before school starts. Fortunately for you, we’ve collated that list below.

First day at school checklist

The following list details some of the most common items children need to get before they head back to school or start school, whichever is appropriate. To reflect the variety of situations in which this checklist can be helpful, we recommend that you use it as a check-or-purchase starting point. For instance, if your child already has many of these items because they’ve been at school for a few years now, this checklist is your cue to check those items for damage and to replace them as necessary.

Back to school essentials:

  • Uniform and school shoes
  • PE kit and sports shoes
  • Backpack and sports bag
  • Lunch container - or a method of payment if they buy their food at school
  • Stationery, pencil case and books
  • Winter woollies and waterproofs
  • Reusable water bootle

If your child will be bringing a packed lunch to school, it’s worth checking if there are any allergy restrictions to what they can bring. For example, some schools ask parents not to pack anything containing nuts in order to protect children with nut allergies. If your child has a particular allergy or dietary restriction, it’s also important to make sure that the school is aware of it.

Depending on your child’s school rules, classes and clubs, they may need a few extra bits and pieces on top of what we’ve listed above. This equipment may include:

  • Swimming kit - complete with googles, swim hat and arm floats
  • Advanced mathematical tools - think protractors, pairs of compasses and scientific calculators
  • Art supplies
  • Dance shoes

Your child may need other items that aren’t on this list, so please check with your child’s school and teachers to be certain you’ve got everything they need.

How to deal with my child's first day at school

Turning up on their first day of school with the right equipment in their backpack is a good start, but both you and your child may feel anxious or worried about the change in your lives. This is especially true for children who are moving to a new school or starting school for the first time, but it’s also important to check in with children who are simply moving up to the next year group.

Although it might seem like a lesser change, it’s probably the biggest thing happening in their lives right now, and it can bring responsibilities and fears just like any other change.

Tackling back to school anxiety - whether it’s yours or your child’s - can be tricky, but the important thing is to stay calm and be understanding. It’s only natural to have worries before a big transition happens, so validate your child’s concerns and work with them to find solutions. And by preparing things like the equipment they’ll need for their first day ahead of time, you’ll help them to have one less thing to worry about.