Overcoming first day fears at primary school

Your child's first day at primary school, nursery or playgroup is a big step. However, there are plenty of practical things that you can do to prepare them, like talking to your child about school and helping to develop their practical skills.

Talking to your child

Your child may be anxious about what to expect on the first day at school.

If so, one way of helping them is to talk through their fears:

  • explain where they'll be going, what they'll be doing, and for how long
  • answer questions, and iron out any fears by asking what they think the school might be like
  • emphasise the things they may enjoy doing
  • tell them that you or their carer will be there to meet them at the end of the day

Don't dismiss your child's fears - things that seem obvious or silly to an adult can seem like terrible obstacles to a four year old.

Building on practical skills

If children have a good idea of what school is going to be like and have already experienced learning activities at home and in other settings, they're less likely to find the experience stressful.

Games, role-plays and reading at home can help your child get into the right frame of mind and boost their confidence.

Activities for your child could include:

  • playing games that involve taking turns or speaking in front of a group
  • playing with children of a similar age to develop social skills
  • reading books about starting school
  • using your child's favourite toys to role-play going to school
  • painting and drawing, which involve sitting down for short periods of time

In the weeks before school starts

In the run-up to the first day of term you could:

  • involve your child in choosing things they need such as school bags or uniforms
  • visit the school with your child so they become familiar with the building and the local area
  • some schools have arrangements to support your child's transition into school which you may want to enquire about
  • establish a routine and talk about what might be happening at school at different times of the day

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