Starting School and Preschool

Starting School and Preschool


Starting school is one of the most daunting, exciting and life-changing experiences a child will experience. Equally so for a parent sending their child off to school for the first time!

Last September, we had the joy of seeing our firstborn daughter start school and this September our second daughter starts reception whilst our third daughter is returning to preschool for her first full term. We have shed the emotional tears (well, Mum did!) and we have worried for them and cheered them along in equal measure. Here’s our top tips for starting school or preschool for the first time…



Most schools and preschools will have a system of settling children into their new environment. Our girls’ school invited them in for a play session with their adult and then a play session without. This was a great way of easing them (and us) into their new environment.

If you have not had a transition session (or even if you have!), you can create your own by showing your child pictures of their new school and what classrooms look like and role-playing typical school scenarios such as taking registers and home time.


Practical preparation

Uniform: Do not leave uniform shopping until the last minute! You may not find your preferred styles or worse, shops will have completely sold out! Facebook Marketplace or your local children’s centre might be able to help if you are really stuck.

Lunches: Reception children in England are given free school lunches, but if you prefer to send a packed lunch (or if your child is starting preschool) check what the school rules are. This is likely to include no nuts, no sweets/fizzy drinks and lunchboxes to be labelled.

Sports kits: Don’t forget to check PE/forest school arrangements with the class teacher on the first day. Our daughters’ preschool insisted wellies were left outside at drop off, whereas at school our eldest is expected to wear forest school gear on arrival and take school uniform in a bag instead.


Academic preparation

Writing: We have always used wipe-clean pen control books for the girls in the years preceding ‘big school’ and investing in good quality ones (and looking after them) has meant we’ve been able to reuse them and pass them down to each child. Practising a range of letters is important but if you are stuck where to start, the first letter of first names and surnames is extra useful for your child.

Focus: When children join formal learning settings such as reception, and even preschool, it is helpful if they can sit calmly and listen to a story. This is an easy thing to practise at home, even if it is not mastered before they start! It will help them to learn the skill of focus and enable them to participate in classroom activities that include focus and instruction.

Reading: Reading will always be mine, and many other teachers’, no.1 tip for solving all types of problems and supporting all types of growth. Reading to your child every day before they start school means they are likely to have heard over 290,000 more words than their peers who were not read to. They will have stronger communication and listening skills and will also be more likely to succeed.


Emotional preparation

For some children, starting school will be the first time they spend extended time away from their caregivers. If you can, try to arrange unchaperoned play dates with trusted family friends or a couple of days at holiday clubs so that your little one can get used to being away from you.

Remember that children absorb our moods and tones like little sponges, so if you’re feeling nervous or emotional about starting school or preschool then try hard not to show it! Be positive and supportive.


Top tips for parents on the first day of school:

  1. Prepare all clothing, bags, equipment etc the night before so the morning runs as smoothly as possible.
  2. Don’t let your little one see you become emotional - be positive and excited for them!
  3. Be firm about leaving them; tell them when and how you will be collecting them and let the experienced teachers take them into the classroom (even if they are crying).
  4. Pack some tissues so you can have a good cry in the car!


Holly King-Mand has four children and is widely known as ‘The Nation’s Favourite English Teacher’ following her 2020 viral success and subsequently her charity, writing, presenting and radio work. You can find out more about Holly’s Classroom on Instagram, Facebook and at