My Top parenting tips have been hard learned! Those who know me know that I worked as nursery nurse for 15 years before becoming a photographer. My experience definitely helps when welcoming children into the studio but coupled with having 4 children of my own, means that primary school has been my life from over 20 years! In fact I think I only left while in secondary school so I have definitely developed a few top parenting tips!
Over the years, I have developed ways to manage having 4 children and juggle school life with them.
My own little girl starts school this year so I will be weeping at the school gates too.
Here are my top parenting tips and tricks to manage the early years and how to rock being a primary school parent!
Parenting Tips - Have an email address just for school letters
Since Covid, we have seen a definite move to online correspondence, especially from school. Gone are the rainbow array of letters stuck to the fridge. It has its good points and its downsides. It's great because you know the letter will get to you and not be left on the carpet after story time, but if you have ever tried to find the date when sports day is, buried in a newsletter hidden between emails from Asda and Mammas and Pappas you'll feel my pain.
Having a dedicated email address just for school letters means at least you can see everything at a glance without trawling through!
Get a new email address here
Top Parenting Tips for Starting School - Label Everything!
It seems obvious I know but when I worked in Foundation Stage, so many parents didn't do this. I had one parent who lovingly sewed a red ribbon into her child's clothes so "she'll know which is hers." After taking the time to explain that it's a great idea but when her little darling left it in the school hall, the caretaker or cleaners wouldn't know who's it was she realised her mistake.
I always use labels from here I chose waterproof, dishwasher safe stickers for bottles, lunchboxes and bags and embroidered labels for clothing.
Having 3 children in school at all times for years I always chose a different colour for each child's name. This way I could see at a glance when folding washing who they belonged to. I went through the phase of lovingly stitching each label in feeling all earth motherly! Does not happen anymore!!! We have different colours with pictures on for the younger ones to help them to recognise them but they are definitely iron in!!! No more stitching for me!
Show your child their things and let them pick them out.
Letting them pick their first lunchbox out or chose the coat, sock or headbands they will wear can help them get excited for school. They will be a little comfort for them in the times when they are a little worried and it will also help them to recognise their things!
Showing them their name labels or even adding an additional ribbon to their coat will help them to know their things. I was once informed by a very stressed foundation teacher that she after trying in vain for half an hour to convince my 3rd son that his coat was in fact his and not his friends she had resorted to pulling his big brother out of maths to see if he had more luck - he didn't! No matter how many time they said "look it has your name there" he wouldn't believe them. He chose a gold ribbon from the box at home and we tied it on, thus saving his poor teacher from further stress. Mrs Oliver, if you ever read this, you are forever my hero!
Parenting tips - Have a checklist
As your little one gets used to school life and start to be more responsible have a visual checklist of things they need to pack for school. Having 3 dyslexic children these list have been a Godsend. Dyslexia causes memory and processing issues so for years we have had visual lists on the fridge door for them to double check they have all they need for the day. If you can laminate it, even better as they can tick off the things they have packed! I wrote a blog on our family's journey with Dyslexia, you can read it here
Leave the PE Kit in school
It's the worst feeling, you have just handed your little darlings over to the school staff, your making a bid for freedom down the school path dashing for your car before you are late for work and you realise its PE day and their kit is on the kitchen table where you left it. Do you run home and get it and be late for work or do you risk your child being in trouble and missing out?
Now most schools will give you a few chances, teachers are parents too and know how easy it is b aut still its not the best so over the years the school i worked at suggested leaving the kit in school, bringing it home every half term for a wash. when you think about it it is only worn for around 30 mins a week so it will not get that dirty in the 3hours a half term it is actually worn! Save yourself the stress at the school gates!
Have a place for the school things
Having 4 children's bags, shoes, coats and lunch boxes scattering the hall may aid in burglar capture when they trip over and are thus incapacitated but isn't practical on a day to day basis, believe me. Show your kids where their things should live, I'm not promising they will put them away but at least you stand a chance!
Parenting Tips - Practice with Lunch boxes
After seeing as many lunchboxes as I have, I can see the potential issues. Lunchtime staff are amazing. They can stand the loud noise of the dinner hall, open a dozen packets of crisps and satsumas while also encouraging slow eaters to speed up so they actually have time to play outside all with a loving smile on their face. However but it's always good to show your little one how to open their fruit, yogurts and even lunchboxes so they can dig in straight away when their little tummies are hungry. Make sure they like what they are eating. Children are often fickle with their tastes and the sandwiches they loved and would east exclusively last week may be declared "yucky" abandoned for good. Don't despair, it's normal if frustrating!
Remember most schools have a NO NUT policy to keep those with nut allergies safe!
Use the car time or walk to school
All the things your children will have to practice. Phonics, singing, timestable, reading, the list is endless. Finding time when your child wants to practise is often hard. I've found the time between dropping off at various schools and nurseries great for timetables or spelling practise. A small whiteboard and pen like these in the car is handy to write spellings on and they can't escape and play with lego when you ask them to read if you have extra time before you go into school.
As you go through the school gates, know that they will be fine, the teachers and teaching assistants do this job because they genuinely care about the children in their care. The first children I taught have left high school and are in their 20s now but I still see some of them now and we reminisce about their time at school. Send them off with a smile on your face, and let them know how proud you are that they are going to big school, don't let them see your tears. Save them for the journey home, ring your partner, mum or best friend and have a little moment because it is emotional but know that they are ready for this next step.