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21 things your child’s Reception teacher wants you to know

Starting Reception
Your child isn’t the only one who has a lot to learn in their first year of school. Here’s what their teacher wishes you’d do – and not do.

Starting Reception is the first big step in your child’s education. It's a journey that’ll last until they’re at least 18, so it’s understandable that you’ll want to get things right. But knowing how to best support your child, and work together with their teacher, isn’t always easy.

We asked experienced Early Years professional Margaret Travers, educational consultant, owner and senior educational trainer of Crayon Generation, for her insider knowledge on the things your child’s Reception teacher really wants you to know.

1. Social skills are more important than ABCs…

Many parents focus on building academic skills before their child starts school, but independence matters more. ‘Their experiences at nursery or pre-school will have helped them develop good social skills, like sharing, taking turns and beginning to empathise with others,’ says Margaret.

2. …but it helps if they can recognise their own name

Knowing what their name looks like will help your child find their own peg, their PE bag, and their mat at snack time.

3. Teach them to wipe their own bottom

‘It’s really helpful if your child has basic independence skills, such as managing the toilet, putting on their wellies and coat for outdoor play, and getting changed for PE,’ Margaret says. Although Reception teachers recognise that children will need lots of help, they simply don’t have time to zip up 30 coats at playtime.

4. Diet and sleep are crucial

‘Ensure your child eats healthy meals at home and gets plenty of sleep,’ Margaret advises. ‘Developing children use lots of energy in new situations, and it's important that their lifestyle supports this.’

5. Keep your emotions in check

It’s normal to worry about your child starting school, and to shed a tear on their first day – but try to keep the waterworks under control. ‘Children pick up on parents’ anxieties, so keep the new experience positive and upbeat,’ says Margaret.

6. Arrange a playdate or two

‘Making friends with other new families makes for an enjoyable start at school,’ says Margaret. Ask your child’s teacher who they like playing with and arrange some out-of-school get-togethers to help them forge new friendships.

7. Check their school bag daily

Letters home often get put in children’s book bags rather than straight into their hands, so have a quick check every evening to keep abreast of all the information you need about school life – no one wants to be the parent who didn’t hear about the school trip until it was too late.

8. Don’t stress out about reading levels

‘All children learn in their own time, at their own pace, and there’s no place for competition over their ability to read and write,’ says Margaret. ‘The best way to develop their reading skills is to enjoy books, pictures and stories together.’

9. Don’t hog the teacher’s time

If you’ve got a question or concern to raise with your child’s teacher, make sure you choose the right time and place to do it. ‘Engaging the teacher in a long conversation in the playground, when they’re trying to get the class to line up, is counterproductive,’ says Margaret. ‘Make an appointment to chat about any concerns.’

10. Label everything

Reception teachers may be virtually superhuman, but expecting them to match up unnamed jumpers with the right owners at the end of the day is a step too far.

11. Sign their reading record

Reading with your child, and, eventually, hearing them read is one of the most important things you can do to support their learning. Reading books may not be changed if you haven’t signed your child’s diary to say they’ve read them, so keep it up to date to avoid hindering their progress.

12. Don’t grill your child after school

OK, so we all want to know what our child had for lunch, who they played with and what they’ve been learning, but little good comes from ambushing them with 20 questions when they come out of school. ‘Don’t expect them to remember everything they’ve done; just relax and snippets will come out later,' says Margaret.

13. Put your phone away

‘Your child needs you to be attentive to them when you pick them up, so put your phone away and enjoy the stories they tell you, boosting their confidence by showing a real interest in their drawings, creations and conversations,’ Margaret advises.

14. Dress them for PE success

Tights and fiddly buttons are the bane of many a teacher’s life. Find out when your child will be doing PE, and dress them in their most easy-to-wear uniform on those days.

15. Obey the sickness policy

Bugs spread like wildfire among Reception classes, and if your child goes back to school too soon after being ill, they could infect their classmates. Find out about the school’s sickness policy – it’s normal for children to have to stay home for 48 hours after vomiting or diarrhoea – and stick to it!

Checking their hair regularly for headlice is also a must.

16. Go to your Reception starters’ meeting

‘The Reception starters' meeting is the best place to find out what topics your child will be following and what songs they sing, so you can support their learning at home,’ Margaret says.

17. Keep the teacher up to date with special or medical needs

Whether your child has problems with anxiety, is being assessed for autism or needs to take their asthma inhaler to school, make sure their teacher is kept in the loop.

If they know the signs that your child is struggling, they can do everything they can to keep them safe and well.

18. Bring a snack to school pick-up

Children are often starving when they come out of school. Being able to produce an energy-boosting snack can prevent many a meltdown.

19. Avoid becoming a pushy parent

Don’t get stressed if it seems as if your child ‘isn’t learning anything’. ‘The Foundation Stage curriculum is based on play,’ Margaret explains. ‘Children are encouraged to learn through activity-based experiences that bring together all aspects of personal and social development, communication, language, and physical development. These form the basis for later academic learning.’

20. Be prepared for ups and downs

Sometimes, your child might bounce out of school, full of enthusiasm and energy. At others, they may seem tired, withdrawn, crotchety or sad.

Try not to panic if your child seems to be struggling; getting used to school is a steep learning curve. Talk to the teacher if you’re concerned, but keep in mind that teething problems are completely normal.

21. Enjoy yourself!

Reception is the time for your child to settle into school, make new friends and grow in confidence and independence – and many parents find it’s an opportunity to form their own friendships and get involved with school life through the PTA, governing body, or volunteering. So relax and enjoy the new experiences on offer for both of you.

‘Your child's brain is hotwired to develop curiosity and understanding about all aspects of their world,’ Margaret advises. ‘Support their current interests, talk to them, encourage and support their emotional wellbeing, and they will be much more prepared for a school based learning environment.’

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