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7 ways to mark your child's first day at school

First day of school traditions
Your child's very first day at school is one to remember, so we've rounded up the best ways to mark the occasion.

Every year, at the beginning of September, parents line their children up outside their front door to capture their first day of the new school year on camera. And if your child is starting Reception for the first time, it's an even bigger occasion. 

So how can you mark their special day, besides filling your phone with photos of them in all their shiny shoed splendour?

How long is a piece of string?

Get your child to lie on the floor, and measure their height from heel to head with a piece of string or ribbon.

Keep the string in an envelope, marked with your child’s name and the date of their first day of school. You could also include the following poem:

‘This string is very special,
As everyone can see.
Untie it and it is
The exact same size as me!’

Keep the envelope safe until your child’s last day of primary school, when you can measure them again and see how they’ve grown.

First day self portraits

On the first day of your child’s Reception year, ask them to draw a self portrait.

You can repeat this at the start of every school year to see how their drawing ability and perception of self has changed.

As a twist, you could draw around them on a large sheet of paper and get them to fill in the clothes and facial features: a record of their size as well as their self image.

Day one signs

A simple way to mark your child starting school is to take a photo of them holding up a ‘First Day of Reception’ sign.

There’s a wide range of ways to do this: you can buy pre-printed chalkboard or whiteboard signs and fill in your child’s details, make your own, or download our free printables for the start of each school year.

Each year, snap your child in the same place, holding their sign, so you have a complete set of photos when they leave primary school.

Hands up!

Simple but effective: make a set of your child’s handprints on their first day of school using washable paint, and mark them with the date.

Leave space on the paper for them to do their handprints again on the day they leave primary school.

This is a lovely idea if you also took your child’s handprints when they were a baby.

First day interviews

Keep a record of how your child’s personality develops by ‘interviewing’ them on the first day of each academic year.

Good questions to ask include:

  • ‘What are you most excited about this year?’
  • ‘Who is your best friend?’
  • ‘What’s your favourite book?’
  • ‘What’s your teacher’s name?’
  • ‘What did you have for lunch today?’
  • ‘What do you want for your birthday?’
  • ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’
  • ‘What was the best thing about your first day of school?’

If you want to be inspired, watch dad Kevin Scruggs' version (dare you not to be a bit teary by the end!).

The giant t-shirt

This one needs a bit of preparation: buy a plain age 11 t-shirt, and use fabric pens or iron-on letters to mark it with the year your child will finish primary school (children starting Reception in September 2021 are the Class of 2028: eek!).

Take a photo of your tiny Reception child wearing the oversized shirt, and repeat the exercise at the start of every school year to chart their growth right up until the end of Year 6, when it should be a perfect fit.

First day of school time capsule

Assembling a time capsule to show what life was like on your child’s first day of school is a great activity to do together to mark the new phase in their life.

Some of the things you could include are:

  • A pair of your child’s socks, to show how small their feet are.
  • A receipt for your weekly grocery shopping.
  • A newspaper from the date of their first day of school.
  • A full set of current coins: they may well change during your child’s school years.
  • A women’s magazine that shows current fashions.
  • A list of facts about the world as it is now: for example, names and pictures of the current prime minister and president of the USA, the pop music top 10, the most popular films of the year, etc.
  • Their attempt at writing their name and drawing a picture.

You could also include things that are personal to your child, such as a photo of them in their first school uniform, or pictures of them with their favourite toys.

Tuck it away somewhere safe: it’ll be a fascinating step back in time in years to come.

Practise the first day with an interactive game!

Help calm your child's nerves about their first day at primary school with BBC Bitesize's interactive My First Day at School game. Help your child create their character and pick a school jumper, then explore the school and find all the different activities, from the register to painting time, lunchtime and play time in the playground!

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