20 things you learn in your child's Reception year

Mother and sons drawing
The first year of school is a big learning curve for your Reception child – and for you, too...

It’s not just your child who has a lot to learn when they start Reception; you do too. But while they’re getting to grips with phonics, counting and putting their shoes on the right feet, your learning curve is somewhat different.

How many of these sound familiar to you?

1. No matter how much school uniform you buy, you never have quite enough. If you thought you could make a jumper last two days, think again; by the time your child has played outside, painted, wiped their nose on their sleeve and eaten yoghurt for lunch, it’s going to need serious decontamination.

2. The Year 6 kids look terrifyingly grown-up (how can they possibly be at the same school as your teeny, tiny tot?) while some of the teachers look like they should still be at school themselves.

3. You’ve been teaching your child their letter sounds all wrong. Turns out that you should have been saying ‘ssssss’ not ‘suh,’ and ‘mmmmm’ rather than ‘muh’. Who knew?

4. Finding out what your child ate for lunch is mission: impossible. Even if you study the menu at home each morning and mutually decide whether your child will have the meat, veggie or packed lunch option, they’ll still come home and tell you they had pasta. Every. Single. Day.

5. You’re constantly baffled by the things your child loses at school. You understand how easy it is to misplace a glove, hat or that all-important parents’ evening slip (grrr!), but how on earth do their trousers manage to vanish into thin air?

6. Nothing strikes fear into your heart like picking up your ringing phone and seeing ‘school’ displayed on the screen. What’s it going to be: a playground scrap, a vomiting incident or a broken limb? You’re almost scared to answer…

7. Towards the end of each half-term, your child will revert back to the Terrible Twos. Okay, so you know they’re knackered and need a holiday (don’t we all?) but please, please could they just stop whinging and tantrumming?

8. There’s a whole new language to learn. Number lines, number bonds, split vowel digraphs… It’s all changed since you were at school!

9. Keeping up with the non-stop carousel of class birthday parties is exhausting. Barely a weekend goes by without some sort of celebration, but you feel too guilty to decline the invitations because you don't want your child to miss out.

10. Asking your child what they did at school is pointless (stock answers: ‘Nothing’, ‘I can’t remember’ and ‘I don’t know’) but you’ll always know when they’ve had PE because they’ll have their shirt on inside out and their shoes on the wrong feet.

11. Helping your child learn to read is both the most frustrating task – and the most rewarding. All those evenings spent gritting your teeth as your child painfully deciphers their reading-scheme book letter by letter are forgotten when they move up a reading level. So proud!

12. Artwork is the bane of your life. First you’ve got to find your child’s unnamed creation from the mountain of masterpieces at the end of the school day, then you have to live with their junk model spaceship on the kitchen table for three weeks before you can even begin to consider smuggling it into the recycling bin.

13. Playdates are the most important playground currency, and keeping tabs on who owes who is absolutely essential.

14. At first, the hours your child spends at school seem to last an eternity and you can’t wait for home time. But after a few weeks, the school day goes by in the blink of an eye and you never achieve everything you wanted to. Thank goodness for after-school clubs.

15. It takes a will of steel not to be drawn into competitive parenting. From reading levels to sporting prowess to school play castings, there’s always someone whose child is head and shoulders above the rest, and even though you know you’re being ridiculous, it’s impossible not to feel riled.

16. Your standards will slip over the course of the Reception year. In the first half-term, your child has neatly brushed hair and shiny shoes, their school books are read as soon as you get home, and important letters are returned to school the very next day. By the end of the summer term, they can go to school in odd socks for all you care.

17. Show and Tell is a weekly curse – and you never remember when it’s your child’s turn. Still, there’s always a last-minute solution: ‘Would you like to talk about your hairclip today, darling?’

18. Elsa and Spiderman, move over; your child’s Reception teacher will become their number one idol and the first person on their birthday party invitations list (errr – not going to happen!).

19. The Reception year is a whole year of firsts: both good and bad. You could live without the first playground injury, the first time your child brings their wet pants home in a bag, and the first time you’re summoned to speak to the teacher about their behaviour, but their first Nativity play, sports day and Star of the Week certificate more than compensate.

20. Your child will grow up faster in their first year of school than at any other time in their life. By the time they start Year 1, your tiny, baby-faced tot will be reading, writing and adding all by themselves. They’ll know all the teachers’ names and how to get from the classroom to the staffroom. They’ll have been on school trips, made new friends and (hopefully!) learnt how to dress themselves after PE, at long last.

And when September comes around and you look at the new batch of Reception starters clinging to their parents' legs in the playground, you’ll realise just how far your baby has come. Awww!