Vicki Bowden, Head of Early Years at Heatherton House School in Amersham, gives her top tips on helping your little one get ready for their first days in Reception

In just a few weeks, your child will be starting ‘big school’. As an experienced Early Years Teacher and Mum of one, I believe there is more to preparing your little one for their first days in Reception than ensuring they can count or begin to write their name. That is not to dismiss these developmental achievements but simply to emphasise that simple steps, such as making sure they get enough sleep and having playdates with future classmates, may be beneficial for a smoother transition into school.

Be positive

Both you and your child may have mixed feelings about starting school, and your child will be easily influenced by the emotions you display and how you talk about joining Reception. Before they start their new class, there may be opportunities to start building positive experiences and connections such as the ‘Meet the teacher’ days we organise at Heatherton, visits to buy new uniform and arranging play dates with new classmates. If these experiences are happy, fun and positive ones, they will pave the way to a more secure start.

Empower yourself

Nothing can make you feel happier and more secure about a new situation than knowing what you are about to step in to. Whilst your child is in their Reception year, all schools must follow the guidance of the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum which covers seven areas of learning as well as the dispositions to become an effective learner which are referred to as the ‘Characteristics of Effective Learning’. The document ‘What to expect, when’ is available for parents online at and will guide you through the developmental expectations from birth to 5 years.

Be organised

Schools are busy places and although your child may like to feel that they are independent at the age of four or five, they are still ultimately reliant on you remembering important dates and kit lists. Being the one who doesn’t have their PE kit, water bottle, reading book or trainers can cause unnecessary anxiety for a young child who is still learning the concepts of time and sequencing in order to manage these things themselves. Equip your children with the physical resources they need to be relaxed and enjoy their days in school.

Early to bed!

I often hear parents saying in their first half term of school ‘My little one is so tired all the time!’ Starting school means lots of new routines and lots of opportunities for learning, so your child is potentially going to be tired. Really tired. So, you may find that your child needs to go to bed a little earlier in the first term to cope with their busy days.

Ask the right questions

Reception-age children can find it overwhelming when bombarded with questions about their day. A simple tool to gauge your child’s day is to ask them ‘What was your favourite thing about your day?’ Do not be surprised by their answer (it may well be ‘lunch’ or ‘playtime’), but accept it and be pleased that they enjoyed that part of their day. Positivity from you breeds positivity from them.

Quality time

‘Homework’ may soon be a feature of your life, although it may come in the more informal context of daily reading books or phonic cards. Pre-empt this new addition and adapt your routines accordingly to create some homework time but also crucial quality wind down time each evening. Set realistic expectations for yourself and your children so that it doesn’t become a battle. Simply set out 10 minutes for school related ‘homework’ and at least 10 minutes to read to your child as they wind down for bedtime.

Enjoy it!

This is an incredible moment in your little one’s life. If you follow these simple tips, you will be able to prepare yourself and your child for this exciting first step on their education journey

If you would like to read more, here are some suggested website and books:

‘Grow’ by Trevor Silvester

‘The Bright Stuff’ by C.J.Simister

Heatherton House School, Amersham’s Leading Independent Prep School for girls aged 4-11, with Co-education Nursery for boys and girls aged 3-4, are holding their next Open Mornings on Friday 29th & Saturday 30th September, 10am-12noon. For more info, visit or call 01494 726433.