Preparing for School, A New Adventure


 Preparing for School, A New Adventure | Duluth Moms Blog

Big changes are happening in our family.

Okay, that might be a tad dramatic to say since last year we made an international move and this is nowhere near as exciting. However, we are embarking on a new adventure come September: the twins are starting school! The twins are only 4, but in Ireland kids can start their first year of school when they are 4 or 5; it’s up to the parents (with the help of their preschool teacher) to judge when they think their child is ready. This upcoming year they’ll attend school for a 4.5 hour day in a class called Jr. Infants, next year the length of time will be the same and the class will be called Sr. Infants, then they move on to 1st class (similar to 1st grade).

We’ve decided to have the twins go into separate classrooms for the upcoming school year. This was the recommendation from the principal and from the Jr. Infants teachers in the school. They said they’ve had a lot of students over the years who are twins, and this seems to be what works best. This way the twins can make different friends and won’t only play with each other (which we’ve noticed has been happening at playgrounds more and more recently). Also, when we’re working on homework after school, they won’t be working on the exact same worksheet at the same time. If one finishes the work more quickly, the other may experience some frustration or low self-esteem. I’m sure they will each have their own strengths and we’ll work to highlight them as they develop.

During open day at their new school, where we had a chance to see the classrooms and meet the teachers, we were given several recommendations for how we can prepare the twins for the first day of school and I thought I would share them here. I reviewed the recommendations with teacher friends in the U.S. and they agreed that the tips are universal and helpful for all kids starting school regardless of what country they live in. I was surprised that they didn’t recommend teaching them how to write their name, or making sure they know the alphabet. What kids need to know is actually far more basic, and very practical!

Break Out That Label Maker

First, we have been instructed to label or write the child’s name on every single item that will be going to school with him or her. From folders to clothes/jackets to rain boots to lunchboxes and water bottles, hats, etc. There will be 25 children in my twins’ classroom and it will be almost impossible for the teacher to know what belongs to which student. Labels will help prevent loss of items (although I’m sure we’ll be rooting through the lost and found at least a few times throughout the year). I’m planning to purchase waterproof adhesive labels customized with their names. The kids can help me apply them to their items which will work to help them learn to recognize their own items because a lot of these things will be new to them. Item recognition (backpack, jacket, lunchbox, etc.) was stressed as very important including the need for the student to be able to keep track of where their things are at all times. 

Preparing for School, A New Adventure | Duluth Moms Blog

Practice Eating a School Lunch

In the weeks leading up to the first day we’re going to have some picnic lunches using their school lunchboxes. This will help them practice unzipping their lunchboxes and opening their containers and water bottles. This was stressed as one of the most important things to practice. The teachers aren’t able to help each child and, if they need help, it will eat into the number of minutes they’ll have to finish their lunch (no pun intended!). Adding to this, they asked that all foods sent to school be pre-peeled/cut and ready to eat–think pre-peeling and separating orange segments. 

Streamline the Bathroom Routine

The twins will be wearing uniforms to school and the bottoms have an elastic waistband. This is to ensure they can easily use the bathroom by themselves and won’t have to futz with buttons, zippers, or clasps of any kind. Of course, not all schools require uniforms. Make sure that the child can open and close any closures on their pants for toileting as the teacher won’t have time to help each child with this task. Also, and this is something our kids really need to practice over the course of the next several weeks, they need to be able to wipe their own bottom after using the bathroom. I keep telling them that I won’t be at school to do the dirty work when they yell, “Mom, I’m done!” 

Get A Good Night’s Sleep

It can be tough and exhausting for kids to transition to school. So if you’re like us and summer has you staying up later than usual in the evenings, plan to slowly transition to an earlier bedtime a couple of week prior to starting school. We’ll get back to our usual routine of having the kids go to bed between 7 and 7:30pm. This will ensure they’ll get the 10-13 hours of sleep per night that 4-5 year olds need. Check out our recent collaboration with St. Lukes to get more tips on forming good sleep schedule habits.

Plan for Quiet Time After School

We’ve been warned that it’s common for kids to struggle with meltdowns in the evening time after school, especially for the first few months after starting their new routine. At school they are in a busy classroom with lots of children and lots of activity and it can be overwhelming for them. When they get home, where they feel the most comfortable, they often just can’t hold it together any longer. The teachers recommended to us parents, at least initially, to not give them any specific tasks/chores that they have to complete or any real expectations for them when they get home. They asked that we encourage them to engage in a quiet activity to allow them to decompress from their busy day at school.

So I have a plan, and as you know, the best laid plans don’t always work out, so we’ll be flexible, but as soon as they come home I’ll throw some food and water at them and then once they’re refueled, I’ll encourage a little quiet activity time. My daughter will probably color or play with her doll house and my son will likely choose to do puzzles or play with his paw patrol figurines. I’ll start talking about the after-school plan a couple of days before the first day of school so they know what to expect when they get home that first day. 

Preparing for School, A New Adventure | Duluth Moms Blog

What I hope–what we all hope as parents–is that they have a really positive experience in those first few weeks which will ignite a life-long love of school and learning. 


  1. Kristina is an excellent writer and provides very useful information about raising toddlers. This article is really conveys the many needs to prepare 4 -5 years for their first school experience. Looking back, I wish I had known these things to help transition my daughter. Luckily, she was a stellar student and enjoyed school life.

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