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Surviving Reception

Author: Becky Sappor

Last week Leo had an extra session of PE at school, I wasn’t really sure why so I quizzed him and it turns out that the new reception starters were visiting for settling in sessions. It took me straight back to this time last year and the realisation that my little boy would be a fully fledged student in no time. And here we are now, a mere four weeks until the end of his first year of primary school! I can’t quite believe it and I thought I’d share my experiences with you – a guide to surviving reception if you will.


You may have already sorted uniform and had a nice little fashion show in your lounge with them trying everything on. Adorable. But don’t fret if you haven’t got anything yet – the supermarkets generally have uniform all year round – I’d just make sure you have a good couple of weeks before they start so the imminent lead up to the big day isn’t too stressful. So what will you need? Here is a list of basic essentials that Leo had to get him through the first year:

3 x Jumpers/cardigans (cardigans are great for boys as well as girls – easier to take on and off etc)
6 x polo shirts
3 x shorts (I guess you can substitute this for dresses if you have girls? advice on how many dresses are best much appreciated!)
3 x trousers
6 x socks (buy all the same colour – for example Leo has all black – saves time on pairing etc)
1 x sports joggers
1 x sports shorts
1 x sports hoodie
1 x black pumps (which he has never worn)
1 x PE trainers (he wears an old pair)
1 x school shoes

You will of course need hats and gloves for winter months and hats for summer months – I’d suggest getting at least 15,000 pairs of gloves because they will never come home with them. Ever.

I tend to do a wash almost everyday and certainly every other so this number of items has worked well for us and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality and durability. I’ve not had to replace anything all year. Top tip for if your little one has to wear the white polo t-shirts – buy a tub of Vanish Gold Whites (or crystal whites). Adding it to your wash really does prevent them from going grey. And if you have the option to choose a darker colour top – choose that one. Our jumpers are from a specific school clothing specialist and the dye that ran from them was shocking so take caution on your first few washes just in case – I also bought the colour catchers to put in the washing machine which made a massive difference to the colours running.

The biggest part of sorting the uniform is the labelling. I can’t tell you the number of times Leo has come home with someone else’s shorts or jumper! Luckily his have always found their way back to us. I used Stuck On You for Leo’s labels. He has a selection of blue and green ones with little dinosaurs on them. He helped me to stick them all in so he knew where to look and what to look for when trying to find his things. They were so easy to use – no stitching, no ironing, nothing. Just simply stick them in. Not one of them has worn or lost its stickiness even after four million washes. And you need to stick them everywhere; shoes, pants (yep – you never know!), hats, gloves, book bags, water bottles, scooters. If it’s going through the school gates you want to make sure it’s labelled. The teachers will really appreciate it as well as it helps them massively. Lorna also recommends Stikins.

It’s a nice idea for your child to practice getting dressed over the summer, especially with the uniform. This way they know how to get it on and off properly as they will have to undress and dress themselves when they are in school. And as daft as it sounds, teaching them which show goes on which foot is really important too. I see so many children come out with them on the wrong feet – I taught Leo by discussing the shape of the shoe but, more basically, that the velcro bit is on the outside of his foot!

School Bags

Leo has two bags for school; his book bag and his PE kit bag. His kit stays at school all week and comes home on a Friday. I prefer doing it this way as it sort of doubles up as a spare clothes bag then as well – should he have an accident/get rained on etc.

Amy wrote a great post on being school bag savvy. The two things she mentions that I think have been the most vital is remembering the water bottle every day and also taking a snack on collection. It is the first thing Leo asks me for – he can’t possibly wait until we’ve made the three minute walk to get home. They all seem ravenous when they leave – must be all that learning they’re doing 🙂 You can see everything else you might want to consider here.

Morning Routine

It may or may not be a big change in your house; getting up, meeting a deadline to be somewhere and being presentable at the same time. It was for us. And we’ve been hit and miss on how well we’ve done but I’m proud to say we have never been late – mainly thanks to that three minute walk! Phew! But if there’s anything I’ve learnt over this last 10 months it’s that routine is key. Those mornings when it’s fallen off the radar are the ones that have been… painful. The last two weeks I have gone back to re-introducing our routine again and it goes a little something like this. I wake Leo most morning at 7:15 with a gentle nudge and glass of warm milk. His fave. He then takes five to ten minutes to rise and he takes himself to the bathroom for a wash and to brush his teeth. I lay his clothes out on the chair in his room, he gets dressed and then comes downstairs. Of course at the start of the school year he needed much more help with these things but the introduction of an electric toothbrush, a dinosaur wash cloth and some independence means he now flies through these tasks. Once he comes downstairs he goes straight to the kitchen where I leave two types of cereal out, a bowl, a spoon and a small jug of milk and he serves himself. Again, his confidence and ability with this task has improved dramatically over the last few months and he really enjoys doing it for himself now. There are odd morning’s where he will request eggs or a bagel so then that’s my cue to play kitchen staff. And then he’s free to do his own thing, play, watch a bit of TV, whatever he likes until we have to leave. Usually when he’s doing all of this I am wrangling a nearly two year old into a nappy and trying to get myself into some sort of order as well.

Getting Social

Try and be confident on the playground and strike up conversations where you can. It can be intimidating and difficult but remember that you are all in the same boat. If you’re friendly and approachable and chatty then it’s likely that your child will mirror your behaviour with new faces on the playground too. It’s a great idea to get a ‘reception mums/parents’ Whatsapp group going. There is so much to learn during that first year; ‘can you take a snack for them at snack time? When was homework due? What time is their assembly again?!’ and having a really quick way of getting an answer is the best. A way of doing this is making a slip to go in the childrens drawers. You can pass this to their teacher and ask him/her to distribute for you. It simply needs to say ‘If you would like to join the reception mums Whatsapp group, please text me and I will add you to it – 07XXXXXXXXX. Becky (Leo’s Mum)’. This happened to me and it has been a life saver for asking questions, sharing concerns and organising the odd trip to the pub to celebrate getting through another half term with a glass of wine or two! It’s also worth finding out if your school has a Facebook page where parents can post information – you might find out more about holiday clubs etc on somewhere like that.

School Activities For Parents

You will likely get invited to join PTA’s or help out at socials, school trips/events. And if you can, my advice would be to try your best to attend at least one. I helped out with sorting the prizes for the Christmas fete – it was pretty dull, tagging bottles and hand creams with raffle tickets but I got to see a little bit more about what goes on behind the scenes and got to meet a few other parents and members of staff so it was worthwhile.

There are lots of things to get used to when your child starts school; fitting in homework, deciding whether or not they should do any after school clubs, deciding a year in advance if they’re going to be ready for their first residential trip (yep – we had to decide in May whether they will be up for a residential next March?!), managing ALL the birthday parties and the epic meltdowns that happen two minutes after you get home because they have been so busy holding it together all day in school. But hopefully you will get to see your child flourish and develop. Leo has blown me away with how much he’s grown, not only in height but in confidence. It’s been pretty magical. And above all, don’t be afraid to ask your teacher if you are confused about anything. They understand you might be new to this and haven’t got a clue what’s going on.

How are you feeling about your little one starting school in September? (you can read a post I wrote last year about my feelings towards Leo starting reception and how I felt after the first term) And if you’re seasoned at this, what other advice would you add? Good luck to all the new starters!

Author: Becky Sappor

17 thoughts on “Surviving Reception

  1. Great post, Becky. I remember reading your post about him starting when I was heavily pregnant and can’t believe that has nearly been a year already!

    My little one will be starting nursery in September as I go back to work. He’ll be almost one (which still feels so tiny) but he is very sociable and I know he’ll love it. I’ll be doing the majority of drop-offs and a short commute by train for an 8am start so would really, *really* appreciate any fellow mum advice on getting up, ready and out in the morning, especially on days when they’re still tired/asleep/clingy!

    Hope you enjoy the rest of term and have a great summer 🙂

    1. Thanks Danni! I hope your little guy has a blast at nursery. Tayo loves it! Have a fab summer too 😍

    2. We are all up and out by 7.15am and waking them is hard. We have to do a late bedtime too as we don’t get home early. I’m only slightly jealous you wake up at that time Becky!

      In terms of morning routine, I start to wake them whilst I’m getting ready. Gives them a bit of time to wake up. I lie clothes out the night before in my room so everyone knows what is being put on. Likewise, we just have bananas and milk at home or en route to nursery – breakfast at nursery. If they wake at 6.30 then they need something before 8.30am nursery breakfast. Bags are packed, lunches made the night before so we grab and go.

      No time for laundering every day here. We are only at pre-school three days a week so we have three dresses for summer and three skirts for winter. The dresses are only £3.50 a pop at Sainsbury’s so I get one for each day and then wash at the weekend.

      Evening wise, batch cook. Microwave rice and noodles mean we can have dinner on the table in less than 5 minutes.

      Reading on, we use wrap around care both breakfast and after school club and it’s fine. She has her breakfast there, enjoys being with the older kids and they come up to her at school discos and the like to say hi and have a dance. After school club is longer. Hers doesn’t do hot meals but I know some do – more a muffin or crumpet or toast or something snacky. Means we have to do dinner too but it’s ok. They run around outside and play or do craft activities inside. Lots of space to chill and relax and pick what they want to do. It’s not an extension of school at all.

      1. Thanks Rebecca – my little girl loves ‘bigger children’, so I think she’ll be enjoy that bit of wraparound – the fact that her School calls it ‘The Clubhouse’ is helping too!!!

        And yes, we’re a batch cooking, lots of nursery/school clothes house here too!!!

  2. Great post, thanks Becky! I have a little one starting school at the end of August, so this is really helpful!! She’ll be a very young one, but I think she’s ready for school!!! Looking forward to hearing others tips too!! The Whatsapp group is a great idea! My little girl is the only one of sixty children going to School on her own as her preschool is at my work, rather than where we live, so I’m a bit worried about neither of us knowing anybody!! If anyone has tips about using wraparound care I would be especially interested in those!

    My recommendation is for labels – we have the clothes ones that stick on the care labels, and some of the ones for ‘stuff’ (which we used when she had bottles at nursery – they’re steriliser/dishwasher proof!!). We also have a bag tag, currently on her nursery bag, but which she has decided she wants to move to her book bag when it arrives! And I’ve just ordered some labels to go in her shoes that match up to get them on the right feet!

    Danni – my tips are to get outfits ready for you and your little one the night before – this saves lots of time for me, and it’s only very occasionally that I have to change because of the weather!! (In fact, I used to get a weeks worth of small persons outfits ready on a Sunday!!) and make sure your bag/nursery bag/ lunch is all ready to go to! I would get lots of interchangable mix and match tops and leggings for nursery – Sainsburys have good multi-packs! I always try and get myself ready and have a cup of tea before my little one wakes up! We commute by car, but my little girl often takes a beaker of milk and some crunchy cereal in a pot with us, to put her on until nursery breakfast. Make the most of them still being a baby – it became much more stressful to leave the house on time once my little girl wanted to do everything by herself and choose her own outfits!! We’ve managed to be at nursery at 8am for the past three years (most of the time!!). My little girls absolutely loves her nursery, she’s been there for over three years and is now devastated at the thought of leaving to start school!! Good luck!!

    1. Amy, you are AMAZING. Thank you for the excellent advice! Did you find your little girl was tired after a day at nursery when she first started? Did you alter bedtime much? Our nursery is close to my work too rather than home but I’m sure you’ll quickly get chatting to other parents, especially as your little girl makes friends with other pupils herself and talks about them a lot! Agree the WhatsApp group is a great idea. Looking forward to easing more tips!

      1. No probs – all stuff I wish I’d thought of when I first went back to work!!
        Yes, she is still tired after nursery!! We didn’t alter bedtime (7pm) – partly because it was important to us to eat a family tea, (I know that’s not possible for all, but we could manage it most days), and partly because she often had a nap on the way home!! She never really napped for long at nursery as there was too much going on for her so she made up for it on non nursery days, so I’d also be prepared for that!!! (Although until she started she only napped on my lap, so I was thrilled she slept at all!!)

    2. No tips on wraparound care as such but would just like the to echo Rebecca by saying that it’s worked really well for us. It was something I was really anxious about so wanted to offer reassurance. My son is in breakfast and after school 4 days a week and I was really worried that the days would be too long for him and I didn’t know how he would settle into both new settings of school and wraparound care at the same time. He’s been absolutely fine and the mix of ages works really well. The older kids take the younger ones under their wings which is lovely to see. Our club does a holiday club too so were open over the 6 weeks holiday. They let me pop in a few times with him over the summer before he started so he could spend a little time there before he started. Hope all goes well with your daughter

  3. All great practical advise! I found the labels a nightmare and am now a ‘stamp’ convert. You get a personalised name stamp and an ‘unwashable’ ink pad and it really is the easiest thing ever and they’ve lasted all year.

    My only other advise is to bear in mind how exhausted your child is likely to be! My oldest is just about to finish Y1 but the first two terms of reception left him absolutely shattered! He could cope early on in the week but by Thursday’s onwards we had to write off the evening and chose the path of least resistance on many things!

    1. Rachel I haven’t heard of these stamps! Great recommendation. And yes the tiredness… I find Leo is pretty tired (although he will never admit it!) the first week of a term and then the last two weeks are a real struggle in terms of emotional meltdowns! x

  4. I am not a parent but I have been a Reception/Year 1 teacher for the past 8 years. This is a great round-up of what to expect Becky and I would just like to reiterate (please!) LABEL LABEL LABEL!! I can’t begin to get my head round how time-consuming labelling all the uniform/bits and bobs for school must be but imagine when you have 30 lots to sort out in the classroom/cloakroom and you can imagine the nightmare that occurs when a few don’t have a label and how stressful the last 10 minutes of the day trying to get the children matched up with their things is!! Also, as mentioned, do always feel that you can grab your child’s teacher for 5 minutes after/before school if you have any worries or concerns- a request that might seem obvious to a teacher isn’t always for a parent and we would much rather your mind was put to rest rather than letting something brew. Congratulations to all the Reception children (and parents/teachers!) finishing their first year of school!

  5. one of my biggest tips for uniform: go to ASDA, and get about 3 x 5packs of white polo shirts (I have twins so needed more), for £2.50 (they are cotton)
    Then you don’t need to add them to the rest of the washing, you can save up until you have enough of a white load. And if they get ruined, you don’t feel too guilty at chucking them at 50p a polo shirt.

  6. and also – if you are a working parent, even part time working .. put aside at least 5 days worth of holidays for school events.
    Christmas Nativity play, Reception Assembly, Reception Sports Day, Royal wedding party are the main ones we have had to juggle for this year. And the 5/6 inset days they don’t really warn you about either. We are lucky that I work part time, but even then ALL of our inset days have fallen on a Friday, as well as sports day and nativity. So be aware from the school calendar to include those in your annual leave.

  7. This is incredibly useful thank you! My son Freddie is starting in September and we’ve just had our first parents meeting with a massive pack of info to get through! We got the labeling message loud and clear, it’s obviously a thing!! Don’t envy the teachers! Any suggestions on best quality hard wearing generic uniform? Don’t know whether to go down the supermarket route or department store!

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