Starting or heading back to school

Whether your child is starting or returning to school, kura, an early childhood education (ECE) service or kōhanga reo we have heaps of ideas and tips to make things a whole lot easier.

Make sure they have everything they need

Have all the supplies they need organised ahead of time.  Make sure that everything is named.


  • clothes that are good are things that are comfortable, hard-wearing and easy to wash
  • now is a good time to go through your child’s wardrobe and clear out any clothes that are damaged or too small
  • you could do a clothes swap with friends who also have clothes that their children have grown out of
  • if your child needs to wear a uniform you can look for second-hand uniforms on websites like and facebook pages. Your school might also have a second-hand uniform sale day.


  • buy stationery early to make the most of the back to school sales
  • do a final check that you have all the stationery your child needs
  • have a quiet word to the teacher or principal if you can’t afford any of the stationery or technology – they may have some cheaper alternatives they can suggest.

School bags

  • make sure their back pack fits properly, feels comfortable for your child and that they can easily open and close it themselves
  • pack as lightly as possible – a back pack should never weigh more than 10-20% of the child’s body weight
  • pack so that heavier items are closest to the centre of the back.


  • pack healthy morning tea and lunch foods – your child really does learn better with healthy food in their tummies. You can find out more about healthy eating on the Ministry of Health's website, and get some lunch ideas from sites like kiwifamilies
  • involve your child in choosing what’s going in their lunch boxes – they’re more likely to eat it then and they’re learning about making good food choices at the same time
  • save "sometimes foods" for at home
  • provide water – in summer you could even freeze the water bottle the night before so that they have refreshing, cold water on a hot day
  • choose a lunch box that your child can easily open.

Be weather wise

  • during summer your child will be required to wear a sunhat when they’re outside. Some ECE services and schools have sunhats you can buy, or sunhats that are part of the uniform
  • they also need to wear sunscreen – get your child in the habit of applying it before they leave home and have some in their school bag to re-apply during the day.

Be organised

Being organised and having a routine helps everything run smoothly. Learning how to be organised and to do things for themselves are important life skills for your child.

In the week or two before

  • if you haven't already done so, get your child into bedtime and wake-up times that fit with your term time routine
  • talk with your child about all the things that are needed to get everyone out the door on time – getting dressed, eating breakfast, making lunch and any family chores
  • together you could write a list of morning jobs to do to get ready and hang it where everyone can see it and follow it.

The night before

  • have your child’s bag ready – include stationery, hat, sunscreen (for summer), and any other essentials
  • get your child to lay out their clothes and shoes
  • pack the lunchbox the night before so all the needs to be done in the morning are last minute additions
  • talk about what your child wants for breakfast and set the table up the night before
  • expect that your child might be excited or nervous and find it hard to go to sleep.  Have a relaxing bedtime routine and be understanding if they find it hard to go to sleep.

Once school has started

  • try and stick to your daily routine
  • set up some systems for keeping track of everything and get everyone to use them - have a place where all newsletters, notices, forms, invitations, requests for help, can go, like a pinboard, a clip, a shelf or a tray
  • set up a family or whānau calendar to write everything on.  Write things on it as soon as you find out about them. You could use different colours for each person. 
  • have a place for school bags, shoes, coats, reading books, homework, sports equipment
  • put your keys in the same place every time so that you know where they are when you’re leaving in the morning
  • involve your child in setting up your family and whānau routines and systems – this will not only help keep everything organised but also teach your child the importance of having systems and being tidy and will give them practice.

If your child is starting school for the first time

It's likely that you've been working with school on settling your child into school before now and have visited the school with your school.  You can read more about starting your child at school.

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Prepare them emotionally

Help your child get used to the idea of heading off to ECE, kōhanga reo, school or kura by talking with them about it and being positive.

  • talk about the fun things that they will get to do, and the new friends they will make or the old friends they will see again
  • listen and acknowledge their worries
  • if your child is new, visit the ECE service, kōhanga reo, school or kura so that they are familiar with their surroundings – playing on the playground, bike riding or kicking a ball around are low stress ways to get used to the place. Organise for them to meet their teacher prior to their first day too if possible
  • you might like to tuck a family photo into your child’s bag or write a special note or drawing and put it in their lunchbox as a special reminder that they are loved - just showing that can provide some much needed comfort.

Be safe getting to and from school

Have a plan to get your child safely to and from their ECE service, kōhanga reo, school or kura. Make sure that your child understands the plan.

Walking, biking or scooting

  • a bit of exercise on the way to school is a great way to start the day if it’s possible for your whānau
  • talk to your child about road safety
  • join a “walking school bus”.  Find out from your school if there are any, or talk to them about setting one up yourself
  • if your child is old enough to walk by themselves, or with their siblings or friends map out a way to go with them and talk to them about keeping safe. To a test run with them before the head off my themselves.


  • if your child travels by car, be clear with the ECE service, kōhanga reo, school or kura, as well as your child, about who is dropping them off and picking them up
  • let the ECE service, kōhanga reo, school or kura know if anyone is NOT allowed to collect your child
  • always unload your child, or get them to unload from the car on the footpath side
  • you can also use the driving time to chat about road safety and road rules.


  • know where your child needs to catch the bus, and what time it will pick your child up and drop them off
  • talk about bus safety – not walking in front of buses, waiting for the bus to stop before approaching it, sitting in their seat.

Make every day count

Getting a good education is the key to doing well in life.  Going to school every day and making every day count gives your child a great chance at doing well - even a few days absence can see your child falling behind.  Here are some things you can do to help your child: 

  • have high expectations and aspirations
  • send your child to school every day and talk to them about why that's important
  • support them in their school work – find out from their teacher what you can do to help at home, make sure they have a suitable place to do their homework and help them set goals for the year
  • talk to your child about how they are doing at school and whether they need help with anything
  • build a relationship with your child’s teacher or teachers – talk to them about how your child is doing at school and how you can help at home, attend any information evenings your school may hold, go along to the parent teacher interviews and conferences, be a parent helper.

Celebrate their successes

Starting or going back to ECE, kōhanga reo, school or kura is a big deal.  They are having to cope with being away from you, new surroundings, new people and sometimes the end of the holidays. Let your child know how proud you are of them and how well they are doing.  Find ways together to celebrate their successes, like:

  • have some special one-on-one time together
  • play their favourite game or activity in the weekend
  • have a special family or whānau meal
  • let them invite some friends over to play.

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