Surviving the school gates.

Oh to be a kid again!

My children strike up friendships everywhere.

We go to the shops and they can make a new bosom buddy they will talk about for weeks, though its unlikely their paths will cross again, poor things.

All it takes is a smile and ‘What’s your name?’ and they’re off. They have this magical way of finding common ground without any hesitation or self-consciousness getting in their way and that is definitely something I’ve lost as I’ve got older.

I remember going to Butlins when I was about 7, I was getting onto the teacup ride and a little girl sat alone in the cart asked would I like to join her. I said yes and that was that, we were joined at the hip for the remainder of the holiday.

I think we swapped addresses (now we’d probably add each other on Facebook!) and wrote a few letters back and forth but they soon dwindled.

Childhood is such a simple time.

Lots of us will be hurtling towards September when our babies will be starting their school life. Its a bit like deja vu for me as my twins only started school last year, this year another little one will be heading off.

I have no worries about my girls making friends, they have plenty and never struggle to strike up a new friendship.

Myself, however?

I’ve been a part of the morning and afternoon playground pick up for nearly a year and I’m not going to lie to you, it can be painful.

I have some lovely friends and the majority of parents are nice but I imagine to a parent coming in, knowing no body, it can be very daunting. It is for me even though I have familiar faces greeting me.

I’ve put together a tongue in cheek guide for anyone taking their first foray into playground life. These are tips and tricks I implement into my time as a school parent. I want to help you avoid any rookie mistakes if I can.

-Smile smile smiiiiiile. Its like playground currency. If you’re not sure just throw them a smile. Last thing you want is for another parent to offer up a smile where you didn’t and be seen as miserable for the entire school year and beyond.

-Stand with a 1-1.5 metre gap between you and any other parent, too far away and you seem odd, separating yourself from the crowd. Too close and you look worryingly eager.

-Always be slightly late. If you are approaching and see there is only one other parent in the playground I would hang back until 1 or 2 more arrive. There is nothing more painful than standing their with someone you don’t really know either in silence or exchanging the most stilted small talk.

-Don’t accost the teacher. Every school has the parents that want a full blow by blow account of little Jimmy’s day at school. Other parents hate this joker. I’m trying to hand in a form or just give Mrs Doodah a heads up the girls will be late the next day and they’re pressing the teacher for details on every activity their little one has participated in, from assembly to going for a poo. Unless you are told otherwise your child has been just fine.

-Join the PTA. When my girls started school I was pretty sure the PTA was full of Mum’s that looked down on the other Mums, spent meetings bitching about them and didn’t want any new members upsetting their status quo. I was wrong! PTA is a great way to get involved with your kids school and make new friends. You will be welcomed with open arms, particularly if your school struggles to get people involved.

-Remember, you are all in the same boat. Everyone turns up knowing no one. Almost all parents will be wanting to latch on to friendly folk and the first few weeks are a great time to jump in and get to know each other. Embrace the new environment and your inner child.

If all else fails just march up to a likely looking candidate, stretch your foot out so its in their direct eye line and cheerfully ask ‘Do you like my new shoes?!’, that one never fails for the kids.


Nat Halfpenny


  1. I saw this and it made me think of a post I wrote a few years ago, so I went off to read it! It’s inspired me to perhaps write a new one from a perspective a few years down the line. It’s a world you kind of aren’t prepared for when you have kids and it’s not just kids in the playground really…

  2. Oh good top tips. I’m taking my son out off full time nursery in Sept to go to the school nursery…I’m sure the same playground politics apply. Although I will probably be the first mum there, catapulting my child into the room before I run for my train

  3. Oh man I am so not looking forward to this. I’m hoping when my time comes I can just hide behind a tree or something? Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub lovely xx

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