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Mama Mia - “My daughter is starting Year 5 next year. Here are 5 ways we’re preparing for it.”

Mama Mia - “My daughter is starting Year 5 next year. Here are 5 ways we’re preparing for it.” Willow Bay

A new school year always brings a whole bunch of new challenges. But after the year that we’ve had, I think starting 2022 fresh and without restrictions (touch ALL THE WOOD) will be fondly welcomed.         

My daughter Summer will be going into Year 5 next year. The first year of senior primary school. Where friends, lessons, opportunities, bodies and expectations all start to change.

It’s the year when kids feel that little bit more grown up, where they start pulling that invisible thread of independence just a little further away from your tightly gripped hand. 

They will have so many new experiences. Some exciting and some maybe a little daunting. And although Summer is already shaping up to be a really lovely young woman with amazing leadership skills, she is going to need me a lot this year as she navigates all the throws she will encounter.

Image: Supplied. 

As if listening in on a somewhat panicked conversation about getting her prepared for school with my hubby one night, I was introduced to Willow Bay, a lady startup from Adelaide. 

Started by like-minded friends Tammy and Hayley, Willow Bay offers an extensive range of beautiful neoprene bags for women and kids. 

What caught my eye however whilst in my slightly-premature-school-jitters state, was that Willow Bay have now expanded into working with schools all over Australia to create personalised neoprene items for students. 

Willow Bay realised there was a hole in the education market (with school-aged children of their own), and figured it'd be great for schools to offer: many essentials including iPad bags, laptop bags and pencil cases personalised with the school's colours and logo. Neoprene fabric gets the ultimate tick of approval too from parents too, as it's easily washable and protects the kids' growing number of items they're carting to and from school.

I hadn’t heard of this type of business with schools before so I was really keen to check out their products and see how they fitted into Summer’s preparation for Year 5. 

Willow Bay have now expanded into working with schools all over Australia to create branded and personalised neoprene items for students. Image: Willow Bay.

Hovering over me, chin glued to my shoulder, Summer ogled at Willow Bay’s kids range as well as their school products openly declaring that she is in "instant love".

And I have to agree, after receiving our order in the mail, the softness of the neoprene is beautiful to touch yet super sturdy and protective. 

The materials are washable so all of the kiddie germs and stains of who-knows-what can be easily washed out. And, let’s be straight, the products make both her and I feel VERY stylish.

Summer's Willow Bay Kids Daydreamer Neoprene Tote Bag and her Kids Mini Laptop Bag, both in Pink/Soft Lilac. Image: Supplied. 

With that, here are the 5 ways that Summer and I are preparing for her entering Year 5 next year.

1. All things stationery.

Much to my delight, Summer has inherited my love for all things paper, pens and pencils. Going shopping for her stationery list each year is something we both look forward to doing together.  

She has told me however that for Year 5, she is in charge of the list and what items are decided on. Right then, miss! 

Her new pink and grey Willow Bay handbag goes everywhere with her so her school item list and pom-pom-topped pen (‘cause she officially has her pen licence now) is nestled within, all ready for her to mow through her list like a pro.

With her headphones, fresh textas, pens, pencils, fine line markers and her new laptop bag, she is keen to start 2022 in style. 

I always find that it’s important for Summer to be confident in what she takes to school, we all feel more excited about learning or working when we’re surrounded by things that we love.

Image: Supplied. 

2. Next year marks Summer’s very first year of NAPLAN. 

She’s a very smart cookie and excels in subjects like English but Maths can throw her into a bit of a spin sometimes. 

To help prepare her for her first serious test, we have bought her a NAPLAN practice book that allows her to trial similar question styles and get a good feel for what to expect.

Image: Supplied. 

I am also encouraging her to use her laptop more often to write stories and do practice information reports so she can work on her comprehension and sentence structure. 

I will always worry about how well her technology is protected in moving it back and forth from home, so her gorgeous Willow Bay laptop bag is perfect to protect her device. It’s soft, sturdy and has an additional zip space at the front for additional things like a notepad, pencil and sneaky rolls of Mentos.

Image: Supplied. 

3. New uniforms.

Oh my goodness, to say Summer has experienced a growth spurt is an understatement. 

Her limbs are long and lanky and her shape is changing. She is literally not too far off taking over me in the height department. 

Needless to say, her shorts, shirts, jacket and even shoes are way too snug for a bug. So, off to the uniform shop we go to suit Summer up and empty my bank account. 

Summer takes forever to try things on so the process is a tad painful on my part but she gets there in the end, handing me a pile of things to be re-packeted and hung up to go back on the racks. I'm sure there are other parents getting flashbacks right about now.

As painful as the process can be, nothing beats a brand new fresh, crisp uniform come the first day of school. Confidence just radiates off kids as they hop out of the car and bounce through the school gates.

And I know Summer is much more comfortable in herself when her uniform fits well and has enough room to sit in during class but also to stretch out during play.

4. Her first school camp.

Thanks to COVID cancellations, Summer missed out on her first school camp in Year 4.

Said debit card was happy for the refund, but Summer was totally bummed out as it would have been her first real time away without a loved one or friends' parent nearby. 

So, for Year 5, she is getting ready for the time of her life with a list of game suggestions for the bus, a range of footwear for the changes in terrain she is going to experience. (She even suggested using my Willow Bay Travel bag to pack for camp... I don’t think so kiddo.)

Image: Supplied. 

The first real time away from the family can be a little scary but to be honest, I think it’s me who needs to be prepared more than Summer. 

With her range of allergies, her sometimes lack of body confidence and not being able to kiss her goodnight, I’m not sure I’ll make the full 4 days!

5. School Captaincy.

Obviously I hate to flex, but I was Vice Captain in Primary School. 

It’s my highest accolade yet. My hubby likes to tease that I was the first loser to the Captain. But I recall my time wearing the metal badge fondly. I felt seen. I felt acknowledged. But above all, I felt like I was important enough to help the school make positive changes.

Summer loves the idea of being school captain and she’s hell-bent on practicing her speech-writing skills to ensure that she gives herself the best chance possible to be elected when the time comes in Year 5.

It’s important to me that she understands that her validity isn’t determined by what she wins, but rather by when she tries, so I’ll help her prepare but also be there to provide a ‘come-down’ when she starts getting a tad too excited. 

Image: Supplied. 

Being able to prepare Summer for Year 5 with a lot of love and quality products from Willow Bay ensures that she’s putting her best foot forward.

I light-heartedly refer to Summer's "instant love" as she called her laptop bag, but in all honesty, if you want to give your kids quality and affordable products for the new school year, you can’t go wrong with Willow Bay. And their kids' products and women's range is also absolutely DIVINE. Summer and I are a bit obsessed.

From shoulder bags to travel bags and everything in between, I guarantee you that they will have something that you will instantly love too. Pretty cool too: they are the official Bag Partner for Miss Universe Australia 2021 and Miss Universe Japan 2021. Trying saying that out loud without being impressed!

Willow Bay offers a collection of beautifully curated bags that are, by necessity, both functional and versatile. 

Check out their Willow Bay Kids range online, and ask with your child's school directly whether they offer personalised and branded neoprene school items in partnership with Willow Bay (including iPad bags, laptop bags, pencil cases and more featuring your school's logos and colours).

For being a friend of Mamamia, Willow Bay are offering 20 per cent off site-wide on your first purchase with code MAMAMIA20.

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