Getting ready to start school
Starting primary school can be daunting for you and your child, but it marks the start of an exciting new chapter. Before you know it, your child will be making friends, learning new skills, and becoming increasingly independent.
Here are our five top tips.
1. Support your child’s independence
The most useful thing you can do to get your child ready for school is to make sure they are comfortable doing simple tasks by themselves. This includes:
- Going to the toilet.
- Getting dressed.
- Putting on shoes. Go for shoes with Velcro fasteners if possible.
- Eating. This includes using a knife and fork, opening their lunchbox, and being able to open everything in the lunchbox (some yoghurt tubes and drink cartons can be tricky).
- Solving simple problems and knowing when to ask an adult for help.
2. Build up your child’s social skills
Learning in a classroom is a social activity. Children learn and develop by playing alongside their peers, and they will make better progress if they are happy mixing with other children and adults. You can encourage this by:
- Organising play dates.
- Practising greetings. You can use dolls and soft toys to practise saying “hello”!
- Practising conversations. Giving your child time to talk – and also having time when they have to listen – teaches vital speaking and listening skills.
- Encouraging sharing and tolerance. Sharing games such as Snakes and Ladders let children practise social skills and turn-taking.
3. Make a start on early literacy and numeracy skills
Some ways you can get your child ready for learning:
- Help them recognise their name.
- Share stories. Reading to your child improves their vocabulary and listening skills, and acting out stories is a great way to practise communication.
- Hone fine motor skills. Building hand strength, fine motor skills, and hand-eye co-ordination helps prepare your child for writing. Making Lego models, using scissors, and threading beads onto string are fun ways to develop hand strength. Drawing and colouring activities introduce your child to mark-making tools.
- Introduce numbers. Go on a number hunt around your local area and take pictures of any numbers you find. You could also share counting songs together or count objects as you set the table for dinner.
4. Help your child learn to concentrate
Being able to concentrate in 10–15 minute bursts will be really useful at school. Here are some ways to practise:
- Enjoy extended play together.
- Follow instructions. Giving your child simple instructions to follow helps build their concentration.
5. Talk to your child about school
Talking about the exciting things your child is going to do at school helps them get over any nerves. You could:
- Visit the school. Some schools have induction visits for children to meet their new teacher and spend time in the classroom. If they don’t, do ask to have a tour with your child. Walking or driving past the school at the end of the school day and watching children come out in uniform can also be very exciting!
- Talk about how fun school is! If you’ve been on a settling-in morning, there might be something your child particularly enjoyed playing with (the dinosaurs, the paints, the climbing frame). Older siblings could be enlisted to share all the things they enjoy about school – as long as they’re thoroughly briefed not to share things they’re not so keen on! Giving your child time to talk also lets them raise any concerns or questions.
- Practise the school routine. It can be helpful to do a practice journey before the big day, looking for interesting things on the way. It might be a good idea to make sure your child has school-friendly bedtimes and getting-up times a few days in advance.