Preparing your child for school

Starting school is one of life’s major milestones and for many parents it can be an emotional time. It’s natural to feel nervous and excited, however, with a little preparation, both you and your child will be able to cope with the transition more smoothly.

We have put together the following information as a simple guide to show how you can best prepare your child for this exciting time in their lives.

Talk about school

Start talking about school, and ask your child how they are feeling. What are they most looking forward to? Are they worried about anything? Read books about starting school together, and look at your child’s school prospectus, magazine and/or website together, and talk about the pictures. If your child seems anxious about school, try focusing on the things they’ll like best – maybe playing in the playground or making new friends.

Stay positive - keep calm and smile!

It’s natural to feel nervous about your child starting school, but remember that your child can easily pick up on your emotions. Ensure that you are always positive when talking about school. If you are enthusiastic and confident that all will be well, then your child will feel the same way too. Avoid using any negative language such as “you’ll get in trouble if you behave like that at school.”

Help them develop their independence

A child who can do things for themselves will feel happier and settle at school more quickly. There are many useful skills you can practise to help your child become independent and confident at school including sitting up at a table, eating with a knife and fork, using a tissue to blow their nose (and putting it in the bin), washing and drying their own hands, tidying up after themselves and being fully toilet trained during the day. It is important to remember that children feel a real sense of achievement when they can accomplish things themselves. Examples include being able to dress and undress independently, as this will really help with PE, Games, Swimming and Forest School sessions.  Of course, teachers and assistants will always be there to support children with these essential skills.

Let them try on their uniform

Your child will enjoy trying on their smart new uniform. Try to make the first visit to the uniform shop as pleasurable as possible rather than leaving it to the last minute which could be stressful for all. Some uniform suppliers offer booked appointment times. Teach them tricks for getting dressed like having the labels at the back, rolling up tights and holding cuffs to avoid sleeves riding up. Why not take a photograph of them in their new uniform and stick it to the fridge to help them picture themselves at school? Remember to purchase uniform in time to add name labels.

Help them to recognise their name

Your child won’t be expected to write their own name independently at the start of school, but it’s often helpful if they can recognise their own name on a coat peg or name label. Put their name on their bedroom door - and anywhere else you’re willing. ‘Name Treasure Hunts’ can be a fun way of getting your child to recognise their name. Write your child’s name on pieces of paper and hide them around the house. Encourage your child to find them all.

Understanding instructions

Classroom instructions often contain several parts for children to remember. A simple game of ‘Simon Says’ could really help. Give your child an instruction to do, like ‘Simon says put your finger on your nose’ and see if they can follow your instruction. The game can be made more challenging by building up to instructions with two or three steps, for example, ‘Simon says touch your nose, then clap your hands and then put on your hands on your head!’

Develop social skills

If you already know some other children who will be in your child’s class, why not organise a play date or outing together before school starts? As well as helping the youngsters to develop their social skills, it’s helpful for you to be able to chat about your own feelings and anxieties with their parents, who may be feeling the same.  Playing games at home can also be a valuable experience to help your child understand turn-taking, sharing and learning how to win and lose!

Start a routine

We all know getting out of the house in the morning with a small child in tow can be a challenge, especially if you need to be somewhere for a specific time! As the start of term approaches, try to get into the school routine, so your child gets used to getting up, going to bed, and having meals and snacks at the times they will on school days. Practise the morning routine, including getting dressed and eating breakfast in time to leave. It’s also a good idea to practise the school run so that you’re both prepared for the journey. Bath time and stories will help children to wind down before bedtime, and nutritious meals and plenty of sleep will help them to concentrate and learn more easily during their time at school.

Other skills

Encourage your child to help you with simple jobs around the home, for example, gardening, tidying up, baking and cooking. This will help them to develop coordination and listening skills as well as independence and self-confidence.  It would be helpful to encourage your child to develop a sense of responsibility, e.g. helping to tidy toys away. Nursery rhymes, songs and storytelling help children form important cultural reference points, understanding rhythm and rhyme in addition to developing memory, literacy and numeracy skills. Remember to spend plenty of time outdoors for exercise and to develop fine and gross motor skills through climbing, jumping, running, balancing, and so on.

You will notice that this document does not list any expectations regarding your child’s literacy and numeracy skills.  This is intentional. Experience tells us that children develop these skills more quickly when introduced in a fresh and exciting environment at school.

We hope this has provided some helpful tips for both you and your child to prepare for starting school.  We aim to support parents in any way we can.