Getting your child ready to start school

Getting your child ready to start school

It’s nearly time to start school and it is understandable for parents and children to be a little anxious. However, there is lots you can do to best prepare your child for this exciting time in their lives. 

Promoting independence

Your child will really benefit from being as independent as possible when they start school. Of course teaching staff will be on hand to help, but children feel a real sense of achievement when they can accomplish things by themselves.

Examples include:

·        Washing and drying hands

·        Wiping nose and putting the tissue in the bin

·        Put on and fasten coat and shoes

·        Using the toilet independently

·        Dress and undress ready for P.E

Social skills

Being able to interact appropriately with other children and share resources is a key skill that will help your child when they start school.

Examples include:

·        Take turns when playing simple games and sharing toys

·        Join in with games and activities with other people

Communication and Language

Many parents worry if their child will be able to tell the teacher if they need something or if they will make friends. Good communication skills underpin these abilities. Encourage your child to listen to stories, songs and rhymes, and to ask and answer simple questions.

Listening and Attention Skills

Your child will be given many spoken instructions throughout the school day and will need to be able to shift their attention from what they are doing to listening to what the teacher is saying. A lovely activity to promote this is to go on a ‘listening walk,’ where your child listens for all the sounds around them. You could also jot down all the sounds your child notices and talk about these back at home to retell the journey based on the sounds they heard.

Understanding Spoken Instructions

Classroom instructions often contain several parts for children to remember. A simple game of ‘Simon Says’ is great for your child to follow. Give them two part instructions, “Simon says put your finger on your nose and clap your hands.”

Vocabulary Development

At school, children will be expected to start extending their vocabulary, so it is a good idea to encourage your child to learn and use new words. Outdoor treasure hunts are a great way to introduce new types of vocabulary such as describing words. Treasure bags or feely bags where objects have to be described by the way they feel before revealing what the object is.

Narrative Skills

At school, children will be encouraged to use language to organize and sequence ideas and events. You could create a photo journal of events and activities over a period of a few weeks and then sit with your child and ask them to organize the photos into the correct sequence and retell the events in their own way. You can then model important concept skills like, ‘first,’ ‘last,’ ‘next,’ ‘before,’ ‘after’, and the correct use of past, present and future tenses of verbs.

Reading and Writing

Teachers do not expect children to know their alphabet or to be able to write sentences when they start school. A good foundation in sound awareness skills, such as rhyming and identifying what sound a word begins with, would be helpful. Use the short videos we have uploaded onto Famly to practise the sounds and identify new rhyming words.

Encourage your child to develop an interest in lots of different forms of text, whether that is labels on your food, street names when you go for your walks, text on posters etc. Consider reading books about ‘Starting School,’ with your child. A list of recommended books is included in this pack. Use these to discuss all the fun activities your child will be doing at school.

‘Name Treasure Hunts’ can be a fun way of getting your child to recognize their name. Most children will recognize their own names from the activities we do at nursery, but this is a fun activity to expand on this. Write your child’s name and those of other family members on pieces of paper and hide them around the house. Encourage your child to find them all. This is a good way to introduce other simple words and encourage your child to look carefully at each letter.

A good foundation to being able to write is to develop your child’s fine motor skills. This is because good fine motor skills enable your child to hold a pencil firmly as they write. Threading is a great way to develop fine motor skills, whether it is with beads or buttons or making necklaces out of dried pasta. Weaving wool around a cardboard template or strips of card through each other are also other simple activities you could do at home.

When your child is ready and interested in writing, encourage them to write simple words or sentences. Initially, begin by focusing on your child’s name as this will also help with reading and name recognition. Encourage them to write their name on greeting cards or artwork they have done. Ensure that you appropriately use upper and lower case letters.

Mathematical Development

Counting verbally

Being able to count verbally to at least 20 will be of great benefit to your child starting school. Practise counting up to 20 and backwards too. One to one counting can be done incidentally throughout the day, for example counting steps as your child climbs the stairs. You can count anything, e.g. count the lampposts you see on your walks, how many houses have white doors, how many pieces of fruit are left in the fruit bowl, how many pencils fit in the pencil case etc. Encourage reliable one to one counting by showing your child how to point to each item as they count, or to move the items as they count, so they do not count each item more than once. This will help your child to understand what numbers mean. Ask them to find the same amount of different items, e.g. find three spoons, three bricks, three bananas. You can also sing counting songs and number rhymes.

Shape, size and quantity

You could go on a shape hunt to see how many circles, squares, rectangles and triangles your child can find, e.g. square windows, circular plates, rectangular posters etc. You could look for patterns too. Talk about the shape and the size of objects, e.g. big car, little car, round ball, square table, rectangular book and ask your child questions such as “Can you pass me the biggest box?” or “Which is the smallest shoe?” Play with blocks and encourage your child to think about size, colour and shape. Also play with containers and ask your child, “How many socks can you fit in the box?” “Which container holds the most or the least, sand/water?” etc.

Number recognition

A number hunt is a fun way to look for numerals on doors, on clocks, cars, signs, at the shops or on the television. You could also play ‘I spy’ but with numbers.