Starting school has to definitely be one of the biggest milestones for a parent, it’s hard to believe where the years have gone and that your baby is now ready for school!
If you’re reading this you’re probably sat there wondering how you can help prepare them for this massive step or just feeling a bit worried about how it will all go and incredibly emotional about the next step.
Honestly, I can pretty much guarantee that if you regularly read my blog and follow along then you are already doing more than enough to help your little one with starting school so please do not panic! I know it’s easier said than done, but schools really are so supportive and will make sure they can do whatever they can to ensure a smooth transition for you and your child. As a teacher, I know all too well that the minute our children go through that door they generally settle in so well. But as a mum, I now know all too well how emotional a moment it is too! We are always so proud when our children hit the next milestone, but it also means it becomes the last of something else. I’m now writing this grabbing for the tissues!
The image above which I shared on my social media really sums up what we mean when we say ‘school ready’. Your child doesn’t need to be able to read, write or do calculations before they start school. If they can, that’s great, but (and I bang on about this all the time!) each child is a unique individual with their own starting point so no matter what point they are starting at, their teacher will help them progress at a pace suitable for them. Our learning through play cards are adapted for a wide range of abilities for this exact reason!
The Early Years is underpinned by their personal, social, emotional, physical and communication & language development. If we don’t support and nourish these skills with our children, they won’t be able to learn anyway! So priority number one is prioritising these in a way that is fun such as singing, sharing stories, playing and lots of talking! I’m going to share with you some tips, ideas and advice on how to do all of this below:
Encourage your child to independently do things such as get dressed, eat and go to the toilet themselves.
- Let your child practise dressing themselves, you could make it a game to see how quickly they can put their new school uniform on correctly then time them to try and do it quicker. Can they put their own school shoes on? A fab tip is to cut a sticker in half and pop one half in each shoe so they know whether they have the left and right shoe correctly as it will make the sticker go back together.
- If your child is having school dinners they need to be able to use cutlery and carry a plate or tray. If they’re having packed lunches they need to be able to open the packets and containers inside. Practise doing these things together so they can feel more confident when they start school. Of course, no one is going to let your child starve if they aren’t 100% confident with opening their yogurt lid yet, but meal times won’t be the same as they are at home with you and they need to take more responsibility for feeding themselves. You could role play a school dining hall set up to prepare them for this in a playful way!
- Independent toileting is really key and this also includes washing hands and basic hygiene such as using a tissue properly. To practise blowing noses you could get your little one to blow pom-poms or feathers across a surface using only their nose! Ask yourself, can my child wipe their own bottom? Can they flush the toilet and use soap to wash their hands? Visual images really help to remind them of all of this and you could create a toileting routine poster together.
Talk to your child about feelings and emotions. Being able to express themselves, begin to self-regulate and behave appropriately is really important.
- Can they name different emotions? Do they know what this emotion feels like for them? There are lots of emotion inspired activities in the learning through play cards to help them develop this skill.
- Talk about school in an exciting way with your child, you could create your own mini countdown! However, if you notice they do seem a bit apprehensive about it – talk about whatever it is that’s worrying them together. You might like to create a visual timeline of the school day or create a scrapbook together of all the things they’re looking forward to about school to give to their teacher on the first day.
- Talk to them about self-regulating, for example, if they’re hot they might need to take their jumper off or if they’re cold they might need to put their coat on. This will help them to stay regulated and happy in school too.
Encourage sharing and turn taking.
If your child has already attended a pre-school of some sort they may be really confident with this, but if not they may need some prompts on sharing, responsibility and taking turns.
- Encourage your child to take responsibility for their things, at a level appropriate for their age, and to care and respect their property. It’s really important when your child goes to school that they care for the resources and materials and share with other children. Play music to tidy up to, to make it a fun game, and play turn-taking games to support them in their new environment.
Develop fine motor skills, these are essential for cutting, writing and sticking.
- When children develop their fine motor skills they are building up their finger muscle strength. Activities such as using playdough, threading beads or using tweezers are great for this.
Celebrate what makes them special!
Talking with your child will help to develop their vocabulary, appreciation of self and understanding of the world. When children are asked to talk in a circle time situation in school, one of the easiest and most natural things for your child to talk about is themselves or their own experiences, so do lots of this at home! You could look at photographs together to talk about special memories.
Help them to recognise and write their own name
Don’t panic if your child can’t do this yet, it will come when they are ready, but you can support them in recognising their name by doing simple things such as having their name on their bedroom door, sending them letters in the post or labelling their water bottle. There are so many fun ways to practise name recognition and writing their name, you could practise doing it in a tray of glitter, shaving foam or dyed rice.
Read books together and sing songs!
You can never read or sing with your child too much. Bedtime stories, mid-day stories, breakfast sing alongs, just pop something in whenever you can. There’s a list of fabulous books all about starting school here.
Try to set aside 5 minutes each day where you play with your child uninterrupted from phones, technology and distractions. Quality time playing together has so many benefits. Our 3+ learning through play cards provide 150 fun activities and ideas to prepare your child for school in September.
Finally, some things you can do to feel organised:
- Practise the new school routine, including getting dressed and eating breakfast in time to leave. Simple things like keeping toothbrushes downstairs so your child doesn’t have to go up again can really help with time management.
- Do the school run so you know exactly where you’re going and how long it will take. You could visit the school with your child before they start informally, maybe go to their summer fayre (post Covid!).
- Put your child’s school uniform out the evening before each day and ensure everything is clearly labelled with your child’s name.
Follow these tips and you can’t go far wrong, I’m sure in no time your little one will be settled and thriving in school.
Have fun learning through play!