Starting school is an exciting new adventure for a child and a parent/carer, it can feel daunting and can be hard to know if your child is truly ready for this next step. For most it will be the first really big change they are facing.
If you are returning to school for the first time since March it is natural to feel a little anxious – there are some tips and resources on our Coronavirus Useful Information page to help manage that anxiety.
The information below is a guide and that all children are different, and develop at a different rate to one another. An easy to read parents’ guide to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) has been created to help parents see what their child could be doing within their age range.
Washing hands and wiping noses are two of the best ways to stop germs spreading in a school setting. Some children will readily wash or clean themselves, whereas others may not. By making washing hands and nose wiping a fun activity, for example through songs, children may be more likely to remember to do it.
Supporting your child to use the toilet by themselves is an exciting new stage in getting ready for school and is key for their independence. Ideally your child will be able to:
- Go to the toilet by themselves
- Wipe themselves and flush the toilet
- Wash and dry their hands (remember the ‘wash your hands’ song!)
Encouraging your child to dress and undress themselves supports their independence and can build their confidence. Remember to start small and allow plenty of time. Bedtime is a good time to practice putting their pyjamas on themselves as it is usually a quieter time. You can practice putting their school uniform on at any time of the day. You could try putting on some music while they dress/undress and as they become more confident, they may be able to dress/ undress within one song (approx. 3 minutes). Remember, making it fun is key and also give plenty of praise.
Ideally your child will be able to:
- Put on and take off their school uniform and PE kit
- Put on and take off their socks and shoes
- Put on and take off their coat
If your child will be having school dinners for the first time, you could practice carrying a tray at home, make this a fun game to play. Before walking with food, start by carrying smaller things on the tray such as a notepad or a teddy. When your child feels confident, see if they can carry their lunch from the kitchen to where they eat using their tray. Ideally your child will be able to:
- Walk with a tray
- Use a knife and fork
- Pour a drink
- Open packaging
Most schools will arrange a play session that your child will be able to attend before starting school. You can also attend any Christmas or summer fayres before they start to allow the school to become a familiar and fun place to them. To help your child settle at school ideally they will be able to:
- Separate from their parent/ carer with encouragement
- Have a good bedtime routine so they are not tired ahead of their busy and exciting day
- Happy to help and tidy their belongings
You can be quite creative with supporting your child’s pre writing skills. Using a paintbrush with water outside, chalks, following lines underneath tracing paper and dot-to-dot games are all fun ways to practice holding a pencil. Ideally your child will be showing an interest in holding a pencil and creating marks.
Remember…you cannot write until you can climb a tree! A child’s strength to hold their pencil comes from their core – you can help your child develop their core by providing them with plenty of outdoor play, climbing, running, hopping, skipping, jumping, throwing and catching a ball. These are all excellent ways to support a child’s development.
Reading with your child is by far the best way to instil a love of learning in your child and support the development of their speech and language skills. Bedtime stories are a lovely way to sit and calmly read with your child and have their full engagement. You can also think ‘outside the box’ too. Showing your child road signs and food packaging enables them to see words in every day places. Fun activities such as letter hunts (placing letters around a room which the child has to find, they could spell a word – cat, dog etc) are also fun ways of engaging with letters and words. Ideally, by starting school your child will be able to:
- Show an interest in listening to stories
- Look at picture books and make stories from them
- Show an interest in recognising their own name
- Talk about themselves and their needs
Counting can be fun and there are many fun counting games that you can do with your child. You can also teach your child to count within everyday life as well. Counting their toys, how many pieces of fruit they have, asking them to count the plates and lay the table, all the daily activities instil numeracy and an ease of learning into your child. Ideally, by starting school your child will be able to:
- Willing to count objects
- Reciting number rhymes
- Begin to recognise numbers when they are written down
There will be times at school when your child will need to listen and sit still for a short while. You can support your child’s development by encouraging activities at home that allow them to practise doing this. By finding time to talk with your child and listen to them, they will learn that there will be an opportunity for them to speak, but just a little later. By emphasising the importance of listening, and showing your child that they can take turns to talk and learn, you are gradually building up skills that they will take with them to school and beyond. Ideally your child will be able to:
- Sit still and listen for a short while
- Follow simple two step instructions
- Understand why we need to follow rules
Tiny Happy People has been launched to help you develop your child’s communication skills. Explore simple activities and play ideas and find out about their amazing early development. When children start school they should be able to speak to their new friends in full sentences, ask teachers simple questions and understand what they are told to do. When they have these skills they feel more confident and they’ll be happier.