Learning

Ready, Steady, Go

Is your child school-ready? Use our 10 tips to ensure children feel confident and prepared.

Published

1. Talk and read about school

Chatting about what happens at school can create a positive impression of what lies ahead and help your children express any worries they might have. Discuss (happy) memories of your own school days and read school-based stories together.

2. Make a visit

Many primaries offer settling-in sessions, so new pupils can get familiar with the teachers, classroom and playground. If possible, do attend these – they’ll make your child feel more at ease. If nothing else, drive or walk past the school now and then, pointing out alluring features such as the playground equipment.

3. Get to know future classmates

Ask around locally and see if you can find a future classmate your child could meet with, especially if they aren’t moving up with a gang of buddies from nursery. Invite the child to a picnic or for games in the garden, Just one familiar face could help your child feel more comfortable on the first day.

4. Step up social skills

Ask reception teachers what they’d like new charges to be able to do: chances are that social skills will come before reading or writing in the early days! Following instructions, sitting still for age-appropriate amounts of time and sharing/ taking turns are all important ingredients of a happy reception classroom. Practice turn-taking and listening at home

5. Boost ‘self-care’ basics

If children can go to the loo independently and clean themselves up afterwards (including washing hands properly), change for PE, and eat with cutlery, they’ll cope better at school. Over the summer, focus on improving these skills, as well as getting their own socks and shoes on (choose shoes with Velcro not laces), and ideally also doing up zips and buttons.

6. Don’t stress about academics

What kids can do academically at this stage varies greatly – some will be able to read and add up, others won’t recognise a single letter or number yet. Children arrive in reception at many different stages and teachers are very used to catering for this variation.

7. Focus on play and learn

If you do want to work on the basics that form the foundations for reading, writing and maths, the best way is by integrating them into your everyday activities. Recognising and writing letters are stepping stones for learning in the first year of school. Reading together is unbeatable and you could point out letter sounds in simple words, in storybooks, on billboards and shop signs or even food packaging.

8. Knowing their names

Recognising their name helps children to find their coat peg, drawer and belongings more easily. You could encourage children to try to add their name to their latest masterpiece when drawing or painting, to help familiarise them. Label all belongings that go to school, such as water bottles and shoes, to reduce the chance of them getting lost.

9. Address any worries

A few days beforehand, go over with your child what to expect. Check that children understand roughly what will happen on the first day and listen out for any misunderstandings or worries. Remind them of how they should ask to go to the loo if needed, plus lunch and picking up arrangements. If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to confirm where and when to drop children off and whether you’re expected/ allowed to accompany them into the classroom. Perhaps have a trial run of the journey to see how long it takes and where to park if you’re driving. It can help to make a checklist of things to remember on the first morning.

10. On the big day

Leave plenty of time on the morning! If you’re running late and you’re stressed, or you can’t find parking or the right entrance to the school, this won’t help your child remain relaxed. Leave a few minutes earlier than necessary just in case. A quick hug, kiss and a cheery bye and ‘have a great time, see you later’ works best for most children, rather than a prolonged farewell and fuss. If they’re not used to being apart from you, it can be nice to give them a ‘kiss’ to keep in their pocket to ‘grab’ if they’re feeling sad. Once you’ve waved them off, try not to cry, put your worries aside and make the most of this first day of a new stage in your lives.

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