Preparing Your Child for School

If your child is starting school in September, you may be wondering how best to prepare them for this big new adventure!

Firstly, don’t worry if they can’t read a word or write their own name. The ability to interact, communicate and exercise a degree of independence is actually far more important than reading or writing skills when a child starts school. In fact, research shows a link between strong personal, social and emotional skills in Reception and higher levels of attainment in the future. So if you want to strengthen your child’s skills in these areas, here are some tips.


The aim is for children to be responsible for themselves, their belongings and their actions at school. Help your child learn to get dressed, put on their coats/shoes, go to the toilet, tidy away toys and select their own activity resources.

Communication and Language

Research demonstrates that competent speakers develop into competent readers and writers; without competent spoken language, learning to read and write is more difficult. Language allows children to interact with the world. Being able to communicate their message effectively is satisfying and develops their esteem and self-confidence. Model good spoken language, with correct pronunciation of sounds, and encourage your child to speak in full sentences using an expanding vocabulary. Talk to your child about their experiences and feelings throughout the day and develop a positive ethos around the importance of communicating and expressing feelings, of any kind. This will have multiple benefits (including knowing how your child is really feeling and maintaining an open and trusting rapport), both now and in the future.

Sharing and Interaction

The more opportunities your child gets to interact and learn how to share and take turns, the less of a shock it will be when he or she starts school!  However, expect this to be an on-going process. Allow your child lots of opportunities to play with siblings and organise lots of play dates. If disagreements occur between children, talk to them about how to resolve issues, modelling language and behaviour which gives them strategies and words to prevent or resolve disagreements in the future.

Respect for Behavioural Boundaries

At school, behavioural expectations and boundaries are likely to include:

Listening the first time they are asked to pay attention

Keeping hands/feet to themselves

Sharing and taking turns

Looking after things

Tidying away

Being kind to others

You can reinforce these expectations at home by teaching children to respect themselves, their actions and the feelings of others.

Physical (Gross and Fine Motor Skills)

All activities require some sort of physicality, whether it be large (gross) or small (fine) movements.  Gross motor skills are developed when hopping, skipping, running, jumping, galloping, balancing, pedalling a bike, using a scooter, climbing, throwing, catching, and kicking a ball. Varying the speed and direction of movement activities also develops spatial awareness. Your child can have fun developing fine motor skills at home with every day activities such as using pegs and scissors, bead threading, button fastening, moulding play-dough, and painting.

Exploring and Investigating

Often the most effective learning occurs when a child is left to his own devices, without nicely-prepared resources and prescriptive instructions about how to do something. Make a conscious effort to step back and allow your child the opportunity to use his initiative and develop his creative, imaginative and innovative skills through exploring, investigating and initiating his own learning. Children learn by exploring, trying out and adapting ideas for themselves and taking ownership. Present your child with a large cardboard box (and the opportunity to access other resources/toys). See what he or she does with it. In the latter stages of his or her ‘creation’ you may wish to step in to play too, but allow your child to initiate the direction of the play and conversation.

All the above skills can be naturally weaved into your everyday lives. Enjoy and treasure these precious last few months with your child at home, and keep the above tips in mind to promote a positive start to your child’s school life.

Sarah McKinlay is a mother and school teacher with qualifications in psychology and can provide support and strategies to give your child a happy transition to school. For more information, visit
Article first published on Families Magazine

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