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Tips to prepare your child for primary school

Teachers and childcare professionals agree that ‘school ready’ means that children:

  • Are confident and happy to be in school for a number of hours without seeing a parent or carer.
  • Are curious about the world and have a desire to understand more / learn.
  • Have strong social skills to interact well with other children and adults.

Children also need to be relatively independent with their personal care (using the toilet, feeding themselves, etc.). Teachers are there to teach literacy and numeracy skills, but they are able to devote a lot more time to this if they don’t have to do up 30 zips or a hundred buttons before taking the children outside.

Equally, if they are constantly stopping children from fighting they are unable to give the rest of the class the attention they need to learn. So parents should feel able to relax a little about doing ‘educational’ activities and buying ‘educational’ toys for their preschool children.

Instead let them have fun playing with friends, and developing communication and social skills such as learning to share and sort out their own disputes. This will ease the path into school much more than priming them with advanced reading ability or maths skills.



Ways to help your child prepare for school:

  • You can help reassure your child that going to ‘big school’ is an exciting new adventure over the Summer holidays – let them know just how wonderful growing up is and all the fun that awaits them.
  • You can visit the school to familiarise them with their new surroundings. If taster sessions are available these are a good way to introduce your child to their new teacher.
  • Reading books about starting school with your child is a great way to let your child bring up any fears they may have and encourage discussion around starting school.
  • Let older children you know tell them all the best bits of their school day; they could even role-play being at school to give your child a feel of what it will be like.
  • If it’s the first time they will eat apart from you, do your best to prepare them for eating independently by practising using cutlery and developing good table manners.
  • Buy their new uniform well in advance and let them practise getting dressed and undressed – this is handy for those busy mornings and also good for when they do PE and need to change themselves into their kit.
  • Rehearse asking to use the toilet, wiping, flushing, and washing their hands independently.

Taking some time to prepare your child means they will look upon this transition as something exciting and something to look forward to. They will enjoy the anticipation of what is to come and go into their new year at school with confidence.

Many parents have concerns as their child approaches the next key milestone in their life.


Here are some tips that will address some of those worries and help you feel more prepared for the start of your child’s first term at school…



1. What can I expect in the first week?

Starting primary school presents a mixture of emotions – from eagerness and excitement for term to begin, to nerves about entering the unknown. And that’s just the parents! So your child is likely to have mood swings and changes in behaviour, possibly in the form of tantrums and moments of hyperactivity. Just remember that they’re going through a big change and at this age, will still be learning how to regulate their emotions. The first day will seem to last forever, and your child will be very tired when they get home after a day of meeting and playing with new friends. So make sure they get plenty of sleep the night before, and allow lots of time in the morning for getting ready.


2. My child can’t read, write or do maths yet. Will they be behind in class?

It’s absolutely fine for children to not have these skills yet; in fact, it’s better not to rush children before they’re ready.
What is important is that your child has the abilities they will need for learning these skills, which can all be developed through playtime.

For instance, in order to write, they will need to be able to hold a pencil, and for this, they need good hand strength and coordination (fine motor control). This can be improved by playing with moulding clay, jigsaws, or construction toys.


3. I’m worried that my child won’t behave in class

Attention span is generally short for young children and varies between individuals, from around five minutes (or less) on a boring or uninteresting task to 15-30 minutes when they are particularly absorbed in a game. Focus will come with practice, and can be encouraged with quiet activities like puzzles and reading.


4. I’m worried my child won’t make friends

Young children have an amazing ability to make friends with anyone and everyone. Some children are more shy than others though and can find it harder to approach new people. It may be worth arranging a playdate before the start of term with children who will be going to the same school so that your child has some familiar faces on their first day.
Children also have a strong sense of playing fair by this point, so if your child doesn’t know how to share toys, they’re likely to be playing on their own. Get them to practise sharing and taking turns by playing with other children. You could also try playing simple board games together to help them learn how to play with others.


5. My child seems really anxious about starting school, what do I do?

Open a discussion with your little one by asking what they are most looking forward to when they start school and also what they are worried about. Reassure them that once they have settled in, they will be fine. If they are particularly anxious, let your child’s new teacher know; they will keep an eye on them and help them transition into the new routine.
It’s also a good idea to get your child involved in preparing for school, to make it a more exciting experience.

For example, you could let them choose their own shoes (within reason!) or which lunch box they’d like. This will really make them feel grown-up and important.


6. I’m really anxious about my child starting school, what do I do?

If you’re feeling like you’ve forgotten something – a piece of uniform, a form you were supposed to sign – just remember you’re not expected to be perfect! And as always, take some time out for yourself to relax, however hectic preparing your child for school gets.


Primary school is an exciting step and there are lots of things your child will love about it – have a look at what a few reception pupils said about their favourite things at ‘big school’