What does being "school ready" actually mean?
Research from PACEY has found that early years professionals, parents and teachers agreed that "school ready" should mean that children:
- have strong social skills
- can cope emotionally with being separated from their parents
- are relatively independent in their own personal care
- have a curiosity about the world and a desire to learn.
Starting school is an exciting time for young children and their parents. It can be a daunting time, too. But with a little preparation and encouragement, most children will settle in easily at school, ready to learn and discover.
Your child doesn’t need to be able to read, write or do sums before they start school. Children start school with a wide range of abilities and teachers are skilled at helping children progress at their own pace.
Sharing stories, singing songs, playing games and talking about starting school is a positive way of preparing your child for school.
Feelings: Talk about feelings with your child- it's OK to have feelings but we need to know what they are and how they can affect what we do
Identify emotions: Verbalise when you see certain emotions in different people.
Facial Expressions: Comment on facial expressions when reading books and talk about the way the person might be feeling and why.
Explain Emotions: Talk about ways to express different emotions (e.g. you are laughing because you are happy; you are crying because you are sad).
Sing Songs that talk about emotions (e.g. “If you’re happy and you know it” )
Stories that can help with emotions include (click on the book to find out more):
Wheelbarrow walking races for upper body strength.
Swimming is a whole body activity that will help build strength and endurance as the child is constantly working against a small amount of resistance in the water.
Animal walks: Pretending to be a variety of animals such as crabs, frogs, bears or worms. All of these will use the child’s body weight as resistance.
Throw bean bags: The added weight of a bean bag will help develop strength and endurance. Hand-eye coordination: Give your child some tube shaped dried pasta to thread onto a length of string. B Build a tower with blocks or stacking cups – how tall can your child build (you could also practise counting at the same time)!
Fine Motor Skills activities can include: Cutting and pasting: Use cardboard (easier to hold) to cut out geometric shapes and make pictures.
Drawing: Provide a model to copy or draw one shape at a time for the child to copy.
Colouring: Colour small shapes to encourage pencil control and improve endurance for pencil skills.
Mazes: These are a fun way to engage in pencil skills as well as developing visual perception.
There are lots of ways that you can help your child be self-sufficient enough to start school confidently.
- Support your child to be confident about getting to the toilet in time and wiping properly, using toilet paper rather than moist wipes.
- Chat about the importance of good handwashing with soap and water, especially after going to the toilet or handling animals, and before eating lunch.
- Let your child practise putting on their school clothes, taking them off Clothes with elastic bands and shoes with Velcro® are easier to handle for young children. Teach your child tricks such as putting labels at the back, holding cuffs to stop sleeves riding up, and wrinkling tights to put toes in first. What about putting their shoes on the right feet?
- Children having school dinners need to be able to use a full-sized knife and fork and carry a plate or tray. If your child is taking a lunchbox, make sure they can open it, as well as any containers and packets inside.
- Get your child into the habit of hanging their coat up, putting their toys away, clearing the table, and so on, to prepare them for doing these things at school.
- Introduce your child to the routine of "catch it, bin it, kill it" – catching their sneeze, cough or runny nose in a tissue, putting it in the bin straightaway, then washing hands to kill germs.
Social Interaction Preparation
Play dates: Create opportunities for the child to interact with other children of a similar age through play dates and playgroups.
Board games: Play board games with the child to teach turn-taking, sharing, waiting and the ability to cope when one doesn’t win. Greetings: Encourage your child to use greetings throughout the day e.g “hello” , "good afternoon" etc, and respond to the question, “How are you?” Role play: Spend 20-30 minutes every day interacting and playing with your child. During these opportunities model social interaction and language that would be suitable to use in certain real life situations (e.g. if playing with a toy kitchen, talk about what you do when preparing food).
Books: Read to the child every day to expose them to different language concepts.
Vocabulary: When reading books ask the child to point to/name different pictures to expand their vocabulary.
Walks: When going for a walk point to items and name them.
Daily activities: When engaging in daily activities, such as preparing a bath, setting the table, preparing dinner or getting dress model the language that the child can use/understand in these situations (e.g. preparing the bath: Turn the taps on. Put the plug in. Put the bubbles in. Take your clothes off. Get into the bath.).
Following instructions: During daily activities encourage the child to follow 2-3 step instructions (e.g. get your hat and then go and get in the car).
Weather: Talk about the weather.
Counting: Encourage the child to count.
Dinner talk: At the dinner table take it in turns to talk about what you have done during the day.
Colours & shapes: Talk about different colours and shapes.
Concepts: Talk about different concepts such as big/little; on/in/under; in front/behind/next to; long/short; short/tall.
Concept books: Read books that talk about different concepts (e.g. Where is the green sheep?).
Model: When the child uses inaccurate grammar or sentence structure, model back to them the correct way of saying it (e.g. child: “Her is happy!” parent: “Yes, sheis happy. I wonder why she is happy?”). Play styles: Provide opportunities for the child to explore different styles of play (e.g. imaginative play, constructive play, symbolic play).
Starting school can be an emotional time for parents and carers as well as children. This touching poem by Emma Robinson expresses some of the common worries you may have, and aims to reassure you that we do understand and are ready to start your child's learning journey alongside you.
Attend all the information afternoons, 'Play & Stay' sessions and Welcome meetings that we offer, so that you are well-informed, can ask questions and are well-prepared. Our Reception teachers will also offer home visits to meet you and your child , building those first relationships in their own home setting.