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Getting ready to learn

Help your child get ready to learn at primary school.

The start of big school is an exciting new stage for children and their parents. Sometimes, parents can feel under pressure to prepare their pre-school child for this big step. I often have new Reception parents asking me what their child should be able to do before September, or telling me what they have already been taught. My advice is not to worry too much about what they can or can not yet do – your child's new school will be experts at helping them to learn. Having said that, there are some helpful, simple, and fun things you can do together at home to help get your child ready to start Reception.

Encourage early literacy skills

Sharing stories and books with your child is a really valuable way to help them develop important early literacy skills and a love of books. As you read to your child, talk with them about the characters and ask them to try to guess what might happen next. This can help develop their vocabulary, imagination, and understanding of different texts. You could try sharing an eBook from the Oxford Owl eBook library, visiting your local library or even making your own story book together!

Establish early number skills

There are so many opportunities in the day to develop early number skills and help your child get familiar with numbers. Why not go on a number hunt around your local area and take pictures of any numbers you find? Or, share counting songs together (like 'Five Current Buns', or 'One, Two, Three, Four, Five Once I Caught a Fish Alive'), or count objects as you set the table for dinner. Can your child get five forks or three cups out? Can they share them out between the members of the family? Simple activities like these will lay the foundations for Reception.

Hone fine motor skills and pencil control

Developing hand strength, fine-motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination are all part of preparation for writing. I often spend a long time focusing on these skills with my class before we start forming letters! Completing Lego models, using scissors, threading beads or pasta onto string, or (a firm favourite with my class!) using old recycled water bottles with sports tops as water pistols are all fun and effective ways to develop hand strength. Drawing and colouring activities are also good ways to introduce children to using mark-making tools. Other ideas which I use in the classroom are: drawing outside on the walls with large chalk, dot-to-dot pictures, and painting with large brushes and buckets of water on outdoor surfaces.

Support independence in dressing

My team always look forward to the first time we take a class for a PE lesson. However, it can be quite a challenge to change 30 children into and out of their uniforms if none of the children are familiar with the order clothes go on! Encourage your children to be as independent as possible when getting dressed before they start school. You could try putting the clothes into a line in the right order and then have them dress themselves. Most importantly, try on their uniform plenty of times before they start school so that they are familiar with what they will wear at school.

Talk about school

In addition to trying on their uniforms, it can also be really helpful to talk to your child about their new school positively in the months leading up to September. You may have already visited the school – many schools will have an induction visit where the children can meet their new teacher and spend some time in the classroom. If they don't, do ask to have a tour with your child. It is also a good idea to walk or drive past the school at the end of the school day and watch children coming out – it can be very exciting seeing all the other children in their uniform! All of these ideas will help familiarise your child with the school environment. It will also give time to talk and to raise concerns or questions, which is really valuable in the lead up to starting school.

Starting school is such an exciting new chapter in your child's life. A few simple shared activities like these can really help their learning and development over the Reception year, setting them up to thrive and succeed!

Next: First day at school

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