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Getting ready to learn

Help your child get ready to learn at primary school.

Written by practising teachers, our Getting ready for school series will help you understand and develop the skills your child will need to thrive at their new primary school.

The start of big school is an exciting new stage for children and their parents, and 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, most importantly, 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 creating 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's understanding of numbers. Go on a number hunt around your local area and take pictures of any numbers you find, share counting songs together (e.g. 5 Current Buns, or 1,2,3,4,5 Once I Caught a Fish Alive) or count objects as you set the table for dinner. Can your child get 5 forks or 3 cups out? Can they share them out between the members of the family? Simple activities like these will lay the foundations for Reception year number learning.

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, and something that I often spend a long time focusing on with my class before we can 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 great fun and effective ways to develop hand strength for writing. Drawing and colouring activities are also well-known ways to introduce children to using tools for mark making. Other ideas which I use in the classroom are: drawing outside on the walls or fences with large chalk, dot-to-dot pictures, and painting with large brushes and buckets of water on outdoor surfaces.

Support independence in dressing

My class team always look forward with a sense of anticipation to the first time we change the class for PE! It can be quite a challenge changing 30 children out of uniform, into PE kits and back into uniform again if none of the children are familiar with the order in which clothes go on! Try putting the clothes into a long line in the order which they need to put on, encourage your children to be as independent as possible when getting dressed before they start school and, 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 upto 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 visit and have a tour with your child. It is also a good idea to walk or drive the route to school before they start, look at the school from the outside, or drive past 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 and make it less daunting. It will also give time to talk and for them 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 both in their Reception year and in the years to come!

Next: First day at school

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