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Supporting your child's learning at home

When your child starts learning new skills at school, it can be hard to know how to best support them. Here's a brief overview of what your child will be learning in Reception, and how you can help at home. Take a look at the main Oxford Owl site for more information on What to expect in Reception >

How to support literacy skills

One of the biggest areas of development for your child at this stage is communication. Your child will experiment with communicating in a variety of ways at school – for example, through stories, in conversations with adults and their friends, and through facial expression, movement and dance.

Your child will learn the basics of literacy – reading, writing and phonics. Many parents are daunted by phonics, but there’s no need to be! Your school will probably use a specific phonics scheme such as Read Write Inc. or Oxford Reading Tree, but they will all use the same 44 phonemes (the units of sound used in English speech) and the same graphemes (written symbols, like a or sh, that represents sounds) to read and spell words. Don’t worry – the schemes progress gradually, and you will be given lots of helpful advice along the way. To find out more about phonics and learn how to make the sounds, watch our animation.

You can support your child's development at this stage in a number of ways:

  • Talk to them lots. Try to make the conversations as two-way as possible – children learn much more if they are in a dialogue, not just being spoken to.
  • Read to your child and encourage them to read to you. Read anything and everything, not just the reading scheme books. Real books, with pictures, rhyme and enjoyable stories are crucial here. Try to encourage your child to talk about the pictures, or to make predictions about what will happen next. Above all, it’s important for your child to enjoy reading, so try to relax, and stop when either of you begins to feel pressured or anxious. Take a look at the Oxford Owl blog for book recommendations >
  • You will probably be asked to fill in a Reading Diary each time you read with your child. This can be a really useful communication tool, so the more info you provide the better! The teachers just want to find out about how things are going with your child’s reading and really don’t mind what you write, so don’t feel pressured at all.
  • You can help your child build up hand strength and fine motor skills by playing with paints and colouring in. This will help when they come to learn to write. For tips on early handwriting skills, see our Learning to form numbers and letters for ages 4–5 >
  • You can find more ideas on our Starting to read page >
How to support maths skills

In maths, Reception classes will cover numbers, simple sums, shapes, spaces and simple measuring. The emphasis won't be on writing down calculations or on traditional 'classroom teaching', but on getting your child familiar with numbers and setting the foundation for future learning.

There are a few things you can do to help with early maths skills:

  • Numbers are all around us, from calendars to door numbers, street signs to car registration plates. Pointing them out and talking about them with your child can show that they have a real life context. For ideas to build early maths skills, watch our maths games YouTube playlist >
  • Try to involve your child in using numbers at home by singing number rhymes and songs or by encouraging them to recognise and read numbers when you are in the car.
  • When shopping, ask them to select the number of apples or bananas you need – they’re helping you out, and practising their counting at the same time.
  • Have a go at forming numbers in sand with a stick, on the pavement with chalk or on sheets of paper with finger paints. Make numbers out of modelling clay, or try holding your child's finger and forming the number in the air.
  • You can find more ideas on our Maths skills for ages 4–5 page >
What is synthetic phonics?

Synthetic phonics is how children in England are taught to read and write. Watch our animation to find out all about it:

For more phonics ideas, activities and tips, and to learn how to say all of the phonics sounds, take a look at our Phonics made easy page >