Updated: Jan 24
It's January, so it might seem a bit soon to be thinking ahead to September, but if you have a child starting school this year NOW is the time to start planning.
Nursery will have the educational side covered, and although it is important that you try and support this learning, there are however, some other very important skills that parents should be helping their kids to master to ensure that the transition to school goes smoothly.
Most children are ‘foot loose and nappy free’ by the age of three but, like many areas of child development, this isn't always the case. Not only is it vital that your child is out of nappies when they start school (unless they can’t be for medical reasons) but they also need to be able to pull their own trousers, tights and underwear up and down by themselves too, along with being able to wipe their own bum. Giving your child time to practice dressing independently will help - so show them how to tackle buttons, zips and putting their coat and shoes on.
TOP TIP! – To help your child put their shoes on the right feet, cut a sticker in half and place one half in each shoe, so that when the shoes are put together correctly, the stickers match up.
Your child will benefit hugely from learning to use a knife, along with a fork and school will not have small, plastic cutlery, so help your child by providing them with a metal knife, fork and spoon. If you find yourself still feeding your child (yes, I know it can be quicker) now is a good time to stop. You can buy smaller metal cutlery from lots of places, including IKEA, so if your child struggles with a big knife and fork, start them small.
TOP TIP! – Playdough is a great tool for helping to develop fine and gross motor skills - use it to help your child practise cutting.
Encouraging your child to take responsibility for their own things is a must. At school, they will be expected to tidy up and be responsible for their possessions, so let them help pack their bag for nursery or daytrips and encourage them to put their things away. They may seem small, but you will be surprised at what they are actually capable of!
TOP TIP! – To make tidying up easier, make sure that you de-clutter at least once a year. Too many toys can lead to overwhelm, not only when tidying but also playing, meaning that your child will struggle to play properly.
Helping your child to concentrate
Being able to concentrate in 10-15 minute bursts at school will be expected, but depending on your child’s age when they start school, it will vary as to whether this is achievable. Something that will help though are being given opportunities to follow instructions – baking with your child is great for this and there are some lovely kids cookery books out there to get you started.
Doing puzzles and playing board games are also fab for helping children to build their concentration. These activities are great maths activities also which help to develop vital problem-solving skills.
TOP TIP! – Less time watching TV can help your child’s attention span, so be mindful of how much they are having. It is recommended that children aged 2-5 years, have just one hour per day of high-quality programmes.
Building your child’s social skills
If your child is at nursery, they will already be learning how to be sociable, but it is helpful to build social skills out of nursery too. Children learn and develop by playing alongside their peers, and they will be less anxious if they are happy mixing with other adults and children. Heading to playgroups, and arranging playdates with other children their age are all easy things that you can do to ensure that they are mixing with others.
Other social skills that you can practise at home are;
Helping your child to share – Board games are a great sociable way to help your child learn to share as they have to take turns. Help them by saying “Whose turn is it next?” and make sure that you acknowledge and praise them for being patient and waiting.
Practise conversations - Having time to talk, along with time where children have to listen, teaches them vital speaking and listening skills. Mealtimes are a great time for this, where you can ask them about the best part of their day and you can encourage them to ask you or others at the table about their day too.
TOP TIP! – If you can’t sit together at mealtimes, try bath time instead. Kids are always more relaxed in the tub and if that fails, we all know that kids LOVE to have a conversation at bedtime!
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