how to prepare your child for school

How to Prepare your Child for School

How to Prepare your Child for School

Starting school for the very first time can be daunting and overwhelming and that is just for you as the parent!  So how can you set your child up to succeed when they start school?  How can you help them to be school ready?  I am certainly no expert and just do the best I can like all of you so I thought it might just be useful to share things that other mummies have done.  In this post I have asked parents who have been through their getting a child ready for reception, teachers and those who are about to do it for the first time to share their strategies for preparing a child for school.   POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS

My child is starting school

My daughters will start school in September and this will be my third time having a child start school.  I was lucky when my other children started school as they didn’t have any melt downs.  I haven’t experienced the emotional upset that so many parents have to deal with.  My boys were not concerned about being separated from me when they started school, but looking back on it there are things I wish that I had taught them before they started reception.

how to prepare your child for school

What should reception children know?

I am not a teacher so this is just the opinion of a parent…  I think that before they start school reception children should know:

  • How to count at least to ten
  • How to eat unassisted
  • How to get dressed unassisted (in the main)
  • How to use the toilet correctly and wipe themselves/ wash hands (my daughter still has lots of accidents and sometimes this happens, but I think they should know the theory at least)
  • Basic phonics – I think even just knowing a few of the sounds helps them to feel comfortable with the concept.  You might need a book to help you understand all the phonics depending on how you were taught.  I know it took me a minute to get my head round it!
  • How to write their name (My girls can’t do this yet, but I think it is a nice thing for them to be able to do.  We will be working on it)
  • How to identify their own things by recognising their name labels 
  • How to ask for help (At school they can’t just pester mummy mummy mummy….  so I think teaching them how to ask for things is really helpful)

Practical tips on how to prepare your child for school?

This is where the other mummies come in….  Below are some great ideas from other mothers about how they are or have prepared a child for starting school.  

Anna from suggests:

When it comes to starting school, it is a really good idea to teach them how to get dressed and undressed independently. Whilst the teacher is there to help them, with 30 in a class, it can be hard for them to get around everyone quickly. Children preparing for school

Teach them the order the need to get dressed and then undressed in. You can make little picture cards of each item of clothing and stick them on the wall in the correct order for them to follow at home. This can help them remember.

It will also help them if they can be taught to put their clothes in the correct way once they have taken them off and on a chair rather than throw them on the floor which they usually do at home. 

Teaching them which shoe goes on which foot is also helpful. Try sticking a sticker in the shoe of the hand they write with and teach them this rule. 

Ingrid from Fabulous and Fun Life advises 

One easy practical way I prepared my three children to start school was by purchasing their lunchboxes and drink bottles months in advance. I then practiced with them at home how to open their lunch box, eat their packed lunch and use their drink bottle. On weekends we would go to the school and they would sit on the school benches in the playground with their lunch box and eat their lunch there.

By the time they started school they were familiar with their lunch box, how it opened and the type of food they would find in there. They were also familiar with the school playground layout and benches.

Attending school for the first time is daunting enough with so many new experiences and new people.  At least my children’s lunch time routine at school was familiar to them when they first started school.

Olivia from Happy in the Hollow says:

If your kids are anything like mine, they thrive on routines. Knowing what to expect – and what is expected – really reduces friction, especially at those often-challenging transition points throughout the day.

Putting a routine in place can take some of that notorious chaos out of school mornings. But it can take a while to get everyone in the groove, so we started a few weeks before school began: laying out clothes at night, getting up at a regular time, packing snacks or lunches, putting a few important things for the day into a bag.

prepare s child to start school top tips

After a while, it becomes second nature, and it’s one less new thing for the little ones to worry about when the first day of school actually rolls around.

Betty from Mom Brite suggests:

Tour the school with your kid before school starts to that your kid gets familiar with the facilities. Show your kid the playground and other fun areas in the school to get him excited for the school.

Meet the teacher and if possible, have the teacher take your kid for a few minutes to chat with him. Your child can get to know the teacher and even ask some questions that might be in his mind. If the school allows it, your child can sit in the classroom briefly (just 5-10 minutes) and get familiar with the classroom and the kids he will be friends with.

You can also take your kid to school during drop off and pick up times and show him where you will be dropping him off and explain that you will be waiting for him when school is over.


Christina from Raising biracial babies reminds us about teaching our children boundaries

My kids are mixed so preparing my daughter for school included how to deal with racial comments, questions, and her personal boundaries. For example, I’m often asked “what is she?”, “why is she brown?”, and “is that your daughter?”. So I explained to her that she may get asked questions like that from kids in school. We talked about how she can answer, “I’m a girl”, “I’m a person”, “I’m biracial” or that she doesn’t have to give an answer if she doesn’t want to.

We discussed how people may ask her if I’m her mommy because our skin color is different and how she can respond. I also explained the boundaries that she has and how to tell people no. Lots of people try to touch her hair and she hates it. Some kids try to brush her hair, which she also hates. I told her she needs to be straightforward and tell them I don’t want you touching my hair and if they continue to tell the teacher.

I wanted to prepare my daughter to be confident in who she is and not feel pressured to answer questions she doesn’t want to, or deal with behaviors she doesn’t like.


Libby from Because Mommy Says remembers

The summer before my son began kindergarten, we talked often about what it would be like when he went to “real school”. I made it a point to remind him of the expectations he will have for behaving and listening as well as always trying his hardest.

We sat down as a family and talked about all of the different aspects of school and what he should expect. I explained all of my favorite parts of school from when I was a kid, from recess to field trips, and asked him what his biggest questions were.

As someone who is often anxious myself, I am very tuned in to the fact that being sent somewhere brand new isn’t easy! It has always been helpful for our little guy to be able to anticipate things to come and have a solid idea of what to expect in a new environment. 


I hope you find these ideas as useful as I have.  Thank you to all the other mummies for taking part.  Please do share any ideas you have in the comments section.  I would love to hear from you.  One final thought from me… As you head towards the day that they start school for the first time be as upbeat and positive as possible.  If you feel nervous fake it till you make it!  I know I had to…


21 thoughts on “How to Prepare your Child for School”

  1. With my teaching hat on, my advice for any parent with a child starting school would be not to worry about what they know ahead to time. Don’t worry if Doris down the road is already reaingy or Bernard can count to a thousand. Every child learns at a different pace and actually in Year R, it’s much more important to encourage and cultivate a love of school and learning. Plus your amazing teachers will help you and your child with the rest. #DreamTeam

    1. I totally agree they all learn at their own pace. I have really had to remember that and have seen it illustrated right in front of me with my twins. I am spending time trying to prepare my girls because a) one of them has a speech delay and needs the extra support and development of vocab and b) because their brother lost confidence when he struggled with reading and started to hate learning. It has been a bit of a struggle to get him back on track even with fab support from the school. I hope that just a few basics will give my girls a good start so they can concentrate on playing. Thanks for being on the #DreamTeam

  2. Some great tips there. And I would definitely second learning to read and write their name, getting dressed and going to the toilet on their own. I was quite surprised to read that a mum prepared for racial comments. Maybe it’s a London thing, but this would never be a thing here. #DreamTeam xx

    1. I think that was a fairly specific thing for her family. It wouldn’t be a thing here either, but I am definitely talking to my girls about respect. They have no boundaries with one another and the use of the word ‘idiot’ (thanks to having older brothers) is prolific. I am hoping that we can get them to understand that is not ok before they get to school I can avoid hearing those words ‘the teacher would like to have a word Mrs Hall’ at the end of the day… **hangs head in shame** #DreamTeam

    1. I got name stickers for clothes with a picture on them for my son as he has trouble with reading which made that process even easier! #DreanTeam

  3. I am teaching Reception aged children this year and have taught young children for over 20 years. Some of these points are great and some I wouldn’t worry so much about. Here is my suggestions:
    1. Toilet independently and that includes wiping their own bottom!
    2. Be excited about the world and can talk about it.
    3. Listen and be able to follow basic instructions.
    4. Listen to a story being read to them.
    5. Have book skills e.g can tell you what is going on from pictures. Phonics are not important.
    6. Know what numbers represent. Counting by rote is no good if you don’t understand it! Even being able to count objects to 5 is better than reciting number names to 20.
    7. Recognise their name and have a go at writing it.
    8. Be able to play with toys for longer than 5 minutes!
    9. Wait their turn.
    10.can put on their own coat or hang up their own coat!

    Honestly, that’s it. Good luck to all new little ones and their parents!

    1. I love the point about being excited about the world and being able to talk about it. Our little girl who has a speech delay is still working on this stuff, but that is really what we are focusing on with her and getting her to describe what she sees in pictures. Totally agree about the numbers thing. One of my eldest’s friends could count up to something like 50 before they started school (as his mother continuously told me ;)), but he had no idea what he was saying…

      Any tips for helping my little one stop playing when she needs the toilet? We are still getting lots of accidents and I am out of ideas…. #DreamTeam

  4. Personally I think just learning self management and social skills is the best way to prepare them for school. The academic side will come so I don’t think you should worry too much about that. #DreamTeam

    1. I do agree in the main, but my little boy has struggled so very much with reading and that has made him dislike school and lose confidence in himself so I am keen to make sure this doesn’t get repeated by giving my girls a bit of pre prep. Thanks for being on the #DreamTeam

  5. I’d like to say that I enjoyed reading this…but I didn’t! My stomach churned and I felt acid rise up into my throat. Stanley starts school this Sept. He’s ready and I’m the one who’s not!! So not an enjoyable read ha ha but a helpful one, thank you for sharing! #DreamTeam

    1. Awh sorry to remind you of what is coming! I think I would have been like that with my eldest as I was broken hearted when he went to nursery, but I had just had the twins so I was virtually counting down the days until one of the four wouldn’t be at home all day. I think I might be a bit of a mess in September when the girls start as they seem so little. This is probably just because there isn’t a baby coming up behind them reminding me how much they have grown, but whatever it is I am not ready to be home alone!! #DreamTeam

  6. It is a huge deal and a big deal for everyone involved. I couldn’t believe the support I was getting from family when my daughter started last September (I didn’t think people cared that much!) but I was very touched. Unfortunately we did have the meltdown though. For three days she cried and begged me not to make her go in there. I won’t lie it was unpleasant but we persevered and as soon as she gave it a chance she quickly saw how much fun it actually was. Now she is blooming! She hates to miss a day. I agree with every tip you have given, it all helps them prepare for their very new environment (the poor little poppets!) #dreamteam

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