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23rd Aug 2021

Back to school: Your child should have these 7 skills before starting big school

Laura Grainger

From fine motor skills to recognising their own name, these are the seven simple skills to work on before they head to primary school.

Back to school season is almost upon us again and will see many kids start “big school” for the very first time.

For many parents, this is a time of anxiety as they worry how their little one will cope with greater independence than they had at creche or pre-school.

But there’s actually a lot of super simple things you can do to help prepare your child for the independence that comes with starting primary school.

According to experts, working on these seven skills will help the first day of school feel less intimidating to both you and your junior infant.

Dressing themselves

Teaching kids how to dress themselves is an important part of their independence. Showing them from early on how to work buttons, zips or velcro and how seams and labels go on the inside will be worthwhile for they’re in the classroom without you.

Going to the loo alone

Unfamiliar toilets can be the cause of much anxiety for for both parents and kids alike once school starts. Showing them how to wipe and flush, pull/zip their clothes back up and properly wash and dry their hands, then encouraging them to go on their own at home, will help prepare them for flying solo at school.

Sharing and waiting for their turn

It can be a bit of a culture shock for kids to suddenly have to wait their turn or resist their impulses when they want to do something once they get to school. Getting them used to this at home by playing board games or doing puzzles as a family can help a lot with teaching listening and turn taking skills.

Have fine motor skills

Fine motor skills are the movements we make using the small muscles in our hands and wrists. We depend on these to do everyday tasks at home, work and school like writing, typing, getting dressed, tying our laces, opening lids or clasps and so on. It’s therefore important they’re worked on before school so your child can do the likes of opening their lunchbox or looking after themselves following a bathroom break. You can help your child’s development of fine motor skills by getting them to play with Play-dough or blocks, thread beads, draw or paint, and even help you in the garden.

Recognition of their name

Being able to recognise their own name in print will help when they first start school and see labelled desks. Having a nameplate on your child’s bedroom door or as part of their room’s decor with help build this recognition.

Eating at the table

Getting children to help with food and table preparation and the tidy-up that follows will help them when it comes to lunchtime. Having everyone sit at the same spot at the family table will also help them learn to eat at a designated seat.

Ability to ask for help

Ever worried your baba will be too shy to ask to go to the loo, to ask for a drink or to say when they feel sick? You’re not alone! But you can help build that confidence beforehand by talking openly about emotions and encouraging your child to express themselves and their feelings. In the run-up to their big school debut, chat about school as an adventure to look forward to and mention how teachers are there to help.