Preparing your child for school


Once your child reaches school age there’s a few things they can be doing for themselves. Preparing your child for school early on will help the transition from home or preschool. The more they’re prepared for school, the easier the transition will be, and the less stress and anxiety your child will experience.


By the time your child is 5 they’re probably showing signs of wanting to be more independent little beings. School will only reinforce their need for¬†independency.

One of the best things you can do for your children is to show them, and let them practice how, to do things for themselves, like: putting their bag away when they get home, putting on their own shoes, zipping and buttoning up jackets and coats, etc.

Most children are able to use the toilet on their own by the time they turn 5, but some still struggle with wiping their own bums. Helping them learn this skill before school is one good way to reduce their anxiety.

In the classroom children are expected to hang up their bags and put their readers and any homework books away. ¬†During the day they’re also expected to get their books and pens ready for each lesson and tidy up after themselves. If they’ve never had to do this at home, because we’re always running round cleaning up after them, they lose this opportunity for independence.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some days when it’s¬†just quicker and easier to do it for them, especially if you’re running out the door for an appointment. All I’m saying is the more opportunities we give them to assert their independence at home, the easier the transition will be into the more formal school environment.

Exposure to letters and numbers

Give your children a little helping hand by exposing them on a daily basis to letters and numbers. This will give them a huge boost in those first few terms of school.

Children don’t need to know how to read or write letters before school age, some kids just aren’t ready for that, but by exposing them to letters and numbers you lay the foundations they’ll need in the classroom. Children¬†exposed to letters and numbers through play will automatically have a greater connection with what’s being taught.

A really good way to start exposing your child to letters is to talk about the letters in their name first. As their awareness grows, introduce them to letters in your names, and other family members, then their favourite toys or characters.

There’s heaps of play-based activities you can do with 3-5 year olds to introduce letter awareness in a fun and informal way.

Social Skills

Classrooms are full of different personality types from the very strong willed, to the easy going, to the very quiet. It’s really important to give your child helpful tips on how to talk to new people and make friends at school.

You can do this through role play. Pretend you’re two people who don’t know each other, and show your child different ways to introduce themselves and ask the other to play. Don’t forget to discuss after the role play how each other felt, and come up with new ideas to practise.

Role play is a very powerful tool, as it takes them into the world of imagination, setting new rules for themselves while practising important social and communication skills. It can also be hugely beneficial to role play conflict situations. Arming them with different ways to deal with situations like sharing, bullying, and misunderstandings, will immensely help their wellbeing.

School is a place where sharing and taking turns is really important. Practise sharing at home with things like scissors, glue and felts. And also practise politely asking, and then waiting, to take turns with a toy. Getting this interaction right early on will help them throughout their primary school years.

Remember though, at the end of the day your stress and anxiety levels will probably effect your child more than anything else. The list above will definitely help your child transition into school life. But try not to be too concerned if you child hasn’t cracked all of these skills just yet.¬†Be patient, and guide your child at their own pace.

You should also check out our B4 School readiness article. And for more expert advice on your child’s education, check out our¬†School age: Education¬†section.

Alayna Flighty

Alayna lives in Pukerua Bay with her husband and two beautiful children, where she runs She's a qualified primary school teacher with a passion for the arts. Alayna believes when children engage with the arts they develop their language, fine motor and problem-solving skills, and improve their overall confidence.

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