Whether you have a child starting school in September or it is still a way off yet, there are a few key things you can do to make the transition a little easier, whenever that faithful day arrives.
Thankfully, I still have another year to go before Arlo takes his next big step, but I will still introduce many of the following activities as they are great developmental skills in their own right, too.
So, without further ado, let's talk about getting school ready!
1) Read books set in school
Swap out some of your typical bedtime stories for those taking place in school. This is a great way to familiarise them with school situations. Here are a few you might like:
The Colour Monster Goes To School by Anna Llenas
First Day At Bug School by Sam LLoyd
I am Too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child
Hello, Friend by Rebecca Cobb
Never Take a Bear to School by Mark Sperring
Lulu's First Day by Anna McQuinn
What does the crocodile say? Eva Montanari
Starting School by Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg
2) Role Play
Role Play is a great way to expose children to new situations. It could be a trip to the dentist or their first time on an airplane. Whatever the occasion, going through some typical scenarios allows your child to build an understanding.
You could grab some teddy bears and lay them on the carpet for registration time. Bring them along to the table for lunch (why not actually pack their lunch in their lunch box, so you can also rehearse how to open and use everything inside).
You could even role-play the walk to the school, getting dressed for a P.E. lesson, going to the toilet and anything else your child is likely to encounter.
3) Play the name game!
When a child starts at school, being able to recognise their own name is a key skill. They will need it to find their peg, their tray and their books.
Here are a few games to help:
Write their name on several post-it notes along with some other random names (perhaps names of other family members). Hide them all around the garden and ask them to go on a scavenger hunt to find all the post-it notes with their name.
Grab six sheets of A4 paper and lay them on the floor. Write their name on one page and other words on the others. Ask your child to run and jump on the correct page. Now, get them to close their eyes, shuffle the pages and repeat.
Write their name and other words on a large sheet of paper (you could use the back of an old roll of wallpaper). Give them a paintbrush and get them to cross out all the wrong words, leaving only their name showing.
Write your child's name across the pavement along with lots of other words. Give your child a spray gun or hose pipe and ask them to wash off all of the words showing their name.
Hang a string across the room or garden (like a child-sized washing line). Write random letters on post-it notes and hang them on the line with pegs. Ask your child to go along and collect all of the letters they will need to create their name.
Write their name on the side of the bath with bath crayons. Wash them off.
If you are a Catkin Club member, there are plenty of opportunities for play such as the one shown in the image.
4) Find a summer group or class
There are still several weeks of summer to go and it certainly isn't too late to find a playgroup to attend. These are a great opportunity for your child to practice their friend-making skills and get some experience of being around new people and new experiences.
The great thing is that you will be there with them, so you can take the opportunity to model things like introductions, sharing and tidy up time. For example, Arlo often struggles to speak to new children although he is happy to play with them. I will therefore support him by modeling how he can introduce himself. For example: 'I see you're playing cars with this little boy. Do you know his name? You could say 'Hi, I am Arlo. What's your name?' This models the vocabulary needed to introduce himself to a new person.
5) Practice getting dressed independently
When your little one starts school, there will be regular opportunities to get dressed independently, such as P.E. lessons. It is therefore important to ensure they can get dressed and undressed independently.
Here are a few strategies you can use:
If your child is struggling to pull on socks, practise by giving them a hair scrunchy and asking them to pull it up their leg. This teaches them how to hook the top of the scrunchy over their toes and up their leg.
Use a doll or bear to practise putting clothes on. This is a good way to learn which items of clothes need to go on first and how to check for things like making the waistband of their trousers straight.
Use button or zip boards to practise these skills.
Take your time and provide a suitable environment. This might be a small, child sized wardrobe and stool for them to sit on.
Choose items with clear markers to show the front and back. Children will find it much easier to put on clothes with things like strings in the front or printed t-shirts. It helps them to figure out which way around they should go!