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Wondering how best to prepare your child for school? Here are some basic skills the Government recommends children acquire before starting school. Read on to find out how you can help

Personal, social and emotional development

These skills represent your child’s independence and self-confidence. They should be able to:

  1. Think for themselves (to a degree)

  2. Dress and undress themselves

  3. Understand the difference between right and wrong

  4. Express their own needs

You can help them by:

  • asking their opinion – for example, what’s their favourite animal/season/storybook? And why?
  • buying clothes with simple Velcro or press-stud fasteners and encouraging them to practise dressing and undressing
  • discussing the themes of their favourite DVDs or TV shows – there’s usually a moral dilemma that gets resolved or a lesson to be learned through the story
  • encouraging them to ask for what they want instead of using baby language or pointing

Communication, language and literacy

These skills are all about how your child communicates. They should:

5. Be able to speak clearly

6. Enjoy stories, songs and rhymes

7. Hear and repeat sounds and link basic phonetic sounds to the alphabet

8. Ideally, your child will also be able to hold a pencil and form a few letters

You can help them by:

  • singing together and encouraging them to clap out rhythms
  • playing ‘a’ is for…, ‘b’ is for…, and getting them to supply words beginning with these letters. Use letter sounds rather than names – this is how they will learn at school
  • buying pencils and helping them to copy a word, such as their name

Mathematical development

9. Help your child to develop a basic understanding of what numbers are and how they work

10. It’s also useful to introduce the concepts of shapes and spaces, heavy/light, tall/short

You can help them by:

  • making counting into a game – let them count apples into a bag at the supermarket or count up and down the stairs
  • seeing how many shapes they can spot when you’re out, eg a round traffic light; a square window; a triangular road sign and so on
  • using a height chart to measure their toys saying, ‘That one’s taller/shorter than this’

A knowledge and understanding of the world

11. A growing awareness of different cultures and the concept of time

You can help them by:

  • encouraging them to make collages using images from magazines, textiles, buttons, beads, etc
  • introducing basic time frames: for example, instead of saying: ‘We’ll see Grandma next week’, say: ‘Remember when we went to the park last weekend? It’ll be the same amount of time again before we see Grandma.’

Physical development

12. Your child should be able to move confidently, controlling their body and handling equipment

You can help them by:

  • encouraging them to use the climbing and balancing equipment at the park
  • going to soft play sessions at your local sports or leisure club
  • playing outdoor games

Creative development

13. They will have had experience of exploring colours and shapes, dance and music, story-telling and making things

You can help them by:

  • encouraging them to play with different toys and mediums, for example textured toys, sorting games, paints and crayons
  • making up a story together, taking turns to come up with the next scene or idea
  • putting on some music and dancing to the rhythms
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