12/08/2009 08:48 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Getting Ready For Reception School

If your child is due to start at school for the first time soon, you're probably more nervous than they are. It's normal to worry about how your precious baby will handle school life, but there are many things that you can do to help them prepare for this.

I'm not talking about getting them reading and writing - all of that will come in time at school. Many children at the reception stage are only just starting to pick up a pencil, whilst others will already be writing their own names. What ever stage your child is at, don't worry. Their teachers will help them with all of this, setting goals that are appropriate to their individual needs.

It's the social side of the first year at school that we parents can help most with. These are the questions to ask yourself:

  • Can your child dress and undress themselves?
    They'll need to do this at least once a week for P.E. Practice at home getting in and out of P.E. kit - make sure they know that underwear is to be left on. I've heard teachers report a class full of nude children, since their only previous experience was of getting changed for bath or bed.
  • Are they confident when using the toilet alone?
    If they have trouble with trouser fastenings, maybe stick to trousers with elasticated waists only for the first term. Make sure they are able to wipe themselves, flush and wash their hands afterwards.
  • Can they use cutlery?
    Many children struggle with knives and forks, particularly if they're lefthanded. If you are intending them to have school dinners, focus on improving these skills before the new term. Most schools will be able to give you a copy of the most recent school dinner menu if you want to see what's in store. If cutlery is really a problem, a packed lunch with sandwiches may be easier on your child for the first few weeks at least. There's a lot to learn when you start school, so minimise the pressure as much as you can.
  • Can they open any packets in their lunchbox?
    Schools do have extra helpers at lunchtime, but not so many that they can go round and sort out everybody's lunchbox. So think about the kind of things you intend to include, and check that your child can manage them alone - can they sort out the straw on their juice box, or or pop the top off their yoghurt carton? When your child's at home, it's easy to forget how much we parents step in and help. Maybe have a few lunchbox picnics to give your child some practice at sorting out their lunch themselves.