The 5 Skills You Should Actually Teach Your Child Before They Start School

It's not so much being able to read or write, but more about the life skills that'll set them up in class.
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If your child is starting school for the first time in September, you’re probably feeling a little nervous and excited on their behalf.

It can be hard for parents to know how is best to prepare them for Reception class – are you meant to teach them to read, write and count before they start lessons? Or are there other skills, which you haven’t even thought of, that are more important?

“There are no official guidelines covering what children should be able to do before they enter Reception, but there are a few key skills that will help your children hit the ground running when they get there,” says early years expert Laura House, an education lead at childcare platform tiney.

And before you get worried, that doesn’t mean you need to have launched into the curriculum with your child before their first day.

Clinical psychologist Dr Martha Deiros Collado said in a recent Instagram post that she’s often asked by parents how to start teaching kids to read, write and do maths ahead of beginning school.

“The truth is, these academic skills are what teachers at school are for so you can drop them off your list,” she said.

Instead, parents should support their child to build skills that will help them feel confident and competent at school, she suggested. So, what might these be?

1. Talking

Talking, language, communication and understanding underpin everything in the early years, suggests House, adding that children who are confident in this will be able to access the curriculum more easily, as well as communicate with teachers and their peers in the classroom.

How can you help them with this? Get chatting to your little ones on a daily basis and have conversations with them. Ask questions, get them to talk you through what they’re playing with, sing with them – it all adds up.

2. Independence

The early years expert suggests one of the most valuable things parents can do to prepare their children for Reception is to help them foster a sense of independence.

Get them used to using cutlery, including a knife to cut food and spread butter; walk them through how to wipe properly after going to the toilet and wash their hands; encourage them to dress themselves and put their own coat and shoes on.

That way, they’ll feel more comfortable doing these things by themselves when they’re at school.

3. Numbers

No, don’t worry, you don’t need to have taught them their times tables by the time they reach school.

House recommends showing children how maths shows up in everyday life, so they can start to build a fascination with numbers, shapes, patterns and measurements.

Some ways to easily do this include: baking cakes and helping them measure out the ingredients, sorting shapes or pointing out different shapes when you’re out and about, and counting to 100 when you’re doing activities like brushing their teeth.

4. Concentration

“There can be a lot going on in a classroom for a young child to process. They’re expected to listen and follow instructions, sit still a little longer than they’re used to, stop doing one thing when it’s time to transition to another, and navigate new social relationships and friendships with peers,” says House.

It’s quite the gear shift from the freedom of being at home or nursery.

So, they need to develop ‘executive function skills’ to help them cope with this and not feel overwhelmed, she suggests.

Sticker books, jigsaw puzzles, activity books, colouring – these are all activities you can do at home that helps them develop their attention and concentration skills.

5. Play!

Kids are kids after all. House says the best thing we can do to prepare our children for school is to give them plenty of opportunities for rich, open-ended play.

“This could involve spending lots of time outdoors in your local park or woodland; giving them a collection of cardboard tubes or a lump of clay to see what they can create; making ‘potions’ with petals and water, climbing trees or making dens,” she concludes.