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Getting ready for school



Is your little one about to start school and you’re wondering if they’re ready? It can feel a little daunting knowing that they are about to join ‘big school’.

Or perhaps you work in a childcare or an educational setting and you want to ensure your little ones are well-prepared for their next step.

You may have heard the term ‘school readiness’, but what does it mean, and how do you know if your child is ready to start school or nursery?

Children have the potential to become school ready when families, early years providers and schools work together to support the development of their confidence, resilience and curiosity.

This article was written with the help of Helen Stroudley, Early Years Consultant at Peeple. So, let's go through what school readiness means and how you can better prepare you and your little one for their first day of ‘big school’.


What does ‘school ready’ or ‘school readiness’ mean?

Being ‘school ready’ isn’t just about having the right shoe on the right foot, eating breakfast, and arriving on time. A huge part of school readiness is about a child’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive skills.

Without knowing it, your child will already have many of these skills. For them to be able to integrate into school-life, they will put into practice their skills around taking risks, asking questions, taking turns and vocalising choices.

Don't worry if your child can’t do all of these just yet – it's just a guide. After all, children start school with a wide range of experiences and abilities and they will progress at their own level through the school year. Once they're in the school environment they’ll also learn a great deal from their peers.

How to prepare your child for starting school

Preparing your little one for school will have a positive impact on how well they settle in and interact with other children.

Many of the skills required to be ready for school can be developed through fun activities that you can do together at home or when you’re out and about.

So, what can you do to better prepare you and your child for this big step?

1. Talk to your child about starting school

Bring the topic of starting school into daily conversations. Perhaps you could ask your little one what they expect from school or what they hope it’ll be like.

You could tell them about your school days and show them pictures of you on your first day or with your school friends. Even if you didn’t enjoy school, it’s important to be positive about it around your child so they feel more relaxed about their new adventure.

New experiences can make us a bit nervous as well as excited, so if you or your little one has any worries about starting school do have a chat with their teacher.

2. Read books together about school

Swap out one of your bedtime books for one that talks about starting school. Whether your little one is excited or nervous to start school, reading fun stories about school adventures might help them get used to the idea. Visit your local library and ask the librarians if they have any suggestions for you, you might even bump into other families while you’re there!

3. Practise the basic skills they’ll need for starting school

If you can, try to spend some time with your little one each day chatting about what you are doing and listening to them, commenting on colours or counting their stuffed toys. It can be as simple as talking about the colours of the flowers in the park or counting how many stuffed toys they have.

Mark making is another fun activity. It's a simple way to encourage your little one to draw; whether it's a dot or a squiggly line, you could doodle together or take a bucket of water and paintbrush outside to get creative, all this helps them with their writing skills.

By incorporating these skills into their daily activities, children will learn through play and begin to understand the world around them during their everyday life.

4. Visit their new school

If possible, try to visit your little one’s new school and ask for a tour. It’ll help them feel at ease and get used to their new surroundings. Some schools even offer ‘settling in’ days which are a great opportunity for your child to get used to their new learning environment.

5.Practise self-care

Being independent is a useful skill when a child starts school, so encourage your little one to do things like getting dressed themselves, blowing their own nose and going to the toilet alone. Make sure you give them plenty of time to practise these important life skills and remember to praise all their efforts, no matter how small, as this will build their confidence.

If your child is not fully confident in going to the toilet alone or getting dressed, don’t worry! Take some time to practise self-care with your little one until they become more confident. There’s no rush and every child progresses at their own speed.

6 fun activities for school readiness

We’ve put together a list of 6 fun activities that will not only help to spark your little one’s imagination but will help to develop the many skills they will need at school and in life.

1. Hopscotch

To play this classic game, all you’ll need is some chalk to draw your hopscotch and a stone or similar to throw.

Hopscotch is a great way for your child to learn the sounds of words and it can really help boost their early reading skills. By playing this fun game with your little one it will help to develop their listening and understanding skills. They’ll also begin to learn to take turns and cooperate with others.

2. Feelings tree

Expressing feelings is an important part of growing up. It can be tough, even for adults, to open up and share how we are feeling.

By having a feelings tree in your home, you’ll be encouraging your child to express themselves. Whether they feel happy, sad or frustrated, a feelings tree might help your child tell you how they feel.

To make a feelings tree all you’ll need is some card, pieces of paper and some pens. If you want to make your tree realistic, you could add some leaves from the garden!

Simply cut out the shape of a tree and ask your little one if they would like to draw a face representing an emotion on a small piece of paper. Then stick these pieces of paper to the tree and start to talk about the emotion and when they might’ve felt it.

3. A trip to the toilet

To ensure your little one is confident with using the toilet, make their toilet trips a little more fun by talking through it with them. Explain what is happening and remind them of what they need to do, for example washing their hands or flushing the toilet.

By talking through a trip to the toilet and giving them lots of praise, you'll help your child build confidence so they feel ready to go to the toilet independently when they start school.

4. Sharing with toys

By the time your child starts school it’s important they begin to feel comfortable with the idea of sharing. By regularly encouraging your little one to share objects with you or their toys via pretend play, they will become confident with this important skill. Talking about sharing will help your child to understand the importance of fairness and it will help them to work out problems and talk through issues.

5. Sounds treasure hunt

This simple activity can be done from the comfort of your home! A sound or phonics treasure hunt will help your child recognise the sounds at the beginning of words.

To play the game, you could either fill a basket with some different toys or use some everyday objects from around your home. Then with your little one you can find 2 or 3 objects that start with a ‘b’ sound or a ‘sh’ sound.

A phonics treasure hunt can be lots of fun and is a great way to build your child’s literacy and speaking confidence and it will encourage them to articulate their ideas in longer sentences.

6. Putting things in order

Being able to sort and put things in order is a great skill. Whether this is the smallest object to the biggest to the lightest to the heaviest, this is an easy game to play around the home.

You could even use this game to encourage your little one to tidy their room by placing their toys in order from smallest to biggest and maybe get them helping you sort the socks into colours, patterns and pairs!


By taking the time to play these games and practise planting the seeds of starting school with your little one, they will feel more confident and better prepared to start the next step of their life.

We’ve put together a simple school readiness checklist for you to use with your child. You can download this in colour or black and white.

Remember, you know your child and their needs best, so do what you think will help them settle into their new school.