When you first have a baby or toddler, the beginning of their school life can seem like a lifetime away. But the time does come around quickly! There are easy ways that you can help your child with the skills that they will need to start school, and they’re never to young to start.
Reading with your child
This is one of the key times that you can help build your child’s language skills. It doesn’t matter if they can’t actively read the words, it’s good practice for babies and toddlers to hear your voice and interact with the pages. It doesn’t need to be an actual story book either, reading a page from a magazine or a set of instructions is just as good! Having a dedicated reading session is also great for building listening and concentration skills. If you’re not a confident reader yourself, look for sessions at your local library or family centre, which can double up as social practice too!
Get a grip
Being able to grip items is an important skill to master, and not just for school. Your child will need to be able to use their own knife, fork and spoon at school but will also need to practise their pencil grip. Fine motor skills will also come in handy for getting ready for PE lessons, as well as doing up zips and buttons on coats and cardigans. Try to practice this as much as possible from an early age.
Recognising numbers and letters
This is great fun to do and really easy. At home and when you’re out and about, ask your child which letters and numbers they recognise. Start off small with the letters in their own name and how old they are. We found that it worked really well to link letters with specific people or objects, like M for Mummy and U for umbrella. Just watch out that you don’t start spelling words out that way in adult company! It’s really helpful for your child to be able to recognise their own name so that they can identify it at school or nursery, on their peg or bag. You can encourage basic maths skills with other activities, like shopping or baking. Make it as fun as possible so that it doesn’t feel that you’re testing them, and encourage them towards the right answers rather than telling them that it’s wrong.
A little more conversation
School children need social skills to help them excel, but don’t panic if your child doesn’t attend nursery or have lots of playdates. You can help them with their social skills in different ways at home. Even just conversations between yourself and your child is great at building communication skills, as is encouraging talk between your child and other adults and children. Eating meals together as a family is a brilliant way of your child practising eating with others too, and mastering cutlery skills in a ‘safe’ environment.