Preparing your little one for school: Checklists and support

Updated: Aug 2

Being prepared for your child starting school will help reduce the stress and anxiety for them and you. And the summer holidays are an excellent time to do this.

Getting your child ready to start school is about being able to do everyday practicalities, i.e. skills that will help your child to cope at school independently throughout the day.

Here are some checklists and support pieces, broken down into 4 sections, to help you through your child's preparation for starting school.

Child's Educational Preparations for School

Books and reading - give them free access to a choice of fiction and non fiction books. Read to them and make it an interactive experience - talk about the pictures and use different voices. Get them to love books and reading but don't stress about letter recognition at this point.

Ask questions - encourage conversations about the things you are interested in and the world around you. The million 'why' questions little ones ask is their natural curiosity and way of learning. And if you don't know the answer, tell them you will figure it out together.

Enjoy nature - spontaneous or planned, get outside, whether its just your back garden or walking through the forests, in fields or on beaches. Play games, fly kites, go on scavenger hunts or bug hunts. Look at how the natural world works and enjoy what it has to offer, whether it's raining or bright sunshine.

Prepare food - this develops home economic skills and is also a great way to learn maths, science and fine motor skills. Use a range of ingredients, with varying colours and textures. Demonstrate how you can prepare the food and talk about where it comes from. Cooking from scratch fosters a positive and healthy attitude with food.

Messy art play - explore different textures and materials like paint, crayons, corrugated card, pom poms or glitter and experiment with various tools like paint brushes, feet or sponges, as this encourages creativity and sensory experiences. It can also help them express emotions, learn about colours and shapes and practice fine motor skills (how to hold a pencil).

Their name - teach them to recognise their name (not write their name but recognise it). They can then pick out their name on labels, such as their work drawer or peg in the cloakroom.

Child's Emotions Preparation for School

How do children learn effectively?

We all have those days where we can't focus and seem distracted, even as adults. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a famous theory which contains five stages that people need to go through in order to reach their full potential (self actualisation). This is commonly depicted as the triangle below, with the basic needs - yet the most important needs - at the bottom.

Before a child can focus on learning, we need to make sure that their needs are met - each layer must be fulfilled before moving onto the next.

Children need to feel their physical needs are met, that they are safe and loved, once these base layers are fulfilled, children can reach their full potential in learning.

Child's Physical Skills for School

This is a practical list for you to work through but your little one does not need to check every box before school starts - it's more about guidance for your preparing them:

Teach your child how to:

  • put on a jumper / cardigan and coat, then take them off again

  • do up the buttons on a shirt / polo shirt

  • put on their shoes and take them off again

  • put on gloves and take them off again

  • undress and get into their PE kit, then change back and put all of their PE kit into their bag

  • recognise their belongings (bag, coat, lunchbox, water bottle)

  • sit on the floor cross legged

  • put their hand up to ask a question

  • tie their hair back, if your child has long hair

  • go to the toilet independently (locking the door, wiping, flushing and washing hands)

  • blow their nose and put the tissue in the bin

  • open and close their lunchbox

  • open, refill and close their water bottle

  • peel fruit, open packets and unwrap food and take the top off of pots

  • use a knife and fork and carry food with a tray and plate

  • hold a pencil, use a pair of scissors and spread glue with a spatula or stick

You can also:

  • teach them their teacher's name, if you know it

  • teach them the name of everything - lunchboxes, bottles, bag, shoes, underwear, PE kit

  • encourage them to rink water, as squash and milk wont be available at school

Practical Preparations and Purchases for Starting School

Uniforms and shoes - expensive brands aren't always the best, supermarket options are great value and can last longer. Also keep an eye out for second hand sales over social media or school fetes. You may not need everything on the schools recommendation list, so check with past and present parents to see what they really needed and how many of each they went through

Name labels - sew on ones are more time consuming but may last longer than iron on ones

Velcro shoes - laces or buckles can be fiddly and time consuming to put on and take off

Knee length socks - tights can be complicated to put on and uncomfortable

Trousers and skirts - go for elasticated waists

Long hair - tied back to prevent the spread of nits, which is quicker when hair is loose

Lunchbox - choose one that is easy to open and close

Water bottle - make sure it really is leak proof and is easy to open and close

Bucket list - make the most of the summer together and create a list of the things you want to do before they start school

Social media support group - join parent groups for your child's school if they have one - and if they don't, consider setting one up. They can be very supportive for questions like 'was there something my child needs to bring in today?' or setting up play dates over summer before school starts


This blog post has been written with content inspired by Sarah Ockwell-Smith's latest book, The Starting School Book

For more child and parenting guidance, please subscribe to our blog to be kept up to date with our posts, from the Wild Kingfishers team.

Wild Kingfishers Preschool, South Street, Wilton, SP2 0JS, Tel: 01722 744 585 

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Company Number 04637374 Kingfisher Montessori Nursery School trading as Wild Kingfishers Preschool | Ofstead Rating: GOOD