Activities to help prepare your child for school

Getting ready for school is the responsibility of your whole team.

There are a range of specific activities which can help prepare your child for school.
See also the community-wide approach for information about how your team can assist, rather than feeling it is all your responsibility as a parent to prepare your child for school.

Specific activities to assist your child to develop school readiness skills

School readiness groups may be offered by your early childhood intervention (ECI) service. These are groups where children can practise the skills they will need at school. These include:

  • following a routine
  • lining up to go inside/outside
  • sitting and attending to group time
  • completing table-top activities

School orientation sessions provide a great opportunity for

  • staff to get to know your child
  • your child to meet other children who will starting school at the same time

You may like to arrange play dates with some of these children over the school holiday period. As with any child starting school, supportive relationships with other families and children can take time to develop but they can be worth the effort in the long term.

Additional visits to the school which may help meet your child’s needs. For example, watching a sport lesson or school assembly.

Other opportunities to socialise in your local community, for example playgroups or story-time at the local library.

Things you can do at home

As parents you can make a big difference in helping to prepare your child for school.

Consider these suggestions:

  • Talking
    • talk with your child in a positive/cheerful way about starting school
    • monitor your child’s response to conversations about school. Do they react enthusiastically, or with confusion or anxiety? Do they seem to want more information?
    • talk in a way that is meaningful to your child
    • keep in mind that children may find it hard to think ahead about future events in terms of weeks and months. To help your child to understand time concepts it can help to talk about days of the week and use a calendar to count down the days until schools starts
  • Books are a great way for your child to become familiar with new routines, including school. Many children benefit from sharing a book that has been made especially for them, about starting school. These are sometimes known as “social stories™”

You can create a story for your child about starting school by:

  • downloading the “My new school” story template and personalise it with photos of your child and his or her new school. See what to find out about your child’s new school for ideas of what to include
  • reading the “My new school” story with your child regularly during the weeks before school commences
  • being prepared to answer questions that your child asks about school. If you need help with making the book, ask a member of your support team

Children may also benefit from looking at published books about starting school. Click here for a list of useful books and resources.

  • Encouraging positive or appropriate behaviour will help your child’s learning and social interactions

At school your child will need to be able to do what the teacher asks, follow rules, and interact appropriately with both adults and other children.

One of the most effective ways to encourage positive behaviour is by rewarding that behaviour. This is known as “positive reinforcement”. By rewarding desired behaviour it is more likely to happen again.

When your child behaves in a positive way, try:

  • giving specific praise e.g. “great taking turns!”
  • showing affection and positive emotions e.g. big smiles, hugs or high fives
  • tangible rewards e.g. stickers, stars on a chart, a special game with Mum or Dad

Challenging behaviour is usually a way that children try to tell us something (e.g. seeking attention, requesting or avoiding something). It is important to determine what the behaviour is telling us so that we can then try to teach the child a positive behaviour to replace the challenging one.

If you have any concerns about your child’s behaviour, get support as early as possible. Your early childhood intervention (ECI) or early childhood education and care (ECEC) service can help you find some assistance or training about how to set up a positive behaviour support plan. For more information on services click here.

  • Set up routines which help your child to go to sleep and wake in time to get ready for school. It may help to use visual supports for these routines. Click here to download a sample visual routine schedule for after school.
  • Practising skills

Help your child to practise:

  • using public toilets and explain that at school there are separate toilets for girls and boys
  • skills such as opening and shutting toilet locks, pulling up pants before leaving the toilet cubicle, and for boys, using a urinal
  • packing and unpacking the backpack they will be using for school. A visual support can help break down the steps of teaching your child these skills. Make sure that your child’s backpack can be easily recognised as theirs
  • eating recess and lunch foods out of their school lunchbox (use a lunchbox which is as easy as possible to open and close)
  • opening any packaging that will be used for food at school
  • wearing school uniform
  • taking on and off their school shoes and sports shoes (shoes with Velcro rather than laces are easiest to fasten)
  • travelling to and from school during the summer holidays prior to the start of the school year
  • games where people have to raise their hand to say something and wait for their turn to participate. Help them understand that not everyone gets a chance to talk every time in a classroom even though they may put up their hand
  • calming themselves when they are upset using age appropriate activities which are soothing. e.g. cuddling a soft toy, squeezing a stress ball, having a drink of water or learning to wipe their own eyes with a tissue

It is helpful to discuss your child’s preferred calming activities with the new teacher. Read more about calming activities here.

Finally, when the big day arrives:

  • be as prepared as possible for the “before school” morning routine
  • remain as calm as possible in your interactions with your child. This will help to reduce additional stress which may be caused by being rushed or agitated
  • remember that children pick up on their parents’ feelings and behaviour

You will have your own emotional responses to your child starting school so it might be helpful to have spent some time considering the suggestions in supporting yourself and your family.

What to expect also provides useful information about school which you can use to prepare you child.