12 skills every child needs when starting school

Being independent and self-sufficient is key to your child's success and happiness at school. Here's how to brush up on the vital skills they need

12 skills every child needs when starting school

1. Dressing and Undressing

Learning to dress independently is an important life skill. It can give children a sense of achievement and is a process that is good to involve your child in as early as possible. If children find it hard to do up their shoes, buy slip-ons or shoes with Velcro fastenings. If buttons are a problem, buy trousers or skirts with elastic waists and choose coats with simple fasteners like large zips or poppers. It is actually much easier for your child to learn how to undress before dressing, so it’s a good idea to practice taking clothes off first and go from there.

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2. Going to the Toilet Unsupervised

Using the toilet independently before starting school is an important skill that will help make the transition much easier for your child – although, do know that your child will not be left to struggle alone at school. Toilet training in the most literal sense is a great way to encourage independence and get into a good toilet routine, e.g wipe, flush, wash hands at home. Don’t forget to praise your child each time they remember the routine.

3. Wash and Dry Face and Hands

Handwashing is a lifelong healthy habit that you can start teaching at an early age and is something even young children have been much more aware of during the Covid-19 pandemic. Teaching kids the five easy steps for handwashing – wet, lather, scrub, rinse and dry – and the key times to wash hands, such as after using the bathroom, before eating after blowing their nose etc. will help reinforce the message.

READ MORE>> Best luxe kids hand-wash and sanitisers and How children should wash their hands!

4. Use a Knife and Fork

Some children find it hard to master the art of eating with cutlery, so let them practice as much as possible. Give them their own cutlery set featuring a favourite design or character. We love the range at Nana’s Manners. Encourage family mealtimes together so that your child can see how you use cutlery and help them to master it themselves.

5. Tidy Up

Children need to learn the value of cleaning up. Not only does it help to build a sense of responsibility, it builds lifelong good habits. Make tidying up fun rather than a punishment – try singing ‘This Is The Way We Tidy Up’ to the tune of The Wheels On The Bus. Give them a five minute warning before tidy up time, then join them for a singing tidy-up session. Also, try to create a place for everything – while it seems like it would be easier for children to put away their toys if they simply had to dump everything into a big toy bin, this isn’t generally the case. This will further help them at school when they have to put items away in the correct place.

6. Use a Handkerchief or Tissue

To encourage children to blow their noses by themselves, get them do this by holding a tissue to their nose, advising them to close their mouth, and then pretend to blow out birthday candles with their nose. Keep in mind that you want them to blow gently. Then encourage them to wipe, put the tissue in the bin and wash their hands (see above). Treat them to some children’s tissues of their favourite character or colours to make this skill more appealing.

7. Mix with Other Children of the Same Age

Hopefully your child has been to pre-school or nursery and is practised in the art of mixing with other children. But, to further bring them out of their shell, invite a few friends with children over to encourage playing together and sharing. You could also visit a playgroup with younger children, delve into your child’s interests and enrol them in a club or class for the Summer – an art club, children’s yoga, football or any activity that they enjoy or, if your kid is more of a follower or won’t make a move unless their friends do the same thing, find out which activities his or her pals are into and then offer to sign them up as a starting point.

8. Carry out Simple Instructions

Help children learn how to follow instructions by being enthusiastic, using simple language, and giving them time to process what you have asked. Start by asking for your child’s attention and minimising distractions, speak quietly, wait and check for understanding. It can help to give instructions one at a time or even numbering your directions. You could also play ‘Simon Says’. Start slowing by giving your child one simple enjoyable instruction each day and praising them when it has been completed.

9. Take an Interest in Picture Books

A love of reading is something that can be nurtured in children from when they are very young. Find a picture book related to their interests, hobbies or a recent experience and share them together. Visit a storytelling session at the library. Listen carefully to your child’s comments and then respond. A good knowledge of children’s book characters will also put them in good standing when World Book Day dressing up comes around!

READ MORE >>  Encouraging Children to Love Books

10. Taking Turns and Sharing

True sharing implies empathy, the ability to get into another’s mind and see things from their viewpoint. Children are seldom capable of true empathy under the age of six, so prior to that age they share because we condition them. We do this by talking about the importance of sharing and ask them how they would feel if, for example, a child had a really long turn on a bike that they wanted to go on too. We appeal to their feelings by pointing out that this is how other children feel if things are not shared. Reward them each time they share and try to model generosity within the home.

11. Boost their Concentration Span

The main reason children face concentration issues is because they are wired differently to adults – if a task isn’t fun, they get bored and quickly shift their attention to something more interesting, whereas adults often have to complete tasks whether we like it or not! With smartphones, the internet and social media offering plenty of distractions, being able to concentrate and focus for sustained periods is a skill that children need to develop in order to make the most of their education.

Children spend much of their school day listening to their teacher or independently completing their classwork, making it vital they stay engaged and focused on the task in hand. An obvious easy-win in the concentration battle is getting enough sleep. Along with diet, exercise and constant encouragement and praise. Each day, try sitting down with them while they are involved in an activity and encourage them to focus on just one thing for a sustained period of time.

12.  Understand the Rules of Conversation

Conversation skills are important for children’s development and wellbeing. You can help children develop conversation skills by talking and actually listening to them every day. Make a point of telling them when you are listening and when you are speaking to reinforce the ideas. Role-modelling, prompting, guiding and practising, help children learn conversation skills they will need to make friends, be listened to, ask for what they need and develop strong relationships with others. Set rules about polite conversations and consequences for rudeness that can help you manage them interrupting and talking back. Try a puppet show to encourage listening and speaking skills. A Sounds Lotto Game is excellent for this.

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