Essential back to school tips for parents and children

Starting nursery or primary school can be extremely daunting for parents and their children. Although it will be exciting to see your young one grow and develop, you may feel unprepared or unaware of the basic skills they require in their first year of education.

Physical development, social skills and literacy and numeracy skills are all aspects that improve significantly between the ages of three to five, but what stage should they be at when children are starting their educational journey? Following a 231% increase in interest for the term ‘back to school’ over the past month¹, our team of experts share their top tips for parents preparing their child for school:

Physical Development

As your child reaches the age of three, pressure may grow to compare your child’s progress to other children. Motor skill development such as holding a pencil, beginning to show left and right-handedness and jumping on the spot are skills your child will be practising at nursery, but how can you support your child from home?

We spoke with Natalie Green, certified coach and mentor, who said: “Small world toys like push-along wooden cars are great for little hands to hold and manipulate.” Natalie recommends a slide or climbing frame as these objects match development and will support your child from 18 months to three years old.

Natalie further explains physical development: “Physical development is more than the need to achieve academically, but it’s about confidence and wellbeing. A simple way to encourage control and strength is through play. By crawling through tunnels, climbing ladders, running around, and helping in the home, young children love doing ‘grown up’ things. Tasks like pulling drawers open, reaching shelves, and carrying objects around your home and garden will improve their physical development.”

In primary schools, specialist teachers are a rarity and often stretch across different subjects. Whilst preparing your child for school, having a ball and teaching them to throw and catch is a great way to prepare them for playtime or P.E.

Social skills

With many children going into their first years of nursery or school being COVID babies, social skills and independence are two essential areas that may not be as developed due to lockdowns and restrictions in their early years.

In an educational setting, every activity is social, and communication, sharing and conversing are all elements your child will be required to practice. As a parent, engaging in regular conversation with your child at home and asking them questions about their day will encourage them to talk, preparing them for conversations with others.

Children will play and learn alongside their peers, so practising greetings and conversations will be extremely important to get your child ready for socialising. A significant element of socialising with other children is sharing and tolerance. A good idea to practice this is to play cooperative rather than competitive board games and encourage your child to say things such as ‘your turn’, ‘my turn’, and ‘thank you’.

Encouraging children to read a book, do arts and crafts or independently play is a good way to encourage independence at home. Aside from play, simple tasks such as motivating your child to go to the toilet alone, dress themselves, put their own shoes on, or feed themselves, are all skills that would benefit their independence in a school environment.

Natalie adds: “Before bed is a great time to practice independence and give and take, saying things like, ‘After tea, we’re going to get your book bag ready by the door.’ At bedtime, try saying things along the lines of, ‘Let's get your clothes ready for tomorrow.’ Or before leaving for school, ‘Where are your school shoes?’. You want your child to help, so put essentials in low drawers for them to access. Enabling breeds confidence, which will travel with them to school where it’s a powerful asset.”

Literacy and numeracy skills

Literacy and numeracy are two subjects that your child will learn throughout their time in primary education. When entering their first year in nursery or reception, a child isn’t expected to have excellent skills in any of these subjects. However, there are ways to ensure they have a basic understanding.

If a child can recognise their name, it will help them find their belongings in a cloakroom. By reading with your child, you can teach them how to tell stories and recognise names; you could then say, ‘what’s your name’, and practice will prompt them to ask others, and respond appropriately, creating a conversation.

We recommend using alphabet and number blocks, as introducing children to basic numbers and letters will help them to make patterns and shapes and can even work as storytelling prompts. Timeless toys like this will help children with counting practice, language development and dexterity, as well as creativity and imagination.

Speaking on literacy skills, Natalie adds: “By the age of four, your child may be holding a pencil in an adult fashion, but it could take another two years before they can sit squarely and strongly in a chair and write neatly. This requires the most mature fine motor skills in the hand and wrist. Your child's ability to isolate parts of the arm and hand and their overall body strength and awareness plays invisible support in their educational journey.”

The importance of educational toys in child development

Sending your child into education for the first time is exciting, but it can be daunting for parents, and we’d like to help families be as prepared as they can be. Toys are a great way to improve children’s development in several different areas and set them on the right path.

We love helping children develop physically and mentally through educational play, guiding them on their journey from 0-6 months old to 5+ years.

We have toys and games which can benefit each stage of development and we’d encourage parents to think about the skills and knowledge toys will bring to their children when they go out to make a purchase. You can check out our Benefits of Play guide here, these icons can be found throughout the site to help make it super clear which toys support which benefit for your child.

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