Ready for School – how can I help my child?
Is your little one preparing to start school in the Autumn? There’s so much information out there about helping children become Ready for School. It can all be a bit confusing and a lot to take onboard. Here, at the Olive Branch Toy Shop, we love ideas that help children learn whilst they play. We are happy to help recommend games, books and toys that might be useful and also share our own parenting experiences. Above all, remember that every child and every family is different. All children learn new skills at different times and at different rates. The most important thing is to have fun along the way and enjoy those steps – however big or small!
Counting and Number
Counting skills enter into lots of different aspects of life, from telling the time to sharing the snacks, knowing how old you are or how many candles there are on the cake. We love the classic wooden educational games for building counting skills. A traditional abacus as found on the Bigjigs FSC® Certified Triangular Activity Centre can be a useful tool or a toy with small parts to count like the Bigjigs Toys Learn to Count or Hape Monster Maths Scale. Katie, who runs our very popular Wiggle, Shake and Make classes at the Rainbow Room recommends singing counting songs with your little one to increase confidence. There’s plenty to try, some counting upwards like “One, two, three, four, five, once I caught a fish alive” and also songs that count backwards like, “5 little monkeys jumping on the bed”. Songs are a really fun way to learn how to count and help develop language skills too!
Perhaps the best way to help ready your child for literacy at school is to enjoy reading stories with them at home! Often it is the same story, over and over again, that they love best! Sometimes, they might even know it by heart and can “read” or “recite” the story themselves, using pictures for prompts. Playing games to help start recognising the letter shapes can be a great way to encourage the next steps. Orchard Toys Alphabet flashcards or a classic letter shape jigsaw like the Chunky Lowercase Letters Puzzle by Bigjigs Toys can be fun. It’s worth noting that schools often teach lower case letters first before moving to capitals and many use phonics sounds to help children learn to read. The Usborne Wipe-Clean Phonics Books can be really useful here, especially if like me, the mention of phonics sends a flash of panic! Kirsty shares that she used to look out for letters whilst out and about with her pre-school aged children. We used to find letters on street names or in the supermarket. Just getting used to spotting them and recognising the shapes!
Learning how to write their own name is a real milestone for little ones getting ready for school! But when you stop and think about it, there are so many skills that are required to achieve this. We love to start small and encourage little ones to simply play and have fun with mark making tools. We have plenty of craft ideas to get you started, from GALT Giant Chalks to SES Creative First Crayon Beads. Have fun making lines, then maybe try some circles, zig zags or wiggly lines. “Painting” with water is a great mess-free way to practise, painting in the garden with a paint brush dipped in water that will dry out and leave no trace! It’s also important to encourage play that strengthens little fingers and hands in order to develop the control required for writing. We love Bigjigs Toys Lacing Beads for exactly this reason and also games like the Bigjigs Toys Magnetic Farmyard Maze. Children learn to hold the magnetic wand like a pencil and use it to guide the balls around the maze. Emily found the Usborne Wipe-Clean books were brilliant preparation for her child starting school. They were great for practising pen control and becoming more familiar with numbers and letters.
Practical, Social and Personal Skills
Being ready for school is also about being ready to take those next steps towards independence. There are lots of thing we can do as parents to encourage them to try doing things on their own. Whether it’s learning how to wash their hands or put on their coat and fasten the zipper, these are all great skills to acquire and help build your child’s self-confidence. We love the SES Creative Junior Safety Scissors and I learn to Use Scissors as useful, independence giving activities. Also, dress-up activities are a brilliant way to practise getting dressed and undressed, and fastening velcro, zips and the like. How about one of these fab dress up and role play sets from Bigjigs: Medic, Police, Builder and Fire Fighter. Role play is also and excellent way to rehearse social skills needed in real life situations. Having the confidence to order your own drink in a cafe or thank the sales assistant at the shop is a skill in itself.
Schools often work to regular routines: morning register, break times, lunch time, story time and so on. Knowing a little about what to expect can help a child feel comfortable on that first day. And a happy child equals a happy parent! Heather recommends the Usborne Starting School Sticker Book which has been a wonderful help to her little one. The pages are full of lovely illustrations of what a typical school day might be like. Plus the stickers make a great interactive activity for your little one to enjoy and a conversation starter to talk about what they might do at school. Schools often offer taster sessions or open days to help get to know the new surroundings and meet the teachers and staff. All are really useful and comforting for us as well as the children.
A wish from us!
Most importantly, we would like to wish you all a wonderful, fun-filled summer. If your little one is starting school in the Autumn, we hope they have a magical first day. Parents and carers – we’ve got your back, we’re thinking of you every step of the way. We would love to hear your stories and your tips for getting ready for school. Together, we’ve got this!