Is your child starting school this September? Elementary School teacher of 15+ years, Judy Scott, gives tips for parents to help their children get started… the right way.

Encourage Them to Change Shoes Themselves

Help your child to be independent when it comes to changing shoes (from indoors to outdoor) or simply taking shoes and socks on and off. Take shoes off, take socks off, then put socks INTO shoes.

Is your child able to put his or her own shoes on? If not, ASK YOURSELF: Do I always do it for him or her because it’s quicker and easier to get out of the house? Have I actually shown my child how to use both hands to do this? Or (and this is a teacher’s worst scenario) have I bought my child lace-ups, knowing full well that for a four-year-old this can be difficult? I once had a little girl in Reception who wore…wait for it…lace-up boots! Who was supposed to untie these? The child certainly couldn’t. Velcro or buckles are user-friendly for little fingers.

Just spend a few minutes every day encouraging your child to put on their own shoes. It’ll pay off and you won’t be one of those mums or dads bending down doing shoes while the child sits and looks completely disinterested and, by the way, scores low on self-help skills.

starting school

Don’t Let Zips be a Problem

The same goes for coats. Buy wisely and put in good practice. A child has often told me: “This is a tricky zip.” Well who told them that, I wonder? If your child can’t manage a particular zip, get a refund from the shop and buy a coat with a zip that works properly. They key is to make tasks that your child will need to do independently as easy as possible.

To Write, or Not to Write?

To write, or not to write? That is the question. What’s more, is it right to write when you’re four and not much more?

Writing is just fine if you’re ready to hold a pencil and scribble or write. If your child has a very weak grip or very little pressure from the fingers, encourage lots of finger activities like playdough, taking pegs on and off the rim of a bucket, threading big beads. 

Get writing practice with a large paintbrush and bucket of water and let the child “paint” the outside wall of the house! Show them how to do it – top to bottom. Why? Because we start writing at the top of a page. In English letters are either formed top to bottom or anti-clockwise – a very unnatural movement – so show them how to paint or draw huge circles, anti-clockwise.                                                                                                                                                 

If a child is already writing, for instance name or “scribble” (emergent writing) give lots of praise like “super writing” or “tell me what it says”. You’ll often have to listen to a long story for a tiny bit of writing – but, how nice – your child is already taking the right steps to becoming a writer!

On the other hand, if your child shows no interest in holding a pencil, don’t force the issue. Let him or her use fat chalks on the paving or bricks outside or whiteboard pens on a whiteboard – affixed to the wall at the child’s height. They work well because they glide easily and need less pressure than a pencil.

Help Them to Write Their Own Name

What’s in a name? Well, a capital letter for a start and then lower case (small) letters for the rest of the name. Are you guilty of teaching your child to write his or her name in capital letters? Stop now, please! The teacher will have to undo this and it can take ages, as the child will say, “Mummy does it like this!” Just show them a capital for the first letter, then lower case. Always encourage beginning at the top left of a piece of paper – after all, that’s where we start writing and reading.

personalised nursery rhyme book

Read, Read, Read

Finally read, read, read to your child.  Read them all the nursery rhymes – it’s not babyish, it gives children a sense of rhyme and rhythm, essential for phonics, spelling, writing and good speaking, just some of the many benefits of reading to children.

Children will have their favorite stories. You may have read it 50 times but they love to hear it again.  If you can manage a bedtime story every night, that’s wonderful. And maybe listen to another in the car? The ideal is four stories a day! Yes, four! Children will get at least one or two at school, so try and fit in at least two at home. If a story’s not possible, read a rhyme or a poem.

A question I often get asked is “should kids be able to read when they start school?”

There is no concrete answer to this, but reading to your child as much as possible will help them to pick up words themselves. Do not be concerned if your child cannot read all by themselves when starting school, each child learns at their own pace!

Looking for a book to read about starting school? Our First Day at School book is the ideal place to start, and will show your child exactly what to expect for that scary first day.


With your positive input and support, your child will begin school on the right footing. Good luck.