What should my child be able to do when starting School – 10 top tips

So your child is starting School in September and if you are anything like me you will be full of mixed emotions. I’m sure you will be worrying how they will cope, wondering if they will miss you and hoping they make friends. Many parents panic that their child wont know enough or be able to do enough when they start School. As a Foundation stage teacher I get a lot of parents asking what should my child be able to do when starting school? You may be surprised by the ten things I and other teachers I know think are the most important. 

what your child should be able to do when starting school

Yes, it is helpful if your child can recognise their name, to enable them to find their coat hook or other personal items quickly, but they will soon be taught that. Many schools use pictures, or even photographs of the child, to help children learn where they put their things to begin with. The children will soon begin learning letters, numbers and words in line with the national learning framework. If your child can read and write some words before they start school, then great, but don’t panic if they can’t.

  1. Be able to go to the toilet themselves. By this I mean, let an adult know when they need the toilet and be able to wipe themselves and wash their hands. If they need help with tights and buttons that’s fine. If your child still has the occasional accident, make sure you pack a spare change of clothes for them.
  2. Be able to dress and undress themselves. When buying their uniform think about what will be easy for them to do. Also PLEASE label your child’s clothes. 30 of the same jumper is not an easy task to find. If your child isn’t confident at getting dressed, stop helping in the Summer so they can practise. Make games out of getting dressed for example challenge them to beat the time.
  3. Be able to put socks and shoes and their coat on. Here is a YouTube video for one of the ways you can teach them to put their coat on. When buying School shoes, don’t buy laces unless your child is confident at doing them up and undoing them. Again practise this in the summer holidays. Make it fun!
  4. Be able to feed themselves. If they are having packed lunch, show them how to open their lunch box. Make sure that you pack things they can open and eat.
  5. Be able to share and take turns. You can help this at home by playing games together and encouraging sharing behaviour when at home and out and about.
  6. Be able to recognise their name. Writing it is a bonus, but recognising it is the first step. Start by having a picture next to their name. I have created a Pinterest board with some great, fun ideas.
  7. Be able to sit and concentrate. This can be a challenging one especially for the boys and for those that are younger. You can encourage this by sitting and listening to a story together or helping them to independently concentrate on a task. Let them do things like a jigsaw or lego independently.
  8. Be able to understand boundaries for acceptable behaviour. Encourage your child to listen to all adults as there will be a variety of adults within the classroom setting. Praise good behaviour and if anything works at home let the teacher know so that they can do the same.
  9. Be able to listen to a story. If they can make up their own stories even better. Try to make time each day to look at and share books. Have books in a reachable place for them to access when they want. I love these bookcases where the child can see and select a book.  You can make up stories together whilst cooking the tea, driving and doing other jobs. For example Once there was a little boy who lived in a Castle, what was his name? What did the castle look like? Who lived in the castle with him?
  10. Be able to count. If your child can count to at least 10 this will help. Again if they cant don’t panic. If they can recognise some numbers even better, but they will be taught this. Count when you are doing every day things with your child, count out the plates, sing number songs, get them to count their toys. I have another Pinterest board with some great activities.

Please don’t worry if there are things on this list that your child can’t do. If you have concerns, speak to your child’s teacher when they do a home visit or at the start of term. If your child has Special Educational Needs these points may take longer to master. Remember every child is different and things that come easily to some come later to others.


40 responses to “What should my child be able to do when starting School – 10 top tips”

  1. MyLifeMyLove says:

    Fab tips, my little boy starts school in September. I’m so excited for him but I know I’ll cry! X

    • MummyandMonkeys says:

      Aww I cried when my first started and I will probably cry again! x

  2. I started out reading this with a pounding heart and sweat prickling my upper lip in panic; I’m so terrified I’m not doing the right things and I’ll set him off on the wrong foot. But you’ve totally put my mind at rest! He starts next year so we’re not doing too badly that we need to work on numbers 7 and 8 (although I think it’s just at home he struggles with these; he seems to get on fine at nursery/pre-school) and numbers 2 and 3 (but again, I think that’s a combination of laziness at home and me doing it for him)… Pinning to remind me of things we need to practice. Thanks so much! Hugely helpful

    • MummyandMonkeys says:

      Oh you have got ages yet then, don’t worry they pick up the getting dressed really quickly. It’s one thing a lot of parents don’t think about but it does make a difference for the child, especially on PE days. They always listen better at School/Pre School than they do at home, well mine do anyway. That’s the best way to be x

  3. Great post. Glad to see BB, who starts full time in September, can do most if not alll these even a little bit.
    Just need to stop worrrying, it’s easy to forget they are only little and the next year wont make or break their academic lives! lol

    • MummyandMonkeys says:

      Aww that’s why I did the post. Glad it has helped. The first year is all about settling in and starting to hopefully love learning 🙂 x

  4. Jessica says:

    Love these tips! I think every Mum who is waiting for their first to start school freaks out a little about it. But these are some great pointers! 😀

  5. This is the 3rd time I’m sending a child to school and I’m more nervous than I’ve ever been!She doest seem interested in trying to write her name like the others did so I was having a bit of a panic but hopefully it will come x #PicnMix

  6. Kaye says:

    We have a little while until I have to worry about this but I am curious about school so this was really interesting. Will have to bookmark and remember as I’m sure the time will come around far too quickly. #picnmix

  7. I expect Jack to be cooking me breakfast by then too 😉
    Thankfully we have a little way to go before Jack goes to school but I dread him getting bigger but then I suppose we all want our babies to stay babies forever. Nice post #PicknMix

  8. Some really great tips here lovely!!! We have another year before school starts but I worry about this kind of thing already haha!! Xx

  9. Jen @ 4,128 miles says:

    Fab tips! Mr Sausages, my little man, starts a pre-school nursery in January and while he’ll only be two and a half – I know that the above will be really useful for us to work towards. At least it will be good for me to know the direction we’re headed in – even if I’m allowed a couple of years to get there!!!

  10. Fab tips lovely, and I expect you’ll put some parents minds at rest with it!

    Stevie xxx #Picknmix 😉

  11. Great list BUT even though kids are toilet trained they’ll be 10 before they can wipe there ass properly lol….

  12. Rachel says:

    This is really useful, Sam is nearly 3 but it still plays on my mind him going to school! Pinned for the future! PickNMix xx

  13. My baba is only 5 months but I’ve never been ‘up-to-date’ with at what ages kids should be able to do certain things so this is really useful.

    I will definitely check out your board and pin for the future, great tips.

    Thanks for sharing

    X X


  14. Numberv7 is still a challenge for my son! His concentration is terrible! He’s been in reception for the last year and moving up to class 1 from September, eek! He’s progressed do well though, very proud! X

  15. This is such a useful list, especially coming from a teacher. We’ve got a year to go, so at least now I know what things to work on next year, mainly the toilet training, getting dressed and getting him to sit still and listen! Thank you! #picknmix
    Sabrina xx

  16. Jenny Eaves says:

    An interesting post, useful for all those with little ones going to school this year. 🙂 x #picnmix

  17. Maria says:

    Fab tips – I worried so much when E started Reception last year but chance are if they have already been in a nursery environment then they should adapt pretty well too #PicnMix

  18. Anita Cleare says:

    Really simple, helpful advice – will definitely be sharing this with other parents! Thanks #TheList

  19. Emma T says:

    My son starts this year, and thankfully he’s quite looking forward to it – definitely helps that his cousins have been there/are there, and he knows lots in other years as well as half of his new class. It’s reassuring to know that even on the academic side – name and numbers, he’s ok with what he can do. #thelist

    • MummyandMonkeys says:

      It definitely helps if they know others and have seen others going to the School. My little one isn’t bothered as he takes and picks up his brother from there and knows quite a few that are starting with him. Glad it has been reassuring for you x

  20. This is a great list thank you – I will start practicing the concentration one now! (Monkey has a year before going to school) he’s going to struggle with that one I know!! #TheList

  21. Suz says:

    Thanks for the helpful post.

  22. Lisa Savage says:

    Oscar can do most of these, despite his challenges, but it still petrifies me. He does have trouble attending and he is so agenda led, getting him to do these things if he doesn’t want to can be hard. I believe the school we’ve chosen will be kind and caring enough to give him time. Fingers crossed eh?

    • MummyandMonkeys says:

      Oh I’m sure they will be, we have a little autistic girl coming into my class in September and we know what she does and doesn’t like and have set up some things to make the transition easier. My 9 year old still can’t concentrate! x

  23. Sarahbel says:

    Ah great tips! I used to volunteer in a school and these are all so true, although I think once they’re actually in the class room a lot falls into place. Good luck! #picknmix

  24. My son is going into year 1 and still can’t wipe his bum! I mean, he has a go but it’s not good 🙁 x #PicknMix

  25. RachelSwirl says:

    We are in the process of working on all of these things ready for next year. E is toilet trained, can listen to a story, can take clothes off but not really put them on just yet, as for counting she can but still gets mixed up! I want to teach her to write and recognise her name next.

  26. Claire says:

    Thank you, this is reassuring! My eldest doesn’t start until next September but I can already cross off all but one or maybe two from this list! #PicknMix

  27. great tips. I think one and two are the most important to think about while buying those back to school clothes. We had a bunch of stuff that she couldn’t wear just because it was too difficult for her to get them on and off in a hurry. #picnmix

  28. My son starts school in September he can do all these things but will struggle with concentration but not too worried as he is a kid and it is a long day. X #picknmix

  29. Really interesting as Mia is starting school next year and I will be seeing things from a parenting point of view instead of a teachers one! The only thing she struggles with at the moment is putting socks and shoes on, we also need to tackle buttons at some point too but its a way off yet so I’m not too worried! 🙂


  30. ohmummymia says:

    I have a lot of time till my boy will start school but it’s always to know how we should be prepared for that day

  31. ohmummymia says:

    I forgot about # 😛 #PicknMix

  32. Laura says:

    This is incredibly useful! My son doesn’t start full time until NEXT Sept but it’s given me some things to consider over the next year 🙂 #picknmix

  33. Crummy Mummy says:

    This is an interesting one isn’t it – BB had been four for just three weeks when she started school last September, which was a big age gap compared to the children about to turn five. I was worried she might be ‘behind’ but in fact she was more accomplished at some things compared to some of the other children in her class, which was a relief. #picknmix

  34. […] children. Eilidh over at mummy and monkeys as a teacher gives you some advice and knowledge about where your child should be when he/she firsts starts […]

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