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Starting school Sept 2017? How best to prepare your child!

We all want our children to start school fully prepared and with less than a year to go until their first day, you will be thinking about how you can make the most of your child’s pre-school year and help get them off to a flying start.

So, what does my child need to know before starting school?  We asked Reception teachers and teaching assistants which skills benefited children the most as they entered their first year in school and we've listed their top 5 answers.

The answers may surprise you! Whilst being able to count and starting to learn to read are important especially for your child’s self-belief, there are additional life skills that will benefit your child so that they can engage with all aspects of school quickly and with confidence.

So we'll start counting down from number 5 and moving to our number 1 spot... (Which is one of the first things mentioned by ALL of the staff who contributed). 

5. Listening Skills. 

From the school register at the start of the day, to story time and constant instructions throughout the day, it is important your little one has learned to listen and also to communicate appropriately. 

Playing schools with teddies or toys is great practice for listening for their name in a register. Taking turns when it comes to speaking and listening is vital and part of this is learning to put up your hand to speak.

We all know the importance of reading to your child too. In addition to daily reading, having discussions and conversations as often as possible will develop their conversational skills. Playing board games gives opportunities for following rules, taking turns and accepting defeat! At Zest 4 Learning, the fun games and activities in your programme are designed to encourage discussions and build effective communication skills.

4. Social skills and Confidence.

Getting your child used to spending time away from a parent will benefit them when they start school and will help avoid emotional meltdowns.

All children are different and some are so much more anxious than others, but if you have an anxious child there are things you can do to help. 

If possible, get to know the children they will be starting school with before they start.  Seeing familiar faces and knowing names will make it a more familiar place.

Although tears are very common on the first few drop offs, and sometimes last for several weeks, it is usually only at the separation and your child is soon distracted by the day's activities. This article offers more ideas to help.

3. Recognising and Writing their Own Name! 

The first day in a new school is daunting for every child. There is so much to take in and new routines to follow. This routine is made easier for everyone if your child can already recognise their name. For example, finding their coat peg, where their tray is and which cardigan or jumper is theirs. Being able to write their own name on the back of their pictures and other treasured work is vital if work does not get misplaced.

At Zest 4 Learning we are offering a FREE template name writing sheet you can print off. It is personalised with your child's name so they can get practicing straight away.

To get yours just email me with their first name. 

2. Getting Dressed Independently.

Now they can recognise their own name in their ‘clearly named’ uniform, getting it off and on again independently is the next challenge!

Most infant uniform is kept simple: Velcro shoes, slip on pumps and elasticated waist bands and when you have finally purchased the uniform, time them getting changed into their P.E kit and back again! Add an extra challenge to this by turning t-shirt or jumper inside out. As a jumper pulled off is often inside out... Can they sort this out and still put it on again?  

So already you can start getting your child to do as much as they can when dressing. Yes, it can take much longer at first but ultimately it will make life easier. Just bear in mind that if a teacher is needed to help dress a child and this takes just 1 minute... Times that by 30 children = 30 minutes and the PE lesson is over before it’s begun. 

And so what came in at number 1? What aspect was mentioned by all the teaching staff we questioned...? No it wasn't that copious amounts of wine should be supplied to the stressed out staff... Only a minority of those surveyed mentioned wine... (You know who you are!) It's not the ability to wipe your nose on a hanky rather than sleeve, or use a finger as a means of extraction! (this was strangely only mentioned by a few!) Nor is it the ability to tidy up as this will soon be learnt as part of the day’s routine. The most essential and import thing your child needs to be able to do...

1. Please be fully Toilet Trained! 

By ‘fully’ they don't just mean dry and out of nappies, it means that they can independently take themselves to the toilet, know how to wipe, flush, re-dress and wash their hands before leaving the toilets.

Reports of "too many bits on show outside of the cubical" were common. If you have a little boy they can practice aiming skills with a floating ping pong ball and maybe have them experience urinals too. We received numerous anecdotes which included children's requests to be wiped after a poo poo, never having flushed a toilet themselves before and help needed replacing clothes, especially the girls struggling in woolly tights! 

We know accidents will happen and if your child is prone to this, send in spare clothes and let the teacher know so they can remind them to go to the toilet. But please help them practice the basics of toileting independently before they start school. It helps with their confidence too and by feeling all grown up. And don't they just grow up oh so quickly...! 

You might want to take a look at this best selling book

What Every Parent Needs to Know: How to Help Your Child Get the Most Out of Primary School by Miranda Thomas and Toby Young (Viking £14.99)

This has some great advice in addition to the self-confidence and competence that can be gained from the number work, phonics and reading skills gained in the Zest 4 Learning programme.

So why not give your child the confidence to excel at school by enroling on the Zest 4 Learning pre-school programme. Their learning journey will take them from counting to sums, from letter recognition to reading, all delivered through fun activities, games and crafts.

For a limited period, we are offering a 20% discount.

So there's never been a better time to start their learning journey! To get your child's personalised Zest 4 Learning start up pack go to and enter the Promotional Code: Z4LProud20 valid until Oct 31st 2016

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