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Preparing for primary school

  • 1-5 Years
  • 5-11 Years
  • Child development and growing up
Primary school children in school uniform standing around a table playing with different musical instruments. A young girl in the foreground is staring directly into the camera.

It is a good idea to start thinking about practicing independence skills with your child. Especially as they approach the age where they will be starting school. This is going to be a big change for your child and your family. You can help them by preparing them for this change.

Remember, every child is different so they will learn in different ways. Some children will quickly learn these skills whereas others will need more time and support.

Skills to work towards before your child starts school

Your child may already have these skills or it may be completely new to them. Wherever your child is at with these skills, they are part of your child's daily life. There will be lots of changes to practice before school starts. 

graphic to show skills that child can work towards. Speech bubbles for following instructions, bananas for feeding themselves, a toilet for using the toilet, a shirt on a hanger for getting dressed and soap for washing their hands

Helping your child get ready for primary school

Some tasks may be overwhelming for your child and hard for them to manage. Break these bigger tasks down into smaller steps. As your child gets more confident, you can then gradually build on these steps.

It is important to make sure you give your child lots of praise and encouragement. It will help them to keep learning and to want to learn more.

The best way for child to learn is through play. So the more fun and exciting you make learning a new skills, the quicker your child will pick it up.

Backwards chaining

Backwards chaining is where you break down a sequence or activity into smaller steps and teach the final step of the sequence first. It helps give your child a sense of achievement when learning the sequence or activity. 

When they can successfully complete the final stage by themselves, you can add the step before. Continue this process until the child can complete the whole sequence. This can be used for all sorts of skills such as getting dressed or using cutlery.

Read more about backward chaining.

Tips to help your child:

    • choose a time when your child is relaxed, calm and happy
    • remove background distractions such as TV
    • get down to your child’s level and use their name to get their attention
    • use a calm voice to give short simple steps that your child will understand
    • use gestures and demonstrations to help them understand what you are saying

Last reviewed: 1 November, 2023


Who can help

If you have any concerns about your child being ready for primary school you can speak to:

  • their Early Years setting such as their pre-school
  • the school they will be going to for advice

If you need any further support with teaching your child these skills, a health professional in our team will be able to offer advice and support.

You can Call Us on 0300 029 50 50 or Text Us on 07520 649887 to start a conversation.

Open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (excluding bank holidays).

Getting ready for change

Getting Ready for Change aims to support your child or young person and your family through key transition stages, or recognised times of change and child development 

Read more about 'Getting ready for change'

Young boy sitting on a bed buttoning up his white polo-shirt.

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