Ready for school

School can seem a big step for both children and parents. It’s normal for every child to develop at a slightly different pace. There are lots of activities you can do with your little one to help them develop the skills they need for school. Here are some tips and links to support you on your journey to having a great start in the classroom!

Every child will develop at a different rate. If you’re unsure where you child is at in their development, visit this What to expect, when? Guide. Contact your local health visiting service if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s health or development.

Click here for a handy Ready Steady School! leaflet (produced by Hampshire Country Council in consultation with schools, pre-schools, childminders and parents).

Getting dressed

Putting on clothes is a tricky skill. It requires both big and small movements. Buttons and zips can be fiddly for small fingers. Velcro or buckles are much easier to fasten shoes. For PE get children trainers rather than plimsoles as they better support little feet – if shoes are comfy children will enjoy physical activity much more! Practice putting shoes on the correct feet. Draw half a smiley face inside each shoe – this can help children with their left and right!

Help your child to get dressed by choosing school uniform that is easier to get on and off such as elasticated waists. Practice putting it on (the right way round!) and taking it off before their first day – lots of encouragement and making it fun will help them to be excited and want to keep trying. Be sure to plan extra time in the morning so that it is not a stressful rush.

Try this Ready, Steady, Dress activity from PACEY to build the excitement together at home.


Ready for lunch!

All children are entitled to a nutritionally balanced school meal in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 free of charge. Children will need to feel confident eating independently, using a knife and fork and sat at a table. Get your child used to this by eating as a family at the table at home – practicing cutting up food and even get them to carry their own plate and clear it away, they may be expected to do this at school.

To support your child to eat well, including a variety of fruits and vegetables – at least 5-a-day - make sure you often expose your little one to new foods, and in different forms – raw or cooked, in sticks or in slices, on their own or as part of a meal. Try to incorporate a variety of textures too – smooth, lumpy and crunchy foods, as this will help your child to learn to like a range of different food.

It is perfectly normal for toddlers to refuse to eat or be a fussy eater. Make sure you give them the right portion – children have tiny tummies so will eat little and often rather than a big meal. To help keep bodies and teeth healthy, children should only drink plain water or unflavoured milk. Children over one year should drink from a cup or free-flowing beaker with a hard spout.

Child Feeding Guide Tips and Tricks

Be Sugar Smart! Check out these tips for Healthier Snacks for Kids

HomeStart Mealtime Routine sheets One and Two


Going to the toilet

Toilet training requires time and patience. Give your child plenty of encouragement and praise when they are dry; don’t get cross or let your child see your frustration when they have an accident. If they have an accident change them in the bathroom. This helps them learn where they should be going. Encourage them to clean themselves by wiping properly using toilet paper and wash their hands if they are able to. Using (non-food) rewards can be helpful when toilet training – stickers work well.


Concerned your child is constipated?

Physical Play

To prepare your child for all types of physical school activities, encourage a variety of outdoor play to practice new skills and movements. Feed your child’s natural curiosity and explore together:

  • at the park,
  • climbing play equipment,
  • skipping,
  • kicking a ball,
  • playing with other children.


Trying new games and activities is a great way to learn and practice new movements. It also helps children learn to give things a go and keep trying when things are challenging.

Play with your children as this shows your interest; delight in their discoveries and encourage creativity.

Get moving with 10-minute Shake Ups or discover fun indoor activities with Change4Life.


Every day should be a healthy day; children should be active for at least 3 hours/180 minutes every day (spread throughout the day). NHS Live Well suggests tips to reduce sitting time:

  • agree a family limit to screen time per day
  • make bedrooms a TV- and computer-free zone
  • set "no screen time" rules to encourage kids to be active
  • encourage participation in house chores such as setting the table or taking the bins out
  • choose gifts such as a scooter, skateboard, ball or kite to encourage active play



Being able to communicate what a child is feeling and thinking will really help them get ready for school. Most children are able to use longer sentences and link them together by the time they enter the school gates. They will still struggle to make harder sounds such as r, w, l, f, th, sh and ch, and make mistakes with tenses. They will usually be able to ask questions and will be beginning to describe events.

Provide simple choices during the day so that children have the chance to say which they’d like and why. Encourage your child to have a go at things and ask for help when they need it. Let your child ask for things when you are out shopping. Play games that involve taking turns – make sure you are a good listener too!

Use family dinner time as an opportunity to talk about everyone’s day. Ask your child what they have enjoyed today. Reduce distraction by turning off the TV and radio.

Ditch the dummy and remember to brush teeth twice a day: having a healthy mouth also helps your child to be able to speak clearly by making the right mouth shapes to make different sounds. NHS dental care is free for children. Find you nearest dentist and register with them today!

Explore Small talk for ideas on little ways to make a big difference.

Words for Life has tips on which books to read when and activity sheets.

Talking Point has tips for parents with children of all ages.


If you have any concerns about your child’s development, contact your local Health Visiting service.



Children will need to listen and follow instructions at school. Developing good attention and concentration skills at home will support them get ready for the classroom.

Playing games that involve listening to different sounds or words and remembering the information helps children to become good listeners, eg. I Spy, Simon Says etc. Learning to share and listen helps develop important skills for a social classroom environment.

Read stories and rhymes together. Do this in a quiet corner where there are fewer distractions. Stop at different points in the story and ask them what they think might happen next. Establish a bath, book, bed routine so that your child enjoys a story every day (this also helps improve sleep). Good sleep is important for your child’s physical and mental wellbeing.

Visit your local library to discover new books together. They also run story time and rhyme time sessions.

Tips for talking to your baby and young child from the Literacy Trust

Baby and toddler play ideas



Writing Skills

Developing strength in fingers and hands supports children to become more independent to do a range of everyday activities that require fine motor skills. It will also make it easier to hold and control a pencil to start writing and drawing. There are lots of activities that you can do together to help:

  • playdough,
  • finger rhymes,
  • provide materials to start practicing drawing and painting,
  • draw with a stick in the mud/water painting on the ground,
  • holding onto ropes and swings at the playground,
  • practicing using scissors,
  • scrunching up paper balls.


Children should be able to concentrate on something they find interesting for short periods of time.

CBeebies Grown-ups: Ready for School

Staying Healthy

Make sure your child is fit and healthy to attend school as much as possible. Remember to take them for their MMR booster and make sure that all their immunisations are up-to-date. Here is a helpful timeline of vaccinations little ones should have.

If your child is unwell and you’re unsure if they should go to nursery or school, there is lots of information on this page.

Make sure your child knows when they need - and how - to wipe their own nose. Send them to school with a tissue to avoid snotty sleeves!

Did you know that under 5’s can have a free NHS eye test? Don’t worry – they don’t need to be able to recognise letters or read to have their eyes checked. It is important to find eye problems early as it can affect their development and education.

If your child has additional needs or you need additional help getting your child ready for school, your health visiting team could offer support with a personalised care plan. A member of the health visiting team will use the care plan to help you set goals. Together you will agree actions and activities which will enable you to achieve your goal.


Being a confident and happy child

The Five to Thrive approach includes five key activities for parents/carers to do with their children to support attachment. The Five to Thrive messages support the development of secure attachment and emotional resilience. Do these five key activities every day with your child to help their growing brain develop: Respond · Cuddle · Relax · Play · Talk.

Confident, happy children will find it easier to settle more quickly when you leave them at school. Visiting new places and meeting new people will help children prepare to feel ready to explore their new school environment. Reassure your little one you will be back at the end of the day to collect them from school.

Hungry Little Minds is a resource full of ideas and activities for parents of under 5’s to do with their child to help them learn and discover the world. This will help them get ready for when they start school.

More tips on how to Chat, Play, Read with your child everyday through the different early years stages from National Literacy Trust’s Small Talk project.




We all need sleep. Setting a healthy bedtime routine will help your child to feel ready and prepared to learn at school every day. Being tired affects behaviour and performance at school.

Children aged three to six need roughly between 10-12 hours of sleep a night. So, for a child that wakes at 7am, you should be aiming to be in bed, or at the very least ready for some quiet time, at around 7pm.