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5 school skills you need to know

2013 August 21
by nannyjob

The end of the summer holidays is fast approaching and for many 4 year olds this means the start of their first year at big school. Whether they’ve been at nursery full time, attended some form of preschool or been at home, the transition to Reception can be a huge step. We’ve asked Rachel, a teacher with 11 years of experience welcoming new starters, for her take on the top 5 skills a 4 year old needs to know.

Be able to dress themselves

“Most 4 year olds can put on their own coat, but they might struggle with an unfamiliar zip or buttons. Likewise they can put on their shoes but new types of fastening can really slow them down. If your 4 year old can’t dress independently you should start encouraging them to do that right now and if you haven’t already bought those school shoes or a new coat don’t put it off. They will need some practice before the big day. Children who can’t do this by themselves really hold the whole class back and end up frustrated before class even begins.”

Be able to listen and follow instructions

“A lot of the first part of the term is spent helping children listen and follow the directions the adults in the classroom give. A child who can keep quiet and who can follow two-tier instructions such as ‘take your shoes off and sit on the mat’ is going to have a much easier time and a more positive experience of those early school days than one who wanders around lost because they didn’t listen or ends up getting told off because they sat on the mat with their shoes on. This also builds concentration, which is key to future success.”

Know when they need to the toilet

“Children often come to school dry but not fully independent. They still rely on someone to nudge them into going. When you have 30 children in a class that just isn’t possible and inevitably accidents happen. You can minimise that by making sure that your child is aware of the sensations of a full bladder or bowel and that they know they need to act on that.”

Be able to wipe their bottom and wash their hands

“Taking care of their own hygiene is something small children find quite hard, but it’s really, really important. We can’t spend all our time wiping bottoms, and stomach bugs and other nasties spread like wildfire in reception, which is probably linked to children who don’t wash their hands before returning to class.”

Be able to recognise their own name

“People are often surprised that I don’t put this first. In fact this is a useful skill, but it’s not essential. It’s far more important that children are physically independent, because that takes a lot of time and effort to teach them, which we just don’t have. But if a child can recognise their name on the first day they can find their peg, and their cubby or their drawer, and it gives them a sense of belonging. It also speeds up those transitions at the beginning of the day, between breaks and class-time, and between certain activities. And it means a child has made a good start on letter recognition and they’ll engage with literacy much more readily if they feel connected to the letters.”

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