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Ready for school tips for parents

Help your children be ready for school by developing their communication, language, social and emotional skills as well as their physical development.

Communication and language development

Children learn best when they can talk, play and have fun with you every day. Start a language learning adventure with your child.

Out and about

When food shopping together play a game of 'say the syllables'. Name each item you put in the trolley by clapping and saying each syllable, for example 'corn-flakes' or 'semi-skimmed-milk'.

Name new things and demonstrate what it can do or where it can be found. This will help your child learn new words.


Name and talk about the actions when making and eating meals, for example, when cooking you might use these actions: peel, skin, wash, scrub, cut, slice, dice, mash, squash, pinch, stab, prick, layer, create, build, make, wipe, clean, push, look, pass, share.

Can you think of using 5 action words for 'eating' or 'making' or 'cleaning'?

For more ideas and activities for a range of ages, please see the top tips for parents.

Social and emotional development

Social development is your child’s ability to interact with other children and adults.

Emotional development involves learning what feelings and emotions are, understanding how and why they happen, recognising one's own feelings and those of others, and developing effective ways of managing them.

The key question for the child is: Am I safe? Do I matter?

Ways to support your child's social and emotional journey

Demonstrating love and trust for your child. Give them lots of hugs and cuddles throughout the day. Allow them their special toy or comforter to help them throughout the day. They will feel safe and secure.

Show, share and talk about your feelings. For example, let your child know when you are happy or upset. Give labels to the emotions and talk about how you know how someone is feeling.

Acknowledge your child’s feelings. Enable them to talk about how they feel. Comfort them when they are upset. Talk through how you manage feelings and how you know how others feel. This will help your child develop self-awareness and empathy.

Model positive social behaviour. Your child will begin to imitate this and develop their own culture of kindness, respect, trust and self-confidence.

Encourage independence. Allow your child to make choices and decisions. Let them talk about what they like, or like to do, and why. They will like to share their ideas, and gain confidence in their own abilities. Their wellbeing will be high.

Help your child to learn from making mistakes by keep trying, not giving up, and trying a different way. This is all part of persevering and resilience, both important for life experiences.

Physical development

Being active and moving will help your child’s body and brain to develop so they can maintain a healthy weight, improve concentration, improve sleep, build social skills and confidence and eventually learn to sit still, pay attention and hold a pencil.

The physical activity guidelines (UK Chief Medical Officers) recommend that children aged under 5 years should be physically active for at least 180 minutes, spread throughout the day.

Every movement counts, get your child active and moving:

  • crawling is a great activity for your child, let them crawl through tunnels, up ladders, over cushions and under tables and chairs at home
  • spend less time with screens and in highchairs or bouncers or car seats and instead, clear space to play on the floor or be on their tummy to play with their toys
  • your child can help to push or pull heavy objects when gardening or even shopping
  • take them to climb or swing on equipment at the park or in trees
  • people play for example, tickle games, swinging and spinning even until dizzy, and include action songs like 'head, shoulders, knees and toes' and '5 little peas in a pea-pod pressed'
  • using playdough, popping bubble wrap, cleaning with sponges and spray bottles are all great ways to get your child to use their wrists, hands and fingers

UK physical activity guidelines factsheets for children and young people are available from GOV.UK.

Home Start's Big Hopes Big Future has some tips and activities you can try, and games you can play with your children. All of them will help your children be ready for school and make that first day less scary.

You can also find simple, fun activities for kids from newborn to 5, by visiting Hungry little minds.

We have top tips for parents for children aged 0 to 18 months, 18 to 36 months and 3 to 5 years.