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Eight skills your child should have before starting school

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

It's not about hot-housing your child to give her the academic edge on the first day of school; it's about making her feel happy and confident about a new stage in her life.

If your child has basic skills before starting primary school she'll find it easier to adapt to school life and the rest will follow.

Hopefully your child will probably have met her teacher and classmates at an open day before she actually starts. If you prepare her by explaining what's going to happen and what's expected of her, it'll be make her less nervous.

1. Going to the toilet

Making sure your child knows how and when to go to the toilet and the importance of washing her hands afterwards is highly desirable for child and teacher alike.

Parenting expert and author Karen Doherty says: "By far the most important thing is that they are able to handle their bathroom needs. In fact most schools won't take children unless they can."

Teachers are seeing more and more kids not toilet trained before school. A survey by a teaching union suggests that 62% of primary school staff in the UK have noticed an increase in the number of children wetting or soiling themselves during the school day over the past five years.

They blame it on parents failing to toilet train their children before they start school and say it impacts on teaching time if teachers and teaching assistants (TAs) are spending time changing kids' pants.

2. Get changed for PE and playtime

Get your child to practise taking off and putting on her coat. Kids will be expected to wear a coat to play outside and if she can do it fast she'll have more time to play outside with her new friends. Forget fiddly fastening and hard-to-do-up zips - pick a coat that's a doddle to do up for little fingers.

Same goes for PE. Easy-on pumps, Velcro fastening shoes and elasticated waistbands do away with problems with laces, buttons and zips.

3. Eat their lunch

For school dinners make sure your child can use a knife and fork. If they have packed lunches check that your child can open her lunch box and that she knows how to peel a banana and take the lid off a yoghurt pot.

Sometimes a big, noisy dining hall is a scary place for children, but as soon as she's gone through the routine of where to sit and what to do she will hopefully adapt quickly.

4. Not afraid to speak up

In the months leading up to starting school, play pretend games of school where you take it in turns acting out the role of the teacher.

Explain to your child that she may need to put her hand up if she wants to speak or get the teacher's attention, ask to go to the toilet or answer a question.

Encourage your child to make eye contact with adults and try not to be shy.

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