THE TOP 6 SKILLS FOR STARTING SCHOOL

Teaching your child independence and self-help skills. Are critical to their success in their new school lives. 

Tying shoe laces is the first step to independence

There comes a time when we are all ready to send our little ones to school.  

As a mother of 4 children, my children have always had to be fairly independent and once they got to school I was really pleased they had. While these are not mandatory, these are 5 things your child should know before starting school and will certainly help your child to feel more independent.  I have been lucky enough to see things from a teacher’s side, as well as from the side as the parent.   These things may seem little to you, or not important, but I can tell you that for your child, they are HUGE.   They will give your child confidence and they will show the teacher that your child is independent and ready to take on the challenges that lie ahead.   It’s the little things that ensure your child has a feeling of independence and achievement.


1. Tie their shoes – this is not as hard as you think.

Just let your child practice it in steps.  For a few days, teach them to do the X and go through the first loop (the easy part).   Do this over & over.   Let them tie everything (cushions on chairs, your shoes, aprons, etc…)

Next, move onto the rest of the tying process (past just making the X).   Yes, they will get frustrated… that is a given.   All of our boys became frustrated when learning, but with a little encouragement, they caught on.  It took about a week of constant repetition.  They were so proud of themselves, remember that when you want to jump in and tie it for them DON’T!, when you are in a rush, or you see your child struggling, you need to STOP doing their laces and ask your maids or nannies to also let your child “struggle” this is the first step of learning. A teacher may have 20 plus students they simply cannot tie every child’s shoes. 

2. Open a juice box or drink water from their drinks bottles  

When a child has lunch they must be able to access a drink, particularly in this climate and if they are shy they may not want to ask for help.  This is one of those little things that are happening more & more often.   

How do you teach a child to open a juice box?  Step-by-step.  Take the straw off, open it, insert it into the juice box, take care not to squeeze, drink it, throw it all away (in the bin will get bonus points from the teacher).  Easy enough, right?   There are many 5 and 6-year-olds that do not do this because no one has taught them how. Again try no tto do this for your child, let them take satisfaction from learning small tasks themselves.   

3. Use the bathroom, wash hands and button their shorts alone. 

Again, easy enough.  If your child can’t button their shorts without help, this will be a problem in school, again for a shy child this may mean they try not to use the bathroom all day and the consequences of this are not great.     Most kids do not want to walk out, in front of 25 fellow-students, to ask their teacher to button their shorts.   Practice, practice, practice, to avoid your child being embarrassed.

4. How to handle getting what they need. 

You want your child to take responsibility for themselves.  Think about it, if your child breaks their pencil in class.  Will they know that they need to raise their hand to get another one?  Or will they sit there, doing nothing, because they don’t know that they need to take care of themselves?   One day our son came home and told me that he didn’t eat his yogurt because I didn’t pack him a spoon.  I said “Don’t they have spoons in school?” and he looked at me like I was crazy until I explained that if I do not pack him a spoon (or napkin or a straw), he needs to get up, and ask.   No one is going to do it for them. It is your job to raise your child to be a responsible adult and this starts now. 

5. Know the basics! 

Does your child know their name, phone number, address?  These are IMPORTANT!  You are relying on adults that have 24+ other children that day.  While I’m sure that our kids will be safe, I still make sure that they know these things.   I would never want to send my children out ‘into the world’ without this information.     Oh- and this means their LAST NAME, too, not just their first.   If your child doesn’t know this, at least slip a piece of paper in their pocket, you never know when they might need it.  This is what I do when we go out somewhere with a lot of people, like an amusement park… and the kids know to look for it there, in case they “forget”.

6. Teach your child a code word.  

This word is a secret between you and your child, if a plan changes and someone is going to collect your child instead of you, then they must give your child “The Code Word”. This word is your “safety word” as they get older if they are at a sleepover, even as teenagers and they ring you and use this word, it means “get me out of here now”! You can hope it is never used, but if it is, it is likely that is could save their lives. Make it simple and unique to you.