School Skills for School Starters

Below you will find general information in relation to what skills schools like to see children start with. It must be understood that schools are different, therefore presenting parents with slightly differing expectations.


Your child should be able to separate from you with relative ease. It is understandable that even those that are more than ready for school can become clingy on starting. This though should settle, and while there is no magic number of days that it will take for them to feel comfortable, I would certainly be looking at them being able to wave at you rather than hanging onto your leg by term 2. A small item from home in their pocket or bag can help.

Taking Care of Belongings

New school children have lots of bits and pieces they now need to take care of. In preschool this task was automatically easier due to the fact that everybody’s shoes, jumpers and bags looked different and were easier to identify making them less likely to get lost. Kids also need to be able to take care of their own lunch such as being able to unwrap or undo items in their box. Strive for a teacher maintenance-free lunch and lunch box, with ease of opening and closing a must. Learning how to use a lunch box is an art form, a balancing act, with kids needing practice with this before they have to do it on their own.

An Emerging Interest in Print

If you have a boy don’t panic! Boys in general tend to pick up this interest a little later than the girls. In Early Childhood environments across Australia around June/July, the drawing & writing table is full of girls. Where are the boys? Mostly off doing other things. It can be for many that Christmas holiday period when you may first spot this interest emerging.

Most schools would like to see that your child is beginning to write their name and that they can identify it in print. Not their surname, just their first.


Children need to be toilet trained before they start school. Make sure though you do pop spare undies and socks in a plastic bag just in case. If your child has a one off wee accident, it is usually no biggie. Teacher will simply send them to change. If your child has the poo accident though, schools will more than likely call you. Poo accidents can mean a child is unwell and it gets too tricky in regards to Child Protection for schools to assist with cleaning bottoms.

The Uniform

Your child should be able to put their own jumper on and to be able to take it off. To assist them with this, start to teach them how to fix inside out sleeves and consider purchasing the jacket rather than the jumper, it can be easier for kids to get on and take off. Velcro shoes assist kids to be independent, as it is expected that they would be able to take them off and put them on themselves. If you do send your child to school in laces, they don’t need to be able to do them on starting school, but it is a good idea to start teaching them.

Sitting and Concentrating

Before your child starts school they should be able to sit in a group situation, and be able to busy themselves at an activity such as puzzles or blocks for around 15 minutes. If you have no idea if your child can sit for that long, ask your child’s Early Childhood Teacher. Group time is probably at least 15 minutes at their current centre, so this can be a good place to start looking. The most important thing you are wanting your child’s teacher to say is that during that 15 minutes of group time they are listening, not necessarily joining in on the conversation, but obviously concentrating on what is going on up the front. Children who are still rolling around on the floor at group time, can be an indicator they are not ready for the structure of the school environment.

Fine Motor

In kindergarten there’s lots of cutting, colouring and pasting to do. Good fine motor can be essential to be able to complete tasks such as worksheets on time. If your child is in an early childhood setting before they start school, then more than likely they are being provided activities to assist with fine motor development. At home you too can assist your child. Have at their disposal a shoe box with items such as pencils, scissors, paper and paste. Simple threading and dough are also great for working those little fingers.

Hand Preference

Your child should have developed a hand preference before they start school. This means that they have worked out what hand they are going to consistently draw or write with. Correct pencil grip can take a little longer with some kids still struggling with this when starting. There are many commercial aides out there that can assist your child with pencil grip. Your closest educational store should have a variety to choose from.


Schools would expect that your child has learnt how to deal with conflict without getting physical. Compared to the early childhood environment the ratio of staff to children differ drastically. This is why it is important that your child has learnt skills in turn taking and negotiation. We should be aiming for our kids to first try to fix a problem themselves rather than go straight to the teacher for every little niggle. Teach your child that if they can’t fix something themselves after having a go, to then go and see the teacher. Its great to try to teach kids to be independent, but we must remind them that at all times there is an adult at school around who can help.

Term one is very much a settling in period, with kids working out who they fit with. Try to avoid too many friend questions. It can cause kids unnecessary stress. Many kids are simply lucky enough to remember some of the names of the kids in their class let alone to have made friends with them. Most kids tend to learn their designated Buddies name rather quickly so perhaps focus on questions in relation to their buddy rather than their classmates… for at least the first few weeks anyway.

Talk to your Child’s Early Childhood Teacher

While you may know more about your child, preschool teachers see your child in a large group situation, we as parents don’t tend to see this too often. School is very much a social experience with social maturity being the number one thing that will assist your child to have a happy and successful school experience. Ask your child’s early childhood teacher to share their thoughts with you on your child attending school the following year.

Special Needs Children

I would recommend that you start looking into schools a little earlier than with a regular child as there is usually far more that needs to be considered. Once my son turned three, I started to look into what my community had to offer. With so much to consider you will need the extra time. Your circumstance usually means more paperwork, more professionals involved and more meetings.