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Best Selling Author Daisy Upton, aka Five-Minute Mum, shares her top tips on helping your children get ready for school.

It’s a Big Deal for You and for Them

“The cliché is true: one minute, you’re on high alert to catch milky burps, then you blink, and you’ve got a four-year-old trying on a school jumper. As an ex-teaching assistant and mum of two, I have been on both sides of the school gates. But even preparing my little ones for starting school felt quite daunting and like a big deal. But that’s because it is. For them and us! I’ve written about the things we’d done to prepare – and, in all honesty, it probably didn’t include much of what you might expect. Teachers expect children to start school not knowing anything and will teach letters and counting right from the beginning. Instead, the skills they need are pretty basic and listed below, along with some of my tips to help develop them.”

Things That Will Help Them Start School

To Get Dressed Independently

“For shoes, cut a sticker in half and pop one half inside each of their school shoes to help them match up left and right. Let them regularly have a go at doing their coat themselves. Try not to zip it up for them. If their little fingers find it tricky, play with play dough at home to build hand strength.”

Asking to Go and Going to the Toilet

“In the months leading up to your child starting school, I recommend having regular five-minute chats with them about it. During one of those chats, explain that in school, they will need to ask a grown-up to use the toilet. They’ll have to remember to wash their hands on their own too. We sing, ‘Wash wash wash your hands, scrub them nice and clean, in and out and round and round, make those handies gleam!’ To the tune of Row Row Row Your Boat.”

Asking for Help in General

“This is quite a hard skill to teach. However, in any of the games we play, whenever my little ones get frustrated at not being able to do something, I always calmly remind them that they can ask for help and often mention that at school, the adults will do the same. In my Starting School book, there are example conversations to show the children what asking for help looks like and why it is always OK.”

Recognising Their Name

“They don’t need to be able to write it, although it’s terrific if they can, but being able to spot the letters in their name is helpful. There are games for this on my website, fiveminutemum.com. A nice way to start is by playing ordering games, whereby you mix up the letter order of their name and see if they can put it right again.”

Learning to Make Friends

“My Starting School book has a page to help show the children how to make friends. We often think children intuitively have this skill, but sometimes they need a little extra support. Talk to them about how to ask someone’s name and how often knowing that is a great first step to get-ting to know someone.”

Getting Them Excited About It
Getting Them Excited About It

Share Daisy’s gentle, funny guide with your child to support them – and you! – with uniforms, meeting their first teacher, getting to school on the first day, making new friends, finding their way around, having fun at playtime, asking for help, packing their bag, learning about letters and numbers, going to assemblies, getting changed for PE, and much more.
And, of course, this book includes lots of five-minute games and activities designed by Daisy to help your child feel confident and excited about taking the big step to big school.

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Coping With Anxiety

“It is natural for children to feel anxious or daunted about starting school. Here are some ways to help.”


“Draw a small heart on the palm of your child’s wrist, then draw a matching one on your own. Ex-plain that any time your child feels worried, they can press the special heart on their hand, and it will send a cuddle to you – and you will send one back! Practice doing this while you’re sitting to-gether, then remember to draw a heart on their wrist the first day.”


“Every few days, take five minutes to have a quiet moment with your child. Remove any distrac-tions, and just have a little chat about school. Mention their favourite things and ask them how they feel about school. Tell them what you enjoyed most when you went to school.”


“Practice the walk or drive there together before school begins. If you walk, point out the things you see so that they start to feel familiar. Take a little treat for the journey home again, so it feels like a positive experience.”

Try Not to Worry

“This year is called RECEPTION for a reason. It’s a welcome year. It’s a ‘let’s get settled into this new way of life’ year. Everyone needs to find their feet, including you, the grown-ups. So go easy on yourselves and your little people. It’s really just the beginning of the next big adventure.”

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