Judith Parke, Head of the Home Learning Environment at the National Literacy Trust shares six great activities to prepare your child for school
A child’s language development begins long before they start school and is shaped by the people and places in their lives – their home learning environment. Education doesn’t begin on their first day of school, but on the day they are born. And it starts with small talk. As a parent you play a vital role in your child’s early learning. Read on for some of our favourite activities to help get your child ready to thrive in the classroom.
1. My favourite meal
• A paper plate (or circle of paper)
• Crayons or pencils
• Child-safe scissors
• Food magazines
This activity will get your child chatting about the things they like to eat. Talk to your child about foods they like, then look for pictures in the food magazines. Help them cut out their favourites and stick them to their paper plate.
Discussing your child’s likes and dislikes at home will help them feel more confident when it comes to making decisions at school. You could follow this activity up by pointing and naming the different ingredients that go into making their favourite meal the next time you’re preparing it, hopefully sparking a love of cooking at the same time!
2. Making puppets
• A book your child likes
• Paper and crayons
• Child-safe scissors
• Lollipop sticks, straws or an old spoon
Ask your child to choose a character or object they like from a favourite book, then get them to draw a picture of it. Help them cut it out and stick it to the lollipop stick (or whatever you’re using as the stick for your puppet). Then you can snuggle up, read the book aloud and encourage your child to use the puppet when the character or object appears.
Not only is this activity a lot of fun, but playing with puppets can also help your child work through and understand emotions ahead of meeting their new schoolmates.
3. The memory game
Together with your child, gather some of their favourite toys, books and objects. Lay them out on the floor or on a table and talk about what’s there. Next, ask your child to close their eyes while you remove some of the items. Then get your child to open their eyes and see if they can list what’s missing. You can play this game the other way around, with your child removing the items and testing your memory.
This game encourages your child to talk, think, play and solve problems, making it a great way to prepare them for the classroom. Repeating the game regularly will help children build concentration and memory.
4. Make a memory book
• A scrapbook
• Pens, pencils or crayons
• Photographs, magazines and catalogues
• Child-safe scissors
Help your child decorate the cover of their scrapbook and write their name on it. Then help them choose their favourite things – books, toys, pets, people, TV shows – and draw them in the book together.
You can also pick out family photos and things they like from any magazines you have around the house and stick them in together. Encourage your child to keep collecting things they like, such as tickets, photos and drawings, to keep adding to the book. Creating a memory book is a fun indoor activity to do together and also gives you and your child something special to keep. Sparking their imagination, this activity helps your child learn skills they will need when they start school, like reading and drawing, and will give them confidence to choose the things they like. Children love to read about things they have done or about people who are important to them, so making a memory book is a great way to help build your child’s self-esteem and confidence, while also helping develop their sense of identity.
5. Out and about
Next time you’re out with your child – whether you’re going for a walk in the park, taking a car journey or heading to the supermarket – use it as an opportunity to chat with your child about the things they see and practise their counting skills at the same time. Decide something to look out for, then see who can spot the most.
• How many red cars can you see?
• How many traffic lights are there?
• How many dogs can you spot?
• How many squirrels can you find in the park?
• How many things are in the shopping basket?
This game helps children recognise colours, learn numbers and practise their counting. It also helps your child pay attention to their surroundings – a particularly useful skill for school!
6. Sharing stories
Try to find time each day to look at a book or share a story with your child.
Ask your child to tell you about their favourite story. Then sit down together during a quiet time and read it together. As you go, pause to ask them questions about the story. Try asking:
• “What’s just happened?”
• “How does this part make you feel?”
• “What do you think happens next?”
Remember that children like hearing their favourite stories again and again!
By sharing stories together, you are building strong associations that will help with your child’s learning. Reading with your child will also help them learn to talk and read, which will help them do well at school.
Here are three of our favourite books to share together:
• We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
• Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and illustrated by Patrick Benson
• I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child
You can let us know what your favourite activities are by using #smalltalking on social media.