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Starting Primary School: Striving For Independence

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Striving For Independence 

Primary school places have now been allocated and so it is an ideal time to begin thinking about the September start. Preparation for a successful transition is very important and it is never too early to begin. So if you have a child starting school in September our Starting School Series is perfect for you and your child!

Independence is an important skill that children can be encouraged to develop from a young age. These skills are key to giving children confidence and thereby helping the settling in process. 4 and 5 years olds often start school without the basic skills needed for independence. There are so many positive ways parents can help just by incorporating small tasks in everyday routines.

Our top 3 tasks for this week to strive for independence are:

  • Dress and undress
  • Put on shoes
  • Put on and fasten up coats

Encouraging independence in these key skills can make life easier for you too! Children who can help get themselves ready in the morning eases the pressure at home. As adults we need to resist the temptation to do these tasks for children to speed them up and focus on the long term goal of encouraging independence. 

It is important to remember that the adult-to-child ratio is much lower in school and therefore when children start school they require a higher level of independence. Children competent in these skills will be at the front of the line ready for playtime rather than in a queue waiting for adult help!

Taking time to teach your child so they can master these skills and therefore gain independence and confidence will help give them a flying start to school.

Our key advice to parents - “Concentrate on getting the basics right the rest will follow.” 

Dressing and Undressing

Dressing and undressing requires coordination, sequencing and movement which has implications for children with developmental disorders. Small, achievable targets with modifications need to be appropriately planned for the stage each child is at.

Children in nursery have no reason to dress/undress other than shoes and coats so PE sessions present a new challenge. In the first term at school on PE days it is common place for children to be seen with their trousers on back to front, inside out or even wearing the wrong trousers completely! Practising dressing and undressing will help your child with the daily routine. 

When undressing it is good training for being in a busy classroom if children keep their clothes altogether, this can be encouraged by placing a basket on the floor, using a chair to place clothes on or assigning a space like a rug. Sequencing clothes in the order they are going to be put on helps children when getting dressed. The dressing download activity sheet is ideal for this. 

Show your child tell-tale signs of front and back, teach them tricks such as holding cuffs to stop sleeves riding up, and wrinkling tights to put toes in first.

Carefully selected clothing encourages children to become independent when dressing and undressing. Choose items with minimum fastenings, adjustable elastic waistbands in trousers and skirts and pull on pinafores. 

If your school has a tie, it is worth investigating if you can purchase a clip-on or elasticated pre-tied version. 

Before your child starts school practise dressing/undressing with school uniform and PE kit. A timer can be used to encourage speed and add a game element. Children who master independent dressing can be challenged to fold clothes too! 

Putting On Shoes

Most parents select shoes with Velcro for little ones starting school which are an ideal choice. The Stamptastic ‘Lacing Wooden Shoe’ is an ideal resource for tying laces so the skill can be practised in isolation first.

We all know the struggle for children trying to get shoes on the correct feet but there’s a simple trick that works every time! Place matching stickers or use a permanent marker pen on the inside rim of each shoe. Encourage your child to place their shoes down so that the stickers/designs are touching each other. A simple half smiley face works so when the shoes are correctly positioned the whole smiley can be seen.  The next stage being to stand directly behind their shoes and then step in each foot. 

Put On and Fasten Up Coats

Foundation Stage 2 children spend a good part of their school day outside, some classrooms will be laid out as free flow so it is important children are suitably equipped and can independently get their coat on and off. School uniform policies usually specify the type of coats they allow children to wear. However, a warm waterproof coat with a decent hood is a good investment. Avoid coats with inner fleeces as they are tricky for little ones to negotiate linings. 

Fastenings present challenges to little fingers and are better practised separately where children can focus upon the mechanics of the task. The specially designed Stamptastic ‘Pencil Case: Fasten it, Zip it, Button it, Rip it’ is an ideal introduction to practising fastenings buttons, Velcro and zips before they access these tricky fastenings on their own clothing.  

Top tips 

  • Praise EVERY success along the way
  • Actively model ALL the skills you are encouraging
  • Build skills into daily routine
  • Allow plenty of time for practise
  • Make it FUN
  • Label, label, label absolutely everything with name stamp and name tags!

Look out for our next blog on Independence which focus on the skills needed for self-care.

We look forward to taking you on this journey to support your child develop the necessary skills to feel smart and confident from day one at BIG school.

Click here for FREE Starting School Downloadable Resources!

Starting School Free Resources


Other blog posts you may find useful:

Everything You Need To Know About School Uniform For Back To School

Starting School: The Top Ten School Uniform Tips

Starting School: The Back To School Uniform Checklist

Stamptastic: The Ultimate Parent Hack

Starting Primary School: Introduction

Stamptastic Starting School Series: Meet The Experts

Starting School Top Tips

You may be interested to know that we have a fantastic Facebook Group where we broadcast live Q&A sessions regularly!

Starting School Facebook Group



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