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Getting Ready for School – Encouraging Independence

  • Date published:

  • Author: susieking

Encouraging your child to become confident and independent as much as possible before they start school, will help them to settle in to the new routines comfortably. Even simple tasks like doing up shoes, buttons or opening a packet can be a challenge for young children if they have not developed the skills and coordination. All children learn and develop at different rates and some might take a bit longer to master these skills.


Washing hands and wiping noses are two of the best ways to stop germs spreading in a school setting. Some children will readily wash or clean themselves, others may not.

By making washing hands and nose wiping a fun activity, for example, through songs, children may be more likely to remember to do it.

Watch the video below with your child on how to wash their hands


Encouraging your child to dress and undress themselves supports their independence and can build their confidence. Remember to start small and allow plenty of time.

Bedtime is a good time to practice putting their pyjamas on themselves as it’s usually a quieter time. You can practice putting their school uniform on at any time of the day.

You could try putting on some music while they dress or undress. As they become more confident they may be able to dress and undress within one song (about 3 minutes).

Remember, making it fun is key. Give plenty of praise.

Ideally your child will be able to put on and take off their:

  • school uniform and PE kit
  • socks and shoes
  • coat.

Going to the toilet

Supporting your child to use the toilet by themselves is an exciting new stage in getting ready for school and is key for their independence.

Ideally your child will be able to:

  • go to the toilet by themselves
  • wipe themselves and flush the toilet
  • wash and dry their hands.

Meal times

For many families, school, work schedules and extracurricular activities can make it difficult to find time to eat together. Family meals are important and should be considered part of your daily routine.

Children who eat family meals tend to eat a wider variety of nutritious foods and become less fussy eaters. This can be very important if your child will be having school dinners for the first time.

If your child will be having school dinners, you could practice carrying a tray at home, make this a fun game to play. Before walking with food, start by carrying smaller things on the tray like a notepad or a teddy. When your child feels confident, see if they can carry their lunch from the kitchen to where they eat, using their tray.

Ideally your child will be able to:

  • walk with a tray
  • use a knife and fork
  • pour a drink
  • open packaging.

Teeth cleaning

A regular teeth cleaning routine is essential for good dental health. Children between age 3 and 6 years old should:

  • brush at least twice daily for about 2 minutes
  • brush last thing at night before bed and at least on 1 other occasion
  • use children’s fluoride toothpaste containing no less than 1,000ppm of fluoride (check label) or family toothpaste containing between 1,350ppm and 1,500ppm fluoride
  • use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste
  • spit out after brushing and don’t rinse as the fluoride won’t work as well.

You should supervise your child while they brush their teeth.

Find out more about taking care of your children’s teeth

Make brushing fun with the Brush DJ app on your mobile device