Starting school is a significant milestone in most children’s lives. As a parent, you want to do everything in your power to help your child succeed.

But what are the best things you can do to prepare them for school? Here are five essential skills every child should learn before starting school.

essential skills before school

Dressing and Undressing

As a four-year-old, I remember being bemused when a fellow pupil stripped off completely naked whilst getting undressed for PE.

As a child, it was funny and confusing. However, as an adult, I can appreciate that being told to get changed probably largely involved taking everything off.

Teaching our children to dress and undress, explaining that getting changed for PE means leaving underwear on, could save embarrassment for your child and others.

It will also increase the length of a sports lesson. Even just zipping and unzipping a coat can be challenging, so lots of practice with buttons, zips, and other fastenings are vital, too.

Eating and Drinking

It is natural as a parent to want to help our children as much as possible by cutting up their food and even spooning in the last mouthfuls of peas from their plate.

However, despite the good intentions, we may actually be setting them up to fail.

Not being able to demonstrate a level of independence in the dining hall could mean over-reliance on adults or even an inability to eat most of their lunch before their friends go out to enjoy the lunch break.

Being able to open packets and twist lids will support them to develop their eating and drinking skills, making mealtimes at home much easier, too.


Demonstrating kindness and empathy for others is a skill that many people lack, whatever their age.

However, being a positive role model in this respect and showing your child that everyone has feelings will stand them in good stead.

Helping someone up when they have fallen on the playground or taking a child to the teacher when they are feeling sad are both fitting examples of how a young child can show kindness to others at school.

Many storybooks are based in schools and cover situations like this, which would be useful to read to and discuss with your child.


Turn-taking is something that most children find incredibly difficult, but we all know how important this is, whatever our age. Parent and child or toddler groups are wonderful places to practice this, especially in a formal setup such as music or Baby Sign classes.

Sharing is another crucial element of cooperation, ensuring that children are able to work well with others, which is an expectation once they begin school and an ongoing skill necessary for life.

Basic English and Maths

Just being able to recognize their own name and numbers 1 to 5 can make a dramatic difference to the start children make at school.

Even before they see and know their own name, children become used to environmental print and recognize that words have meanings, such as the McDonald’s logo or a ladies’ toilets sign.

While your child’s class team will work on developing their academic skills, giving them a good foundation will be useful.

ready for school

Although some skills are more important than others, these five essential skills should be mastered before a child starts school.

If you’re not sure where to start, try using one of the many resources available to help parents foster their children’s abilities in these key areas.

With a little effort and plenty of love, your child will be ready for whatever comes their way at school. What skill do you think is most important for kids to learn before starting school?

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