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Starting school is exciting for young children and parents. It can also be a bit emotional! Most kids will settle into school easily enough, but most mums and dads will tell you that’s normal to feel a bit nervous about sending your “baby” into P1.

We’ve got some top tips from mums and dads for some fun games you can play these holidays so you can both look forward to starting school. If your child is anxious about the thought of going to school, our page on helping your child with worries about primary school has more tips.

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Play school!

Game #1: Play school!

Image of a child drawing on paper with colouring pencils.

Playing is one way children deal with stress and change in their lives. When children play, they are working out what they think about different situations and how to respond to them. So if they’re feeling nervous about starting school, letting them explore these feelings through play is a great way to help them adjust to the idea. So get your child's favourite toys and play schools together. You can do things like helping them check their toys in to class, reading stories, counting things together, and colouring in. This will help them get used to the kinds of things they’ll be doing at school, in a fun, safe environment.


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Game #2: Follow the leader

Playing games like “Simon Says” can help them get used to following instructions. To play, you give them simple commands, starting with the words “Simon says”: “Simon says pat your tummy,” “Simon says sit down,” Simon says jump up and down,” and so on. If the instruction doesn’t start with “Simon says”, anyone who still follows the instruction is out. You can also switch the game around so they give you the “Simon Says” instructions, to get them used to taking the lead.

You can also get them to help you in the kitchen. When you give them instructions, ask them questions like “what would happen if we added salt instead of sugar?” to help them understand why it’s important to do what they’re asked to.

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Game #3: Ready, steady, get dressed!

Image of a child standing in front of trees, smiling at the camera.

Let your child dress themselves as much as possible. You could even get them to “help” you with dressing so they can get more confident with fiddly things like doing up your coat buttons.

Get them to try on their school uniform and wear it around the house so they can get used to getting it on or off. School uniform can seem a bit uncomfortable and stiff compared to every day clothes like leggings and T-shirts, so this will also help them feel more comfortable in it when they start school. And it’ll avoid any unpleasant surprises on the first day, like discovering they’ve grown out of their shoes!

A fun way to teach them to get their coat on by themselves – put your child’s coat upside down on the floor or a table in front them. Then they put their hands in the armholes and flip their coat over their head. 

You can find more information about helping your child get dressed on the NHSGGC website.

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Game #3: Bye bye germs

Image of a child smiling and waving at the camera with a hand covered in paint.

By now your child is probably a hand washing expert. But if you’re concerned about them keeping up their hand washing at school, a fun way to teach them about germs (and why it’s important to wash them off!) is to let your child cover their hands in paint. Then give them water and soap and show them what it takes to scrub all of that off. Singing a song or nursery rhyme while they’re washing their hands also helps them realise how long it should take. There’s even a fun online game here to help them with this, called Soap-A-Sheep!

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Game #4: A-TISSUE

Image of a mum holding a tissue to a child's nose.

Get them into the habit of catching their sneezes by playing “catch it, bin it, kill it”. Get them to catch their sneeze or runny nose with a tissue, put it in the bin straight away, and then wash their hands to kill the germs.

Some kids find blowing their nose difficult. A fun game you can try to help them get the hang of it is to blow a feather in the air.

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Game #5: Play dates!

A great way to get them feeling ready for school is to organise play dates with other children who’ll be going to their new school. It could be friends they already know, or even those they don’t. On play dates, try to notice when your child is doing things like sharing nicely and tell them that you like seeing them share. It’s a good way to keep them having fun with their friends and keep them happy in the classroom.

Don’t worry if you don’t know anyone though – kids are great at making friends. Teaching them to say something like “Can I play?” can be all it takes to help them make friends for life.

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Game #6: Pencil power

One thing that will really help them when they start school is being able to hold a pencil near the point with their thumb and fingers. Doing puzzles like dot-to-dots and mazes is great for helping them learn to hold and control a pencil.

This video from NHSGGC has more tips for helping your child to use a pencil.

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Game #7: Shaping up

When your child is drawing, encourage them to create different shapes like straight lines, circles, squares and triangles – this will really help them when they start learning to write in school.

This video from NHSGGC has lots of tips for ways you can make practising shapes fun.

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