The Most Important Skills Your Child Needs for School

This blog is part of an exciting Aussie Back to School Blog Hop. Check out the amazing articles written by bloggers and professionals listed at the end of this post. 

There's a plethora of information out there that can overwhelm parents in preparing their child for school. After working with young children for many years I have seen a common thread of issues that tend to get neglected.

Here are the top three skills our children need to start to school (and Kinder!)

1. Tools for Anxiety including Separation Anxiety

I've developed my very own tip sheet after years of supporting families and schools with this issue. Have a read of it here.

Dr Kaylene Henderson has some great articles which I love. Read about separation anxiety disorder in childhood and managing your child's separation anxiety

I've also written a blog post with strategies for anxiety. It lists ways we can reduce anxiety as a family through helpful responses & conversations.

2. Social Skills

Social Skills is a very broad term. Children need help to develop friendship skills so they can develop positive connections and friendships with their peers and others. Keep in mind, at a young age children they need support & opportunities to develop these skills - practice, practice, practice! 

Michael Grose has 12 tips that can help your kids with social skills and making friends. 

1. Ability to share possessions and space

2. Keeping confidences and secrets

3. Offering to help

4. Accepting other’s mistakes

5. Being positive and enthusiastic

6. Starting a conversation

7. Winning and losing well

8. Listening to others

9. Starting and maintaining a conversation

10. Ignoring someone who is annoying you

11. Cooperating with others

12. Giving and receiving compliments

Children also need to develop skills around - 

* Listening when others say no

* Asking permission to do things in other people's space e.g. giving a hug, playing ball close by

* Interpreting non-verbal cues from others 

* Learning and being aware of social rules 

* Using their words to communicate feelings 

3. Skills for Emotional and Sensory Regulation

One of the most important skills our children need is to regulate themselves. 


Our bodies are constantly having to interpret, filter and process sensory information. Not only does this involve our vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell - but it also involves our body awareness, balance and motion, and our ability to plan and execute tasks. That is a lot for small bodies to be doing all of the time! 

Movement helps to switch on our processing so we can function at optimal levels. Provide opportunities and encourage your child to move in ways that allow them to switch on their sensory system. This will help them to be more alert and focussed. What works for each child is different based on their sensory system and preferences -  so tackle it with a problem solving approach of trial and error.  Put regular strategies into your daily routine to make it easy for family life. 

Also, notice how your child holds their body. This can impact how we can process, focus, and our energy levels. 

Support and encourage your child to sit and stand with good posture so their sensory system is "switched on". This will help with their body processing information and academic learning.  Often kids who struggle with this might have poor muscle tone or endurance. Engage them in activities to build gross and fine motor skills through as many fun play activities, particularly activities that they love doing.  Don't hesitate to seek professional help if you have concerns. Early intervention is crucial for better outcomes sooner! 


Helping our kids to develop their awareness and language around emotions is essential to their wellbeing. Get your child to "tune into their body" and recognise what it feels like to be sad, happy, confused etc. Provide them with observations to assist them in their learning e.g. you look sad as your face is frowning and your arms are crossed. 

Get your child to use words and help them to expand their vocabulary around their feelings. e.g. I feel sad when I have to go to school and be away from you. Express your own feelings throughout the day.  Get them to express feelings in a variety of settings and develop confidence to do this. e.g. with family, with their peers, in different social situations. 

Acknowledge your child's feelings.  This is soooo important as it creates positive connections with your child and a listening, non-judgemental space. Don't try and fix or change feelings too soon. Be more reflective than focussed on changing feelings. Let kids develop insight and awareness around this at their own pace and time. 

Give kids specific ideas so when they do feel sad, angry, upset, alone - there is strategy or tool they can use to be aware, regulate and even shift feelings.  e.g. Talk to a friend, tell a teacher, get a cuddle, have a cry, shake it off, dance it out, draw a picture about how you feel, hold a calming fidget tool.  Remind your child of the things they can do that brings comfort. 

Discuss and remind them of how they have coped with these feelings or situations in the past, and focus on how they "got through it" to develop resilience. e.g. last time when you were sad we had big cuddles, had some quiet time and we got through it! 

All the best with your school start for 2017!!! Remember parents - you can get through this even though its often an emotional and challenging time! Good Luck and I hope this article has been helpful. I'd love to hear your comments below. 

Happy Day! 

- Rachelle 

Please follow me on instagram for more tips and inspiration. 

2017 Aussie Back to School Blog Hop Links!

Teachers Please Don’t! | Your Kids OT

Advice For First Time School Mums From Seasoned Mums and Teachers | The Multitasking Woman

10 simple ways to make school lunches more fun  | Kidgredients

Teacher Types Top Tips for Going Back to School | Teacher Types

Maintaining a Play Filled Routine throughout the School Term  | Kids Play Space

5 Must Have Items for Starting Day Care | My Bored Toddler

Handling Crunch and Sip with Fussy Kids  | Play With Food

How to share your child’s special needs with their new teacher  | My Home Truths

16 things the school holidays have taught me  | Eenie Meenie Miney Mum

101 Sandwich Filling Ideas for Kids  | Create Bake Make

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  • Some great tips here! It really is important to remember the sensory side to each child’s profile! (Which can be so different for every individual!) – After all, it’s really hard work for kids to focus and attend all day everyday at school! Thanks for your ideas!

    • Anna @ Kids Play Space
  • As a special needs parent I heartily agree with all three suggestions here Rachelle. I’ve had to work hard with my two eldest spectrum kids to develop these skills as they don’t always come naturally. Anxiety, social skills and self-regulation are not easy to teach or learn so getting in early to develop these is definitely a bonus!

    • Kirsty @ My Home Truths
  • Such a great post and fantastic tips considering I have twins starting school this year. I’d never thought of the sensory side of things!

    • Liv @ eeniemeeniemineymum
  • Great post!

    • Lauren
  • Often the social/emotional/sensory side of things are forgotten in the preparation for going back to school. Great tips here for looking at these aspects of the child. I agree that empathy is so important as well as helping children to self regulate- figuring out what helps them!

    • CIndy@YKOT