Moving On To Primary School

Information and activities to help your child to move on to primary school

Click on the sections below for quick access to each area or scroll down the page to see all the content.

Moving On To Primary School

Children in Scotland usually start Primary School when they are between 4½ and 5½ years old.  This can be an exciting time for children and their families.  It can often be overwhelming too.  There are lots of things you can do to help your child with moving on to Primary School.  On this page, you will find lots of ideas and activities you can use.  Starting to think about what your child will need to do when they start primary school will help you too. Make sure you spend time playing with your child to help them develop the skills they need. This video tells you all about the resources on this page and how to use them.  It also has some other tips for teaching your child new skills.

Moving On To School Questionnaire

The Moving On To School questionnaire is for children who are about to start primary school.  It will help you to teach your child and develop the skills they need to take part in school by providing activity ideas and information.

The questionnaire looks at different areas of your child's development including sensory, fine motor, activities of daily living (e.g. dressing and eating), listening, understanding, talking and interacting skills.

Click below to access the questionnaire. 

Don't worry if your child is not meeting all the milestones. The questionnaire will provide you with ideas and activities to help achieve these skills. Further resources are available throughout KIDS.  If you are worried speak to your Health Visitor or nursery staff.



When your child is starting Primary School, think about if they can dress themselves. This will help them be more independent at playtime and with getting changed for PE. Dressing relies on many different skills including coordination and balance.
Learning new tasks can be tricky. With lots of practice, repetition and patience you and your child should see progress. Start practising dressing tasks with your child a few months before they are due to start school. Try and keep the activities fun and short to keep your child interested.

Click here for a downloadable version of the above video

Below are some dressing videos and information sheets that you and your child can use together to help them practice different dressing tasks.  These videos are very simple and show the steps of different tasks clearly and slowly. You can pause them at any time and use them to help you practice together.

Click here for further videos and information sheets on KIDS.

When teaching a new skill we often start at the beginning. This can be challenging for children sometimes as they get frustrated. You can give your child a sense of achievement by using the backward chaining technique. Backward chaining is particularly useful when learning self-care skills like dressing. It can also be helpful when teaching younger children. It is also useful when someone is having difficulty learning new skills.

So what is backward chaining? You start by breaking the task down into small steps. You teach your child the last step first, working backwards from the goal. You complete all the steps except the last one. You get your child to practice the final step. Your child will enjoy the success that comes from completing a task. Once your child can do the last step you complete all the steps except for the last two. You teach your child the second from last step and they then complete the last step themselves. Even more success! Keep going until you are teaching the first step and your child is completing all the other steps.

This is a particularly useful way to teach dressed or undressed. It can also be helpful for teaching any task that has a number of steps.

Click here for more information

Babies love to take their socks off. They can usually manage this by themselves by the time they are 15 months old. 

Putting on socks is a skill that children can often find challenging. It is particularly hard for children who have difficulties using both hands together.

Children learn to take their shoes off first. They can usually pull on wellies, slippers and slip-on shoes by the time they are 2 years old.   

Here is a video from our OT colleagues in NHS Forth Valley for helping children put on their socks.

Click here for more information on socks and shoes.

By 2 years your child should be able to take off their unfastened jacket. Between the ages of 3 and 4, your child should be able to put their jacket on. Although they may not manage zips and buttons.

Here are some tips to help:

  • Practice taking off their jacket first – it’s easier!
  • Start with a jacket that is a bit too big.  Loose-fitting clothing is easier to manage than tight-fitting clothing. Let them practice putting on your jacket. Make it into a game.
  • Your child needs lots of practice putting their arms into sleeves. So practice with shirts, cardigans, pyjama tops, etc.
  • If your child is struggling it can be tempting to take over - don't! Give your child time to work it out for themselves. Give them lots of encouragement and hints if you need to. If needed, talk them through what to do and only step in if they get really stuck. Make sure you have got plenty of time to practice.
  • Instead of correcting a mistake (e.g. twisted collar or hood) why not encourage your child to look in the mirror. Now get them to work out what's wrong. You may need to ask them some questions and give them some hints.
  • There are different ways you can put on your jacket. Try them all to see which way works for your child. Once you have found the way that suits your child share this with other people. Make sure nursery/school staff, grandparents, child minder etc. all help the same way.

Try these to find out what one works for your child:

Zips are usually the first fastenings that children learn to do. Their first zip is usually on their jacket. Children will need help to put the zip together to start with. Children should be able to pull up a zip once the adult has put the pin into the box by the age of 3.

This short video shows one way to start teaching your child to zip. Get them to put the item of clothing on a table in front of them first. Use the backward chaining technique to teach them to do up the zip. Next, get them to put the item of clothing on. This is harder because they can't see what they are doing as easily.

For more information see the Zips Information Sheet.

Buttons are a hard skill to learn. Both hands need to work together but make different movements.

  • Start by teaching unbuttoning first as it is easier.
  • Start with large buttons and work to smaller ones.
  • Make it fun and practice as part of play.  Dressing teddies and dolls. See the Button Information Sheet for ideas.
  • It is easier to practice with the clothes lying flat on a table so your child can see what they are doing.
  • Once they have mastered unbuttoning move on to buttoning. Finally, get your child to put the clothes on and undo and do up the buttons this way.

Below are step by step videos with instructions on how to undo and do up buttons

Buttonholes Positioned Top to Bottom


Buttonholes Positioned Left to Right

Going to the Toilet

Going to the toilet at school is more complicated than going to the toilet at home. Your child needs to be able to:

  • Ask to go to the toilet.
  • Find their way to the toilets.
  • Manage their clothes.
  • Wipe themselves.
  • Wash and dry their hands.
  • Make their way back to the classroom.

They will be supported to do this when they start school.  You can find information about how to develop these skills in KIDS.  If your child is not yet toilet trained speak to your Health Visitor or Nursery Staff for help with this.

Managing Lunch and Snack

Lots of children tell us that their favourite times of the school day are break-time and lunchtime. It is important to think about how your child will manage these parts of school life too. Children are usually encouraged to take a snack for break-time. At lunchtime all Primary 1 children are eligible for a free school meal. Your child might prefer a packed lunch though.

Packed Lunches and Snacks

There are lots of things to think about. Snacks and packed lunches should be healthy. You need to make sure your child can open all the packets and containers to be able to eat and drink. There will be adults around to help but practising at home will boost your child's confidence.

When buying a packed lunch box or bag check your child can open and close it themselves. You might need to show them and practice with them. A zip might be easier but make sure it doesn't unzip all the way round as this can be hard to zip up when they are done.  Remember to show your child how to open and close any other containers you are using too.

Choose a drinks bottle with a sports cap or built-in straw. This will be easier than a twist lid. Avoid drinks cartons or pouches that your child needs to pierce with a straw. These are really tricky to manage without spilling!

Make sure your child can open any packets you give them. Again practice this before they start school. If they find this difficult you can cut off the corner of a packet with scissors. This starts it for them and means they won't need help from an adult.


School Dinners

There are different things to think about when your child has school meals.
  • They will need to be able to make choices.
  • They will need to be able to carry a tray.
  • They might need to use a knife and fork.
Again the key is to practice before your child starts school.  Offer choices at breakfast time. "Would you like toast or cereal?"  Get your child to use a tray to carry things around the house.
Learning to use cutlery is also important.  Your child will need to use a knife and fork to be able to eat some of the meals provided at school.  There will be adults around to help to start with.  Practising at home will help your child to feel confident at school.
Click below for more information using cutlery

Getting Ready to Write

Children learn to write at school but there are lots of things they need to do first.  It is important for them to have strong bodies and arms.  They need to have strong hands and fingers.  They need to be able to make marks and draw.  They need to see letters and words around them.  They need to see you write in every day life.

Before I learn to write I need to:


  Please be aware that playdough (both shop bought and homemade) may contain wheat.  Make sure you use a wheat free alternative if there is a known wheat allergy.














Pencil Grasp

Learning how to hold a pencil is one of the things children need to learn before they learn to write. In nursery and school, children try out lots of different ways to hold a pencil. Most children develop a pencil grasp that is comfortable for them.  Watch this video for more information and ideas on how to help.

Click here for a downloadable version of the above video

A pincer grasp is used to hold a pencil, thread a button through a hole and pick up coins.  Being able to pick up small items between your thumb and index finger is an important stage in the development of hand function.  


Pre-Writing Shapes

Children need to be able to draw the 9 pre-writing shapes. These shapes put together in different ways make up all the letters of the alphabet as well as the numbers.  This video explains what the pre-writing shapes are. It shows you how to help your child practice these shapes.

Click here for a downloadable version of the above video


Being able to use scissors effectively and safely particularly in the earlier years can help children to demonstrate their learning.

Click here for a downloadable version of the above video

The following information sheets are good for additional advice and practice:

Recommended Websites

Please see below for more general information for your child starting school:

Parent Club

Parent Club has some top tips from mums and dads for some fun games you can play in the holidays so you can both look forward to starting school.

Parentzone Scotland

Parentzone Scotland provides information on starting school looking at when your child starts school, how will your school help with the transition and how Parentzone Scotland can help.

Parenting Across Scotland

Parenting Across Scotland provides the top ten tips for parents and families when you or your child is anxious to start school.

They also provide top tips for parents and families for starting school as well as information for parents who have learning disabilities.


KIDS provide some hints, tips and activities to help you and your child get ready for school.

BBC Bitesize

BBC Bitesize has lots of resources for you and your child to watch.