Preparing for Primary 1: Practical Skills

Other than shopping for the necessary items, equipping your child with practical skills is pertinent when preparing for Primary 1. Jump to the relevant section for further tips:

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Drinking Water

According to Harvard Health, drinking water at regular intervals keeps dehydration away. My older daughter’s gastroenterologist asked her to drink about 1.5L to 2L of water per day to move her stools. Even so, I had to keep reminding her to drink water.

Thus, I’m keen to try out this rubberband trick I read. Place a rubber band around the clear water bottle and challenge my older daughter to drink until that band. Then I will gradually move it downwards.

Subsequently, I will put multiple rubber bands at different water levels. Each time she drinks to that level, she can take it off. I’m hoping they will serve as reminders and she will finish at least one 500ml bottle of water on non-PE days. If rubber bands are too movable, I might replace them with labels indicating “by recess time”, etc.

  • Drink until the first band by recess time,
  • Drink until the second band by snack time,
  • Drink until the third band or finish all the water by the end of the day.

I do this because the key is to drink at regular intervals and not all the water in one gulp.

Rubber Band on Water Bottle

Buying Food

It can be daunting for a P1 child to buy food on their own. I sometimes send Grace to buy food at the hawker centre, with me watching out for her. This helps to build confidence in her.

For the first few days of school, recess is likely to be longer and there’s more help going around. Also, a Primary 4 buddy will be paired with your child to guide her along, including how to buy food in the canteen. So it’s a great time for her to try buying.

However, once she has no buddy, we might pack a small sandwich or snack initially. This is to help her get used to the buzz of recess before she gains more confidence to queue and buy food at the canteen by herself.

I took photos of the canteen menu to give Grace an idea of the different types of food available. Spotting her favourite food on the menu would get her a little more excited about school!

The temptation of snacks and sweets is high with unsupervised money in their pocket. Educate your P1 child about healthier food choices so she* won’t spend all their money on snacks. Cultivating this good habit from a young age will help children eat healthier as they grow older.

Act as the canteen vendor and pretend play with your child. This will help build the child’s confidence in ordering food. Meanwhile, teach them to order food politely – with their please and thank yous!

*Because I am writing this article with my daughter in mind, I will use ‘she’ instead of ‘he/she’.

Eating Food

Recess is 30 minutes, and the queues at the canteen can be long. So there’s about 15-20 minutes left to eat.

If you have a slow eater, train her to eat faster and finish the food before recess ends. Better yet, leave some time to play. You can mimic recess by setting a time limit of 20 minutes to eat. In this way, the child can have a feel of how much time she has to eat at recess.

Cleaning Up

Teach your child to clean up after eating — wiping the mess on the table and floor, especially during snack break in class. Thereafter, she either returns the tray or packs her lunchboxes into their bags. And if possible, don’t eat and walk at the same time, leaving a food trail behind.


Count Money

Counting Coins

Along with buying food is the counting of money. The canteen owners should be kind enough to return the correct change to your P1 child. However, counting money is still an important skill to have:

  • Recognise the denomination of the coins (common ones: $0.10, $0.50, $1.00);
  • Know the permutation of coins (e.g. S$0.50 x 2 = $1 or S$0.20+$0.10 = $0.30);
  • Count the money (addition) to give; and
  • Know how much change to take back (subtraction).

Use real coins, as you pretend to play and act as the canteen vendor. Let the child practise how to count the amount to give and how much change to receive.

I took photos of the canteen menu to brief Grace on the different types of food and the price range. It’s also for me to know how much pocket money she needs for each day. Give the P1 child coins instead of big notes until they have a better grasp of counting money.

Good Money Habits

For a start, give them just enough money for the food in a day (S$2 should be sufficient). Do not give the child too much money! Too much money might lead them to spend on snacks or unnecessary stationery from the school bookshop. However, there are cases where students rather starve and save money for these items. Have the child ask you first before buying anything from the bookstore, snack store, or even classmates!

Money Bunny Book Series

Slowly teach the child the concepts of managing money: saving, spending, giving, and as a bonus, investing. The Money Bunny book series is a great start. Discuss how to spend, save and budget for each day.

I learned this great tip from ourlittleplaynest: Label a pillbox from Monday to Friday, and on Sunday night fill up the boxes with S$2 coins for each day. Each night before school, the P1 child would need to remember to take the money. Prepare an emergency fund of S$2 note and hide it in the bag. Tell your child it’s only for emergencies — in cases when the child forgets to take pocket money or the teacher asks them to buy something from the bookshop.

Toilet and Hygiene

Washing Hands

Teach your child the proper hand washing technique and cultivate a good habit of washing their own hands — before and after a meal, after the toilet (especially after poo!), and after class duties. Healthhub has a printable, “8 steps of handwashing“. Paste it at home and get your child to follow the steps.


Your child should know how to go toilet before entering P1 — from wiping the toilet seat cover to taking the toilet paper to tap dry after urine and wiping the butt after poop. Your child may also want to bring flushable wet wipes to wipe the toilet seat cover before using.

Let your child know that it’s okay to ask teachers for permission to go to the toilet and not control her bladder for too long. Ask during pauses in teaching, similar to speaking during pauses in conversation. Put an extra undergarment in the school bag in case of any accidents. Don’t make a big hoo-ha about it and make the child feel embarrassed.

Remind your child to go around the school in twos, especially to the toilet!


Reading Analog Time

Analog Watch

Reading the time of an analog clock is a good skill to have – at least to the hour and to half an hour (e.g. half past six). If the child can read the time, she will know when recess is coming or when the school day is ending. It gives them some predictability and expectations. This skill is not pertinent in Primary 1, so don’t be stressed over it. School bells will ring after every period and at the end of school.

Getting an analog watch helps them to learn to read the clock face. You may also want to get an alarm clock to ring your child awake! 

Packing School Bag

Packing Pencil Case

Do most of the packing the night before to avoid a mad rush in the morning.

Create a packing list with your child. Then with this list, pack the school bag and pencil case with your child in the beginning. Gradually, let go and let her pack on their own, which includes sharpening pencils. This packing “independence” will give them ownership and instil their responsibility.

By packing on their own, the children will also know what items they have in their bags. And to pack in additional items that the teachers sometimes request.

Many advice have said that parents should NOT bring missing items to school. This is for the child to learn the lesson and remember the next time. I hope I will be able to resist helicoptering and let her learn the hard way.  

Taking Care of Own Belongings

Label ALL items. Get your child involved in pasting the name sticker labels or writing his/her name down.

Tell them that they are responsible for all belongings they bring to school. And to always turn to check if they left anything behind before leaving a place. To reduce things left behind, always keep everything immediately after use, especially the stationery.

Hopefully, this will reduce the missing items! Items will still go missing – so manage your expectations and go easy on your child if that happens. 😉 Ask them to check the lost and found corner or let their teachers know.

In Case of Emergencies

Write down your contact number on a piece of paper and slot it in the school bag with your child knowing where. Or have the child memorise the contact number of either or both parents. She can call you by payphone if necessary or at the general office.

That’s about it! Before you go, you might want to check out my other posts about preparing for Primary 1. Leave your comments or questions below. Love to hear from you. 🙂

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