Children start learning the moment they come into this world. All children develop and acquire new skills at different rates. With the pressure of school applications, parents may focus on cognitive skills such as reading and numeracy as well as fine motor skills including writing and cutting. In so doing, little attention is paid to the ‘cornerstone skills of learning’ which are especially important in a group or school environment.

These are skills, which we call ‘learning-to-learn’ skills and influence how well a child can attend, engage and focus in the process of learning. In order to maximise the learning experience, a child needs to develop these skills, which include the ability to wait, sit and engage with the teacher, follow direct or group instructions, and complete routines.

Before addressing any behaviours we should always eliminate any physical or emotional concerns that may be affecting the child’s performance e.g. hearing and vision should be tested, is the child in good health, sleeping and eating is as normal and there are no issues at home such as a new baby, divorce, moving home etc. If you are worried about any of these then a good place to start is with your doctor or you can contact the CDC and ask to speak to a teacher or therapist.



Some children find waiting difficult. When they do not get a desired item or activity immediately they may engage in negative behaviours. Learning to wait is a crucial skill for any child to succeed at school and to develop good relationships with their peers.

In order to encourage children to wait, parents should always be clear about their expectation and be consistent. One of the simplest ways to teach this skill is to tell your child it is time to wait and specify the amount of wait time. Start with a short interval by counting down from 5. Then gradually extend the time your child has to wait, always praise ‘good waiting’.



Children who find it difficult to sit still may exhibit poor attention, difficulty finishing tasks and difficulty finishing every day activities. These children can also be distracting to those around them. Difficulty in sitting still can sometimes be the result of weak muscles. Children need a strong core for support and postural stability otherwise they can become tired and fidgety.

In order to develop a strong core, children should exercise and partake in activities such as any type of action that pushes or pulls against the body. For example, bouncing on a trampoline, doing chores at home, swinging, pushing oneself on a scooter board, bean bag throws, wheelbarrow walks or carrying something heavy.



Children need to be able to attend to the teacher and listen and respond appropriately. Preschool children are frequently expected to participate in a twenty-minute circle time, where they will learn the days of the week, practise phonics and early maths, sing songs etc.

In order to encourage children to attend, children can practise their attention skills by playing activities and games that require attention and listening skills, e.g. Simon Says, Winking Witch, Musical Statues, Follow the Leader and Pass the Claps.


Following instructions

It is important for children to be able to follow instructions so that they can function and complete tasks effectively across different environments and within a reasonable time.

In order to encourage children to follow instructions, parents can try to get a child’s attention before giving them an instruction. To a child who needs support in following instructions, parents can try giving one instruction at a time and keep language simple and clear. To help a child know what order they need to complete the command, parents can use ‘First/Then’ to help with comprehension and recall of the instruction. Tell a child, e.g. “First get your jacket, then put on your shoes.”


For more information, please feel free to contact CDC’s teachers and therapists.