Preparing for Junior Infants

Fáilte romhat agus roimh do pháiste.

Starting school will be the first big change in the life of your child. Up to this he/she has felt safe and secure with you in the home and family but now he/she is facing the wider world of classroom and school. This may seem a big step for someone so small, but most children manage it without any great fuss or stress and are ready to make the transition.

It is important for parents and teachers to take special care to ensure that the transition from home to school is as smooth as possible. If the child’s first experience is one of happy involvement, a very good foundation will have been laid for fruitful school years ahead.

It is important too, particularly during the first year that parents understand what the aims of the school are, as many may be expecting too much in the way of academic achievement.

Positive Behaviour

Our Positive Behaviour policy is delivered through the Golden Rules with the emphasis on do rather than don’t

  • Do Be Gentle (don’t hurt anyone)
  • Do Be Kind and Helpful (don’t hurt people’s feelings)
  • Do Listen (don’t interrupt)
  • Do Work Hard (don’t waste yours or other’s time)
  • Do Be Honest (don’t cover up the truth)
  • Do Look After Property (don’t waste or damage things)

Other Areas of the Curriculum

The child in Junior Infants learns a lot through many other activities, which do not need any elaboration here. His/her general development is enhanced through Art & Craft, P.E., Music, Nature and Ethical education.
As an equality-based school, we do not teach the doctrine of any faith. Knowledge of, appreciation of and respect for all belief systems, all religions and none, are fostered. This does not in any way conflict with denominational Religious Instruction but complements it. Denominational Instruction is organised by groups of parents for after-school hours if they so wish.

Our moral and ethical education is delivered through the Learn Together Programme. This programme was written and published by Educate Together and is taught in all Educate Together Schools.

The programme is divided into four strands;

  1. Moral and Spiritual Development
  2. Justice and Equality
  3. Ethics and the Environment
  4. Belief Systems

We know from experience that parents are always looking for ways to help their child as they begin Junior Infants, so we have put together this little booklet as a general guide for parents. It deals briefly with the period before your child comes to school and her introductory stage in Junior Infants.
We have included some ideas for the home, which should stimulate the child’s interest and nurture his/her desire to know more.

We trust you will find it helpful and that your child will be happy and fulfilled with us.

Getting Ready for Learning

Children are natural learners. They have an inbuilt curiosity and an eagerness to know more about everything, about themselves, about others and about the world around them. And they learn fast – but only when they are ready, and their interest is aroused.

Because they come to us so young, we must guard against putting pressure on them to learn what they are not yet ready for. At the same time, we must cultivate readiness so that they can get moving as soon as possible. The rates of progress of children can vary greatly. We try to give them an opportunity to move ahead at their own pace or as near to it as possible.

Our first year in school therefore, is mainly about settling in, relating to others, making friends, feeling happy and gradually getting used to the routine of the school. On the learning side the emphasis is on getting children ready for learning by:

  • Developing their oral language and expression.
  • Sharpening their senses, especially seeing, hearing and touching.
  • Developing physical co-ordination especially of hand and fingers.
  • Extending their concentration span and getting them to listen attentively.
  • Learning through play – the most enjoyable and effective way.
  • Co-operating with the teacher and other children. Performing tasks by themselves.
  • Working with others and sharing with them. Getting each child to accept the general order, which is necessary for the class to work well.


Getting Ready for Writing

Making letters on paper is not easy for the small child. He/she must learn to hold the pencil properly and make regular shapes. His/her hand and finger muscles are only gradually developing at this stage.

You Can Help…

He/she must develop the ability to get the hand and eye working together. This is very important. Encourage him/her to manipulate toys like:

  • Jigsaws, Lego, beads to thread etc.
  • Play dough to make his/her own shapes
  • Using a colouring book and thick crayons
  • Sheets of paper that she can cut up with a safe scissors

When he/she begins to use a pencil make sure that he/she holds it correctly at the start. It will be difficult to change this later.
He/she may be making block letters at home even be- fore he/she comes to school. This is fine. But when he/she starts making lower case letters at school you should try to encourage him/her to discontinue the blocks and practice his/her new system instead.

Don’t discourage left-handedness. If that is his/her definite natural inclination, don’t attempt to change him/her.


All children enjoy learning another language besides their own language. They have no difficulty in picking it up because it fascinates them as another code of communication.

They are free of any hang-ups about Irish unless they become aware that the home attitude towards it is not good. So please be careful that anything you say does not give a negative attitude to your child.

We would want their parents to give every encouragement and help to the small ones in their efforts to acquire Irish. If they learn new words in school encourage them to use them at home. Use little Irish phrases or words now and again. Children are delighted to find out that their parents are into their new code as well. If they must learn Irish, let them enjoy it and master it to the best of their ability.

Before Your Child Starts…

You should ensure that he/she is as independent as possible- physically, emotionally and socially. If he/she can look after him/herself in these areas he/she will feel secure and confident and settle in readily.

It would help greatly if he/she is able to;

  • button and unbutton his/her coat and hang it up
  • use the toilet without help and manage pants buttons/zippers
  • open and close lunch bag/school bag

Also encourage personal hygiene and cleanliness. Your child should know to:

  • flush the toilet and wash his/her hands, without having to be told
  • use a hanky when necessary.
  • Share toys and playthings with others and take turns
  • tidy up and put away his/her playthings

Preparing for the ‘Big Day’

The child’s first day at school is a day to remember for the rest of his/her life. You can help to make it a really happy one!
Tell your child about school beforehand, casually, and talk about it as a happy place where there will be a big welcome for him/her and he/she will meet new friends.
Don’t use school or the teacher as a threat. “If you behave like that for teacher she’ll be cross with you!” though said light-heartedly can make some children very apprehensive.
Your child’s books will be taken from him/her on the first day of school and the teacher will store them in the classroom until they are needed. Please tell your child this, some children become concerned that they might not see the books again!

The Big Day

Coming in…

When you arrive at the classroom, be as casual as you can. Your child will meet the teacher and the other children and will be shown where to sit.

Hopefully he/she will be absorbed in his new surroundings. So, having assured him you will be back to collect him, wish him goodbye and make your getaway without delay

Maths is really part of the language he uses in understanding and talking about certain things in his daily experience e.g.
He/she associates certain numbers with particular things – two hands, four wheels, five fingers etc.
Counting – one, two, three, four, etc. Colours – black, white, red, green, etc.
Prepositions (telling position) and their opposites: over/under, before/after, inside/outside etc.
Matching/Sorting – objects of the same size/colour/texture/shape etc.
Odd One Out – difference in size/colour etc.
Understanding of these concepts comes very quickly for some children. For others it takes a long time. Be patient. You cannot force Maths understanding on a child.

But You Can Help…

In the course of your ordinary daily routine in the home, in the shop, in the neighbourhood you should use suitable opportunities to casually introduce the Maths vocabulary referred to above. e.g. How many cakes? The glass is full/empty. We turn left at the lights.

The child gets to understand Maths best by handling and investigating and using real objects. This has been his/her natural method of learning since he was a baby. This at times can be a nuisance but if it allows his/her to do the learning him/herself the result is well worth it.
something to be enjoyed. It should never start as a chore for the small child.

You can help…

Have attractive colourful books in the home.
Read him/her a variety of stories from time to time. He/she will get to associate these wonderful tales with books and reading.
You must convey to her gradually that books are precious things. They must be minded and handled carefully and put away safely.
Look at the pictures with him/her and talk to him/her about what they say.
Read him/her nursery rhymes. He/she will learn them naturally.
Above all, don’t push him/her with her early reading. You may turn him/her against it for evermore.
Remember that the teacher is the best judge of what rate of progress is best suited to each child.
Sing the alphabet song with your child, so that he/she has at least heard of the letters. If he/she knows what each one looks like, all the better.

Understanding Maths

First a Word of Warning!
Maths for the small child has nothing to do with sums or figures or tables or adding and subtracting. These will all come later.

Packed Lunches

Lunch is an important meal for school going children. It should provide one third of their recommended daily allowance of nutrients without being high in fat, sugar or salt. It should also provide dietary fibre.
lThe traditional packed lunch of milk and sandwiches is under attack from a range of convenience foods like crisps, sweets, biscuits, chocolate and soft drinks. We ask you to encourage a healthy lunch right from the start. Also, please, only give your child something you feel he/she can easily manage to eat. Children are not normally very hungry at school, so a little snack will do.

On Fridays, children can bring one small treat in their lunchbox.

A Word about Milk
Growing children should get approximately one pint of milk a day, or its equivalent as cheese, yoghurt or milk pudding. This ensures that they get enough calcium, which is essential for healthy bones and teeth. If a child does not drink a carton of milk at lunch, encourage him or her to have a carton of yoghurt or a small helping of cheese instead.

A Typical Day in Junior Infants

Please note – this is a sample. Our school day may differ from these times.

8.30 School begins with reception time for socialization
8.45 Teaching and Learning
10.00 Break Time and outdoor play
10.20 Teaching and learning
12.00 Eating time and outdoor play
12.35 Teaching and learning
1.10 School ends.

The First Weeks

To ease the child into the school routine we have a policy where Junior Infants go home early for the first two weeks.
During the third week they go home a little later, and then after that they go home at 1.10p.m. More details will be provided to you in due course.

Going Home

Be sure to collect your child on time. Children can become very upset if they feel they are forgotten.
If at any time the collecting routine must be changed ensure you tell the child and the teacher.

You Can Help…
Talk to your child naturally and casually about things of interest that you or he may be doing-at home, in the shop, in the car, etc. Remember that all the time he/she is absorbing the language heard about them.

It takes him a while to make it his/her own and to use it for his/her own needs.

Try to make time to listen when he/she wants to tell you something that is important to him. But don’t always make him/her the centre of attention.
Answer his/her genuine questions with patience and in an adequate way. Always nurture his/her sense of curiosity and wonder. Introduce him/her gently to the ideas of why? How? When? Where? If? etc. These demand more advanced language structures.
He/she will have his/her own favourite stories that he/she never tires of hearing. Repeat them over and over again and gradually get him/her to tell them to you.

First Steps in Reading

Ability to read is the foundation for all future progress in our school system. However, learning to read is a gradual process and a lot of preparatory work must be done before a child is introduced to his first reader. We very deliberately do not rush or push children into reading. We get them ready for it over an extended period. Reading is
Developing command of the spoken language
It is important that the child’s ability to talk is as advanced as possible. It is through speech that he/she communicates his/her thoughts and feelings, his/her needs and desires, curiosity and wonder. If he/she cannot express these in words he/she will tend to remain silent and will often withdraw from the learning activity of the class. This can be the first sign of failure in the school system and must be remedied, if at all possible. That is why a lot of attention is given to language development in the first years of school.

Handling the Upset Child

Despite the best efforts of both teacher and parents a small number of children will still become upset. If your child happens to be one of them don’t panic. Patience and perseverance can work wonders.

A Word of Advice
Trust the teacher. He/she is experienced and resourceful and is used to coping with all kinds of starting – off problems.
Try not to show any outward signs of your own distress. Sometimes the parents are more upset than the child and are the main cause of his/her anxiety.

When you have reassured him/her, leave as fast as possible. The teacher can distract and humour him/her more easily when you are not around.
If your child is very distressed, we will call you to let you know when he/she settles.

You must be firm from the start. Even if a child is upset you must insist that he/she stay for a short time-even ten minutes. He/she must never feel that he/she is winning the psychological battle of wills.

Children need plenty of rest after the effort and excitement of a day at school. You should ensure that she gets to bed early and has a good night’s sleep. Please don’t allow your child to watch television be- fore school -we find that the children find it very hard to concentrate on the teacher if they have spent the early morning watching cartoons.
When he/she has settled in and hopefully, looks upon school as a “home from home” do continue to show interest in her daily adventures. Give her an ear if she wants to tell you things-but don’t pester her with questions.
Mind that you take some of her “stories” with a pinch of salt!

Children often forget or relay messages incorrectly, so please, check your child’s bag each night for notes.

Some Important Areas of Early Learning


The children in Junior Infants love to play!!! The Aistear Curriculum Framework is in place in all Irish schools. It is a framework that enhances children’s learning in literacy and numeracy as well as emotionally and socially, through the medium of planned and structured, yet creative, play.
It provides the children with opportunities to engage in a variety of types of play like;

  • Creative play
  • Language play,
  • Exploratory play
  • Constructive play
  • Pretend play
  • Small world play

The children experience Aistear through different themes, such as the restaurant, the doctor’s surgery, the post office, the airport…and others. To begin, the children plan their plan in their groups for a few minutes. Next the children play in their groups with support from the class teacher and the SNA. Finally, the children review what they have created or played with.
We will be asking parents to send in your unwanted toys to create our Aistear area. So, if you are doing a clear out, please keep us in mind!