How your child develops in Key Stage 1

Children running energetically
What changes can you expect to see in your child in Years 1 and 2?
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Fun-loving, noisy and active: three words that sum up your Key Stage 1 child. In Years 1 and 2, your child is finding their feet at school, and is increasingly comfortable with their teachers and the other children in their class. But this stage can also be a challenge for some children, with their natural exuberance making it hard to adapt to a more formal learning style.

What’s going on in there?

Your Year 1 child is:

  • boisterous, enthusiastic and energetic, finding it hard to sit still.
  • very competitive, and wants to be the best at everything they do.
  • likely to cheat or change the rules of games in order to come first.
  • bossy and sometimes unkind to other children.
  • prone to telling fibs, especially to get out of trouble.
  • highly inquisitive, asking lots of questions and learning through discovery and hands-on projects.
  • hungry for new experiences, but likes a stable routine within the school day.
  • likely to worry, complain and grumble that life isn’t fair, and is sometimes melodramatic.

Your Year 2 child is:

  • permanently on the go, and doesn’t like to stay still to eat a meal or do homework.
  • likely to struggle to concentrate at times, and may distract other children when their mind wanders.
  • forming close relationships with adults outside the family, such as their teacher or an activity leader.
  • shying away from physical contact with parents, particularly in the playground.
  • reading and writing with increasing fluency and accuracy.
  • challenged by making choices, wanting everything all at once.
  • likely to tease and tell tales on their friends.
  • prone to blaming you for anything that goes wrong in their life.

Potential pressure points

In Key Stage 1, there’s more emphasis on literacy and numeracy than there was in Reception, and towards the end of year 2, there’s also the pressure of SATs,” says chartered educational psychologist Julia Busch Hansen. “Children can be sensitive about not being in the top group at school, so it’s important to bolster their confidence by pointing out the things that they are good at.”

Throughout Key Stage 1, your child is likely to have to become increasingly independent at school and cope with harder work, more table-top learning and a greater amount of homework. Friendships can also cause tension, with children trying to exert themselves within groups and teasing becoming a problem.

Warning signs to watch out for

Children of this age aren’t always good at articulating their feelings, so look out for signs of pressure such as tearfulness, sleep problems or bedwetting, nervous habits like stuttering or hair-twiddling, clinginess and sudden fears, such as not wanting to be alone in a room. Problems at school sometimes manifest as tummy aches or headaches: both signs of stress.

“It’s important to work closely with your child’s teacher if you’re noticing behavioural changes at home,” says chartered educational psychologist and educational adviser Susan Brooks. “By keeping the lines of communication open, support can be provided where it’s needed at this crucial early stage.”