Poor parenting leaves half of children unprepared for school and unable to even hold a pencil, research shows.
Some 48 per cent of four and five-year-olds starting school have the motor skills of a baby, according to neuro-psychologist Sally Goddard Blythe.
This is because busy or neglectful parents have failed to sing lullabies and play games with them.
Parents also fail to read their children fairy tales which are key to teaching moral behaviour and empathy, Goddard Blythe found while researching a book.
It is widely acknowledged that children who start behind at primary school continue to suffer throughout their education.
And Goddard Blythe, director of the Institute of Neuro-Physiological Psychology, said the problem was increasing: "It's alarming to see the proportion of children with immature motor skills when they start school, regardless of intelligence.
"We are seeing a profile of children with these types of problems, of which some come from very busy parents who don't have time to teach children basic skills such as using a knife and fork and dressing themselves.
They think it's quicker to do it themselves.
"We need to remind people that children have biological needs as well as social and cultural needs.
"Biological needs begin with physical development."
Blythe conducted a study of 64 children at a primary school in Northumberland.