Helping your preschool-aged child prepare for the big leap from home to school can be an exciting but stressful time for many families. Starting school isn’t what it used to be, when children would ‘show up’ on the first day with little to no background knowledge or skills. Add to this the increasing competition surrounding education and the conflicting opinions outlaid through online chat groups; and parents are left wondering what on earth they’re meant to do to ensure their child will start school with confidence.
How can parents assist children in the lead up to starting school?
Parents can help their children prepare for formal schooling in a few simple ways: Developing daily routines really helps, as does encouraging independent behaviour in children.
Some simple daily actions for your child could include:
- Waking up at a certain time, while still leaving plenty of time to get ready in the morning
- Eating a healthy breakfast, to ensure they have the energy they need to learn and concentrate
- Eating breakfast without the distraction of technology
- Completing activities as independently as possible, in the same order each day (see ‘Morning routine’ template below)
To help alleviate anxiety and fear of the unknown, visit the school beforehand and talk positively about all the fun things that will happen at school.
Are there any skills that children should master before they start school?
Before children start school, parents should encourage their child’s independence by helping them master the following skills:
- Managing the toilet on their own, as well as their personal hygiene
- Learning to dress themselves and put on their own shoes
- Carrying their own school bag (simple but necessary!)
- Learning how to recognise and take care of their personal belongings (which all need to be labelled)
- Learning how to open containers, unscrew lids and unwrap a sandwich
What’s the best way for parents to stay involved in their child’s school life?
The best thing parents can do for their children is simply taking an interest in their child’s school day, talking positively about their efforts and looking at their schoolwork. Children are often very tired at the end of the school day, so patience will be required. Prompting questions may include “How was your day?”; “What was the best thing that happened today?”; and “What was one thing that you learnt today?”. These simple questions can help to release the information and experiences that your child has stored throughout the day. When parents are involved in their child’s education, it gives children the best start to their learning journey. Meeting your child’s teacher/s and keeping the school informed of any changes that may be affecting your child, helps tremendously. Making sure all children’s’ belongings are clearly labelled helps children keep track of their own things when at school!
The first year of a child’s schooling is an important one!
Children join kindergarten classes, their first formal year of schooling, with a variety of different preschool experiences, reading levels and abilities. It’s important that their first experiences at school are happy and fun; and that they feel safe, secure and welcome. Parents can help by reading daily with their child, practising the skills learnt at school and responding positively to all progress.