How to ensure your child is school ready
Now that the Summer break is over, the long wait and anticipation for the first day of school has finally arrived. You may be worrying about whether your child is ready for their first day – after all, it feels like only last week that they were babies when all you had to worry about was the crying and feeding.
Yes, this was a much simpler time!
So how does one go about getting their child ready for school? Research by the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY; 2013) has taken a look at what being “school ready” really means – and you might be surprised to hear that reading, writing and maths skills are not top of the list. Just four per cent of the teachers surveyed said these skills were the most crucial when starting school. On the other hand, two-thirds of teachers said “school ready” means that children:
97 per cent of the childcare professionals asked, agree with this, adding that children need to be relatively independent with their personal care (using the toilet, feeding themselves, etc.).
So in this post, we’re offering you some ideas for getting your son or daughter school ready. We’ll also be suggesting a few of the apps and products we’ve tested with children, parents, and child-carers which can make all of this preparation a little bit easier too.
Promoting independence and confidence
Leaving their parents for a whole day can be a big change for children, particularly if they haven’t been to pre-school or nursery. Having a secure attachment with your child will mean that, although there might be a few tears when you leave, your son or daughter will be able to calm themselves down and get on with school.
A secure attachment develops when you are reliable and responsive, giving your child the confidence to explore the world independently with a feeling of stability. Pushing them on the swings, having a cosy reading time before bed or even helping them with a puzzle like this 3 Little Pigs Puzzle kit are all ways in which you can spend quality time with your son or daughter to build this relationship.
Inspiring curiosity and a desire to learn
Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” Children don’t need to know everything before they start school, but they should have the motivation to learn. Many children are naturally inquisitive and will explore through play – a stimulating environment is all they need to be inspired.
A few well-chosen toys and apps can support this. For example, the Varis Stacking Blocks or Sands Alive Castle Set give children materials they can experiment with to construct various models. The Tiny Airport app encourages curiosity with loads of hidden surprises to find.
Developing strong social skills
Your child will suddenly find themselves in a classroom filled with potential playmates, but at this age children are still learning how to get along. Practice at interacting with other children and adults will make it easier for your child to get along in the classroom and make friends who will want to play with them too.
Try taking your child to the playground or local children’s centre or playgroup to meet some new friends, or arrange play dates with children they already know. Simple games like the Petilou Forest Stacker Tower or the board game app Charlie and Lola: I’ve Won! can be played in a group of two or three with little adult support; this teaches children to take turns, share and communicate. Role playing is a brilliant way for children to learn social skills and can be encouraged with props like this Doctor’s Set.
Our article on ‘encouraging meaningful conversations with your child‘ is another helpful piece that looks into a number of ways you can help develop your child’s communication and social skills as well as building a healthy relationship with your child.
Most classes have only one teacher for a class of 30 children and it would take a long time to zip up 30 coats at every break time. The key routines that will help your child in school are:
- Putting their coat and shoes on and off
- Getting changed for P.E.
- Feeding themselves (including using a knife and fork, and/or opening pots in their lunch box)
- Taking themselves to the toilet
Generally, practise makes perfect, so make the most of the next few months to help your child master these skills – you may need to allow more time for these routines, but it will pay off. Many self-care routines (e.g. doing up buttons, holding cutlery) require hand coordination and grip (known as fine motor control), which can be improved with small crafts (e.g. moulding with Play Doh or threading beads).
There are also apps and products designed to support certain self-care skills. For example, the Doddl children’s cutlery is designed to help the transition to standard cutlery, and Squid Soap is a fun way to help children learn to wash their hands properly.
The Duckie Deck Gotta Go app familiarises children with the toilet routine in a funny way. Reward charts and apps like Do You Promise? reinforce good behaviour, so can be useful for encouraging self-care.
Starting school for the first time is a big step, but if you begin preparing for it now you will feel a lot more confident when you wave your little one off on that first day. If you’d like more advice, take a look at our article on ‘Seven Tips to prepare your child for primary school‘ to find out how to deal with the common worries that parents have when starting primary school.
This post was written by Anna Taylor