As an educator and a mum I have sat on both sides of the fence with preparing a pre-schooler for Big School. Sending your child off into the education system is a huge and emotional decision.
We all want our children to walk confidently through the school gates on their first day. Parents can feel pressured to prepare their children so as an educator and mum let me confidently share my 4 top tips for preparing your pre-schooler for big school.
Will she be able to open her lunch box? Will she remember to go to the toilet? Will he wear his jumper if it gets cold? The easiest way to alleviate these concerns is to begin practising early. The overarching requirement is that children feel confident to look after themselves and their belongings. Children need parental support to reinforce toileting routines eg how to pull up their own underpants, the importance of washing hands, how to open their lunch box and drink bottle and importantly how to blow their nose.
Slowly reduce the level of support you give your child while upping the encouragement and reinforcing positive self-talk statements like “I can do it” and “I’ll try my best”. Let your child dress themselves and pack their own bag before giving in to requests of “help me mummy”. Giving your child age appropriate jobs around the home will also boost their self-confidence.
The social skills educators are looking for in the first year of school include the ability to make friends, separate from a parent without distress, seek help when needed from an adult, resolve conflict at a basic level and wait their turn. It is these skills, rather than the academic, that can impact on how happy your child feels at school each day.
Assist your child by promoting playdates, particularly if you know of families that will have children attending the same school. Act out how to ask a friend to play. Show your child how simply smiling at someone can make others want to play with them. Our children learn best through hands on, repetitive life experiences. Interacting with other children allows your child the chance to develop their conflict resolution skills. The ability to express themselves, behave fairly and cooperate, while using hands and feet in a safe manner, is important.
Turn taking with classmates is crucial to the making friends process. Board games at home and waiting in line for equipment at the park are simple ways of reinforcing this skill.
Talking and Listening Skills – your child needs both
At school the expectation that children will be able to sit and listen to information as well as provide a simple retelling of events can be one of the first stumbling blocks
Simple and effective is reading with your child. Sharing a book not only works on school preparation but improves their listening skills. Ask questions about the book to develop their thinking skills. Around the dinner table ask your child to share a simple retelling of the day’s events so they can practise sharing their thoughts and feelings with others. Encourage them to make eye contact. Model for your child how to ask for help if they need it. Try two part instructions to promote active listening. Cooking together is a great way to develop all these skills.
As adults we can forget what it is like to step into a whole new environment. Big School can be daunting for many pre-schoolers. A foreign land, the big unknown. The key to addressing pre-schooler anxieties is promoting positive connections. Decide, if possible, where to enrol your child early so that they can visit the school and complete orientation. Talk to family or friends who attend the school. Visit your local library and borrow all the starting school themed books. Even better fill your child’s imagination with fun, silly stories of your own school experience. Then finally make it an exciting trip to purchase all the school items they will need for their first day.
Starting big school is an exciting milestone for parents and children. By following the above 4 tips you as the parent can feel confident that you are preparing your child for a successful school start.
Michelle is a travel loving, bike riding mum to two who loves to blog over at Gee You’re Brave about living life and parenting with an adventurous spirit. Michelle has a Masters in Special Education, currently works at an Art Teacher for children with an intellectual disability and is passionate about helping children express themselves and reach their full potential.