School readiness has become such a hot topic over the past decade. It’s the most asked about topic from parents we work with of 3-5-year-olds. As a society, we compete with each other, and as a result, end up trying to send our children to school with all these additional extra skills.
So it’s easy for parents to get caught up and feel their child might not be ready, or will ‘already be behind before they start! With it being prime school readiness season I’m going to simplify this into 3 key skills to focus on when preparing to send your child to school:
1. Asking for help
As parents, we tend to follow our children around asking if they need help, and we’re often there ready to lend a hand as soon as help is needed. Children who attend preschool and daycare are exposed to seeking help more often than those who don’t. But there is generally still more adult staff in these environments available and on hand to help – and your child has usually developed a relationship with these people over time.
Starting school means that they are going into a new environment with new people (adults). So we need to make sure our children feel confident to ask for help; know who is the right person to ask for help; and know how to ask for help (and know the new rules to follow when asking for help!). A great way to work on this is to prompt your child when at home and they need help to ask – for example, if you’re giving your child their lunch, try and add packages or steps in that they might need help with. Demonstrate how they need to ask for help (the words to say, and even the actions like raising their hand!). Talk to your child about different scenarios – and practice them too!
2. Joining in play
The big goal for most parents, and most kids when starting school is to have a friend (or many friends!) In order to do this children need to interact with other children. It’s a big deal for many kids to ask to join in a game (just like it’s a big deal for many of us adults too!). Having opportunities to practice this is great. That might be at preschool or day-care, or playgroup, or with family or friends.
It’s also a good idea to demonstrate this when engaging in play with our kids, asking questions like “what are you playing, can I join in?”, or “that looks like fun, can I play too?” So much of what we learn, and the skills we develop ready for adulthood start with our interactions and play as kids, so we need our children to be as ready as they can be for engaging with their peers.
3. Feeling confident and safe
We need to talk up the experience and journey our kids are undertaking. If they are excited and feeling confident about it, it’s going to help them embrace the new and exciting challenges of starting school. This is hard when as parents we are often feeling like we are losing our baby as they go off to big school, and are really worried about how they’ll go, and what’s happening inside the classroom. It’s important for us to put our feelings and fears aside and to talk to our kids excitedly about their teacher, and how they are going to be teaching them new and interesting things, what sort of activities they’ll be doing, and even what the schedule will look like!
I know some of you will look at these 3 points and think, “What!!!?? You haven’t even mentioned things like being able to write their name”, and yeah, those skills are important and will help children to have a good foundation when they start – but ultimately, they aren’t a necessity. We’ll be covering more on these other skills over our next few posts, but if you focus on these 3 key skills, the other stuff can all be taught (before or after they start school).