I have a friend whose eldest is starting school this year and she rang me all flustered about what she could do to support her child’s transition to primary school.
She is a calm, organised parent and what had got her into a flap had been an article about ‘school readiness’. I felt so sorry for her but was also so annoyed that an article aiming to ‘help’ had in fact done the opposite.
As a Mum, I totally get this anxiety and natural desire on a parents’ part to help make the transition to school smooth.
And as both a Mum and a teacher, it bothers me that after the first week of January, every year, the trickle of information about what to do before your child starts school begins… by the end of January it is a torrential downpour with ‘school readiness’ check lists spanning across pages and pages.
It stresses parents out and this filters down to their children, resulting in heightened anticipation and worry.
Inundating parents with information does more harm than good and clouds the ‘message’ that most teachers wish parents were receiving…
I asked a few of my teacher friends to tell me their top three skill sets they’d love all children to arrive with on day 1 of kindy.
Not one of them mentioned already reading, writing or spelling, but rather they talked about skills that focused on a good level of motor development, hand-eye coordination and social/emotional wellbeing.
· Being able to share with their peers
· Take- turns
· Problem solve social issues by saying ‘stop. I don’t like that’ or leaving to play elsewhere
· Looking after others and empathy
· Helping their peers
· Being inclusive
This covers things like:
· Dressing themselves
· Getting the equipment they need if it isn’t immediately in front of them
· Packing and unpacking their own bag (zipping and unzipping)
· Recognising their own property (name and name label recognition)
· Asking for help when necessary
· Opening and closing lunch containers and drink bottles
· Using a pair of scissors
· Winding a glue stick up and down
· Using a pencil/pen with correct pencil grip to draw different lines
· Following simple instructions to complete a task
· Recalling classroom/teacher expectations
· Being involved in class discussions
· Sitting still for a small period of time (crossed legged and/or on a chair)
· Focusing on a task to completion
Further down their lists came things like
· Able to write their first name
· Can verbally count up to ten
I hope you haven’t read to here and freaked out about checking off all of the skills above?!
They can ALL be a part of everyday life with a preschool child.
1. Encourage them to dress themselves (yes even if this means longer to get out of the house)
2. When picking them up from day care/preschool encourage them to find their own property and physically repack their own bag independently.
3. When it is dinner time encourage them to set the table (i.e. finding the equipment they will need for dinner for themselves and siblings)
4. At home, or at the park encourage them to help a peer or sibling who might need a push on a swing, a helping hand up a ladder etc.
5. Actively model sharing and turn taking when they are at home either with siblings or with a parent.
6. Let them explore their new bag, lunch boxes and drink bottles so that they are confident opening and closing lids etc.
7. Encourage them to ‘use their words’ to explain when something is upsetting them, rather than lashing out, yelling or crying.
8. Give them time with safety scissors and an old magazine, paper and pencils, a glue stick and squares of paper- to let them explore these materials and get confident manipulating them.
Those skills not covered in the above examples become incidental i.e. following simple instructions, asking for help when needed etc.
On a parting note give your child time to persevere with a task before stepping in to help, if they ask for support, offer as little as you can for them to continue completing it themselves. It gives them a greater sense of achievement and confidence boost.
To all the parents with little ones starting Kindy,
Keep it light and keep it fun. They have so many years of schooling ahead of them and are still so little. They shouldn’t know stress or anxiety yet.
Let them play and laugh and make up silly games for this will foster a love of learning and lifetime of curiosity.
Your hands-on helper,