What should my child really know before starting school?
Is your child starting school this year? If so, it’s natural to be curious about what they should be able to do, or concerned that their peers seem more advanced than them.
Should they be able to write their name? Know their sight words? Hold a pencil? There is so much conflicting advice about what your child should be able to do before they start prep that it is hard to know where to turn and what to believe.
However, while it is tempting to focus on the educational skills you think your preppie should have before starting school, some experts say it is more important to consider how they will settle in emotionally. For this reason, Goodstart Early Learning centres do not have blanket milestones for achievement. Instead, says Kerry Nebauer, one of its early childhood teachers from its centre in Brinsmead, it aims to ensure children are ready to start school feeling confident and independent.
Ms Nebauer says ensuring children are ready for school emotionally and physically is essential for a smooth transition. “The move from childcare to school can be a daunting experience and it’s important that every child has the best possible chance of adjusting successfully,” Ms Nebauer said.
She works with her children to teach them how to get a drink of water, put their bags away and where to put their hats. She says parents should help their preppies learn to be independent in this regard. “It’s all about encouraging the parents to let the children take control and show they have the skills to help them be more independent,” Ms Nebauer said.
“I think the biggest adjustment that the children will experience is the move away from play-based learning at childcare to a school system which is regimented and structured. Teaching the children how to listen, how to sit still and what rules they will have to follow are all important skills.
“I don’t want them to get to school and not how to get a drink of water or ask a question,” Ms Nebauer said. She added that helping to prepare the children for school in this way means there will be “less anxiety and concern”.
Goodstart shared its tips for parents of children starting school:
- Help improve your child’s independence by encouraging them to carry their own bags and put them away.
- Get them into a daily routine so they understand how their day may look.
- Encourage them to go to the toilet on their own, recognise their own belongings and eat and drink without help.
- Ensure they are eating a healthy breakfast each day.
- Drive past the school and have a walk through, especially during school hours so they know what to expect. (Check with the school’s administration first). Even better, go to a prep introductory session, if the school runs them.
- Ensure you have everything you need for their first day – uniforms, hats, school bags – and make sure they are labelled with your child’s name.
Queensland government also offers some advice on helping to support your child’s learning once they have started school:
- Read aloud and sing songs with your child. This helps to develop awareness of language patterns and concentration.
- Get them to practice their writing at home – write a letter to grandparents together or let them write out your shopping list.
- Take them out and about to experience new things to stimulate their natural curiosity and fire their imagination.
- Play board and card games and sports with them. They are all good for developing their problem solving and language abilities, as well as their maths and social skills.
It is important to remember that all children are different and will start school with different skill sets. Don’t be tempted to compare your child with their peers. You’ll be amazed at how far they will come in their first year of school – relax and enjoy.
Getting to know the school before your child starts can really help the process. Read our article on How to get the most out of school open days here. If you are still deciding on a school for your child, visit our Education Guide.