Your baby is starting school. What? Already? They were born just yesterday! Everyone said time would fly as they watched you cradle your gorgeous new born in your arms. It didnít fly - it raced!
I have been on both sides of the classroom door. I have sent three little ones of my own to the big wide world of school. And as a Prep teacher (aka Kindergarten in NSW, ACT and Tasmania) for nearly ten years, I have welcomed hundreds of children into the classroom. And believe me, I can tell very quickly which children have been well prepared for school. What you do in that year before they start is ever so important!
So below Iíve listed a few of my top tips!
Make an appointment to have your childís eye sight and hearing tested
It really helps to pick up any potential problems that might affect their learning BEFORE they get to school! I remember a child who was so short sighted the optometrist said their own mother would have looked like a blur
Donít dismiss the hearing test - many children have fluid in their ears and this can make massive fluctuations in their hearing. I know because my own daughter had a 40% hearing loss without ever having had an ear infection.
If you have any concerns with their speech, get them assessed by a speech pathologist
The year before school is the time to have them assessed if you are concerned. Some speech issues are fine and will correct with age, but itís always better to get it checked.
If you are worried about any aspects of their development or behaviour, speak with your childís kindergarten/preschool teacher and have them assessed
I am increasingly surprised at the amount of children coming to school with behavior issues that have never been assessed by a Paediatrician.
Unless there is a medical issue, insist that your child toilets themselves independently (including wiping their own bottom, please!!)
Your childís teacher will forever thank you! You might be laughing right now, but this can be such an issue! I know children who soil their pants regularly at school because this issue was not resolved before they started. A child will be quickly isolated if other children can Ďsmellí them for this reason.
Structure routine into your childís day
School is all about routine. Before my children started, I tried to mimic the school routine at home. Have a set time for morning tea and lunch. Give them structured play activities (such as craft, puzzles, playdough) as well as time for free play. Have a regular bed time.
Provide paper, pencils and textas so they can colour and draw regularly
Encourage a correct pencil group - bad habits are hard to break, so start them off with good ones! One of my sons didnít like picking up a pencil or texta
Give them practice at cutting and pasting
Children should be able to hold scissors properly once at school.
Let them practice writing their own name
Itís a big bonus if your child can write their own name! To teach them, you write it and they can trace over it at first. Try being creative by gluing string or pasta over their name. You can even write it using playdough or in the sand. Repetition is the key.
Read to them everyday
Ask them to hold the book and turn the pages. Use books with rhyme, rhythm and repetition, such as Mem Fox, Pamela Allen and Dr. Suess.
Have your child retell a story youíve read to them using the pictures
The ability to retell a story is a pre-reading skill.
Blue tac alphabet cards near their bed
I did this with all three of my children. Itís great to expose them to the alphabet. Donít make it pressured, but learn a few at a time. Some children will learn them all with ease. Others will pick up just a few. Thatís fine. Children learn at their own pace, but you are giving them a head start! Some children will go to school reading, otherís will barely recognize their own name. Wherever your child is at, donít pressure them. Repetition is the key!
Play board games together
This teaches them how to roll a dice and move a counter. They will probably play quite a few games in their first year of school and this skill is very helpful. It also teaches them to play in a team - a must have skill!!
Teach them how to unwrap their morning tea and lunch
Try giving them a lunch box with their dayís food at home. Do they know what to eat when? Can they open yoghurt and put straws in their poppers? When there are 25 children in a class, this really helps everyone!
Encourage them to dress themselves
It might sound simple, but always remember your child will be one of twenty five! The teacher cannot do up twenty five pairs of shoes!
Make their kindy/preschool bag their responsibility
Your child should pack their own bag in the morning and unpack it when they get home. Get them to carry it too!
Give them some strategies for making friends
I used to role play with my children to teach them this. Weíd pretend they were in the classroom for the first time and they didnít know anyone. I would teach them how to make a new friend. For example, I told them to be confident, look someone in the eye, tell them your name and ask for theirs. I instilled into them that anyone would be very lucky to have them as a friend!
If your child is keen to readÖ
Start by teaching them sight words. Google the 100 most common words and there is your sight word list right there! Once they know a few, they can string them together to make sentences. (e.g Here is aÖÖ./This is myÖ..) You can borrow readers from the library these days. And there are some wonderful websites, like hubbards cupboard, with wonderful printable booklets (free!!).
Renee is an experienced educator who specialises in literacy for young children. She grew up in a single parent home and is a regular speaker to community groups around Australia on this subject. She now has three children of her own.
Renee is author to the newly released picture book Imagine We Were. It's available at good bookstores and from the publisher Wombat Books
This blog contains only general information, correct at the date of publication. For advice regarding your own personal circumstances, always seek individual advice from a qualified professional. Read the full Singlemum.com.au Disclaimer here
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