In my last blog, we discussed how to recognise when our children are ready for school. There are a few schools of thoughts regarding “school readiness”.
They run from making you feel guilty that you’re not doing enough to making you feel guilty that you’re doing too much! Some say that children learn best through play – School Readiness Programs are not necessary! Others say children do not know what they do not know – YOU need to take the lead! So what are parents to do?
As an early childhood educator when asked about “school readiness” by anxious parents, my usual answer is to tell them to strike a balance.
The only problem with saying that is, most parents will say, “I don’t know where to begin! Surely, there MUST be a program out there that combines “school readiness” with fun and play!”
Calm down. First of all, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to school readiness – or at least, there shouldn’t be. In getting your child ready for school, remember every child is unique. YOU know your child best. YOU know which type of program (if any) suits him best and TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.
In the end, you know your child best – his likes, dislikes, temperament, strengths, etc. What will hold his attention better?
There are many child-readiness programs in the market. Depending on who you speak to, and where you live, you will either hear that these programs are not necessary, or that they’re absolutely essential to your child’s happiness in school.
With or without a school readiness program, there are some simple things you can start doing at least one year before enrolling your children for school. Help them develop their social skills, fine motor skills, cognitive skills, self-help skills AND, in this day and age, teach them about safety.
To help develop their social skills you can, among other things, arrange for them to play with other children who are about the same age, encourage them to engage in conversations with you, encourage them to say “please” and “thank you” and help them learn to take turns.
Children need fine motor skills and you can help develop this by giving them crayons, pencils, coloured markers and other art materials to create great works of art – even though some of this art might end up on your wall. When you are cleaning up, let them use the brush and dust pan to help you get those final bits off the floor.
Cognitive skills can be taught by encouraging them to count simple things – how many pieces of toast do they want? Encourage them to talk about what they think and feel; to ask questions.
Read to and with them as often as you can. Louis is just an ordinary boy. He loves running around and playing in the sandpit, much like the other children. BUT Louis can read even before he was 2 years old. I know this for a fact because I tested him. He could read the names of all his friends in his play group, AND he could read words like “table”, “chair”, “bottle” and many other words. As long as he has the vocabulary, he can read the word. He was unconsciously using the rules of phonics to sound out the alphabets. I know what you’re thinking – no, he’s nothing like the “Sheldon” we see on TV. It turns out his father just started reading to him every night since he was two months old. And now, his little sister is following in his footsteps. This family has got it right when it comes to reading.
Children also need some self-help skills such as using the toilet independently and dressing and undressing themselves. This is necessary for times when they are taken out to play football or netball or for a swimming lesson. And I would classify drinking water under self-help skills because once he is in school, nobody will tell him to drink and he can come home quite dehydrated. This is dangerous especially during the scorching summer months.
And finally, teach your children about safety. I’m not talking taking karate lessons here – just simple things like keep to your group, don’t talk to strangers, don’t take food from strangers, don’t follow anyone home if you have not discussed this with him prior to the event. Teach him to say “No” and to run and tell a trusted adult what had happened. Make sure he knows your phone number. Most people have cell phones with them at all times – teach him to phone you. Practise with him.
Having said all that, the best thing you can do to help your child get ready for school is to help him develop a love of learning – but that’s a topic for another day.
School readiness – how to know if your little one is ready for big school
Ready or not? Defining school readiness
Preparing for school