There’s more to being ‘school ready’ than knowing letters and numbers
This article originally appeared on Mamamia.
Remember: Every child is different.
I remember watching my baby son on his playmat, mobile phone at the ready, wondering if today would be the day.
Our first-born was about to ROLL OVER. I’m surprised Sky News didn’t call.
Now, my son is 14, and after all that panic, I actually can’t remember exactly how old he was when he rolled, or crawled, or uttered his first word. Everything happened more or less when it needed to, and that was enough.
Milestones are fascinating, and when we’re watching our kids grow and develop, ticking them off lists is reassuring. Walking, sounding out words, forming sentences. Then we get onto things like making friends, taking risks and understanding consequences. Equally important, yet far more complicated.
Every child develops at a different pace, and there are no prizes in the long run for the child who walked at nine months. No medals for the parents, either. The ages offered by experts form a window, to give us an indication that if something’s not happening by a certain age, then it’s worth asking professional advice.
It’s when children approach school age that parents often become concerned. That’s when choosing the right kindergarten or preschool program becomes so important. Experienced, qualified teachers are committed to ensuring children are ready for school and will work with families every step of the way.
There are lots of skills children need before they begin school – some seem small, but they have a big effect on how well they transition. Here are a few that were important to me:
1. Looking after their own belongings.
No one expects a three year old to sort their wardrobe according to season and colour (many adults struggle with this), but understanding the importance of putting things in their proper place will make life at school much easier. Hats on hooks, bags on racks, lunches and water bottles put away – little habits like these clear the decks for fun and effective learning.
2. Getting along with others.
It’s not only school where this matters, it’s LIFE. Being able to share, take turns, listen to others, speak respectfully and consider the feelings of others are essential skills that need to be taught – at home as well as at childcare, kindergarten, preschool, school and in into adulthood. Quality centres like Goodstart Early Learning make developing social skills a priority, and everybody benefits.
3. Asking for help when it’s needed.
It’s a fine line – how to encourage children to be resourceful while at the same time developing problem-solving skills. A qualified teacher and engaged educators, together with a loving family, can help children feel confident to ‘give it a go’ without making them feel bad about asking for help. That help is important too – children need to be shown, not told how to do things and even though it’s often faster to perform tasks for them it’s worth the time and effort it takes to support their endeavours to achieve for themselves.
4. Following their curiosity.
Children are natural learners. As parents, it feels great when our children share our interests, whether it be music, cooking, motorbikes or books. While it’s great to involve our children in these, it’s important to encourage children’s own interests because that’s how they learn. It can make parenting more fun too, as you discover things together. My son, for example, became passionate about dinosaurs when he was at kindergarten. Neither his father nor I could tell the difference between a brontosaurus and a t-rex but our boy certainly enjoyed telling us, and his interest fuelled a trip to the museum. That, in turn led to an interest in insects. This is great, as he is now starting to learn about natural history.
5. Understanding the world is bigger than their world.
When you’re three or four years old, often your world is home, family, kindergarten or maybe the neighbours and Nan’s place. It’s fascinating and fun to learn that there are lots and lots of other people, who live very differently, speak other languages, and eat other food. A quality kindergarten or preschool program will introduce these concepts in a positive way. It’s not only interesting to learn about other people, it’s also essential preparation for children preparing not just for school, but for life.