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What the transition into kindergarten or preschool looks like for children

Early learning

Kindergarten or preschool is an important year in which children develop many of the skills they need for school.

We’ve written before about the components of a comprehensive kindergarten or preschool curriculum, and also of the importance of children learning self-regulation and social-emotional skills to cope with the challenges of starting school.

But what does the kindergarten program actually look like from a child’s perspective, and how is it different to what they’re used to from their first few years in early learning?

To find out, we spoke with Kylie Streets, an experienced teacher from Goodstart Belmont.

A soft introduction to school routines
“The school environment is quite different so we use the kindergarten year as a soft introduction to the structure and routines children will see when they start school.

“Children are still able to play and pursue their interests but we begin to explore topics more in depth, increasing their awareness of experimentation, science, inquiry and how we can influence events.

“As the year progresses we’ll do large group learning sessions, adapt our meal routines and decrease the structured rest times. We start to adapt our day to a school routine so the children can develop an understanding of the expectations of the school day.

“Part of the program incorporates children becoming responsible for their own belongings which is an extension of being responsible for themselves. They develop a sense of self that will aid them in future learning and endeavours.”

More focus on skill development
“We focus on the skills they need for school readiness – language skills, literacy skills, numeracy skills and social-emotional skills.

“We teach children what they need to know to transition smoothly into school, but where we differ from school is that we do it in a play-based learning environment based on children's interests which makes learning relevant and important to them.

“Play fuels their curiosity and interest in gaining more knowledge. We learn about STEM, history, geography, science, nature and sustainability but the curriculum is not as structured or time-dependent as it is in school.

“Kindergarten children have more developed language and cognitive skills, so we place more emphasis on problem solving and focus on helping them to think about their actions and the consequences.

“For example, if a pre-kinder child acts out we might say something like “it’s not nice to do that”, whereas for a kindergarten child we’ll focus on helping them express what caused them to do something, what they could have done differently, and if need be what they could do to recover and repair a situation.”

Social-emotional development is key
“Social-emotional skills are essential for learning, and it’s one of our biggest focus areas in the kindergarten year. Children should be able to label their feelings, regulate themselves and socially understand other people to cope in the school environment.

“We give strategies to children who have low self-regulation skills – we can teach and talk as much as we want, but it’s knowing what to do to regulate themselves in socially appropriate ways that really helps them learn to self-regulate their emotions.

“Importantly, we also have conversations with families about strategies for their child, so they can replicate at home what works in the centre and the child doesn’t become confused.

“It takes a combined effort of teachers, the family unit and the child to develop the right skills and have a successful transition to school.”
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