There are moments that stay with you as a parent. I clearly remember waking my baby son up for his first day at preschool. Looking at his sweet, excited face, thinking of the adventure that was ahead of him and wondering, “Wasn’t he just a baby? How did this happen so soon? Before I know it, I bet he will be starting Kindergarten, and then Primary, and before I know it I he will be in High School and avoid kissing me in public”. For many of us, it all seems to happen too soon and we want our child, who looks so small walking with their oversized backpack and bento lunchbox up to the door of their classroom, to be ready.
But what does Kindergarten readiness mean and are there really things we can do as families to prepare our little one for this transition?
As parents, we all want to give our children every advantage to succeed; however, not all children are ready for the same thing at the same time.
While birth date determines when a child can legally start school, it does not guarantee that he or she is ready for the demands of today’s kindergarten.
Being ready for school requires much more than academic knowledge. As parents, we need to know what the expectations are and how well our children are developmentally ready to handle these expectations. There are four areas to consider: academic readiness and social, emotional and physical development.
Readiness means a child can listen and follow simple directions, can listen to a story without interrupting, and can grasp the main idea and retell the story. The child can recognise rhyming words, identify initial sounds, match like pictures and classify words as to people, places and things. The child can stay on topic, adjust to new situations, wait his or her turn and can deal with failure without crying.
- Just as important, can he/she ask for help when needed?
- Can he obey classroom rules, playground safety rules, and the occasional fire and lock down drills without fear and frustration?
- Socially, can she share and play cooperatively with other children? Can he be part of a group with ease and comfort?
- Equally important, can he sit and attend to learn in a classroom environment? If the child primarily wants to play, and the main focus is learning, he might not be developmentally ready or interested in learning, thus creating frustration and failure.
School readiness has to do with a child’s ability to learn and cope with the school environment without undue stress. A child’s intelligence plays only a minor role in their ability to make this transition successfully.
There are several things you can do to help your child make this transition, including encouraging self-help skills and providing lots of opportunities for your child to interact in structured and non-structured ways with their peers. When families read together, share experiences, and talk about those experiences.
- Start establishing a routine: As the child begins to understand what to expect during the course of their day at home or at a preschool, they can begin to reflect on what comes next and start to understand how to prepare themselves for the next activity or part of their day.
- Read books and let them explore: Take advantage of community events that provide fun and interesting experiences for the child. Places like the Australian Museum, Powerhouse Museum and Maritime Museum are great places for your child to have fun, but also provides an opportunity for the parent to educate them on the world around them.
- Begin talking now with your child about what they think Kindergarten will be like, what they are excited about and what they are nervous about, too. Consider checking books out of your local library about Kindergarten and read them together.
- Arrange some play dates with children in your neighbourhood.
- Play a game together as a family.
What should you do if you feel like your child may not be ready for Kindergarten? Ease your anxieties and speak to a professional who can help you with this important decision. What do you have to lose? But you have a lot to gain.