Understanding school-readiness

13 Sep 2019

At this time of year, many families ask our Educators and Oac Health Developmental Therapists what they can do at home to prepare their child for school next year. Anna McCauley, our Head of Health, explains what school-readiness means for your child and family.

 

Prepare yourself as well as your child

There are things you can do to help yourself prepare for your child starting school. Things like setting up before and after school care services, if you will be using them, and thinking through the logistics of your new drop-off routine. Especially if it will mean multiple drop-offs in the mornings!

 

What can your child expect when transitioning from Oac to school

There are some big differences your child can expect when starting school. These include:

  • A new classroom, which may be bigger or smaller than the room they are familiar with at Oac

  • They will only have one teacher who will be responsible for all the children in the classroom, rather than having many Educators available to meet their individual needs

  • Your child will be required to sit at their desk for longer periods of time, without having the freedom to get up at any time and move around the room

  • A daily timetable that is busy and rigid, with lots of packing up and moving between different classes and teachers, such as music, sport, art, or languages

  • During morning tea and lunch time, all the children will be sharing the same playground which means that your child will be mixing with children of various age groups

  • At school there will be new rules and routines for the children to learn. Such as putting up your hand, waiting your turn to speak, not talking to friends during work time or assembly

  • Your child will need to get to know a whole new group of children and make a new set of friends

  • Your child will also need to get into the routine of wearing a school uniform and sports uniform each day.

Building social and emotional confidence

Children gain a lot of confidence from learning to master doing things for themselves. The more independent they are in their year before school, the easier they will adjust to the expectations of their new school environment.

You can encourage your child’s independence by ensuring your child is:

  • Walking into the campus in the mornings instead of being carried, and also carrying their own back pack

  • Dressing themselves independently. Which includes putting shirts, dresses, pants or skirts on, doing up or undoing buttons and zips, and putting shoes and socks on or taking them off

  • Able to use the toilet facilities on their own. At school there will be urinals for the boys and locks on toilet doors. Check that your child is familiar to manage these independently where appropriate

  • Taking responsibility for their personal belongings such as their hat, water bottle, backpack etc. 

Emotional wellbeing 

Ensuring your child is emotionally and socially ready is incredibly important to ensure they transition to their new environment smoothly.

Emotional wellbeing means:

  • Your child has confidence in themselves and can work independently

  • They should be able to control and manage their emotions and behaviours, such as calming themselves down if they have become upset. Some children who are not mature enough might often become overwhelmed, or over-excited, or particularly upset or angry and lash out and act impulsively. Self-control is a significant life skill.

  • Be able to show empathy to peers and teachers

  • Separate easily from you and be able to transition to the new environment of their school

  • Your child should be able to cope with changes, as they will be presented with a variety of new and different experiences when they start school

  • They should be able to deal with any problems that arise throughout their day without looking to an adult for constant assistance.

Writing and drawing skills

These days there is much more focus on social readiness than the academics like reading and writing. In terms of writing skills, the main foundation skills we look for in children going to school are hand strength and dexterity. Can your child use their hands to cut out simple shapes with scissors, hold a pencil with an adult “pinch” grip, and draw pictures with details like a person with many body parts? Having the strength and stamina to hold a pencil at school often requires extra effort for children, so providing lots of practise with activities like using scissors, opening packets and containers, squeezing play dough, digging in the sand and carrying heavy items all helps.

 

Language, communication and attention

Language, communication, and attention are other areas where your child will be required to have a certain level of skill. This means:

  • Your child needs to be able to listen and concentrate for longer periods of time. Setting up and packing away new workbooks and activities and switching from focusing on one subject to another quite quickly. Also, working in large groups and small groups and swapping frequently between the two.

  • It is important that they can follow two-to-three step directions, such as “Pack away your work, get your hat from the hook, and wait in a line at the door”. And they should be able to listen to directions without forgetting what they are doing.

  • Following through with tasks set from the day before

  • Answering questions appropriately

  • Having the skills to initiate and maintain conversations with adults and peers

  • Speech sounds and overall intelligibility.

What else can you do to help your child prepare?

  • Talk about starting school in a positive and enthusiastic way

  • Read books that associate positive feelings about school

  • Talk positively about your own memories of school

  • Talk with siblings/ cousins who are at school and enjoying their time there

  • Talk with your child’s current Oac Educators and determine any areas requiring additional attention or practice at home

  • Visit your child’s new school so that they become familiar with the environment

  • Attend any school orientations that are offered between now and when school starts

  • Establish a regular bedtime routine, remembering that children of this age still need an average of 10-11 hours’ sleep

  • Establish a morning and afternoon routine that your child can follow

  • Try limiting screen time and encouraging outdoor play, creativity and imagination

  • Establish regular times to spend together as a family, such as mealtimes

  • Encourage your child to have a few jobs to do around the house to give them a sense of responsibility and accomplishment.

Some questions to reflect on when considering your child’s school-readiness

  • Can they make an independent decision and follow through on this?

  • Do they have ideas of their own?

  • Can they follow two or three instructions at the same time?

  • Can they move on to new activities easily?

  • Do they separate well from their parent/ carer?

  • Do they show interest in other children?

  • Do they interact with other children?

  • Can they recognise and express their feelings and needs?

  • Can they concentrate on a task?

  • How do they deal with frustration?


Find your nearest childcare centre across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane or speak with your campus Educators or Director if you have any questions regarding your child’s social skills, emotional well-being, independence and communication skills as they prepare for their new school environment!