Speech Pathologists’ Top Tips to Help Prepare for Kindergarten
After such an uncertain, disjointed year, you’d be forgiven for feeling that 2020 has somehow flown past before your very eyes. It has been difficult to plan too far ahead and adjusting to constant lifestyle changes has certainly been enough to keep up with! But as the days get delightfully longer and the flowers continue to bloom, we are reminded that 2021 will be here before we know it which, for many families, means starting kindergarten. And, with the start of kindergarten comes thoughts about the skills your child might require.
If you are still concerned after trialling these ideas, talking to a speech pathologist. We can provide you with information and if needed, assess your child to determine their current abilities and strengths.
Is Your Child Skilled for School?
School readiness is a concept that is ever present for parents with children aged 4 – 5 years. In fact, we have tackled the topic of school readiness in a previous blog, and understand that it can be a daunting concept for many parents, with many programs and ideas to wrap your head around.
Your child’s preschool may be working on specific programs related to school transition. Your soon-to-be school’s orientation sessions may provide information about school readiness. You may be provided with additional information from your GP and that’s not before you jump online to conduct your own research. So how do you sift through all that information and focus on the relevant, timely strategies that will give your own child the best start at school?
To help you wade through the concept of school skills, readiness and giving your child the best start, we have asked our speech pathologists to pull together their top tips and the skills to assess when it comes to giving your child the best start.
Is Your Child’s Speech 100% Clear in Conversation?
Children spend the first 7 years of their life developing their speech sound skills. The way that these skills develop affects how clearly you can understand your child in everyday conversation. By the time kindergarten comes around, your child should be understood by everyone in spontaneous conversation 100% of the time. If you are noticing that your child is difficult to understand when they speak, seeking advice from a speech pathologist may be helpful. If you are looking to understand speech sound milestones, click here to access our free resource.
Is Your Child Able to Follow Two and Three Step Directions?
Classrooms are busy places and while your child may have easily followed directions at daycare or preschool, the classroom environment can look very different. There can be up to 30 students in the room and the number of educators reduces to one or two. Whilst teachers are excellent at monitoring and supporting students, the reality is that the school day is constantly moving along and if your child has difficulty following instructions with two or three steps, this may start to affect their ability to keep up and participate in a kindergarten classroom.
If you are noticing that your child has difficulty following two or three step instructions, it may be helpful to speak to a speech pathologist about receptive language (the language your child understands) and even their hearing and / or auditory processing skills.
You can also work on your child’s receptive language skills at home with some simple games and activities that include multi-step instructions like:
- Baking from scratch
- Simple craft activities that involve a number of steps like making a paper aeroplane
- Playing Simon Says
Can Your Child Use Grammar Correctly When Speaking?
As mentioned previously, by the time your child starts Kindergarten, their speech should be understood 100% of the time in natural, every day conversation. To add to that, the language that your child uses is just as important. Can your child produce sentences that are grammatically correct? Can they use words to accurately describe the past (such as ‘ed’ word endings) and the present (such as ‘ing’ endings)? Can your child use the correct pronoun when referring to others (e.g. he, she, they, herself, himself)? Can your child use plural endings and joining words such as ‘and, ‘but’ and ‘so’? All of these little markers are essential elements of expressive language – the language that your child uses.
There are big demands placed on your child’s expressive language once school commences. Kindergarten requires children to order events in stories and past experiences. They are required to discuss mathematical problems and participate in classroom discussions. If your child has difficulty with expressive language, these activities may become quite challenging.
To help your child build expressive language skills at home, you could:
- Ask your child ‘WH’ (Who What When Where Why) questions during shared reading time
- Encourage your child to categorise household items, e.g. clothing, food, sports equipment and school supplies
- Encourage your child to make up sentences using specific words that you give them
- Encourage your child to give directions to where their favourite toy is hidden or how to complete a task like setting the table for dinner
Can Your Child Use Pre-Literacy Skills?
Not to be confused with literacy skills, PRE-literacy skills (or ‘Phonological Awareness’) refer to those early skills that support future reading and writing development. By the time your child starts school, it would be helpful if they can rhyme words, tap out word syllables and hear the first and last sound in words. Without these foundation skills, learning to blend words together to read and write is very difficult.
Pre-literacy skills also refers to skills needed to set up your child for reading success. Your child should be able to hold a book the correct way, identify the title and spine (known as ‘book orientation skills’). Your child should also understand that reading occurs from left to right on a page and that spoken words correspond to written words in the story.
As speech pathologists, we can help your child build both pre-literacy and literacy skills, but you can also help them at home by:
- Reading with your child every day and talking about the title the pictures and the words on the page
- Linking the stories, events and pictures to your own personal experiences
- Playing Eye-Spy
- Rhyming words together and practicing nursery rhymes
Can Your Child Play Cooperatively With Others?
Forming meaningful and lasting friendships is one of the joys of school. As a parent, you want nothing more than to know that your child is accepted and embraced by their peers in the classroom and the playground. Growing these relationships requires your child to share, take turns with others, participate in discussions and express their needs and wants effectively. These skills are what are known as play and social communication skills, and like all skills, can sometimes require a bit of practice.
To help your child build play and social skills before they head off to school, try some of these activities at home:
- Play board games – regularly. This will help your child with turn taking, understanding loss and how that feels, and the importance of following the rules – all very good lessons for children to learn.
- Organise play dates with family and friends – particularly with children that they may be going to school with next year.
- Help your child to talk through problems when they have difficulty conveying needs and wants.
- Help your child identify emotions through sharing stories and labelling your child’s emotions as they happen, e.g. ‘I can see you are feeling sad’.
Skilled for School Groups
When it comes to giving your child the best opportunities to build skills and enter the school environment with confidence, special group programs can be just what your family needs.
A Growing Understanding offer a number of group programs that help children build school skills in a fun environment and with like-minded peers. Combining the expertise of an occupational therapist, plus one of our own speech pathologists, our SPOT groups focus on growing confidence, social skills and language skills all within a fun, small group setting. Run regularly throughout the year, the SPOT groups are always popular! CLICK HERE for more information.
Embarking on your child’s first school year is a huge step for families. It is important to remember that all children develop at their own pace, and while there are things you can look out for and skills you can help your child build, trust that you are the person that knows them best. You will know if they need additional help when it comes to building essential skills (for school or otherwise) and our speech pathologists can provide the support you and your child needs.