Somehow, the year is already coming to a close and there are only ten (!!??) weeks left until kids go back to school in the new year. For many parents and children, these ten weeks are a countdown towards the brand new school journey of Kindergarten. With the New Year approaching, many of my clients are asking questions about what they can do to help ensure their child is ready for school. Luckily, there are lots of things you can do to help your child. Keep reading for some top tips to help your child (and you) feel more confident before they begin their school journey.
What is School Readiness?
School readiness is a term used to describe whether a child has the skills and preparedness to make a successful transition into school. It can be developed through specific activities, discussion, and opportunities to practice and expand their current skill set to increase the fundamental skills that are important for classroom success.
Skills that are important for starting school include the ability to:
- Independently toilet and participate in other activities of self-grooming, like washing hands and getting dressed
- Self-regulate or have some level of control over emotions and behaviour (this can look like being able to calm themselves down without lots and lots of help)
- Listen to and follow instructions that have at least two parts (for example, ‘Put your bag on the hook and sit on the ground)
- Play or socialise with others at an age-appropriate level (for example, sharing toys, asking others to play, being able to say ‘no’; using basic manners when talking to others)
- Tell a teacher or their peers their wants and needs in a way that can be clearly understood (for example, being able to say, ‘I wan’t…’ or ‘I don’t want…’ and have speech without lots and lots of errors)
- Sit upright; draw, and use scissors or glue (requiring muscle strength and coordination)
- Recognise their written name and understand some rudimentary concepts about books (like what way we hold it, or how we turn a page).
The list above can sometimes be a little overwhelming, especially when you realise there is still so much to add to it. However, we can begin working on these skills with a few speech pathology tips.
Speech Pathology Tips to Help Your Child Prepare for School
Read, every single day!
Those who know me will know how I feel about books – they are just the best! But outside of their content, they are also a great medium to start teaching pre-literacy concepts (or concepts that are fundamental to literacy success). While you are reading with your child, focus on showing and asking them about basic things to do wit the book, such as:
- Where the front of the book is (and what way we hold it)
- Where the name of the book is
- How they turn a page carefully
- What page we read first (left to right!)
- What line we read first (top to bottom!)
- Where they can find a big letter and a small letter
Book reading is such a powerful tool when it comes to helping your child increase their comprehension and vocabulary. In addition to the above questions, try incorporating Blank’s Questions when reading with your child to help them with their understanding and vocabulary development, and get the best bang for your buck during shared reading time.
Practice Fine Motor Skills
Christmas is coming, and it can be a great time to practice many fine motor skills through craft activities and opportunities to decorate the home.
Awesome fine motor skills to practice include:
- Gluing items onto a page
- Drawing lines and practicing shapes such as squares, triangles, and circles (think gingerbread houses!)
- Colouring in and practicing staying between the lines
- Cutting straight lines using age-appropriate scissors
- Playing with playdoh, rolling little balls between fingers and long sausages between hands
- Threading beads onto string or pipe cleaners
- Picking up cotton balls with tongs
Fine motor skills are integral to being able to write. If you have concerns about your child’s fine motor skills, we would recommend that you contact an Occupational Therapist.
Practice Recognising Names, Letters, and Numbers
It’s important that your child can recognise their name in school as name labels are everywhere – their clothes, bag cubbies, seat allocations, and whiteboards! Help your child learn to recognise their name by:
- Writing their name down and talking about the letters (i.e.. ‘This is an ‘M’! Your name starts with ‘M’ – hear it? Mmmax!’
- Have them practice tracing their name after you’ve written it in big letters
- Use fridge magnets or felt letters to practice picking the letters out and putting them in order
You can also work on some basic number skills by practicing counting in everyday situations. When taking washing off the line, for example, practicing counting how many items go in the basket or how many pegs were used.
To help build your child’s alphabet and sound knowledge, try pointing out letters on signs at the shops, or talking about what letter fruit and veggies start with (i.e. ‘A’ is for Apple and say the sound). A fun game of eye spy can also help your child build their understanding of colours (I spy with my little eye something that is green) and letters (I spy with my little eye something that starts with the letter B).
Practice Play Skills and Table Skills
Sharing, turn taking (knowing when it’s your go and waiting when it’s not), asking others to play, and sitting at a table are important and necessary skills in both playing and learning. You can help your child practice these skills by:
- Organising playdates and practicing sharing / asking people to play
- Playing card or board games at home like Go Fish, Memory, Snap, Snakes and Ladders etc, to practice taking turns, sharing, and importantly, winning and losing gracefully!
- Complete some activities like book reading or card games at the table rather than on the lounge or the ground. This will help your child get used to sitting upright at a table like they are expected to at school.
Helping your child get ready for school can be daunting, but it’s also very exciting and can be fun. Take the time to enjoy the activities and spend time with your child. After all, fun is the best way for your child to learn and they will love spending time with you before they head off to school.
If you have any concerns regarding your child’s school readiness, talk to your Speech Pathologist. Speech Pathologists can help you child transition into the school setting with confidence and help families get ready for a successful school year. If you would like your child to work on their school readiness skills with the support and guidance of a speech pathologist, A Growing Understanding is providing Intensive Speech Pathology Programs during the school holidays. Click here to find out more about the Intensive Transition to School program and submit an enquiry.