Preparing your child to be emotionally ready to learn
You may have received your notification by now and know which school your child will be going to in September. This is an exciting time, the next big milestone in yours and your child’s life. But it can also be a time of mixed emotions. Your early memories of starting school can have a bearing on how you feel about your child starting ‘big school’. If your experience was not as positive, it’s important to not let that affect how you react and ultimately how your child will feel about this next exciting step. There are lots of ways to support your child to prepare.
When we think about starting school we often focus on the academic skills, can my child write their name, can they count and recognise numbers and colours etc. but it is equally important to focus on your child’s emotional, personal and social skills. Our aim is that your child leaves nursery with the skills and disposition to be ready, willing and eager to learn. It’s important that they have the confidence to join in with activities, lessons and conversations so they can make friends and learn new things. They need to have the confidence to ask questions and share their opinion and ideas and talk about their feelings. Another important skill for starting school is independence. There will be lots of things that their teacher will expect them to be able to do for themselves.
If your child was still in nursery, as we return from the Easter break, we would be starting to prepare them for the next big step so we would like to share some suggestions with you so the preparation can continue at home.
Dressing themselves, you should encourage your child to put on and take off their own clothes. This will help get them used to having a routine in the morning and will help with being able to cope with dressing and undressing for PE lessons and going in and out to play. As they may not be going out very much now, you can play games with clothes with different fastenings i.e. buttons, zips and poppers.
Most schools have a school uniform, helping them to identify their name so they can recognise and find their own belongings will really help and hopefully prevent any anxiety. Perhaps use labels round the house on bedroom doors, draws, cups etc. If you can purchase a few items of uniform it can be fun to play dressing up and useful for practicing with button on shirts.
In school children will be expected to be independent in the bathroom. They should be able to go to the toilet, wipe themselves and wash their hands by themselves. This can be easier for us to teach at nursery as we have the lower toilets and sinks, and they have their peers to learn alongside but it’s important that they continue to practice these skills at home. They should also be able to wipe their nose and dispose of the tissue. You could create a nose wiping station. You just need a small mirror, a box of tissues and a small bin. Encourage your child to check in the mirror if their nose and face is clean. We have all got much better at washing our hands and hopefully they are still using some of the songs we taught them in nursery.
Turn taking, sharing and following instruction are all important skills.
When children start school there is an expectation that they are developmentally able to wait their turn. This could be to ride their favourite bike, ask the teacher for help, answer a question, speak at show and tell time. There are lots of ways to develop this skill, such as playing card games like snap and finding pairs. When you are having family meals you can all take turns to talk about your day. You can plan games with building blocks, taking a turn to add the next block. You could each take a turn to decide what TV programme you will watch each day or what book you will read at bedtime. It can help if you can create this into a visual activity as it helps to keep the process in their mind. Maybe you could create a chart for the week with different columns. One for meals. TV, books etc. Add the suggestions and then if they get inpatient when they want a programme on, you can go back and look at the chart and remind them about who’s turn it is today. This will help develop their patients, understanding and empathy for others. There will be a lot of children in their class, all eager to be first or choose!!
Sharing is also very important- they may have to share equipment and resources as well as the teachers time and attention. Helping with dishing up meals so they understand sharing potions (good maths activity also) Making cakes, biscuits or pizza and then sharing it with the family. The turn taking chart also helps with sharing. They must share their parents time and attention especially if you are still working from home. The school day is very structured. There will be times for adult led lessons, free play, outside play, mealtimes and story time etc. Again, you could create a visual timetable showing the times when you are free to play and times when they must play with their own toys and activities. It’s helpful and good preparation if they have a structure in their day.
Following instructions– By the time they start school children should be able to follow simple instructions, but these could be two or three instructions in a row. ‘Come inside, hang your coat on your peg and sit on the carpet’. Playing games like hide and seek and treasure hunts where they are given verbal or picture clues that they must follow to find a treasure help develop the necessary skills. Also, when baking cakes and biscuits, maybe google the instructions that they must follow. You could print or write this so they can keep referring to them until they learn that things happen in an order, you must complete the first part of the task before moving on to the next.
Being able to articulate their thoughts ideas and needs.
Developing vocabulary and asking for help are key skills. It is important that they have the vocabulary and confidence to speak to teachers and friends. Encourage them to speak in longer sentences, not just one- or two-word answers. When you have a conversation over mealtimes or when you are reading your night-time story, keep extending the conversation just a little each day. Try to avoid closed questions. Ask questions that require them to think and give an opinion. ‘I wonder what would happen if…….?’. ‘What do you like best about this dinner?’
Make up a story where you start them off- Once upon a time a little girl called ………….. she went for a walk to ……………. with …………… At first, they just have to add one word when they get used to it, they can add two words then whole sentences.
Play shops where at first you are the customer, you model asking for help. Make sure you always ask using a whole sentence. This is important for developing their vocabulary and their confidence. They are going to be in a class with a lot more children and fewer adults. It’s important that they have the confidence to ask for help when it’s needed or if they are not sure about something.
Create a food shop you are the customer. Excuse me could you help me to find some bananas.
Create a clothes shop. Excuse me do you have this shirt in a different colour etc.
Starting school is very exciting, your child is going to have so many opportunities to learn things for the very first time. The world is full of so much wonder and awe, how amazing to experience something for the very first time and then develop the knowledge and skills to understand it. Helping them to ‘be ready’ to continue their learning journey is a privilege, enjoy this time and opportunity, if you can be relaxed and have as much fun as possible both you and your child will feel confident and ready for September.. ….