15 Tips to Prepare Your Child for School
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Let's take a look at the physical, emotional and social skills which help children prepare for school in the best way possible.
1. Encourage games that build fine motor skills
These skills are important for performing everyday skills like doing up buttons, opening lunch boxes and using pencils and scissors. A fun way to build these skills is by playing with play-dough and finger painting.
2. Choose activities that build gross motor skills
These skills enable your child to get ready for running, skipping and navigating the playground (e.g. climbing). Great games that build these skills are Hop Scotch and Simon Says. You can also practise catching large balls or balloons and gradually move to smaller sizes.
3. Look out for situations that teach resilience
Talk to your child about dealing with disappointment and frustration. Avoid the temptation to run to their rescue every time they struggle to put on their shoes or feed themselves.
4. Focus on modelling and encouraging confidence
Encourage your child to step outside of their comfort zone and be sure to exhibit the same behaviour. This could mean introducing yourself to new people, taking on more difficult puzzles, and trying new foods.
5. Teach them that it's OK to make mistakes
Teach your child that making mistakes is a natural part of life and an essential part of self-improvement. Praise them for making an effort, but use praise sparingly so that it doesn't lose it effect.
6. Teach them how to describe what they are feeling
Encourage your child to communicate their needs and talk about feelings. Encourage full sentences such as “I am feeling hungry”, “Can I have some water please?” and “My arm hurts”.
7. Encourage calm and considered problem solving
Encourage your child to solve their own problems and discuss potential solutions together. A good idea is to use a Catastrophe Scale so your child can assess how serious their problem is, and whether or not they need help.
8. Create situations which encourage sharing
If you have multiple children, assign projects where they can work together by sharing material (e.g. arts and craft). Teach your child to share their toys with other children and to take turns.
9. Create opportunities to play games where there's a winner and loser
Choose age-appropriate board games, or play games like Simon Says. Even though there will only be one winner, emphasise the fact that everyone is having fun, spending time together, and trying their best.
10. Take opportunities to explore conflict resolution
Read stories that show how characters overcoming social conflicts. Talk together about these stories and try to relate them to real-life situations. You can also role-play situations that demonstrate conflict resolution or use hand puppets.
11. Start getting them into a routine
Starting a daily routine is an important part of getting ready for school. Set a routine by waking up at the same time each morning and having regular reading time in the evenings.
12. Encourage listening and following instructions:
Help your child follow two-part instructions, such as “Put the spoons and forks on the table”, and gradually move up to three-part instructions such as “Put your clothes, socks and toys away”.
13. Organise play sessions with other children
If you know other families with children starting school at the same time, organise play dates so your child can get to know some of their peers. This is also a great opportunity to put early social skills into action.
14. Practise leaving your child over short periods of time:
Leave your child with trusted supervision while you go out shopping or run errands. Always let them know you'll be coming back. You can gradually increase the time away as they become more confident.
15. Encourage independence
The overarching skill required for getting ready for school is independence. Always look out for opportunities to let your child explore and play on their own (under safe supervision), and remember that social and emotional skills that build independence need to be explicitly taught – they are not learned through osmosis.