“Are they ready for school?” If your child is starting big school in September, this question will undoubtedly have crossed you mind.
‘School readiness’ essentially means that your child can complete simple tasks independently and is ready to learn, but there are several key skills and behaviours which contribute. In our last blog, we looked at skills. In this one, our focus is on the key behaviours. Don’t worry if your child is weaker in any one area. Like adults, all children are different, and each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Focusing some time on any weaker areas over the next few weeks, however, may put your child in a stronger position for school.
One of the best things you can encourage to prepare your child for school is to make sure they are happy doing simple things for themselves. This may be dressing, eating or going to the toilet, making friends or solving small problems on their own.
Encourage them to practise this skill at home by letting them try on their own before helping. At play group, stand back and give your child space so that they can approach others, rather than relying on you to do it. Praising them for their effort (and when they succeed) will boost their confidence and encourage them to do the same again another time.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back after a set-back and an openness to accept challenges and mistakes. It’s built on self-belief, self-control and an understanding that things don’t always work out as expected.
Help your child understand that setbacks and disappointments are part of life for everyone, and making mistakes is how we learn. When things go badly for your child, talk about how they feel, let them know it’s completely normal to feel that way, and get them to consider what they could have done differently to achieve a better outcome. Be positive about any situation, and give examples of times when things actually ended up better because they went wrong.
3. Curiosity about the world
Children are born curious, and question everything to try and make sense of the world around them. It’s very easy as parents to shut down children’s seemingly endless barrage of “Why?” questions with a simple “Because it is!” but curiosity and asking questions are traits to be encouraged.
Answer all questions your child asks as best you can in an age-appropriate way, but don’t be afraid to say you don’t know either. Tell your child what a great question it was, and either Google it or ask someone who may know later. This will not only boost your child’s confidence but also help them understand that everyone is learning, even adults.
Good communication skills are key at primary school, because they enable children to make friends, express their feelings and needs, and ask for help from the teaching staff when they need it.
Encourage your child to communicate well by organising playdates so that they can interact with children of their own age, and involve them in conversations with both children and adults so that they are not shy or afraid to speak up. Make sure they use words to express themselves too, even at home, ensuring you or an older sibling are not pre-empting what they want from their body language. Praise them for communicating and sharing well and are kind to others, especially if the situation has been a challenge for them.
5. Listening and paying attention
Being able to concentrate for 10-15 minutes at a time without fidgeting or getting distracted is very useful at school. Whilst there is a huge amount of learning through play at Reception level, where the children get to choose what and how they want to learn, there are also dedicated times for listening to stories and carpet time for phonics etc.
Practise at home by focusing on a particular activity for 5 minutes and keeping your child on-task. This could be sharing a book together, creating a building with blocks, or playing on a website like Busy Things , which has great games for children aged 3 and over. If they struggle to work alone or want to involve you, you could play schools, role-playing different times of the day, i.e. getting ready for P.E. or queueing for lunch!
If your child shows all or most of these behaviours, they’ll be really well placed to take on the challenges of primary school. There are also certain practical skills they should have to be ready for school too. We covered these in our earlier blog Starting Primary School: Skills to Encourage which you can find here.
More getting ready for school support…
This blog is the third in our ‘Starting School’ series, which consists of 5 blogs in total. Read the others here: Starting School: Hints and Tips, Starting School: Skills to Encourage, Getting Ready for School: A Parent’s Guide and Your First Day at School Checklist.
We hope our “Is Your Child Ready for School, Emotionally and Socially?” blog has been useful! Please do let us know what you think in the comments and if you have any further ideas to share…