What can parents and caregivers do to help their preschooler develop the abilities, attitudes and knowledge to be successful in adjusting to school life and doing well during the first 12 months?
ChildForum researched this question by talking with parents and new entrant teachers and drew on our team's understandings of child development to form a list of seven essential skills for being ready for school-level education and suggestions for parents on ways to foster these skills.
ChildForum's recommended "7 Essential Skills for School Readiness" and suggestions for ways to help your child be ready for school are:
1. Knowledge of the environment and the world
Give children lots of varied experiences. Get out and about, visit different places, travel on different vehicles (e.g. paddle-boat, bike, bus, train), talk with different people, see and try different things.
2. Self-help skills
Support children to learn to dress and undress themselves, go to the bathroom and wash their hands unassisted and without being reminded, tidy-up after play, and hang up and fold their clothes.
3. Academic knowledge
Bring in academic knowledge within everyday activities and also in the context of supporting children's own interests. For example an interest in the superhero spiderman can lead to you looking together at learning about how spiders make their webs.
Formal teaching is not necessary at this age. For example, interest children in seeing the basic shapes in letters and numbers and noticing how shapes are different. Point out and discuss road, shop and other signs and letter box numbers while walking, driving and shopping together. Notice the different sizes of coins and that coins have different value amounts/numbers. Provide exposure to lots of books, music, and make opportunities to introduce children safely to different technology, animals, etc.
4. Listening skills
Talk with children about things and focus children's attention on what they are seeing and hearing. Don't forget to read to children on a regular basis.
5. Curiosity and questioning skills
Respond to your children's questions, invite children to ask questions, and share in your child's curiosity by discovering answers and new information together.
6. Fine motor and coordination skills
Give children lots of opportunity to build their hand muscles by providing drawing and cutting activities, puzzles, water pouring, play-dough and clay, threading large beads and hammering activities, etc.
7. Independence and responsibility
Foster independence by arranging for children to visit their friends and extended family members, and stay for a short time without you (their parent or caregiver).
Also notice and praise when children do something that shows independence (e.g. gets their own coat when it's time to go out). Let children hold and take care of their own bus ticket, decide what lunch they will have, or create other safe opportunities for children to practise being independent and exercising self-responsibility.
Make an appointment to talk with the new entrant teacher
Well ahead of the time that children are due to start school, make some familiarisation visits. Check with the new entrant teacher for anything that he/she specifically likes children to already be competent in doing before starting.
Good luck and best wishes from us at ChildForum - The Office of Pre-Primary Education and Childcare.