By Susan Cahill
As the year creeps to an end, the start of a new school year approaches. For parents of pre-school students, it is a time of orientation days and school preparation.
Everyone wants their child to be well prepared and have a confident start to school. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to ensure your child’s transition is a smooth and exciting time.
- Help your child become familiar with the school environment. Visit the school over a weekend. Have a walk around, climb on the playground, kick a ball on the oval and have a drink at the drinking fountains. Many schools have a playground for the younger children and another for the older kids. Point out which one you think your child might be using and talk to them about which one the older kids might use.
- If you haven’t already, start a routine of bed time stories. Next year your child will be bringing home their own books to read and reading to your child every night will remain one of the most helpful things you can do to ensure your child’s success with literacy. You can never read too many books.
- Teach your child the alphabet song, nursery rhymes and read rhyming stories. Children who can make rhyming words are off to a great start.
- Count things around the house, collect 6 shells on the beach, 9 gum nuts on your walk, countdown to ten as your child packs away their toys. Cooking and mini building jobs are great ways to help your child to count, weigh and measure; all great foundations for early numeracy and life.
- In the first weeks put up a picture calendar so that your child knows which days to bring their library book, which days are rest days or short days and which days they do any specialist classes like Art or Science. Talk about what is coming up. As adults we like to know what is coming up and kids are no different. Can you image not knowing what was going to happen every day until it was about to happen?
- If you know any children who will be starting at your child’s school organise a play date over the holidays so that your child has a familiar face in the playground. Perhaps your school has a canteen, try giving your child some money at the local shop and let them buy an icy pole so they are confident to try it alone at school.
- Help your child learn to tie their shoe laces. Starting school is a great motivation and, let’s face it, being able to tie your own shoe laces is another step on the path to independence which is what we want for all our children. Your child will get a real confidence boost when they can tie their laces.
In the early days expect your child to be tired. Remember how tired you were the last time you started a new job and everything was new? It is the same for your child.
The majority of government schools will start the year with an English Interview. This is a one-on-one interview which will help your child’s teacher to determine what your child already knows and what to teach them next. Your child will be asked to do things like: predict what a book will be about based on the cover, retell a story that has been read to them, write their name, identify rhyming words, identify words which start with the same sound or end with the same sound and recognise letters of the alphabet. As you can see, most of these are things that you can do at home as well.
When the first big day arrives it is more often the parents that cry than the kids so be prepared! If you are going to find it tough, don’t let your child see you and make a quick exit. Teachers are very used to settling in small people and even if you are ok and your child is a little tearful a quick exit still works better than a long drawn out farewell. After many years in schools I have never known a school that had to call a parent because they were unable to console a child. So relax; your child will be in safe hands.
Starting primary school is a great adventure and before you know it you will be preparing your child for secondary school so enjoy every moment and don’t forget to take those memorable first-day-of-school-pictures!