School Readiness

We all know that starting school is a big step for little kids. You might have heard the term ‘school readiness’ – but what does it really mean?

School readiness is about a collection of skills, knowledge and behaviours that enable your child to participate in their education from the first day. There is, however, a misconception around school readiness that relates to your child being able to read, write or count to one hundred before they start kindy. Please let me assure you that this is not the case. School readiness is a more holistic term that relates to your child’s physical skills and coordination, social and emotional skills, their communication skills and their cognitive skills.

The physical skills that are ideal include some physical coordination (being able to run, jump, climb and track a ball) and the fine motor skills include the ability to turn pages in a book or being able to correctly grip a pencil. Basic health is also vital. I recommend that a vision and hearing examination occurs prior to a child starting school. If challenges are identified early, interventions can be put in place from the first day, establishing positive habits. Being able to independently dress and toilet themselves is essential. You needn’t worry about their shoelace tying ability, this will come later as fine motor skills develop.

Social and emotional skills are essential as well. A child needs to have had a range of positive experiences with children of a similar age. The ability to engage and play with other children is very important. They learn exponentially in this play based environment. They model what they have seen from family situations, from the media they are exposed to and from their peers. Basic manners are also essential at this point. Developmentally children are moving from an egocentric time in their lives to one that recognises wider perspectives. The ability for children, therefore, to be able to focus their attention and follow teacher instruction will reduce their stress in this new environment.

Communication skills include the ability for your child to articulate needs and feelings without moving to physical interactions. Listening skills are essential. Most preschool teachers would highlight this as being the most important skill. The confidence and/or ability to speak clearly is important. The teacher is unable to assess understanding and plan for future teaching without feedback from the child. A bonus in this category is the ability to follow storylines and identify some letters and sounds. The ability to be able to wait and take their turn can’t be underestimated in this domain as well.

What can you do to help with school readiness?
● Social development – arrange play dates or join a playgroup for at least weekly interactions with children of the same or similar age.
● Fine motor skills development – let your child practice drawing with a range of different materials, such as pencils, crayons and textas.
● Gross motor skill development – spend time outside walking and talking in different environments. Kick the soccer ball around with them and ask them questions about their day at the same time. Encourage them to catch the tennis ball – it helps to develop early eye tracking skills that will be useful in all sports and in their coordination later in life.
● Read with your child daily. There are thousands of studies that rate the importance of reading with your child to help develop positive habits around education and to develop cognitive skills and open their mind to a world different from their own. Discuss the story. Let them predict how it will end or what will be on the next page. Join your local library, you will all enjoy the outing and shared experience.
● Play card games – this helps with concepts such as sequencing, waiting their turn, and also teaches logic and strategy that supports cognitive skill development.
● Before your child starts school spend a little bit of time with the new teacher. The positive relationship that you have with the teacher is essential. They are professionals in this age group and are wonderful resources.

Helping your child with this collection of skills will enable them to participate confidently in their education from the first day.

Nick Johnstone