Starting primary education is a very exciting time for children and parents, but it is also a big step for everyone. To prepare your child, they will need many skills to make a successful and positive start. Such skills include emotional maturity, emotional regulation and talking through their feelings.
Other skills that can help your child prepare for primary education are independence, like packing their own bag, opening their own lunchbox, dressing themselves and toileting independently. At Genius, these are the skills our kindergarten teachers are working on with our children to prepare them for the big wide world.
To prepare your child for school, here are our top tips for leading them to a fun and successful school journey.
Practical Preparations for Starting School
You can teach your child many practical skills in readiness for primary education, and practising these skills at home assists your child in knowing what's expected once they begin primary education. Your child may or may not be as independent as they need to be for school, so practising independence at home can ensure they are school ready come 2023.
- Allow your child to practice putting on their uniform and tying their school shoes or fastening the buckles. While you’ll be able to help them get dressed in the morning there might be the occasion that they need to remove and redress certain items at school.
- Have your child wear school shoes around the house for a few days before starting. This will allow the shoes, especially leather ones, to soften to their feet and reduce rubbing and possible blisters.
- With your child, choose a lunchbox and a drink bottle which has easy-to-open lids. You can practice opening and closing these on a family picnic.
- You can practice making healthy snacks with your child for recess and lunch. This is a fun family activity where your child can choose and help to make the healthy snacks they take, and then they can pack them into their lunchbox. Lunch is often a time when children enjoy seeing something familiar from home, so this can be something nice to look forward to.
- You and your child can label their stationary and uniform together. You can purchase labels online with names and phone numbers which can be ironed or sewn onto items, or you can use a marker to write onto the tags. This will help children recognise their own belongings before they can really read fluently.
- Ensure your child is confident toileting independently in readiness for school, including thoroughly washing their hands afterwards. You may choose to go to your local library or shopping centre, allowing your child to go to the toilet on their own, and this will give them so much confidence in going to the bathroom independently at a venue other than home.
- Allow your child to practice packing and unpacking their school bag. When you go on outings, you can ask your child to pack their own bag with their snack and drink bottle. These skills are critical when starting school and begin that feeling of independence.
Starting school brings many big emotions, like excitement and possibly a little anxiety. While emotional maturity and regulation happen naturally over time, there are ways you can help your child cultivate emotional awareness and teach some healthy coping skills.
- Talk to your child about emotions. Your child needs to be able to recognise their feelings and be able to articulate how they are feeling.
- When reading books together, you can pause during the story and ask what the character feels. Follow on questions such as, ‘Why do you think they feel like that?’ will allow your child to learn about emotions and why they change.
- Role Modelling: Validating and relating to your child demonstrates that it's okay to feel big feelings as everyone sometimes feels big emotions – even grown ups. When you’re feeling frustrated, you could say, "I'm feeling really disappointed today that we can't visit Grandma, but we will visit her on the weekend."
Feelings vs Behaviour
- Your child must learn to express their emotions in a socially acceptable manner and this emotional regulation begins at home. When feeling big feelings, it's essential to tell them that all feelings are ok, but all behaviour is not, and it’s how they choose to express these emotions that is important.
- For example, you can explain to your child that it's okay to feel mad at their friend but not to scream at them out of anger. Teach them to separate the emotion from the behaviour.
- Emotional regulation is dependent on your child's age and development, but that doesn't mean you can't start teaching them some coping skills. Methods such as deep breathing, removing themselves from a situation or closing their eyes when they are feeling frustrated or angry are things they could try.
- Counting to calm down is a great tool to teach children not to be reactive in times of stress. You can demonstrate this to your child when you are frustrated or angry, count to 10 or count down from 100.
- Take a break. When your child is feeling big emotions, you might suggest they have some quiet time in a safe space like their bedroom or reading corner.
- Identify mood lifters. When your child is happy, discuss with them what activities make them happy. It might be reading a favourite book, singing, playing outside or drawing. Write these down, and these are their mood boosters. They can choose something from the list the next time they feel emotional.
- You can also choose something symbolic to help them feel happier at school. A note in their lunchbox, a special key ring on their bag, or a small toy from home in their pocket could work. Some parents also draw a small heart or symbol on their hand and their child’s hand, and instruct their child to press it when they’re feeling sad to send a hug back home. The parent can also send hugs back. These small gestures can help a child feel more secure when they’re in a new environment.
Starting school is a fascinating time and a significant milestone in your little learner's journey. While these skills will help ease the nerves and prepare them, there are a lot of fun and exciting aspects to starting school which will also help make it a positive experience. Good luck to all our kindergarten children starting school in 2023!
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