Get Ready for Big School

Part 1 of 3 - 8 Parenting Tips

28 June 2017

blog 8 parenting tips primary school preparation

The first step from preschool to more formal schooling in the United States is kindergarten. In some countries this step is called Reception Year, called Pre-Primary or Grade R. Whatever the term used, parents are rightly concerned that their child is ready. In the US, we often talk about “readiness” for kindergarten. People used to think children were ready for kindergarten if they could say the ABC’s, count, identify colors, and write their first name. But readiness was always more complicated than that. Being ready for kindergarten or pre-primary or Reception Year means a child has a willing attitude and confidence in the process of learning-- a healthy state of mind!  

So, how can you help your child gain this state of mind? Simply by being responsive to all areas of your child’s development-- physical, emotional, social, cultural, language, and cognitive (thinking). In this article, I cover specific developmental aspects and practices that are important for successful transition to kindergarten.

Here are eight parenting practices that will help you prepare your child to get ready for formal schooling no matter where in the world your child grows.

  1. Take time to have “contact” talks with your child daily.  A contact talk is a few moments of intentional shared time between you and your child. They can happen anytime, day or night-- often while reading together, but also during bath time, taking a walk, riding in a car, or when your child approaches you to have a chat. When you decide it’s a time for contact, stop what you are doing.  Listen, encourage and support. Learn more about this little person and help your child learn more about you, as adult and child together in the family you share. Contact talks don’t have to be long, but they do have to happen, every day. They tell your child you value her and what she has to say is worthwhile. Contact talks build healthy attachment between you and your child like nothing else can. They support the development of your child’s self-esteem, social skills, thinking skills, and language abilities. All of these are key capabilities for school success. We created our Chatty-do activities to help you do just that, too. 
  2. Help your child develop independence at home and support asking for help when needed.  Encourage your child to dress himself, take his coat on and off and hang it up. This independence and self-help will be required in kindergarten.By Pre-Primary or Kindergarten level, your child will be expected to wipe her face after lunch without prompting and blow her nose without assistance. Also, encourage your child to use the bathroom without assistance and wash hands without constant reminders, and put on his own shoes. Provide serving spoons so your child can serve himself at the table and clear his own dishes. These skills will take him from the coatroom to the lunchroom and beyond. At the same time, it’s also important to let your child know that it’s alright to ask an adult for help when necessary. Help your young one trust their instinct to reach out for assistance and to provide help to those who are in need of help as well.
  3. Develop and follow routines.  Set up morning routines that will transfer into a school setting. For example, getting up around the same time every day, getting dressed, and having an early breakfast together is a great way to transition to school. Your child will need to have a similar morning routine when school begins so this practicing will help establish it before school starts
  4. Teach Responsibility.  Start by transferring small responsibilities over to your child, if you haven’t already. For example, put your child in charge of feeding the cat, cleaning up the bowls and area afterward. Even when it may be easier for you to complete a task, it’s important for your little one to accept the responsibility. Your child’s kindergarten or Grade R teacher will definitely expect your child to be responsible for things in the classroom. Need more suggestions to get your child involved in responsibilities at home? Check out our Helping at Home article for simple ways to get started.
  5. Read aloud to your child.  Be sure that your child has a library card and go to the library together. Check out books and plan to read to your child everyday. Read a variety of books, read the captions under pictures in the newspaper, even share the comics. Just read! Your child will be exposed to many types of books in kindergarten or reception year, so prepare for that now. Check out our Skilly-do Book Reviews for my suggestions on different types of children’s books you child will enjoy with you.
  6. Get your child involved in literacy activities.  Encourage your child to help you with thank you cards, emails, shopping lists, or notes. They may start with scribbles or pictures, move into scattered letters, and finally some recognizable words as they enter kindergarten. Be sure to make it a point to appreciate their attempts and the skills that develop with practice.  
  7. Acknowledge your child’s feelings about going to big school. Avoid talking about school too much, or waiting until the end of summer is near. Try not to talk the whole summer about going to “big school” in the fall. Your child may express being nervous, not wanting to go, or, alternatively, feeling very excited to start school. Whatever your child feels, take time to appreciate where your child is. Your calm, natural approach to your child’s questions and feelings is the best approach to pre-school jitters.
  8. Ask yourself, "What can my child do well that will help them succeed?" Finally, as a general rule, rather than worry about whether your child is ready to read and write, think about your child’s skills as a whole. And rest assured, all around the world, young children will work together to navigate kindergarten, or reception year, or Grade R, or Pre-Primary. The quiet child who has reading abilities will find her way to the social butterfly that needs help writing his name. The silly, wiggly child will find a spot as the classroom helper. Your little one's entry into kindergarten is their first, exciting step in their becoming a citizen of the world!

To further prepare for big school, stay tuned for my next article in this three-part series, a preschooler-skills checklist. In the meantime, you can school-up with my article, Before Kindergarten, Celebrate Diversity, The Promise of Your Child’s Development - Make the Most of It, and my Learning Anywhere, Every Day Series for even more helpful hints.

And don’t forget to let us know what you found most useful-- let us know what you think right here!

Photo/Credit goes to the family of ruddy-headed geese living in the Falkland Islands, pictured here by Jose Hernandez.