It’s that time of year, and anticipation is building for parents and pre-school children moving to ‘big school’ in the new year. To help make the first day fuss-free, the professional educators from leading early learning provider Young Academics – who look after thousands of children across Sydney – have shared their top tips, including what to practise, the most important social skills, and school readiness red flags to help pre-school parents send their children off feeling confident, calm, and excited for the next step.
“Preparation is key for a smooth transition,” says Jenni Gaffney, Young Academics’ Operations Director, “and parents shouldn’t fret, as there is still time to do a few simple things to make school easier for your child on day one.”
Young Academics’ top tips for a successful start to school
“Practise opening and closing their lunch box, and any food storage containers – including their drink bottle – and show them how to re-fill it. Teach them to recognise their own name to help locate their possessions when all the hats end up in a pile together; check that they’re on top of their toilet hygiene and handwashing – you can visit public bathrooms so they can practise in a different environment; talk about taking turns; and encourage them to wear their uniform and any new school shoes or hats for a couple of days at home to get used to them,” says Jenni.
Jenni adds: “In the few days before school, it’s a good idea to do a dry run for the school routine – go to bed at a sensible hour, wake up at the time you will need to for school and pack your child’s lunch box for the day. Plan for them to eat at similar times to school morning tea and lunch breaks so they can get used to portion planning and teach them to separate their morning tea and lunch foods to avoid eating everything during the first break!”
Starting School Checklist:
- Practise using the toilet and washing hands without help
- Wear uniform, school shoes and hat around the house
- Pack a school lunch box to use for the days before school & stick to school mealtimes
- Practise opening and closing lunchbox, drink bottle & storage containers
- Learn to re-fill drink bottle independently
- Discuss the drop-off and pick-up procedure so they know what (and who) to expect
- Talk positively about meeting new people, trying new things & how to ask questions
- Talk about making mistakes and losing at games – remind them that it’s ok
- Stick to a routine for waking up, snack time, lunch and bedtime in the days before school
- Acknowledge any anxious feelings and praise them for sharing their feelings
Get the At Home School Readiness Checklist HERE.
Are there any benefits in ‘holding children back’ for children eligible to start school a year later?
The educators at Young Academics agree that there’s no hard and fast answer here, since age is not the sole factor in determining whether a child is ready to transition to kindergarten. “Some children do benefit from an additional year at pre-school to mature socially and emotionally and build confidence in facing challenges whilst in a setting with a higher teacher-to-child ratio,” explains Jenni. “It is an individual decision based more on social development than a child’s birthday and if parents are unsure, they can discuss their child’s unique needs with their educators, or their GP.”
Do children need to know skills such as the alphabet, writing or counting before they start school?
Jenni says self-help and social skills are the most important to prepare for learning experiences at primary school, although she agrees children should learn to recognise their own name and identify their belongings.
From learning to write their names to reading independently, there’s huge variation in children’s literacy skills in the lead-up to starting ‘big school’, and plenty of parental anxiety about what’s normal, what’s not, and how to help get your child off to a great start.
“Pre-reading is a vital step towards school readiness because it lays the foundation for what children will learn in school, like reading books from front to back and words from left to right. The most important thing for pre-literacy and numeracy skills is exposing children to books, stories and numbers in an organic, fun way to help inspire a genuine love of learning, Make language and counting part of your everyday routine, like helping name groceries and count them as they go into the trolley, playing ‘I Spy’ in the car, and most importantly of all, read aloud to your child every day – even if it’s just for 10 minutes.”
Other tips to help children develop a love of reading include encouraging them to make up their own stories using the drawings they bring home from childcare, regularly visiting the local library to choose books aligned to their personal interests, using syllable clapping to ‘sound out’ words, and always reading physical books – not books on electronic devices.
Remember your child will be formally taught to read and write once they start school, you are not expected to be able to teach them everything before they start school – an interest in books and stories is a fantastic start.
If parents are unsure about their child’s school readiness, they should chat to their pre-school educator, Centre Manager, GP, or the Kindergarten Coordinator at their future primary school.
About Young Academics
Established as a family-owned business in 2009, Young Academics Early Learning Centre emphasises education, learning and individuality. Our vision is to provide Australian families with a service that approaches these attributes dynamically and holistically.
Our name, Young Academics, is no coincidence. It reflects our belief that early learning is integral to children’s early years and sets the foundation for positive lifelong social, physical, and academic benefits. Our expert team has developed a curriculum and a set of programs that focus on individual understandings of identity, concepts, and ideas. Our goal is to ensure that learning and development remain synonymous, and that the quality of our education is of the highest calibre.