As parents and caregivers we want to do the best for our children, right? Often thoughts might go through our heads wondering whether we’ve been doing all the right things with our children before they start school. We are lucky to have some early childhood teachers in our volunteer management committee and they assure us that preparing your child for school is very simple and have shared some tips with us. (PS we note that Kindergym ticks a lot of these boxes!)
Experiences outside the home
Make sure your child goes out into the world and has lots of experiences in different places. It doesn’t have to cost much with lots of free options such as playgrounds, your local library (which is likely to run some wonderful preschool programs), museums and nature trails.
If your family budget allows it then go to zoos, wildlife parks and other attractions. Instead of toys as birthday and Christmas presents you could ask friends and family to gift vouchers to local attractions. These activities create some wonderful memories for children… can you remember the first time you went to a zoo?
There are plenty of regular preschool activities on offer for children including Kindergym, dancing, basic level sports and craft.
Holidays are also a wonderful way to show your child that there is a whole world out there. Whether it be a simple trip less than an hour away, to interstate or even overseas the experience is fantastic for your child’s development.
Despite whatever you have read on the internet or what your Aunty Mavis has said, there I absolutely NO need for your child to know how to read and write before they start school. In fact, our teachers do an absolutely fabulous job of teaching them to do this. But, we do think it is essential that kids have books read to them regularly before starting school. It teaches them a love of books but also things like how to hold a book properly, how turning the pages work and basic things like the title and author’s name. Knowing these little things will enable your child to go straight into learning how to read when they do start school.
Reading from birth is a wonderful idea, however if you have not already started reading with your child then it is never too late. Reading together can become a fun “downtime” afternoon activity or you might like to include it as part of your bedtime routine.
Fine motor skills are important for when children are learning to write. There are so many ways you can do this. For example, singing songs like ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ together with the hand movements, playing games together that involve hand movements, safe ‘sewing’ activities, barrel of monkeys game and building toys just to name a few. Some children absolutely love drawing from the time they are young too so encourage them if they are keen on it. If they aren’t interested in drawing or writing before they start school don’t be too concerned – there are a few children in our volunteer management committee families who didn’t enjoy drawing or writing at preschool but after they started school they completely changed!
Gross motor skills are important too – encouraging them to play at the playground, in a park, the backyard and even around the home (depending on how comfortable you are with them jumping on your furniture!) will prepare them for school.
Introducing your child to regular social interactions with other kids is essential because they will be learning with 20+ other children when they start school. They also learn to follow instructions from people other than their parents, learn how to take turns, share and generally what behaviour is appropriate in a group situation. Kindergym is a great example, but introducing your child to playgroups, childcare and preschool will also help them. Regular playdates also help children learn how to establish friendships.
Let them play
Your pre-schooler has years of school ahead of them and so one of the most important tips we can give is to let them play! If they take a particular interest in something then you could delve further into it. For example, if your chid is into dinosaurs you could play with a set of dinosaur toys (don’t forget toy libraries if you don’t have toys at home) and your child might learn about the different types of dinosaurs. If your child is into the solar system they might enjoy making or drawing the planets during craft time. Of course it doesn’t have to be dinosaurs or the solar system… whatever they are interested in! Follow their lead and encourage them to learn through play.