Many parents are anxious when their child begins school for the first time, especially when he/she is the first child to leave the nest. Is my little one ready for school? What should my child know/be able to do before starting? Unless you have teacher friends or have been given guidelines by the school it can be difficult to know how to get your child ready academically. Here are a few tips to help give your child a good start.
Step 1 Talk To Your Child
Talking to your child about starting school can ease any nerves and allay fears but talking to your child in general plays an important role in developing his/her vocabulary and improving your child's ability to use and understand spoken language. An enriched vocabulary will, in turn, be an aid when he/she begins to read. Point out things in your environment. Note the colors and shapes around you. Count the wheels on the car for your child. Expose your child to as wide a variety of words as possible; it will all help to give your child a head start for school.
Step 2 Read To Your Child
Reading to your child can help him/her get ready for reading at school. Make story time a regular part of your routine with your child. Point to the words as you read them so your child can see that we read from left to right. If your child sees Mum or Dad enjoying reading he/she will begin to view reading as a pleasant experience and will be all the more enthusiastic when he/she starts to learn at school. Listening comprehension precedes reading comprehension so discuss the story you read with your child. Stimulate the imagination; why not have your little one make up a story for you while looking through the pictures in a book? Some parents worry that their child should be reading before beginning school but this is unnecessary (and often discouraged by teachers) but exposing your child to a range of books and positive modeling of reading is certainly to be encouraged.
Step 3 Use Fine Motor Skills
Allow your child to scribble and cut. Use chunky crayons and child-sized scissors to let your child experiment on old newspapers, magazines or scraps of paper. Don't worry that the scribbles/pictures aren't tidy or the cutting isn't straight. This sort of play will help your child to develop fine motor skills that will be necessary when he/she learns to write. Playing with play-doh is another good way to develop muscles in the hands, as are activities like puzzles and manipulating buttons and zippers.
Step 4 Recite Nursery Rhymes
Nursery rhymes are an important way to enhance your child's language acquisition and prepare them for reading. Nursery rhymes give children vocabulary and language skills that will help them when they begin to read. Listening to and reciting nursery rhymes can help children to recognize rhyming words, syllables and intonation. So, if you haven't done so already, dust off that Mother Goose book and reacquaint yourself with Hey Diddle Diddle, Hickory Dickory Dock and the others…
- While most schools don't have academic prerequisites or expectations for children starting school it is generally expected that, and much appreciated if, students can do the following things by themselves: go to the toilet unaided and wipe themselves, close their own shoes (velcro straps are very useful for young children) and put on/take off their own jackets. If your child can do these things for him/herself you can usually expect that teachers will take care of the academic side of things.