Kindergarten students across the region have been exposed to an entirely new world this past month, some embracing it with enthusiasm, others somewhat daunted. Gone are the day time naps, casual clothes, and extended ‘free play’, and in their place are school, a more structured learning environment and often sharing the attention of a single teacher.
As an Early Education Centre Director, I am often asked, “how can I assist my child to prepare for ‘big school’?” There are many factors that will contribute to a child’s readiness for school, but research strongly supports the benefit of enrolling children in early education for at least two days per week, in the year before they start school.
My years of experience as a mother and educator tell me that a child’s emotional and social development is the most important criteria for a smooth transition. While literacy and numeracy skills are highly valued, if a child comes to a classroom prepared to learn, in most cases the ability to write the alphabet and solve maths problems will soon follow.
St Nicholas Early Education Centres adopt a holistic approach to preparing children for school. We guide children proactively with the knowledge that their experiences in the first five years lay the foundation for sound emotional, social and cognitive development for the rest of their lives. In addition to supporting children’s foundational skills through activities that include exploring language by reading books and practising the fine muscle movements needed to enhance pre-writing skills, we have developed a Transition to School Program. This program is independent of the schools’ orientation programs and is designed to support confidence and resilience. As part of the exercise, children embark on regular excursions to local schools where they are able to improve their attention span by watching school assemblies, increase their confidence by purchasing goods from the canteen, have their curiosity encouraged by borrowing library books and elevate their social skills by interacting with primary school children.
St Nicholas parents have embraced the Transition to School program, with many telling us that it has opened up their children’s social networks and allowed them to develop their sense of identity with the community.
Sarah is the mother of two boys who have both attended St Nicholas Early Education and was thrilled with the progress they made in readiness for school, thanks to the Program.
“The transition program over to big school has been an amazing head start for them. It’s given them the confidence that they needed to start kindergarten. They’ve been there (to the school) and they know the environment,” said Sarah.
Parents can reinforce their children’s early education centre experiences at home and so further develop school readiness.
- focusing on participation and involvement rather than competing and winning
- helping to develop pro-social behaviours such as sharing, listening, and patience
- encouraging the gaining of sufficient confidence to ask for help and also to self-regulate emotions
- providing opportunities for the child to be responsible for his/her belongings
- supporting independence in relation to toileting, hand washing and dressing.
- allowing the child to engage in physical activities that involve challenges and risk-taking.
Investing time in social and emotional learning will help your child to manage feelings and friendships, as well as the ability to solve problems. These are essential life skills that will support wellbeing and positive mental health long after that apprehensive first school drop off.