Working with families: Is my child ready for school?
Monday, October 17, 2022
When an academic year is approaching, you may find yourself asking if your child is actually ready for school? Your child may be transitioning from a nursery, childcare or your home setting where everything has been a regular routine, having had consistent and familiar educators or family members supporting them. I am here with some ideas to support you and your child.
early years teacher, educator and writer
‘My child doesn't show any interest in writing or drawing.’
Do you have a child who would rather be outside kicking a ball or climbing a tree than sitting down to draw or write? Well good news, because these physical activities that your child shows more of an interest in now are helping them to be able to draw and write in the future (when they are ready!) Helping your child develop strong core muscles and gross motor skills is the BEST thing you can do to help your child sustain the strength to hold a pencil later. The gross motor muscles in turn then support the fine motor muscles in the wrists and fingers for example, to become stronger and more sustainable. So keep taking your child to the park, keep letting them climb the climbing frame and allow them to choose the outdoors! When their muscles and minds are ready, they will be interested and happy to write and draw.
‘I am worried my child will find it hard to detach from me.’
If your child has had trouble in the past settling into a different setting or being left with ‘new’ people you may worry that your child will struggle to detach from yourself when they get to school. Keep all talk about starting school very positive, have active conversations with your child about how much fun they are going to have and how many wonderful new experiences they are going to take part in. If you are positive and demonstrate that you are not worried for them, your child will pick up on these mannerisms and will hopefully have more positive ‘self-talk’ when they think about starting school. Allow your child to bring in a ‘transition object’ such as a small soft toy, for the first few days as this could comfort them and bring some of ‘home’ into the new setting. If you can, arrange some playdates with some new classmates before they start school so your child can see a familiar face or two when they get there.
‘My child is very shy, I am worried they might find it difficult to settle.’
The most important thing to know though, is that it is completely normal if your child does need some extra support to settle. Never feel embarrassed by your child showing their attachment to you. Your child's teacher will be well versed to this and will know a range of strategies to support them. Always say ‘goodbye’ to your child (even if you think they will be upset to see you go) and never just ‘disappear’ without your child knowing or lie and say ‘you will be back in a few minutes.’ Although this seems like a good idea, this ultimately prolongs your child's attachment as they will be thinking about you returning soon. When you say ‘goodbye, see you after school’ give a big hug to them and then go, you set a strong, clear message to your child that you are leaving now, you will be back and it is time for them to go into school. In the long run, this will help your child to settle more quickly.
‘My child still struggles to dress and undress independently.’
Independence is an important part of starting school. Naturally, you would have supported your child heavily with this. Please do not worry if your child still struggles with buttons and zips, it is very normal developmentally for your three-to-four year old to need some support. When you can encourage them to put their coats, shoes and socks on independently, then each morning throughout the summer or first half term at school, encourage them to attempt to put their uniform on and take it off on their own as much as possible. Once your child is at school and can see other children being independent with their dressing they will naturally want to copy and will be more self-motivated to do this independently.