Helping your little person prepare to start school

Mrs Tanya Vaughan, Head of Junior School at Roseville College

A warm welcome and introduction to parents who are, for the very first time, preparing a child for Kindergarten. To many, the notion of “kindergarten readiness” can be daunting. Don’t let it be. It is simply working alongside your child’s pre-school and future Kindergarten to help little people prepare for the transition into “big school” in a way that best enables them to settle in, learn and thrive.

In my role as Head of Junior School at Roseville College; a leading Anglican School for girls in Kindergarten to Year 12 and is located on Sydney’s leafy North Shore, each year I am asked by parents for ideas to help them prepare their daughter for their first day at Roseville.

Having also served as Head of School for an independent, co-educational primary school, I know that these ideas are universal, and apply to both boys and girls. Irrespective, it is imperative to have flexibility and acknowledge that children vary widely in their maturity at ages 4 and 5; how should a 4 to 5 year old think, behave and interact?

The following ideas, grouped into four categories to help us better grasp the notion of “kindergarten readiness”, can assist parents and carers to nurture skills and competencies in little people; just remember, there may still be some skills they are working on when they start School.

The important thing is to be aware of each category and to incorporate aspects into your child’s play and activity time. This will help them view starting school positively, with a sense of excitement, and enable all members of your family to enjoy this milestone experience.

Social and Emotional: Making friends and being congenial are at the front of many parents’ minds when wondering how their child will adjust to school life within a group of friends and peers.

Independence and Personal Responsibility: To most parents, this seems one of the more obvious categories; with many already “experienced” in working through topics like separation anxiety, personal hygiene, manners and looking after their own (and others’) property.

Academic, Curiosity and Concept Development: With a little conscious effort, parents find this category is the easiest and most fun to incorporate into every day life; while driving in the car, cooking or making things, and even finding specific items or counting produce when shopping for groceries.

Physical: In a country like Australia, and a coastal city like Sydney, it is crucial that parents consider water survival and swimming among their child’s physical competencies when starting school. Likewise, simple life-skill competencies like how to hold pencils or scissors, how to use a tap or zipper, or even looking left and right at a crossing, all amount to more confidence as a child embarks on her/his educational journey at School.

It is not a school’s expectation that each item be ticked-off by the time a child starts school; however, it is important that children have an awareness of what they are working towards and that they have a willing attitude in learning and improving alongside their peers. If you have any concerns, speak with your pre-school coordinator and/or your child’s future Kindergarten to ensure appropriate steps are put in place to support and encourage children who need it.