Getting ready for Grade one

Parents play an important role in helping make Grade one, and schooling in general, a positive experience. If we can get Grade one right it paves the way for a positive Grade two, three and four that follows. If your child’s attitude to school is generally positive, it paves the way for an overall positive learning experience and opens the door for success at school.

Physical development:
This involves the development and co-ordination of both gross motor (big movements like kicking a ball, throwing and catching) and fine motor skills (small movements such as tying shoelaces, cutting and holding a pencil). Although it may not seem the case, adequate physical development plays a role in almost all areas at school including, but not limited to; attention and concentration, reading, spelling, maths skills, handwriting, coordination and organisational skills.

Some ideas that you can do at home to encourage physical development:
• Encourage outside play and participation in sport and limit television watching. A lot of the difficulties that we are picking up in school going children is due to the device time that children are allowed (tv/ipad/tv games/cell phones). Having your child exposed to the use of technology is very important today but it should be strictly monitored.
• Healthy diet is so important. Please make sure that your child eats a healthy breakfast every morning. To concentrate, we need to get our children’s nutrition right. Teach your child about nutrition and how to make healthy choices.

Cognitive/Language Development:
As your child develops various skills and their awareness, interests, thoughts and feelings become increasingly vast, we are able to see them question and understand ideas and concepts in a different way. One of the best ways to engage and develop your child is through the advancement of language. Being able to communicate your thoughts and ideas effectively using language is imperative for learning and further academic development. A child’s attention span and ability to focus also needs to be at an adequate level for effective learning to take place.

Some ideas that you can do at home to encourage cognitive/language development
• Have meaningful conversations with your children about the world around them. Find out what your children are learning about at school and have conversations about this in the car or around the dinner table.
• Structure and routine are important in creating a calm and predictable environment. Children thrive in such an environment as less anxiety is experienced if you are organized and you have a reasonably predictable routine. An organized routine sets the tone for a relaxed start to a school day. Let your child pack their own school bags and their own lunch the night before and put it ready for the next morning. Get your child to pack their clothes ready for the next day so that there is less conflict in the morning.
• Having a set bedtime and having a good night’s sleep allows for an alert child who can learn effectively.
• Give your child chores and responsibilities at home so that they feel that sense of responsibility and get them to understand that there is an expectation on them to fulfil their responsibilities. Let them feel that sense of achievement when they meet the expectation.
• Try to encourage good ‘learning habits’ at home by getting them to work in a quiet, dedicated learning space. Have a study schedule present that needs to be followed.
• Limit screen time.
• Foster a love for reading by making them interested in the task. Especially in Grade one, try to make reading a positive and fun experience by reading things your child is interested in, and by spending quality time while reading with your child where they do not feel any pressure to perform.
• Keep open communication with your child’s teacher. If you are concerned about something, make an appointment to meet with your child’s teacher to discuss it. If the teachers are concerned about something, please be open to hearing what they have to say and remember that it is out of concern for the wellbeing of your child. Each teacher only wants the best for your child.

Social and Emotional Development
Your child will start to develop increased independence as they become more able to negotiate, compromise, maintain friendships and gain self-confidence. They are slowly learning more about themselves, their likes and dislikes, who they are as individuals and how they fit into this world; and so, their social and emotional skills develop in this process.

Some ideas that you can do at home to encourage social and emotional development:
• Allow your child to be independent and to make mistakes. We all learn through the mistakes that we make so let them make mistakes and let them learn the lesson. Do not scold them for these errors, but rather praise them for their effort and guide them to make better choices in the future. If your child leaves their homework at home, do not deliver a completed homework assignment to school so that your child does not get into trouble as your child will learn the lesson that mom/dad will rescue me when I make mistakes. No lesson of responsibility, organization, conflict/crisis management or problem-solving skills is learnt.
• At home, when you allow your child to be autonomous, you are saying to your child that you trust them to be responsible and you are putting that expectation on them to be independent. Autonomy at home leads to independence and strong decision making outside your home. Give your children responsibilities (chores) to develop this.
• Praise your child when they get something right. Build your child up and show them love because a confident child can achieve anything. Say things like ‘I know you can do this,’ ‘you’ve got this in the bag,’ ‘you will be fine,’ ‘I am confident that you have worked hard.’ It is incredible how a confident child does not crumble when faced with inevitable peer pressure and day to day challenges.
• Show and teach your child respect for others and for their belongings. Your children are constantly watching how you interact with people around you. This determines how your child treats others at school and how they will accept being treated at school by their peers. It is a first-hand experience for your child to have a real-life respectful relationship with you. In saying this, there needs to be respect shown from your children to you.

If I could add just one more idea which is probably the most pertinent one: spend quality time with your child. Find the time to spend quality time with them, even if it is having that dinner around the table. Recent studies link regular family dinners with many behaviours that parents wish for: lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and improved self-esteem. Studies also indicate that dinner conversation boosts vocabulary more so than reading, and the stories told around the dinner table help our children build resilience. Do something that your child enjoys doing and put your cell phone away. Try to give your child that undivided attention that they so deserve.