B is for big school: Signs your child is ready

 How can a parent know if their child is ready for big school?

What are some signs of school readiness, and how can parents cope and prepare their children for the leap to Grade 1? Read on!

Is your child ready for big school? That’s a tough question for many parents. For some parents, the month in which their child was born adds to this tough decision of whether or not to send then to Grade 1. Children generally start Grade 1 in the year in which they turn 7-years-old. For some, being born in the November/December months places these children at a disadvantage from a maturity and developmental milestone point of view. However, some children who may be younger than their peers seem to excel whilst others are still not mature enough to start Grade 1.

Kristen Strahlendorf, Educational Psychologist from the Family Tree Therapy Center, outlines some signs of school readiness, and how parents can cope and prepare their children for the leap to Grade 1.

5 Skills that could indicate your child is ready for big school

There are an array of signs as to whether or not a child is ready for ‘big school’. Ideally, your child should already be displaying the following skills:

  1. Developed basic social skills including friendship skills and turn-taking.
  2. Should be able to cope emotionally being separated from parents.
  3. Be relatively independent in his or her personal care. You can assist in developing this by encouraging self-help skills like letting your child dress herself and encouraging her to ask for help when she needs it. Promote a sense of responsibility by giving your child small tasks. This will help your child feel useful and build their self-confidence. Teach your child to look after their belongings and understand social rules and cues.
  4. A curiosity about the world and a desire to learn. Encourage listening skills by reading to them, promote a hands-on approach to learning through play. Help your child to follow instructions – start with one and build up to two-step instructions.
  5. Encourage hand-eye coordination. Using building blocks, scissors, throwing and catching a ball. Hand-eye coordination is important as they learn to read and write.

Good to know: School readiness is about how your child integrates into the schooling system through routine, social cues, and their ability to physically and mentally absorb meaningful information.

What is a school readiness assessment?

Parents need to understand their child’s ability and potential through a school readiness assessment. The assessment considers your child’s readiness in terms of academic, social and emotional maturity. Even though your child may be academically strong, in being younger than their peers, their emotional development may stifle their academic performance and social integration.

This is why a school readiness assessment is important in considering the following factors:

Intellectual and academic maturity: Your child must have the ability to understand, reason, and interpret new concepts. Processing and absorbing information such as sounds, numbers, everyday concepts, and understanding through verbal comprehension and information retention are key in your child’s academic development. Parents mainly focus on developing intellectual skills and not physical or social skills, as a by-product of the working world both parents come from. Knowledge is not only verbal or visual, but also tactile and physical. Screen time can stimulate your child, but often parents do not involve children in day-to-day activities such as making food or washing dishes. Something as simple as playing outside or playing hide and seek can aid in your child’s social and physical development. Children learn through experiences and not solely through regurgitation.

Physical readiness: Physical vigor and strength are signs that your child is meeting their developmental milestones. This is where they can comfortably run, jump and climb and they should also have the ability to concentrate for longer. They are able to use their muscles to sit up straight for longer, hold a pencil, and focus on what is being discussed in the classroom. Learners who are not physically ready can lose concentration and tire quickly. This may become a challenge if your child cannot focus and do classwork or homework for longer periods of time.

Social and emotional development: Socialisation is what makes us human. This is where emotional and social development plays a key role in your child’s readiness for school. Children may be academically ready and physically strong while being in line with the developmental milestones. However, emotional and social factors can reduce your child’s overall school readiness. A well-balanced child that can learn about routine, social cues, and abiding by collective rules as Grade 1 brings with its routines, longer hours, and more pressure. If your child cannot play socially with other children, they may not learn how to handle difficult situations. A child who is not socially and emotionally ready will not understand how to handle conflict, unhappiness, dishonesty, and process difficult situations. This skill will teach them how to handle stressful situations for the rest of their lives and how to be adaptable to the unknown. Attachment issues and emotional regression due to emotional or situational shocks can also underpin poor emotional development.

Good to know: The school readiness assessment will balance these factors drawing attention to your child’s ability across the three key developmental areas, and if they are ready for school.

How can I prepare my child for ‘big school’?

  • Parents can start by providing their children with some activities in preparation for Grade 1. You can read bedtime stories and then ask your child to retell the story, identify the key elements and ask questions.
  • Additionally, helping in the kitchen, parents can aid children with basic arithmetic by asking them in a fun way about how many pasta pieces or olives are in the salad.
  • Other useful activities to prepare for big school include reading books together about starting school.
  • Try to be consistent about your child’s bedtime routine so your child is less tired. This is especially important if your child still tends to have a nap.
  • Teach your child how to share attention. Don’t let your child demand your attention immediately if you’re doing something else but rather reassure them that you will attend to them shortly.
  • Get your child used to coping without their favourite security toy or blanket during the day.
  • Big school preparation should not be the only focus that parents should emphasise. It should rather be a relaxed and fun atmosphere in which their children can learn. driving school preparation in a forceful manner may lead children to becoming despondent before school commences.