10 ways to support children and parents prepare for school

Published on Tuesday, 09 October 2018
Last updated on Monday, 03 February 2020

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It's the time of year when early childhood services start proactively supporting children to further develop the skills required to make a successful transition to 'big' school. While most high-quality settings lay the foundations for success at school through offering programs based on play-based discovery and learning, there are a few additional boosts children can be offered in these last few months before Term One 2019.

Here are 10 top tips for how early childhood settings can support children, and their parents, to prepare for the transition to big school:

1. Work on basic numeracy and literacy skills

Children should be familiar with the alphabet and numbers 1 to 20 by the time they start school, and able to recognise their name when written down. You can help by doing activities that involve counting and letter recognition. Work on their fine motor skills so that children are comfortable holding and controlling a pen or pencil. Encouraging children to draw is an obvious way of doing this, but activities such as threading beads or shaping play dough are also beneficial.

2. Encourage independence

It's important for children to be able to do certain things by themselves when they start school – partly for their own self-confidence and partly because the teaching staff won't have time to assist. You can help children in preparing for school by encouraging them to remove and put on their own shoes, jackets and hats, feed themselves independently and tidy things away. And, of course, they should be able to deal with trips to the toilet by themselves – including washing their hands properly afterwards.

3. Foster concentration and communication skills

Although children still mainly learn through play in their first year at school, they will be expected to be able to sit still and concentrate at certain times. Children should also be able to follow instructions and communicate appropriately. If any of the children in your care struggle with these things, it might be helpful to set up a small group and work on these skills together.

4. Use books to prompt discussion

There are plenty of picture books about starting school, so make sure your book corner is well stocked. Read the books with the children and use them to prompt discussion. How did the characters deal with starting school? Was there anything they were worried about? How did they feel at the end? If you suspect that a child is anxious about going to school but unwilling to take part in a group discussion, give them the opportunity to do this activity one-to-one.

5. Do some preparing for school role-play

Ask children to act out scenes from a typical day at school, for example putting their uniform on, saying goodbye to their parents, hanging up their coats, eating lunch, lining up to go into the playground. Use real props, such as uniforms and school bags if possible and be sure to talk about any issues that arise.

6. Identify groups of children going to the same school

It's likely that some of the children at your service will be going to the same school. Find out which children will be in the same schools and encourage them to play together; familiar faces can greatly ease first day nerves in Term One.

7. Make links with schools

Some early childhood services develop links with their local primary schools and set up visits, so children can see what big school actually looks and feels like.

8. Communicate with parents

Tell parents what you're doing to help prepare their children for school and how they can support this at home.

9. Manage the process of leaving

While some children will skip out of the door on their last day at child care and never look back, others will be very sad about leaving. Think about how you can make this easier. Maybe you could work on a scrapbook together, including photos of children and staff, for them to keep as a reminder of their days in your service.

10. Don't overdo it

Although it's important to support children with the transition from nursery to school, it's also important not to overdo it. Too much focus on the subject of starting school may be counter-productive and result in children becoming either over-anxious or over-excited. Plan your activities carefully and spread them out. Use positive language when talking about preparing for school, but don't go over the top. Remember that the aim is not only to allay fears but also to build realistic expectations.


First discoverers newsletter by Wesco

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