Watching your little one head off to ‘big school’ for the first time can be nerve-wracking, but our experts say it doesn’t need to be.
Choosing the right start date for your child, ensuring they’re socially ready, preparing them to learn well and setting up the best possible routine from the very beginning are all simple ways to make sure they thrive in Kindergarten and beyond.
The right time to start
Deciding when to send your child to Kindergarten is the first thing to get right, said Sydney Catholic Schools Education Officer Sue Sinko. In NSW, children can start a school year as long as they turn 5 by the end of July that year, and all must be enrolled in a primary school in the year they turn 6.
“The decision about when is the best time for your child to start school is an individual one,” Ms Sinko said. “For some children, starting school at age 6 rather than 5 may provide them with an additional year to mature and increase their independence. For other children, it won’t be of great benefit.”
“It can help to discuss the timing of your child’s school entry with people who know your child well and also have an understanding of the school system, including your child’s pre-school educators.”
Deciding when your child should start school should not rest entirely on your child’s academic skills. Teachers say these are one of the least important areas in terms of children adjusting and adapting to school. Children’s resilience and their ability to communicate with peers and adults are key factors which will support their transition.
Ms Sinko recommends considering whether your child can remember and follow simple instructions, stay on task, calm themselves down if they become upset, interact well with others and care for themselves and their possessions in appropriate ways.
Tackle the basics
If the time is right and your child is going to school next year, Ms Sinko suggests paying extra attention to their social and emotional abilities in the months ahead.
“At school, the teacher cares for a larger group of children than in early childhood settings, and the structure of the day differs,” Ms Sinko said. “Expectations, social rules and boundaries are usually more defined, and children are expected to follow adult-led activities for more of the day.”
Encourage school-ready behaviour with praise and tangible rewards, and make sure your child is prepared with concrete skills. Ensure they can use public toilets in an appropriate and hygienic way, know how to pack and unpack their school bag and any lunch or recess items, and feel comfortable putting on and wearing their school uniform.
Start adjusting their sleep patterns to match those needed at school, and talk them through a school-day routine.
Ensure your child is ready to learn
Help your child prepare for school by speaking to them regularly about the exciting things they will learn and the new friends they will meet. Read books together and discuss school routines and experiences depicted in them, and use a calendar to count down the days until school starts.
Ms Sinko also recommends playing with your child as beneficial, and important for healthy brain development.
“It allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength,” she said. “Play is learning and lays the foundation for literacy and numeracy skills.”
Let your child choose activities for you both to do together whenever you can, inside or outside of the house – crafts, sports, imagined games and even singing songs are all priming your child’s mind to create, remember and try new things!
When the big day arrives
Make the morning your child starts school as stress-free as possible by preparing the night before – ensure uniforms are clean, lunches are packed and everyone knows what they need to do and when.
“Remain as calm as possible in your interactions with your child, and let them dress themselves as much as possible. Most importantly, make sure you get to school on time!” said Ms Sinko.
Sydney Catholic Schools is committed to ensuring early learners are given the absolute best start possible, offering exemplary care that sets students on a path to success in their learning, schooling and life.
Our warm, expert staff would love to welcome your child into Kindergarten next year.