Preparing your child for kindy or prep

Going to “big” school is an exciting time in your child’s life and it is a major transition, perhaps even for both of you!

It can be stressful for children as they learn to adjust to life away from their parents in an unfamiliar environment. While there will be plenty of time to concentrate on academics, the most important aspect of their transition to kindergarten and prep is their ability to cope emotionally and socially.

Here are some tips to help you support your child with those most two important aspects ahead of their first day.

Visit first

Help your child get used to their new environment by attending an orientation session with them or drop in to meet their teachers. The teachers may also have other ideas that can help your child get better acquainted with them and the school/kindergarten. Speaking with them will also help you understand the types of routines your child can expect.

If your children attend a day care centre close to the kindy or school they will be attending, sometimes these centres also offer transition days with children to help them adjust.

Play dates

Help your children feel at ease on their first day by helping them get to know other children in their class beforehand. Organise a play date so they can build rapport. Adults always find it easier to attend events or functions if they know others attending and the same can be said for children. Supportive relationships with other families develop over time and can be well worth the effort.

Talk about school

Talk positively and cheerfully with your child about their new school or kindergarten. It’s important not to overwhelm them, but it is helpful to talk to them about new routines they might be doing like lining up to go into class, sitting at their desk, or the alert sounds that might happen to let them know it’s a break time. They’ll also need to know how to interact positively with their peers, sit and listen during group times and be able to sit still for periods of time. There are many children’s books about starting school, so it can be helpful to read those to your child. Pay close attention to your child’s responses and questions, as they can be indicators of anything your child might feel stressed about or might need encouragement in.

A goodbye routine

Creating a special goodbye routine, which you and your child talk about and prepare for positively, might also be helpful to avoid your child (or even yourself) from becoming too upset when you drop your child to school. Some kids walk away without a worry, but others might have trouble separating from you. You could talk to your teacher about a helpful strategy that he or she prefers or recommends.

You can find some good books about school separation anxiety here and here try reading them over the few weeks before school starts.  

New skills

There are lots of ways you can practically prepare your child for their classroom or new learning environment, including:

  • Teaching them to care for their belongings and return their personal items to their bags when they are no longer using them.
  • Helping them learn how to use or open their lunchbox and other containers or items you give them for their lunch and snacks.
  • You could make up a fun game where they have to raise their hand to speak or answer a question or wait for their turn to take part just as they would in the classroom.
  • If using shoelaces, teach them how to tie them or otherwise consider Velcro straps or even the new elastic laces.
  • Teach them about toilet hygiene, where the toilets are located and the importance of asking a teacher to go to the toilet if they need to go urgently during class. Consider sending them to school with their own hand sanitser if the school permits.
  • Teach them self-calming strategies, such as drinking some water, taking three deep breaths or gently rubbing their tummy if they’re upset. Maggie Dent’s imaginative suggestions can help with easing separation anxiety.
  • Help them to recognise or write their own name, as this will boost their confidence.
  • Help them with their fine motor skills. Activities like drawing and cutting with scissors are great to hone fine motor skills which they’ll be using in the classroom. Having proper grip of a pencil or crayon is a good early skill too. Raising Children has some great tips and further advice for parents to help develop their children’s play and learning skills.

Considerations

When your child starts kindergarten or preschool keep in mind they’ve been attentive all day, so it’s important they have time to play when they get home. Just like adults need a break from work, children need a break from learning too. Particularly in the first term, children tend to be more tired. Early bedtimes might be in order then and this will help reduce any tantrums from being over tired.

If your child demonstrates some challenging behaviour, it’s usually a way he or she is trying to tell you something. See if you can work out what your child is trying to communicate to address any underlying issues or teach them a positive behaviour to replace the not-so-positive one. If you do have any concerns in this area seek support as soon as possible – your GP may be a good starting point. We have partnered with a number of specialist allied health providers such as child psychologists, paediatric occupational therapists and speech therapists.

Childhood vision, hearing and other sensory issues can go unnoticed but can cause issues when they get to school. Take note of the way your child reacts to sounds, engages with books or distant objects, or deals with uncomfortable sensations. Some children have problem regulating their emotions or paying attention – often this is normal and improves with time, however early intervention and support can make a significant difference.

Like all things in life, adjusting to a new school or new environment takes time. Just remember to take things slow and steady, and if you have any concerns at all – whether they be behavioural, psychological, physical or academic – please speak to one of our experienced GPs who is here for you and can help you/your child get further information/support as and if required.  

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