Did you know that too much structured activity and formal teaching before a child starts school is likely to do more harm than good?
The secret to later educational success is to give your child a rich variety of experiences, and language and play opportunities in the years before starting school. Here is a short guide to giving a child the best possible start to education.
1. Self-help skills
Support your child to learn to dress and undress themselves, go to the bathroom and wash their hands unassisted and without being reminded, tidy-up after play, and hang up and fold their clothes.
2. Knowledge of the environment and the world
Give your child lots of varied experiences. Get out and about, visit different places, travel on different vehicles (e.g. paddle-boat, bike, bus, train), talk with different people, see and try different things.
3. Academic knowledge
Interest your child in seeing the basic shapes in letters and numbers and noticing how shapes are different. Point out and discuss road, shop and other signs and letter box numbers while walking, driving and shopping together. Notice the different sizes of coins and that coins have different value amounts/numbers.
Lots of early academic knowledge along with learning of different concepts can be developed simply through participation in everyday activities and discussions with peers, older children and adults - and exposure to information through books and other sources.
4. Listening skills
Read to your child on a regular basis. Involve your child in reading with you.
Talk with your child about things and focus your child's attention on what they are seeing and hearing.
5. Curiosity and questioning skills
Respond to your child's questions and share in your child's curiosity by discovering answers and new information together.
6. Fine motor and coordination skills
Help your child build their hand muscles by providing drawing and cutting activities, puzzles, water pouring, play-dough and clay, threading large beads and hammering activities, etc.
7. Independence and responsibility
Foster independence by arranging for your child to visit their friends and extended family members, and stay for a short time without you. Also notice and praise when they do something that shows independence (e.g. gets their own coat when it's time to go out). Let your child hold and take care of their own bus ticket, decide what lunch they will have, or create other safe opportunities for your child to practise being independent and exercising self-responsibility.
Make an appointment to talk with the new entrant teacher
Find out the expectations of the person who will be your child's teacher. Ahead of your child's first proper visit to their new school phone or visit the new entrant teacher and ask about what he/she specifically likes children to have competency in doing.
Every new entrant teacher is different and not all have the same expectations. Asking this question of the new entrant teacher is also a good way of getting some understanding of what the teacher's particular teaching approach might be so you are in a better position to understand and help your child to cope with the transition to the classroom and new teacher.