Your little one at big school! It's one of the most significant changes in their life to date. It's an adjustment that both parent and child have to navigate and for the first time, navigate without each other.
We wanted to share some reassuring and wise words from our Parents Guide interview with education expert, Kathryn McMahon, an experienced Kindergarten Teacher from TIGS (The Illawarra Grammar School, Wollongong).
Kathryn's insights will help to calm any worries, plan for the best transition and equip your child with the skills and confidence for a flying start into kindergarten!
Kindy is set up to be a half way house between pre school and big school
Kindy classrooms are not set up for 'formal' learning but instead will reflect some of the pre school look and feel. The learning is supported with singing, movement and story telling and offers the familiarity that your child knows well from pre-school.
Learning is a slow pace to start, with extra time being taken for each to get familiar with the school, the layout, extra toilet trips and discovering who is who etc. To start with, it's all about unpacking Kindy so your child can feel feel comfortable and confident about new community and environment they are now a part of.
For example, TIGS offer a beautiful first learning project where each child gets a travel passport in which they collect stamps from all the key people / areas in the school. They learn how that key person helps them and in return how they can help back!
Each school has their own way to build your child's comfort, familiarity and confidence in the school, whilst instilling a sense that we grow and learn together, helping each out along the way.
The more familiar your child is with the school, the better they will transition
The days of a teary first week at school are pretty much over! Schools nowadays have incredibly well planned and executed Kindy orientation programs where the children get to come on a number of different occasions before school starts. These which are designed to be fun, happy and low stress occasions designed to help your child get familiar and feel excited about starting school!
It can be tricky for busy parents to get their child to all the orientation program but it really does help your child settle in so it can be worth the juggle to get them there, if at all possible.
The best things you can do as parent to help prepare your child for Kindy!
The more independent your child is, particularly with their own belongings - the better they transition into school.
As a loving parent you can help encourage your child's independence by letting them pack their own (school) bag every morning so they know what is in their bag and where to get it from, like books, hats, pencil case, lunch box, drink bottle... Yup, easier said than done when us parents are often rushing to get us all out of the door - but it will pay off as your child will be more responsible for and aware of their belongings at school.
Reading to you child is one of the most important things you can do with a pre-schooler, it has been proven to enhance their outcomes!
As well as reading, try modelling reading from left to right (use your finger to points at the words as you read) and then encourage your child's engagement with the book, so ask questions about what they remember, what was their favourite part, did they find it funny or maybe sad? It will all help with developing their comprehension, recall and building of concepts that will support their learning at big school.
Encourage social skills like waiting for someone to finish talking before you do, turn taking etc.
Keep reinforcing it - it will cut through eventually!
Model a great attitude to learning - it's about giving it a go - we learn because we try things!
Praise your child's efforts to learn and try new things and re-assure them when it doesn't work out! Mistakes are the stepping stones to learning!
Preparing for the first days of school - managing those worries!
1. If you child (or you!) are feeling apprehensive in the lead up - find a copy of 'The Kissing Hand' or other starting school books in your local library. It will help instil a sense confidence and enjoyment about starting school and it offers cute suggestions to manage any first day sadness!
2. Know that Kindy teachers are trained specifically to smooth the path into school for you child.
3. Also, to reassure any anxious parents, know that the school will absolutely call you if needs be! If you don't hear from the school it is a good sign your child is settling in!
4. It can be so hard, but try and keep your worries or tears away from your child so they don't pick up on them and have a positive association with school.
5. Plan to meet a friend or have a busy day so you have something purposeful to go to after drop off and you are distracted!
With our thanks to Kathryn McMahon from TIGS, who shared her rich teaching wisdom. Your child starting school is likely one their biggest learning curves
and Kathryn, like most Kindy teachers, is privileged to both share and smooth that unique path for each child in her care. Visit the TIGS website here.