What is School Readiness?
(2021 • 02 • 25)
As the parent or carer of a young child, you probably hear the phrase ‘school readiness’ being thrown around quite a lot. But what is ‘school readiness’ and how can you ensure your little one has it?
Starting school is a huge step. It can be both incredibly exciting and incredibly daunting. Of course, we want to make sure our children are not only prepared for all those new faces and places, but that they will get the very most out of their schooling.
So what is school readiness? Is it basic literacy and numeracy? Is it the ability to sit still and pay attention? Or is it more to do with life skills, such as feeding yourself?
Well, there are a lot of answers to this question, so the results can seem confusing. Studies have found that, for the most part, parents view pre-academic skills, such as basic literacy and numeracy, as a sign of school readiness. Primary school teachers, on the other hand, stress the importance of social and emotional skills.
However, rather than this being a case of ‘parents are wrong and teachers are right’ - or vice versa - both parents and teachers are focusing on different aspects of the same thing.
Learning is a process that spans our entire lives, where new skills build upon those learnt in our very first weeks of life. Starting school is not the beginning of our learning journey, nor will it teach us only how to count and spell. Put simply, ‘school readiness’ refers to a broad set of skills that will allow a child to flourish in a structured learning environment.
So what are these skills?
Well, first up, we need to remember that every child is different, and will start school with some skills more developed than others. However, if we take a little look at a few of the things that children will be faced within their first days at school, we can get an idea of the kinds of skills that will help them through.
Social and emotional skills.
On the first day of school, your little one is going to be meeting a whole class of new children, along with teachers, support staff and older school pupils. On top of this, they’ll be spending the day in a brand new setting without you there to comfort them.
Because of this, it’s important that your child is able to cope with not only being away from you, but is able to maintain a degree of comfortability when experiencing new things, and possibly regulate their own feelings of being overwhelmed.
On top of this, throughout the day, they will have a number of opportunities to play and work with other children. They’ll need to be able to share, to interact with others, and regulate feelings of frustration or disappointment when things don’t go their way!
Lastly, your child will be learning a lot of new things at school, and everyone learns different things at different rates. Having the confidence to know when they need help and ask for it will help them go far.
A basic understanding of numbers, measurements, and the ability to understand simple instructions and use a wide range of words are, of course, going to help your child at school.
However, there’s more to school than counting and spelling. They’ll need to write and draw, so being comfortable holding a pencil - and having developed the fine motor skills that go with that - will be a huge help. They’ll also need to sit still and pay attention to their teacher, so an interest in learning is a must.
As we’ve already mentioned, your little one is going to be away from you for a whole school day, and the teacher will have a whole class of children to supervise. For this reason, the ability to use the toilet independently, open and eat their own lunch, blow their nose and wash their hands will all help them get through each day with ease.
Now, we know that this sounds like a lot. So, here are a few tips for things you can do at home to ensure your child’s school readiness:
:) Be responsive to your little one’s needs.
The foundation for all of a child’s social and emotional skills is created through their relationship with their primary caregiver, so being attentive to your little one will help them develop many of the skills they need to flourish in school. In fact, studies have shown that young children whose parents are more responsive to their developing needs have a larger vocabulary, better cognitive skills, and more enthusiasm and persistence for learning!
:) Implement a daily routine.
Not only do children love routine, but they will be sticking to one pretty rigidly at school! Implementing a routine at home will help them to become more independent, as well as helping them to understand that they must perform certain activities before others. Furthermore, having a good bedtime routine will ensure they have enough energy for the day ahead!
:) Ensure tidying and personal hygiene are part of your routine.
At school, children will be expected to tidy up toys, put things away, and wash their hands regularly. Implementing these as part of your day-to-day will help your child adjust to school life, as the change in routine won’t be quite as vast!
:) Encourage your child to act independently.
Encouraging your little one to regularly dress and feed themselves will, of course, help them to perform these tasks in school. When they struggle, don’t forget to implement scaffolding in the form of hints or help completing individual steps (e.g. letting them know which foot their shoe goes on).
:) Read books together.
Enjoying books together has a massive range of benefits for your child. Not only can you help to develop your child’s understanding of language, syntax and pronunciation, but, by presenting reading as a fun activity, you can foster in them an enthusiasm for learning to read!
:) Practice numbers in daily life.
How many rabbits do we have? Can you help me count the apples? How do we measure the water for our recipe? Early learning about mathematical concepts can be a part of every day!
:) Draw pictures.
Drawing and painting can really help your little one develop their fine motor skills, and grow their confidence in holding pencils.
:) Practice scenarios.
What would you say if you didn’t understand a question? What could you do if someone pushed you? Practising possible scenarios by acting them out can really help your child to feel confident in their actions when those situations arise.
A great way to get your little one more comfortable with encountering new faces and places is to do just that! Going out to new places and encouraging your little ones to talk to new people can help make their adjustment to school life just that little bit easier. Of course, nurseries, playgrounds and playdates would be perfect opportunities to encourage your little one’s socialisation. However, we understand that, at the moment, this can be difficult, so even saying hello to the staff at the supermarket can help your little one on their way!
For more information on how to develop good social, emotional and cognitive skills in your little one, download the MEplace Parenting App, and check out our Childhood Academy!
:) Click here to download the MEplace App
And, lastly, if you would like to read more about school readiness, check out this informative document from UNICEF.
Content Creator @MEplace