What is School Readiness and how can we use it to support our Little Ones?

Below The Willow Tree - School Readiness

Is your little one off to Big School next year?

Or are they off to school the year after? 

Did you make your decision but now you are confused or unsure if it is the right one?

You aren’t alone. Making the decision on when to send your child is difficult! And there are so many factors to consider.

For some of you, the choice is simple. Your little one will be turning 6 and therefore they are required to attend school. But for those of you with children near the start of the year, what do you do? Do you send them at 4 turning 5? Or hold them back till they are 5 turning 6?

Well, it all comes down to School Readiness.

What Is School Readiness?

School readiness may not be what you think it is. It isn’t about your child academic ability, or if they can read and write. It is how educators and other professionals measure your little one’s likelihood of success at school by what skills they currently have and what skills they are still building.

Skills? Isn’t that just another way of saying “Can they read or write”?

Yes and no. 

School Readiness looks at skills like-

Social Skills – The ability to get along with other children.

Fine Motor Skills – Being able to hold a pencil or open and close a zipper.

Physical Skills – The ability to use the toilet unaided.

Ability to Focus – Being able to sit and listen to a teacher or follow instructions.

Emotional Regulation Skills – These are often still developing for many years but knowing they can feel emotionally secure with being away from Mum & Dad is an important ability to have, come school time.

Your little one having the skills above can be the difference between a child who thrives and a child who feels overwhelmed by the school experience. 

Why Is School Readiness Important?

Think of school readiness as the foundation on which your little one will build their education. The more solid the foundation, the better they are likely to adapt to life at school. 

If your little one is able to count to 20 and write their name but struggles to sit still or listen to instructions or finds other children overwhelming, they are going to find it difficult to take in so much new information! They will always feel that little bit behind the other children that are managing and coping. And this is something that can affect them longer than just their first year of school.

School readiness isn’t about deciding when a child is ready to start school. It’s about setting your little one up for success.

How Can I Tell If My Little One Is Ready?

Like discussed above, children must be enrolled in school by the time they turn six. As long as they turn five on or before 31 July of that year, they can enrol to start school. So, for some of you, there won’t be any question of if your they are ready for school. They’re already 5 and it’s almost like they were born ready. For many other parents, it’s not so straightforward.

If you are unsure if your little one is ready, chat to the educators and professionals. Your early childhood educator would be able to provide their opinion and assessment. Call your local school for advice. Maybe it’s engaging the services of a paediatrician, speech or occupational therapist or psychologist? 

If your gut is telling you that your little one might not have the basic skills they need to start school, or be emotionally and socially ready, it may be best to wait until they are 5, turning 6. 

How Can I Help My Little One Prepare For School?

Whatever stage your child is at, there are ways to support them as they develop the school readiness skills they need. The most important thing you can do is provide your little one with encouragement. Spend time with them, playing, reading, drawing, singing, talking, and listening. 

Other great things to try to help with School Readiness include:

Encouraging your little one to practice their independence with self-help skills such as going to the toilet alone.

Find opportunities to count objects, e.g., counting the eggs as you put them in the fridge or counting the blocks as you put them away.

Play board games together to learn about taking turns. Snakes and ladders is a good option for pre-schoolers.

Throw a ball or build simple obstacle courses in the backyard to practise gross motor skills.

Do craft activities using scissors, textas, pencils, crayons, and glue to practice fine motor skills.

Plan play dates with other children of the same age to practise social skills.

How Do I Support My Little One Emotionally?

This is such a big step for our little ones, it is so important to prepare them with conversations about school, reading books about school and attending their school orientation days in order to allow them time to process the changes that will occur.

Purchasing their uniform and letting them dress in it, practice them carrying their backpack. All these things allow them to work through any of their fears and start to build some excitement.

And! If you know other families going to the same school as your little one, why not have some play dates before starting school! A familiar face always makes change a bit easier!

At the end of the day, you know your child. If you are worried they are not ready, seek help and advice from your educators and health professionals. And if they are not yet 5 and you have the time, it is ok for your little one to take another year the build the necessary skills.

At the end of the day, we all want your little one to THRIVE at school.

Leave a Reply