Deciding whether to send your child to school early or late can be difficult. Here are six signs of school readiness to look out for…
By Sabrina Rogers-Anderson
Sabrina is a writer, author and mother to three girls, an eight-year-old and five-year-old twins. She shares how she decided when to send her girls to school.
My eldest daughter started school when she was five and a half. She’s an August baby, so she was the perfect age to start kindergarten in January. We didn’t even have to think about it.
When my twins were in preschool, we had a big decision to make. They were born in March, so they would only have turned five six weeks into the school year. They were still babies on so many levels – especially socially and emotionally. They still had separation anxiety sometimes and one of them was deathly afraid of storms. They needed to be cuddled and reassured on a daily basis. Our decision was easy because we knew they simply weren’t ready for school.
We “held them back” (a term I don’t love because it has a negative connotation) and we couldn’t be happier with our decision. We’ve watched their confidence and independence grow over the course of their second year of preschool and our little babies are big girls now. We can’t thank their early educators enough for helping them develop all the skills they need for school. They’re truly ready and excited to start next year.
School readiness is about so much more than being eager to learn to read, write and count. Many children are academically ready, but they don’t have the social skills, maturity or focus that are necessary to thrive at big school.
Not sure whether your child is ready for the big leagues? Here are six signs of school readiness to look out for according to the Australian Department of Education, Skills and Employment…
1. Emotional maturity
Parents often rely on their gut instinct when it comes to deciding whether their child is mature enough to start school and that certainly is a valid consideration. Every child is different and no one knows your child better than you do. But there are also several questions that are worth considering when sizing up your little one’s emotional maturity level, including:
● Can your child understand others’ emotions and manage their own? (Emotional regulation is a skill that is learnt progressively throughout childhood, but they should have some basic skills)
● Can your child follow directions from teachers?
● Can your child focus their attention on tasks?
● Can your child understand and follow rules?
● Can your child work independently without direct adult supervision?
2. Social skills
Having adequate social skills is a key component of school readiness that is often overlooked. Here are a few questions to consider:
● Does my child demonstrate basic manners, such as saying “please” and “thank you”?
● Is my child able to share, take turns and cooperate?
● Is my child able to get along with other children?
● Can my child play independently as well as with other children?
● Can my child assert themselves?
3. Language and communication skills
Baby talk is oh-so-adorable, but it might be a sign that a child isn’t quite ready to start school. Ask yourself the following questions:
● Can my child speak clearly?
● Can they communicate their needs?
● Can they listen to adults and other children?
● Can they understand stories?
● Can they identify basic sounds and some letters?
4. Cognitive skills
Your child doesn’t need to be proficient at long division by the time they start school, but they should have some basic skills under their belt. Some questions include:
● Does my child have basic number sense (including recognising and naming numbers, knowing that numbers come in a set order and recognising that higher numbers represent bigger quantities)?
● Does my child have basic thinking skills (including explanation and problem-solving)?
● Can my child wait and take turns?
5. Physical skills
Now that you’ve determined whether your child is emotionally and cognitively ready, evaluate their physical readiness with these questions:
● Does my child have the necessary fine motor skills for school, including gripping a pencil and turning pages in a book?
● Does my child have the physical coordination to run, jump, climb and play ball sports?
Your child needs to be able to complete basic self-care tasks on their own before they go to school. Ask yourself:
● Can my child go to the toilet on their own?
● Can they get dressed on their own?
● Can they open their lunchbox and containers on their own?
● Can they take care of their own belongings?
Preparing your child for school
Research shows that children who start school when they’re developmentally ready do better in school and later in life. If you’re unsure whether your child is ready for school, reach out to your Pelican Childcare early childhood teachers and educators. They’ll be able to help you assess your child’s school readiness.
The Pelican Childcare Kindergarten and Preschool Program helps children develop all the school-readiness skills mentioned above and so much more. The Pelican Childcare educators are specially trained to help children become active and engaged learners and develop a love of learning that lasts a lifetime.