As any preschool teacher or early educator will tell you, the end of the year is a busy time for the families of 4 and 5 year olds.
If your child is going to school next year, October to January is full of all kinds of school readiness activities. You’re heading off to orientation days at your child’s new primary school, playdates or coffee dates with prospective new peers and school uniform fittings.
You’ve probably got your eye out for the perfect lunchbox too!
In terms of your child’s school readiness, the months of October to January are among the most important in the year before school begins. Let me tell you why…
The most important time for school readiness
As a teacher with 30 years’ experience, I’ve seen how important the period between October and January is for young children who are heading to school the following year.
I know … dance concepts and end of year parties can seem to arrive so quickly!
But if you are the parent of a school starter, may I encourage you to take a moment to consider the opportunities that October to January bring?
October to January is when the parents of young children sometimes have their last chance to do the things that they really want and need to do before their children head off to school.
It’s your time as a parent to spend with your child before they become a wheel in the cog that is the education system!
The next 12 or 13 years will consist of school – 5 days a week, 6 or 7 hours a day – in which your child will be in someone else’s care.
October to January is your time.
It’s your time to have middle of the day adventures!
It’s your time to enjoy the activities that bring you close together.
It’s your time to make memories that will sustain you both as your child goes to school next year and many other people come into his or her life.
Time to build independence
These months are also a really important time to build independence in your child.
Next year, going to school will require your child to be a self-reliant and confident young person who is separate from you.
So if you are still carrying your child’s bag and making every choice on your child’s behalf, now is the time to practice giving some of that power back to your four or five-year-old.
Next year, they will need to make decisions for themselves, so they need to get some practise now.
Time to consolidate skills
This time of the year is really important for acquiring and building the learning and social skills that your child will need for success at Kindergarten or rep.
Can your child recognize and write their name?
Does your child know whether they are left or right-handed?
Can your child pronounce all of the sounds of the alphabet?
Did you know that by the age of four and a half, 95% to 100% of what your child says should be able to be understood by an unfamiliar adult?
If your child’s speech is slightly unintelligible or if they speak in a language that’s all their own, that could have some fairly significant consequences in the playground and classroom next year.
Five-year-old peers really don’t have much patience with other kids that they just can’t understand, so if you want your child to be able to make and keep friends, make sure he or she can speak clearly before school starts.
Time to build strong foundations
Next year, your child is likely to jump straight into the Kindergarten curriculum.
Australian schools starts teaching early literacy and numeracy almost from week one, so it’s really important that your child has sound and that you are integrating pre-literacy and pre-numeracy activities into your daytime routines now.
Don’t forget to read to your child too.
A recent study conducted by researchers at from Melbourne University determined that children who are regularly read to at least three times a week are often up to 6 months ahead of their same aged peers when it comes to learning to read.
The same research also tells us that children who are read to six to seven times a week can be up to 12 months ahead of their same aged peers.
Don’t underestimate the importance of reading to your children!
In the time you have left before school begins, help them to develop the ability to tell a story.
Narrating a story, recounting facts and remembering things in a sequence are all very, very important for children when they go to school.
If nothing else, your child will need these skills in order to tell ‘news’.
What will your child do from October through to January?
The reality is that preschool will soon be finishing and that means that the time that you have with your child before they start ‘big school’ is getting shorter.
It is a time for action!
During October to January, I encourage you to make sure that all of your child’s skills are tracking appropriately for their age, because next year, you won’t have the time that you have now.
Five days a week at school really impacts on little kids, so if you have anything you need to check out or work on with your son or daughter, start doing it well before school begins.
Trust your instinct
I very rarely meet a parent whose instinct about their child is not correct.
If you suspect that your child is a little behind their peers in the development of their communication, social or learning skills, now is the time to seek professional help.
Hurdles can quickly get higher once children start school.
The help and advice you get from a speech pathologist, occupational therapist, teacher or psychologist now could be instrumental in avoiding sticky classroom and playground situations next year
You have time in these coming months to resolve little issues before they become big ones.
If for no other reason than to get peace of mind, trust your instincts and get answers to your questions now, before your child goes to school.
Last words of advice
If I can give you any wisdom from my many years of experience as a teacher and a mum, it is this…
Enjoy these three or four months before your child goes to school.
With preparation and positivity on your part, your son or daughter will be ready to make a confident start to school…
And when you look back in the years to come, you’ll remember these months for being special.
Written by Sonja Walker
© 2017 Kids First Children’s Services
Reference: G. Kalb and J.C. van Ours, Reading to young children: a head-start in life, authored by: G. Kalb and J.C. van Ours. University of Melbourne (2012)
Need advice before your child starts school?
Sonja Walker and the team at Kids First Children’s Services have helped hundreds of children make a confident start to Kindergarten.
Our speech pathologists and occupational therapists can screen your child’s skills to ensure that they are ready for school, and our psychologists can assist with issues like separation anxiety.
Kids First’s popular Ready Set School groups combine the clinical and educational skills of our teachers and are also an effective (and affordable!) way to ensure that your child is ready to make a positive start to primary school.
Call Kids First Children’s Services in Brookvale on 9938 5419 or send us a message in the comments below and we will be happy to discuss your child’s needs with you.