There is a lot happening over this festive season, and getting school ready is one of them. You’ve applied, and maybe your child has been accepted into Grade One, but you don’t feel as confident as you should. It’s that time of the year when parents of preschoolers (Grade R) are asking if their children are ready for Grade One. Principal Katie of Randpark Christian Academy unpacks the foundation of school readiness.
It is a significant decision for a parent, but remember that your child’s teacher should have the best idea for meeting social and academic expectations. Listen to their advice as they have been trained in Early Childhood Development.
These feelings that you have, maybe even anxiety, are to be expected because they reflect the intense emotional bond you have with your child. I have always said as a Mom: “Being a parent is to decide to have your heart go walking around outside your body,” especially when your children are away from you.
Some questions you may have might include the following:
- Will my child become bored if I keep them in Grade R for another year?
- Is my child emotionally mature enough to handle all the requirements of Grade 1?
- Will my child be able to keep up with the pace in Grade 1?
The first five years of life are critical to a child’s lifelong development. Young children’s earliest experiences influence brain development, establishing the neural connections that provide the foundation for language, reasoning, problem-solving, social skills, behaviour and emotional health.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance that we prepare and develop our children’s potential and ability to learn during this phase.
So what is school readiness? In a nutshell, school readiness involves two types of readiness: a readiness to learn (continuous) and a readiness for school (associated with a fixed age). School readiness is thus a measure of how prepared a child is to succeed at school.
No single factor determines whether a child is ready for school. School readiness depends on both emotional maturity and scholastic ability. It is split into different areas, and although these areas are separate, they interact with and reinforce each other. Children need to develop across all areas.
How to ensure my child is ready to meet the demands of formal education?
Once children are ready for school, they should be able to cope with formal education requirements. On entering Grade One, children are expected to have reached certain developmental milestones and have the basic skills necessary for formal education. All children undergo these developmental milestones at different stages, and some may need extra help mastering specific skills.
For example, a child who still battles with the correct pencil grip may find the initial writing tasks more challenging than those who have mastered this skill. Grade One learners enter school, they all have various Pre-Schools background and their formal education exposure varies dramatically. School readiness is a vast subject that cannot be summarised easily. Some essential guidelines and areas of development that should receive attention before starting formal education include the following.
GROSS MOTOR DEVELOPMENT
Gross motor development includes balance, coordination, ball skills, and maintaining the correct posture when seated at a desk. Children spend long periods behind their desks and must sit properly and concentrate. The children must have the physical endurance to do this. As therapists and educators, we encourage parents to encourage outdoor play and sports participation to develop strong muscles. Please limit the hours spent in front of a TV or tablet.
FINE MOTOR DEVELOPMENT
Children with poor/incorrect pencil grip development often struggle with colouring and handwriting. Exercises to strengthen the finger and hand muscles should be done regularly. Activities such as cutting, tearing, crumpling, sticking, and modelling play dough are all very beneficial. Encourage children to cut and slice vegetables as this helps develop hand muscles. Simple household chores and activities are sometimes the most effective way to develop the hand muscles necessary for pencil grasp development.
Children should be encouraged to correctly hold scissors with their thumb in the small hole and their pointer/ middle fingers in the larger hole. Right-hand learners should cut out an object in an anti-clockwise direction and left-handed learners in a clockwise motion. Left-handed learners must use left-handed scissors. Spend time doing craftwork and encourage activities that involve cutting and sticking. Cutting different mediums like play dough, cardboard, egg boxes, straws, and other exciting mediums is a wonderful way to strengthen hand muscles.
The understanding of these physical “readiness” cues is one part of the indicators that you need to look out for. In our next article, principal Katie expands on the cognitive, language and, visual, auditory perception as well as socio-emotional development that are key for school readiness.
Principal Katie is an Early Childhood Development Specialist and has been teaching for 23 years. Established as Wendy’s Play and Preschool, Randpark Christian Academy has been offering excellence in education for over 30 years.