It is common to think that school is the place where children learn everything. Preschool teachers will tell you that there are some things, if learned before joining school, would make it easier for a child to adjust to being in school for the first time.
Much as we could like to equip our children as soon as possible, Caroline Muendo, an early childhood teacher trainer is a little reluctant to mention which skills a child should have picked up before they start school. She states that children join school at different ages, they learn and develop at different paces. Try trying to pin them to a particular set of skills is not always healthy. “There are those children who join school early and pick up fast, and there are those who join school at a later stage but have less knowledge depending on how they were introduced to ideas at an early age. This is due to the varying knowledge of the child’s caregivers before school, and their interest in the development of the child” says Mrs Muendo.
That said there are some basic social skills that will enable a child settle into school life with ease. While parents may think that their children need to be able to feed themselves, say the magic words and share, Marlyn Magina, director and teacher at Young Explorers Centre shares a different perspective. Some of the things we take for granted such as knowing their name and their parent’s names, recognising authority, and being able to express their feelings and needs are important skills for pre-school children
Arming your child with the following five skills will help them adjust to school with ease:
- Know their name and identify their belongings
A child who knows their full names is easy to direct and identify in a group of children. One who knows their belongings is able to navigate around indoor and outdoor activities with relative ease.
- Ability to listen to and follow basic instructions
Most children are able to follow basic instructions such as sit down, come here, and be quiet. These are easy to practice at home by directing them to do small tasks around the house.
- Know how to articulate their need to visit the toilet
Knowing when you need to visit the toilet and telling a grownup saves both child and adult from having to deal with toileting accidents. Such situations can be very embarrassing for children especially when witnessed by others.
- Knowledge of tidying up – keeping things in their place
Returning things to their proper place is the first step to learning about order. Asking children to tidy up after playing at home is good practice.
- Express their feelings and needs
When a child is able to let others know how they are feeling it is easy to handle them appropriately and deal with their concerns or needs.
“Whereas we may want to pressure our children to have certain skills before they join preschool, teachers steer their way through the various developmental stages with ease and are willing to embrace the children as they are. Good teachers will arm the children with the skills they need to take them through that particular stage in life. While you may be rushing to potty train your child or have them feed themselves, the social environment at school may do a better job than that of a cajoling parent” says Mrs Muendo.
The best way a parent can ready their child for school is to prepare them for the change in environment and separation for their parents. Psychological preparation will make it easier for the child to embrace the concept of school and the activities that go on there. Ms. Magina encourages parents to try and give their child an idea of what school is all about and to have a positive attitude about it. For some, that is all the preparation they require.