Preparing your child for school—especially your eldest child—can feel a little daunting. Relax. From one parent to another, I can tell you that your first-year kinder doesn’t need to know their times tables or Newton’s Laws. But the understanding of and ability to use routines and self-help skills are a huge key to being prepared.

Naturally, an initial way of preparing your child for starting school is by talking about school. If you’re like me, you’ll probably share what you remember school being like and some of your experiences. Keep in mind that you want your kinder to be excited, so always be positive when discussing school with them. If you’re unsure where or how to start, there are many excellent children’s book on the topic. Take a trip to your local library to borrow some to read together. This will also help instill a love of reading!

You probably have some routines and procedures already in place for your youngster at home. This will come in handy as you ready him or her for Kindergarten, since Kindy is very much learning and adhering to sequences and specific ways of completing tasks. If you haven’t established some of these thus far, start now by creating routines for waking up, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, tidying their bedroom, bath time, and bedtime. Additionally, a helpful regimen to practice is organising and caring for their belongings. Your little one will experience increased independence upon starting school. You can make this a smooth transition by helping them recognise their own backpack and to be able to unpack their things from it, as well as pack it again. Another item to learn to use is a lunch box—you don’t want them wasting their school lunch time struggling with accessing their food! Help your little one practice the process of eating out of their lunch box, including opening, unpacking, eating, repacking, and closing their lunch box again. Understanding and having routines and procedures at home will help your Kindergartner adjust more easily to those expected at school.

Self-help skills are another area in which we parents can greatly aid the transition to school. For example, you’ve probably already taken your child with you on errands. Do this whenever possible. Waiting on line at the post or grocery will help them establish the patience for waiting their turn to do something—a very important skill for school. Self-sufficiency when toileting is another important self-help skill, and often this is a bit different at school than at home. To this end, public toilets are a great venue for learning this vital skill for school, as they expose them to many aspects shared by school toilets, such as the division of boys and girls, using a urinal for boys, opening and shutting toilet locks, and making sure their pants are pulled up before leaving the toilet cubicle.

Here are two more vital skills to practice as the start of school approaches: your child recognising and writing their first name. Teachers generally label things with their students’ names, so your child identifying their name is an important first step in finding their way around their new classroom. We posted our pre-schoolers’ names around our house (in their rooms, on the refrigerator) and helped them learn the letters in their names. It made them feel more at ease that first day as they entered their new classrooms! Another skill they’ll need is the ability to write their first name; they’ll have to do this almost immediately for their school work. Just a few minutes a day with pencil and paper tracing at first, then writing helps with this skill.

You might be thinking I’m not equipped to do all this! Some of my parent-friends felt completely out of their element when it came to preparing their child for school. No worries. If you’re willing and able, early education and care can be an excellent option for preparedness. They will teach your child these skills and more that will prepare them for starting school.

Regardless of how or where you help ready your child for school, know that the time and care you put into this will reap big rewards

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