by Carol Grise
With school starting in August, it is not too early to prepare for the new school year at preschool, kindergarten, or beyond. Preparations for school may include a new backpack, various school supplies, and a new pair of shoes. However, have you thought about what you can do to prepare your child for learning at school? It is not too late to work on strengthening learning and social skills needed for school success.
Thinking SkillsSharing books with a child is a fun and easy way to strengthen listening and thinking skills, as well as a way to develop the understanding of new words. Before reading, turn off the television and other electronic devices, which distract from developing listening skills. As you read a book, stop and explain any words that your child does not understand. By explaining unfamiliar words, you will be adding to your child’s understanding of new words. Point out words that rhyme. Review the sounds of letters. At the end of the story, ask your child questions about the characters or events in the story. Have him tell you his favorite part of the story and why. Discussing the story develops an understanding of what has been read or reading comprehension. Many children struggle with this skill. Talking about the story will give your child a head start in reading comprehension.
ResponsibilityMany school experiences involve individual and group responsibility, including following directions. How can you strengthen these skills? Set aside several household tasks to be done by your child on a regular basis, such as feeding the dog, setting the dinner table, or taking out the trash. Keep the in mind the child’s age. Give him specific directions for the task, then encourage and praise his efforts. Ask him to participate in family responsibilities like washing the car, watering the plants, or unloading grocery bags. When a child develops responsibility, the ability to follow directions, and pride in his work while completing household tasks, he will be better prepared for taking on responsibilities at school.
Social SkillsSome of the greatest challenges at school involve getting along with others. Sharing, waiting for a turn, respect for others, and displaying good manners are learned mostly by observing others, especially family members, and encouraged through praise and recognition. Families who display good manners and respect toward others at home and in public are more likely to have children who get along with others and who act in a socially acceptable manner at school. Children do need practice in using their social skills. Playgroups, Sunday or Bible school, and family picnics/reunions can provide social skills practice prior to starting school. Reading and discussing books about friendship can also assist in developing social skills.
Establishing School RoutineAs the school year approaches, ask your child how he feels about going to school. Discuss any fears or concerns, offering your support and understanding. Speak positively about school. Talk about the importance and fun involved with learning new things at school. Read books from your local library about starting school, then talk about the story. Attend the school orientation or open house. If none is scheduled, contact your school to make arrangements to visit the building and meet the teacher, if possible, prior to the first day of school. Several weeks before school starts, begin the school bedtime routine. Your 3-6 year old child needs to have at least 10-12 hours of sleep on school nights. A 7-12 year old needs 9-12 hours of sleep on those nights. Avoid television, movies, and computer activities after the evening meal. Make family reading time part of the bedtime routine. Set out school clothes and backpacks each evening so that the mornings will be less hectic.
A new school year is a time of anticipation and excitement. Whether your child is preparing for his first school experience or returning to a familiar learning environment, school readiness activities done at home can make for a smoother transition into the classroom.