Many children wish for the school holidays to never end, but for a special group of little ones (and their parents!), the end of the holidays might mean more than just getting ready for school again and less time to play.
Yes, we are referring to K2 preschoolers who will be starting their primary school journey on Monday, January 4th! The transition from kindergartener to Primary 1 student is a big one to make, which is why it can be stressful for child and parent alike. This close to the big day, unexpected jitters or anxieties might even start to surface.
So what can you do to prepare your child if he/she is moving on to Primary 1 next year? It may only be less than a month till the first day of school, but there is still more than enough time for you to ensure that your child is getting ready for primary school in the best possible way.
Tips to Get Your Child Ready for School
1. Familiarise your child with the environment of his/her primary school
Talk to your child about his/her new school and share your own thoughts about the school. Your child needs to understand why you have decided to send him/her there.
Perhaps the school is near home, so travelling time can be reduced greatly. Maybe either parent was an alumnus of the school and you would like your child to enjoy the same positive experience . When you include your child in such discussions, you allow him/her to process those big feelings with you as he/she is given a space to talk about them.
Explore the school environment with your child. Prior to orientation day, look up the school’s website or social media pages and show your child some pictures of the school. By doing so, you are familiarising him/her to this new environment so that he/she will feel assured about the surroundings on his/her very first day. Talk about the prominent facilities in school and what your child will be doing there.
Try not to miss orientation day, as this gives your child the opportunity to meet teachers, schoolmates and tour the school grounds. Your physical presence as your child makes his/her first connections at his/her new school will help in confidence building and developing a sense of security.
2. Go over and practise new daily routines
Speak to your child about the new routines he/she will soon have to follow or, even better, give him/her the chance to practise them beforehand.
Part of getting ready for primary school is becoming used to huge changes to daily routines at home. For starters, your child may have to wake up earlier than usual to attend school. There will also be no more nap time at primary school.
Explain to your child about key activities such as flag-raising and assembly in the school hall. You can also explain what the daily timetable and lesson hours in the classroom would be like. Discuss the topic of recess time and be sure to give your child the details on how he/she will be picked up after school.
In the week before school starts, you can also consider conducting a dry run with your child. Adjust bedtimes and morning calls so your child can get accustomed to waking up earlier. Guide your child through performing the steps of his/her new morning routine without the risk of actually running late. You can even travel down to the school itself to simulate drop-off and pick-up arrangements.
Knowing about and practising new school routines can help your child prepare for and anticipate the first few days of school with less uncertainties.
3. Discuss the most important school rules with your child
By ‘important’, we mean those that might initially be hard for your child to follow. It can be common for new Primary 1 students to walk in and out of the classroom without their teacher’s permission. For most of them, seeking permission may not have been emphasised during their kindergarten and preschool years.
However, do not worry too much if your child is not able to get the hang of this yet. Primary school teachers understand kindergarteners and the environment they are coming from very well, and will guide your child towards more appropriate behaviour in a gentle but firm manner.
If you want to have a head start, role play with your child on how he/she can practise asking for permission to go to the washroom or to drink water. Raising hands and waiting to be called upon is a good way to get the teacher’s attention politely.
4. Let your child get a taste of performing simple tasks on his/her own
A big difference between preschool and Primary 1 is the student-to-teacher ratio. In your child’s new class, this ratio can be 30:1. The teacher will not always have time to attend to every student’s needs, so your child will have to learn how to wait his/her turn and perform small tasks independently.
It’s not too late to start nurturing your child’s self-help skills. When eating out as a family, you can demonstrate how your child can buy food during recess time. Allow your child to take charge of a small item, such as a water bottle, when moving about, so he/she understands the importance of looking after one’s belongings.
It is important too, that your child learns how to take down homework and reminders, as well as messages to pass on between teachers and parents.
5. Continue strengthening your child’s ability to concentrate
In Primary 1, your child’s lessons will be longer and he/she will have more information to absorb. This makes concentration one of the most crucial skills to acquire for any new primary schooler.
While your child will have plenty of opportunities to hone his/her concentration at school, it can be very helpful to get him/her started ahead of time. Practise seat work and extend your child’s focus gradually. Assign him/her various tasks to be completed within a stipulated time. The more comfortable your child becomes with focusing now, the easier he/she will adapt to the demands of the Primary 1 syllabus.
That being said, do set realistic targets for your child’s level of concentration. Many adults still find it hard to sit down and focus for more than an hour at a time, so it’s only natural for children to feel the same too. To be able to sit and do something for 30 minutes straight is already a commendable effort for a Primary 1 child.
6. Do a final check to see if your child’s literacy and numeracy skills are ready for school
While each child develops at a different pace, having a strong foundation in literacy and numeracy can help to give your child a confident start. At Primary 1, your child should be able to read simple sentences, understand written instructions and write his/her own name in English and Mother Tongue.
As for numeracy, your child should be comfortable with counting from 1 to 20, simple addition and subtraction, telling the time and identifying different denominations of money.
Do not worry if your child is unable to do all of the above just yet. It is more important for you to find out which areas your child might need more help in, so you are able to work with your child’s teacher to provide additional support in these areas.
Assess your child’s current level by reading together, getting him/her to practise writing short sentences or injecting mathematical concepts into daily activities. For example, you can ask your child to count the number of eggs in a carton while at the supermarket!
Getting Ready for Primary School: An Ultimate Guide
Want even more information about how to navigate your child’s first year of primary school?
Download our Ultimate P1 Preparation E-Guide! It’s filled to the brim with useful tips and knowledge about various characteristics of school readiness, and includes a special primary school readiness checklist to help you measure your child’s progress.
If it’s academic support for your child that you are looking for, you may also want to consider our MindChamps Reading, MindChamps Writing and MindChampion Junior programmes. We’re here to support you and your child through his/her primary school journey.
Written by Leslie Wong and Danielle Hee