6 Tips to Prep for School
If you’re a parent with a preschooler, I know times are tough. So many of us are stuck at home, unable to take our kids out and about as usual for social activities and on adventures.
The year is more than half over, and I’ve had lots of calls and messages from parents worried about the effects of prolonged lockdown and social restrictions on their child’s School Readiness skills.
To make things easier for you I have created a list of 6 foundation areas to target and some great tips to support your child’s transition to school.
1. Finger and Hand Strength
Adequate finger and hand strength and being able to coordinate hand and finger movements is important for using pencils, scissors, grasping or manipulating objects, tying shoelaces and managing buttons and zips. All of which is important for school readiness!
Ways to improve finger and hand strength include:
- Cutting Practise (Playdough, thin strips of paper)
- Squeezing, manipulating and finding hidden objects in Rainbow Rice or water Bead
- Scrunching paper in one hand and flicking it into a goal across the room
- Threading beads or peeling the backing off stickers
- Using tweezers (games such as Operation, Giggle Wiggle or popping bubbles with tweezers)
- Feed the Bunny the carrots (Activity from our Mini Farm Unit)
- Matching Colour Wheel peg matching game (pdf)
- Watering the garden with a spray bottle to increase the strength of the small muscles of the hand.
Here is what one happy mum said…
“Please know from the bottom of my heart, I truly appreciate all the effort you’ve put into the Monkey Minds Programs and your pdf resources. I’ve always known how important the first 5 years of life are in helping our children learn and grow and setting the foundations to learn but the way you explain School Readiness has actually clicked for me.” – Carney
2. Visual Skills
Visual skills is not just about what you see, it involves being able to focus and attend to tasks, track from left to right when reading, and to coordinate a motor movement in response to what you see (eg copying letters, or bouncing a ball, or playing games). Another important foundational area for school readiness!
Ways to improve visual motor skills include:
- Eye Spy games (in the car, at home, or books like ‘Where’s Wally’)
- Ball games (kicking, catching, hitting, rolling)
- Puzzles – Number or Alphabet puzzles
- Alphabet match by matching picture cards to their initial letter sounds
- Match magnetic letters to pictures using our Initial Sound mats
- Following visual instructions to build lego or blocks
- Scavenger Hunts – check out our templates here
- Time certain tasks using a visual timer (e.g Time Timer app, bubble or egg timers or stopwatches. You can slowly increase the amount of time spent on a task, increasing their visual attention.
3. Drawing Skills
Drawing helps to improve pencil control, shape formation and visual motor skills (i.e copying what the eyes see). Drawing skills are an important prerequisite for handwriting. It is important that a child is able to copy these shapes before moving on to the more complex task of learning letter formation.
Pre-writing skills are the fundamental skills required before a child can learn to form letters and write correctly. These skills include being able to correctly hold a pencil and being able to draw, trace, copy and colour.
Different strokes are usually mastered in a specific order and typically around a certain age:Ways to improve visual motor skills include:
- Our Pre-writing cards (purchase Write ‘N’ Wipe set) or download pdf version here enable your child to practise these lines, strokes and shapes.
- Use a whiteboard to draw and copy shapes before moving on to pencil and paper.
- Use window or shower crayons to practice drawing houses on a glass door or the shower screen.
- Practice drawing Rainbow rice (large shapes are often easier to copy than small shapes).
- Use thicker triangular pencils instead of the standard thinner pencils. This will increase the ability to control the pencil more efficiently while supporting a developing pencil grasp.
- Give your child fun and basic dot-to-dot or maze worksheets while you’re getting lunch or dinner ready.
- If your child has mastered these lines stroke and shapes and is working on their letter formation, we also have amazing Write ‘N’ Wipe Alphabet Cards. You can grab both card sets in the Writing Bundle.
We help support your child develop all of these skills plus much more during our School Readiness Program > > > click to learn more.
4. Self Care Skills
Self care skills are important for starting school to ensure your child is able to be as independent as possible both at school, at home, during school excursions, or when visiting friends houses. Independence builds also builds self confidence and resilience. We want our child to feel confident at school and while developing their skills!
Ways to improve self care skills include:
- Practice buttons, clothes, shoelaces, shoes and socks, zips. Dressing toys is a great place to start. It’s also helpful to practice opening containers or packaging, and peeling bananas.
- Some self care skills require increased hand and finger strength and the fine motor activities above may assist with improving independence in these areas.
- Setting up a reward system at home for completing tasks independently.
- A visual schedule or a chart helps to build independence. Keep it short, simple and easy to follow.
- Getting ready for the day earlier to ensure there is enough time for the child to complete or practice activities during the morning routine independently.
For more ideas with self care, check out our
‘Get Prep ready’ eBook, it’s a comprehensive parent guide to helping ensure your child is ready to thrive.
5. Social Skills
Before starting school, your child should be able to get along with other children, demonstrate basic manners, assert themselves, and play independently as well as with other children to prepare them for what occurs on a daily basis at school.
Ways to improve social skills include:
- Encourage play dates with friends to help your child develop their social skills, such as sharing toys, turn-taking, waiting, and resilience.
- Read books about the first day at school (Check out our list of books we recommend you read before their big day) tag IG post or can make this a blog post).
- These types of stories help your child understand the “rules” and what is expected of them at school. It helps to explicitly tell and show your child what they should do at school, and this is often more powerful than telling your child what NOT to do.
- Teach them your favourite playground games. Clapping games build attention skills, as well as being social and fun. Equip your child with creative and fun games to play with their peers in the playground. This will help them to make friends and socialise with others (Tiggy, hopscotch, 2- square).
- Play board games with the child to teach turn-taking, sharing, waiting and the ability to cope when one doesn’t win.
- Check out our ‘All about me’ eBook which has activity ideas and stories to read about identifying and dealing with emotions
- Check out our popular games: Get out of my House, Place Value War, Sound Bingo
6. Sitting Posture
Correct posture when seated at the table can affect a child’s speed, quality and neatness of their handwriting. It requires good trunk and shoulder stability, and can impact a child’s ability to sit for extended periods.
Ways to improve postural and shoulder stability include:
- Implementing animal walks into the family routine to help strengthen shoulders, arms and hands. For example, bear crawl or crab walk to the dinner table, bathroom or bedroom each night. (Check out our ‘Get Prep Ready’ eBook for more gross motor activities to help develop these muscles.
- Make sure when writing or drawing at the table that feet are flat on the floor (or on a foot stool), back is supported and the table is at an appropriate height (see below).
- Paint or draw on a vertical surface (on a chalkboard or paper on the wall) to increase shoulder strength and wrist positioning.
- Do activities while laying in their belly, resting on their elbows to increase shoulder and neck strength.
If you have any concerns about your child’s development, I encourage you to speak with your child’s educator or contact us at Monkey Minds about any concerns or questions you have.
At Monkey Minds, our aim is to provide your child with a high quality early childhood education experience so as to give them the best chance to develop to their fullest potential in these formative years. Our Pre-Kinder and School Readiness programs are designed to stimulate physical, intellectual, social and emotional development and have a strong emphasis on learning through play.’
We would like to invite you to come along and
‘Try with your child for FREE’.
Check out our PDF resources here, we have a wide range of activities, games and ideas to help you prepare your child for their first day.
I hope the tips and ideas above give you the confidence to help support your child as they transition to school, remember, I am a mum too, who sent my eldest to prep this year so I KNOW how you feel.. so if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.