Is Your LITTLE One Ready for BIG School
Kellie Bedwell – Paediatric Occupational Therapist
January is a busy time here in the clinic supporting little ones and their families at this exciting (yet nerve-racking!) time when they are getting ready for “big school”. Smooth adjustment into school is a key part of children’s growth and development and making a “good start” in the first term of Kindergarten is a huge focus for most families.
We get lots of parents asking us during this period about whether their child is ready for the move into the formal education environment. Below are some key areas parents may consider in ensuring their child is ready for this important step.
Fine motor skills – Can your child: write their name? Hold a pencil using a tripod grip (two fingers and a thumb)? Cut out basic shapes with scissors? Fine motor skills are essential at school as children will begin to build on their current skill set to begin to write words and sentences and undertake tasks such as craft projects.
Gross motor skills, posture and coordination – Can your child: Hold an upright posture when seated? Coordinate their body movements to hop, jump and run or throw a ball? If children have difficulty sitting for long periods, it may be a sign that they have poor postural control or core strength. Interestingly, this can impact their handwriting and they may appear to be ‘disruptive’ to others by constantly moving. Difficulty with gross motor skills and coordination can also impact a child’s ability to participate in activities throughout the school day, such as playing on playground equipment or joining in games with their friends and classmates.
Independence in self-care skills – Can your child: Button up their shirt and zip up their jacket? Put on and take off their shoes? Go to the toilet and wash their hands by themselves? Open their lunch container and food packaging? Ensuring your child is as independent as possible at home in looking after themselves and their belongings is essential to help the transfer of these skills over to school. The more self-sufficient they are, the more comfortable they will feel in this new environment – independence builds self-confidence!
Social and emotional skills – Does your child: Recognise and manage their emotions, particularly uncomfortable feelings such as anger and frustration? Share and interact appropriately with other children? Have self-control, conflict management skills and the ability to compromise? Social and emotional skills are important for successful participation in almost all areas of school. They enable children to develop appropriate social relationships with other children, make and maintain friendships, cooperate during play and leisure activities and work with peers in group classroom activities.
It is important to remember that whilst all young children are continually learning and developing new skills, the rate at which they learn differs greatly! This means that all children enter school with noticeable differences in physical skills, social and emotional competence, language and communication skills and cognitive (a.k.a. ‘thinking’) skills. Thus, the points above are offered as a general guide and you should not feel too concerned if your child is not “ticking all the boxes”. If you have concerns or would like further assistance in identifying if your child is indeed ready for the transition to school, your friendly local Paediatric OT can certainly offer some guidance. For those of you who are comfortable taking the next BIG STEP – I wish you all the best!