Is your child starting Prep next year? My daughter is and has been quizzing me about it ever since we did a tour of the school recently. Just this morning she said, “I don’t think there will be a mat to sit on, will there Mum? Just big desks?”. I explained to her that I’m pretty sure there will be a sitting area as well as desks, to which she replied, “Oh yeah, because they might like to read us stories!”
Apart from some anxiety about whether you think you are ready to be sending them off to school (something I am sure all parents worry about as the day gets closer!), you may also have some concerns about whether they are really ready for Prep…
So we are super-excited to have guests Christine Wyatt, Occupational Therapist and Kate Davis, Speech Pathologist from Boost Therapy with us this week to share some useful tips to help us first-time parents figure out whether our precious cherubs are ready for Prep… Part 1: Is your child Prepped for Prep?
Spring has arrived, and it’s often around this time of year that us Occupational Therapists and Speech Pathologists start receiving the first of many calls from panicked parents, whose little ones are just a few months away from starting Prep. But these parents aren’t just prematurely stressing about which uniform size to buy, or the healthiest muesli bar to pack for lunch. These Mums and Dads have genuine concerns about whether their child is developmentally ready for Prep.
Will he be independent enough?
Does she have the social skills to get along with other kids?
Will he be able to understand and follow the teacher’s directions?
Will she have the hand skills to cut, paste and draw like the other kids?
These days Prep is no longer just a play-based program. The introduction of a national curriculum means that there is a much stronger literacy and academic focus in Prep, and children’s progress is monitored more than ever. Whilst this means that our children get a head-start on their education and are less likely to be left behind if having difficulties, the thought of preparing young kids for this kind of structure can be enough to send many parents into a tail-spin!
So what does being ready for Prep mean? What skills and knowledge do our kids need to have? How do you know if your child is ready for Prep or if you need to seek help? What can you do to help prepare your child in the years leading up to Prep? Boost Therapy can help answer these important questions.
There are a few key developmental areas parents should consider in thinking about their child’s readiness for Prep:
Speech and language skills are important for children to be able to communicate with their teachers and peers. In general, children starting Prep should be able to understand and follow directions, be able to express their needs and wants clearly, be able to clearly re-tell about an event that has happened, and speak clearly enough to be understood by most people. See Speech Pathology Australia’s factsheet here for more information about children’s communication skills.
To help your child develop good language skills, make every day an exploration of language. Ask your child questions, answer their questions, and talk about everything you see and do. Reading books to your child is a fantastic way to build language skills, but don’t just read the words and put the book away. Talk about the pictures, discuss what is happening in the story and talk about the meaning of words. Click here for more great tips.
If you are concerned about your child’s communication skills, seek advice from a Speech Pathologist.
Pre writing skills
Pre writing skills refer to the skills children acquire through participating in activities such as drawing, construction, craft and other fiddly tasks. In general, children starting Prep should be able to draw simple shapes such as a circle, cross (+) and square and be drawing some recognisable pictures such as drawing a person. For reluctant drawers, have a go at some novel ways of drawing such as using chalk on a blackboard or on concrete outside, drawing in the steam in the shower or bath or creating shapes using play dough (roll into “sausages” and then make the sausage into a circle etc.) Construction activities such as lego or building with blocks are another great way to build on the visual spatial skills that help us to learn to copy what we see.
Children’s grasp of their pencil can still be developing in the lead up to Prep. An overemphasis on grasp when drawing can sometimes mean that drawing is less fun, so help your child improve their grasp by practising with small pieces of chalk, by playing games with small tongs or plastic tweezers and by playing games that have small parts that need to be manipulated (i.e. games that involve marbles or pegs etc.).
Independence at school
The lead up to Prep is a great time to practise some of the tasks that children need to be able to do independently in the classroom. These tasks include: using the toilet by themselves, putting on their own shoes, undoing the button on their shorts/shirt if needed, opening their lunch boxes and any wrappers inside. If your child is having difficulty with these activities, try to make the task easier where possible (i.e. provide food with less fiddly wrappers, use shoes they are able to take off and put on themselves). Click this link for Education Queensland’s fact sheet “Get Set for Prep” for more information.
If you are concerned with your child’s pre-writing skills or worried about some of the independent tasks listed above, seek advice from an Occupational Therapist and talk to your child’s teacher.
Thanks so much to Kate & Christine for this invaluable advice! Look out for Part 2 this Thursday: Boost Therapy’s 5 Top Tips for Prep Readiness.
Boost Therapy is a mobile speech pathology and occupational therapy service in Brisbane. For further information visit www.boosttherapy.com.au
Do you have a question or comment for Kate or Chirstine? Feel free to ask away in the section below!