The time when a child is about to start school is a major milestone for parents because it signifies a big step for the little ones as they head towards an increased period of socialization, autonomy, and learning.
This new stage can be a source of anxiety for parents as they seek to understand how to prepare their child for this turning-point and to ensure that this becomes a positive experience for the whole family.
School readiness is a long-term process that begins not when the child is about to start school but already in infancy with increasing maturation throughout the first years as the child continuously acquires and builds on learning skills starting from birth.
What is school readiness?
Insights from early brain developmental research have shown that multiple factors in a child’s early experience can affect their learning skills and social-emotional development. A strong relation between positive social-emotional development and school readiness reveals the importance of addressing opportunities to support social and emotional improvement and address behavioural concerns at an early stage.
Identified risk factors
Recent studies identified factors that have shown to influence school readiness including extended exposure to stress and parental emotional unavailability, overly rigid parenting styles Data revealed that children with 2 or more adverse childhood experiences were more likely to repeat a grade in school compared with children not facing difficult experiences early in life. Children who demonstrated traits of resilience defined as “knowing how to quickly adapt when faced with a challenge,” were more likely to overcome these issues. Minimizing prolonged exposure to stress and building resilience in children has been identified as a way of promoting school readiness.
Parents are the first educators
From an educational perspective, the child’s life from birth to three years old is a critical time in preparing for school. School entry may be one of the first times a child is separated from their parents for a recurrent and long period of time and interacting with other children and adults. It is also the first step towards autonomy and decision making.
Several qualities that are necessary for children to be ready for school are physical well-being, intellectual skills, and social-emotional skills. These qualities are influenced by the global affective and social environment in which children are raised.
There are many activities that parents can engage in in support of school readiness that should build on the following skills:
Self-regulation: The ability to obtain, maintain and change emotion, behaviour, attention and activity level appropriate for a task or situation.
Receptive language (understanding): Comprehension of spoken language.
Expressive language (using language): Producing speech or language that can be understood by others.
Articulation: The ability to clearly pronounce individual sounds in words.
Executive functioning: Higher order reasoning and thinking skills.
Emotional development/regulation: The ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions and regulate emotions.
Social skills: Determined by the ability to engage in reciprocal interaction with others (either verbally or non-verbally), to compromise with others and to be able to recognise and follow social norms.
Planning and sequencing: The sequential multi-step task/activity performance to achieve a well-defined result.
Areas to help your child growth before school
Language skills could be some of the most important in so far as it gives the child the ability to communicate wants and needs. Language is synonymous with autonomy. The child should be able to express his needs to the teacher important issues that concerns himself/herself (for instance if he/she feels unwell, or if she/he needs to use the restroom.) First years of schools is also the first time a child gets to interact with many different children. Furthermore, language and literacy skills are well-known to be essential in reading which are crucial in the following years of schools.
Major Thinking Skills or executive functioning
In the first year of life, the majority of a child’s learning comes from observation and repeated experiences. The “Why?” question starting at age of 2 is a great sign of infants’ eagerness to learn and their curiosity which is a first sign of autonomy
Encouraging a child to learn is therefore crucial, that’s why parents should foster curiosity and explore new activities with their young children. This parental reinforcement will translate into an eagerness to learn which is vital for school adaptation.
Building Self-Confidence and self-control
A confident child is more willing to take on new challenges, interact with other children, and be away from parents for an extended period of time. Confident children will seek out relationships and are at ease in controlling impulses, emotions, and physical activities that all help with the socialization process..
Why does school readiness matter?
For a child to benefit the most from their schooling experience being school ready is extremely important as it sets up the first building blocks experience for future learning and academic skills. Unfavourable first years of school, may negatively affect their self-worth and emotional development as well as socializing skills in the future.
Preparing for school readiness, in a nutshell:
For more information:
Pediatrics August 2019, 144 (2) e20191766;
Adverse childhood experiences: assessing the impact on health and school engagement and the mitigating role of resilience. (Millwood). 2014;33(12):2106–2115pmid:25489028
Early Childhood Development and Disability: A Discussion Paper. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2012