Shweta, is worried that her November born daughter will waste one year since she’ll not be 3 by September. Three, happens to be the recommended age to get admission in a mainstream school. Many parents, whose children fall into a grey area because of the birth date, face this challenge when they can either send their children to the school too early or wait for another year and supposedly waste one year.
Before we dwell on this further, let’s try to understand what school readiness means for a child? School readiness doesn’t mean reading, writing, singing poems or recognising shapes. School readiness means that a child is physically, cognitively, socially, and emotionally ready to go to school. This refers to children possessing the skills, knowledge, and attitude necessary for success in school. Here age is just one of the criteria and not necessarily the only deciding factor!
Children, just like they learn to walk at different ages also learn other skills at varying ages. If they are sent to school based on only the chronological age, they may face challenges and thus start avoiding going to school.
Who can decide if the child is ready?
Mostly, it is the parent, but because they are emotionally invested in this and may not be completely objective, the play school teacher can help decide. One can also take help from the points mentioned below to understand if the child is ready for the formal school.
1. Following multiple instructions: Can your child listen to and follow 2-3 step instructions? Most of the instructions at school are easy but need a follow through.
2. Listening Attentively: Listening attentively is imperative in a classroom setting as there is hardly any one-to-one attention from the teacher. which also means that the child needs to sit still for long periods to be able to process what is being said in the class.
3. Gross and Fine motor skills: Is the child able to jump, run, climb stairs, hold pencil, crayon or scissor? All these skills are related to gross motor and fine motors and if they need a little more time to master, you can always give them a few extra months.
4. Social Skills: When it is a single child and the parents are working full-time, sometimes social skills take a little longer to develop. A lot of urban families don’t have joint family systems and the child generally is only conversing to the parents or the help in the house. The limited interaction, may hamper their communication skills in a large group or with strangers.
5. Toilet Training: Accidents do and can happen in school but the child should be toilet trained before the admissions. The toilet training like unzipping or unbuttoning the trousers, closing the door, lifting the seat, using the toilet and washing the hands; the child needs to be taught of all the steps. As a parent, you can help put a visual chart in the toilet for them to remember, when training.
6. Handling frustration: This generation is being largely over-parented and many children feel it is their right to demand attention all the time. A lot of children need to be taught on handling frustration as the classroom functions differently. The child should know to handle their emotions on their own and not thrown tantrums in the class.
7. Handling Transitions: Children are supposed to follow a schedule while in class and transition is an important skill to teach. If the child is enjoying doing one thing and you want him to go to some other activity, how does he respond? Does he get too upset and want to do the same thing for hours at a stretch? If yes, make it a priority and work on it. It is a life long skill and is extremely important in the initial few months.
Also read : 5 Ways To Get Your Child To Open Up And Talk
What can you do as a parent?
If you decide to wait to put your child into school, make a plan or a road-map. This helps develop the skill set which would help your child not only in the school but also in his career.
Social Skills: Teaching children to take turns, treating other children, and discipline are vital values. It may be difficult to get proficient in all the above skills however, a few games and activities can be actively designed or played by parents to help children get started. Positive reinforcement can help them stay motivated to abide by the social rules.
Communication Skills: When children are young, they get all the attention. However, in a class of 30 or more, it becomes imperative that the children know how to communicate to their teachers and other staff of the school, if needed. Which is why, parents when home should encourage children to communicate effectively. They can ask children to present stories, poems or skit in front of the whole family.
Dressing themselves: While toilet training is on the way, parents should motivate children to dress themselves. Buttoning, unbuttoning and other simple processes should be repeated. This helps them develop confidence as well as fine motor skills.
Handle their emotions: Handling emotions effectively, is one of the skills that will help your child all their life. As a society, we don’t pay much attention to the fact that dealing with emotion is a skill which can be taught. We generally deal with them instinctively, which might not be the best way.
Teach your child that feelings are important but they come and go! Helping young kids know that emotions pass through us like waves, they reach their peak and then subside. This would help them deal with their emotions in a better way. When they are going through an intense emotion like anger, don’t say things like ‘calm down’ or ‘stop,’. It may not help. Rather, acknowledge and express that you are sorry they’re feeling that way. Once they are calmer, ask them to talk about it.
There are many important skills like reading, writing and number that need to be learned or imparted to our children, before they start their commitment with the formal schooling for 14 long years, as parents, it is not just our duty but also our responsibility to help them reach to the best of their potential.