Is your child ready to start school?

Are you sending your child to kindergarten next year?  Do you know if they are socially and emotionally ready for the challenges ahead? How do you decide? Local mum of two Neva shares her story with us.

Being a March baby, my daughter sits right on the fence of either being sent to school next year or staying put in preschool for another year.

As one mother told me at preschool orientation recently, deciding whether to send my child to school is definitely a ‘first world problem’.  I get that. But it’s a decision that I am making on behalf of someone else, even if that someone is little, that will affect them and our family immensely.

back to school

Children playing at Wannabees Play Centre

Most of the other mothers in my Mother’s Group are ‘holding back’ their children from starting big school.  The reasons are varied – they believe their child is not emotionally and socially ready for school; some mothers have been open about wanting to give their child a competitive advantage over other children in their peer group; some mothers wish to ensure that their child will be with other friends that are also being ‘held back’. Finally, some mothers simply want to be able to spend more time with their child before they embark on 13 years of schooling.

I attended orientation days at the two schools and on both occasions felt like a fraud.  How could I be in the audience, nodding my head along with the other parents if I didn’t really know if my daughter was going to be attending or not?  Were there other potential ‘frauds’ out there too?

Could my headstrong four-year-old, who seemed to have trouble managing her anger, be ready for school?  Could I encourage her to share, take turns and play co-operatively with others within a couple of months?  Would she listen to the teachers and do as she was told?


Children playing at Wannabees Play Centre

The orientation days emphasized the importance of personal and social skills versus the academic ability of the child, as these skills could be taught. I needed to know how to fast-track the personal and social skills in my daughter.

According to Dr Sandra Heriot and Dr Ivan Beale, Authors of Is Your Child Ready for School?, a child’s readiness for school depends on a whole range of factors including well functioning families, good nutrition and simply playing.  Her book talks about the importance of children playing together helping them to learn social skills, including things like how to share, co-operate and take turns.

I encouraged my daughter to dress up and play.  I took her to innovative play centres, including Wannabees Family Play Town in Frenchs Forest, where the focus is on developing the child’s emotional and social skills through dress ups and role-play. The centre is set up like a mini-city where children can experience first hand being a doctor, fire-fighter, hairdresser or even a banker or TV producer. The majority of staff at the Family Play Town are qualified child-carers and educators, and they guide the children through the different attractions as well as let them discover the city for themselves.

It is thought that role-play engages with your child’s emotions, cognition, language and sensory motor skills.  It also helps your child to discover their own leadership skills, acquire language ability, problem solve, develop empathy, explore their imagination and build social skills.

I felt all of these things to be incredibly important, especially after reading Kirstine Belley’s book A Parent’s Survival Guide to Starting School. Kirstine states that “being at school is (one of) the first situations when (children) come across the need to share equipment and/or adult time with other children. Giving children lots of opportunities to be able to build their sharing skills will really help them to interact properly with other children when they begin school.”

So, what did I decide to do in the end?

It was a frank discussion with the Preschool Director that made me see the light.

“Your daughter is ready for school,” she said.  “None of the behaviours that your daughter is exhibiting at home – temper tantrums, meltdowns, emotional volatility – happen here at preschool.  In fact, she has displayed great resilience, having no episodes of crying, separation anxiety or tantrums. In essence, she’ll be fine at school.”

We have decided that we should take the plunge and send our daughter to ‘big school’ next year.

Now all that remains is the “simple” decision of which school she should attend…


Neva Poole

Neva Poole

Author: Laurice Klaire

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