Starting School Series 1: Building Independence
Mastering Practical Life Skills
When each of my three children started school for the first time, one of the first things I did was to assess how independent they were when doing everyday tasks. When I say ‘assess’, I don’t actually mean that I followed them around with a clipboard, ticking off each skill. Instead, I simply made it my priority to observe them as they went about their day.
I’m addressing independence first because this is one area that gets most overlooked in preparation for starting school.
Helping your child to become more independent is arguably one of the most important steps when preparing for school. Here’s why:
Independence leads to a sense of accomplishment and helps your child to gain confidence
It helps them get on with the important business of developing friendships, playing and learning
It saves a lot of time - first in the mornings when getting ready for school and secondly during the school day.
I have worked in many classrooms. My observations of the first two years of school have shown me this: the children who cannot put on their coats / do up their zip properly often get less playtime (because they are waiting for the teacher to help them). The children who cannot open their lunchbox or open their drink end up eating their lunch in a hurry (because they are waiting for someone to help).
And I have to stress that this is not because they are being punished for it! Think about it for a second, a typical classroom in the early years has one teacher and one assistant. If 15 out of the 30 children need help with their coat or lunchbox, then that means big queues.
In order for this to happen, your child needs plenty of opportunities to develop their fine motor skills and plenty of time to practise new skills.
However, before we go further, I must stress that the content in this email is designed to help children master these skills where they are capable of doing so. If your child has additional needs, medical needs or you suspect that they do, ensure that you speak to your child’s teacher and support staff.
If your child is already getting help from a paediatrician, occupational therapist or other healthcare professional, please talk to them about how best to prepare your child for school from a ‘gaining independence’ point of view.
Always Keep your child’s teacher in the loop from the get-go so that they know how to address your child’s needs.
Here’s what we’re covering this week:
Toilet Skills and Handwashing
Opening Lunch Boxes and Drink Bottles
Finding Their Belongings
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