Emma has a hard time listening and following through on instructions. She constantly appears to be daydreaming and has trouble focusing and concentrating.
Benjamin can’t keep still. He often starts things and leaves them midway, and he becomes angry and aggressive whenever things do not go his way.
Despite starting school a year ago, Mia still knows very few words and she still struggles with numbers.
Starting school or going back to school for children struggling with school can be challenging for both children and their parents. The good news is that it is possible to develop academic and social skills at home, and most activities require neither the intervention of a specialist, nor are they costly.
Here are ten things that will make your child school ready
1) Writing in the sand can increase your child’s school readiness
Montessori schools typically have sand writing trays to teach children how to write their letters. Sensory writing is not only fun for kids, it also helps them learn to easily recognize different letters and simple words as well as to develop fine motor skills. Writing in the sand is also a relaxing activity for children.
Although a sand writing tray can be a great tool to help your child practice writing even indoors, you can also use a sandbox or even the beach to help him get more accustomed to writing. You can encourage younger kids to use their fingers or sticks to draw straight lines or curves on the sand, and older kids can practice writing different letters of the alphabet and their names. Providing a model from which to copy can make it easier for children encountering difficulties to perfect their writing and word recognition.
Sand letters are also an easy way to help your child practice writing. Here is an easy way to make some:
- Write different letters and words on index cards using a marker.
- Ask your child to trace over the letters written with glue.
- Ask him to sprinkle sand over the letters and words written.
Once the cards are dry, he can use them to learn to identify different letters and words and trace them with his fingers.
2) Use dough to strengthen your child’s motor skills
Dough is a great option to help your child familiarize herself with different letters and words in a fun way. There are different ways you can use dough to help your child practice writing. For example, you can write a letter on a piece of paper and ask your child to reproduce the letter using dough. She can also trace over the letter with dough. Using dough to help your child practice writing and word recognition is also an easy way to encourage sensory play.
3) Music can help increase your child’s ability to focus and concentrate
Did you know that music can help increase your child’s focus and concentration? For example, playing musical chairs teaches your child to listen and pay attention. Shauna Tominey and Megan McClelland, who measured children’s self-regulation skills, found that playing the freeze game by asking children to dance when the music was on and to freeze when it stopped was an easy way to build concentration. Other suggestions they found helped increase focus were asking kids to dance quickly when they heard slow music, and to dance slowly when they heard fast music.
4) Certain games can help build school ready kids
According to Tominey and McClleland, self-regulation skills are decisive in whether your child is school ready or not. Over a two-month period, children were proposed specific games twice a week to determine whether these games would increase their self-regulation skills. The researchers found that some games can help your child reinforce these skills.
For instance, waving a baton at different rhythms and asking children to play an instrument (for example a bell) to the rhythm of the baton helped improve self-regulation. A different game involved asking children to do specific things when they heard specific drum cues (for example hop when you hear a fast drum beat and crawl when you hear a slow drumbeat). Other games included a modified version of the “Red Light, Green Light” where color cues were used to tell the children what was expected of them (“orange is go”), and then the cues were later changed (“orange is stop”), and a modified version of the “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” where children were asked to do the opposite of what they were told (for example touch their toes when they were asked to touch their heads).
Turning activities such as counting into a game can also help develop your child’s school readiness. For example, you can ask her to count all the blue cars she sees, all the children wearing pink at the park, the number of different flowers she sees, and so on.
Privilege games that encourage your child to concentrate. Some activities encourage your child to concentrate; others do not. Games such as puzzles and mazes can help improve your child’s concentration. Resources designed to encourage him to “think then act” can help him develop important skills all learners need.
5) Developing your child’s emotional intelligence is your path to school readiness
A school-ready child is an emotionally intelligent child. A child who knows how to identify her emotions and the emotions of others is more likely to make a smooth transition to school life. She is less likely to “hide behind” behavior such as tantrums, meltdown, aggressive and disruptive behavior, etc. to hide her inability to deal with big emotions such as anger, fear, and frustration.
The good news is that there are relatively easy age-appropriate resources you can use to strengthen your child’s emotional intelligence right at home.
6) Encouraging your child to make decisions can help prepare him for school
The more your child feels in control of the decisions affecting him, the higher the chances he will remain focused. Developing your child’s ability to plan can help him develop a number of skills that will help improve his school readiness. Encouraging him to plan his activities makes him accustomed to thinking about the activities that interest him, come up with specific action plans, and so on.
Play planning is an easy and effective way to encourage your child to make decisions and reinforce his focus and concentration. The “Nurturing Constructive Boredom: Over 101 fun activities to boost your child’s concentration and autonomy” resource is specifically designed to:
- Help your child practice specific tasks to develop his/her focus and concentration
- Increase his/her capacity to pay attention to minor details
- Encourage your child to manage boredom by him/herself
- Increase your child’s capacity to stay focused on specific items and ignore others
- Increase his/her ability to “think then act”
Helping your child practice self-control by asking questions that force him to make decisions (what do you want to do? What will you do next time? What will you do differently?”) also helps prepare him for school. Asking open-ended questions can help him develop essential academic skills.
7) Books can help get your child ready for school
Language and literacy development is an important aspect of school readiness and books have a major impact on your child’s language skills. They help him learn new words and increase his general knowledge. Books are also a great tool that can teach him about different places and different people and can help spark his curiosity. Reading to children has a positive impact on emergent literacy skills.
Although reading is an important activity for the development of your child’s skills, many parents struggle with finding the time to read. Remember that adopting different “reading cultures”, for instance a family reading session, a read-aloud tradition, reading short newspapers articles that may interest your kids, reading recipes together, etc., are all great opportunities to make the most of reading.
Casual conversations can also have an impact on your child’s language and literacy development.
8) Give your child chores
Although kids often resist chores, research says that those who do chores are more self-reliant, more responsible, and have better social, emotional and academic outcomes. Chores can help your child master the skills associated with specific chores as well as social skills such as accountability and responsibility. Also, perseverance with chores helps promote self-control.
The earlier your child starts participating in household chores, the less resistance you are likely to face as he grows older. An easy way to encourage him to do chores is to ask him to choose the chores he would like to do. Using chore cards and deciding on how many chores are appropriate depending on your child’s age is an easy way to get started. Here are 70 age-appropriate chore-cards for ages 2 to 14.
9) Encourage your child to use scissors
Motor development is an important indicator of school readiness. Encouraging your child to use child-friendly scissors is an easy way to help her develop her fine motor skills. Remember that your child can also practice cutting outdoors (dead leaves, twigs, etc.)
10) Strengthen your child’s sense of self
Just like emotional development, social development is an important component of school readiness. Joining school or being in school is about interacting with peers and educators, and it is therefore important for your child to develop a strong sense of self and to know how to interact with others. Helping her identify her preferences and interests helps develop her sense of self. Constantly encouraging her to give her opinion also helps strengthen her self-awareness.
Organizing play dates is an easy way to help your child learn about socializing. Teaching her about different people, for example by reading books on how people elsewhere live, can also help her understand the differences and similarities that exist between people.
Playing games that require her to take turns can also help strengthen skills such as self-control, which is an important indicator of a school-ready child. They can teach him the importance of waiting for once’s turn and respecting others.
Preparing your child for school or helping your child struggling with the early years in school is really about proposing activities that help her learn or reinforce new skills and also show her that she is capable of success. The Nurturing Constructive Boredom: Over 101 fun activities to boost your child’s concentration and autonomy” resource is specifically designed to help your child practice focus and concentration, learn to pay attention to minor details, and work on her observation skills.
Remember that the more your child feels able to overcome even the smallest obstacles, the more confident she will feel about her capacities and the more she is likely to transfer those new skills to school. If you believe that she has a development delay that may affect her school readiness, a therapist can help you adopt an approach more in line with your child and with your family context.