How to Help Children Develop School Readiness

Milestones Early Learning in Swansea. Quality child care in Swansea for ages 0-5.

Starting school is an important stage in your child's life. Before they start though, a child should ideally have developed a range of basic skills and knowledge to help them transition smoothly into the school environment. These skills align with key developmental areas including emotional confidence, social connectivity, foundational learning. and physical health and wellbeing.

Key Development Areas

Read on as we explain what each key development area includes, and how you can help children develop these skills.

Emotional Confidence

Emotional confidence in young children encompasses several key traits, including the ability to adjust to change or new routines, label their feelings, and persist with challenging tasks. It also involves a willingness to try new or unfamiliar activities, excitement about starting school and attending preschool or kindergarten, and the capacity to separate easily from parents, most of the time. Additionally, emotionally confident children can effectively express their wants and needs to others.

Ways you can help children develop this skill:

  • Follow a predictable daily routine, but allow for flexibility
  • Clearly explain reasons for unexpected changes or limitations, e.g. ‘we can’t go outside because it is raining, and we don’t have any raincoats’.
  • Explore emotions through images, books, stories, songs and puppets
  • Label children’s feelings and behaviours e.g. ‘I can see that you are frustrated because you can’t finish the game.’
  • Provide realistic and safe challenges with adequate support to encourage persistence with difficult tasks
  • Implement experiences with a surprising or unknown outcome such as science experiments using trial and error
  • Connect with other children/families going to the same school
  • Encourage children to pack their own bags and organise their own belongings when they arrive at the centre
  • Allow autonomy during routine and play times and role model words for when child needs help to find the words to express themselves

Social Connectivity

Social connectivity in children under five is characterised by their ability to play alone for short periods, join others for play independently, and seek out familiar peers while establishing friendship groups. These children can wait for their turn, regulate their behaviour, and understand basic rules and expectations. Additionally, they share play equipment and collaborate effectively with others in group settings.

Ways you can help children develop this skill:

  • Provide opportunities for solitary play - books, puzzles, drawing, writing, craft
  • Encourage children to interact with a variety of children to extend their friendship group and play options
  • Provide children with suggestions on how to approach and join in with existing play situations
  • Provide opportunities for turn-taking for individuals and in small and large groups such as ball games, art, technology use.
  • Encourage children to be aware of the resources that other children would like to use e.g. ‘Jake would like to have a turn on the bike. When you are finished, will you give Jake a turn?’
  • Talk about different rules and expectations that apply in different contexts - indoors, outdoors, home, school, shops, carparks, around water etc
  • Ask for child’s opinion on how games or play should be conducted and let them take the lead in play

Foundational Learning

Foundational learning in preschool children involves knowing and recognising their full name in print, correctly labelling various colours and shapes, and following verbal instructions. They can count to 20, recognise numerals up to 10, and use representational drawing and creative writing in their work. These children show interest in writing and letter formation, including writing some letters and possibly their name, while holding writing tools correctly and using scissors. They can stay focused on a task for 10 minutes when interested, understand basic concepts like up/down and hot/cold, and can recount simple events or sequences of a story.

Ways you can help children develop this skill:

  • Provide opportunities for children to hear their full name spoken and see their full name in print
  • Promote incidental learning by recognising and labelling colours and shapes in the environment.
  • Begin with one step directions and build up to two and three step directions e.g. ‘Can you please get your drink bottle, place it on the shelf and go to wash your hands?’
  • Promote incidental learning - recognise numbers in the environment and through routine tasks e.g. count how many plates to set out on the table, notice numbers on letter boxes, count steps as you ascend/descend
  • Allow many opportunities to experience and explore with different writing materials - pencils, markers, chalk, crayon, charcoal, oil pastels
  • Provide experiences involving letters, books, matching games, puzzles, tracing, alphabet, name recognition.
  • Provide endless supplies of paper and writing/ drawing materials for free exploration
  • Provide experiences that children can achieve successfully without adult guidance
  • Use comparisons to explore mathematical concepts e.g. more, less, heavier, lighter, denser, harder, softer, higher, lower, faster, slower etc.
  • Encourage children to retell familiar stories or relevant events in their life e.g. what they did on the weekend.

Physical Health & Wellbeing

Physical health and wellbeing in children is demonstrated by their ability to dress and undress with little help, toilet independently, and wash their hands. They show imagination and creativity in play, feed themselves, and manage their lunch boxes. These children take care of their belongings, manage daily movement tasks like running, jumping, and climbing with confidence, and show awareness of respectful behaviours. They possess age-appropriate language skills, including vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension, and can express their thoughts and ideas. They understand basic concepts of personal health and safety and engage in sensory experiences.

Ways you can help children develop this skill:

  • Provide opportunities for children to use buttons, zippers, Velcro and threading
  • Remind regularly to use the bathroom and wash hands afterwards
  • Provide a variety of open-ended materials - loose parts, modelling material, dramatic play props, craft supplies and an endless supply of paper and drawing materials
  • Discuss what the body needs to be healthy (food, water) and to listen to body cues for hunger and thirst and for when the body is satisfied
  • Have consistent expectations of where to keep items - hat, shoes, lunch boxes, drink bottles etc
  • Provide opportunities that encourage running, jumping, climbing, hopping, balancing, rolling, dodging, bouncing, throwing, catching, kicking, striking, swinging, bending, stretching, crouching
  • Role model positive language
  • Ask children questions and encourage their response
  • Discuss potential hazards in different environments such as cars/carpark, water hazards, strangers, kitchen/electrical appliances, animals
  • Provide opportunities to explore using all five senses - touch, taste, sight, sound, smell

Enrol in a School Readiness Program

One of the best ways to support children’s transition to school is to enrol them in a school readiness program. A school readiness program should be designed to stimulate young minds, build confidence, resilience and positive self image, and support children’s transition to school, preparing them for a positive start. The program should also acknowledge that all children are capable of achieving success and help your child reach their full potential.

Milestones Early Learning educators and teachers are trained in Affinity Education's Lifelong Learning Curriculum, and the school readiness program that is part of the curriculum does just that. It focuses on four key intentions – emotional confidence, social connectivity, foundational learning and physical health and wellbeing, while also considering your child’s natural interests, strengths and needs.