Keeping kids ready for starting school in the holidays

When the wait is far too long ...
When the wait is far too long ... Photo: Getty

When my daughter G completed her school orientation program back in November she was incredibly excited about starting school. In fact, had she been able, she would have started school the very next day.

The reality, of course, is that there is a long gap between school orientation and the start of the school year. It is a gap that must feel like a lifetime to excited five-year-olds. So what can we do to help keep up the momentum?

Community Liaison Officer, Catherine Gregory is responsible for the school readiness program at Hill Top Road Public School in Sydney's West. She says that books about starting school are a great way to keep up the starting school excitement.

"There are some great books about starting school. Start by checking out what is available at your local library. My personal favourites are 'Harry and the Dinosaurs go to school' by Ian Whybrow and 'First Day' by Andrew Daddo," she says.

Books can also help children that are apprehensive about the start of school.

Another way to keep up the momentum is to start preparing for school by practicing a routine.

"Routine is really important. Toward the end of the holidays set times for getting up and having snacks and lunch. Get them used to eating when it is snack time rather than just giving them snacks when they ask for them," she says.

Catherine also suggests that you start using the lunch box or bag that you intend to use for school. "You don't have to do it everyday, but if you incorporate a few 'packed lunches' into your week then your kids will know what to expect when school starts.

"It is also a good way to check that they can actually open their own lunch box. I see a lot of kids struggling with complicated lunchboxes and the teacher can only help one kid at a time," explains Catherine.

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Other skills that will greatly assist your child when they begin school will be dressing themselves. Catherine suggests that once you have purchased school uniform it is a good idea to have a few "dry runs".

But what about the academic side of school? Should I be using this time to help G practice her writing and reading skills? "If it is through play, then definitely," says Catherine.

"There are lots of ways to make it fun; rolling letters and numbers in playdough or writing them in flour or rice, reading a book and making up puppet show about it. Even when you are walking down the street you can point out house numbers or street signs," notes Catherine says.

Denyse Whelan, retired K-6 principal and school education consultant agrees. She says that if your child is enjoying writing then its good to encourage them.

However Denyse suggests that parents remind their children how to use capital and small letters correctly. "You can tell your child capital letters start names but little or lower case letters go next," she says.

Denyse warns parents not to over prepare their children. "A lot of parents worry that they "have" to teach their kids the alphabet, numbers and phonics before school. But that really isn't the case. Schools love a kid who comes socially ready, able to talk and listen and to show an interest in the written word but not necessarily reading and writing," she explains.

When it comes to academics, Denyse is very clear: "No tutoring. No add-ons bought at an education shop. No teaching of phonics. Your child needs you to be a parent," she says.

So while G and I will be reading books and enjoying packed lunches in the park we will also be spending the school holidays having fun at the beach, baking cupcakes and indulging in long drawn out games of connect 4.

Because while it is important to keep up the momentum for starting school, it's also important to let kids be kids.