Why is school readiness program important?
School Readiness is a widely used term referring to a preschool child’s preparedness for any easy and successful transition to formal schooling. However, a quality preschool program should not replicate a day at a typical school; this approach is supported by a growing evidence base and is also supported by teachers within school settings. Instead of teaching children academic skills, Early Years educators agree that it’s much more important for children to develop social, emotional and physical skills whilst instilling a natural curiosity and love of learning. By providing children with these foundation skills and establishing connections between families and schools, children will have the best opportunity to adjust to a school environment and reach their learning potential.
At the age of two, children enter a critical stage of brain development allowing them to learn faster than at any other period in their life. A quality preschool program can take advantage of this phase by ensuring children develop the foundation skills required for future education and building a lasting love of learning. This is achieved through encouraging enquiry, curiosity and problem-solving skills through play.
Many experiences in a play-based learning setting are designed to introduce and develop early literacy, math and science concepts. For example, measuring, sorting, weighing and other mathematics and science concepts can be developed through cooking, water play, mud kitchen and sand pit play. Building and construction can be investigated through loose parts play. Planning and sequencing can be practiced through packing lunch boxes, lining up, and group games. Storytime sessions can help develop language, storytelling and name recognition. And mark making can be practiced through painting and other artistic expression.
Development of gross and fine motor skills will help children acquire the physical abilities required for a school environment, such as using scissors, holding a pencil or sitting in a chair or mat for long periods. Core strength is so important to children’s success at school and can be developed in an Early Years setting through activities such as climbing, balancing, yoga and dancing. Fine motor skills can be developed by practicing with pencil grip, scissors, using tools, and through craft activities such as threading and play dough manipulation.
The number one concern for parents and caregivers when their child is starting school is often around whether they will make friends easily and emotionally cope in a new environment. Building social and emotional skills such as self-regulation, resilience and independence from an early age will have many benefits to children embarking on a big transitional stage such as starting school. Building emotional intelligence extends to interpersonal skills such as kindness, empathy and teamwork, which can be developed through a range of activities such as games and play encouraging sharing and turn-taking, role-playing about conflict resolution and talking about kindness and emotions as a group. Resilience can be encouraged through engaging in measured risk taking through play and supporting children to be adaptable and flexible to change. Rituals such as self-help during drop off, dining, sleep preparation and hand washing will help build independence and a sense of agency. Children should be encouraged to make their own choices and decisions, whilst feeling comfortable and supported to ask educators for help when needed.