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5 Tips to get Your Child Ready to Start School

School readiness is preparing your child for school to give them the best chance for a successful start. It includes educational, emotional, social and communication skills and preparedness to independence. We sometimes think that if a child can write their name and count to 10 then they are ready but there is so much more to consider.

Of course, educational development such as your child writing their name and doing some basic math is beneficial. Practice with pencil grip, fine motor skills, reading and counting definitely gives your child an advantage. However, we need to prepare the whole child. Children need to be able to communicate their needs, share with others and follow instructions to thrive at school.

1. Independence

Independence builds self confidence. Parents can improve child's independence by getting them into an activity outside of home before they start school. They can gain and practice a little independence. Of course, you don’t need to start them in an activity before they start school to give them a confident start to school, you can do things around the house too.

In the months leading up to school, probably about 6 months, parents could pack a lunch box for their child's lunch each day. This way children can learn to open their lunchbox and packets of food, their drink bottles and insert straws in poppers independently. By the time they get to school they will have mastered these skills.

They can also practice getting dressed and putting on their shoes, socks and hat. Doing up buttons and zippers and tying shoe laces. Playing dress ups or dressing toys is a good way to practice. Putting their jumpers and hats and other belongings away, such as pencils when they are colouring. Going to the toilet and washing their hands themselves. This will

help parents when their child goes to school, as their child will be in the habit of looking after and packing their belongings into their own school bag. You won’t need to contact the teacher and check lost property continuously to find what they’ve done with their jumpers and hats, their lunch boxes and drink bottles. They will be in the habit of taking care of themselves and putting things where they belong.

Get children to help set the table, they can count the plates, knives and forks. Have them put their plates, cups, drink bottles in the sink when finished. Teach them to use the bubbler when you are at the park. Setting up a reward system is good encouragement, building their confidence and sense of achievement.

Children need to be able to follow instructions and work on tasks or activities independently and in groups. You can practice giving your child an instruction to undertake a task independently. Break the task into steps and only tell them one instruction at a time until they have completed it before advising the next step. They may struggle with tasks, however avoid the temptation to jump in to help them (its a parents instinct to help, avoid helping all the time, so they can develop their own skills).

2. Focus and Concentration

Playing eye spy in the car or where’s Wally helps concentration and focus. From the time children start school they will spend long amounts of time concentrating. The better they are at this, the better they will learn at school.

Play games at home. Remember don’t let them win all the time. Children need to learn that in life they don’t always win and that’s ok. Let them know that sometimes they will lose, but next time they might win.

3. Social Skills

As well as independent tasks, children require development of their social skills. Introducing themselves, using manners, taking turns and sharing all helps with their emotional development. Realizing they can’t always have what they want when they want. Sharing their toys with friends and siblings helps them develop their social skills. You can arrange some play dates to help with their social skills or get them into a social activity like dance class or sport.

Emotional skills such as taking turns, sharing and lining up with their peers is definitely a learnt skill for children to develop. When they are at home, they have mum and dad's full attention. At pre school or daycare they have an adult for every 8 children. When they get to school they have to share the attention of the teacher with 20-30 children. They have to share equipment. Children need to learn to wait and take their turn. They also need to learn that they can’t always choose the colour they like or the sticker they want. Children don’t always get their way or choose what they want to do. In reality this skill is a life lesson. In life we don't always get to choose what to do. Students need to follow the routine of the classroom.

When a child first starts a dance class or other activity, they can often be shy and clingy to mum or dad. Sometimes they even cry. This is ok. They may sit on mum or dads lap and not participate at first as they take in the surrounds, the routine of the class and assess that they will feel safe and supported before they are ready to join in. This may take a number of weeks before they feel comfortable to join in. This is ok and completely normal. These classes will give them a start to independence and after a few weeks they will be joining in with the rest of their peers.

4. Communication

Communication is key to your child expressing themselves to their peers as well as their teachers. You can practice with them by getting them to speak to adults when you are visiting friends and when they are at the shops. They could talk to the cashier and pay for their items you would like to purchase. They can practice introducing themselves and asking what other children's names are when they are at the playground. These will all be beneficial for developing friendships when they are in the playground at school.

Encouraging children to use their words to express their feelings helps to develop communication. They can be encouraged to “use their words” when they cry, yell, are angry or frustrated to express their emotions.

5. Educational and Coordination

Counting to 10 or 20 is great. Even better if you can get them to count items out. They can develop math skills and independence by helping set the table. Counting out the plates, cups and cutlery to put out. Counting out items at the shops - Can you get mum 5 bananas? One box of Cereal? 4 tubs of yoghurt? Count in the home and while you're out and about. Getting them to count out their socks, how many grapes they have, how many fingers and toes, how many flowers on the bush, how many birds in the tree. Counting with anything and everything in their surroundings helps them.

Children will be using their fingers and hands all day when they get to school. They will be writing, colouring, cutting, painting, drawing and eating. You can practice at home, getting them to trace their names, shapes and writing letters. Making shapes out of playdough. Get them to play dot to dot and cut out pictures with scissors. Practice drawing in the sand at the beach or in the dirt at the park. To increase children's finger strength they can thread beads, water the garden with a spray bottle, scrunch paper and throw it into a goal, turn the pages of a book.

Physical coordination helps with children's development. Being able to jump, hop and climb, kick, bounce and catch a ball all helps.

Remember everyone learns differently so don’t be too concerned if your child can’t do something another child of the same age can. Your child may not have developed that skill as yet but may be able to do another skill that the other child can’t. Each child has their own strengths, interests and pace at which they learn. They have their own temperament. The wonderful thing about the world and its people is that we are all different. Encouragement goes a long way in developing our children to be the best they can be.

How can Dance Class help your child's School Readiness?

Dance class can be so beneficial in developing your child's social, educational and physical well being and independence, providing them in good stead for a successful start to school.

  • Independence: following teachers instructions, starting to put on their own shoes, do the class by themselves.

  • Social skills: working with others, taking turns, lining up, introducing themselves and interacting with their classmates and teacher

  • Coordination: moving their body in the various activities and dances they learn and using props, co-ordinating their arms and legs at the same time.

  • Communication: Talking to their teacher and classmates, thanking their teacher at the end of class

  • Following instructions: All dance activities require children to follow instructions. The brain is a muscle and the more it is used the better it works

  • Taking turns & Waiting: Some dance activities will require your child to wait for their turn before they can move. They won’t be perfect at first, they may push in and not go to the end of the line when finishing their turn and preparing for the next. It takes time, its ok.

  • Lining up: Many dance activities require students to line up. This is often the first time they have had to wait in line

  • Gross Motor Skills are developed through dance, running, jumping, hopping, skipping, galloping, alternating feet and arms all helps their gross motor skills

  • Fine Motor Skills: Some classes even provide take home activities for children to develop their fine motor skills and use props in class to aid in the development of these skills.

  • Structure of the class: This is often the first time children have had to conform to the structure of a classroom setting. They are well adept to structure by the time they get to school.

  • Mathematical skills - counting out loud, counting the number of each step or arm movement

  • Learning Colours

  • Correct posture can help children develop their writing and ability to sit for long periods at school. Writing requires good shoulder and body strength.

  • Crawling helps to develop connections between the left and right side of the brain and helps strengthen shoulders, arms and hands

  • Lying on their belly increases shoulder and neck strength which helps with their ability to sit and to write at school.

  • Being able to accept that they aren't going to be the winner every time. They aren't always going to be the leader or able to choose their favourite colour prop or sticker every time.

  • Adapting to a new environment. When students first attend class they are confronted with a classroom setting with new friends. This can often be the first time a child has been in a classroom setting and participates in activities on their own. It can take a few weeks before your child feels settled and comfortable with their new surroundings and their new friends. This is normal. However, it will give them an advantage when it comes to school time.

Jeanette Briggs Dance Academy located in St Helens Park and Ambarvale in Campbelltown, South-Western Sydney offers a nurturing and encouraging environment for children to develop their skills and prepare for school and thrive throughout their school life and beyond.

Jeanette Briggs Dance Academy enriches children's lives through dance, drama, performing arts, creativity, imagination and community. We offer an unforgettable experience for you and your children.

Watch the smile on your child's face as they leap and spin, move and groove. Enjoy their growth as they blossom and fill with confidence. Watch your child's smile as they grow, learning not only dance steps but skills for life. Our students finish each class and can't wait to come back for their next. They leave each lesson exhausted, with a smile on their face. Activities and dances in our pre-school classes are often ended with a round of applause from parents. They watch their children proudly as they improve and achieve milestones.

Our classes are perfect for boys and girls from 2.5 years old. It gives them a taste of a variety of dance styles. Improving their social skills, coordination, gross and fine motor skills and having FUN! Enriching them with creativity and imagination. It is the perfect activity to get your child ready for school.

We delight in watching children increase in confidence and independence to thrive at school and beyond. In fact we have had so many parents of shy children join us just for that reason and we love to hear the stories from their families on how the benefits of dance have helped them at school and with friendships, trying new things their parents thought they never would.

Jeanette Briggs Dance Academy offers a free introductory week so you can bring your child and experience the supportive, caring and patient dance classes and see the enrichment it provides your child while they learn, meet friends and have fun. Contact us to find the perfect class for your child.



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