Preparing Your Child For Big School

By Hayley Dean, ellaslist

My darling little boy starts big school next year. Whenever I think about this I seem to find myself excited and a bit sad at the same time. And then I start to think about readiness – will he be ready? What can I do to help him be ready?

We reached out to educators at three Sydney early learning centres for their thoughts on school readiness. Here’s what they had to say:

Q. What areas do early educators focus on when preparing pre-schoolers for “big school”?

Guardian Early Learning Centre: We want children to be confident and involved learners, so we focus on independence and social and emotional skills, rather than developing specific literacy and numeracy skills.

Green Elephant Early Learning Centre: We always focus on the social and emotional skills as well as the cognitive learning. It’s just as important for a child to be able to sit and listen to a teacher and communicate their needs as it is for them to be able to read and write. We encourage verbal communication and independent social play for the children to develop their turn-taking skills and be able to share and wait their turn.  For literacy and numeracy development we try to develop and support the children’s love of learning through play based experiences that are hands on and allow all children to contribute and take a turn. We read stories every day and talk about numbers in the world around us like dates and birthdays. We also focus on phonics, and the actual sounds that letters make, to prepare the children for reading and writing. This allows the children to recognise letter combinations and understand the association between the shape of a letter and the sound it makes.

Kids Club Northern Beaches Centre:  We focus on independence skills, the social and emotional self (the child must be able to socialise and cooperate with their peers and adults and being able to identify and communicate their feelings), routines (they give children the emotional stability they need and are essential to good behaviour and attention span), teaching respect for themselves and others, and academic skills

Q. What does independence look like for a 5/6 year old? 

Guardian Early Learning Centre: We want to ensure that the children can be independent to take care of their own belongings such as (school bag, water bottle, hat, lunch box etc). Opening snacks seems like a small task but for children 5/6 old it is quite difficult and can be quite daunting. So at our service we organise 'Lunch Box Days'. The educators will show the children how to unwrap their sandwiches, open packaged items or even peel a banana.  

Kids Club Northern Beaches Centre:  We look for independence in toileting, dressing and undressing, asking for help when is needed, solving their problems, looking at things from different perspective, taking care of their belongings or those that belong to the wider community. We provide the children with a lot of activities that give them opportunities to become independent with all furniture, bathrooms at the child’s level. 

Q. What areas can parents work on to get their child ready for school next year?

Kids Club Northern Beaches: At home you can support your child's independence by creating an accessible environment, involving them in daily practical life activities (setting up a table, self - serving, tidying up, food preparation, dressing up) and most importantly make them feel appreciated. Having 20 minutes of your undivided attention is better than 2 hours when you are not present and pre occupied with other things.

Other things you can do to get your child ready for next year include:

  • liaising with your early learning centre about reading readiness program, and support this program at home;
  • play with the language - by making rhymes or by playing games like “I spy” (look for objects at home beginning with the initial sounds);
  • practice writing in sand using fingers, sticks, brushes;
  • read to your child - After reading the story see if your child understands it. Asks questions about the plot, main characters, their favourite part, ask them to change the ending, draw the story
  • set up a small library at home

Q. Does my child need to know their ABC's before they start? Or write their name?

Guardian Early Learning Centre: No, these are not a requirement.

Q. What signs do I look for to know my child is ready to start? 

Guardian Early Learning Centre: There are a few signs as educators we observe in children to know that they are ready for school. For example, their self-confidence, social skills, engagement in self-help tasks, self-regulating their emotions, dealing with conflict appropriately, following instructions, ability to take turns, have positive relationships with their peers and show they want to be part of a group. These a just a few signs, However I believe that all children are different with different personalities, characteristics and traits. Not all children are going to show these signs but doesn't mean they are not ready. If you feel they are not ready, there is not harm in keeping them back. You want your child to feel comfortable and confident in a school environment.  Let your child take their time, let them go at their own pace.

Don't forget they have 12 years at school where they will write their name and ABC'S.

Q. What advice can you give for surviving day one of big school?

Guardian Early Learning Centre: Get excited for this exciting new journey. Take lots of photos with their big happy smiles, shiny new shoes and beautifully pressed uniforms and don't forget to take your tissues and sunglasses because we all know there will be tears… but not from the children.

A special thank you to the educators at these early learning centres for providing their insights into school readiness.



Guardian Early Learning Centre – Marrickville

57 Carrington Rd, Marrickville NSW 2204

Therese Quinon, Assistant Manager and Educational Leader


Kids Club Northern Beaches Centre

1A Middleton Road, Cromer NSW 2099

Kamila Jendykiewicz, Director


Green Elephant Early Learning Centre

55 Mentmore Ave, Rosebery NSW 2018

Sivan Stern, Director


All Images Credits: Kids Club Northern Beaches.





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