“Does my child have the skills needed for kindergarten”
Starting school can be a challenging and exciting time for both children and their parents. Many parents often think a lot about how they can best prepare their child for all the changes in routine and expectations that Kindy will bring.
If your child is getting ready to start Kindy, you may be wondering if they have all the necessary skills needed to thrive in this new space? To help you out, Stepping Stones has developed our go-to list of school readiness essentials for parents:
Prewriting skills: These are key skills your child needs to develop before they start to write letters and numbers. Prewriting skills involve both thinking and movement skills, and includes activities like scribbling, drawing, copying and colouring. These activities help your child to develop the ability to hold a pencil correctly, and to develop their postural control so that they can sit upright at a table. Prewriting skills are so important for school readiness, as Kindy children spend a large portion of their school day working with pencils at their desktop. If you want some more tips about helping your child to learn how to write their name, check out our other blog post: When will my child be ready to write their name? – Occupational Therapy for Children (steppingstonesforchildren.com.au)
Scissor skills: Scissor skills are all about your child’s ability to use scissors safely and easily. By the time your child is 4½ years, they should be able to hold scissors with the correct grasp and safely cut out a square. They will use their dominant hand to hold the scissors, and their “helping hand” to support and guild the cutting paper. Learning scissor skills is important for your child’s school readiness as this strengthens their little hand muscles, develops their eye hand co-ordination and helps them to learn how to use their two hands together.
Fine motor skills: Fine motor skills are all about your child’s ability to hold, pinch and manipulate small things with their hands and fingers. Fine motor development is essential for Kindy activities like grasping a pencil, drawing, colouring, writing, using scissors, zipping a pencil case, erasing and sharpening a pencil. You can learn more about helping your child to develop their fine motor skills in these two blog posts: Pincers, pegs & pirates: Developing hand skills – Occupational Therapy for Children (steppingstonesforchildren.com.au); Mr Bally for Finger Strength and Dexterity – Occupational Therapy for Children (steppingstonesforchildren.com.au)
Gross motor skills: Gross motor skills are all about using the large muscles in our arms, legs and our trunk. Developing gross motor skills are crucial for school readiness as this helps children with activities like sitting upright at a table, running, walking, skipping, sports, going to the toilet and adjusting their clothes. These activities require the child to have good balance, coordination, body awareness and strength. Preschools and carers can help with the development of gross motor skills by encouraging children to spend more time outside and in open spaces like parks, playgrounds, the beach and nature reserves.
Social skills: Social skills are the ability to communicate with another, using both verbal and/or non-verbal messages. You can get curious about your child’s social skills, by noticing how they listen and respond to others, and how they express their own needs and wants during play and other interactions. Play is such a great way to help improve social skills, as it encourages shared attention between your child and their playmate, turn taking, sharing resources and building empathy.
Emotional regulation skills: Emotional regulation is the ability to appropriately match your emotional response to the social setting. For example, it is totally appropriate for your child to have a lot of energy and feel very excited at the playground however, having the same amount of energy and excitement when they’re expected to sit quietly during story time at preschool, is not a great fit. Emotional regulation is an important skill to develop when transitioning to Kindy, as this allows your child to manage more difficult or stressful situations that might happen like navigating friendships and following instructions and coping with the teachers’ requests.
Self-care skills: Self-care skills are all about developing independence with activities like dressing, toileting, eating, showering, brushing teeth etc. In Kindy, it’s important for children to be independent in toileting, adjusting their clothes following toileting, putting on and taking off their jackets, fastening their jacket zipper, putting shoes and socks on and off, tying shoelaces or fastening velcro shoes, eating and opening lunch boxes/packaging, organising their school bag and keeping track of their belongings.
“How can I help prepare my child for school”
It can be helpful to practice your child’s new morning routine before they make the move to Kindy. For example, getting dressed, having breakfast, brushing teeth, showing them what’s in their lunchbox and how to open packaging, practicing taking shoes, socks and jackets on and off etc.
Playing simple turn taking games can assist in developing your child’s social skills and emotional regulation as they can learn to cope with winning and losing, sharing toys and other play materials, and waiting for their turn.
If possible, arrange opportunities for play with other same-aged children to help develop social skills and increase their confidence in making new friends. It can be especially helpful if they can make friends with another child who will be going to the same Kindy. Many schools arrange Kindy transition days before the new school year starts, and this can be a great time to make connections with other children and to arrange playdates before Kindy starts.
To help develop independence skills, try to increase the expectations that you have of your child when they’re doing self-care tasks. For example, instead of physically helping your child put their shoes on, you could just offer them tips or suggestions so they can learn how to do this activity themselves. It can also be helpful to have a list of pictures to help children understand what activities they need to get done for their morning or afternoon routine (we call this a “Visual Schedule”).
Having ‘story time’ at home is a great way to help your child to develop their ability to sit and pay attention for a period of time. If you do this sitting on the floor (like they frequently do in Kindy), you will also be helping them to develop the strength in their in their trunk muscles.
Practice with your child following instructions and rules, this can be done through play, for example, getting a teddy bear or doll ready for school (breaking down the different steps).
Activities like cutting out pictures, crafting, colouring in, drawing and practicing writing their name can really help to develop your child’s fine motor skills. These are often fun activities to do with your child, this is especially true if your child doesn’t really enjoy tabletop activities! By practicing these kinds of fine motor activities, you will be giving your child a head start for life in the Kindy classroom.
“I’m not sure if my child is ready for Kindy?’
Some children need a little bit of extra support with getting ready for Kindy. If you have concerns about your child’s readiness for starting school, it can be a really good idea to speak with the school that they will be going to. It will be important that the school is aware, so that they can offer your child the right supports when they start.
You might also consider seeing an Occupational Therapist, and espeially if your child has any of the following difficulties:
- Finds holding a pencil tricky or resists drawing or colouring activities;
- Has difficulty regulating their emotions/ gets upset or frustrated with new expectations and demands;
- Resists new games, activities, or opportunities of learning;
- Has difficulty with toileting independently during the daytime;
- Fatigues quickly/easily compared to other same aged peers when engaging in gross (sports, sitting upright at a table) and fine motor (writing, colouring, cutting) activities;
- Has difficulty initiating or sustaining joint play with other same aged peers;
- Has difficulties interacting with their peers;
- Has trouble following instructions;
- Has difficulty sharing resources during play or taking turns;
- Finds self-care activities tricky and needs a lot of help;
If you’re unsure whether Occupational Therapy might be helpful for your child, you can always reach out via the contact form on our website or give us a call on 02 49512 116.
Berk, L. E. (2013). Child Development (9th Edition). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.
Dunn, Marsha Lee. Pre-scissor Skills: Skill starters for motor development. Communication Skill Builders, Inc., 1979.
Exner, Charlotte E. Development of Hand Skills” In J. Case-Smith (ED). Occupational Therapy for Children. Mosby: St. Louis.
Folio. M. Rhonda, Fewell. Rebecca R. Peabody Developmental Motor Scales. 2nd Edition. Austin. Pro-Ed. 2000.
Thompson, Ross A. (1994). “Emotion Regulation: A Theme in Search of Definition”. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development. 59 (2–3): 25–52. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5834.1994.tb01276.x. PMID 7984164.
Author: Serena Rudd
Paediatric Occupational Therapy Assistant
Editor: Michelle Newby BHSc(OT) MSc PhD Candidate
Paediatric Occupational Therapist
Copyright Stepping Stones Therapy for Children 2021/22