For a start, the most important thing is you child’s health and development.
In New Zealand, your four-year-old child is entitled to a free health and development check, known as a “B4 School Check.” It’s the eighth and final Well Child health check. You should be sent some forms by your local Well Child provider, which you will need to complete and return.
Once you’ve done that, a specially-trained registered nurse will conduct the check to ensure that your child is healthy and can learn well at school. This includes tests for vision, hearing and immunisation, as well as a behavioural and developmental questionnaire. This is a great time to speak with the nurse about concerns you may have about your child’s health and development before they embark on their school days.
What skills should your child already have?
• Do up their shoes.
• Go to the toilet and wash their hands.
• Blow their nose.
• Recognise when they are thirsty and get a drink of water.
• Ask for things they need.
• Sit on a chair at a table for short periods of time to complete an activity.
• Be comfortable being away from you.
• Know how to take turns, or is able to wait for things.
What do they need to know?
The more your child knows before school, the easier the transition will be. Not every child is ready for the following three points, but it’s great to at least make a start on them before school commences.
1) Write their own name
Use pencils, not pens. You can get them in the mood by doing lots of colouring with them, then starting to show them how to write letters.
2) Know the alphabet
There are plenty of good toys and songs that will help, but it’s not just about reciting the sounds. They also need to know the differences when it comes to writing them.
3) Count and answer number-based questions
For example, put three potatoes on your plate, get your child to eat one and ask how many are left.
1) Visit the school in advance. Most schools allow pre-entrants to join the new entrants’ class for a few afternoons a week in the lead up to their starting date. This will help your child become comfortable with their new surrounding, their new teacher and their classmates before they start full time.
2) Meet the teacher one-on-one. Introduce your child and yourself, and spend a few moments getting to know each other. Your child’s teacher is going to be a big part of their life for the next year.
3) Shop for school supplies together. Paper and pencils, erasers and crayons. Get a list of what your child will need from the teacher, and go on a special shopping trip. Let your child pick some of their own school supplies, in honour of their new independence.
4) Reassure your child. Spend time together talking about what they can expect from school, about what will be expected of them, and about your positive school experiences.