School Readiness Activities; 12 EASY ways to get your child ‘School Ready’

It’s not as hard as you may think to help your child to get school ready. Here are 12 EASY school readiness activities you can do as parents, to help prepare your child.  

Introduction

School Readiness. The term gets thrown around a lot, and it can make some parents anxious as they ponder the readiness of their own preschooler.

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So what does it really mean and what does it really take for a child to be ‘School Ready’?

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The truth is, there’s no one school readiness checklist. There’s no definition of what it takes to be school ready, but it’s helpful if children are working towards achieving a few basic skills, and it’s also really important to mention here that a child’s social and emotional readiness1 will always be more important than their ‘academic’ readiness.

So, what can parents do to help get their preschool-aged child ready for starting school?

Here are 12 easy ways you can help your child:

ONE – Read a story before bed

Simple but VERY effective. Getting into a routine of reading a story before bed helps to build early literacy skills, different language concepts and comprehension skills, and helps builds a love of stories and literature! You can ask them simple comprehension questions as you go along too: ‘What do you think might happen next?’ or ‘Do you remember what happened at the beginning of the story? What were they trying to find?’

reading with kids, bed storytime, school readiness activities
Read with the kids before bed. It builds language and literacy skills, as well as a love for books and storytelling!

TWO – Draw pictures with your child

That’s right. So easy. Sit down with paper, textas, pencils or crayons and draw. This helps them practice their pencil grip6, their fine motor control, creative expression and their developing visual perception skills2. Don’t forget to write your names on your drawings before putting them on the fridge! This helps with name recognition, name writing and alphabet awareness.

drawing with kids, school readiness activities
Draw with them! Encourage them to use their imagination, express their creativity, and practice correct pencil grip

THREE – Organise play dates for them

Invite other kids over to play, or meet in a park and just let your child have social play with other children. This helps build important social skills such as sharing, turn taking, co-operative play and negotiation, and gives them the opportunity to form friendships as they play games. They may already attend preschool or an early learning centre but play dates are less structured and allow for a much smaller group setting.

FOUR – Choose fun recipes and bake with them!

It could be anything from cookies, savoury muffins or just making eggs and toast. Getting young kids involved in the kitchen teaches them pre maths skills3 (think counting cups of flour, measuring with cups or talking about time in the oven), as well as science concepts related to chemical changes and allows them to practice their hand eye coordination skills as they ‘help’ to mix, stir, crack eggs etc, develops cognitive skills and independence skills too.

cooking with kids, kids in the kitchen
Getting kids involved in the kitchen develops pre-maths skills, science concepts, cognitive skills, hand eye coordination and helps them develop an interest in where their food comes from.

FIVE – Let them choose their own outfit for the day

Something as simple as letting a child choose their outfit has many benefits, but mainly, it develops their self help skills. If you’re dressing your child and they don’t have much say in it, what are the chances that they’ll keep track of what they were wearing that day? Aside from building motor skills as they learn to dress and undress themselves, if they’re spending the day at preschool or elsewhere, they’re more likely to keep track of the pink feather boa, the stripey socks and the superhero jacket they decided to wear that day, than a beige jumper worn with a beige hat.

SIX – Draw their attention to written words

Anywhere. Cereal boxes, street signs, shop names, magazine covers, clothing tags, when you play board games, and even on junk mail. Point at the words, ask your child if they recognise the letters and ask them what they think the words are trying to tell us. You might be surprised by their answers and it helps them to make sense of written language and make those important connections between signs, symbols, letters and their meaning4.

SEVEN – Make a mess of old magazines

Get some child-safe scissors, some old magazines and go for it with them! Let them snip, fringe the edges of pages, try to cut out pictures they like and help them learn to hold and use scissors properly. It improves their hand-eye coordination, fine motor strength and control, and concentration.

scissors, fine motor skills, hand eye coordination
Get the kids some child safe scissors and let them make a papery mess!

EIGHT – Tell them about your day!

Maybe not the boring, mundane parts but any detail that they might find interesting, tell them! I used to tell my son Andy about how much I loved my sandwich at lunchtime and about how I stubbed my toe and it really hurt! I told him when someone made me laugh and when I decided to buy a different food at the shops. Sharing seemingly small details of our day encourages our kids to listen, but also encourages them to share details from their day too! This starts a great habit of talking and sharing as well as develops important receptive and expressive language skills.

kids first aid

NINE – Let them pay for things at the shops

Stand behind them, pass them some cash and encourage them to hand over money to a shop assistant and take the item you are buying. It might seem small and insignificant to you, but this is a huge confidence booster, it allows your child to step outside their comfort zone, and speak to other people outside their immediate circle. This also develops their self-esteem and independence skills.

TEN – Give them the time and opportunity to run, climb, jump and play with balls.

It’s so important to build a child’s FMS (Fundamental Movement Skills) as these physical skills will be further developed at primary school too. Your child will be encouraged to jump, hop, skip, gallop, climb and balance, as well as throw and catch balls. Gross motor play is just as important for their overall physical development as building fine motor skills and coordination.

kids outside, gross motor skills, fms
Let them play outside! Encourage running, climbing, playing with balls, jumping and skipping.

ELEVEN – Be spontaneous!

Get out of routine. Instead of having breakfast, then going for a walk, then getting a milkshake (for example), mix things up and do things out of routine. It’s important that your child is comfortable with changes to routine and things happening unexpectedly. It helps to build resilience and emotional wellbeing.

TWELVE – Talk to them about school!

Use positive language and have conversations with them where you discuss what will be different about the school environment, and all the things they have to look forward to. Talk about the canteen, the new friends they will make, the different playground, the big library, the excursions, school visits and dress-up days. Ask them what they are most excited about, and even drive past, or walk past the school (if already chosen) or a few local primary schools, so they can see it from the outside. 

school readiness activities, dad and son
Talk to your kids. Engage in positive conversations about school and how different it will be. Get them excited!

Summary

School readiness activities are not always just a set of pre-planned activities completed as an official ‘school readiness program‘ within the Early Years Learning Framework5 and within the confines of a preschool room. When we encourage children to draw, to play with their friends, to laugh at a silly story with us before bed or have conversations about what ‘big school’ might be like, we are helping them to get school ready. We are preparing them one small step at a time. School readiness activities can be embedded in our everyday routines, at pre-school and at home.

It’s so important that parents take an active role in preparing their children for school and approach the topic of starting school with a positive attitude and encouragement.

Have you had kids start school already? How did you feel about your child’s readiness and how did you help to prepare them?

Reference List:

  1. ‘Starting School: What is ‘Social and Emotional Readiness’?’, Guardian Childcare and Education. Accessed online at https://www.guardian.edu.au/blog/child-education/what-is-social-and-emotional-readiness/ on March 26, 2023.
  2. ‘Visual Perception’, Therapies for Kids. Accessed online at https://therapiesforkids.com.au/visual-perception/ on March 26, 2023.
  3. ‘DEVELOPING EARLY MATHEMATICAL SKILLS THROUGH COOKING’, ‘Amy’, Healthy Little Foodies. Published (updated): Jan 21, 2023. Accessed online at https://www.healthylittlefoodies.com/developing-early-mathematical-skills-through-cooking/ on March 26, 2023.
  4. ‘The Road to Writing: Symbols & Stories’, Sue Cowley, Teach Early Years. Accessed online at https://www.teachearlyyears.com/learning-and-development/view/the-road-to-writing-symbols-stories on March 26, 2023.
  5. ‘THE EARLY YEARS LEARNING FRAMEWORK FOR AUSTRALIA’, ACECQA. Accessed online at https://www.acecqa.gov.au/sites/default/files/2018-02/belonging_being_and_becoming_the_early_years_learning_framework_for_australia.pdf on March 26, 2023.
  6. ‘Improving Your Child’s Pencil Grip’, Occupational Therapy. Accessed online at https://occupationaltherapy.com.au/improving-your-childs-pencil-grip/ on March 26, 2023.

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