The Christmas lights have been strung, the children have written their letters to Santa and we’re fast approaching the end of 2018. Come 2019, our Kinder children will step into primary school and the next phase of their lives. The transition to school is a big change, and it’s natural that many children will feel anxious and unsettled for their first few weeks at the ‘big school’.

It’s up to parents and educators to make sure that this transition to school is as easy as possible; after all, our children are way too young to have worry lines crinkling their faces!

Through the transition, children are going to face not just one but two major changes. First, they’ll have to say goodbye to the friendly, familiar faces of educators and peers at their Kinder; some of their peers may not be joining them in the same school. Then, after a week or so, they’ll have to say hello to equally friendly, but not so familiar faces in an alien environment filled with ‘big kids’ and strange equipment.

Preparations at Kinder

To help make the transition to school easier, Aurora has found that there are several things both parents and educators at Kinder can do. To familiarise our children with a school’s learning environment, we’ve set up a ‘Willow Walk School’ in our Kinder complete with school uniforms, a  lunchbox and a whiteboard. Our intrepid little learners have been role- playing as students and teachers with one teaching the numbers 1-20 to a group of their attentive peers. By the time they reach the real primary school, we hope experiences such as these will help our children feel comfortable with the environment; so comfortable,  they may even try to take a ‘teacher’s turn’ up at the whiteboard!

The Willow Walk School is part of our School Readiness Program, which many kindergartens begin at the end of children’s Kinder years to help them get used to what they’ll find at their primary school.

A School Readiness Program should be mindfully designed to help children develop the skills they will need for school. These include educational skills such as early literacy and numeracy as well as emotional and social skills. As well as activities and experiences designed by our educators with reference to the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), we invite STEM specialists from Starting Bright to provide practical experiences for children which lay the foundation for them to learn educational concepts.

Through play based activities and encouragement, educators can also teach children practical skills they will need, such as how to look after their own belongings and use the bathroom independently. These are known as ‘self-help’ skills, which involve children having the confidence and ability to do small tasks for themselves. We had an art activity where our children made their own name labels to attach to a row of wall hooks for them to hang their backpacks on. Each morning, they are encouraged to hang their bags on the hooks; they take so much pride in seeing that they are putting their bags on the correct hook!

One day, we had a fun lunchbox activity where our Kinder children made their own burrito, choosing from a range of salads and stuffings. They then wrapped the burritos carefully and placed them in their lunchboxes; the fact that they were independently able to prepare and pack their own lunches made mealtime a lot more delicious!

On another day, we welcomed some of our Aurora alumini; current students at St Simon’s Primary School back to the center to meet our current Kinder batch. As they interacted and played with their peers who had ventured into the big school, the younger children felt a deeper sense of security and confidence about the change.

What Can Parents Do At Home?

Helping children develop skills that will assist them in school is something that parents and caregivers at home can also do. Having conversations with your child about the upcoming adventure of starting school is a great way to get your child excited about the transition to school. Involve the children in routines that are similar to the ones they will follow when they start school such as eating from a lunchbox, packing a school bag and getting up a little earlier in the morning.

It’s natural that some children may feel a little anxious about the change, so begin changing the routine gradually. A mindfullness pause, where you sit down with your child and encourage them to recognise and accept the emotions they are feeling will go a long way in helping to alleviate anxiety.

KidsMatter.edu has an extensive collection of resources with information that will help parents understand how to navigate the changes.

A Visit To The School

Many primary schools welcome their students-to-be into their classrooms for short periods of time before they officially begin school. They sit in classrooms, visit the lunchroom and spend some time in the playground, all of which help them get familiar with their new environment.

We recently took our children to St Simon’s Primary School, where we joined the prep class and listened to a story told by the prep teacher, following which we had a fun time doing art activities with the prep class. With the knowledge that their familiar educators were with them, our Kinder class were able to begin to form bonds with the prep class and teacher, ensuring that they will have a few familiar faces to look out for next year.

Look out for similar scaffolding experiences at the primary school your child is enrolled in. By preparing for the transition to school mindfully, your child will approach it with a little natural trepidation, but also excitement; the way that we hope our children will approach all transitions in life.