Research findings released today reveal that over a third of parents (39%) haven’t prepared for their child starting at school this September.
One of the biggest questions parents have is what they can be doing to help their children’s development. Almost a quarter of parents (23%) state they’re worried their child isn’t ‘ready’ for big school and 23% also believe they need to start focusing their child on the basic skills of core subjects such as English and Maths in preparation. Parents believe that ‘confidence’ (49%), ‘good reading and writing skills’ (18%) and ‘listening skills’ (15%) are the most important skills to prepare their children for school, with only 6% recognising the importance of ‘creativity’ and ‘imagination’ (10%).
To support parents and kids alike in the move from nursery to reception, Lego Juniors has collaborated with Child Developmental Psychologist Dr Sam Wass to bring you this helpful advice:
Play with them!Playing with our children is, for many parents, a great pleasure. But it’s also important to remember how much children learn from these interactions. Adults naturally concentrate better, give up less easily, and are better at planning actions, and children can learn these skills from adults, just by doing things together.
Let them lead:Research suggests that children learn best in situations in which they are motivated - and the best way to ensure that is to let them choose the activity and then follow it with them to help them explore, and to get the most out of their own idea.
Learn the knack of playing follower-leader:You’ll naturally be faster than your child, and better at planning in advance. But when you are playing with your child be careful not to charge ahead, and finish the task yourself, leaving them demotivated. Try to follow their attention, and support them - so if they pick up a piece of a puzzle, support that by saying ‘I wonder where that goes’. That way they will stay interested for much longer.
Small steps: When starting reception, some of the key skills that children are learning are basic self-sufficiency skills - being able to tie your own shoelaces, put your own coat on, peel your own fruit. These require what we call ‘fine motor skills’ - the ability to do fine, precise movements with your hands. Playing with small items, such as Lego Juniors, can be a great way to learn these skills, so don’t put the pieces in yourself - let them do it.
Let them make mistakes: For example, if they’re building something and put a piece in the wrong place it’s tempting to step in straight away and correct it. But children will learn far more if you let them make the mistake - and then, later on, go back and figure out for themselves what they’ve done wrong, and correct it.
Help them visualise: One skill that children find particularly hard at this age is mental rotation. So seeing a picture of something they are going to make, and then translating that into what the model looks like in real life, is much harder for a child than an adult. You can help them by making sure that the picture of what they are making is propped up, clearly visible, and at the same angle as the model they are building.
Finish the task: Children live very much in the moment - one of the key skills that is particularly challenging at this age is to complete things. It helps if they know the size of the task, and roughly how long it’s going to take them, before they start. It can help with motivation if when they finish the task they have something to play with at the end so bear that in mind when thinking about what you choose to play with them.
Teamwork: Most 4-year-olds tend to be very much in their own world and one of the big skills that they are going to be learning over their first year at school is getting to know other children. Teamwork is something that all young children find hard so don’t worry if they find it hard to start with.
Keep it simple: Simple tasks can be a good way to encourage young children to play together. Something simple, like a painting that they have to do together on a single sheet of paper can be a great way to encourage cooperation.
Be patient: For many four-year-olds, sharing toys can be something that they find easy to do when they are in a good mood - but impossible when they are tired, or in a bad mood. Rather than telling them off for not sharing it can be more helpful to help them to understand their own bad mood, by saying: ‘I know that you’re upset, or angry, but…’. Understanding their own emotions is something that almost all young children find challenging, so supporting them with this learning is crucial
Tips for kids
Ask questions: If you want to be friends with someone, don’t just go up to someone and start telling them about yourself. Asking questions is a much better way to make friends.
Don’t be afraid to say how you feel: Saying ‘I’m nervous’ or ‘I’m shy’ can be a great way to start a new friendship – because it helps the person to understand how you are feeling. Maybe they are feeling nervous, too!
Always have lots of games to play: If you have ideas for a game to play, and it’s easy to explain the rules, you will find it much easier to get children to play with you. But don’t be worried if they want to play their own game instead – just go along with it.
Try, try and try again: Don’t be upset if people ignore you to start with. There are so many reasons why a child might ignore you if you go up to them and ask to play with them. Maybe they were just feeling shy, or they didn’t understand what you said to them, or they just needed to play on their own for a while. It doesn’t mean that they don’t like you! Don’t be afraid to go up and ask them again later.