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The step up into Grade 1 is a time of excitement and great anxiety.  But, how do you know if your child is ready for big school? 

School readiness

School readiness is a measure of how prepared a child is to succeed at school and involves two types of readiness: a readiness to learn (which is continuous) and a readiness for school (which is associated with a fixed age).

It depends on emotional maturity and scholastic ability. Children need to be developed across these key five areas:

Physical and motor development

  • Gross motor, example running, skipping, standing on one leg.
  • Fine motor, for example, comfortable using a pair of scissors, successfully doing zips and buttons, is able to use cutlery.
  • Perceptual development, both visual and auditory.
  • Taking care of themselves, for example: managing to go to the toilet by themselves.

Emotional and social development

  • A child who is emotionally well-adjusted has a greater chance of early school success.
  • Gets along with peers, can interact within a group or shows an interest in other children, willing to help a friend.
  • They can express feelings and needs.
  • Children are able to share.
  • They can sit still – long enough to listen to a story.
  • Can concentrate on a task for a reasonable amount of time.
  • Able to deal with frustration in an acceptable way.

Read our tips on getting your child socially and emotionally ready for Grade 1

Cognitive development

  • Can make independent decisions and follow through.
  • Have ideas of their own.
  • Can follow simple directions or instructions.
  • Shows an interest in learning.

Language development (includes literacy, listening, speaking and vocabulary)

  • Should be able to communicate effectively in home language.
  • Be able to sequence (retell a story or a set of events).
  • Identify similarities and differences between objects.

Emotional maturity

  • Independence.
  • Reasonable control over emotions.
  • Basic problem-solving skills.
  • Confidence.
  • Shows responsibility.
  • Handles separation well

Jenny Trollip, HOD of St Martin’s Junior Preparatory Phase in the south of Johannesburg, encourages parents to begin getting their child into the routine in preparation for Grade 1. St Martin’s is well-known for their smaller classes and passionate teachers. Children benefit from individual attention and holistic education.

Trollip offers the following advice:

Establish a morning routine

Your child should follow the same sequence of activities each morning so that it becomes an automatic chain of tasks. This leads to a sense of independence on the part of your child. A suggested morning routine could include the following: wake up, breakfast, ablutions, get dressed, collect school bag and lunch, walk to the car.

Set up an evening routine

The aim of this routine is to calm your child. They can relax knowing that they are prepared for the next day. Lay out the school uniform, set a bath time and allow for quiet play with no screen time. Enjoy story time before bedtime. A Grade 1 child should be in bed between 7.30pm and 8pm. 

Allocate a homework space

Do homework in a space with limited distractions. Make they have the stationery they need. There should be a homework routine,with a specific time and sequence of activities. This should end with packing the school suitcase. Homework in Grade 1 needs to be supervised by an adult in a positive environment.

Prepare a healthy snack box

Discuss nutritious options and treats with your child. Prepare a menu together. Take into consideration that these snacks will have to sustain your child for at least six hours at school.

Communication is key

When your child starts Grade 1, make sure that you are on the school App and class Dojo, or whatever communication mechanism is used at the school. It is important to know what is happening. You also don’t want to miss out on special days. 

Also, prepare by

  • Reading to your child.
  • Teaching them songs, nursery rhymes and poems.
  • Take your children on excursions to place such as museums.
  • Make regular opportunities for play dates.
  • Play games so that your child starts recognising colours, numbers, and letters.

For more about choosing the right school, read here

Read about the valuable role teachers play in making your children’s school career memorable