The ST Guide To... preparing your child for Primary 1

Westwood Primary 1 pupils introduce themselves during the first day of school on Jan 3, 2017. PHOTO: ST FILE

Shortly after scrambling to get a place in a primary school, your next concern would be how your child will adjust to Primary 1.

This is a milestone in your child's academic journey, and primary school will be the place he or she starts to build a foundation in learning and discover interests.

But transitioning from a pre-school environment, where play is the main mode of learning, to a formal classroom setting, can be challenging and overwhelming for six- and seven-year-olds.

Early childhood research has shown that children develop greater confidence and better social skills if they settle quickly into formal schooling.

Parents often confuse being ready for school with being academically capable in skills like reading and counting.

Instead of focusing solely on academic progress, it is more important to make learning an enjoyable process, and help your child have a swift and happier adjustment to primary school.

Here is a back-to-school guide for parents of new Primary 1 pupils.

1. Talk to your child

Share your own experiences of school life and what you enjoyed about it - recess, making new friends, learning a sport, or even taking the school bus.

Tell them about your favourite teachers and subjects. These conversations can help them look forward to a new experience of schooling instead of dreading it.

Encourage him to to talk about his feelings about changes that he will be facing and concerns that he might have about going to school. For instance, he will be making new friends and be apart from his old friends from preschool.

You could also start by visiting the school website and getting your child interested in its facilities and activities it offers.

2. Familiarise your child with the new school environment

Parents checking out West Spring Primary School during an open house in 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

The sheer size of a primary school compound and the number of pupils across six levels can be intimidating for Primary 1 pupils.

School orientation programmes, which schools hold before the term starts, are a good place to begin to help your child feel more at ease.

During these sessions, schools conduct tours and briefings for parents and children on what to expect.

Besides getting a glimpse of the the school environment, your child could even meet future classmates.

If possible, walk around the school campus and familiarise your child with important areas such as the car or school bus drop-off points, the canteen, general office, classrooms and toilets.

3. Introduce basic school rules

Xinmin Primary School pupils cleaning their classroom, which is a daily activity in the school. PHOTO: ST FILE

There are many rules in school to follow - help your child understand some basic procedures so that it would not be an overload in his first week of school.

These include classroom routines such as raising your hand to ask questions, taking turns during group activities or asking for permission to visit the toilet.

He will feel more at ease if he knows, ahead of time, what to expect from the school environment and teachers.

4. Develop a routine at home

The typical school day begins at 7am and lasts till midday. Your child will need to have sufficient sleep and rest, get used to waking up early to catch the school bus or walk to school.

Try to help him adjust by introducing a routine a month or so before the start of school. Help him to go to bed early and wake up early, and not get too overwhelmed with the new routine.

At home, you could also help him adjust to a regular schedule, similar to the school timetable. For instance, plan time for lunch, snacks, craft, homework, rest and play.

He will also be spending longer periods of activity in primary school - help him to improve his attention span by using tasks and slowly extending the duration of each activity.

5. Help your child learn to be independent

Parents taking their children to school. PHOTO: ST FILE

Primary school will likely be the first time your child will need to carry out tasks on his own - from ordering food to counting change to clearing his own tray of food.

Let him be responsible for his own belongings - school bag, stationery, worksheets, books - and make packing bags a habit by helping him think through the items he needs the next day.

Teach him small steps of independence, such as buying food on his own and dealing with canteen queues, managing pocket money, filing worksheets and being organised even at home.

6. Keep an open mind

Lastly, parents need to manage their own expectations and emotions first, so that they do not put too much pressure on their children.

Children are often sensitive to their parents' feelings and actions, so it is important to not get overly anxious about the new school year.

The next six years of schooling and beyond will be a time of learning new things, so remind your child that he might even learn best from going through challenges and problems.

Get the ST Smart Parenting newsletter for expert advice. Visit the microsite for more.