Do this by:
Engage in meaningful conversations with your child so that he learns to use language to express his thoughts and ideas. Ensure that you are giving your child opportunities to enter a dialogue with you where you take turns to listen and respond. This is crucial to support language acquisition and to develop an interest in participating in meaningful communications.
Help teach your child to follow instructions and carry out simple tasks. He can enjoy following instructions if you give him descriptive praise and value how he does things. You will need to break down instructions so that he hears, listens and understands exactly what he is being expected to do.
Encourage your child through excursions to parks and gardens, and walks in his local environment, to learn to respect nature and to observe natural life. Make collections of leaves and take photos of birds and plants that you can check on the internet with him when you get home to name them correctly. This research will help develop his vocabulary and understanding.
Similarly use every opportunity to develop knowledge of mathematical concepts by counting the steps on the stairs, setting the correct number of places for dinner, counting out money when you pay in shops etc. Your child will see that counting, learning about ways to measure and compare, and enjoying practical maths prepares him well for school.
It is essential that throughout the first years of life your child has frequent opportunities to engage in conversations with you and others. He can develop a love of books and stories by being read to, and by selecting books at the local library. In an age of high levels of technology when screens are used incessantly, it is really important to help children value real books, illustrations and stories that interest them. Also, learn songs and rhymes because they help children enjoy and play with language.
You can also prepare your child for school by ensuring that he is used to playing with other children. There are a range of children’s drop-ins that you can start attending when your child is very young. He will not take too much notice of other babies but he will learn to enjoy playing alongside them and having the opportunity to observe and copy them. Do as many playdates as possible.
It is also good for parents to be able to talk with other parents at these informal groups and to bolster each other’s self-confidence, by discussing difficulties and achievements.
When it comes to starting school, try to ensure that you have visited the classroom in advance and that your child has read stories with you about starting school. There are many available and you can use them to discuss his fears and expectations. The point is that it is a very big transition point in your child’s development and by talking about it you can relieve some of the anxiety that he may initially experience.
Ensure that you have had time to sit with the teacher before your child starts school. You need to know what your child is expected to learn and how you can support him. You should be asking for an open dialogue with the school so that you can feel reassured that they will work in partnership with you. If the school is prepared to work with you in this way, your behaviour at home with your child can be more consistent with the school and your child will feel more valued and supported.
Ensure that you have allocated time to settle your child at school in the first couple of weeks because he may have initial separation problems and it will make the transition smoother. Also be aware that over this time your child may experience higher levels of anxiety, wet the bed or become more clingy to you. It is not that they are regressing, it is that he is trying to tell you subconsciously that he still needs your love and attention and doesn’t want to stop being your baby. Give him additional love and attention and lots of praise to make him feel good about himself.
If you would like to contact Lena for one-on-one advice for children aged 0 – 19 years, please email her on Lenahelpsparents@gmail.com.