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How much does my child need to know before starting school?

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Photo of Holly (Teach Starter)
Updated | 3 min read

“Hi just wondering how much my four year old should know. What are the things they need to know when starting prep?”

The kindergarten program in Australia teaches a variety of concepts through play-based learning. This is intended to assist children to transition into their first year of schooling. However; it is important to recognise that children will develop at their own pace. If your child is showing interest in a particular topic or concept, there are always simple things that you can do around the home to encourage this curiosity. Children learn best through play; so try and make any new learning as interactive and as fun as possible.

Recognise letters and the sounds they make

Children who have been exposed to books and a print-rich environment will begin to role-play writing. Examples of this could include writing letters to friends, writing signs for display around the home, even writing a shopping list! Encourage this and become involved in your child’s play. Talk about how letters make different sounds. Talk about objects that your child is playing with. For example, if your child is playing with a ball, you might discuss that the word ‘ball’ starts with the letter ‘b’ and makes the ‘b’ sound. This could lead to further discussion about other objects that begin with the letter ‘b’. If your child seems interested in letters and the sounds they make, you may wish to teach your child to write his or her name; as well as how to identify it.

Have an understanding of concepts of print

Children are exposed to print in their everyday environments. Reading to your child daily is a wonderful activity which promotes and encourages a love of books. A child who reads will be a child who thinks. While reading with your child, there are several things you can do to promote an understanding of the concepts of print. Some of these include:

  • Discussing the title of the book and the author.
  • Pointing out where to begin reading on the page.
  • Demonstrating the direction of reading e.g. from left to right.
  • Pointing out the difference between letters and words.
  • Pointing out the difference between print and pictures.
  • Demonstrating how to turn the pages properly.

Have an understanding of mathematical concepts

Numeracy is fundamental to our everyday lives and presents itself in many of our daily activities. Use these as opportunities to introduce mathematical concepts to your child. Some of the ways you could explore numeracy with your child before the first year of school include:

  • Counting to 10 and beyond
    • count steps as you walk up them
    • count how many flowers are in the garden
    • count how many times they can jump on the trampoline
    • count how many knives and folks the family need to set the table
  • Exploring shape 
    • pointing out different shapes in the environment
    • drawing and painting using a variety of shapes
    • playing games such as ‘I spy’
    • planning a scavenger hunt to search for items of various shapes.

Developing fine-motor skills

Fine-motor skills involve the coordination of small-muscle movements of the hands and fingers, using the eyes. Some activities that you could do to encourage fine-motor development include:

  • Using scissors to cut out shapes or to help create craft.
  • Using pegs to put the clothes on the clothes line.
  • Threading beads or pasta onto string to make jewellery.
  • Using tweezers to pick up and sort coloured pompoms.
  • Using play dough to make 3D objects.
  • Using kitchen tongs to pick up items off the floor.
  • Painting pictures with mini-sponges.

These examples are only a selection of ideas as to what you could be doing at home with your child before formal schooling begins… if your child is ready to learn these concepts. Do not push unnecessarily, though! Encourage these concepts through play; keep watch for opportunities to teach your children new things while they are engaged in activities that they enjoy. Play-based learning helps to build self-worth by giving your child a sense of his or her own abilities. As they become absorbed in play, children are able to concentrate for longer and are subsequently more open to taking on new concepts.



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