[Sponsored Article] Big Decisions for Our Little Ones The early years of a child’s life are so important. This is a time when attitudes are shaped, first relationships are formed, concepts are developed and the foundations for later learning are made. As parents, as we start to think about kindergarten, it is important to remember that kindergarten will become a big part of your young child’s life and will play a role in their social, emotional, cognitive and physical development, building a solid foundation for lifelong learning and wellbeing. ‘Being ready’ for kindergarten is not about a set of skills you need to make sure your child has before they start kindergarten. It is about preparing your child for this next transition in their lives and as your child approaches kindergarten age, it is useful to think about the conditions you want present in your child’s life to ensure kindergarten is a positive experience for them. Language Skills Being able to express ourselves is very liberating and powerful. To help prepare your child for kindergarten, you can support them by: Encouraging them to express their needs with you in your home and when you are out and about. Modelling simple sentences and phrases your child can use with others. Encouraging them to use these simple sentences, phrases or words (depending on their level of development) when they want or need something. Making sure your child knows who they can go to in kindergarten if they need help. Engaging in ‘real’ conversations with your child, where you take turns to talk and listen to one another. This will help your child understand the function of language and the joy of a reciprocal exchange. Remember, in kindergarten your child will be sharing the adults’ attention and time with other children, so, help them build up some simple phrases they can use in kindergarten to help them express their own needs and practise them. Social Skills Developing and maintaining meaningful relationships with others is a vital skill that we all need throughout life. For many young children they may still be in the egocentric stage (concerned only for their own needs) and they will need support to prepare them for companionship (becoming aware of others and their needs and feelings). We can help to prepare them by: Playing simple games that require turn taking and sharing Visiting parks, play areas and places where they will share the space with other children. Support them in their play and model turn taking and consideration Talking about feelings and emotions and looking at pictures of what the feelings may look like in others. stories can help with this as well as puppets/dolls. Role-play - re-enact scenarios they may experience in kindergarten, let them pretend to be the parent, caring for the needs of others Praise them when they listen and recognise the feelings and needs of others. Independence Skills Entering kindergarten may be the first time your child has spent much time away from you. Here are some practical self-help skills that you can develop with your child to prepare them for kindergarten. Consider these self-help skills to see how they are getting along: Can they go to the bathroom and wash themselves? Can they cope without your company for part of the day? Can they complete the basic aspects of dressing themselves - even if the shoes are on the wrong feet or jacket is on backwards! Can they ask for help if they need it? Remember, a kindergarten’s role is to care and teach your child, in partnership with the you, so even if your child cannot do the above perfectly, a good kindergarten will understand their role to continue to develop these self-help skills with your child. Is My Child Emotionally Ready for Kindergarten? Physical, emotional and social development are important to consider as a child approaches kindergarten. Consider the following questions and talk them through with your child’s teacher before they start kindergarten: How does your child deal with frustrations? Can they comfortably spend time apart from you? How do they like to be comforted? Are they growing in confidence to approach new people and tasks? Understanding your child’s emotional development will help the kindergarten meet and support your child’s emotional development. The Importance of Time and Relationships When the big day finally arrives, do not rush the settling period. Allow your child time to get to know their teachers and carers and build relationships with them and the other children in the setting. Allow them time to get to know the environment and adjust to the new routines that will be structuring their day. If your child is not used to being separated from you, very gradually increase the separation time, making those periods manageable for your child. They will soon come to realise that you always return and never underestimate the power of your child seeing you talking with and building a relationship with their teacher. When your child sees you trusting the adults in the setting, smiling, laughing and chatting, they will often follow suit. When I was working as a kindergarten teacher and I was settling a new child into the setting my priority was getting to know the child and building a relationship with them and their parents. I would always ask the parents lots of questions (like the ones above) to help me understand and know their child; how they expressed themselves, how they liked to be comforted, what were some of their favourite toys or activities, how do they approach new people and new activities. All of this information would help me respond individually to their child, thus supporting them to feel safe and secure in their new kindergarten. When your child starts kindergarten, their teachers should be asking you the same questions, so they get to know your child and how best to support them. Choose the Right Kindergarten for your Family There is a huge choice of Kindergartens in Hong Kong and the choice can be mind boggling! A few tips to help you along the way: Research online and use Good Schools Guides such as SCMP Good School Guide for Kindergartens Talk to friends and families about their experiences with kindergartens. Once you have a list of kindergartens, visit them to see which one feels right – your gut is normally right Try a free play session in the Kindergarten if they are offered – this will give you a better feel for the environment. At Nord Anglia Tam Tai we have a series of five Creative Play Sessions where parents can bring their toddlers. You can register on nais.hk or click here From your short list, ask to be put in contact with parents whose children already attend those kindergartens At Nord Anglia we know that children develop best when they feel safe and they are having fun! Our pre-schools create a caring and happy environment where a child believes that they are capable of anything. We also believe that building a strong relationship with the family supports the child’s development in all areas and we love doing this! Don’t be daunted by what seems like such a big step for your family, know your child, do your research, start with a taster session and enjoy getting a real feel of your potential new pre-school family.