When young children first enter into the new world of elementary school, they benefit from some fundamental skills in order to feel confident and prepared to learn. Both early childhood educators and parents can help children throughout ordinary days in preparation for this big step. While we can’t prepare them for everything, being able to do the following things might help them to avoid embarrassing moments that can contribute to making a young child feel self-conscious.
For starters, a child should have basic body self-awareness. They should be able to identify their basic body parts, have some spatial awareness, and also some fundamental self-control. A good example of this is standing in lines. Children are expected to line-up a healthy distance from the child in front of them. Then there will be times that they will need to stop quickly without running into the other children. These acts use a combination of important skills that we might not have previously considered. Example of how we can help to prepare our children are talking about body parts while changing clothes, and playing simple games, such as red light – green light.
Another area we can help to prepare a young child for is the lunchroom. At mealtimes, we should teach basic table manners. We all know what these are, and they are learned over the early years with patience, repetition, and role modeling. There are also some needed self-help skills. When children arrive at the lunchroom, there is limited time to eat, and they need to be able to do as much as they can on their own. They need to learn how to open their own milk, insert a straw into a juice box, and open and close their own sandwich bag.
Other self-help skills every child needs to learn includes their knowing how to take their shoes, coats, gloves, etc. on and off. They should be able to go to the bathroom on their own, including adjusting their own clothing and washing their hands. They should be able to clean up after themselves. And, they should have a good concept of what it means to share.
Basic skills for learning includes being able to use tools, such as glue, glue sticks, pencil sharpeners, and scissors. Some things that a child should know by kindergarten includes knowing their first and last name and being able to identify and write their own name. They should know their basic colors and be able to identify the numbers 1-10.
Children that are not prepared can begin to believe that they are uncoordinated, clumsy, or inferior. However, these are not “natural” things. Children need time and opportunity to fail and conquer little tasks without being teased. Children who are unprepared have increased stress and anxiety, and the long term effect can have a child believing they aren’t any good at physical sports, dancing, and other healthy activities.
The above skills are simple, learned concepts that parents and early childhood educators can teach through conversation, games, directed play, and lots of encouragement.
Gruber, J.J. 1985. “Physical Activity and Self-Esteem Development in Children: A Meta-Analysis.” The Academy Papers 19: 30–48.
Nieman, Peter. “Psychosocial aspects of physical activity.” Paediatrics & child health 7.5 (2002): 309.