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  • Jun
    06
    2024

Preparing little ones for big school: A childminder’s guide

Preparing little ones for big school: A childminder’s guide

As September approaches, so does a significant milestone for many of the little ones in our care—their first day at primary school. This transition from a childminding setting to a more structured school environment is an exciting time, but it’s also filled with new challenges and emotions, not just for the children but for us childminders too. We’ve nurtured them and watched them grow, and now, it’s time to prepare them (and ourselves!) for their next big adventure.

Here’s how we can make this transition as smooth as possible:

1. Understand and address emotions

Starting school can evoke a mix of emotions in children—excitement, curiosity, anxiety, and even fear. It’s crucial to recognise and address these feelings. Encourage children to express what they’re feeling about starting school. Use storybooks about starting school to introduce the topic and help children understand that their feelings are normal.

For us as childminders, saying goodbye can be bittersweet. It’s okay to share a little of our feelings with them, showing that it’s natural to miss someone but also exciting to see them grow and move on to new experiences.

2. Encourage independence

Many childminders, like yourselves, already do a fantastic job encouraging independence among the little ones in your care. As a gentle reminder, and to further ease the transition to primary school, here are some focused ways to reinforce these valuable skills:
– Self-care skills: Encourage children to manage their own clothing, teaching them to put on their shoes and coats, and manage zips and buttons.
– Mealtime independence: Practice using utensils properly and opening lunch boxes and snack containers that they might use at school.
– Toilet training: It’s crucial, especially considering recent findings published by The Guardian stating that one in four school starters are not toilet trained. Supporting children to become fully toilet trained can significantly boost their confidence and independence as they start school.

3. Establish routines

School life is structured around routines. Helping children adapt to this change can start with establishing simple routines in our setting:
– Set times for specific activities, such as reading or quiet time, which can mirror the school’s schedule.
– Visual schedules: Use pictures to show the daily schedule, which helps children understand what comes next and gives them a sense of security.

4. Support learning at home

Partner with parents to ensure learning and preparedness continue at home:
– Discuss the child’s progress and areas that need attention, offering parents tips on how they can help.
– Share activities and resources that parents can do at home to reinforce skills like counting, letter recognition, and following instructions.

5. Addressing broader challenges in school readiness

Research from the early-years charity Kindred2 published earlier this year highlights the growing challenges in school readiness. According to their survey of 1,000 primary school staff, many educators feel that the problems with school readiness had worsened over the previous 18 months. Nearly half of the children struggle to sit still, a significant number find it difficult to play or share with others, and many are not proficient in basic self-care skills like dressing or eating independently. Interestingly, 28% of children are misusing books, swiping or tapping them as though they were digital devices. This highlights the critical role childminders can play in reinforcing foundational skills that are, sadly, increasingly overlooked.

6. Keep it light and fun

While education and routines are crucial, keeping this period light and fun is important. Celebrate this upcoming change as an exciting new adventure. Perhaps throw a “starting school” party, or create a countdown calendar with fun activities.

This transition is a milestone, and though we’ll miss our little charges, we have equipped them for this next big step. Let’s send them off with confidence, knowing we’ve done our best to prepare them for the world of primary school. Each small step we take with them now can make a big difference in easing their way into this new journey.

By Ivy Steele