How to get your child ready for Primary 1

Pupils at a science lesson at Bedok Green Primary School on Oct 26, 2018. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI



4 November 2018

Venessa Lee


As others mark off Halloween and look forward to Deepavali and Christmas, it is probably time for parents, whose children are entering Primary 1 in January, to start ramping up preparations.

Primary 1 orientation sessions organised by the schools, which often take place this month, are helpful for both parents and children, parenting experts say.

But beyond the expected skills that children need to master for entry into Primary 1 – such as learning to pack one’s schoolbag and handle money for recess – some key soft skills may be neglected.

“Social skills like how to make friends, including sharing and taking turns, and how to ask for help are among the most overlooked areas,” says Ms Josephine Loh, training manager at Morning Star Community Services, which is running a workshop on making the transition from pre-school to primary school later this month.

Practical self-help skills, like having good hygiene etiquette – including training kids to wash their hands after going to the toilet – can also be overlooked, says Ms Joanne Andrea Lim, senior curriculum specialist, professional and education development division at PCF, which provides educational, welfare and community services.

Teaching key skills for Primary 1 should start in the early years, the experts say, but there is no need to panic with about two months to go before the start of school.

The good news is that most kids would already be practising many of the skills needed, such as asking for permission or making requests, at home or in their pre-schools, says Ms Lim.

Their pre-school would also have taught them appropriate language and numeracy skills, she adds.

To effectively impart key Primary 1 skills to their offspring, parents should first keep certain attitudes and strategies in mind.




Don’t rush

Parents often rush through children’s routines because of their own busy schedules, says Ms Lim.

Slow down and guide your child with step-by-step instructions on the appropriate way to put on their school attire, socks and shoes, for example.

Always allow enough time for him to practise. Be patient; tasks such as doing and undoing buttons seem simple to you but they may not be easy for a six-year-old, she says.


Think positive

It is natural for children to feel apprehensive about primary school.

Have the child talk about his worries and go through some of the challenges he may face, says Ms Lim. Teach him to seek help from teachers if necessary.

“Parents should focus on the positive adventures the child will have, rather than dwelling on her fears,” says Ms Lim.

“Do not say, ‘What if you can’t…’; rather, say, ‘You can do it!'”


Bond with your child

Parents can share their personal experiences of starting school with their child, such as how they liked making new friends or learning a new sport, says Mr Jeff Cheong, a council member for Families for Life, which promotes strong families.

Preparing for primary school is also a good time to impart values such as accountability and independence, he says. For example, involve your child in labelling his school belongings and let him be in charge of his bag or water-bottle during family outings for practice.


Explain what is expected

Taking the child to his new school, such as during Primary 1 orientation sessions, helps him gain confidence.

Explain basic school rules and practices, says Mr Cheong. This includes listening quietly and doing what the teacher asks.

Accompany your child to buy a notebook and teach him the common practice of jotting down messages and homework from the teacher.

Showing him the way around places like his classroom, the general office and the canteen, as well as practising his new daily routine for school “addresses the child’s need for competency”, says Ms Loh, the trainer from Morning Star Community Services.


Encouragement and praise

In cultivating new daily habits for Primary 1, praise the child for her efforts to encourage her in persevering, even if she is initially unable to wake or sleep at earlier times than what she was used to, Ms Loh says.

Help her out by drawing up the new routine and pasting it in a prominent place for easy reference.

Let her know how it will benefit her. Tell her how she can have more time in school to play with her friends if she wakes up for school at the right time, suggests Ms Loh.

Here are some specific areas for parents to pay attention to, in order get their children ready for Primary 1.


Travelling to and from school

Teach the child what she needs for her commute, such as a travel card and a notebook with parents’ phone numbers for emergencies.

Ms Loh suggests showing the child what landmarks to look out for, while going on a bus or MRT route together. Lead the way for the first few times, then allow the child to lead the way to boost her confidence, she adds.


Pack your bag

Before packing a schoolbag, parents can take their child to the library and practise by placing their borrowed books into a bag, PCF’s Ms Lim says. Prompt him to pack the books according to size, from the smallest to the largest.

Morning Star’s Ms Loh suggests packing the child’s schoolbag with him for the first week, teaching him how to read the school timetable for the books needed for each day. The parents can later watch the child pack without their help.


Handling money

In teaching the child to buy items from the school canteen or bookshop, parents can also teach him about values, such as distinguishing between needs and wants, says Ms Judith Alagirisamy, a family life specialist at Focus on the Family Singapore.

She suggests first allowing the child to play with coins, teaching him their different values, from 10 cents to $1. After this, teach him to make up $1 using differently valued coins.

Let him practise ordering and paying for food at the hawker centre and later, pay a visit to the school canteen, says Ms Alagirisamy.

Set a daily allowance for the child, which can later be monthly, based on how much different food items cost at school. Talk to him about budgeting, asking, for example, what would happen if he spent all of his allowance at once.

Set rules on purchases at the school bookshop, such as letting him know he has to ask his parents before buying any stationery.


Communication skills

Ms Loh suggests practising various social scenarios with the child, such as demonstrating how to introduce oneself when making friends. Ensure the child knows polite phrases such as “please” and “thank you”, as well as interpersonal skills like taking turns.

Teach the child to raise his hand to get the teacher’s attention, as well as asking questions courteously and thanking the teacher for her help.

When encountering unpleasant situations such as bullying behaviour, encourage the child to say: “Stop it. I do not like that.”

Ms Loh adds that the child should be taught to walk away if the other child persists; to get other kids to help; and to inform the teacher.

Parents can be role models for school-ready attitudes.

“Children should be curious about the new experience of being in school, and enjoy themselves with their new friends and teachers,” says Ms Loh.

“By reading school books and buying stationery together with their child, parents can be role models, not only for values like responsibility, but also in their sense of excitement about going to school.”



This article was originally published in The Sunday Times on 3 November 2018

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