Get Ready for School with Me

The transition between pre-school and formal school education can be a daunting experience to most children, as they will encounter new and unfamiliar situations. SPD's occupational therapists share some advice [...]

Every year, some parents and children go through an important milestone in their lives – entering primary school! The transition between pre-school and formal school education can be a daunting experience to most children, as they will encounter new and unfamiliar situations. However, for children with developmental needs, these experiences can be even more overwhelming and challenging to navigate. SPD senior occupational therapist Denise Ng and occupational therapist Genevieve Sim share some advice to help ease the transition journey into primary school for both parent and child.

Occupational therapists are part of a multi-disciplinary team who work with parents and children with developmental needs to make the transition to primary school smoother. Apart from academic skills, occupational therapists focus on the child’s readiness skills for school. These skills prepare children to be as independent as possible in school, such as learning self-help, motor, social and emotional skills. Occupational therapists also collaborate with caregivers, pre-school teachers, primary school teachers and Special Needs Officers (SNOs), by providing strategies and suggestions to support children in these areas and  helping them cope better with unexpected changes.

Here are what parents can do to help their children ease into primary school:

1. Talk to them about expectations of primary school  

  • Establish and have discussions around new routines, such as taking the school bus, putting on the school uniform and shoes, going to the canteen for food during recess, experiencing new curriculum and lessons, and participating in after-school programmes or co-curricular activities.
  • Talk to them about their new physical environment (e.g., school classroom, canteen, library, bookshop) and their new social environment (e.g., new teachers, classmates). Whenever possible, attend school orientation together.
  • Explain the school timetable to them, teaching them how to refer to and plan for it. Highlight the different venues for respective subjects. 
  • Explain some general classroom rules and acceptable behaviours, such as sitting at assigned seats, raising their hands and waiting for the teachers to call their name, or remaining focused on the teacher while they are teaching. 
  • Use social stories to teach social and emotional skills that they will need in school, such as making friends, resolving conflicts, and managing their emotions. You can practice these skills by bringing your child to the playground to interact with other children.

2. Encourage them to be responsible for their own belongings 

  • Teach them organisation skills such as labelling as well as recognising and taking responsibility for their own belongings. Highlight the importance of retrieving and keeping items from their bag or putting things back at where they should be kept. 
  • Ensure that they have the required school supplies ready for the next day. Get them to take an active role in packing their own school bag. Keeping a visible schedule will also help them prepare for the relevant subject materials.

3. Encourage sharing about their day  

  • Establish open communication channels to help alleviate worries that they might have. Be a source of comfort and a listening ear if they have problems. 
  • Prioritise active listening and asking them questions instead of giving advice or solutions to any problems they might encounter. Give them the space to express themselves and you may ask if they are looking for solutions. 

4. Teach them about using money  

  • Create a systematic approach for purchasing things from canteen and bookstore, covering aspects such as payment methods, calculating change, what they can afford, and determining affordability. Give them opportunities to be responsible for their own wallet and money, such as outings to  supermarket or shops. 
  • Practice buying items or ordering and paying for food in cash at retail shops, food courts or hawker centres to give them a chance to experience this exchange.

5. Teach them about safety  

  • They should inform teachers if they feel unwell or need to be excused from the classroom.
  • If they want to use the toilet, they need to inform the teacher, go with a buddy (if necessary) and make sure to lock the door.
  • Stranger danger – remind them not to follow unfamiliar people and explain to them the dangers of leaving school grounds unaccompanied. They should stay with classmates and teachers. . 
  • Practice safety in the environment:
    • Fire safety – fire drills are conducted regularly in school to ensure everyone is aware of the safety procedures in the event of emergencies.
  • Road safety and taking transport safely – Stop and look before crossing the road, wear your seatbelt and listen to bus uncles and aunties upon boarding the school bus, make sure to sit or hold on to handrails in the MRT.Know who to call in case of emergencies:
    • Ensure that they memorise personal information, such as home address, and parents’ contact numbers and names. Alternatively, ensure that this information is available in the child’s bag or wallet.
    • Remind children of the numbers to call in emergencies: 999 (police), 995 (ambulance and fire).
    • It should also be highlighted to them what constitutes an emergency (e.g. heart attack, severe injuries, large and uncontained fires).

As every child is unique, they may need individualised support in their transition to new environments and routines.

At the end of the day, let’s do our best to support our children in having a happy and enjoyable schooling experience!

Cover image by Freepik