Do you remember your first day in primary 1? Probably not right, since it was such a long time ago! One thing you might remember feeling though, is how daunting it can be (older primary school kids, long canteen queues, seemingly unapproachable teachers, the list can go on and on…). To help with that, we have put together 5 tips to ensure that you and your little one cope with the changes between kindergarten and primary school in the best ways possible.
1. Devise a recess plan
The concept of recess is probably going to be a confusing time for any child. The rush of students to the canteen at a predetermined time coupled with the need to make decisive choices on what to eat is already stressful enough for any seven year old. Not to mention the need to manage money, all within the 30 to 45 minutes time allocated for recess.
Prepare for the inevitable canteen situation by talking to your child about the impending change. Practice by letting your child order food at hawker centres and food courts. The key is to build confidence and to let them learn to order all by themselves. To make it easier, you can pack a small sandwich or snack for your child during the first 2 weeks or so, just in case they find it too difficult to manage the “peak hour” recess crowd. Yes, primary schools have peak hours too, just like in the CBD.
2. Master the art of buddying up
Many primary schools have a buddy system where older students pair up with primary kids, helping them navigate the first few week(s) in school. This is a wonderful initiative, but some children may be too shy and timid to even voice out their needs or ask for help.
That is when it is essential to get an older sibling or cousin to be a buddy for a day, and teach your child to verbalise their questions to their seniors. Remind your child of the importance of asking, such as “Where is the toilet?”, “Where do I put my plate after eating?”, and”Where do we go after recess?”, all daily occurrences in a primary school setting.
3. Inculcate good organising and packing habits
Misplacing everyday schooling items like stationaries or water bottles can be inexpensive but inconvenient. Expect many important letters and forms from the school to be delivered home in the school bag (excursions permission letters, notices, co-curricular activities…). If your child is naturally unorganised, important documents like these (and homework of course) might go missing more often than not.
Develop a sense of ownership in your child, and emphasise the importance of proper packing and being organised. If you have a domestic helper at home, avoid letting your child be overdependent. Let your child pack and check his or her own backpack on family outings, ensuring that the items like water bottles, jackets, wallets, tissue papers, and caps are all packed properly before leaving the home. Prepare a file for your child to store all the homework and papers so that everything will be neat and tidy.
4. Do a transport rehearsal
Every major event requires a rehearsal, much like our yearly National Day Parades. The same applies for your child first day in primary school. Is your child going to school by school bus? Will you be walking to school together? Taking public transport?
Whichever the case, it’s always a good idea to do a dry run together. Practice waking up early in the morning and make the trip to school together with your little one. Let your child know where you will be picking her up after school, so both of you will have the confidence everything will go smoothly on the actual day.
5. Get ready for more academia
Compared to the more fun activities in kindergarten, primary 1 will usher in more formal and scored assignments. Part and parcel of the transition to primary school is to embrace the fact that primary school work is going to become increasingly more academic.
Some children might have difficulties coping with certain subjects. For instance, a child raised in a predominantly English-speaking home might have difficulties in Chinese classes, vice versa. To stand him in good stead, hiring a home tutor to catch up on school subjects can be a wise decision.
6. Establish a routine
Primary school life will certainly be more disciplined than in kindergarten, which is why it is important to set up a routine to keep to during the school week.
Get your child accustomed to going to bed and waking up earlier. Talk about when they should be doing their homework and whether there will be any restrictions on TV time. A good gauge would be to start following this routine about a month before school starts.
Apart from the aforementioned tips, remember to encourage and assure your child that starting primary school will be a wonderful and exciting new experience. Share with them your own positive primary school experiences (it’s not that far away, try to recall!) such as making new friends and enjoying recess games. These stories will excite your child and help to alleviate their worries about this new stage.
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