Time to start school

Going to school for the first time is a big step for all children, and they need tons of support. So help your child prepare for the long road ahead.

Read to your child
Reading to, and with, your child regularly is vital and needn't be expensive either. Join the local municipal library and introduce your child to books.

Create opportunities for writing
The more your child reads, the better she'll be at writing and vice versa. Even four- and five-year-olds can pretend to "write" shopping lists and letters -­ it's the imitation that's important, not what's written on the paper.

Make numeracy a part of everyday life
Make up simple games when you're travelling: "How many white cars do you see?" or "What's the shape of that street sign?"

When setting the table, ask your child to count the knives and forks. When she cleans her room, ask her to put her shoes into pairs or group all the green things together (categorising).

This also helps her understand concepts such as bigger vs smaller and less vs more.

Help your child develop concentration
Playing a game, reading together, doing a puzzle ­- all these things will help your child learn to concentrate.

Recognise that learning doesn't start at school
Expose your child to new experiences. Go for a walk and collect different types of leaves; explore the beach, the park or the aquarium; let her help you bake biscuits, or search for pebbles outside.

And, says Phyfer, encourage her to express what she's seeing and feeling, rather than pointing everything out yourself.

Encourage your child's self-esteem and independence
The more your child can do for herself, the better her self-esteem will be. So resist the urge to wrestle her shoes away from her -­ let her put them on and fasten the buckles herself.

Encourage language skills
Children need to develop the skill to put their thoughts into words. Paging through magazines or books together, telling them stories or taking them on outings helps them make connections between the things they learn at school and the real world.

Let your child play
Play is vital for a child's development. It covers many different aspects of development, such as social skills, imagination, gross and fine motor co-ordination and perceptual skills.

Recognise that learning is life-long
If you're continually open to learning new things ­- and excited about the prospect ­- your children will be too.
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