By Dr Melodie de Jager
School readiness is a sticky topic – especially since it involves more than one readiness: a readiness to learn and a readiness for school.
Readiness to learn means that your child is ready for experiences, tasks and skills that match his/her age. Unlike school-readiness, a readiness to learn does not match a specific age: a baby is ready to learn to suck; a two-year-old is ready to be potty-trained and to give up his/her bottles and dummies; a three-year-old is ready to learn in a group; a five-year-old is ready to learn the difference between reality and fantasy; an 18-year-old is ready to learn for his/her driver’s licence; a 65-year-old is ready for retirement, etc.
School-readiness, in a nutshell, means that your child is able to concentrate on a task for at least 11 minutes, even if he does not want to (e.g. building a 36-piece puzzle, clipping on coloured pegs in a specific order, or drawing patterns along the edges of an A4 sheet of paper using ); listens the first time; speaks the language used in the grade one classroom fluently and, most importantly, has played outside enough to be able to sit still and is ready to master abstract and symbolic learning activities (to write and read the alphabet and numbers).
School-readiness starts with the readiness to learn, which actually occurs before birth when the baby is “ready” to be born, to breathe and suck. Being school-ready is a goal for which you prepare, much like a December holiday at the coast – you work at it and every now and then you make sure that you are on the right road (reaching milestones), and that progress has been made.
|Factors that help the child to be ready||Factors that impede readiness|
|Full-term baby||Premature birth|
|Milestones reached in the right order and within the broad time-limit of each milestone||Milestones reached early or very late; milestones skipped|
|A happy family with sufficient food and clothing, and decent housing||A disorganised family with members who come and go, and where food, clothing and housing are barely sufficient|
|A home environment where conflict is resolved and family members cooperate and play together||Constant tension between mother and father or between family members, or tension in the home environment|
|Healthy food||Normally only starch and sugar, little protein, fruit and vegetables|
|Good health||Frequent illnesses that force the child to lie down more often than he/she walks about|
|Healthy ears without fluid||Ears that are often filled with fluid or infected, grommets are needed to help drain the fluid|
|Healthy skin and no circles under the eyes||Eczema, dry and/or itchy skin, allergies, dark circles under the eyes|
|Breathes well and effortlessly through the nose||Regular blocked nose or sinusitis, and breathing chiefly through the mouth|
|Eyes move together as a team||Eyes do not move in the same direction|
|Eyes see clearly and are able to focus on something held at an elbow’s length from the eyes||Squinting to see or nose almost touching something in order to see clearly|
|Good muscular strength and muscle-tone – i.e. he sits and stands without support||Weak muscles and low muscle-tone – i.e. he seldom sits or stands upright without having to lean against/on something|
|A home where family members talk to each other||A home where the child is not really spoken to|
|An abundance of books in the home environment||No books in the home environment|
|Stories are regularly read and told||Stories are not read or told|
|Speaks the language of the Gr. 1-class fluently||Mixes languages or only familiar with a few words in the language used in the Gr. 1-class|
|Frequent and sincere acknowledgement: That’s really clever thinking! Well done, I’m proud of you!||Abuse is more familiar than acknowledgement: What have you done now? You’ll amount to nothing! Idiot!|
|Good age gap between siblings allows each child in turn some self-centred me-time||Siblings born close together and where everything, including time and attention, has to be shared.|
|Senses work well together and the brain processes the impulses easily – good sensory integration/processing||Messages from the senses pile up and cause a ‘traffic jam’ in the brain – weak sensory integration/processing|
|Listens the first time||Does not listen the first time, or only when told the fourth time|
|Hears and follows instructions in the right order – the number of consecutive commands matches his/her age||Instructions have to be repeated and only some are followed, or tasks are completed haphazardly|
|Enjoys touching, handling and investigating||Does not like touching and handling|
|Likes jungle-gyms, swings and slide games||Avoids equipment or moving surfaces such as escalators, suspension bridges, rope ladders|
First develop, then assess
Massage both ear lobes simultaneously from top to bottom using circular movements. This move develops the near senses, auditory processing, auditory perception as well as receptive language ability.
Child must stand upright and hold both arms 90 degrees to the side of the body. Stand behind the child and firmly trace the outline of the body from head to toe. Hold the feet and push down for a moment as if planting the legs before repeating 3 times.
Simulate the reflex by flinging the arms wide open while breathing deeply and slowly, and then closing the arms over the chest in a hug, breathing deeply and slowly. The learner can hug himself, or the parent may hug him simultaneously. This move boosts relaxation, rhythmic breathing and a sense of well-being.
Children are vulnerable. We must look after them if we want them to go to school all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
Want to know more? We recommend the following resources by Dr Melodie de Jager
Play Learn Know https://www.mindmoves.co.za/product/play-learn-know/ and Ready to learn, ready for school https://www.mindmoves.co.za/product/ready-to-learn-ready-for-school/