My little one is 3-years-old… how do I get them ready for FS1?
It’s a question that every first-time parent asks. Even though it has been 17 years, the memory of my daughter’s first day going into her foundation year is so clearly etched in my brain- the nerves, the pressure, and it still gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. Let’s not forget I was an FS1 teacher back then and despite being quite well equipped with the knowledge of what I would need to do, it was not an easy task nor an overnight process.
Before getting into the details of what milestones can be accomplished or should be established before FS1, let’s think about how we can understand our children better by considering developmental psychology. I wanted to mention Lev Vygotsky’s theory of Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), I find this theory to have lots of real-life application and it really does resonate with me as a parent and as a pedagogue. The zone of proximal development as defined by Vygotsky, ‘is the range of abilities and skills that an individual or child can perform with assistance but cannot yet perform’ independently. (“What does the zone of proximal development mean?”) These abilities and the skills are termed “proximal” because the individual or a child is near to mastering them but needs more direction and some practice or repetition in presenting these actions completely independently.
The question is how do children acquire knowledge and how can we get them ready to do things on their own instead?
We all know that children learn best
- by exploring,
- by being guided
however, as adults it is essential to know that it is very important to have the presence of someone with the knowledge, and skills to help guide the children, to stimulate them, to provide provocations, and scaffolding. Or alternatively even providing simple supporting activities to help guide the child through the Zone of Proximal Development. What really makes a difference is encouraging a child to observe everyday social interactions and practice their skills. Now knowing a little bit about how children should learn let’s explore the possibilities of getting them FS ready:
Emotionally ready and excited about the new adventure
It is important first to get your 3-year-old emotionally ready and excited about their new adventure. The more your child can visualise the unknown, the more prepared they will be. It is important for a child to experience and feel an element of control as well. As a parent, encourage your 3-year-old to try and have a go at things, provide help only if they cannot do it or you know it’s reached a tipping point, and then only just provide a little nudge in the right direction, and ‘scaffold’ so your child/ren are able to do things for themselves at their pace in their zone of proximal development.
Independent in personal hygiene
A mandatory requirement if your child is going to start FS 1 in a school is being independent in terms of personal hygiene and fully toilet trained during the day. This is not a requirement if your child is going to continue or join the FS1 in a Nursery setting or an Early Childhood Centre (ECC). ‘Toilet-readiness’, a word coined by two paediatricians — Benjamin Spock and T. Berry Brazelton, recommends that parents need keep an eye on the physical and psychological milestones of their children to help them maintain positive feelings about toilet training. As a parent decide on the individualised goals for potty training and look for developmental abilities in your child to match these goals.
Please know one size does not fit all and patience is the name of the game especially if the end goal is for your child is to walk into a bathroom, pull down their pants, use the potty, wipe themselves, and so forth. Remember that you can take steps to actively prepare your child way before the toilet training.
Independence in self-help skills
Key to a smooth transition from home to FS 1 is independence in self-help skills. As parents provide opportunities for children to sit at a table with their snack and lunch and get them tidying up after themselves. Let them have a go at wearing their own clothes or uniform if they are going to have one or get them to have a go at changing into swimming costumes for water play or swimming by themselves, and it does not matter, if it’s not the right side out. Independent stronger and confident children settle in FS1 a lot quicker.
Opportunities to ask questions
Another important factor for more FS1 ready children is to give them opportunities to ask questions and encourage them to keep on asking question after question. On an average a child asks about 76 questions in a day, count how may do you allow your child to ask? Asking questions is also an important form of communication and plays an important role in their cognitive development. It develops critical thinking that builds child’s brain power. Remember children turn to the people they love and trust to help them learn with questioning. Capability to ask questions is a great instrument that permits children to collect knowledge they need to acquire about the world and solve problems in it.
Get yourself and your child into a routine, they help children feel secure, safe, and looked after. They also foster a sense of belonging and strengthen family relationships. When asked and shown the children are known to follow a routine, with less help or supervision from adults, whether its’s at the start of FS 1 in a school or continuing in the same setting, it just helps them become more independent and in control. To begin start with a sleep and morning routine. Do fun practice run and try to beat time, to make it more interesting. Maintain a routine calendar, where children could give themselves a big star, if they completed all the steps in their routine in time
Plan a play date to practice social and emotional skills.
Plan a play date and help them make friends, of course be mindful of all the health and safety protocol. Play dates offer children with chances to practice essential social and emotional skills. Children learn to share, take turns, and cooperate as they interact with each other, social play also allows them to collaborate, solve more complex problems, take turns, compromise, and address conflicts. Between the ages of 2.5 to 3 years of age, it is usually best to keep play dates relatively short up to 60 min to 1.5 hours. Children who participate in playdate activities become more independent at an earlier age and would benefit them greatly in later years. For me it was simply an opportunity to observe how my children interacted with others, it helped me provide the right guidance to develop the critical life skills that I know are learned habits.
Having friends is hugely beneficial for children. It’s never too early for children to make their “first” friends.
Mrs. Samina Khanyari
Jumeirah International Nurseries (JINS)