Is my child ready for school?

What communication skills are needed for your child to have a smooth start to school? As speech pathologists, we play an important role in working together early childhood educators and parents to support children to meet their understanding and speaking developmental milestones. Let’s look at some of these key communication skills and read on to see tips on how you can continue to support your child to develop these important life skills!

1. Listening Skills

Listening skills are vital in and out of the classroom – to understand what is being taught in the classroom, completing tasks and getting along with peers. Listening is not the same as hearing. To be a ‘good listener’, your child actually needs multiple skills to work together including focus, self-regulation, working memory and receptive language skills. As speech pathologists, we focus on the receptive language skills – being able to understand the words, sentences and non-verbal language that is being communicated to you. When children are ready to start school, we like to see that they can:

  • follow three part instructions (e.g., put on your shoes, get your backpack and line up outside)
  • understand time related words (e.g., ‘before’, ‘after’, ‘now’ and ‘later’)
  • start thinking about the meaning of words when learning
  • understand instructions without stopping to listen
  • understand ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’,’why’ questions and respond appropriately
  • understand complex sentences (e.g., The boy was chased by the dog because he took the dog’s food)

2. Speaking skills

For your child to convey their message verbally, they need to use the correct speech sounds in words and use words and phrases in the correct order (e.g., He gave me the sandwich = He gave the sandwich to me) vs with word endings to indicate tense (e.g. I will walk to school vs I walked to school). When children are ready to start school, it is likely we will see them being able to:

  • use well formed sentences to be understood by most people
  • tell simple, short stories with a beginning, middle and end
  • use past and future verbs correctly (e.g., ‘went’, ‘will go’)
  • say sentences using the correct grammar with only a few errors
  • use complex sentences using words such as ‘because’, ‘but’, ‘then’, ‘and’
  • use most speech sounds, but still have difficulties with ‘r’, ‘zh’ and ‘th’

3. Social skills

Does your child understand the unspoken rules of communication? Understanding and using social rules includes knowing about appropriate eye-contact, non-verbal language (e.g. smiling when you are happy with someone, or pointing when you are showing someone something interesting), personal space and taking turns in increasingly longer conversations.

4. Early literacy skills

We all know that supporting our children to become literate adults is one of the primary goals of school. But there are many skills and many steps prior to our kids achieving reading success and some of these skills are naturally developed before kids start formal schooling. Most children will:

  • show an awareness that some words start and finish with the same sounds
  • begin to recognise some letters, sounds and numbers
  • understand and use rhyming words

What can I do?

Talking

  • Explain harder, more sophisticated words eg. famished; ferocious (read more about vocabulary here)
  • Help your child in their own story telling – whether it’s a retell of a book they have read or their own story
  • Use different linking words in the right way – for example, ‘because’, ‘then’, ‘now’, ‘when’, ‘before’, ‘while’ and ‘although’

Reading

  • Read stories that are longer and more detailed. Talk about the characters, the setting, the characters’ feelings, the events in a logical sequence.
  • Point to words as you read and talk about language concepts such as words and sentences and print concepts such as letters, spaces, reading from left to right and top to bottom.

Playing

  • Play games like “I Spy.” Describe something you see, like, “I spy something round on the wall that you use to tell the time.” Let your child guess what it is. Let your child describe something he sees. This helps him learn to listen and to use words to talk about what he sees.
  • Continue with pretend play with more complex storylines. Maybe the prince has to overcome a number of obstacles before he can save the princess.

Can Little Birdie Books help? YES!

Our 6 month membership is designed for families to enjoy together by pairing one picture book with a parent reading guide and play activity every month that will make reading, talking and playing together engaging, special and nourishing to your child’s communication skills.

Thanks for hearing our call,

Your Little Birdies

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