Ok, so the annual panic for Primary 1 registration is here again. One year ago, we went thru a nail-biting episode – complete with ‘Toto’ Balls and the monotonous announcer – Yes, we went through the dreaded school balloting! But truth be told, surviving the P1 registration is just the tip of the iceberg. Whether you get the school of your choice or otherwise, your child will be in a school and, from experience, beyond the registration process, there’s a whole host of things you need to do to prep your child for what’s to come, most of which had to do with forming good habits, setting routines and building confidence. All these take time so don’t just fret over the registration bit, start preparing your little ones early for the eventual transition to ‘big’ school. Here are some things we did to prepare ours.
Choosing the right school is only the 1st step. What’s next?
1. Money Sense
Your child is eventually going to buy her own things. From food to stationeries etc. Six months before she Primary school, I had wanted to use monopoly money or print some ‘child friendly’ ones but eventually decided that if I wanted her to learn well, I might as well use the real thing. Let her see and feel and manage real money and I’m glad I did.
I set aside a bunch of coins, to a total of $5 in different denominations from 10 cents to $1 coins. I sterilized them (we all know money is dirty – literally and figuratively!) and put them all in a clean container – my control specimen! For notes, I used only $2 and $5 ones for a start.
We all learn well visually and children are no different. So I started drawing a ‘hierarchy chart’ of how, for example, five 20 cents lead to one $1 and how five $1 coins amount to $5 (and show the $5 paper note). Then I gave a few simple examples like, “ If this sticker costs 80 cents, how many 20 cents do you need?” At all times, the chart would be used to help her visualize (the maths lessons came in handy!).
The idea is to build confidence. So, start simple and affirm small successes. Gradually, proceed to the concept of receiving change. E.g. “If a pen costs $1.50 and you gave $2. How much should the shopkeeper return you?” By the way, I didn’t include 5 cents initially as the concept of halves might just make things a bit complex for a start.
2. Practice buying her own stuff (and the use of a Wallet)
Knowledge without application is virtually useless. Once she was able to grasp simple concepts of money, we would let her buy her own drinks and food whenever we went out. While using the ‘masak masak’ (toy cooking / food set) set to pretend play with Mommy and Daddy is fine, there’s nothing like facing the aunty selling drinks or the grumpy uncle selling noodles who may be pressed for time.
We would be just a step behind or next to her and assured her to try. We even insisted she speak in Chinese for her to see the relevance of her Mother Tongue.
Naturally, we had to swoop in to help her during her first few attempts. We even had to explain to the vendor what we were doing. It helped that we chose a time when the drink and food queue wasn’t long so that the vendor would not be too impatient. Eventually she did well. The idea again, is to build confidence and learning from mistakes is part of the learning process.
To get her excited and feel a greater sense of ownership, we brought her to choose her own simple wallet. It’s important that she learns to handle the notes and coins (especially the heavy coins). She was thrilled to assume this new responsibility.
3. Carrying her own food
This is my third point and you may wonder why they all seem to be related to the canteen. The canteen is one of the most stressful places your child will go to and usually it will be chaotic. She will have to learn to queue up, wait for her turn, buy her food, get the right change, keep the money well and then meander through the crowd to find a seat with her friends to eat the food…all within about 20-30 minutes.
While you may circumvent these through preparing food from home, eventually she will still have to learn. For me, there’s nothing like reality to build resilience.
At the hawker stalls which we frequent, we would get her to carry her own drinks and her own portion of food. We would be next to her telling her to focus, choose her path carefully, hold the tray firmly etc. We also kept reminding the daughter to eat quickly and talk after the food’s finished.
4. Telling Time
Ok, straying away from food and canteen but still somewhat related is the ability to tell time. Both on a digital and traditional clock face.
While we may buy a watch with a digital clock face for our child, the clocks around the school may have a traditional clock face so its important to teach our children to read both.
As we taught our daughter to read time, we realized it had another important benefit – helping her to prioritize and to have some sense of urgency in her daily routines. These are important attributes to develop. Your child has to learn to watch time, prioritize her activity and get ready for the next one. The class and the teacher may not have the time to wait. After all, the primary school classrooms will have far more students than her K2 class and the teacher has to manage more kids.
We bought a simple yet reliable Casio wrist watch for our daughter about four months before she entered P1. We let her choose one that she liked and she wore it almost day and night to learn to tell time and to adapt to a more time-based schedule.
There are many ways to teach your child to read time which can be found online or through books. Kindergartens and her P1 school may include that as part of their lessons but, like most life skills, it just makes it that extra special if it came from parents first.
5. Organizing and Packing
If you want to avoid yourself the stress of having your child say she has lost this and that in school or to tell you regularly that she has forgotten this and that then this is an important habit to develop.
While losing stationeries can be inexpensive (please don’t buy expensive stationeries for your child), it can be inconvenient. Worse is she loses important forms and letters from the school – yes, please do expect many letters informing parents of activities, payments, outings etc.
We started early insisting that Dana checks her own ‘outing bag’ for her water bottle, her wallet, her jacket, her tissues etc. before we leave the home. On the road, we also insist that she carries her own bag. For those of us who have domestic helpers at home, these tasks may usually be done by them so it is essential that this be delegated to our own children rightly so as it helps to teach self-responsibility and sense of ownership.
At home, Angie began teaching her how to organize her stationeries, her books and files etc. We got her a special file (with several tabs) where she would store school letters to parents. We bought separate pencil cases for her to keep her stationeries for home and for school. We created two compartments in our Ikea expedit shelf for her to organise her books from school.
6. Hygiene Habits
While we may hawk over our child’s use of the toilet and bathroom at home, in reality she would have to learn and apply good hygiene habits whilst in school.
The occasional toilet visits, changing for PE lessons or CCAs etc. are times where she would have to learn to clean herself, pack her clothes properly, wash her hands thoroughly etc…Angie started early by training our daughter to use public washrooms whenever we were out at the malls. Naturally, she would be there to watch over her to ensure that good hygiene habits are practiced.
Back home, we started her early to bathe herself (which she enjoyed especially with running water). She changed her own clothes and put the needful, like dirty laundry where they are supposed to go because we tell her that no one will be picking after her.
7. Setting Routines and Schedules
Homework? Yes, you bet. Slowly but surely they will come. It’s all part of schooling. Therefore, it is important to set aside time each day for your child to sit down to complete some seat work. This is in addition to other learning activities that your child may be already involved in such as swimming, piano or dance lessons etc. Help your child manage her time and tasks by coming up with a schedule she can follow daily.
Don’t forget that all important play time, family time and of course, time for naps (if necessary) and an early time to go to bed. Personally, we found that since she entered primary school, playtime and family time can be easily compromised or displaced by other ‘more important’ things like homework. We needed to protect those precious play and family time so that our child can have substantial contact and communication time with us.
This list is by no means exhaustive and we do not proclaim to be experts as our daughter is still learning and refining some of these skills and habits six months into her Primary 1 journey. But by starting early, it has certainly helped her and us to ease into this transition from K2 to P1. Along the way, there are certainly many more habits and skills she has to learn and acquire (such as making friends and managing peer pressure).
Entering Primary 1 is a major milestone both for your child. Affirm your child that she will thrive in the new environment and help her look forward to the change. During the school orientation, we brought Dana around the school to familiarise her with the important landmarks (like the General Office, library, toilets, canteen, school assembly area and her classroom). The evening before school started, we dressed Dana in her school uniform, drove her to the school gate where we took some photographs and prayed over her.
While many of us fret over the choice of school, let us remember that beyond that are larger needs which parents can play an important part in. It would be meaningful if parents can prepare our child to spread their wings in P1, yet rooted in the confidence that we will always be close by, giving them our moral support as they embark on this P1 journey.
To read what my wife and other parent bloggers have written on this ‘hot’ topic, do visit: