There are many different things to think about when raising a child. Some things, such as budgeting and buying nappies are rather dull and others, such as having a genuine excuse to go and see the latest Disney Pixar movie, are pretty fun.
There’s no one size fits all to parenting and no two children are the same. Some kids pick things up quicker than others, whilst other children take a little longer to grasp certain skills. Having said that however, there are a few things that most parents should consider teaching their child before they reach school age.
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A healthy and balanced diet is something that can be instilled pretty early on. Pretty much as soon as your child can eat solids, you want them to be excited about healthy foods. This doesn’t mean you have to ban certain food groups completely as they get older, but teaching them to explore and enjoy healthy, natural foods is key.
Of course, at such an early age, a lot of it comes down to what they see you eating and what foods they have access to at home. So with this in mind, try and incorporate healthy foods into everyone’s meals and encourage healthy eating habits. Another fantastic way to start building a healthy and balanced appetite is to teach your child to grow their own food. By getting out in the garden and growing your own produce, you are giving your child a healthy dose of fresh air, helping to develop fine motor skills, encouraging curiosity and getting them excited about healthy foods. And as an added bonus, you get to spend some quality time with your kid.
Encouraging your child to mix with other children from a very early age will help them to develop so many skills. From practical things such as potty training to vital social skills like sharing and demonstrating kindness & empathy, allowing them to lean by socialising with other children will make a huge difference to their development.
How and when you do this depends entirely on your personal situation. If budget and logistics allow, consider sending them to an early education childcare centre at least once a week so they can socialise with other children in a structured environment. Or if you don’t have the means to send your child to a child care centre, try and organise playdates with children of a similar age. Whether it’s formal and structured or simply just a coffee with a parent friend whilst the children play, encouraging your child to play with other children will give their development a huge boost.
This doesn’t mean drilling them on maths times tables or expecting them to be able to speak five languages and play an instrument before they turn five. But rather, it’s about preparing them for school life in general. This includes basic skills we adults may take for granted such as organising a backpack, understanding what to do with a lunch box and socialising with other children. Again this is something the best child care and early education centres do as part of their curriculum. But if you don’t have access to this kind of service, then there’s plenty you can do at home to help them on their way.
As we’ve already mentioned, learning basic social skills such as sharing and playing with other children is key, But it’s also important to mentally prepare your child for school life. Normalise the concept of going to school by talking about it regularly way before the time comes to actually go. If you have friends with older children, join them on pick-up and drop-off days to familiarise your child with the setting. The main thing is to make them excited about going to school, rather than thinking of it as something to dread.
Preparing your child for school isn’t about intense lessons and impossibly high expectations. It’s just about making sure they are comfortable and equipped with the social, emotional and practical skills to enjoy school life and beyond.