As teachers we are often asked by our wonderful parents what they can do to help their children develop and learn, or 'prepare for school'.
Our advice? The very best thing you can do for your children is offer them love and offer them life.
Love, not earned, but felt!
We are not just talking about any old love, but unconditional and FELT love, the kind that a child does not have to earn or second guess.
If a child is secure in your love, they can feel totally safe and rest in it.
They can use their energy to explore and discover their world, rather than figuring out how to 'be good' to please Mummy and Daddy.
Felt love is expressed through time together, genuine words, and through moments that show your child you really know them and want them to be themselves.
Full attention, filling your child's emotional fuel tank and really hearing them shows love to a child in concrete ways.
There is no one way, and it is often a delicate balance.
Children want to be independent, yet acts of service have their place in showing love and care. Children thrive on making choices as long as they are age and experience appropriate ones.
Beach or park is a great choice for a preschooler, but staying at ‘kindy’ for a third year or going to primary school must be an adult decision.
Offering life to your child is about involving them in what you do. An adjustment to adult pace is needed but children want to experience the 'real'.
Children of all ages need large doses of nature, and uninterrupted time to play, to be and to lead the way.
Children need space to grow, permission to make mistakes and time to solve their own problems. They need role models of appropriate behaviours and the social graces they so want to get right. They need support, but rescuing them robs them of the chance to face life, to learn and to feel empowered.
Who are they?
We see an adult's role as supporting the natural development of the child.
In practice, this doesn't look like trying to fit their child into a school readiness checklist, but in observing who their child is right now.
Who are they? What interests them?
Once a passion is observed, prepare for it, and allow for it. If they are suddenly drawing voraciously then a beautiful area set up with everything they need tells them that they are loved and their passions matter. If it is books that thrill them, a library card and a wee reading nook say 'I see you. I see what you need'.
Allowing for passions conveys messages to our children and helps them grow and bloom in exactly the right way for them. Children know exactly what they need in order to develop.
It is okay to trust, to relax, to enjoy your child and this childhood that is over so quickly.
If your child feels loved, has been allowed freedom and feels part of this wonderful world, they will be prepared - not just for school but for anything!
(This article was adapted from a previously published blog post 'Love and life, the two ingredients for a thriving child')