Adventures of Lil V

How to Prepare Your Child for Primary 1: Tips from a Mum

Wow! I can’t believe that it’s been more than six months since Vera transitioned from K2 to Primary 1! Just last year, I was thinking about what I should do to prepare her for Primary 1!

In fact, the Primary school registration was surprisingly quite a nerve-wrecking one for us too. I had the idea that it would be easy peasy, but I guess, reality proved otherwise =X

As promised, here are my tips as a mother who has been through that rite of passage to get my child prepared for her new schooling milestone! Sorry to keep you waiting. I guess, it’s the best time to read this now because, mummy and daddy, you have several months to prepare your child for his/her Primary 1 adventure! :D

how to prepare for primary 1
Counting down to Primary 1 with a cup of babyccino on New Year’s Day 2020!

Prepare for Primary One: Do’s and Don’t for Parents

I suppose in Singapore where academics is a key priority, many parents have schoolwork-related questions in their minds. Such as: What should a primary one child know?  How do we know if our child is sufficiently, or, insufficiently prepared for her new schooling journey?

  • Academics expectations and the Primary 1 curriculum

The six primary school years are compulsory for Singapore Citizens. In fact, after the primary one registration and balloting were done and dusted, reality finally sank in that our daughter was going to be a primary schooler very soon!

Like most parents, we were concerned if she would be well-prepared by her childcare. I mean, there isn’t a report book or tests of sorts at kindergarten, so our only feedback was through the bi-annual parent-teachers-meeting (PTM). In a way, we didn’t really have a firm understanding on what to expect at primary school – maybe except for the fact that she will need to know how to tell the time and count money? More on that later too!

But I know I had to trust that her childcare teachers were doing what was necessary to prepare her. Also, we didn’t believe in hot-housing our kids and pushing them to know wayyy more, so that when they enter primary one, it would be a bed of roses. That would actually backfire, and education experts are raising concerns too.

So, having been through that thought process and real experience, here are my tips: First, if you are concerned about your child’s preparedness and primary school readiness, talk to her kindergarten teachers.

Next, go to a bookstore like Popular or Times, to browse the Primary 1A textbooks for Mathematics and Chinese. Just the 1A. Only browse. Because the purpose is just to have a brief idea, that’s all. Also, take a peek at the Primary 1 assessment books available. Do note though that some are more challenging than others (particularly Math), and that’s not really the usual benchmark.

For English, her primary school does not use a specific textbook. Plus, I didn’t know that until we bought the books at the end of the year. LOL! So, for English, I would say that it’d be good if your child is able to read some simple words, and can understand instructions.

I don’t say MUST. I have friends (ex-primary school teachers) who decided against sending their daughters to any Phonics or reading program. That’s simply because they believed that the frequency of English lessons in primary school, plus positive peer pressure, these would lead to their kids eventually reading. Child-led and child readiness – points taken!

Guess what?

They were right, after all!

And now that I think about it – wasn’t it the same for most of us back in those days when Phonics enrichment classes, or, having to master reading before primary school was unheard of?

prepare for primary 1 reading phonics
Does anyone remember ‘Dan the Flying Man’?? I remember those big storybooks my teacher used to read to us! Imagine how surreal it was, when I found out that Vera was reading it in school too!

If you’ve been following us for sometime, you’d know that Vera has been attending Phonics class at My English School for 2.5 years now. After reading our Phonics enrichment review, you’ll know that the idea of sending her was highly child-led. In turn, we hope to encourage her to develop a reading habit and to be able to read independently. That’s all! :D

  • Addressing your child’s concerns and thoughts

Graduating from K2 and moving onto P1 is a grand move for you and your child! Most childcare centres and kindergartens in Singapore celebrate the graduands’ new phase with a K2 graduation concert. Vera’s graduation concert was an exceptionally memorable one for us because we almost missed it. In fact, we had to rush back to Singapore with a big hole in my pocket. haha. *sob*

transition from K2 to P1 in singapore
The first month of primary 1 was pretty fun! They did colouring and drawing, which were then used to decorate their classrooms. How lovely to see their own creations in school, everyday!

For your young child, having to say goodbye to her friends and stepping into the unknown would surely bring on some primary school anxiety. I remember Vera flickering across the spectrum of feeling excited for primary school on some days, and feeling sad that she probably wouldn’t get to see her childcare friends again.

It does help to talk to her about how she felt about leaving K2. It was also nice to say “goodbye” and take some keepsake photos with her classmates during their school’s Christmas party. We prepared little goodie bags for her friends and “Thank you” gifts and cards for her teachers too. With this, I’d say it’s good to involve your kiddo too.

Although her teachers have already talked to them about what to expect at primary school, parents should also keep the discussion going at home to better understand how our kids feel. K and I talked about our own primary school experiences, the friends we made (I’ve known my best friend since I was 7 years old! And am still in touch with my other Primary 1 classmates too!)… we talked about buying food during recess, which obviously got her VERY EXCITED!

If your child is very shy and an introvert, it would help to start getting familiar with the new school’s environment and culture too. More deets below on how mummies and daddies can help to prepare for Primary 1 and make it fun!

  • Getting familiar with the primary school to tackle anxiety and prepare for Primary 1

If you are applying for the school in person, it would be an opportune time to bring your child along for the registration process. With that school visit, Vera was there to see the school hall, climb the stairs to see where the library was, check out the canteen (so important for her haha!), know where the bookshop is etc.

It is possibly the only chance the public can visit the school on official business. Understandably, strangers are not allowed on regular days.

We attended our primary school orientation in November, and that allowed our daughter to step foot into the school’s premises once more.

While the parents attended a talk at the hall, students were led to their classrooms to meet their would-be teachers and classmates. She might even make a new friend too! It does help to get some familiarity going even if your child knows nobody else. So I’d say, do make it a point to attend the orientation session!

Our next chance to visit the school was when we had to buy the books and uniforms!

  • Teach your child some important life skills and learn to be independent

Going to school exposes a child beyond academic learning. In fact, schools are mini versions of the real world. As she moves to primary school, she will also realise that she needs to be more independent – it’s not going to be possible to rely on the primary school teachers who will treat them as “big kids”. In fact, my daughter’s form teacher told her to change her water bottle to a straw-less one. Haha. A “hurried-up growth”? But that’s how it is.

So what are some other life skills that would help a P1 kid transition better?

Learn to clean own bums after pooping, be able to order food from a stranger with clarity, encourage your child to raise her hands to ask for help/questions in class when she’s stuck or needs help, understand that she needs to follow rules and instructions in school, learn to tie her hair, take ownership for homework and belongings and more!

  • Counting down to Primary 1: buying textbooks, uniforms, school bags and packing snacks!

We bought her school books and uniforms in December. Preparation for P1 was almost completed!

The process is straightforward. Simply use the book-list provided by the school admin, then head to the bookstore to get your set of Primary 1 books and stationery including Art supplies. Alternatively, some parents prefer to buy from Popular bookstore as there are some discounts for Popular members. The quickest way is to get them at the school’s bookstore because different schools have varying sets of books required. And, the school bookshop would definitely have EVERYTHING needed, so that was convenient for us.

Tip: The pre-cut plastic book wrappers were helpful to use, so we could save time cutting out from a roll of plastic. However, not all books could fit in that set of varying sizes.

primary 1 textbooks for singapore schools
Some of the school textbooks we bought for the new educational years! Preparing for Primary 1 involves a book list now, unlike in kindergarten.

We were advised to label all her belongings too. That includes each pencil and book. We used Vera’s old set of name sticker labels, which have lasted since her Playgroup days!

For school uniforms, it would be good to bring your child with you to check their sizing too. Similarly, we got them together with her books at school. Do check the stipulated timings where the bookstore and uniform supplier are opened before heading down!

For PE attire, if it comes with a house colour, make sure you buy the right one. I think we bought 4 sets in total after realising that they need it more frequently on certain weeks lol! For school uniforms, it would be good to have at least 3 sets for rotation; depending on how often the laundry is done. Otherwise, 5 sets for the weekdays!

The other topic that my friends and I were discussing for awhile – which school bag is suitable for a Primary 1 kid? Is an ergonomic school bag necessary? Would the total weight of the school bag and books be too tough to handle for our young ones? Our kids are pretty average in height, but ergonomic school bags are huge on them! In fact, they are more expensive and heavier than regular school bags too. Thank goodness, we mentioned “school bag” for Vera’s Christmas present. That was nicely sorted so she received a bag she could use for school, instead of another unnecessary toy.

prepare for primary 1 ergonomic school bags
Do our kids need an ergonomic school bag like Dr. Kong or Impact? We tried on some Dr. Kong bags that were selling through Pacific Bookstore at our primary school.

Oh yes! The other observation my husband and I had on their first day of school – so many kids had the same Smiggle school bag! HAHA. That said, it’s easy to grab the wrong bag if your child’s classmates have the same bag too. #justsaying

Is packing snacks necessary? The answer was ‘Yes’ because it’s in our school timetable. LOL. We’ve always been trying to get the kids to eat healthy (because of their health and more). I know it’s a headache planning and preparing their snacks, so I’ve put together a LOOONG list with over 80 snacks ideas and what to pack for recess to make it easy for parents!

So, getting a leak-proof lunchbox for snacks became another item on the list. Seems like endless things to buy, right?! Thankfully, that Christmas wish list came in handy to help us prepare for Primary 1… hehe…

So parents, make the most of this Christmas gifting especially when family members ask what your kids want, okay? :D

  • Sorting these matters before starting the new school year: school bus, after-school care and more!

More things to think about would include: your child’s transport to school and back home. If your child needs the school bus, our local primary schools have assigned school bus operators for arrangement. It would be a good chance to find out the rates too. To address the common question – YES, we’ll pay for 12 months of bus fees even with just 9.5 months of actual schooling days.

mum's tips how to prepare for primary 1
Prepare for primary 1: the schools fees are wayyyy more affordable than childcare, especially if your kids are Singapore Citizens. We could finally save some dollars from their monthly school fees!

If the rates are too astronomical, or, bus drivers don’t pick kids in your area, I’ve heard resourceful parents arranging their own transport to share with fellow families in the vicinity :) This way, they get the dedicated transport at friendly prices that are split with the other kids.

Alternatively, if parents or another caregiver can help with ferrying your kids, that would help save on the school bus fees. However, mummyGrab or Ah Gong would need to know the dismissal timings, what time and where to wait for your kids. Traffic jams during the mornings of school days and dismissal timings can be quite crazy! If you need to pick up or send other kids too, it takes careful planning, for sure!

With your primary schooler’s transport sorted, how about his after-school care arrangement? If there’s nobody at home, some alternatives include student care services (some primary school have it at their school premises. Otherwise, it’s like choosing a childcare again), or sending him to the grandparents/other caregiver’s home.

Are there primary one preparation courses to attend? Haha, yes there are. And, yes, it did cross my mind to attend. But I didn’t, simply because I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, and well, we made it through different stages in life without all those preparation courses… so… It’s all about adapting, adjusting and going with the flow sometimes, isn’t it? :P

Oh yes! I was supposed to share my experience about teaching Vera how to tell the time, and, counting money, right? I’ve to admit we’re pretty slack. She was able to tell the time before Singapore’s Circuit Breaker was implemented due to COVID-19.

As for dollars and cents, she has not fully grasped the money concept. Then again, she hasn’t gone hungry because of that. So, I suppose, she’d figure it out soon. Hee. #dontjudge Oh, and when picking a wallet for your primary schooler, choose one that is lightweight, small and can be taken in and out of the pocket of their uniform. To be honest, it would be good to get that sorted soon so her confidence is built – all part of why we need to somewhat prepare for Primary 1, right?

With these mummy’s tips on how to prepare for Primary 1, I hope you and your child will ace the transition smoothly without tears! Feel free to share your tips how getting yourself and your child ready for the new schooling adventures!

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