We usually find lots of resources on how to take care of and raise babies, toddlers, and teens, but it’s rarer to come across topics about how to support the needs of school-age children. Many may view this stage as an easier phase in the children’s lives, but when it comes to parenting, we really should pay attention to every step of their development and make sure that their developmental milestones and socio-emotional needs are being fully met.
When can my child start school?
In Australia, attending primary school and secondary school is compulsory, usually between the ages of 6 and 16. However, schools’ compulsory school age entry requirements vary depending on the jurisdiction. In general, including pre primary school, the compulsory school starting age is 5 years old. For primary school, a child can start at age six.
The tricky thing for parents in Australia is that every state seems to have different preliminary years and requirements, and they have various terms for the first year of schooling. Here’s a guide as to the cut off dates and other relevant details in the main states of Australia:
- VictoriaYear 1 is called Prep in Victoria, short for ‘preparatory year’. Children can start school on the first term as long as they turn 5 years old by April 30 that same year. For families in Victoria, their children should attend school before they turn 6 years old.
- QueenslandThe first year of formal schooling is also called Prep in Queensland. To enrol in Prep, the child should turn 5 by the 30th day of June in the enrolment year. In Queensland, you can delay your child’s education by 1 year if you feel like your child is simply not ready. You can start the following year, but if you choose to delay, the child will still begin at Prep class in their first school year.
- Western AustraliaIn WA, they call Year 1 Pre-primary. To enrol on pre-primary, the child should turn 5 years old by June 30 that year.
- South AustraliaThe first year of formal schooling in South Australia s called Reception. The students can join the first term as long as they turn 5 years old by April 30 of that enrolment year.
- TasmaniaThey also call it Prep in Tasmania, and to enrol, the kids should be 5 years old by January 1 of that school year. The kids can also start kindergarten since it’s also available but not a part of compulsory schooling.
- Australian Capital TerritoryIn the ACT, they call year 1 Kindergarten. To enrol they should be 5 years old by April 30.
- Northern TerritoryThe first year of schooling is called Transition, and the kids can start if they are 5 years old by June 30 that year.
In all Australian states, compulsory schooling starts at 6 years old. The primary school and secondary school run for 12 years in total. The government has lots of programs in place to support families and improve the educational system in the country. Home schooling is also an option.
Enrollment in a public school – Department of Education
Every child in Australia can enrol at a government school near their area. The following are some of the requirements for public school enrolment in Australia:
- Birth Certificate or other identity documents
- Proof of Address
- Immunisation history statement
- Family law and other relevant court orders, if applicable
- If the child has special medical or support needs, bring copies of the healthcare/medical or emergency action plan
Temporary residents can also enrol. They just have to secure their travel documents, passport, previous visas, and current visa, if applicable.
School-age Children Development
School-age children can basically cover grade school and high school, and the children go through a lot of changes and development during this span. From middle childhood to puberty to adolescence, but for this article, let us focus on the growth and development of 6-12-year-old kids. Let’s also explore their milestones and development according to age group.
- Their growth rate starts to slow down
- Needs 11 hours of sleep every night
- Needs lots of rest
- Has already established which hand to use
- Runs, climbs, jumps, slides, and dances
- Plays tag, catch, and ball
- Better writing skills
- Dresses and undresses self independently
9- 12 Years
- Proportions start to become adult-like
- Develops larger and harder bones
- Gets sick less often
- Very active
- Starts to develop secondary sex characteristics
- Growth spurt begins
- Small muscles well developed
- Refined writing skills
- Eats neatly
- Can do skating, gymnastics, bicycling, tennis, football, and other organized sports
- Has already mastered consonant s and z, r, voiceless wh, ch, th, and the soft g.
- Grasps opposite analogies easily: man-woman, blunt-sharp, flies-swims, short-long, etc
- Able to tell the time
- Does simple reading and writes many words
- Improved language skills
- Starts to use reference books
- Enjoys reading aloud
- Able to adjust vocabulary and language to fit an audience, purpose, or topic
- Builds vocabulary from leisure reading and textbook
- Able to give precise instructions for complex tasks
- Tells stories in formal storytelling style with the use of story elements, proper voice and mood, and descriptive language.
- Exhibits proper body language and demonstrates effective listening skills
- Can use various simple and compound sentences of different lengths
- Able to ask complex questions
- Seeks detailed answers
- Understands and accepts rules
- Establishes longer attention span
- Likes competitive and active games
- Draws symbolic pictures
- Enjoys collections and hobbies
- Enjoys experiments
- Likes playing with dolls, blocks, or tools
- Understands the concepts of time, space, and dimension
- Better memory, attention span, and impulse control
- Detects problems and works out their corresponding solutions
- Draws conclusions based on observation
- Capable of thinking hypothetically
- Lears to generalize conclusions
- Likes factual information
- Becomes more goal-oriented
- Interested in building things
- Enjoys new learning experiences
- Applies simple math and science concepts to daily life
- Spends hours on crafts and hobbies
- Better thinking abilities and memory
- Starts to become more abstract
- Understands money and its value
- Appreciates humour and word games
- Knows the date, name of the months, and days of the week in order
- Develops increased interest in their hobbies and inclinations that could be their source of motivation
- More conscientious and cooperative
- Understands how their behaviour affects others
- Desires approval and support
- Can be jealous of others and their siblings
- Asks permission and follows directions
- Likes to play and work with others
- Prefers friends usually their own age and sex
- Has a desire to please
- Likes copying adults
- Forms sex-role identity
- Respects others’ properties
- Expresses anger and frustration more verbally than physically
- Boys quarrel more and use physical force as compared to girls
- Enjoys imaginative and elaborate role-play situations
- Desires independence
- Desires group acceptance
- Begins to function more independently
- Becomes less self-centred
- Becomes moody as puberty starts
- Quarrels often
- Is often sensitive
- Gets along with others well
- Enjoys making new friends and finds a best friend
- Shows loyalty to peers and mimics peers
- Starts to get embarrassed to show affection to family members in front of peers
- Resents criticism
- Develops a sense of right and wrong
- Better self discipline
- Starts to feel self-conscious in terms of sexual development
- Behaves appropriately in various social situations
Parenting Tips for Those with School Age Children
School age children are going through lots of changes, and as they spend more time away from home, they start to develop their own identity and personality. Their bodies are changing quickly and growing stronger, and they are in the process of learning to control their emotions, solve problems, and use reason.
While structure and rules are important, parents’ love and support can mainly be the things school age children need to thrive and develop holistically. Here, we’ll talk about how parents can support their school-age children’s physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional growth.
Supporting Their Physical Development
At this stage, the children are already establishing strong and smooth motor skills and can use sports equipment easily. However, other physical abilities like their sense of balance, coordination, endurance, strength, and fine motor skills may widely vary. They will also have differences in terms of weight, height, and build. The children’s genetic background may play a big role in their overall physical development, but there are other aspects that are within your control as parents– exercise and nutrition.
As parents, it’s important to not allow children to succumb to sedentary habits that are now the leading causes of heart disease and obesity among many children in this day and age. Do your best to encourage at least an hour of physical activity every day.
As they go through secondary sex characteristics such as breast development and underarm and pubic hair growth, parents should be there for their children to discuss normal body changes that they might initially find scary. It’s important to set a non-judgmental line of communication when talking about puberty, allowing children to freely ask questions and honestly giving them the answers they need.
When discussing reproductive parts, use the correct terminology and anatomical terms to properly teach children normal human development. Instead of telling your children what they’re thinking and feeling, ask them and be there to listen to them expressing their feelings, thoughts, and concerns. Keep the conversation going and the line of communication open as it’s all going to be an ongoing process of helping your child understand what is normal and making them feel that you are there for them every step of the way.
Supporting Their Cognitive Development
School age children’s thinking abilities become more and more sophisticated as they get exposed to new places, ideas, schools, and people. Their ability to learn in abstract ways and their better focus and concertation can help them grasp complex concepts more easily.
However, cognitive development can be unique to every child and not everyone develops in the same way or at the same pace. You can, however, check the following red flags in terms of cognitive development:
- Lacks understanding of basic concepts like shapes, colours, numbers, and letters
- Extreme frustration when dealing with school-related activities and assignments
- Inability to follow instructions or rules when it comes to tasks or games
- Persistent inability to concentrate
Parents, caregivers, and adults may ignore students who experience cognitive difficulties and may choose not to intervene as they might wrongly think that the performance might just be due to mood changes and child behaviour, but middle and early adolescent children should be supported especially if you detect signs of antisocial behaviours, acting out, and inability to stay engaged in academic tasks.
Talk to your pediatrician as they can help perform developmental screenings that can help you find a specialist or a community if necessary. Local school districts and the local department also have free child development evaluations that parents can make the most of.
If your child does not have serious cognitive issues as they attend school, there are still many ways to further help them advance their cognitive abilities and education. The simple yet effective way to do that is to encourage thinking and play. School age children can effectively learn and think through free play. Play ideas include board games, singing songs, outdoor games, reading, puzzles, museum visits, and even cooking.
Digital play is okay as long as it’s regulated. Choose high-quality apps and if possible, use screens with your child. Manage screen time accordingly to avoid harming your child’s ability to pay attention. The recommended screen time for school age children is 1-2 hours of non-educational screen use per weekday and 3 hours for weekends. It’s also ideal to help children develop the habit of turning off screens during mealtime and family outings. Parental controls are necessary as screen time can really harm the cognitive abilities of children and cause further problems like delayed learning, impaired social development, sleep deprivation, eye and body strain, weakened emotional judgment, and more.
Supporting Their Socio-Emotional Development
Having a strong foundation in terms of social and emotional development is crucial for helping children become successful in school and in life. The core element of children’s social and emotional development is ‘relationships’. A child’s ability to create and maintain relationships, especially as they start school, is something we should foster. You can easily detect a child’s socio-emotional skills by seeing how they make and keep friends. It’s important for children to broaden their social and emotional horizons beyond the home setting in order to experience the outside world, shape their self-confidence, and create their own social support system. As parents, we should be there for our children to help them manage their emotions and cope with stress. Here are some tips to help children manage emotions better:
- Always validate their needs
Never shun children’s emotions and temper tantrums and always acknowledge how they’re feeling, no matter how petty the cause of distress may sound to you. Let them know and feel that they’re seen, heard, and understood. Instead of solving their problems, just be there to listen to their frustrations and give them the chance to understand themselves and the world better by not taking charge. Forcing maturity can negatively affect not only their child development but also how they view and treat your relationship.
- Help them come up with their coping strategies
When kids feel intense emotions, they need coping strategies to manage the overwhelming feelings. The coping strategies can be anything that can help them regulate their emotions and find more peace and calm. Most children can relax if they have something to soothe their senses– something to see, hear, touch, taste, or smell.
- Model good behaviour
This is easier said than done since we as parents are imperfect human beings as well. But the goal is not to be perfect examples– just to be responsible ones. We need to be more responsible in terms of taking care of others and taking care of ourselves. That way, your kids can have a concrete example of a wonderful human being to emulate.
- Give your child full attention
More and more parents are stressed nowadays due to their duties at work and at home, and more families are becoming busy by the day. Being fully in the moment and paying complete attention to children is now becoming a rarity– with smartphones and the internet easily within reach to distract us non-stop.
However, you shouldn’t underestimate the power of giving children the attention they need. It helps them develop their sense of identity and self-esteem as they feel secure and valued. Respond and engage with your child with warmth and interest. Find something you enjoy doing together, and be fully in the moment in their school age years and beyond.
Since it’s not just about education and cognitive development and the kids’ socio-emotional development matter a lot, it’s very important to choose the right schools or childcare centres that can really support your child’s learning and development as they start school.
When looking for a childcare centre, visit the site and meet the teachers to really know the learning community and be aware of how the learning environment looks and feels. Websites like Space can easily help you find the ideal learning setting for your child. Just choose your suburb and you’ll instantly receive the search results of the childcare centres near you with pictures, descriptions, rates, inclusions, parent reviews, Google reviews and more. You can even send enquiries, book a tour, and process enrolments via the website which is a game-changer for busy families.
This stage is the Middle Childhood phase, which represents various changes in a child’s life. At this stage, the child can already dress themselves, develop physical, mental, and social skills quickly, and establish confidence and independence as they start to attend school and have a life beyond their home.
This represents the child’s early childhood years or preschool years. The kids go through a lot of physical, socio-emotional, cognitive, and language development during this stage.
These adjectives can be used interchangeably.