Preparing for the transition from daycare to school

Transitioning from daycare to preschool is one of the biggest milestones in any family and at TFK we feel that supporting children to make this transition successfully helps set the foundation for a lifetime of learning.

All the people in your child’s life have a part to play in helping your child successfully navigate this milestone, whether it is the early childhood, preschool, therapist, and carers.

Five skills needed by your child to make this transition:

  • Concentration & attention
  • Concepts – colour/shape/number
  • Self-care tasks
  • Fine motor skills
  • Social skills

Today I’ll talk about concentration and attention.

  • Attention is the ability to gain and maintain focus on a task.
  • When your child is concentrating, they can screen out external stimuli in order to engage in the task at hand.
  •   If your child can maintain attention, they can engage for long enough to repeat and this is necessary for learning any new skill.
  •  Attention allows a child to follow 2 step instructions.

How long should a 4-5 year old concentrate?

Child development experts say 4-5 year olds should be able to concentrate for 2-5 mins x their age. So you can expect your child to concentrate for between 8-25 minutes, maybe more, depending on their interest and the task. This is variable depending on:

  • Time of day
  • Distractions
  • Whether it is before a nap
  • The complexity of the task
  •  If it’s motivating to your child

Dr Neal Rojas M.D., a developmental paediatrician from the University of California says, “I tell [parents] that they will see a variation throughout the day.” “Attention span is elastic.”

Ways to help develop attention:

  • Start with 1 step instructions and get your child to repeat it back to you.
  • Play games with multiple steps, encourage your child, help set the rules.
  • Limit noise and distraction when first introducing new skills.
  • Keep increasing your child’s understanding of language (receptive language). This gives them the tools to understand new expectations and information.
  • Gain eye contact when you are making requests.
  • Use simple language and model (show) your child if necessary.

Ideas to help:

  • Strengthening of muscles – particularly core and arms/hands.
    • Wheelbarrow walks
    • Animal walks
    • Riding tricycle/bike/scooter
    • Swings
    • Playing with playdough
    • Ball skills
    • Wearing backpack in preparation for school
  • Schedules – to help prepare your child to understand what will happen next and help them be organised for the change.
    • Draw on a white board a plan of activities
    • Introduce an egg timer or give them a countdown
    • Write a list with them or use photos
  • Focused activities
    • Sorting objects by category (e.g. colour, shape, etc.)
    • Puzzles
    • Card games
    • Board games
  • Slowly increase distractions
    • Start doing tasks in silence
    • Limit distractions
    • Give attention to get attention – use creativity to interest your child in activities
    • Begin introducing white noise (e.g. static or radio)
    • Then classical music and commercials/talk back radio
    • Work up to being able to quietly converse with someone while your child finishes a task or get them to help with a task (e.g. unpack the dishwasher) while talking about the day.

Signs of poor attention:

  • Inability to focus on one activity
  • Gets bored before completing a task
  • Difficulty listening if any distractions
  • Problems with following instructions
  • May have trouble processing and remembering information
  • Fidgeting
  • Unable to sit still to finish an activity or listen to a book being read

When should I look for help?

  • If your child is anxious about doing some activities that require concentration
  • If they find it difficult to attend to a task for more than a few minutes
  • If they can’t play with their peers in small groups
  • If they find it difficult to follow 2 step instructions

If your child is having difficulty with attention:

  • Seek medical advice/speak to their teacher at preschool
  • Have an assessment done by an occupational therapist or speech pathologist

Keep safe, happy, and well,


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