When my son Max was born almost four years ago, I made a bit of a promise to myself.
I didn't want to spend his first five years stressing about him getting ready for school. You know, spending every waking moment learning letters and numbers, trying to get him 'ahead'.
I made the same promise again when my daughter Georgie was born 15 months ago.
Learning is not just about ticking off the boxes. It's about feeling things and making discoveries for yourself.
It's a holistic philosophy that's being embraced in the world of early learning, in places like C&K. C&K has cared for more than one million children since opening its doors in 1907, and if there's one thing they've seen first-hand it's that focusing on social and emotional growth through play creates lifelong skills in under-fives - ones that go well beyond ABCs and 123s.
This learning philosophy is all about letting kids explore, be curious, solve problems and cooperate with others. And these foundations will last a lifetime. The role of teachers, at a place like C&K, is to help nurture a child's curiosity and build resilience and confidence through play.
So, for the last four years that's exactly what I've tried to do with Max, and now with Georgie, focusing on what I think are the five most important things needed before starting school. Here they are:
1. To embrace joy.
Now, that doesn't mean we steam-roll over sad feelings. In fact, we embrace the full spectrum of emotions in this house as research shows that if you need a good ol' cry, you should. It's healthy!
But I want both kids to find joy in the smallest of things. That could be picking flowers or playing with a bowl filled with bubbly water on the hot summer's day.
Why? Well, as C&K state in their curriculum, which focuses on uninterrupted play to encourage a positive half-glass-full attitude, that if you set the foundations for this mindset in pre-school children, then it leads to other positive character traits, like resilience and curiosity.
Research shows that optimistic children generally turn into successful adults. And I'm not talking about successful in terms of dollar. Success for us in our family is benchmarked at feeling fulfilled with our lot, from taking joy from the small moments in our day, and most importantly, on a bad day, believing "this too shall pass".
2. Sharing is caring.
"Please share!" is the most well-oiled verse for any parent in the first few years. For most of us, we're even saying it way before our little ones really understand what those words mean. I know that I did.
But why is it important to me? Well, it's part of learning to respect each other, and how to work together in a community.