After teaching elementary school for over ten years, I know a lot will be expected of our children once they walk through the doors each back-to-school season. Every year, I also see each child rise to the challenges while their independent skills rapidly grow. It’s hard not to worry whether your child can manage all the expectations of a school day but there are many things you can do at home to help.Here are my top seven tips to help set your child up for a successful start to the new school year:
Play Family Games
Classroom culture today puts heavy emphasis on collaborative learning. Playing board games and sports helps young children learn to take turns, follow rules, and work as a teammate. It can be especially difficult for a young child to lose a game but your support at home can help them manage their frustrations. Role model being a good sport by congratulating others on their win and also being empathic about a loss.
Learn Their Name
If your child doesn’t yet recognize their name, don’t panic. They soon will, but you can give them a head start at home. Write their name on pieces of paper, point out their name in books, and make a name poster for their bedroom or coat hook. While you’re at it, get labels for all of your child’s stuff! Lunch gear and clothing does get lost in the school yard and coat room so labels will help your child find any misplaced school gear.
Follow Multi-Step Instructions
When asked, can your child follow two or three instructions in a row? While teachers do their best to break down instructions into manageable chunks for children, there are a lot to give in a day. Help your child learn to remember and follow multi-stepped instructions, by practicing! Ask them to tune into your requests by looking at you and even repeating them back. Then send them off to try!
Start to build more opportunities for independence into your child’s day. At school, your child will be using the washroom alone, switching their shoes and getting into their outdoor clothes], and managing their lunch. It’s okay if they can’t do it all yet but they more they can the easier their day will be; their teacher will be grateful. Choose one skill to focus on every 1-2 weeks, gradually withdrawing your assistance until your child can do it themselves. And of course, once they do, celebrate their accomplishments!
Read About School
Books are a great tool to give children words to go along with their emotions and situations. Visit the library or bookstore to find books about the first days of school. Don’t shy away from books that mention a problem happening as seeing how a character resolves a problem and moves on is helpful to young children. After reading the books, you may find your child begins to ask more questions or express their worries about school. Use these conversations to acknowledge their fears and brainstorm ideas together on how they might cope with them.
Set A Bedtime Routine
Young children require around ten to thirteen hours of sleep a day. It’s noticeable when children are regularly tired at school, often their attention span and frustration levels take a dive. If summer has derailed your child’s bedtime routine, begin to scale back bedtime in increments in the remaining weeks before school starts.
Visit The School
Part of being afraid is a fear of the unknown so help ease the back-to-school fears by visiting the school, even if you can’t go into the classrooms. Play in the school yard several times before school begins, walk around the school to explore it, and drive or walk the path your child will be taking. You may even take some photos and print them to make a little book about the school. Finally, when you’re talking to your child about school, help them feel ownership over it by calling it ‘your school’ and they’ll soon begin to feel it’s true!