Back to School Time will be here before we know it! Is your family ready? With a little more than 4-6 weeks to go, I wanted to share a few tips with you in hopes to make the transition an easier one for you and for your family.
As an early childhood educator, it has been my experience that being proactive is always better than being reactive in this case, especially if you have one going to school for the first time. If this is you, start now planning days away from your child. Great ways to do this are to schedule play dates over at a friend’s house, enroll them in a summer camp/program, register them for a Vacation Bible School, sign them up for art classes, tee ball, soccer, dance, etc, or anything that will give them the opportunity to interact with other children and adults without your presence. These activities will help to build their self-confidence and self-assurance in knowing that the world still goes around without mom or dad close by.
I know that leaving your little one for the first time can be a heart-wrenching event, but NEVER let them see or feel discomfort or fear come from you. Your positive reactions will set the stage. Nevertheless, realize it will be hard for them, and no matter how hard it may be, my best advice is to hug them, kiss them, tell them you love them, and that you will be back for them. Then WALK AWAY and do NOT look back. Having taught kindergarten many years, I have had plenty of experience with pulling children from parent’s arms, and it is the hardest thing in the world. Most of the time, in my experiences, after five minutes they have forgotten their tears and have begun to play and learn with new friends with a smile on their face. Believe me, if they do not settle soon, you will be hearing from someone. I assure you.
One more piece of advice that I have in this instance, is the first day may be picture perfect; but the second, third, or maybe even the fourth day may not causing all kinds of chaos and confusion. In this case, revert back to my previous advice; and, please know that they are going to be a more independent and learning-loving child having experienced it.
Academically, the best thing you can do for your child entering school for the first time is to teach them to write their first (at least) and last name (first letter capitalized and the others lower cased) and to recognize their written name. These skills are so important!
Secondly, if you aren’t already READ, READ, READ to them or with them. Reading with your children is so fundamental to their learning to read independently, Not only does the sound of the written word help develop basic reading skills, but it also builds concentration and longer attention spans.
Thirdly, it is always a great idea if they are able to recognize all 52 letters (upper and lower case) of the alphabet, numbers (1-20), shapes, and colors.
Lastly, please allow them opportunities to practice using scissors to cut paper safely, coloring with crayons, writing with a pencil, and gluing with a glue stick or with liquid white glue, and properly operate a computer or tablet because classrooms use such technologically now.
If you have older children, it is important to encourage reading for a set amount of time daily. A great way to incorporate this is to schedule library days where they are allowed to choose books that interest them. Be sure to read with them; because it is always a good idea to let them see you reading. However, don’t limit children to just books. Magazines, newspapers, recipes, or even instructional manuals for building rockets will help them flourish as fluent readers.
With other academic subjects such as math, science, writing and history is to give your children opportunities to cook using a recipe, count money, set weekly grocery budgets and shop with you to compare prices. Encourage them to write creative stories, book reports or letters to Grandma make volcanoes, build with blocks or create models with other materials. Visit local museums, banks, courthouses, historical sites, etc. The Internet has a plethora of ideas for you to select from that will assist in building their skills in these academic areas.
Lastly, activities such as boy or girl scouts, martial arts, sports, music or art lessons, church camps, and play-dates are all exceptional ideas to instill good social and life.
Finally, remember we all need down-time. Too much is just that; and the effectiveness of these activities can be lost altogether. The best advice I can leave you with is just to have fun! Every interaction you have with them presents an opportunity for them to learn something whether it be a social skill, a life skill, a problem-solving skill, or an academic skill. Just knowing that you have given them the best gift you have to offer them, your time, is the most important thing you could ever do. Good luck and best wishes for a wonderful school year!