Preparing children for school
The summer holidays will soon end, giving way to the beginning of yet another academic year. This academic year will be different from the past two years (fingers crossed). Young children will hopefully be able to go to in-person schools and experience all the wonders of making friends, playing and learning together.
The pandemic has kept us all indoors, snatching away opportunities for socialization and outdoor experiences from the little ones. If you are apprehensive about how your child will be at school, read on for some tips to help make the transition easier for you and your child.
Preparation is key
Start talking to your child about going to school and the changes they are likely to experience. If possible, take them to the school beforehand and show them the physical space. If not, use photographs to show them what school looks like.
If your child’s school is willing to share a photograph of their teacher, introduce the teacher’s name to your child and begin talking to them about it. Don’t force the conversation and stick to facts. For example – Don’t say, “The teacher will let you play all the time” (you don’t know if that is true).
Pro tip – Sit together with your child and make a little booklet with either photographs or drawings about how their day is likely to be once school starts. You can add one sentence under each photograph or leave it blank and explain it orally. The first page can have your child brushing, the second one can have them eating breakfast, the third one can have them ready for school, the fourth one in school and so on. Family members can take turns reading this book to the child (again, don’t force it but follow your child). Leave this book with the other books in the book corner and you will find your child browsing through it at their own pace and time.
Set a routine
Find out the school timings, if the school expects children to have breakfast and come if they expect the child to know how to independently use the toilet if children are expected to eat by themselves etc. and try to set the routine in the holidays to match the routine on school days. Children have a strong sense of order and might resist change, so you can start the preparation as early as possible. While setting the routine to match school days, begin by changing one thing at a time. You can use songs and routine cards to make this process a fun experience for your child.
Once you set the routine, work on helping your child start doing things independently. Start from a place of collaboration and work towards independence. For example, take the first task that your child does, for example, brushing teeth, and look at which parts of it can they can do by themselves and which part they may need help with. Can you provide a step stool so they can reach the sink? Can you pre-measure the toothpaste so they can start brushing by themselves? Can you give them a little glass for rinsing their mouth?
Other things children can do by themselves could be choosing their clothes for school the night before, packing their bag, setting the table for breakfast, dressing themselves and wearing their shoes. Remember that these tasks will take a while to master and please be patient with your child.