When a child begins school, it can be both exciting and nerve-racking – for the parents! We want our children to be happy, to make friends, and to do well. There are a few simple things you can do at home to prepare your child for the upcoming transition to school.
If you’re feeling a little wistful about your “baby” going to school, it’s best to put a smile on your face in front of your child. After all, if Mom or Dad think going to school is a sad time, what’s your child going to think? Talk positively about school and all the great things your child will be able to do, like go to the library, play outside, and meet new friends. You can also visit a bookstore or your local library to look for books about going to school that you can read together. Start creating excitement that will have your child looking forward to their first day!
Your child will be in a classroom with many other students. For some children, this transition is rather simple. For others, being in a busy room filled with children can be overwhelming. Playdates and activities like swimming lessons or soccer can help children get used to being with other kids and also provides them with opportunities to continue developing their social skills. Things like sharing and taking turns will be important skills for them to have when they’re at school.
It’s great if your child can recognize their name and even better if they can print it independently. Recognizing their name will allow your child to do things on their own like find their cubby or desk and keep track of their personal belongings. Printing their name will allow your child to label all the artwork they’re going to bring home to share with you! Now is a good time to take a look at how your child holds a pencil. Using cool tools like Noggins can help your child learn proper grip to prepare them for the new school year. Look for fun activities that will help strengthen this skill and they won’t mind doing the practice “work” over the summer!
It’s helpful for your child to be able to manage their own clothing, including tying their shoes, being independent in the bathroom, and dressing for the outdoors. Use the months leading up to school to practice these skills. It will also boost their confidence if they don’t have to ask for help quite as often.
Before school begins, think about what time your child will need to get up in the morning in order to be ready on time. You may want to start having them wake up at this time to prepare for them for their new routine. You can also consider what time they’ll need to go to bed each night to make their morning wake up call go smoothly and begin this routine as well. Be prepared to adjust bedtime if necessary once your child begins school. A full day of learning and playing can be exhausting!
Your child will need containers they can open easily when it’s time for lunch. You will also want to know what foods they’ll be happy to eat so they don’t come home hungry with a lunchbox full of leftovers. To make things easy and create less waste find some practical meals and snacks that your child will like and simply rotate them from week to week. You can begin practicing lunchtime routines together over the summer so your child can get used to having a lunchbox, opening and closing containers, and taking care of their belongings.
If you have the opportunity, attend your school’s orientation session or take advantage of a visit to the classroom. This will give both you and your child an idea of what to expect when they begin school. Simple things like knowing where the bathroom is, seeing the table where they’ll be eating, and checking out the learning centers in their classroom will help put your child at ease.
Attitudes about starting school can vary widely from age to age. But one thing you can always do is provide them with support at home. Hopefully these tips will help your child get excited about the new school year and give you a little peace of mind as well!
Written by: Erin Agnello
Edited & Designed by: Jamie Schmalenberger
Images by: Jamie Schmalenberger; Brgfx, Vectorpocket / Freepik
My name is John Haber. I’m a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and the founder of Nogginsland. I became a COTA in 2003, and then went back to school much later, receiving my Master’s Degree in OT from Mercy College in New York in 2016.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a variety of populations in different settings, from school districts, to developmental disability centers, to children’s hospitals.