Mr 5 is starting big school in 2 weeks time. He has his uniform, hat, shoes, lunch box....He is ready (even though I may be a bit emotional)!
Parents I speak with are often worried about how their child will cope with being at BIG SCHOOL! Their main concerns are usually social "Will they have anyone to play with?" "Will they sit by themselves at lunch time?" or sometimes about self care "Will they know when to go to the toilet?"
Kindy teachers are fantastic at helping children settle into big school. They will take them for walks around the school so they are familiar with the buildings, they will introduce class mates to each other (repeatedly), they will schedule regular toilet visits and give lots of reminders about how to sit, raise their hand and interact with other children.
As a parent there are a few things you can practise with your child in these few weeks before school starts to help the transition go smoothly.
(1) Practise getting dressed - Let your child "dress up" and play in their uniforms at home. Don't worry about getting them "dirty" - that's what the washing machine is for! In fact after a few washes a brand new uniform will be less stiff and more comfortable for the first day.
Encourage your child to practise fastenings such as zippers, clips, buckles and buttons. If they are struggling, show them patiently how to grasp and manipulate the fastenings. Sometimes children struggle with the fine motor coordination or using both hands together to manage fastenings. Practise now before the pressure of time hits on a school day!
Choose fastenings where possible which promote success. If your child is not confident with tying shoe laces, don't worry they will get it! Buy the velcro shoes and save everyone unnecessary stress!
(2) Practise getting food out (and not losing their lunch box)- There is nothing more stressful for a child than not being able to eat. Choose a lunch box which they can open and close independently. Check with your school if they need separate containers for fruit or morning tea. Make sure your child can open and close every container you plan to send to school. Label everything and help your child to identify their name and containers (especially if you have just bought them a new one). Use your containers on a picnic with your family and ask your child to identify which container belongs to them.
If you send it packaged food such as biscuits, sultanas or poppers, practise opening these as well. Consider transferring things into zip lock bags or brown paper bags which are easy to open.
Don't forget to practise opening and closing drink bottles as well if you want to prevent leakages through new school bags.
(3) Practise saying good bye to you - Keep it short and sweet. Don't linger and don't show your emotional response (a pair of sunnies is a good idea) to seeing your little boy (or girl) starting school. You could role play this at home. Set your child up at a little table to do some drawing and say "goodbye" and physically walk to another room. You could even reverse this and your child could be the parent dropping off their child (you). Remind your child that you will come back! You could even arrange a meeting spot if you know where they will be at the end of the day (eg. I'm going to come and pick you up from your classroom.)
(4) Practise social skills - Practise with people you meet at the park or friends you have visit. You could model for your child simple phrases such as "Hi, I'm Cindy, what's yours?" " Can I sit next to you?" "Do you want to play tip?" "I like your lunch box, I have Peppa Pig on mine".
If possible arrange a play date with other kids from the same school either before school starts or in the first few weeks. Avoid asking "Who did you play with? Did you make any friends today?". Instead ask your child, "Can you remember who sat next to you in story time? Can you remember who was in front of you when you lined up to go into class?" Even if they can't remember initially, as your child learns the names of other children in their class, they will be able to tell you.
(5) Practise sitting on the floor cross legged - Read books or play games at a low table with legs crossed. If your child isn't used to this position then it would help to practise! Help them not to lean on furniture or other children. Get bigger siblings involved with reading stories as the "teacher" to your child starting school. If your child has difficulty sitting cross legged, they may have difficulty with postural tone, low muscle tone, core muscle strength or sensory processing difficulties.
Start encouraging your child to sit with legs straight and stretch. You could sit with your feet up against their with your legs straight too. Work on core muscle strength activities such as sitting on a gym ball to watch tv, doing sit ups, wall sits and animal walks. If they continue to have difficulty with sitting cross legged, you may need to seek advice from an occupational therapist or physiotherapist.
(6) Practise asking for help - Use opportunities when visiting friends or relatives to encourage your child to ask for help. They could ask the grown up "Where is the bathroom?". This helps your child to look beyond their own parents for help. Sometimes we can anticipate the needs of our child but in a classroom setting, children need to know how to speak up especially when they need help.
(7) Practise going to the toilet - Encourage your child to lock the door when using the public toilet. You might need to show them what the door looks like when it is vacant and when it is occupied. Boys should be shown how to use the urinal or at least what a urinal is for. I've heard cringe-worthy stories of Kindy boys washing their hands in the urinal!
Always pack a spare pair of underwear and socks into the school bag (with a plastic bag) even if it has been months since your child has had an accident. School can be an intimidating environment for some.
I have been deliberate in not adding too many "academic" things to practise before school starts but have included these three (at the bottom of the list).
(8) Practise holding the pencil with a dynamic tripod grasp - Starting the writing journey with an efficient grasp will help your child to be confident with controlling their pencil. Read more about pencil grasps here!
(9) Practise writing their name with the correct directionality - This is something that is asked of Kindy kids repeatedly so if your child is aware of writing their own name or most of the letters, then they are off to a flying start. Always encourage them to use a capital letter for the first letter and then lower case letters following. Not sure of the direction yourself? The rED Writing app is fantastic for Australian school age kids as it shows parents and kids the correct directionality. Read more about the rED writing app here.
(10) Practise one to one correspondence - Encourage your child to point to one item at a time when counting or one word at a time when reading. Try singing the alphabet with your child whilst asking them to point to each letter individually. There are lots of kids who start school thinking "LMNO" is one letter. Show them lower case as well as capital letters. Help your child with the visual tracking to point to each item/letter/word. This an important skill for maths readiness as well as reading and writing.
Do you have a child starting BIG SCHOOL? Are they ready? Are you?
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Hi, I'm Cindy and I am an Occupational Therapist. I enjoy working creatively with children to see them reach their potential. Read more about me here.
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Disclaimer: The information on this site is general in nature and should be used for educational and entertainment purposes. The activities are safe for most children, however, you should consult an Occupational Therapist or health professional to address specific movement, sensory or other medical conditions. This blog does not replace formal therapeutic professional advice given by a health professional or medical practitioner. Reviews and endorsements of products will only be made based on my expertise and personal opinion; and deemed worthy of such endorsement. The opinions shared in sponsored content will always be my own and not that of the advertising company or brand. Content, advertising space or posts will be clearly identified if paid, affiliated or sponsored. Affiliate links may be found throughout this website in advertising. This means that if you follow through with a purchase from these links, Your Kids OT will receive a percentage of the sale. Your Kids OT undertakes to meet the requirements of the "Social Media Policy" as published by Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Further information about this policy can be found here.
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