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School bag ... check.✔
Lunch box ... check. ✔
Drink bottle ... check. ✔
Uniform .... check.✔
School shoes ... check. ✔
School socks .... check.✔
Stationery ... check.✔
It is "back to school" season in Australia and time to get organised with the "gear" needed for school. Time to check if those school uniforms still fit, if the lunch box isn't hiding in last year's school bag and if you have everything on the stationery list. Are you a "first time" school parent with a child starting "BIG SCHOOL" for the first time? What a time of mixed emotions!
More importantly than getting the "gear"... is getting our child's body and mind ready for the classroom and the demands of school life!
Here are 5 ways to get your child's body and mind ready for school!
1. Core muscle strengthening!
Core strength is the foundation for nearly every other developmental skill a child needs to perform their every day tasks. Core muscles can be considered "as the sturdy central link in the chain connecting your upper and lower body".* Core muscles describe both the muscles which assist with stability as well as those which enable trunk movement. **
Children need good core muscle strength to be able to participate in the classroom and playground to their full potential. It helps them with sitting posture at the desk, sitting cross legged on the floor, managing different gross motor skills (such as walking up/down stairs, participating in ball sports, playing in the playground) and much more. Whilst many children can do the activities I have just mentioned; sometimes their endurance and ability to do them for as long as other children is compromised if they have weak core muscles. This can lead to difficulty sitting still and concentrating, being unable to follow the teacher's instructions and becoming tired more quickly.
The Inspired Treehouse has some amazing resources to help your child with core muscle strengthening.
There are three awesome freebies you can access:
A special offer is currently available (29 January - 5 February) with over 40% off the "Ultimate Core Strengthening Bundle". (Please note the date will reflect US - EST time) This pack includes 52 pages of pdf-format downloads to help build a strong core foundation to support them during fine motor, gross motor and self-care tasks. Get your "Ultimate Core Strength Bundle" here.
2. Hands ready for classroom skills!
Hands are very busy in the classroom with writing, drawing, colouring, cutting, erasing, sharpening, pointing, crafting, etc. You can help to prepare you child's hands ready for the classroom by working on their fine motor skills and hand strength.
Find some great ways to work on these skills here:
* Fine motor skills
* Hand strength
3. Get fingers ready for handwriting fluency and pencil control.
A dynamic pencil grasp is often seen as the "ideal" grasp when holding a pencil for writing. More importantly, is the ability to control the pencil with a relaxed hand with the movement of the pencil coming from the thumb, index and third fingers... this is what makes the grasp "dynamic".
Find out more about pencil grasp here.
Find out more about pencil control and fluency here.
4. Learn the alphabet in a multi-sensory way!
Knowing the alphabet is the foundation to reading and writing. Depending on their age and stage of schooling, you can help your child to:
A multi-sensory approach means that your child may use their bodies together with their minds to learn. Some examples of this approach includes making letters from playdough, drawing letters in shaving cream, using a car to trace along a letter or using a ribbon wand to draw a letter in the air.
You may like to use resources such as my "letter roads" to help with a multi-sensory approach. Find the lower case letters here and the capital letters here.
For more ideas to support a multi-sensory approach, read about the ABCs of Active Learning.
5. Planning the week with a visual schedule!
Schedules are important so children understand what is going on and when things are happening. This is especially important for those starting school for the first time. As most kids are visual learners, a schedule that they can see and understand may involve pictures or photographs.
You can use a visual schedule to let your child know about certain requirements for school (eg. what to pack in their bag each day) and events that happen routinely (eg. assembly or library). You may not know the details yet to fill the visual schedule, but that is something you can discuss with your child.
A visual schedule is a great way to prepare minds ready for what is ahead. It helps with planning and organization skills that children will need for all their years at school. It also helps them to cope with change as the change of events can be identified in the schedule or discussed as "one offs" that happen (eg. swimming carnival day, school excursion, etc).
Read more about getting organized for school with a visual schedules here.
For older children, consider a colour coded visual schedule. Use different colours to segment different subjects. On Facebook, I recently shared Positive Special Needs Parenting's example of a colour coded visual schedule. You could help work on executive functioning skills by asking your child questions such as "How many subjects are there before recess?" "Which days will you need your sports bag?", "What do you need to do when the bell rings at the end of one subject?". Your child may also benefit from looking at a map of the school to work out where classrooms are located and the best route to and from classrooms and their locker. Use the same colour coding can help with the location of different classrooms and how that fits into their schedule.
Are you getting ready for school in your household? Do you have all the "gear" and have you thought about preparing your child's body and mind for the classroom?
* Publications, H. H. (n.d.). The real-world benefits of strengthening your core. Retrieved February 07, 2017, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-real-world-benefits-of-strengthening-your-core
** Khadir, S. A., Knight, K., Bras, S., Rhule, V., & Pagare, V. Core stability - Physiopedia, universal access to physiotherapy knowledge. Retrieved February 7, 2017, from http://www.physio-pedia.com/Core_stability
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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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