I wrote a blog a few weeks ago outlining the ways you can help prepare your child for starting school. Hopefully now most children have had their first day and survived- phew! So how can we continue to support them as they navigate their way through the school day and come across situations that may be new or unfamiliar to them. The biggest challenge they will be facing on a day to day basis is the expectation that they will be able to do things for themselves. I have been there both as a teacher supporting children to become more independent and as a mum encouraging independence in all my children from a young age.
So here are my top tips for supporting your child through the first few weeks of school.
1. Getting dressed
They are going to be taking jumpers and cardigans off and putting them back on constantly during a school day. Help your child to do this independently by showing them how to turn the sleeves the right way round.
Getting changed for P.E is pretty much the entire lesson for the first few weeks, it can take the children a long time to understand that they need to stay in one place, they need to keep their clothes in one place and they need to know how to put their clothes back on again afterwards.
Encourage your child to help you when you are sorting washing, it is a no pressure environment for them to practise folding clothes. They can then transfer this skill to the classroom when they are changing for P.E and can keep their clothes in a small neat pile.
2. The dinner hall
It is often a very busy and noisy place to be and can be quite daunting at first. Your child will have to do a number of things they may never have done before. Firstly they will have to carry their plate or tray from the serving hatch to their table. If they have never carried a plate with food on it before then it is likely to end up on the floor. At home allow your child to carry plates of food to the table as a way to practise holding the plate straight instead of at an angle.
They may be expected to pour their own drink from a jug, this could be at snack time or at lunchtime. Again at home have a jug of water (small amount of water) on the table and encourage your child to pour their own drink. Isabel actually drinks a lot more if she has poured it herself and Megan is able to pour herself a drink under supervision.
They will be expected to eat using a knife and fork. Teachers and staff are usually on hand in the dinner hall to support them, however if your child is used to eating with a spoon and then is expected to cut up their dinner with a knife and fork, this can cause anxiety and stop them eating well. At home give them a knife, fork and spoon with their meal and encourage them to use the knife and fork with help.
Children find using a toilet in school very daunting at first. They are different to ones they are used to and some children will hold on all day in order to avoid using the toilet, or they will avoid going for so long that they end up having an accident. At home it is important to talk to your child about what to do when they need the toilet. They need to be able to tell the teacher that they need to go and that they may need help. They also need to know that it is ok to ask for help and their teacher is happy to help them.
4. Putting on a coat
I am going to share with you the best way for children to put on a coat, hoodie or cardigan from a young age with no help at all. This tip is also great for older children who struggle with putting their arms in coats especially after a lovely long hot summer where there has been no need for coats. Our second day back at school last week was cold and wet and so all the children were wearing coats. This trick can be taught at a young age, Megan is two and has been able to put on her coat for a long time. The video shows how to do it, the important thing is to hold the coat at the top facing outwards to start and then it won’t go wrong. Once your child has mastered this they will never again ask for help to put on a coat.
5. Tidying up
Every day at school there is going to be a ‘tidy up time’ at least three times a day. Your child will be expected to participate in this and work as part of the class to keep everything in its place. Things you can do at home to help are to give your child a specific task to do e.g. pick up all the puzzle pieces, put all the books in the book shelves etc. They will then be used to being given a task to do. You could have a particular song to play to help them to tidy up e.g. this song lasts three minutes so we will pick up toys until the song finishes. My children struggle with tidying up and it is something I am trying to encourage more of at home although Charlie is the youngest and probably the best at tidying up!
I hope your children continue to enjoy their first few weeks at school 🙂