As September looms upon us (sorry to bring that up), it is time to begin thinking about getting children ready to go to, or go back to, school. For some that means they will be falling back into fairly regular routines, while for others it means an entirely new and exciting experience! The best thing we can do as parents is prepare them as much as possible in the coming weeks.
During the summer months it is very common to become lax on bedtimes. After all, there is so much to do: traveling, visitors, campfire nights, and so on. So in the next few weeks it’s a really good idea to slowly start moving bedtime a little earlier by 15 minutes every few nights, until you get them back to their regular time. Just expecting them to quickly go from 11pm back to 8pm, for example, could be a very difficult transition. Overtired children have difficulty adjusting to new classes, new routines, new teachers, and new friends.
Another area that tends to fall by the wayside is our eating schedule. Often in the summer, because children are sleeping later they are also eating later. So again, this is a good area to start returning to routine. Otherwise, we run the risk that they will eat very little in the morning before school because they are rushed or simply not hungry. So this is another good thing to put back into practice a couple weeks before school starts. You want them to go to school well rested and well nourished.
For young children, especially those who are new to school snack or lunch routines, a terrific practice activity over the next few weeks is with their lunch boxes. It’s important for them to know how to open and close their containers, and where to put unfinished food, etc. Additionally, labeling everything is key!
First year at school? Here is what Vanessa Wiedeman, a Registered Early Childhood Educator, shared with me recently.
“The best prepared Kindergarten children are those who have strong fine motor skills. Children who have developed this physical skill will adapt more easily to classroom routines that can otherwise be overwhelming.
Fine motor skills for a Kindergartener involves the child’s ability to use a pincer grasp. A pincer grasp is when the child uses their pointer finger and thumb to grasp objects. Developmentally this occurs between 9 and 10 months of age, but takes years to perfect and in the classroom becomes complex.
In the Kindergarten room fine motor becomes more challenging because children must be more independent. This means they more often struggle with dressing and undressing, toilet needs, and lunch containers. Furthermore the curriculum will require that they start to copy letters and learn to write. Developing this skill in children should always be play based and fun. Play engages children and is a way to master their fine motor skills.
It is always fun to pack a picnic, even if you are just going into the backyard. Accustom your child to using their lunch bag and containers. The resistance of a twist off container, zipper on the lunch bag and lock containers are great tools for fine motor practice.
The ultimate material for fine motor development is play-doh. This fun and affordable activity strengthens the muscles of the fingers and when paired with tools will be engaging, and provide practice. Try using kitchen utensils, especially culturally themed, to create excitement and diversity. You can also add flavours, colour and herbs. For more of a challenge you can print or draw words and patterns, laminate them, and model how to make small balls or roll long pieces of play doh to cover the pattern.
If your child already has strong fine motor skills you can work on tracing with a pencil. The narrowness of a pencil can be a challenge and for this you can purchase different sized pompoms, place it under the child’s pinky and ring finger to help support the fingers and allow them to comfortably use the pencil.
The challenges and complexity of the classroom can be stressful, but if the child can respond appropriately it will create autonomy and support their ability to self regulate, which contributes to a lifelong successful learner.”
Enjoy the last few weeks of summer holidays, and Live Well!