It’s that time of year again; the kids are heading back to school! If you’re a seasoned pro with older children, you know the routine. But for younger kiddos who are heading off to school for the first time, kicking off the school year can be a scary transition. With one daughter entering pre-K and another starting kindergarten, I’ve been busy preparing two nervous little ones to leave the nest. Luckily, these five tips have helped turn their uneasiness into excitement.
Have an Ongoing Conversation About School
For the last month or so, I’ve been working the upcoming school year into conversation with both my girls. Kids (much like adults) are often frightened by the unknown. By talking about school beforehand, you’re introducing your child to the idea—while also putting a positive spin on it. I’m a big believer in reading books to help children make sense of any period of change. Not only does reading aloud nurture early literacy skills and communication, the American Academy of Pediatrics also says that it helps with social-emotional development. On a similar note, experts say that reading also teaches children empathy. In other words, reading together about a child who’s also nervous about the first day of school reinforces the idea that this is a totally normal way to feel. In addition to talking and reading, another great way to keep the conversation going is to mark the first day of school on your child’s calendar. Each day, have him or her count the days. This is the perfect time to talk with your child about their upcoming school schedule, which you should be able to find on the school’s website. For example, I’ve been explaining to my oldest how the car circle will work for drop-offs and pick-ups so that she’ll feel comfortable with all the commotion at dismissal. To make drop-offs smoother in the mornings, consider picking up a special cuddly toy that’s specifically designated to the car. Staying with the literacy theme, Clifford toys make an ideal option.
Make School Shopping Fun and Child-Driven
One thing that got my kids really revved up for school was the shopping. Try incorporating them into the process as much as possible. Sure, hitting the school supplies aisle with kids in tow isn’t exactly the most stress-free activity (I was tempted to leave them with my husband and knock out their shopping lists on my own), but allowing them to take part in it was worth it. Start by reviewing their lists together. If your school doesn’t mail you one, they’re usually available for download on the school’s website. Then make the experience as child-driven as possible. I had my kids locate the items we needed and mark them off the list. When it came time to buy clothes and backpacks, I gave them free reign to choose whatever they wanted. This really gave them a sense of ownership and excitement surrounding the new school year. If you’ve got a tote bag on your list (or need one to carry items for extra-curricular activities or library trips), check out our Clifford toys page where you’ll find Clifford Fun Fashion Totes.
Connect with Other families
Befriending other kids who will also be attending the same school or grade is a great way to get your child fired up for the new school year. Case in point: we recently came across two brothers who just moved into our neighborhood and are zoned for my older daughter’s elementary school. The encounter has opened the door for play dates with new friends and someone to potentially carpool with. The fact that my daughter will be able to recognize some of her pals at school is also reassuring for her.
Take a School Tour
Perhaps the best way to prepare your kid for school is with a full tour. While classroom tours typically occur during back-to-school meet-and-greets with the teacher (which are also fantastic), taking a separate tour of the whole school can be equally rewarding for your child. For us, seeing the playground, cafeteria and computer lab were highlights that made the upcoming transition to full-time school seem a bit more cool. It’s also comforting because it gives your child a better idea of what to expect.
Explore Extra-Curricular Activities Before School Starts
Pinpointing fall activities is another great way to get your kid excited for the upcoming school year. This can be approached in one of two ways. You can either choose something that’s brand
new, which comes with its own special novelty; or you can stick with an activity your child is already familiar with, which could be an easy way to make them feel comfortable.
new, which comes with its own special novelty; or you can stick with an activity your child is already familiar with, which could be an easy way to make them feel comfortable.After doing T-ball in the spring, we’ve opted to mix it up a bit with tumbling this fall. Again, adding this activity to my kids’ calendar and showing them photos of the gym online is getting them super pumped. You can also explore any after-school activities that might be offered by the school. Attending a school-based YMCA, for example, is a wonderful way for your child to make more friends while identifying school as a fun, safe place to be.