Brooke Wardrope, occupational therapist, McMaster Children’s Hospital
As you’re getting your youngster ready for school for the first time, there are many ways to help your child prepare for a successful start. Begin with early preparation.
Talk about what to expect
Talk about school expectations, appropriate behavior and engaging in activities. This will help your child understand that activities change frequently throughout the school day. Talk about expectations around riding the bus or walking to school as this may also be a new experience. Consider the different routines, activities and transitions that will be occurring throughout the school day. For example, during circle time, talk about taking turns, sitting quietly with their friends, listening to the teacher and following directions. Prior to the start of school, encourage more social interactions between children and their friends. Playing together with other children, while adults support and supervise them will help to develop their relationships further.
Practice, practice, practice
As school approaches, start to increase self-care expectations for tasks such as dressing, toileting and self-feeding. Your child will have to be more independent when using the washroom, washing their hands, feeding themselves during nutrition breaks and managing snack and drink containers. Therefore use daily opportunities to encourage your child to take the lead with these activities.
Fine and gross motor skills
Support development of fine and gross motor skills at home as this will enable your child to participate in activities more easily and willingly at school. This involves practicing cutting, coloring, drawing and printing their name. For children ages four and five, fine motor skills they should be able to do include feeding themselves with minimal spills, using a fork, managing some clothing fasteners like buttons, holding a pencil and copying shapes or letters. Gross motor skills children age four or five should be able to do include trying to skip, catch a bouncing ball, jumping with two feet in place and kicking a ball with some direction.
Early preparation is key
Overall the key to a positive start to school is preparation. Talk openly with your child about school and what to expect. But ultimately take time to enjoy this new transition.
Thank you and take care.