The first year of school – parent expectations and support
Starting school is a big deal – for both children and their parents!
Children starting school find themselves in a whole new world. There are new teachers and new children – in a new classroom environment. They need to focus their attention much more – during mat time, listening to the teacher, sharing with others, making friends and developmental play.
Some children take to school life easily, while others take a bit longer to settle in. Either way, we know that parents are very keen to make sure they are giving their child the best possible support, especially during this first year.
So how can you support your child through their first year of school?
Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist, Monique Sandral, has come up with some strategies for you – both during term time and during the school holidays.
Five strategies to support your child when they come home from school
Ask specific questions
It can be very tricky for a child to answer board questions such as, ‘What did you do at school today’. Asking for a timetable from school can help you narrow down your questions, to help you child remember – for example, ‘What did you draw in art class today?’ or ‘Who was your library buddy today?’.
Label your child’s feeling
Your child may come home with stories from school, which is a precious opportunity to label their emotions and validate their feelings. For example: ‘You sounded very excited to play tag at recess’ or ‘I’m sorry to hear you felt sad when you couldn’t play with the cars’. This helps with building your child’s resilience!
The reward for home practice
Although familiar to us, home practice is a strange concept for your child – especially after a long day of learning. Using a reward chart or something similar will add some excitement into the learning experience, making it more likely your child will want to do it again. There are many examples of reward charts on the internet; we suggest finding one with motivating tokens and a larger reward at the end of the week.
A communication book can be as simple as a notebook that travels between home and school in your child’s school bag. This way, you can inform the teacher of any information quickly, which may help them throughout the day. For example, if your child did not get a good night sleep; if they are nervous about something, or if they achieved something, you have been working on together.
This strategy sounds simple enough. However, the importance of a good night sleep cannot be underestimated! Sleep helps with memory, mental and physical restoration and helps your child feel refreshed for the next day of learning! Limiting blue light (from devices), quiet time, reading and going to bed at the same time each night will support your child to get a good night sleep.
Strategies to support your child’s continued learning and practice during school holidays
Countdown to back to school
Your child’s first experience of school holidays can be disorientating. Many children do not understand how long school holidays are; they may consistently ask you when they are going back! Counting down the days on the calendar can help your child to understand and prepare for the return to school. Your child may have lots of questions about going back to school, and taking the time to answer them is a great way to ease any worries.
School provides a substantial amount of structure which can be hard to mimic during the school holidays. One way you can continue this structure and encourage independence is through a visual schedule. This is a visual list of ‘jobs’ your child needs to do before a receiving a reward – for example, a morning visual schedule may look like – eating breakfast, making their bed, getting changed, brushing their teeth and reward! You can make this list individual to your child’s needs and continue this throughout the year.
Encourage name writing
Identifying and writing their name is a big part of school. Each time your child draws you a beautiful picture during the school holidays, encourage them to write (or copy) their name on it as this will provide lots of practice.
Letters and counting
The incidental practice of letters and counting is a beautiful way to practice and review your child’s skills. For example, while at the supermarket, you can encourage your child to help you count five apples into the bag or point out that ‘apple’ starts with the ‘a’ sound.
Reading is an excellent way of exposing your child to a large vocabulary of words while expanding their attention and building their literacy skills. You can engage your child in the story by getting them to help you turn the page, adding silly voices and pointing out details in the pictures.