So the reality of your kiddie commencing ‘Big School’ has just dawned on you, while your patience begins to run thin as you struggle to find a car park at the local shopping centre. The school holidays have begun! Now you’re counting down the days until your little precious one begins their first year of school. The questions come thick and fast:
- What does my kiddie need for school?
- How do I know I have bought the right things?
- What does my kiddie need to know?
- Will my kiddie be able to make friends?
- And the biggest question of all...is my kiddie ready?
The aim of this series and this my first blog post (yay!), is to help answer these questions and provide some tips, ideas and advice I have picked up over the years teaching Prep. I hope that you’ll be able to take away at least one idea that will help you better prepare your kiddie for their first day at ‘Big School’.
Try putting yourself in these shoes!
Before we start, I want you to put yourself in your kiddie’s teeny tiny black school shoes and think about how they will react to some of the following situations. If you are anxious about their first day, imagine how your kiddie will be feeling.
Their first day!
Kiddies sometimes have trouble letting go on their first day. Parents too!
The school bell rings and in charge 8 rampaging rhinos, raring and ready to go. Popping their heads out from behind their parents are 11 meerkats, they survey their surroundings and duck back safely in behind mum or dad, following them into the classroom. Last, but certainly not least, are the 7 shy snakes, wrapped tightly around their parents arm, they need a little nudge to make it through the door. Voila! Everyone is here and all of a sudden this room becomes a classroom.
A big wave and a hello from your kiddie’s new teacher, check! Name tag on, check! Your little kiddie is on their way, but this is just the start of their first day.
It's easy when there aren't many.
Next on the list is to unpack their belongings before starting some fun activities the teacher has set out on the desks. So off you send your kiddie, lugging their school bag to the port rack. “That wasn’t so bad”, you think to yourself. Your kiddie will remember where their bag is, won’t they? It’s right there in the middle row, right above their name tag. But wait, what happens when there are another 25 bags on the rack. If your kiddie struggles recognising their name they’re going to be feeling quite overwhelmed when they have to find their bag later in the day. Suddenly the bags all look the same and there are 8 that look just like theirs, right there on the middle row.
Not so much when the port rack is full. Notice the keyrings?
So my first piece of advice is to work with your kiddie over the holiday break to practise recognising their name. It is important to be ‘Pete Persistent’ and try to have your kiddie learn more than just the first letter. Kiddies often struggle because there are many kiddies with names starting with the same letter, and name tags are commonly placed in alphabetical order.
For some great activities to help your kiddie recognise and write their name check out our first Prep4Prep Kit.
Another great idea, depending on your schools uniform policy, is to clip a large unique key ring onto your kiddie’s school bag so they can quickly locate theirs amongst all the others. This is especially helpful at the end of the day when the port rack resembles an airport baggage carousel (only more chaotic) and parents are struggling to find their kiddie, let alone their school bag.
Back to the unpacking. This, as we will see, quickly devolves into a complicated memory game. “Yes, I remember where my water bottle is, it’s on the table in the corner and it has blue on it! Or it starts with the letter A. My lunch box goes in the big pink tub, it’s a ‘Frozen’ lunchbox, I’ll remember that!”
At present, in my class I have 7 pink and blue ‘Frozen’ lunch boxes, 12 pink floral or ‘Frozen’ water bottles, 4 Spiderman lunch boxes and 5 lime green water bottles.
Frozen is quite popular this year. Have you heard the song?
I think this paints a pretty clear picture, if your kiddie hasn’t yet learnt how to recognise their name, they are going to have a tricky time locating their belongings amongst those of their classmates.
If you are reading this and thinking, “Well my kiddie can read their name, they will be fine.” That’s fantastic! You and your kiddie are off to a great start. But what you might want to consider is that not all kiddies can, and one of their classmates may accidentally take your kiddies lunch, it happens every day.
It's easy to see how kiddies get confused about which is theres!
My advice would be to avoid popular colours, brands and themes, at least for the first term, until all kiddies have become familiar with the routine of school life and can quickly and confidently recognise their own names. I know this might be more easily said than done, but the more you can do now the less stressful this will be for your kiddie.
Another option is to use label stickers. Again, try and choose less popular images to accompany your kiddie’s name. Steer clear of butterflies and flowers for the girls or dinosaurs and cars for the boys. This not only helps your kiddie but also others in the class who might have a similar lunchbox but know or learn that the one with the dragonfly or the dog label isn’t theirs.
Now I want you to think honestly about your kiddie’s personality, are they a problem solver? Are they confident, and would have no hesitation walking up to an unfamiliar adult or another kiddie to ask for help? Or are they a little shy and quiet around new people and would probably wait until a teacher or another adult notices them?
Why do they need help? Well after a few hours of songs, name games and some art and craft it’s time for...
Now I want to get one thing straight right off the bat, I’m not the food police. My job right now is not to judge the nutritional value of a lunchbox, I’m just trying to provide you with advice to help your kiddie feel less anxious during their first few weeks of school by fostering their independence. Please keep this in mind as you hear what a typical lunchbox might include:
- Sandwich in glad wrap or a clipped container
- Yoghurt in a bottle
- Piece of fruit
- Muesli or rice bubble bar
- Packet of chips, biscuits or noodles
- A popper/juice-box
What’s wrong with this I hear you say?
My lunchtime duty is often solely spent undoing glad wrap around sandwiches, cakes and biscuits or clips on lunchboxes and other containers, ripping open muesli bar wrappers or chip packets, opening bananas, poking holes in mandarins, breaking the safety seal on yoghurt bottles and many times, pulling out the scissors I have learnt to carry in my bum bag to open some of the containers which are both kiddie and adult safe!
The new standard for kiddies lunchboxes.
How will your kiddie cope in a situation where they cannot open something in their lunchbox, or even the lunchbox itself? They need some help, but will they feel confident to raise their hand or approach an unfamiliar teacher watching them on duty, or navigate through 150 students to find a familiar face?
Raising your hand is a good way to get someones attention at Big School.
My advice is to take your kiddie on a picnic, not just once but every week or so. Have your kiddie take their school bag and teach them how to pack and unpack it, open their lunchbox and everything inside. Your kiddie will become more confident and capable and you will get to see where you might still need to help. Some suggestions would be to slightly peal back the seal on cheese and cracker containers and salami wrappers, snip or tear the corner of chip or biscuit packets and muesli wrappers, take the popper straw out of the plastic, or breaking the seal on that yoghurt bottle.
Make sure to demonstrate, or model, to your kiddie how to open these foods, as each requires a different type of skill or movement they may not be familiar with performing. For example, ripping requires each hand to move in opposite directions, twisting requires kiddies to twist in one direction to open and then the other way to close. Opening chips often requires both hands to pull/tug in opposite directions. These things might be easy to us, but it’s been awhile since we have had to think about how to do them.
Think about your kiddie when shopping for a lunch box, try them out and see if you can easily pop the lid off, or flip the clips. If you can’t they won’t be able to. If possible take your kiddie with you on the shopping trip and let them do the product testing. When looking at zip up lunchboxes, consider the size. After you load it chock a block with food, will it become a tricky game of Tetris for your kiddie to place all the containers back in the exact way you initially did, before the lid closes and zips up!
See, it all fits! Just put this here, and that over there. No problem right?
Wouldn’t it be a great start to Prep, if your kiddie was already feeling confident and independent with a variety of skills they will need to call on each and every day, completely separate from their learning experience? With these skills they can help themselves, but also others, endearing them to their classmates and making fast friends.
Thanks for reading and I hope you have been able to take something useful away. There will be more posts in this series on preparing for Prep soon. In the mean time, if you have any questions or concerns about your kiddies first year please leave a comment below, contact me on the Kits4Kiddies Facebook Page or send me an email.