Our two youngest have just completed one full week of school already! Can you believe it! This will be our last year to have a child in elementary school - Our daughter is in 8th grade already.
So it's fitting that this week's blog post provides you with 12 back to school transition ideas and tips.
Scroll down to read the article, and pick one or two strategies to implement in your back to school process.
While 3- and 4-year-olds still need plenty of parental help, our preschool experts agree that kids are typically able to do more than many of us think. Here's how you can encourage them:
1. Expect more. Most people have a way of living up (or down) to expectations -- preschoolers included. "At school we expect the kids to pour their own water at snack, to throw away their plates, to hang up their jackets -- and they do," says Jennifer Zebooker, a teacher at the 92nd Street Y Nursery School, in New York City. "But then they'll walk out of the classroom and the thumb goes in the mouth and they climb into strollers." Raise the bar and your child will probably stretch to meet it.
2. Resist doing for her what she can do herself. While it may be quicker and easier to do it yourself, it won't help to make your child more self-sufficient. Quick hint: Appeal to her sense of pride, suggests Donna Jones, a preschool teacher at Southern Oregon University's Schneider Children's Center in Ashland, Oregon. "Whenever I'm trying to get kids to dress, put jackets on, sit on chairs during meals and so on, I'll ask them: 'Do you want me to help you or can you do it yourself?' Those words are like magic," promises Jones. "The kids always want to do it for themselves."
3. Don't redo what they've done. If your child makes her bed, resist the urge to smooth the blankets. If she dresses herself in stripes and polka dots, compliment her "eclectic" style. Unless absolutely necessary, don't fix what your child accomplishes, says Kathy Buss, director of the Weekday Nursery School, in Morrisville, Pennsylvania. She will notice and it may discourage her.
4. Let them solve simple problems. If you see your child trying to assemble a toy or get a book from a shelf that she can reach if she stands on her stepstool, pause before racing over to help. "Provided that they are safe, those moments when you don't rush in, when you give children a moment to solve things for themselves, those are the character-building moments," says Zebooker. "It's natural to want to make everything perfect, but if we do, we cheat kids of the chance to experience success."
5. Assign a chore. Putting your preschooler in charge of a regular, simple task will build her confidence and sense of competency, says Buss. A child who is entrusted to water the plants or empty the clothes dryer is likely to believe she can also get dressed herself or pour her own cereal. Just be sure the chore you assign is manageable and that it's real work, not busywork, since even preschoolers know the difference. The goal is to make your child feel like a capable, contributing member of the family.
Walk into almost any preschool class in the country, and you'll see children sitting quietly in circles, forming orderly lines, raising their hands to speak, passing out napkins and snacks. The question is: How do teachers do it? How do they get a dozen or more children under 4 to cooperate, willingly and happily? While there's no secret formula, most say:
6. Praise is key, especially if your child is not in a cooperative phase. Try to catch her being good. Kids repeat behaviors that get attention.
7. Develop predictable routines. Kids cooperate in school because they know what's expected of them, says Beth Cohen-Dorfman, educational coordinator at Chicago's Concordia Avondale Campus preschool. "The children follow essentially the same routine day after day, so they quickly learn what they are supposed to be doing, and after a while barely need reminding." While it would be impractical to have the same level of structure at home, the more consistent you are, the more cooperative your child is likely to be, suggests Cohen-Dorfman. Decide on a few routines and stick to them: Everyone gets dressed before breakfast. When we come in from outside, we wash our hands. No bedtime stories until all kids are in jammies. Eventually, following these "house rules" will become second nature to your child.
8. Lighten up. If your child refuses to do something, try turning it into a game. "Humor and games are two great tools that parents sometimes forget about in the heat of the moment," says Zebooker. When her own son, now 13, was in preschool, she used to persuade him to put his shoes on in the morning by playing shoe store. "I would say, 'Welcome to Miss Mommy's Shoe Store, I've got the perfect pair for you to try on today,' and I'd speak in a silly accent and he loved it." (I've had success using this strategy with Sophie, who used to clamp her mouth shut whenever I tried to brush her teeth. Now we play the "Let's Guess What You Ate Today" game -- and she willingly opens up so I can search her molars for cereal, strawberries, or mac and cheese.)
9. Warn of transitions. If your child pitches a fit whenever you announce it's time to switch gears --whether that means shutting off the TV, stopping play to come eat, or leaving a friend's house -- it could be that you're not giving enough advance notice. "At school we let kids know when transitions are coming so they have time to finish whatever they're doing," observes Cohen-Dorfman. "If you need to leave the house at 8:30 a.m., warn your child at 8:15 that she's five more minutes to play, then will have to stop to put her toys away. Set a timer so she knows when the time is up."
10. Use sticker charts and rewards judiciously. "If your child is always working for the reward, he won't learn the real reasons for doing things -- that he should pick up his toys because family members pitch in," says Buss. Best bet: Reserve rewards for finite endeavors, such as potty training, but avoid offering them for everyday things, such as dressing himself or brushing his teeth.
11. Get back to healthy eating. If your family is like mine, your household inventory of potato chips and cookies skyrockets during the summer. The arrival of fall is a perfect time to teach your kids that family-focused healthy eating can be fun too. “While [kids] may be used to having ice cream every night in the summer, start swapping [those] out some nights for fruit Popsicles, frozen yogurt, or baked fruit sprinkled with cinnamon and brown sugar,” says Rania Batanyeh, a San Francisco-based nutritionist and wellness coach. “And be prepared with healthy snacks and meals when things get hectic, such as in the morning before school, when kids come home from school, and before dinner.”
12. Seek out one-on-one time with your child every day. Yes, this one is daunting, especially when your days consist of carting Kid A to one activity and picking up Kid B from another. But challenge yourself to set aside just 15 minutes per day, per child, to enjoy a quiet activity together. Whether it involves reading a few extra books to your toddler, taking turns making up a story with your preschooler, or gazing at the stars with your oldest after the others have been put to bed, your children will savor your undivided attention. And both of you will benefit from putting yet another hectic day on hold.