How To Help Your Child Transition Back To School
Do you have the back to school blues? Feeling nervous? Excited? Or perhaps “nerve-cited” as one of my little clients described how she felt about starting kindergarten. Going back to school after summer break is a BIG transition for both kids and parents.
Kids may be excited to see friends they’ve missed over the summer, but feel unsure about other aspects of school. Feelings of worry or even anxiety in kids can be expected during this transition time. Questions like… Who will be in my class? Are my friends in my class? Will I like my teacher? Who will I sit with at lunch? Who can I play with at recess? What if I miss the bus? All of these concerns are valid ones, so be sure to reassure your child by telling them that everything is figureoutable!
To address your child’s concerns, it helps to talk about it and come up with a plan if certain situations arise. Your child may not be able to verbally express what his or her specific worries are, however most kids will benefit from knowing what to expect in new situations. It’s extremely helpful to give them your child some advance notice of any changes in routine. These are called “transition warnings”.
7 Tips to Start The Year Calm and Confident
Transition warnings and reassuring your child will help him or her feel more secure and confident at the start of a new school year. These activities may also be used for therapy sessions too!
- Talk about an upcoming event or activity
- Look at the calendar together to help prepare your child for what to expect.
- Review the morning routine, get your clothes ready the night before or post a simple “Morning To Do List”
- Pack your lunch the night before to help avoid the morning rush.
- Walk to the bus stop. Practice crossing the street safely.
- Visit the campus before school starts etc.
- Practice deep breaths to help keep a calm body and calm mind. It’s helpful to practice this when your child is calm. That way he or she can use breathing exercises when needed during times of stress.
How to Host Your Own Back to School Party
As a kid growing up, my brothers and sister and I would always be so sad when summer break came to an end. It was a tough transition for all of us, yet always inevitable. My mom had a tradition of hosting a Back to School Party to help us four kids welcome the school year with some fun and positivity. We could invite all of our friends which was perfect for reuniting with friends before classes started. Sometimes we hosted a party mid September which was a great way to see close friends who ended up in different classroom.
Looking back, I see this was a genius way to start the school year and my sister and I have carried on this annual Back To School Party tradition with our own children. It’s a special event to help with the transition of summer ending and welcoming the fall.
All of these “party activities” are therapeutic and address key areas of development such as social skills, drawing, writing, listening, paying attention, memory, self-regulation, time saving tips for packing lunches and inspiration for making and keeping friends!
Show and Tell Activity
This activity is great for social skills practice, listening to others, introducing yourself and speaking in a group.
Supplies: markers, crayons, paper bag, tape
Directions: Ask the kids to draw a picture of their favorite summer memory or activity. Tape or staple the picture to the bag (which will be used to take home party favors and snacks). Ask each child to introduce him or herself and take a turn to “show and tell” about their picture. Some questions to ask the children: What did you do? Who were you with? What was your favorite part? Another idea for younger children is to decorate a colored folder with stickers.
This game addresses visual memory skills, sustained attention, focus and hand writing.
Supplies: Tray or Cookie sheet, random small household items and school supplies
Directions: Practice your concentration and memory skills by studying a tray of objects such as school supplies or other small items for about 30 seconds. When the tray is taken away, write down as many objects as you can remember. When all the kids are done writing down their answers, have them count them up and write the total down on their paper. Ask them to raise their hand if they found 1 item, then 2 items, etc. The last person raising their hand has remembered the most and wins the game.
Lunch Time Notes
Surprise your child by writing an upbeat message on a fun napkin!
Supplies: Different colored napkins or cute napkins with fun designs, colored sharpies or markers
Directions: Give each child the same set of napkins for the total number of kids. For example, if there are 6 kids at the party, then give each child 6 napkins. Each child writes down a positive message on each of their napkins. Once everyone has written a message on their napkin set, each kid gives one of their napkins to the other kids. When packing lunches, put one of these special napkins in your child’s lunch box to brighten their day.
Use your taste buds to make a hypothesis? What flavor jelly bean do you think you have?
Supplies: Jelly Belly candy, paper and pencil
A hypothesis is an educated guess! In this game use your sense of smell and taste to guess what flavor jelly bean you have. Each child gets 4-5 jelly beans and writes down on a piece of paper what flavor they think they have. Once everyone has completed their hypotheses, look on the back of the package to see if you were correct!
Making and Keeping Friends
Time at school is the perfect opportunity to meet new friends and to learn how to be a good friend.
Kids enjoy story time which is a great time to introduce social skills concepts and talking about feelings. Social skills and empathy are two skills that will help your child be successful at school too!
One of my favorite series are the Bucket Filling Books by Carol McCloud.
The lessons teach kids about caring, sharing and being kind. This positive behavior is rewarding and brings happiness to the giver and receiver!
Pack a Snack
Make packing lunches less of a chore by recruiting lunch helpers! Packing little snacks in advance turns out to be a big time saver on those busy mornings when you’re rushing out the door!
Supplies: Variety of snacks and baggies. Pro tip: Use reusable snack bags and containers which are environmentally friendly to reduce, reuse or recycle.
At the start of the week, put out snack options along with sandwich bags/containers. Each child packs their own snack and drinks for the week and puts it into their own large container or bag labeled with their name.
It always helps to have a little comfort and clean in your backpack!
One area of occupational therapy is self-care and teaching kids the basics of grooming and hygiene. These personal care packs work great in a pinch.
As party favors, each child receives a pencil pouch filled with hand sanitizer, a small tissue pack, cute bandaids and a few pieces of emergency candy to share with a friend or to cheer them up. Other Personal Care Pack item ideas: hair rubber band, nail file, face or hand wipes, gum or breath mints.
Pack it light, wear it right!
If you enjoyed these Back to School Ideas, be sure to check out how to choose the best backpack for your child!
Does your child ever complain his or her backpack is too heavy? How much does it weigh? How can you lighten the load? Learn more about the American Occupational Therapy’s Recommendations for the best and most ergonomic ways to carry a back pack. Plus a bonus handout for moms on how to best hold a purse to prevent discomfort and avoid injury. Click here to read more.