Back to School or Starting School — either way, many children experience separation anxiety when the carefree days of summer are over and school is in session. Inevitably, change may be difficult for some, but there are a few things you can do to ease your reluctant child into the routine of going to school. Below, Cheri Sterman, Director of Child Development at Crayola, offers her thoughts:
• For very young children, use art as a window to understand what a kid is feeling. Remember that art at this age is not yet realistic looking, but from energetic scribbles, parents can hear their kids’ story and where fears or pride points come to life.
• Use colorful schedules and charts to help ease morning routines. Encourage your kids to make personal decisions when possible and sketch the decisions or note the agreements you make on a chart to serve as a visual reminder of plans, e.g., clothing choices and bed times.
• Fresh new supplies give kids a fresh start to a new year of colorful learning and new friendships – the excitement kids feel while picking out new school supplies generates excitement about going into a new school year.
• Start BTS shopping early. Shopping for new supplies gives parents the opportunity to talk about the new school year – guide kids to imagine their new classrooms, friends, teachers and subjects and establish a dialog for success before the year begins. Not waiting for the last minute means less stress, more options, and less running around from store to store.
• Make the shopping experience a celebratory outing with your kids. Focus on the excitement of being “one year older” and “moving up a grade.” BTS shopping can be a bonding experience.
• Empower kids to make their own decisions on items not specified by the school supply list. Empower them to embrace the reality that school is coming – from the backpack design to new clothes and the color of lunch box.
• Prepare for the changes to daily routines. Work with your kids to develop a chore chart that includes activities such as packing lunches, reviewing backpacks, and completing homework. Being able to check off completed tasks will help make the new routine more manageable.
• Create a homework center. Designate an area in the house (perhaps a corner of the kitchen or in your kids’ room) to be a place where the homework supplies are organized and ready to use. This simple space preparation will relieve tension that can occur on the first nights homework is assigned. Add in a few special treats in the way of supplies that remain at home in the homework center.
• Make mistakes less stressful by using erasable products. If kids are struggling with multiplication facts or need more practice with vocabulary or spelling words–select a small dry erase board and dry erase crayons so they can easily practice and erase, building these basic skills before taking a school test.
• Maximize summer before school starts. Enjoy creative experiences as a family, weaving learning into fun. Ask your kids to draw your favorite part of the day either in a journal with colored pencils or on the driveway with sidewalk chalk. Visually expressing ideas is an important skill to develop and helps kids organize their thoughts and communicate with others.
• As summer is waning, remember to keep learning skills fresh to avoid eroding the learning from the prior year. After reading a book, have your kid draw a new cover that depicts a different ending and then tell their revised story.
• If travel is part of your summer plans, have your kid draw a map of the places you’ll visit, calculate the miles, and sketch some sights along the way. Crayons and index cards make great travel postcards that your kid can create and mail from the road.
For more ideas, parents can find playful, learning projects on Crayola.com in both the craft and lesson plan sections of the website to keep kids’ minds from “getting rusty” and gearing them up for an exciting new year of learning!