Here at The Children’s House we’re getting ready for reopening in September (yay!!) – & although we know that it will be quite different from previous years, we are just as excited about the new term starting – if not more so, as a return to some sort of normality is much needed by us all at this stage! We can’t wait to meet the new & returning children, & for those who are moving on to primary school, we hope to see them before the end of the summer for a farewell gathering & wish them all the best in starting ‘Big School’ – we know they’ll get on *so* well, make lots of new friends & learn loads of new things!!
This is a post about transitions, in case any of you are wondering how you can support your child whether in starting or returning to preschool, or transitioning to primary school.
There are a ton of great resources from Autism Little Learners which are visual stories relating to COVID 19; we especially like the one about separation anxiety which might especially apply to children starting or returning to preschool
and another about going back to school which might be a good visual for older children who will be returning to a different type of primary schooling https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cFYEsI1oBS1gO5G7IM7rljTYDMEQfMOy/view
Usually from May onwards we would have liaised with the local school in Sallins & brought the children up to have a look around it – some of them may not have been going to this particular school but it gives the idea of the much bigger scale of primary school as opposed to preschool, as we normally get to see the classrooms, the children out at playtime (it’s like a jungle!!!, the library etc. It would be a good idea if possible for you to take your child to the primary school they will be attending & familiarise them with the place, maybe point out e.g. this is where you’ll stand in line in the morning time; this is where I’ll collect you; this is where you’ll have your outdoors play etc. The same can be done for the Montessori – show your child the building & the outdoors area, talk to them about how things will be in September & especially the changes due to COVID e.g. ‘Mammies & daddies won’t be coming into the school for the moment, it’s only for the children & the teachers’ while always reassuring them that you/another caregiver will be there to collect them in a little while, after they’ve played with their friends & had snack etc in order to lessen separation anxiety. Try getting your child’s uniform & books for primary school well enough in advance for them to be familiar with them, & talk about their timetable of the day & what they’ll be doing & learning in a positive way – it might be a daunting time ahead but it’s also an exciting time!
The main things that we would focus on for school readiness with the children aren’t the academic skills (apart from recognising & maybe writing their own name), but rather self-care skills, communication skills, social & emotional skills, & fostering their love of learning – which doesn’t usually prove too difficult! Self-care would involve taking off & putting on coat & shoes, using the toilet, wiping nose, opening lunch box etc – you can practice all these skills at home. Communication skills would focus on things such as the child being able to communicate their needs, as well as being able to listen to others & follow instructions from their teacher. Social & emotional skills important for school would be ones such as sharing, turn-taking, independence & confidence (for instance encourage your child to make decisions for themselves at home, then notice & praise them for making good decisions), emotional regulation – e.g. if something unfair happens, how does the child deal with it, encourage them to use their words to sort out a situation & stand up for themselves in an appropriate way.
I probably talked about emotional regulation before but it’s hugely important at this age & especially during this time of disruption to routines, & something that we support the development of throughout the year in The Children’s House. Always keep reminding your child how good they are at regulating their emotions by praising when they use strategies to calm themselves down like deep breathing, or when they resolve conflict through using their words rather than crying or hitting out. If they are upset try to support them by acknowledging & naming their feelings & why they might be feeling that way, & asking them for a way to help themselves feel better e.g. ‘I know you’re upset because …. but what might make you feel better?’ You might have to give suggestions in the beginning e.g. ‘a hug? Your teddy? Going for a walk?’ & then encourage them to come up with their own suggestions themselves, in this way reinforcing their own emotional resilience in the future; they get the idea that they can make themselves feel better & don’t have to depend on others to make them feel better, which is very liberating & confidence building!
There are a lot of visual aids you can use, some of which I have attached pictures of from our school such as the feelings wheel you can print out & laminate, & make an arrow for it so the child just moves it around depending on how they feel – it’s a lovely visual & also indirectly reinforces the idea that feelings are transient & temporary (which is nice for you when they’re in the middle of a minor meltdown!!) The emotion faces are very simple & straight forward to make – just cut out some circles from coloured card & draw faces showing different emotions on them e.g. happy, sad, angry, tired etc – & encourage your child to use them to show how they’re feeling.
A really nice activity to do is to get your child to do a self portrait – sit them in front of a mirror with paper & pencils or crayons & ask them to really look at their own faces, talk about what colour their eyes are, what type of hair they have etc & then get them to draw themselves. You can then look at the picture with them & ask them how they were feeling when they drew themselves. (This can be extended into doing a body portrait on long sheets of butcher paper; just get your child to lie down, draw around their outline & ask them to fill in the body using paint, crayons, materials, glitter…whatever you have to hand – but again, encourage them to focus on whichever part of the body they’re doing e.g. ‘look at how long your legs are, you’re really growing! Your arms are so strong aren’t they?’ & name body parts for them e.g. ankles, elbows, shins, collarbone etc.)
As a family you can create a ‘Compliments Tree’; this is to encourage children to think positively of others of themselves & of others, & all you need is a branch stuck in a vase (alternatively use an empty jar & have a Compliments Jar) & some pieces of paper or card. Pick a member of the family & ask everyone else in the family to say their favourite thing about that person, then write all the compliments down & hang them on the tree. Take turns going around the family & you’ll have a lovely collection of compliments to read any time someone needs a bit of morale boosting! And whenever someone gives a compliment just add it to the collection.
Back to transitions!! The National Parents Council have produced an online video about supporting your child in the transition from preschool to primary school:
And finally here’s a couple of links from the government which give some useful information about your child returning to preschool:
As with all school settings this coming September, things will be done differently in The Children’s House to ensure the health, safety & comfort of children, staff & families alike, but it will still be a happy, caring & stimulating environment full of supportive and positive interactions, & we cannot wait to get back to it!!! In the meantime, we hope that you’re all keeping safe & well, & we know that you as parents are doing the most amazing job at looking after, & out for, your little ones – just don’t forget to take care of yourselves too!
Love from all at The Children’s House xx