Back to school 101: organise yourself for the new school year

audit your playspace

New year, new start

September always has a new year feeling for me. Whether we have children starting school, we’re expecting a new year’s intake or we’re at home with our own children or looking after others, it’s always good to pause every so often and take stock.

Audit your play

For my own children and the ones I look after I like to run an audit on our play space. As children develop through different stages and interests a quick check of our play space helps me keep pace with their learning and provide an interesting environment for them. Try these ideas to give your own place a play audit inside and outside. Read more »

Starting school 101: what your child really needs to know

starting school tips

This time last year L was starting school. I felt it was a huge step she was taking and she breezed through it merrily! We’d spent a little time playing and practising some practical things to help with starting school, which I think really helped her transition into reception.

If you have a child starting school (or even getting back into the school swing after a relaxed summer holiday), here are our tips Read more »

Learning to write your name

Starting School series: Learning to Write Your Own Name

We have been looking at ways we can help a child to get ready for starting school – you can view the starting school series here – and today our focus is on writing their own name. Learning to write their own name is quite a milestone for a child. It is important to understand that no-one will be expecting all children to start school already able to do this – some will be able to, many won’t. All skills are acquired as part of a learning journey. Here are some ideas you can use at home to help your child start to develop this skill.

1. Let them see their name. Having their name around the house is a great first step in introducing the letters to your child. Every time they draw a picture, write their name on it. Always write their name correctly – with a first capital letter and the other letters in lowercase. Sure, at home they’re not in a class of other children so you don’t need to label their masterpiece to stop it getting mixed up with other children’s, but adding a name label demonstrates to them how to hold the pencil, how the letters go from left to right, how each character is formed. You can also add a name label above the peg where they hang their coat and make a nameplate to stick on their bedroom door. As they see their name popping up around the house they’ll be starting to memorise the shape and sequence of the letters.

2. Make marks everywhere. Developing writing doesn’t have to be done with a pencil on a piece of paper. Young children benefit from making marks and starting to write letters on a large scale so begin by tracing letters in the air using broad arm movements. Make marks whenever you can, using fingers, sticks and paintbrushes, with sand, play dough and paint.

3. Provide a vertical writing surface such as a blackboard or paper on an easel. Writing on a vertical surface is a good way to naturally position the pencil and wrist in a writing position.

4. Give fingers a workout. You can develop dexterity and strengthen fingers which are soon going to be holding a pencil by playing with play dough or baking bread. This kind of play builds up finger strength and grip, ready for scribing.

5. Hunt out letters. Starting with your child’s initial you can go on a letter hunt – out and about in your neighbourhood like on our letter walk, or by searching through newspapers and magazines, as in this idea from No Time For Flashcards. Most importantly, remember to have fun with writing. Encourage children to feel proud about trying, without being overly concerned at this stage about perfectly formed letters.

Does your child enjoy ‘writing’ their own name? How do you encourage them to practise?

Books about starting school

Welcome to part three in our series: Starting School.

In part one we looked at school dinners and part two considered putting on your own coat and shoes. This time we’re looking at a selection of great books which deal with the subject of starting school. Take your pick from the four books below – they’re all the perfect introduction to Big School. The books give you the chance to talk about the school day, the parts of the school your child will visit and the different people they will meet. Reading these a few times over the summer will give your child lots of opportunity to become familiar with the school routines, helping them to  feel more ‘at home’ at big school.

Starting School: Putting on your own coat and shoes

8.25am is the most stressful time of day in houses with school-age children*. That last push to get out of the door and off on the school run can be the biggest hurdle of the day. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Welcome to Part Two of our series: Starting School. In part one we looked at School Dinners, this time the topic is:

Putting on Your Own Coat and Shoes

A simple skill we grown-ups take for granted can actually be quite tricky for little ones to master.  So here are a few thoughts which might help.

1. Let your child have a try. This sounds obvious but in the rush to get ready I see many parents doing up buttons and putting on shoes for their children. While this saves time, it’s not giving your child any chance to learn the skill for themself.

2. Take your time. You need to allow plenty of time to master this skill – so start when you’ve got lots of time to get ready, not when you’re already late. Little does a great job getting her own coat on, but the buttons take her ages. I have to remind myself to give her the time she needs – we wouldn’t rush along a child taking their first steps, so we need to slow down here too.

3. Give your child some Top Tips. You put on your shoes without even thinking about it, but does your child actually realise there’s a difference between their right and left foot and they need to match up the correct shoe with the correct foot? Little knows to line up her shoes on the floor before she puts them on. She knows that the flowers on the outside of each shoe shouldn’t be touching – if they are, she knows to swap them over. This is how she gets them on the correct feet. Even black school shoes often have a little pattern on the outside, so you should be able to get a pair with this picture clue. If not, maybe you can draw arrows or make a mark inside the shoe.

With coats our top tip is to get one with a hood. Then, the first step to putting it on is to put the hood on your head. This leaves both hands free to get the sleeves on – instead of having to hold the coat and get your arms in at the same time. Try it both ways and see how the Hood Manouvre helps!

4. Zips, button or toggles? Which can your child manage by themselves? Try a few in the shop and buy whichever your child finds easiest.

5. Laces or velcro? One child I know had a pair of high-top lace-up ankle boots, which were always tied (by their parent) in a double knot. She couldn’t even get the shoes off by herself, let alone lace them up. So my choice is always to go with a simple velcro strap.

With 25 children doing coats and shoes, up to 10 times in one day, your child’s new teacher will be so pleased you’ve worked on this!

(*Source: My good friend Catherine heard this on the radio. Not exactly scientific, but you agree don’t you?)

You might also like this idea for organising your school run.

Happily shared with WeareTHATfamily’s Works for me Wednesday