Suddenly, the warm summer air turns crisp, and it’s back-to-school time. When school starts, your children are excited, and maybe a bit nervous. Young children, especially, might need help preparing for the sudden changes to come. Parents who prepare kids for school are better positioned for a smooth start to the year and a successful academic experience.
Why It’s Important to Prepare Kids for Starting School
Children fear the return to school for many reasons, psychologists say. Students attending traditional brick-and-mortar schools might dread the school bus or fear they won’t have friends to sit with at lunchtime. Even cyberschooled children aren’t immune to back-to-school anxiety. Will their teachers like them? Will their grades be good enough? Will they pass their tests? Will they have to speak up in class?
For young kids, all the happy back-to-school posts from older kids on social media might not help. Young children who feel they don’t live up to such perfection – and who can? – put the blame on themselves, thinking there must be something wrong with them.
All together, these back-to-school anxieties can interfere with getting the school year off to a good start. Children managing new routines and expectations can be so worried that it distracts from their ability to concentrate on academics.
Fortunately, parents can take proactive steps to build good study habits in time for the new school year. The key is setting goals and meeting them in gradual phases that build confidence, one step at a time.
Tips to Help Parents Transition Young Students
Preparing a child for the start of school is important for a student entering any grade level, but it is a big transition for a family with a child starting school for the first time. Try these back-to-school tips for parents ready to start school on the right track.
1. Establish Morning Routines
Mornings can be stressful. Children who start the school day rushed or anxious can’t just flip a switch and focus on schoolwork. Establishing a morning routine before the school year starts is a big part of how to prepare kids for back to school. Try these tips:
- Wake up at a comparable school time: Set the alarm a bit earlier each day until the time needed for a typical school day becomes a habit.
- Make a healthy breakfast: Children who eat a healthy breakfast are more likely to concentrate on their lessons and miss fewer school days. A healthy breakfast includes whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables.
- Open a book or computer: Reading is the foundation of all learning. It’s always a good habit to keep the brain engaged, and reading helps build vocabulary and comprehension of complex ideas.
2. Travel Games for Car Drives
Even for young children, entering school with a learning mindset means keeping education going in the summer. One of the best opportunities to combine summertime fun and learning is in the car, whether on grocery runs or traveling for vacation. Try these travel games for young children:
- Find the color: Name a color to find. The first person who sees it outside wins that round and gets to pick the next color.
- Alphabet name game: Tell kids to spell out their names from letters spotted on signs and license plates.
- License plate numbers: Spot numbers consecutively, starting at zero and climbing to 30, because a child should be able to count that high by kindergarten.
3. Embrace Social Activities in Summer
The first time at school comes with a jumble of social fears. Making friends and getting along with others is a learned skill, so parents preparing children for back to school can take steps to build their children’s social skills even before that first day of class.
- Enroll in activities around your area: Your local parks and rec department probably has affordable or free summer programs. Summertime is also a good time for children to explore their interests, whether it’s playing soccer, acting or taking karate.
- Sign up for classes at the local library: Your library is full of free, fun and educational activities that keep kids socially connected. These programs help your child build listening skills and understand social cues – which will help them set aside anxiety and focus on the teacher when school starts.
4. Rotate in Singalong Videos
Making music engages children to use their eyes and ears. It builds language skills, hardwires the brain for learning and strengthens problem-solving skills. Those catchy songs that children sing over and over are actually tools for building the memorization skills they’ll need for school. So, instead of having them watch a favorite movie or cartoon before bed every night, introduce educational singalong videos into the rotation. They’ll have fun, and those words and tunes could stay with them when they wake up the next morning.
5. Create Independence Early
Cyberschooled kids are renowned for their independence and self-motivation. At CCA, children learn independence gradually as they grow. Even young children can learn to make good choices. Try these tips for back-to-school success:
- Offer choices: Bath or shower? Bubbles or no bubbles? Brush your teeth before storytime or after? Give kids two viable, acceptable choices.
- Use enforceable statements: If the car is leaving at 7 a.m., your child should know to take responsibility for being ready.
- Put responsibility back on children who complain: It’s not the parent’s responsibility to do something the child doesn’t want to do. Just say, “You don’t like it, but you still have to do it, so let’s do it.”
- Use few words: Don’t get drawn into arguments, which aren’t productive and will only make you mad.
6. Talk With Your Child About Anxieties
Reassurances that school will be just fine might sound empty to your child. Instead, start a dialogue. Talk with your child about the things that worry them. Encourage your child to share their fears, and design action steps to allay them. Don’t brush off their anxieties, which might discourage them from opening up. Create a positive and encouraging environment in which kids learn from the way you listen that their fears aren’t silly and there are ways the two of you can team up to address them.
7. Prepare School Supplies and Study Habits
Starting the school year with good study habits can do marvels for your child’s learning. It’s the way information finds a permanent place in the brain, allowing each new concept to build on the last.
Before the school year starts, set up a workspace, get school supplies ready and set expectations about the look of the school routine. Help your child understand the need to complete homework. Walk them through the assignment book, to help them understand their expectations and start to grasp the concept of time management. Make it fun by getting your child’s input on the shopping list, setting up the in-home learning space and establishing a daily schedule.
How to Prepare Young Students for School Season
As always, CCA is here for families, with supports, tips and programs that prepare your child for back to school. We’re always excited to see our returning students and welcome new learners every year, and we want to ensure every family a positive, happy experience. Learn more about CCA’s efforts to prepare kids for their first day each year.