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How do your child feel about school? Some kids look forward to the first day of school with the same excitement normally reserved for birthdays, while others dread school more than going to the dentist. Whichever one of these describes your child, it’s important to remember that these reactions are perfectly normal, especially for a child first starting preschool or kindergarten - to put it into perspective, consider how you would feel the first day at a new job: excited, nervous, eager to make new friends, etc.
Older children most likely feel at least some apprehension about returning to school after summer or holiday breaks, or even on a daily basis - after all, each new day brings new lessons, experiences and challenges. For children struggling academically or socially, the idea of going to school each day can be particularly stress-inducing.
The good news is that there are simple, tangible steps you can take to help get your child excited about school. Consider trying the following methods in preparation for the first day of school or throughout the entire year, and see what a difference they make!
Fun Clothes. Even if your child doesn’t care about clothing (as many kids don’t), allowing them to choose one or two favorite items to wear during the first week of school can help them feel in control and confident, as a treasured t-shirt or favorite pair of shoes can serve as a sort of security blanket. Another great option is to get creative by having kids design their own clothes. Have a tye-dye party the week before school starts to celebrate the end of summer and to create a few fun, colorful items to add to your child’s wardrobe. Or use fabric paint and markers to decorate plain t-shirts with your child’s name, favorite colors and animals, etc. Similarly, try dipping a pencil eraser in fabric paint to draw fun patterns on plain-colored clothing. Your child will look forward to getting to wear their own creations and show off their personality.
Countdown. Rather than making the first day of school something scary and dreadful, get your kid excited with a special calendar to help track the days before school starts. This is another great opportunity to get creative by letting your child help to decorate the calendar to their own tastes. Make it a daily calendar so that your child can remove a page a day until school starts. (Hint: This is also a great way to teach about counting and days of the week.) You can even make it similar to an advent calendar with a small prize for each day to increase the excitement!
This idea can also be used throughout the school year. Use a simple wall calendar to mark the days of important school events, upcoming field trips, etc. Talk to your child’s teacher about upcoming lesson plans and goals so that you can also mark these on the calendar. Doing so will help both you and your child to know what to expect with each new day.
Make Learning the Most Important Meal of the Day. A calendar isn’t the only way to count down to the first day of school. Using mealtime as a teaching opportunity can make learning seem fun and exciting. A great way to do this is to create an alphabetized menu leading up to the first day of school. Have your child recite what new letters they’ve learned each day so that they feel prepared to learn more once they reach the classroom!
This is another idea that can be continued throughout the school year. Making alphabetized breakfasts is a fantastic way to introduce learning first thing in the morning: Apple oatmeal on Monday, blueberry muffins on Tuesday, etc.
Set up a School Scrapbook. Rather than saving all of your child’s report cards and art projects in boxes and drawers, why not preserve them in scrapbooks? Allowing your child to customize their own scrapbook is another way to help them feel in charge of and proud of their school experience. It can also build excitement during the first week of school by making one new entry or addition to the scrapbook at the end of each day. Write down your child’s memories and stories from school and add in photos, drawings and assignments.
The best part of this activity is that serves a dual purpose: helping your child feel excited and proud of their school experiences AND preserving those precious memories. You can continue to add stories and experiences throughout the year, as well as use the scrapbook to safely and securely store all those A+ assignments and amazing pieces of artwork!