Going down the memory lane, I remember my son’s first day of school like it was yesterday… The first day finally arrived, everyone was hyper and excited, emotions ran high (especially for us parents…) somehow the morning felt like a haze, followed by worrying sick for the rest of the day, counting the minutes till pick up time when I embraced him once more like I hadn’t seen him for eternity.

Ahh… yes,  what an experience!

There is no doubt that starting school is a milestone for child and family alike. Some children adjust  to the whole new “get ready for school routine”really easily (lucky parents) and some not quite….

In this article I will explore strategies, tips and tricks that will make the transition from “kinder days” to “big kid school days” more manageable.

Habits and Routines

So why are habits and routines so important?

When we practice something day in and day out it becomes a habit, in other words we do it automatically without thinking about it or trying to figure out how to do it or the steps needed to make it  happen.

In regards to getting ready for school a habit could be to put all their belongings in their school bag the night before. Firstly they will need to be shown how to do it, then they could have a visual prompt/instruction sheet (printed images) with the steps needed to get their school bag ready and finally after lots of practice they would be able to do the task independently and hopefully without reminders. 

When it comes to routines we all know about the bedtime routine, morning routine and so on. Most children thrive on routines. It gives them confidence and security because they know what is the next activity in their day and it helps them transition from one activity to the next.

Starting school is a whole new routine that they have to learn and adjust to and unfortunately it cannot be entirely rehearsed. In this case, the best strategy is preparation.

Night Routine

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Night time routines vary widely as they depend on the individual family routine. Some of the things that need to be included in this routine are:

• Get school bag ready and place in an accessible place
• Place uniform, socks and shoes ready to go
• Go to bed early and set the alarm clock.

This way the child is getting ready, physically and mentally, for school and knows where everything is.

School station

It might also be a good idea to set up a school bag station, a specially assigned place only for the bag. There are awesome ideas all over the internet so check them out. If you don’t have the space, a simple 3M plastic hook attached on the side of their bedroom drawers will do the trick.

Morning routines

This is the all most important routine that can make or break the start of the day (talking from experience here).

Remember me mentioning setting the alarm clock the night before? In my opinion this little trick works best, especially when you let the children set it up themselves. It gives them a sense of responsibility and when they hear it in the morning they immediately associate it with school and are usually up and ready to go (NOTE: unfortunately this trick only works with little kids, as the teenagers know about the SNOOZE button). Setting this up will hopefully totally avoid the “GET OUT OF BED YOU ARE GOING TO BE LATE FOR SCHOOL” mum rage.

Another trick is to have a visual schedule setup for them outlining what they need to do to get ready for school (go toilet, have breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed, etc). They could even have the option of ticking this off as they complete the tasks. This way if they seem confused as to what to do next you can quickly direct them to it. Soon they will follow it themselves and it will become part of routine.

Tips and tricks for children with sensory difficulties.

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Depending on the school, uniforms can range from comfortable t-shirts to button up shirts and ties, from wearing track pants and sport shorts every day to tailored trousers and shorts.

Some children are sensitive to textures and fabrics, wearing socks, shoes and clothes tags. Starting to wear school uniform is a whole new experience for them and they need time to adjust to “the feel of it”.

• One option is to let them wear their uniform in the days prior to starting school. Nobody wants to face the scenario of buying their child brand new, good looking uniform, wash and iron it, put it up for display, the big day arrives and ……… the child starts complaining that it is itchy, feels funny, it hurts him/her, wants to take it off, etc.

• Another option is to try and buy second hand uniform as this has a bit of wear in the material and it is softer.

• Clothing tags can really bother some children as they can feel harsh to the skin and it might be best, if this is the case, to have them trimmed/removed prior to the big day.

• New shoes can also be uncomfortable and again consider letting them wear for a while so they get used to them.

Lunch boxes

Lunchboxes sometimes remind me of fashion accessories …. all those cool designs, shapes and vibrant colours. However there are a few things to consider when purchasing a lunch box, food containers and drink bottles:

• Can they open and close the containers or the lids?
• Can they unzip and zip their lunch box (if it has a zip)?
• Can they open their yogurt containers, especially the tub ones that require a twist action?
• Are they able to manipulate their lunchbox out of their school bag and also place it back in when they finished their lunch?

It is also important for the kids to familiarise themselves with the contents of  the lunchbox, and better still to participate putting it together. This way there are no surprises when it is time to eat at school.
School have different routines when it comes to their eating policy. Some have only recess and lunch breaks and some have additional micro breaks like “fruit time” “brain break” etc. It is best to discuss this with the school or your child’s class teacher prior to school starting. If they have multiple breaks it would be helpful to have clearly labelled food or food packed separately in accordance with their breaks. Let your children know what to expect by discussing this prior to the big day, e.g. ” this little red container with fruit is for “brain break” and this white one, with sandwiches, is for lunch.

If you would like more information about  occupational therapy, or would like to enquire about our services, please contact us at EquipKids..  We would love to hear from you and are always happy to have a chat.

Our next weekly article will focus on exploring strategies around sensory difficulties within a school environment, so stay tuned.

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