While we haven't had any official guidelines from schools on what to expect, we do know things will look different.
The pandemic has brought around a lot of uncertainty for all involved in the school setting, but what will it mean for junior infants heading off into the unknown? For the past year, we have been preparing them, and in some cases, they expected to see their classroom and teachers before September, but all of that went up the air, as with everything else.
What we do know is that things will be very different going forward and while we haven’t had official guidelines from schools on what to expect, here are some things you can do to help prepare your little one starting school following the pandemic.
- First and foremost, remind and encourage your child to wash their hands regularly and to cough or sneeze into their elbow. Now that they will be away from home and your general guidance, it’s easy for kids to let slip. Gently remind them from time to time, how important it is to keep on top of their hand hygiene.
- You would be surprised how many junior infants still need help in the bathroom, this year; it’s a big no-no. Ensure they know how to use the bathroom alone. Show your child how to wipe their bums properly using a front to back technique and how to fold the toilet paper correctly.
- Is your child able to undo the button on their trousers? Is there a zip on their coat and can they open it without help? These are things you need to think about before sending them off. If they struggle with zippers, practice opening and closing over the next couple of weeks and add a keyring to their coat to help with grip.
- A classroom can have anything up to thirty kids in one room, and teachers only have two hands. Use these last few weeks of the summer holidays to practice opening their reusable water bottle and looking after their wipe clean lunch box. Label everything because let’s face it there could be five kids with the same bottle come September. Especially this year, it would be a good idea to avoid yoghurt tubes or anything they may struggle to open themselves and of course, messy food.
- Unless your child is a pro at tying their shoelaces, velcro trainers are a must otherwise stick with effortless slip-on shoes. Children are usually careless about laces and don’t tend to approach teachers to tie their laces, often leading to trips and falls.
- Separation anxiety is very common for both children and parents when starting school and considering they have spent the last six month with you, and you only. Start preparing them now. Chat with them, let them know what to expect, use free online resources such as the back to school social stories from www.autismlittlelearners.com or contact their school for advice.
- Talk to your child in a positive, cheerful manner when talking about school. Try to keep adult conversations about COVID and restrictions until they are in bed. Kids may look like they are not listening, but they take in everything, and this can have a massive impact on their feelings about school.
- Encourage positive and appropriate behaviour, talk them through their new school’s rules and let them know what is expected of them when they are at school. One of the most effective ways of encouraging positive behaviour is to reward it with words of praise.
- Give your child a head start and by encouraging pre-academic fine motor skills. Between now and September get them colouring, playing with Play-Doh, building Lego, completing jigsaws and cutting out basic shapes with scissors.
- And finally, create a goodbye routine to avoid tears and tantrums. Some kids might walk away without a backward glance while others will be kicking and screaming and unfortunately now, due to COVID, parents will not be allowed to bring their child into the classroom to help settle them. Talk your child through their new morning routine, how long they will be at school and how you will be waiting outside for them when their time is up.