What I’ve learned so far… How to make school work for my kindergartener.

Henry is in his first year of school. He attended two years of preschool, but the focus there was really social skills. In his first year he went twice a week for two-and-a-half hours. The second year he went three days a week. His mom and I were really worried about how he would take to the 9:00 – 3:30 school day, five days a week.

We have found three keys to making sure he has a successful day at school. Nothing ground breaking, but I think worth sharing.

Breakfast!

It has been said forever that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. For a school-age child it is true. Our problem was Henry hated to eat breakfast. We knew that breakfast plays a critical role in a child’s development, behavior, and overall health, but how do you force a child to eat? What has worked for us is a family project every weekend to make a large batch of highly fortified nutritious waffles or pancakes. Henry helps to make them and he loved to add things, so we include pumpkin, flax seeds, wheat germ, dried and fresh fruit. We freeze enough to get through the week and then it only takes a few minutes to get him a nutritious and delicious breakfast. Eating breakfast ensures he has adequate energy at school, and sets the tone for our the rest of our morning routine.

Check out Kathleen M. Zelman’s, MPH, RD, LD, take on the benefits of breakfast here… http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/many-benefits-breakfast and the staff at the Mayo Clinic’s 10 tips for picky eaters at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/childrens-health/HQ01107

A Reliable and Predictable Routine

I know this is hard, but it is so critical to preventing the morning meltdowns. Routines may seem boring to adults, but children thrive on them. Daily routines
make children feel secure, promise them comfort and make them feel in control.

Additionally, routines provide a framework for the child’s day. Children like knowing
what’s coming and what’s happening, when things will happen, and what order things will happen in. Children thrive with sameness and repetition. Routines provide children with consistency and security. Routines also help them move from one activity to the next.

We start every morning with 20 – 30 minutes of reading, giving Henry time to wake-up. More importanly, the morning reading time lets Henry know that we are putting everything on hold to spend time with him. This does wonders for how the rest of the morning goes. We move up-stairs and prepare and eat breakfast. We then dress, brush teeth, and comb hair. My wonderfully organized wife has this timed and when I’m in charge of the morning routine, I have a check sheet that gives me the time for each activity. It keeps me on schedule so we do not have to rush at the end. Being rather stubborn, I ignored her list the first time, and tried to wing it. We ended up rushed and flustered, getting out the door with quite a bit of growling at one-another.

A Good Night’s Sleep

Like adequate nutrition, sleep plays a key role in getting children ready to learn. Sleep promotes alertness, memory and performance. Children who get enough sleep are more likely to function better and are less prone to behavioral problems and moodiness. As an educator, I can guarantee your child’s teacher will thank you for making this a priority. Routines play a key role here as well. Like all parents we get out of our bed-time routine at times, and I really can not think of a time where it has worked out well.

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