Can you believe we are into the last week of school holidays, very soon it is back to school for 2016!
Parents in my clinic are running through their check list. New shoes, uniform purchased, uniforms named, back pack, books, pens and pencils. Check, check and check. And so the list goes on.
The biggest thing I get asked at least 6 months before school starts is ‘Are They Ready?’. Parents of children who are starting school want the best for them; the best experience and to be ready for all that formal education will bring.
Being ready for formal education involves, in my view, primarily two things:
1. Are they socially and emotionally ready?
How do they interact with other people especially other children?
How empathetic are they?
Do they handle not getting their own way especially when playing with others?
Do they need constant affirmation or hugs that everything is ok? Or can they play and entertain themselves quiet happily without worry or the need for you to be there constantly.
Teachers typically look for a “readiness to learn” and “teachability” indicated by positive emotional expression, enthusiasm and self-regulation (the ability to control, rationalise or “stop” emotionally and behaviourally).
2. Do they know where their body is?
I am not talking about if they know where their nose, eyes, ears are – this they should have been able to do well by the age of 2 – but rather how is their balance, can they jump and keep balance, can they climb confidently, can they throw a ball to you and catch it? Can your child give you a hug with out knocking over the glass of water in front of you, knee you in the stomach and almost give you concussion because they elbowed you in the head in the process?
Knowing, or sensing, where our body is and whether we are standing still, moving or spinning is not only important for our ability to sit still and focus but also has a profound effect on our self awareness. Body awareness will affect our emotional and behavioural regulation and therefore our readiness for school. Being ready for school is a topic that I will explore further in the very near future so if your child is going to school in 2017 I will write a blog especially for you, but for now since the 2016 school year is just around the corner here are some tips for getting your child ready for school over the next week and as they settle in to school life.
More play time, less tech time.
More and more research is coming out about technology and its effects for our health (radiation), posture, moods and social-emotional development. Ideally get rid of the screen time, or severely reduce it. I am not anti-technology as it does have it’s place in today’s society and we do need to know how to use it… but does a 3 year old or 6 year old really need to be on the iPad or iPhone? Are the moods when you take the device from them really warranted? Do they get as moody or throw tantrums when you call them in from playing outside or playing in their bedroom?
More imaginative play and body games. Children need to move to learn.
If your not already, get playing with your children as this is good for adults to do as well. Get your child wrestling on all four, doing animal walks and obstacle courses, balancing challenges and playing Twister. Children need to move their bodies, as well as discover how to move their body and what they can do with it. Over the last few years there has been a large body of research showing that movement based activities have positive effects on a child’s learning, engagement and enjoyment of school.
Don’t be busy. Prioritise family time or home time.
Down time is crucial for children, especially the week leading up to school and once school starts. Try not to over load your schedule before or after school hours; in fact reduce what you and your child does to allow down time to replenish. Once you get into the groove of the new school year and your energy is good then reassess your family schedule; see how you and your child(ren) are doing, and what you can add. We all need down time personally as well time with our tribe.
Eat well and drink water.
Nutrition is a huge issue I see in clinic. TOO MANY CARBS AND REFINED SUGARS! Yes, I am shouting it, but it is also said with a nurturing spirit. I understand filling a lunch box is a nightmare. The problem is that we are sending off our children with no sustenance, no fuel. Weetbix and cornflakes, or Nutrigrain does not give our children energy and brain power. These foods, give a burst of high sugar into the body but it disappears just as quickly. Here is a typical breakfast/lunch box I see in clinic:
Breakfast: Weetbix/cornflakes/Nutrigrains/toast with peanut butter(starch), vegemite, honey, jam(sugar)
Fruit break: fruit
Little lunch: picklets / muffin / biscuits / museli bar / fruit / biscuits
Lunch: ham sandwich / chicken loaf sandwich – having some sort of meat on the sandwich is rare
Parents, this is not a critique – having fussy eaters is hard! Let alone getting them to eat at school. I just ask that when you look at the family food and lunch boxes ask yourself ‘is this nourishing?’. And remember those busy and engaged little learners need protein and good fats to keep their little bodies going.
The average amount of sleep a child needs is 10-12hours. Sleep is important not only for growth but also brain development and replenishing important brain chemicals for learning, attention and helping us feel good.
To aid sleep;
Ensure your child gets lots of outdoor time as sunlight helps our circadian rhythms (day/night pattern) as well as gives them the much needed vitamin D.
Stop screen time at least 2-3 hours before bed due to the negative effects of blue lights; if your child or you have to be on the computer at night use a program called f.lux (turns the screen orange) or wear blue light blocking glasses.
Limit night time noise or use ear plugs/cotton wool in your ears to block out noise. Noise can disrupt the sleep cycle and according to an article by health.harvard.edu can suppress immune function.
Eat well and move (exercise) – food and moving your body is everything!
Other than that be excited about school and enjoy your time with your child, it truly is a beautiful growth period for parent and child, be sure to savour it.
Dr Abbey Wiseman – Chiropractor
“Children just need the time, the space and the permission to be kids” Angela Hanscome
Here are some great articles I like for children’s health and learning if you are interested in some further reading.