Is My Child Ready for School?

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What you can do as a parent to ensure that your child is prepared for school?

Parents face many questions, and even fears, before sending their little one into the classroom. How do I know if my child is ready for school? How does my child compare to their peers, academically and behaviorally? How do I give my child a competitive edge and ensure they are reaching their potential?

Key concepts that will allow you to know your child’s “school readiness” level are:

Understanding and Appreciating your child’s many strengths and talents

  • Play up strengths and talents and use them to help compensate for weaknesses
    • Are they creative or logical minded?

Understanding the nature of your child’s difficulties and give the tools they need to be successful in school

  • Does your child follow directions or seem to understand directions?
  • Does your child ask for help/assistance, when needed?
  • Does your child lack self-confidence?

Knowing skills to address your child’s individual needs

  • What can you do with your child at home to build on skills

Determine if services or other interventions are appropriate

  • Should you consider a speech, occupational or physical therapy evaluation?
  • Does your child need a behavior plan?

Make sure you are making informed school placement decisions

  • Determine if your child will thrive in a more structured/organized classroom versus an independent/free style/Montessori classroom

Have a knowledge of how to advocate for your child in school

  • You are the expert on your child, identify which skills your child has down and which ones could still use work.
  • When attending school meetings, address these needs as an informed parent with school staff

Know strategies to help increase your child’s confidence and decrease problematic behaviors

  • Behavior problems in school are often a result of difficulties that children have and are aware of, but do not know how to deal with; therefore, identifying these issues early can preventive these behaviors from starting

If you find that you don’t feel confident that you have enough information to determine if your child is ready for school, we encourage you to talk to your child’s teacher and to really pay attention to your child and their play style.  Are they more independent or do they need a lot of guidance? Are they confident around other children?  How do they react when they lose a game or get into an argument with peers? Knowing your child’s tendencies and behavior problems is a great start to knowing their school readiness level.

Parents who want to know more, or who want guidance themselves may consider getting an academic evaluation.  Academic evaluations are created with your child in mind, and more importantly, created specifically for your child.  The evaluation’s purpose is to identify and address your child’s individual and specific needs. Having your child evaluated helps to determine your child’s school readiness skills, including areas of strength/excellence and weakness/need. In addition, the results of an evaluation will allow you, as the parent, to know how your child is functioning in comparison to their peers and provide you with the ability to not only start off the year on the right foot, giving your child an opportunity to enhance his or her learning from day one, but it also will give you the confidence that you have made excellent decisions and have scientifically tested methods to assist your child before there is even time for a problem to surface.

Overall, an evaluation will provide you with information you need in a world where classroom sizes are growing and the face of education is changing. With the focus being on your child, knowing the above information is integral in helping you, as the parent, feel in control to make educated decisions as it relates to your child’s education. It also gives the teacher information for how to help your child achieve success in the classroom.  Remember parents, no matter how you decide to prepare for school, you are ultimately your child’s best advocate and the more you know about your child being ready for school the more you and your child can excel at making school productive and enjoyable.

 

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Questions to Ask the Teacher at Your Child’s Back to School Open House

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When you attend Open House night at your child’s school this year, don’t forget to ask these important questions to help set your child up for a successful school year.

Question #1: How much homework should I expect each night?

  • You want to know how much time your child should be spending on homework each night
  • You also want to know what kind of homework your child will have (i.e., worksheets, reading assignments, reports, projects)

Question #2: What are the classroom behavioral expectations/rules so that I can keep them consistent outside of school?

  • Consistency is key!
  • If you keep the same or similar rules at home that are used in school, it is less confusing for the child and also makes it easier for the child to know what is expected of them

Question #3: What can I do to help support learning at home?

  • Are there activities or lessons that I can do with my child at home?
  • Should I help them with their homework or let them complete it independently?

Question #4a: How are conflicts between students handled?

  • Will the parents be contacted?
  • How will the teacher will follow up with each student if a situation occurs?
  • What might some of the consequences be?

Question #4b: How are conflicts between students and teachers handled?

  • Again, will the teacher contact the parents and what is the follow up, depending on the situation

Question #5: What is the most effective way to contact the teacher?

  • Does the teacher prefer to be contacted by phone or email?
  • Make it clear that you, as a parent, are very interested in staying connect with the school and that the teacher may contact you for positive things, in addition to problems

We hope you have a successful Back to School Open House Night.

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Helpful Tips for Working Parents

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Being a working parent can be tough. On this National Working Parents Day, we both salute you and offer some tips that may help you stay on top of your work, while still having plenty of quality family time.

Start each day on a happy note. Give yourself more time to enjoy each other by packing lunches, backpacks and briefcases the night before.

Manage your time productively. Use time spent in the car and/or walking to enjoy each other’s company, sing songs, catch up on what’s going on at school, or discuss fun activities for the weekend. During this time, put all electronic devices away, DON’T use your phone and take away headphones and handheld devices from the kids (the same goes for dinner time).

When you cook, make “extra” dinner to freeze. This will allow you on another night to quickly thaw out a meal when you get home, instead of stressing over an entire new meal.

An evening meal does not always have to be a hot meal. If you end up late at the office, there is nothing wrong with sandwiches for dinner. With the time you save by not cooking, you can do something fun, like play a game or hang out in the backyard and/or at the park.

Plan regular enjoyable family activities that are simple. Once a month, schedule an activity, such as taking the family to a sporting event or going on a hike, bowling, ice skating, etc. It is these activities that provide children with positive family memories.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s ok not to be supermom or dad ALL of the time. Don’t ever feel bad asking a friend or babysitter to step in when you need them.  Remember, taking care of yourself ensures that you are better able to parent and take care of your children.

By taking these suggestions into consideration, working parents can use time with their family more efficiently. While it can be difficult, try to leave work stresses at work and focus on spending more quality time with your children when you are home.

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Helpful Tips for Adjusting Back to School

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“Back to School” is in full swing across the country. Now that your child is back in the classroom, how are they adjusting and what can you do to help them? Whether it’s a new school, classroom or grade, there are things you can do to help your child with adjusting back to school to set them up for a successful school year.

Establish a morning routine. Be consistent. Make sure they wake up at the same time every morning. Set up a check list for everything that needs to be done before they leaving for school. Organize the list in the order that things should be done.  For example, check the weather, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, check backpack for homework (and other items), grab lunch, and head out the door.

Eat Breakfast. Make sure a protein packed breakfast is a part of the morning routine. Keeping a child full until lunch is vital to help with focusing and optimizing time in the classroom.

Talk about the day together before heading into school. Ask your child what he or she is most looking forward to that day in school. Discuss what’s been happening in the classroom.  Ask specific questions. Make sure to keep an open dialogue up until dropping them off at the bus stop, school or classroom door.

Leave special notes, reminders, or pictures for your child to find. Put a family photo in their backpack, notebook or folder OR include a fun note in their lunch to remind them how much you love them and how proud of them you are for having a great day at school.

Keep an open dialogue about school when they get home everyday. Try to keep the discussion positive. Ask about the best part of the day, but it’s also ok to ask if there was anything difficult. This will give the opportunity to discuss what they can improve for the next day or can ask for the teacher                                                                     to help with. Again, make sure questions are specific.

Pick a favorite after school activity or snack. After a successful day in school, allow them to pick a favorite activity or snack for making it through the day. This will also help motivate them to have more good days in the future!

Hope that everyone is successfully adjusting back to school! Don’t get discouraged if it’s difficult at first, over time it will be easier!

 

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Help Ease Back to School Anxiety

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Does your child (or you) have anxiety about heading back to school this year? Here are 5 easy ways to help you both ease those jitters and get excited.

1. Shop with your child before school starts. Let them pick out a new outfit they feel confident in and get school supplies they are excited to start using. Your child wear school uniforms? No problem. Shop for a fun backpack and/or accessories such as headbands and socks.

2. Fun family picture. Place in your child’s backpack, folder or notebook as a reminder of all the people that are proud of them and are supporting them while they tackle that first day.

3. Remain calm yourself. Refrain from showing signs of your own anxiety. Children are often more perceptive then we realize. Act excited and consistently talk about how wonderful this day is going to be rather then that fact that you will miss your child.

4. Redirect negative thoughts. When your child talks about nervousness or worries about that first day back to school, respond with, “I understand those concerns but there are so many wonderful things to think about too. What are the top three things that you are most looking forward to?”

5. Walk and/or drive to school (or school bus stop) with a friend. Before the day starts, make sure your child has someone with them whom is experiencing the first day back as well. Kids show amazing resiliency if they feel they are not alone. If possible, have breakfast with a friend’s family before heading off to the school building to both have fun and alleviate some back to school jitters!

 

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Back to School Style for The Successful Child

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We still have plenty of time to enjoy the summer days at the pool wearing our bathing suits and weekends spent by the beach in shorts, but everyone knows that back to school shopping is just around the corner.  Retailers are vying for your attention through commercials and ads plastered on billboards to choose them to supply your child’s fall wardrobe.  Every savvy parent wants their little one to look cool and trendy but some children’s fashions may not be an appropriate choice for during the school day.  As a teacher, I have seen many “fashion fails” sit in my classroom.  My ten years as an educator in early childhood have helped me devise a list of helpful tips to keep in mind while you are purchasing your promising little pupil’s new duds.  Following these guidelines can ensure a stress free and successful back to school shopping experience.

Minimize Accessories. Nothing is cuter than a little girl with bling or a little boy in a superhero cape, however, wearing these extra accessories can become a distraction during the school day.  Students play with them while they should be paying attention to what their teacher is teaching.  They can also distract fellow classmates.  Many of these accessories can get lost or stolen.  You want your kids to focus at school so think of leaving these “extras” at home.

Functional Footwear. Interactive learning is all the rage in schools.  Kinesthetic approaches to academics engage students to maximize learning and make school fun.  Make sure that your child wears functional footwear such as sneakers, flat shoes, or boots to ensure full participation in any of these activities. It is very possible that your child may be moving, jumping, dancing, or running even on days when they do not have gym class.   Avoid flip-flops, high heels, and wheel-y shoes to ensure full and safe participation.  Also, make sure your child’s shoes fit properly and are not too small.  Socks should be worn with sneakers to ensure comfort and proper fit.

Machine Washable Fabrics. When purchasing new clothes, please read the care label to ensure easy laundering.  Classrooms can be breeding grounds for germs.  Make sure you wash your child’s clothing after each wear to minimize the transfer of illness or bed bugs back to your home.

Age Appropriate Logos/Phrases. Please proof-read any words or phrases gracing the garb of your child.  Designers are tending to write things that may be rude or sexual in nature on shirts and pants.  School should be a friendly and safe place for all students.  A teacher or another student could be offended by an off- putting graphic or logo.  Make sure whatever is plastered across your child’s chest or behind is age appropriate.

Child Friendly Clothing. Our kids want to fit in and wear the coolest sneakers or the trendiest jeans just like their classmates.  Style is unique and we do not want to hinder personal expression at a young age.  We also want our kids to fit in.  With that being said, please make sure you spend time teaching your child how to put on these garments alone.  Teach your child to zip and unzip, tie and untie, button and unbutton.  Please understand that teachers legally cannot dress or undress your child.  If your child is unable to handle typical closures please consider alternatives such as Velcro, slip on shoes, elastic waist bands or magnets.

Happy Back to School shopping!

Thank you to Alyssa Goldinger, an experienced NYC teacher, for sharing this advice with all of our families!

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Avoiding Bedtime Battles

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We still have a month left, but now that summer is coming to a close, it’s important to get your child back into a bedtime routine. Follow these rules to minimize the bedroom battles.

Routine. Establish a plan of action to follow with your child every night. A common one is the “4 B’s”: Bath, Brush Teeth, Books, and Bed. Providing a transitional object, including stuffed animals or a favorite blanket, can help your child get ready for bed and ease separation. Find what works best for your family, but make sure you are consistent in whatever routine you choose.

Consistency. Make sure bedtime is the same time every night. Keep in mind little ones need between 9-12 hours of sleep depending on their age, toddlers need more time then school aged children.

Choices. When preparing for bedtime, make sure to give your child choices using “either-or” questions. For example “Do you want to wear the blue or green pajamas?” or “Do you want to skip or walk to the bedroom?” Avoid asking open-ended questions, it creates more confusion and frustration resulting in unnecessary battles.

Winding down”. About a half-hour before starting the bedtime routine, give your child the opportunity to ease into the process. End stimulating activities for the evening, such as watching TV and playing physical games, and try engaging in more relaxing and calming activities, like coloring or reading.

Environment. Make sure the bedroom temperature is cool (generally between 67-70 degrees), dark and quiet. Eliminate any stimulating activities, such as TV, electronics or screens of any kind.  A white noise machine, fan or quiet music may be used, but make sure the volume is very low so it is soothing.

Remember, kids will most likely not respond immediately to the new bedtime rules you put in place and there may even be some push back, BUT do not give up! If you are consistent and keep up with the routine, over time the bedtime battles will decrease and eventually disappear!

 

 

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It’s Humid, Muggy and Hot…Play in the Indoor Sandbox

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With this humid, muggy and hot weather, indoor sandboxes are less sand and a lot more muck, however, you don’t have to give up the fun. If you are looking for indoor summertime activities for your child, in order to beat the heat…make your own sand-free sandbox at home!  It takes two minutes to prepare and provides hours of fun!

1. Take a large tupperware bin, container or a large pan of any kind.

2. Fill with dry rice and/or oats.

3. Insert sand toys and play away!

NOTE: place a sheet under the container for easy pickup when done!

Happy playing without the humidity, mugginess or heat!

 

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Summer Healthy Snacks on the Go!

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Now that it’s summer, everyone is out and about. Whether you are flying, driving or just walking down the street to the park, one thing is certain…you can’t leave home without a healthy snack bag!  As any parent or caregiver knows, the one thing every child requires is energy. Sometimes replenishing this energy in a healthy way can be a challenging task, especially when on the go!  This summer try some of these easy portable healthy snacks that kids love and you can feel good about giving them!

Frozen grapes! This one involves little to no prep time and is sure to be a crowd pleaser.  Simply take grapes (make sure they are seedless for the little mouths) and put them in the freezer.  Once frozen, the grapes will taste cool and tart, making them as refreshing as ice cream on a hot day, but without any of the added sugar and fat!

Make your own trail mix. This is a great way to get kids involved! Kids are much more likely to eat anything they feel they have made themselves. Set out nuts, granola, and dried fruit. Let them go to town combining all 3, by placing it in a snack bag and shaking it up to create the perfect snack they can grab and go.

Cheese and fruit kabobs. Take regular cheese and use a cookie cutter to make fun shapes with it; then stick it on a kabob with pieces of fruit (berries, orange slices, grapes, kiwi, etc).  For a time saver, skip the cookie cutter and buy the cubed cheese which is kabob ready out of the bag!

Tortilla roll ups! This snack is sure to keep those kids moving with it’s killer combination of whole grain and protein.  Take peanut butter and spread it lightly over a whole wheat tortilla.  Add bananas or you can substitute fruit spread.  Roll it up and either leave whole (like a tube) or cut into bite size pieces.

Black Bean brownies! This one is a secret recipe for moms and caregivers alike.  Take regular brownie mix and add one pound of unseasoned, undrained pureed black beans and NOTHING else; bake at 350 for 35 minutes..  This snack will trick your kids into thinking it’s a real treat but you will smile knowing they just ate their beans and replenished all the protein they need to keep moving.

Enjoy your summer and healthy snacks everyday!

 

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5 Must Follow Tips for Heading to The Beach with Children!

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Summer is here and what better place to go then the beach?  Beach days offer fun and excitement to children of all ages; however, it can often seem like a daunting task for parents.  Follow these 5 tips and your beach day will truly be “as easy and relaxing as a day at the beach”!

1. Bring sun coverage. We don’t just mean lather on the sunscreen (an obvious)…bring a tent, large umbrella or other object that will provide respite from the heat. This allows for a sun break and offers a place for little ones to nap, if needed.

2. Plan for hunger, thirst and scope out a sand-friendly place to eat. Portable prop up trays and/or tables are great to keep sand out of food, and consequently, out of children’s mouths.  Kids use up a lot of energy in the sun and water, so bring nutrient dense foods, apples, cheese sticks, frozen grapes, peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat (avoid any meats), hummus and veggies. Also, prepare frozen water bottles because everything melts so quickly. By the time the children are thirsty, it will have turned from ice to ice cold water.

3. Aim for “comfy” weather.  Go early in the day or late in the afternoon rather then the middle of the day when the heat is at it’s highest. Overall, this will make your day more enjoyable and the chances of sunburns are a lot less.

4. While lifeguards are a must, they are not a replacement for mom and dad. Don’t rely solely on the lifeguards; make sure you watch your child at all times! Also, other parents are not responsible for your children.  If you want to rest and relax yourself, bring a babysitter or a friend who can take on “supervision duty” while you take a break.

5. Bring toys and rely on Mother Nature to provide entertainment when taking breaks from the water and waves. Children love the water, but it’s important to break, rehydrate and reapply sunscreen consistently. Bring sand toys to keep your child busy. Also, remember Mother Nature provides entertainment. Look for seashells, start a collection that you can bring home to paint or string the ones with holes to make a souvenir necklace! This will help to avoid a fight when you tell them to get out of the water.

The beach is a place to make many wonderful family memories. If you are prepared, it will be a great bonding experience for families of all sizes and children of all ages. Life should always be as wonderful as a day at the beach!

 

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