Thursday, February 5, 2015


By  Laugh & Learn with Silly Sam at:
We Are Growing Up!
At Conference time we discuss how our focus for our students as we continue on throughout the year is to become more INDEPENDENT.  So many parents have asked me over the years, what they could do at home to help their children become the best LEARNERS they can be. I have always been honored to be asked, and I thought that I would write down some of the suggestions that I have made to share with all of you! So here goes the first in my “How Can We Help At Home” series about INDEPENDENCE!
 I hope you find some of these suggestions helpful!
You can help us at home by encouraging your young student to…
  1. Put on their own coat & button & zip by themselves:  This time of year requires so much more clothing to prepare for the outdoors.  It is such a help if our students can be independent or even be able to help each other.  Students that can manage their coats and other items quickly and independently are ready for their day sooner and can even finish a “Do-Now” assignment before some friends have even gotten to their seats.  If students have a special fancy coat that is harder for them to manage, it would be a great idea to not have them wear that to school.  When selecting a new coat to be worn at school, whenever possible, it would be great to have your child try the zipper and buttons themselves before purchasing.  Or, if it’s a little tricky, they can take some time to practice at home.  Of course, we will try to help everyone at school, but clearly the more independent students are going to have more time for learning and fun activities.  If we have a less independent group, we need to plan in more time for transitions to activities and especially for entrance and dismissal procedures.  If everyone is all set, we have more time for a fun review game or extra learning activity.  Independence has a very direct effect on individual performance and the amount of time available for the little extras in learning and fun at this early age.
  2. Have their Name on every piece of clothing that comes off:  It is such a huge help to have names inside ALL (gloves & hats, etc.) clothing too.  We can spend  a lot of time trying to identify the owner of pieces of clothing found in our closet.  We also spend time helping students look for lost items either in our classroom or in the building’s Lost & Found.  Many times our students don’t recognize their things when mixed in with other similar items.  Taking the extra time to label your child’s clothing can save us much valuable time in school.  Students that are independently aware of what items are theirs and able to follow the procedures for where to keep them in each setting are ready for their day sooner, and have more time for activities.
  3. Learn how to fix sleeves that come off Inside-Out:  This time of year with multiple layers of clothing, students may end up with inside-out sweat shirts and coat sleeves.  Believe it or not, this actually becomes a mini-lesson.  We try to show students how to take off their jackets without making the sleeves come inside-out.  If they do, we encourage them to try fixing it.  It is a great help if they practice this skill at home too. If your child has a jacket with a zip-in liner, help them make sure it is securely zipped in at home.  Also, teach your children how to secure their loose items like mittens, hats and scarves. We find them mostly on the closet floor, and many have not learned or do not remember to put them down a coat-sleeve or inside the pockets. It is a tremendous help if our students have learned this already.  Now, some students that are savvy in this way, become our experts and can actually show others how to do it! Let your child become a Helper, instead of needing help. They will love how that feels!
  4. Learn to tie, lace,  button or buckle their own shoes:  In our classroom, we have a Teddy Bear Ties station with a special lesson to teach students how to tie.  We also have a chart where students can proudly display their award and skill when they pass the tying test.  It would be great if your Little Learner could practice at home as well.  **It is such a help if their laces are replaced if they are tattered, worn or broken, when possible. Sometimes we are tying the same shoes multiple times a day, and those short laces are especially hard for children just learning to tie. When my son first started school, he had 2 sets of sneakers, velcro or elastic laced for school that he could put on and take off independently, and long ties for practicing at home. He did not wear those to school until he could tie himself. If having multiple pairs of shoes is an option for you, you may want to consider an independent pair and a practicing pair. Or, during the practicing phase, just put a ribbon around a stuffed animal for them to practice with.
  5. Know what they are doing for lunch each day:  Students need to know if they are bringing or buying each day.  If they are buying, they need to know what the lunch choices are and which one they are going to choose.  As families become busier and busier and more and more daily events are controlled electronically, we have seen this trend in our schools, where students are not aware of their lunch arrangements each day.  Students used to have an envelope of money on days that they were buying and a lunchbox on days that they were bringing.  Now, parents can arrange to pre-pay for a number of lunches on an account, so buyers do not always have money with them that day.  We have seen lunchboxes used for just a snack as well, so having a lunchbox does not necessarily mean that they are not buying that day.  We are seeing that we are spending a lot more time trying to take the lunch order for the day because students are not familiar with the menu choices and need detailed explanations of what they are, and are not aware of their own lunch plans for the day.  We also have students that are definitely buying lunch, but are not interested in any of the choices for that day.  How can you help?  Discuss the lunch procedure with your child.  If you are using an account, discuss with them how you put in money each month for them to use, and they do not need to carry money every day.  Discuss whether they are bringing or buying and what they are using for a snack if there is one in their class.  Also discuss all of the menu choices each day, if they do not like the choices, it may be a great day to bring something from home.  One suggestion is to handle this conversation the night before, maybe after dinner.  That way, there is more time to plan if your child needs to bring a lunch from home.  This may sound small, but we can lose a lot of time describing what the lunch choices are, explaining how an account works, having students go to their backpacks and check for a lunch, etc.  Even with all of these extra steps, however, we still can get it wrong.  To help your child’s day go smoother and to be sure they are getting the nourishment that they need and enjoy, helping them be a part of the planning and aware of their arrangements can help to relieve stress in their day and actually help them to be more successful each day.
  6. Practice opening bottles, bags, containers, thermoses, etc. in their lunch boxes by themselves: You can help by watching them open and manage the things they bring for lunch at home. If twist-off water bottles are too tight for your little one, you may consider a pop-up water bottle. We encourage them to at least try to open things before we do it for them. It is quite rare that they actually need us to do it for them too. Independence is the key. When my son went to Pre-School for the first time, I always sent him with things he could manage by himself. As a former Pre-School Teacher, I knew that the kind and caring helpers open everyone’s as fast as they can, however, I didn’t want my son to have to wait for someone to help before he could start eating his lunch. A fun way to test out your child’s lunchbox skills is to have little school lunch practice picnic. Prepare their lunch exactly how it will be when they are in school and pick a fun place to eat and let them practice, (and let you see) their lunchbox skills. They may feel more at ease on their first lunch day at school.
  7. Know what their arrangements are for going home each day:  Some students are in an after-care program for some days each week, and riding the bus on the other days.  Some students need to be picked up from school some days a week and many students need to be picked up on random days for appointments and events.  It is a tremendous help if there is a written note  with any changes, in addition to any emails. Your child knowing the plan for each day is a HUGE help.  This is another area that can cause much stress for your child in their day.  When there is a question about the plan teachers need to make sometimes several phone calls to confirm the correct arrangements.  We never want a miscommunication to lead to a student being in the wrong place for dismissal.  So, how you can help, is to make arrangements clear ahead of time, and in writing as well, whenever possible.  Stress and tears come most often at lunchtime and dismissal time when students are unclear on what is happening.  So, a little pre-planning and confirmed communication is so key.

These are just a few simple things that can be done at home that some parents may not have thought about. They are tiny little things that can help our youngest students be more ready, confident and independent. Believe it or not, these simple things can help their day be less stressful and more productive.

Look for the next installment of “HOW CAN WE HELP AT HOME?” Part 2: RESPONSIBILITY coming soon at

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