Five things you can do to get your child school-ready [Guest Post by Learning Connections]

How to prepare children for their first year of  school.

How to prepare children for their first year of school.

For your child to get the most from Prep the first thing they will need to be able to do is to sit in a chair, listen and follow directions. Teachers report that unless a child can do this they will find it difficult to learn. They also need to have settled behaviour, the ability to socialise in groups, to engage with drawing and books and to communicate with mature language skills.

These abilities are the precursors of the five domains of the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) – physical health and wellbeing; social competence; emotional maturity; language and cognitive skills; and communication skills and general knowledge – which are used to measure early childhood development. It is estimated that almost 1/3 of children entering Prep are developmentally vulnerable on at least one of these domains – and it is these children who are most likely to have literacy and numeracy challenges throughout their primary school years. If you arrive at school already behind in the developmental domains you will have trouble catching up.

Even for otherwise bright children these seemingly simple tasks are difficult if they have developmental immaturities. Many children will develop coping strategies to respond to their vulnerabilities, but as children progress through the school system and the work gets harder their strategies stop working (usually around year three).
Here are 5 things you can do to help progress your child’s development and establish a strong foundation of motor, sensory-motor and language skills to have them ready for the classroom –

1. Swing, spin and roll

Swinging, spinning, rolling, tumbling, zig-zag running … all these movements stimulate and develop the vestibular system which is the unifying system in our brain, controlling our sense of movement and balance. The vestibular system influences nearly every other sensory system and is critical for language development and academic learning. It helps the brain co-ordinate information from all the sensory systems, in particular, information from our eyes and ears. A well-developed vestibular system enables concentration and a focus on learning.

2. Increase play

Value your child’s play! Games, drawing, puzzles, painting, story telling, dress-ups etc. … through all of these your child is learning and preparing for life. Play is a testing ground for language and reasoning skills – a laboratory for learning to connect to future challenges such as literacy, maths and science. As Dr. Rhonda Clements says … “Our complex society requires clear thinkers, playful attitudes, humour and creativity for complex problem-solving”. Play helps children grow and develop their creativity and begin a lifelong love of learning.

3. Decrease technology

Setting and enforcing limits on the amount and content of your child’s “screen-time” can enhance their sleep time, reduce their risk of obesity and improve both their grades at school and their cooperative behaviour. “Screen-time” means the total time your child spends watching TV, DVDs, iPads, smart phones, Facebook and video games. Whilst some programs have real merit it is important to understand that time spent by young children on technology is time not spent, and forever lost, to the play activities that develop readiness skills for successful learning. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one hour of screen time per day for primary school children (and no more than two hours per day for secondary school children). They also recommend no screens in children’s bedrooms.

4. Eat real food

Foods affect learning! Real food doesn’t come out of a packet. If your great-grandmother didn’t eat it – it probably isn’t real food! It’s important for your child (and you) to eat a balanced diet of whole foods. Eat food with the minimum of human intervention and processing. Try to eat seasonal foods. Eat more veges
than fruit (a ratio of 7:2 per day is recommended). Vegies have less sugar than fruit and are more nutritionally dense. Avoid additives. Avoid lunchbox packets like fruit juice and sweet yoghurts. Instant noodles are not real food. Occasional treats are not a problem.

5. Take the emotion out of meal-time

Sit at the dinner table as a family and have a conversation. It’s a great place to practice many of the basic skills needed for Prep, e.g., sitting still in a chair, listening and taking turns with conversation. Take the emotion out of mealtimes by planning a weekly menu and putting it on display so there are no surprises. Be clear on the rules: The adults decide what to eat, with input from the children (talking about the different tastes and textures is an important part of a child’s nutritional education). The children decide whether to eat and how much. If the child decides they don’t like something they can refuse it (after tasting it) but they do so knowing that they wont be getting a substitute meal. If, however, you are serving something a bit challenging, do also provide a simpler option on the plate alongside it.

These 5 strategies can go a long way towards preparing your child for Prep. If you need more help or would like more information please visit the Learning Connections website or call us on 07 3369 1011.


Narrative Therapy Techniques for Children | JourneyTree

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Narrative Therapy for Children – One Simple Technique for Parents

Narrative therapy is where your child understands their own story and sees problems and challenges as outside influences – not as part of who they are. Using Narrative Therapy techniques a counsellor enables problems in their story to become separate from them. The child’s challenges become something which can be managed rather than a part of who they are. Narrative Therapy for children helps them to identify, discuss and deal with issues which would otherwise become part of who they are.

The Narrative Therapy technique explained

The principle of narrative therapy is about dealing with issues through discussion and narrating one’s life then using this as a premise for feeling secure and comfortable with a life story.
In a practical sense, using the principles of narrative therapy for your young children could be to create a photobook of your child’s life story. Doing this not only initiates a conversation with your child about the past, present and future, it also makes them aware of their routine, the adults in their life and the people and objects that make them feel safe and secure.

What should you put in the photobook?

Include photos of your child’s daily activities and routine, as well as any learning and developmental milestones that will help them celebrate and realise their growth as an individual. Photos of family, day care and extra-curricular activities will help your child have a sense of belonging and structure. Building an annual photobook creates a whole childhood narrative.

How can you use the photobook?

The photobook can be used as part of a bedtime routine or any other time of day. Let your child lead the discussion as they look at the photos. If any negative feelings or anxieties arise, such as going to child care or kindergarten, then remind them of the positive aspects by pointing out photos of the fun activities and their achievements that have taken place there. Some childhood events are traumatic. Family separations for example can create anxieties and feelings of blame in your child. Use your photobook to open discussions around the separation and to illustrate that both parents still love the child. You can talk about when you were happy before and how you’re still enjoying happy times separately. You can also use it show that the “separation event” was an external occurrence, beyond your child’s control and in no way caused by the child.

What other narrative therapy techniques can be used?

Photobooks can be used in conjunction with drama, art, and play activities. If your child is anxious about going to day care, you might like to use a photo of them engaging in a fun activity and then use it as a base for roleplay, drawing or free play. While they are participating in the activity, you can play too! Keep it a light and fun activity and talk about ways they can deal with their anxiety while focusing on being encouraging and optimistic.
If you’re looking for a safe and secure way to store your child’s life story, JourneyTree provides the perfect platform for your Early Childhood Centre to communicate your child’s progress and provide images of them engaging in learning activities. It also has fully integrated photobook software and a cloud storage area for you to upload your own images. Find out more and contact JourneyTree today.


Separation Anxiety at Day Care—How You Can Help

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Separation Anxiety at Day Care—How to Help Your Child Integrate
There’s nothing more traumatic than leaving your anxious child at day care—for you, and for them. You’re not alone. While separation anxiety at day care is normal for a baby or toddler’s development, it’s hard on both the parent and the child. Don’t miss or delay the first step into independence, the first steps towards building resilience and the pride your child will feel achieving accomplishments independent of you, because of separation anxiety. Your childcare centre has met more than one child with separation anxiety before and you can assist them to help your child through this stage. Here’s how you can communicate with your day care to ensure you leave your child without too much separation anxiety.
Share all the information you can about anxieties
You might not want to appear to be ‘one of those parents’ who feels the need to discuss every tiny detail about your child. This is the time when you can. Provide extra details in your applications and communicate with your day care when things change. If your child is going through a particularly anxious period, be sure to let the centre know. If your child has a new nap preference or you’ve found another way to calm them down that’s working, let your childcare centre know. They will appreciate it. Remember you both have the same aims—to keep your child safe and happy.
Don’t jump to conclusions based on separation anxiety at drop-off
If your child is a little more clingy than usual, don’t jump to the conclusion that the day care must be doing something wrong and that’s why your child doesn’t want to go. Remember, your childcare providers are professionals and they are also very busy. Respect the centre’s rules and make an appointment to discuss the issue, instead of trying to talk at drop-off or pick-up time when the educators are still busy with other children at the centre.
Check their modes of communication first
Does your day care provide information via email, newsletters or SMS? Do they provide an app that keeps you updated on your child’s progress during the day? Often separation anxiety at day care abates soon after mum (or dad) leaves. Be sure to use the centre’s preferred communication method to monitor the extent of your child’s anxiety.
Be a part of your child’s day care experience
Keep in the loop and get involved in special events. This will help both you and your child integrate successfully into day care and minimise separation anxiety. It also means you can use any time you get to communicate with your day care provider to observe your child in the group and discuss any issues that arise.
If your child is still struggling to let go, ensure your communication lines stay open with your day care provider and be open to suggestions. Remember they have seen it all before! Don’t be dismayed if they say it takes time for some children to settle in.
JourneyTree offers a communication-based app to keep track of your child in a day care or early learning centre. Offering a private, secure app to communicate more efficiently with parents and store a child’s early childhood development, it’s a great choice for early educators and parents, nationally. Separation anxiety at day care is part of the ‘growing up’ process, but if that is no comfort at drop-off time, updated communication will be! Find out more and enquire about JourneyTree for your ELC today.


Grubby Face, Happy Space: Sensory Play

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Development of the sensory system is just as important as developing good coordination, fine motor skills, communication and other life skills. In fact, it could be said that good development through sensory play is integral to all of these, and without good development of our sensory systems, everything else is going to suffer! Sensory Play is one of the key developmental activities that you childcare centre should be providing, but why is it so vital?

 

What is Sensory Processing?

Sensory processing refers to how the brain interprets input or messages received through our sensory system. For example, our ears receive sound, but our brain tells us where the sound is coming from, and what that sound might be. We can even tell if someone is talking, who that person might be without even looking at them! Amazing right!?

Our sensory system includes our sense of sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing as well as vestibular and proprioception. These are our sense of balance and body position. All these senses must work well together to help us get through each day. For kids, these senses are important for learning new skills, and play a big part in being able to concentrate and focus on the task at hand.

 

Sensory Development Through Play

So how do we ensure sensory development is on track? The answer is exposure! Kids are hands on learners, and develop new skills by doing. This means that we must provide them with plenty of opportunity to touch, taste, and smell lots of different things in order to help their sensory system mature. For parents, this can sometimes be a big ask. When children learn, primarily through play experiences, they love to explore with their whole bodies. This usually means big messes! But how happy are kids when they are allowed to get dirty! It’s even better when they can involve their friends or siblings. Kids seem to be most content when they have a playmate by their side and a whole lot of opportunities to get grubby. Social play is extremely important too!

 

Sensory Play is Messy!

If you’re a bit opposed to messes and cringe at the thought of mud, sand, glitter or paint (and more often than not, a combination of these) this is where you childcare centre, day care or kindy can be your best friend. Day care centres are usually well equipped to provide messy play experiences and are more than happy to deal with the aftermath! Furthermore you will find experienced staff and carers who know exactly what your little one needs and can provide activities that are suitable for your child’s age and are developmentally appropriate. The other wonderful thing about day care, is that your child has the opportunity to learn and play alongside kids their own age. This is essential for developing social skills and for giving your child the chance to copy or model other kids if they are not sure how to go about a task.

 

Sensory Development Activities at Home

If you are all for the mess, and love nothing more than getting your hands dirty too, then there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. When choosing messy play activities, remember that little ones will often explore with their mouths as well as their hands. Always go non-toxic materials and go for good quality.
  1. The best sensory play can be experienced in nature. The backyard can offer a range of textures, colours and smells, that kids just love to get in amongst.
  1. Be prepared for mess and for things not to go always as planned. You might find glue gets mixed in with paint, glitter ends up in hair, and the cat ends up with a mud facial. It’s best you embrace the experience, and appreciate your little one’s creativity. Know that you are doing the best thing for you and you child.

 

Sensory Play is a major part of early childhood development and your childcare centre should be encouraging mess. If your childcare centre is sending your child home clean every single day, talk to them about sensory activities that will make a big difference in your child’s development. At JourneyTree, we assist childcare centres to communicate children’s learning experiences at this most important stage in a child’s development. Ask your centre about the JourneyTree system now, it could make all the difference.