The Preparation Toolbox
In the first blog entry of this series, we learned how helpful play can be in preparing for school. But there are so many ways that parents and teachers can support children during this time. Here are some simple tools which parents and teachers have in their tool-box which they can use to support a child’s transition back to school:
- Personalised Social Stories about returning to school: These stories provide reassurance, calm and safety for children who are feeling a bit wobbly about returning to school. They also provide a wonderful opportunity to discuss the positive aspects of returning to school to promote excitement and joy!
- Self-care: Parents and teachers can ensure that they take care of themselves and take time. If we are feeling anxious and burnt out, children will pick up on that! Staying on top of self-care and speaking positively about school will help children to feel positive about it, too!
- One-to-one play time: Parents can build in play time throughout the week, short bursts where they give their children their undivided attention. There are no fancy toys or activities needed! This builds your relationship with your child and promotes the development of resilience, autonomy, self-esteem, and a whole list of wonderful things!
- Sensory play kit for during and going to/from school: This is also known as a “fidget-box”, and contains items which help to calm your child’s nervous system. They are great to have available in the classroom, in the car on the way to and from school and readily available at home. People often think that these baskets are distracting for children, when in fact they usually have a calming effect and help children to focus. A sensory play kit might have squishy toys, fidget spinners, playdoh, or any item that activates the child’s senses! There are fantastic bits available in discount stores, and www.sensationalkids.ie have excellent sensory toys available online and in-store.
- Creating a comfy safe space at home: Allowing children to have a comfortable and safe space at home where they can relax and unwind is so important. This means creating a space where all feelings are welcome, there are no demands placed upon them, and where they can go to reset. Think bean bags, blankets, pillows, books, etc!
- Let them PLAY!: This one goes for home and school, too. (I acknowledge that current restrictions will limit play options at school however I discussed some fun and safe options in my recent webinar!) Let children play freely and watch them destress and offload in the most natural and developmentally appropriate way possible. Let them play through their fears, concerns and worries and find fun and joy while doing it! What do I mean when I say “let them play?” Jaak Panksepp (2010) explains
“Real play is really, rough housing, rough and tumble, running, chasing, playing tag, hide and seek. If we try to line children up for kicking a soccer ball, that’s a stylised play, but that’s not real play. Real play is something that children themselves do, and that’s the good stuff for the brain.”
Panksepp, J. (2010) ‘The Primal Power of Play’, Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KanfLqKXYg (Accessed: 8/4/2020).
Eleanor is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and Play Therapist at her private practice. After years of working as a Social Care Worker and SNA, Eleanor felt that play was the missing piece in her work (and life!). Jumping back into third level education, Eleanor recently finished her MA in Creative Psychotherapy! During her training, Eleanor also became a mother to her now 2 year old daughter and has since developed a strong interest in empowering and supporting parents.