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OUR LITTLE ONES AND SUGAR

As a pediatrician, we talk a great deal about childrenfood and children’s growth. For the vast majority of children, this is a topic easily broached by asking what their favorite foods are (pizza and tacos reign supreme) and what they like to drink (many say water, actually, and only a few admit they guzzle juice or soda). It is a fun way to start a conversation on a very broad and potentially complicated topic.  

After more than a couple of decades in practice, I get it. Food is love. Food is culture. Food is fun. Food is delicious. As North Americans, our love of food comes with a rather demanding sweet tooth. Along with this inclination comes parents who are rightfully concerned about their children’s sugar intake.  

I want to assure you, however, that many times the concern isn’t necessary – parents are well informed and smart about offering children nutritious foods. However, the lure of sugar is strong in children, and sometimes it’s hard to say no to those precious, pleading faces. While limiting sugar may seem daunting at times because it’s in just about everything, there are two takeaway messages we should remember: 

  1. Children are not destined to turn into cupcakes or refuse to eat anything but tablespoons of sugarno matter what Mary Poppins says. Has anyone verified her medical license?  
  2. We can help children develop healthy habits and reduce the amount of sugar in their dietscreate sugar hacks, if you will  when considering a tasty snack, confection, fine beverage or dessert.   

(Sort of a chew on this, eschew that, right?) 

I’ll channel a chat I have with parents who are concerned about their child’s weight. Ideally, we’ve been having this conversation all the way along: limiting sweet snacks as you are able and encouraging a balanced diet. It sounds easy, but if you ever walk into a supermarket, there are a lot of options competing for (and winning over) children’s taste buds. It is our role as grownups to push back on the siren calls of cupcakes and Sour Patch Kids and to set some limit, somewhere.  

I am not one to say never: never dessert, never candy, never soda. Absolute vows tend to fail absolutely. I am more about saying *sometimes* for sugary foods and drinks versus not allowing them at all. Should one eat ice cream for every meal? No, that is absurd, and children get it. Should one have more than a cup of soda or juice a day? The answer here is no, but it may require some explanation. Having juice or soda sometimes, but not all the time, can be okayas long as a child eats balanced meals overall for the day. 

So, if you are setting up a menu for a few days, how could you swap in some healthy alternatives instead of having frosted sugar bombs for dinner?  

Here are a few ideas:  

Hot days will continue well into September, so it may be handy to have a cool and smart alternative to sugary popsicles. Aren’t 100% juice popsicles better than the alternative because they’re natural? Great try, marketers, but no. Many products have additional sweeteners. One might do better to blend some fresh fruit (mixed berries, say, or mango or peach) and put the mixture in an ice cube tray. Delish.    

Is the snack cabinet full of cookies and tasty, carb-loaded sugary items? The best approach to this category is to limit how much fun food you purchase. If you don’t have it in stock, then they can’t senselessly nosh on it. Instead, put a bowl of fresh fruit that is in season on the kitchen table as appropriate for your children’s ages, including bananasapples, peaches or a small pile of washed berries.  

I might go one step further and help your preschoolers work with a peeler to learn how to peel an apple. Can they peel the whole skin in one go? Probably not, but trying can be a fun challenge. Just be sure to limit their attempts to one bit of fruit at a time so you don’t walk into the kitchen to see a pile of naked fruit. A grownup can slice the fruit into appropriate pieces for rapid consumption. 

Beverages are an area where there is some latitude. I advise parents to avoid buying juice or soda altogether if it is too much of a temptation. (If you do buy OJ, for example, be sure to buy the variety with calcium and vitamin D supplements.) For children over two years old, 2% milk is fine, within reason. For you fans out there, chocolate milk is a SUGARY drink, best considered almost like a soda for all the glucose it has in there. Drinking two or three cups of cow’s milk a day is ideal for growing, but many children take far less than that, taking water instead, I find. Flavored seltzer can be a great option instead of sugary sodas. Sugarfree juices like Crystal Lite and diet sodas are a bit controversial (the longterm effects of the artificial sweeteners remain an area of concern) but may be a reasonable concession for some families. 

Then, there is dessert. “Should we let children eat dessert? I get asked. Yes, in moderation in terms of amount and frequency. For example, if you have a dessert after dinner of blueberries in a bowl of milk, then no problem. If a child has a hankering for a bowl of ice cream and hot fudge every day, I’d think that through, in terms of how that fits with a child’s or family’s profile. For most children, though, having an occasional bowl or cone of ice cream or some other sugary fare is not an issue.  

I will say that I’d encourage children to eat a reasonable portion of their dinner BEFORE they tuck into a sweet aftermeal snack. Some children get overly clever at this sort of meal replacement and push away their plate and eat a double helping of the afterdinner treat 

Bookstores, cookbooks, family filing cabinets and the internet (such as ChopChopFamily.org – Recipes) are full of ideas for balanced meals and less sugary options for our children. I think we all will be more successful if we think holistically about how our children eat across the days and the weeks. Are they eating a balance of protein, fat and some carbs? Are we offering them, to the extent possible, fresh foods and options that are lessoften sweetened or enriched with corn syrup? Once we have an idea of what we want to offer them, it is important to look at one’s cabinets (or secret candy stashes from last Halloween) and understand where all of their calories are coming from. 

Work with your children to understand their favorite foods, and work with them on a Sunday evening to build a menu for the week using their input for some of the entries (let the children take turns choosing a topfive food for dinner one night each week) and build on their choices and preferences. Fried chicken is okay. Fried Oreos may not be.  

With this in mind, we can get back to the basics that make eating together an occasion of love, culture, togetherness and joy, without the sugar high to follow if you are lucky!  

Bon appétit.  

 

By Jack Maypole, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

ADVICE THAT NEVER GETS OLD – GODDARD GRANDPARENTS WEIGH IN WITH WORDS OF WISDOM

With age comes wisdom. That’s what they say, right? For the grandparents in the Goddard family, that’s certainly the case – they have kindly agreed to share a few pieces of universally helpful advice that have served them well over the years in the hopes that they could serve you and your children well, too.

  1. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Yes, the Golden Rule is as true now as it ever was. This advice is incredibly simple to follow: if you want to be treated kindly, then treat others kindly.
  2. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Which is to say that absolutely nothing good comes of saying mean things to people. We’re all human, though, and we all have unkind thoughts sometimes. If you have something rude to say, keep it to yourself. Or if you really need to get a mean thought out of your head, write it down on a piece of paper, tear it up and throw the pieces away. That way, nobody gets hurt.
  3. Nothing happens if you don’t show up. Be there for the people and things you care about. To create a full life, show up for school, show up for work, show up for your friends and show up for your family members. These actions can make all the difference in the world.

What are some sage pieces of advice your grandparents have given you?

 

HOW TO KEEP YOUR CHILDREN CONNECTED WITH THEIR GRANDPARENTS

I remember my grandmother so vividly – her huge laugh and her insistence on the proper way to make a cup of tea. I also remember the lessons learned from her, and that connection has influenced my life to this day. Research in brain development shows that the interactions between children and their families build connections among neurons. Building positive and strong personal relationships helps to promote healthy brain development.   

My grandmother lived in England, so I did not see her often, but I still have a collection of those blue airmail letters that kept us in touch. We are more fortunate today. There are many more ways to stay connected when you live far away. 

The book Connecting Families: The Impact of New Communication Technologies on Domestic Life, edited by CarmanNeustaedter, Steve Harrison and Abigail Sellen, is about how technology has changed how families interact. The positive aspects include the ability to develop closely bonded relationships with family and friends both near and far.  

Here are a few approaches that can support your family in staying connected. The key is to do things that come naturally to all of you and are highly interesting to your children. This will help keep these virtual visits more fun and meaningful. 

Sharing routines – Spend a few minutes each day doing something fun, like a morning stretch or a few yoga poses. This could also be a time to chat about a plan for the day or eat breakfast together. Prop up the phone or tablet on the table, and share a mealtime. 

Reading a book – Your child can pick out a favorite story. Your parents can read part of the story each day for a few minutes each week, or they can read the story in one sitting. You may want to break it up for younger children. I have started to record myself reading a story, and then send the book to my greatniece in the mail. She gets a new book each month and then puts on the video and follows along as I read to her.   

 Having a family contest – A lot of families have told me they love this one. Everyone gets sent a bag of things. For example, send out crayons, glue, paper and ribbons. The challenge is to make paper airplanes. The first video chat is about making the planes. The second is the virtual flying contest. It is easy to make the kits. Another idea is decorating face masks and sharing the results. 

Playing games – This can be done in several ways. Many games lend themselves to virtual visits, such as charades or board games (if all the teams and players have the same game). For example, if one player throws the dice and moves piece on the game board, the other team or player can do the same move with the opponent’s piece on the board to follow along 

Supporting schoolwork – Many parents have asked for help with this. Grandparents can help review the children’s work, teach them how to do a math problem or offer suggestions for completing the work. The children can connect with their grandparents while their parents take a break. Screensharing helps supports this because the grandparents see what the child is working on and where the child might need support. 

 

By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD TRANSITION BACK TO SCHOOL AFTER COVID

We have been asked by many parents how they can help their children transition with the changes at school this summer or fall. What happens when it will be a move to a new classroom or teacher? Things will feel strange enough after being away for so long. We suggest a few steps that may help you prepare. 

Get started by planning for returning to schoolSet up your schoolday routines – set a time for waking up in the morning, create relaxing bedtime rituals, select clothing at night, etc. Start these a few weeks before returning to school. Connect with the school before returning. Ask which classroom your child will be in and who will be his or her new teachers. You can also ask whether some of your child’s friends from the previous classroom will be returning. Share the details with your child.   

Practice and roleplay. Walk your child through security or safety protocols such as handwashing, taking temperatures and wearing a mask. Explain what your child will do when he or she gets to school. Roleplay the sequence at home. What will you do? What about the teachers and your child? The Goddard School has a short video you can watch with your childTalk about the routines with your child. 

Make sure you connect with what your child is feeling and support helpful behavior. Research shows that when parents encourage children to talk about mental states including emotions, they are more likely to adjust to change and be helpful to others. Look for opportunities in your daily activities such as reading a book or watching a movie to highlight how characters are feeling (e.g., “How do you think that character was feeling?” or “How would you feel if that happened to you?”). This may help children talk about how they are feeling when they get back to school and hopefully lead to them helping their peers who may be struggling more with the transition.  

Help your child adjust to the changes by managing expectations. One way to help your child adjust is to create a play plan. Tools of the Mind is an early childhood curriculum for preschool and kindergarten designed to promote executivefunction skills through playful learning activities. For example, children start their school day by drawing or writing activities they envision for their day. Those plans help children to think and act purposefullyEncourage your child to create a play plan before he or she goes back to school to get in the habit of thinking about the day. It could help ease fears about what to expect and build excitement around doing favorite activities at school. When you are sharing a play plan, you can also talk about your child’s new classroom and teacher. Ask your child what he or she might expect from the new classroom or new routine. 

Reconnect with friends a few at a time. For some little ones, seeing peers in large groups might be a bit overwhelming since they have spent the past several months with their families and maybe only seeing one or two friends at a time. Set up a time to get together with a friend. Plan a simple activity, such as a ball game outside or a board game or puzzle. Your child might not know what to talk about, so thinking of a few things to share could be helpful. Parents can ask their child to think of three things that the child has enjoyed (or not enjoyed) about staying at home (e.g., having more family movie nights, not being able to visit grandparents). 

Following these steps and building expectations will help your child make a smooth transition. Try not to worry and remember that many others are having the same experience.    

By Lee Scott and Helen Hadani, Contributing Writers and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Members

HEALTHY FRUIT ICE POPS YOUR CHILD IS SURE TO LOVE

With so many delicious seasonal options, fruit-based treats are a perfect way to cool off in the summertime! These healthy ice pop recipes are sure to be crowd-pleasers, and the recipes are so quick and easy that little chefs can help make them, so get out your popsicle molds and start freezing!

Watermelon Kiwi Ice Pop

Ingredients

  • 3 kiwis
  • 3 to 4 cups of cubed watermelon

Directions

  1. Peel the kiwis and blend them in a blender for one minute or until smooth. Have your child help you pour the juice into your popsicle molds until the molds are about one-quarter full and freeze the molds for one hour.
  2. Slice a watermelon into chunks. Blend three to four cups of watermelon in a blender for one to two minutes on high until smooth.
  3. Have your child help you pour the watermelon juice into your popsicle molds and freeze them for another one to two hours.
  4. Once your popsicles are frozen, remove the molds from the freezer and run the outside of the molds under warm water for a few seconds so you can easily remove the popsicles.

Source – https://www.soljinutrition.com/blog/2017/6/8/watermelon-popsicles-the-perfect-treat-for-those-hot-summer-days

Peach Strawberry Yogurt Layer Ice Pop

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of strawberries
  • 3 cups of peeled and sliced peaches
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • ⅔ cup of vanilla Greek yogurt

Directions

  1. Puree the strawberries with four teaspoons of honey, and set the mixture to the side.
  2. Puree the sliced peaches with two teaspoons of honey, and set the mixture to the side.
  3. Have your child help you create layered popsicles by adding two teaspoons of strawberry puree, one teaspoon of yogurt and two teaspoons of peach puree to the molds and repeating until your molds are almost full. Make one of the fruit purees the last layer.
  4. Tap the mold on the counter so the layers settle, then have your child use a spoon to drag vertically from the bottom of the mold to the top a few times to create a swirled pattern. Tap the molds on the countertop again to remove air bubbles.
  5. Freeze the popsicles for at least six hours.

Source – https://www.jessicagavin.com/make-your-own-homemade-fruit-popsicles/

Orange-Banana Smoothie Ice Pop

Ingredients

  • 1 6-oz. container of Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup of thawed orange juice concentrate
  • 2 large bananas
  • The zest of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice

Directions

  1. Puree the yogurt, thawed orange juice concentrate, bananas, lime zest and fresh lime juice together.
  2. Have your child help you pour the mixture into six three-ounce popsicle molds, or divide it among the cups of a small muffin tin and add a popsicle stick to each cup. Freeze the popsicles for four hours.
  3. Once your popsicles are frozen, remove the molds from the freezer and run the outside of the molds under warm water for a few seconds so you can easily remove the popsicles.

Source – https://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/recipes/a2845/orange-banana-smoothie-pops-recipe/

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO GOING BACK TO SCHOOL AT HOME

It is that time of year again: back-to-school, sort of. Most families still do not know what that will look like and will face hard decisions about when or whether to send their children back to school. For the children that go back to in-person classes, many will be in school for a few days and home for a few days each week. More than likely, those families will soon gear up for at-home learning in combination with some in-person school time.

Here are six things you can do to make the adjustment to learning at home easier on both you and your children.

  1. Set Up a Learning Space.

You do not need to create a complete classroom in your home, but a designated learning space will help your children focus on learning and understand that other areas in the home can be used for media time, playtime and more.

  • Get older children involved in planning the space. Have them make a list of what they think they will need. Find ways to repurpose items in their rooms, such as a chair or pillows to lounge on while reading or a table and chair to make a desk. Use colorful bins or tubs and have your child help you sort toys for easy access. They can also decorate the space with places for books, a laptop or tablet, art supplies and more. Your children will be more likely to use the space if they participate in planning and setting up the space.

Little ones can help set up their spaces as well. Keep books and art materials where your children can reach them. Also, be sure to check out these great ideas for setting up a child’s room for exploratory learning.

  1. Create Back-to-School Routines.

You can still create the back-to-school experience by transitioning from summer activities to school-focused ones. Talk with your children about their new routines and expectations ahead of the transition. Make the prospect of back-to-school time fun by selecting a few new back-to-school items such as art supplies or new clothes together. Don’t forget to take pictures of the first day “back to school”!

  1. Plan the Day with Flexibility in Mind.

Keeping a routine to support children’s social and emotional development is crucial while everyone is still at home. Include your children in daily planning and decision-making, like creating menus for the week to take the stress off mealtimes or deciding when to take breaks during the day for some outdoor play. Consider taking photos of different times of the day and have your children hang them in meaningful locations around the learning space or use them to create a picture schedule.

Begin with the basics:

  • Morning wakeup – getting ready for the day;
  • Mealtimes and snack times;
  • Naptime or quiet time;
  • Cleaning up – sorting and cleaning up toys, cleaning after mealtime, etc.;
  • Bath rituals;
  • Bedtime – getting ready for and going to bed.

Routines are great stress relievers when children can anticipate what will happen during the day. They help them focus on playful learning instead of worrying about what’s next. By establishing these basic routines, you can free up time for more flexibility in your child’s day. You can also plan your day with your work schedule in mind.

  1. Manage Screen Time.

Keep screen time to a minimum. For older children, consider limiting screen time to when they are doing required lessons plus a separate time for some screen-time play. Screen-time overload is something we are hearing a lot about lately. Children are getting tired of video conferencing, so keep that to the required amount for school and perhaps a few visits with friends. Be sure to let your older children initiate any requests for video chats to keep it from getting too overwhelming.

Also, keep an eye on your time with digital media. Avoid digital distractions by turning off the television while interacting with your children and take digital breaks at mealtimes, bedtime, etc.

  1. Connect with Others.

The best screen time will be virtual playdates where your little ones can interact with and see other children.

Dr. Jennifer Jipson, member of the Goddard School Education Advisory Board, says, “There are many ways to do this using video-chat platforms and apps like Caribou. This doesn’t replace the rich interactions that take place in larger-group preschool settings…but in the short term it’s enough to keep their social skills developing. If your child is no longer interested in connecting with others on screens, use time at home to focus on family social interactions or identify another family that is managing risk in a way that matches your own approach. One or two friends are all children need right now to satisfy their need for social connection. Agree to ‘bubble up’ and limit social contact beyond your ‘quaranteam.’”

  1. Foster Independent Moments.

Try to plan a few activities your children can do independently, even if they need to be within your range of sight. This can give you a break while working. Art supplies, puzzles, connecting blocks and books are great tools for independent play. Here are a few activities to help get you started.

Starting a new school year at home might be new territory, but with a little preparation, you and your children are sure to have a lot of fun learning experiences together.

FIVE AWESOME BACKYARD ‘STAY-CATION’ IDEAS

Your family’s vacation plans may have changed drastically this summer, but you can still take a break, unwind and build some amazing summertime memories! These five staycation ideas will make staying home feel almost as good as getting away from it all.

  1. Bring the beach to you. Sand, sun and surf sound great right about now, don’t they? With a little preparation, your family can have the perfect beach experience right in your backyard (minus the French fry-stealing seagulls, of course). Simply set up an umbrella, some chairs and a wading pool in your backyard. Add a few bags of sand and boom, instant beach! Have a family sandcastle-building contest, wade in the “ocean,” share a tasty beach picnic and watch the sun set over the water at the end of the day. But don’t forget the sunscreen!
  1. Have an at-home camping adventure. Whether you prefer to pitch an actual tent in your backyard or sleep in a sofa fort in your living room, you can have a rustic camping experience while still taking advantage of the comforts of home (which, let’s face it, is AWESOME when it comes to having to use the bathroom). Gather up some camping snacks – trail mix, s’mores supplies, etc. – and unroll a few sleeping bags and rough it while not having to actually, you know, rough it. You could also hold a nature scavenger hunt in your backyard. Try having a campfire sing-along, whether you have an actual bonfire or just make one out of tissue paper.
  1. Avoid the crowds and plan a carnival day of your own right at home. Recreate some of your favorite fair games for your child to play, complete with fun prizes. You could also eat special treats like cotton candy, hot dogs and freshly popped popcorn. Create “rides” with whatever you have on hand, and if you want to go even bigger, look into renting a bouncy house for the day!
  1. Take a fantastic voyage to another country from the comfort of your living room. Want to go to France? Go online to take a virtual tour of Paris. You can even eat some croissants and nibble some cheese while you take in the sights. If you want a more in-depth experience, use a language-learning app on your mobile device to learn the names of household items in French. Try saying the words in French and asking your children to identify the items. You can use virtual tours to explore almost any country, so ask your children where they would like to go!
  1. Plan a fabulous food tour. You and your family could cook different dishes that represent different countries, such as paella for Spain, borscht for Russia and fish and chips for England, and have an international feast at home. You could also order takeout from different restaurants for an easier international feast. Either way, you get to spend some quality time with your family while learning about the foods of other cultures!

How will you spend your staycation this summer?

DEALING WITH THE UPS AND DOWNS OF A PRESCHOOLER

Last evening, our neighborsparents of three children under seven, were sitting out on their porch steps, masked and full of coffee. They said hello as I (masked and at a distance) walked byI paused and asked, How’s it going? Kids asleep? and heard, Thank God” in unison. The mother continued, sometimes it’s been sweet and sometimes sour – very sour. I feel kinda hollowed out in the middle. I really love, both of us love, simply being together with them for more than just a snippet of the weekend, and other times, I feel bottomed out, discouraged.” I thoughtthere is the pandemic family anthem in a nutshell. 

Our young children are feeling much the same these dayskinda hollowed out in the middle, caught between the highs of being together and the lows of losing so much of their active physical and social life. That’s why they can go from angelic to demonic in a few hours or minutes. Parents wonder at such times if they are being good parents in the way they handle these huge swings. Their children know how clueless they feel about how to helpDisappointment is around every cornercan’t do this or that, can’t see your friends or grandma, have to wear that itchy, annoying face covering. As adults, we’ve learned something about coping with disappointment by now, but for our preschoolers and young children, this may be the first time they have had to confront it in such a huge dose. No wonder they and we are upset. They are missing out on some things that we know they need to keep growing up well. Helping them cope requires as much compassion and patience as we have ever mustered on their behalf.  

Advice:  

  1. When they are upset and need us to fix something, most of us just rush in with a tool or solution as soon as we can think of one. Don’do that, at least not right away. 
  2. Listen carefully through the tears for what is wrong. Say it back to them in your own words and ask if you got it right 
  3. Confirm that you get what’s so upsetting without judgment or even if you think it’s a bit ridiculous and that those kinds of feelings do hurt and make us sad. This compassion is less likely to soften your children than it is to strengthen them. It validates them and their feelings as more important to you at the moment than correcting some injustice. 
  4. Limit the amount of pandemic-focused information flowing at them through screens (especially back-ground TV) and from other sources, such as over-heard adult conversations. The most menacing, toxic force in the pandemic’s arsenal other than the obvious mortal threat to our health is its mystery; this scale of not knowing what’s coming is unfamiliar to most of us 
  5. Running on empty,emotionally and physicallyis very hard on everyone in the family. There are many replenishmentout there if you look. A favorite for families with pre-k children is Common Sense Media’s list of 26 Kid-Friendly Documentaries for Families to watch together. Turn off your phones, kick off the shoes and grab healthy snacks. Then snuggle up and let someone else do the entertaining for a while. Don’t forget to breathe. 

5 Simple Tricks To Make Bedtime A Breeze

We often talk about how important bedtime is for little ones, especially as they return to school or begin a summer program. It has been made more difficult by the stayathome routines many of us have adapted to in recent months. Hopefully, you have been able to keep to some routine. If you have relaxed yours lately, now might be a good time to get back into the swing of things by giving your child some structure and taking some time for yourself. 

Making the transition should start with your child’s participation. Explain that we need to get our bedtime organized so we all get plenty of sleep. Ask your child how we can do that. You might be surprised by the answers. Being involved in the solution will help your child buy into the changes more easily. For younger children, give them a couple of choices such as “Which should we do first – brush our teeth and then get into our PJs or get into our PJs first?”   

Here are five more tips to help you along the way: 

  1. Have an actual lightsout time and stick to it. 
  1. Try to eat an earlier dinner not too close to bedtime. 
  1. Keep afterdinner activities to a minimum, slowing the pace as you get closer to bedtime. Watch a favorite show together, play a simple board game or work a puzzle.  
  1. Set up a routine chart for older children who can check off each activity as they go. 
  1. Make time for a calming moment – reading a story, talking about the day, planning for tomorrow or doing a few fun yoga poses together before jumping under the covers. 

Research has shown that when children don’t get enough sleep it has a negative effect on their attention span, behavior and emotions. Routines play an important role in helping your child get the sleep he or she needs. We hope you can get some rest as well.  

 

HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD TRANSITION BACK TO SCHOOL AFTER COVID

We have been asked by many parents how they can help their children transition with the changes at school this summer or fall. What happens when it will be a move to a new classroom or teacher? Things will feel strange enough after being away for so long. We suggest a few steps that may help you prepare. 

Get started by planning for returning to schoolSet up your schoolday routines – set a time for waking up in the morning, create relaxing bedtime rituals, select clothing at night, etc. Start these a few weeks before returning to school. Connect with the school before returning. Ask which classroom your child will be in and who will be his or her new teachers. You can also ask whether some of your child’s friends from the previous classroom will be returning. Share the details with your child.   

Practice and roleplay. Walk your child through security or safety protocols such as handwashing, taking temperatures and wearing a mask. Explain what your child will do when he or she gets to school. Roleplay the sequence at home. What will you do? What about the teachers and your child? The Goddard School has a short video you can watch with your childTalk about the routines with your child. 

Make sure you connect with what your child is feeling and support helpful behavior. Research shows that when parents encourage children to talk about mental states including emotions, they are more likely to adjust to change and be helpful to others. Look for opportunities in your daily activities such as reading a book or watching a movie to highlight how characters are feeling (e.g., “How do you think that character was feeling?” or “How would you feel if that happened to you?”). This may help children talk about how they are feeling when they get back to school and hopefully lead to them helping their peers who may be struggling more with the transition.  

Help your child adjust to the changes by managing expectations. One way to help your child adjust is to create a play plan. Tools of the Mind is an early childhood curriculum for preschool and kindergarten designed to promote executivefunction skills through playful learning activities. For example, children start their school day by drawing or writing activities they envision for their day. Those plans help children to think and act purposefullyEncourage your child to create a play plan before he or she goes back to school to get in the habit of thinking about the day. It could help ease fears about what to expect and build excitement around doing favorite activities at school. When you are sharing a play plan, you can also talk about your child’s new classroom and teacher. Ask your child what he or she might expect from the new classroom or new routine. 

Reconnect with friends a few at a time. For some little ones, seeing peers in large groups might be a bit overwhelming since they have spent the past several months with their families and maybe only seeing one or two friends at a time. Set up a time to get together with a friend. Plan a simple activity, such as a ball game outside or a board game or puzzle. Your child might not know what to talk about, so thinking of a few things to share could be helpful. Parents can ask their child to think of three things that the child has enjoyed (or not enjoyed) about staying at home (e.g., having more family movie nights, not being able to visit grandparents). 

Following these steps and building expectations will help your child make a smooth transition. Try not to worry and remember that many others are having the same experience.