LAST week, I discussed my ‘play list’ for preschoolers and how to help them be “Big School Ready.” I shared play tools and activities that build our children’s skill-building, brain-building and socio-emotional learning (SEL) skills.
This week I will be finishing off this series with our grade-schoolers. In my own experience, there is a meaningful transition as our children say goodbye to preschool and enter grade school. The schedule is longer. There is more time for social interaction among classmates because there is now lunch and afternoon recess. There are also more subjects. As I imagined this new world of my child, I learned from experts that this is a time to build school confidence and the love for learning. I felt then that equipping them to build strong socio-emotional skills and an intrinsic curiosity for knowledge were foundations for them to not just like but LOVE school because it is a hub of learning. My other goals for my grade-schooler included providing them a sense of security through rituals, where we as parents can establish a solid line of communication; appreciation of work, and the ability to articulate their thoughts.
Although I grew up in the honor roll since pre-nursery, I never brought this up to my children. My children started in the same big school where I went. Each quarter, the honor roll would come out and my daughter would not be there. I truly never did mind, but I would still let her step up the bench and look at the photos posted on the bulletin board. I wanted her to discover her own aspirations and know what was meaningful to her. I would simply ask: Would you like to see your photo there? Each quarter was a different response. Later, she became curious about how to go about it. At the time, she would often get deductions on erasures and handwriting. She was left-handed. So, we identified the issue that summer. I simply wrote her very long name on a writing pad on dots and guided her that this was a good practice to improve her handwriting. I told her I believed in her even if she were left-handed. That summer, she practiced on her own. It was like a puzzle to be solved for her. The following school year, she overcame this hurdle. This is a simple illustration on how we gradually built a happy learning journey for and with my daughter.
Another tip I learned was whether they did well or not in a test or activity, I should ask how they felt about it. If it were a high grade, I would say good job for putting all the effort but hold back on statements like, “I am proud of you” or “Mom loves you.” A very wise educator, Teacher Betty, once told me to be careful that my children might equate my love for them on how high their grade was. She said this during an awarding ceremony, where my daughter, at Grade 3, was receiving her Gold Medal.
Many parents would be worried and tell me how they can do this since they are not “teacher-moms.” I would always advise them to support their child’s school life with play. Although we do not have a teaching degree, we all loved and experienced play growing up. Below are some of my top ‘play’ picks in paving the way for a happy learning journey for my grade-schooler:
STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) SUBJECT LEARNING. Most schools provide the syllabus ahead at the start of the quarter. I would try to look for play tools to augment this learning through play. When my children were not very familiar with Science, I introduced them to the Crayola Marker Maker. They were able to do their own experiments on colors with beakers and tongs. There are also very nice National Geographic play experiments like volcanos erupting. I also like the Learning Resources Puzzle Globe because it teaches children the continents, as well as facts about it. “Phy-gital” (physical plus digital activities) are highly-recommended now to balance the negative effects of too much screen time for our children. This Mathlinks blocks creates a phy-gital play with the number blocks your child can watch in both YouTube and Netflix.
COMMUNICATION GAMES AND ACTIVITIES. It is good to set schedules to intentionally talk to our child. Being with our child does not necessarily mean we are communicating with them. I have a separate “alone-time” with each child since they were 4. No gadgets. I would bring our favorite Kanoodle Game or a pack of Crayola broadline markers, and we would play or draw while waiting for the food. I am also glad there are tools like the Learning Resources Talking Cubes that are dices but with topics to start the conversation with our children.
ACTIVITIES FOR SELF. Encouraging your child to do puzzles on their own, or doing it as a family teaches patience, logic and trial-and-error. The best part is it provides a sense of achievement, which builds our child’s self-confidence. This is also a good opportunity to also involve our children in issues the community, the nation or the world is facing.