How our little one's take to starting big school can be quite unpredictable, and this was most certainly the case with my almost five year old. After two years of Montessori and playschool, I was definitely banking on a first day of excitement, confidence and her pretty much twirling into the classroom without a glance goodbye. However, the girl I thought would be forming the first Junior Infant Alpha Omega sorority in her first week actually fell into my lap after three days in tears - "It's too long. I worked so hard. I just want to quit." There were more tears and falling asleep from emotional drainage by 6pm that evening. My heart was genuinely sore for her. I put it down to the change and the new routine and spent the following few nights with her in a bear hug of mommy proportions while I tried to talk to her as best I could. This was difficult considering the only answer I got from 'how was school?' was 'Mum, is it ok if I say I don't want to talk about it?'
I needed a way to get her to talk - to want to talk, and this is what I did.
I picked her up each day as usual, full of hugs and kisses. and reminded her how much I missed her. On our short drive home, I would share with her a little piece of my day and ask her about hers, but just once. It was not until we were close in bed and finished our bedtime story that I would ask four simple questions -
1. Will you tell me something that made you happy today?
2. Will you tell me something that made you sad today?
3. Will you tell me something kind that someone did today?
4. Will you tell me something brave that you did today?
Each of these questions has its own purpose.
Will you tell me something that made you happy today?
The purpose of this question is self explanatory - I want her to remember the feeling of being happy that day and even if it was something that did not necessarily happen in school, it is a positive starting point.
Will you tell me something that made you sad today?
It is important to also acknowledge and validate their feelings of sadness, whether that be when she hurt her knee on yard or when his partner told him he did not want to play his game anymore - they need to know that you empathise with them.
Will you tell me something kind that someone did today?
Originally, I phrased this as 'something kind someone did FOR YOU today' but I started to notice that as the time went on, she was giving me examples of when she herself was also kind, which showed me that she was beginning to be more confident and more involved with her school friends, so we changed the question. She loves answering this the most too as she knows her Mom has a soft spot for kind gestures.
Will you tell me something brave that you did today?
I want her to know that I understand how big this change is for her and how brave I know she is being. Although, there might be repetition at times, I want her to feel courageous and like she can take on the world, one cheese dip and cracker at a time.
It may only be a month in but finishing our day with these four simple questions has helped my daughter understand and adjust. Her face actually lights up when I ask the first question before bed. Some nights the answers are short - and sound quite familiar (basically the same as yesterday's answers!) but then there are nights that they lead into so much more. Being able to recall and share these moments in her day have made her happier and more secure in the new chapter of her little life. The most important thing for me is that she knows when that bell rings, no matter what happened before it, Mom's smile is always waiting at the gate. We can talk later - first hugs!
It's not very often that we are greeted with rays of sunshine here on this green isle so with a weekend of nice weather ahead of us here are some ideas of what to do with your smallies to make sure and make the most of it!
What child (or adult) does not love bubbles! Blow them, chase them, burst them, lie back and watch them bounce away.... If you are feeling like something a little more adventurous, try some of the bubble fun in this link.
2. Get some painting done
Maybe you need your fence or shed painted (as long as you are ok with abstract toddler style)
3. Chalk on the pavement
Get some chalk and let their imagination take flight under their feet or draw a hopscotch frame and go old skool! If you can get your hands on Bill Thompson's picture book 'Chalk' too they will really get into it!
4. Make daisy chains
This one brings me right back to my own childhood summers - I don't think I ever mastered it either but I sure as heck tried for hours!
6. Take those bicycles further afield
There is only so much of cycling back and forth to the shop one mother can take - I am definitely looking forward to taking her four wheels somewhere a little further than my local Super Valu.
7. Sand or Water Play
Embrace the mess and fill up your sand/water pit again - try a dinosaur dig, save the Titanic, or bring a few figurines on a trek through the Sahara!
8. Turn them into photographers
These days everything is snap snap snap, taking photos is part of daily life no matter what we are doing. Get a disposable camera (or with your camera phone if you dare!) and challenge them to tick off a scavenger hunt list on a simple walk to the park. Here is a link for a photo hunt that any age could do. If you have older children, try make a pinhole camera!
9. Sunny Science
Turn them into exotic Einsteins and do some sunny day science experiments. With links to make volcanoes and human sundials, I found this page quite good, or my personal favourite, make a rainbow - all you need is a glass of water and a small mirror, read more here.
Take this weatherful opportunity to paint their fingers green and make the world more colourful!
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