As the summer draws to a close, the anticipation of a new school year begins to build. For both kids and parents, this time of year can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. As an occupational therapist, I understand the importance of ensuring that children have a smooth transition into the new academic year and hit the ground running in those all-important first few weeks. By helping kids prepare physically, emotionally, and organizationally, they can overcome anxiety and build the skills to ensure they start the school year with confidence and a strong foundation for success.
Practice Time Management
Time management is a valuable skill for students of all ages. You don’t have to turn your home into a military barracks but try to build in an awareness of time management. Give them some responsibility for managing both their own as well as the families time in fun ways such as planning how long something will take, what time they need to leave to get to the movie, how long something will take to cook etc. As the first day of school gets closer encourage them to adhere to a slightly more formal the schedule (inc. screen time, exercise etc.) but give them control of aspects of it also to build not only time management but also independence and responsibility. This habit will make it easier for them to adjust to the routine when classes start.
Establish a Sleep Routine
Adequate sleep is one of the most important factors for a child’s physical and cognitive development. During the summer, kids might have gotten used to staying up late and waking up later in the morning. To ensure a smooth transition into the new school year, it’s essential to establish a consistent sleep routine a few weeks before the academic term starts. A consistent sleep schedule will help them feel well-rested and more focused during school hours and preparing for the transition in advance will make those first few school morning a lot less stressful for everyone.
Foster Emotional Resilience
Starting a new school year can be emotionally challenging for many children. It’s not hard to see why, a new class, new children, new everything that’s a lot to deal with at any age. Talk to your child about their feelings and address any concerns they might have. Validate their emotions, that’s so important I’m going to say it again VALIDATE THEIR EMOTIONS!. Encourage them to express themselves and remind them that it’s okay to feel nervous or unsure about new experiences. Additionally, engage in activities that boost their self-esteem and confidence, such as participating in sports or hobbies they enjoy.
Organize School Supplies
Help your child organize their school supplies in advance. Picking out a new pencil case, backpack or lunchbox can be a fun way to give them a little choice and control over the process. Choosing a backpack with compartments can be helpful for building your child’s organizational skills and help with keeping everything neat and easily accessible. Teach them how to pack their bag efficiently, ensuring they have all the necessary materials for each subject. This practice fosters independence and reduces anxiety over missing essential items.
Reintroduce a Little Learning (but in a fun way)
During the summer, academic skills might have taken a backseat to playtime and relaxation. A few weeks before school starts, gradually reintroduce learning activities to reawaken their cognitive abilities. BUT….. keep it fun. Maybe the family could play some age-appropriate educational games, reading exercises, and basic math problems to reestablish a learning mindset. Check out sites like Lumosity or krazydad.com for many puzzles, games and activity ideas.
Refine Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills play a crucial role in a child’s ability to perform everyday tasks in the classroom, such as writing, cutting, and using school supplies. Encourage your child to engage in activities that refine these skills during the summer break. Fun activities like drawing, colouring, puzzles, or playing with LEGO can all help strengthen their hand muscles and improve coordination. Also don’t neglect the developmental value of simple outdoor physical play. Large motor activities build the foundation needed for fine motor success.
Develop Sensory Regulation Strategies
For some children, the school environment can be overwhelming due to sensory sensitivities. Work with your child to identify strategies that help them regulate their sensory experiences. These could include deep breathing exercises, using fidget toys, or having a designated quiet space where they can take breaks if needed.
As an occupational therapist, I know that preparation is key to a successful start to the new school year. By addressing physical, emotional, and organizational aspects, children can enter the academic term with confidence and enthusiasm. With these tools in their arsenal, children will be better equipped to embrace any challenges and opportunities and ensure the next school year will be the best one yet!
Adam is the Head of Occupational Therapy at Camali Clinic as well as a vocal advocate for disability and inclusion in the middle east. Adam has a wealth of experience and training in supporting young adults with disabilities and their families and has a special clinical interest in DCD, Autism and Child and Adolescent Mental Health.
Since coming to Dubai 8 years ago Adam has been instrumental in establishing therapeutic, educational, and vocational support services here in the UAE as well as providing the highest standard of care for the 100’s of families he has worked with. Adam also provides free content for parents and therapists all over the world via his popular Adam the OT youtube channel which reached over 100,000 views within its first 6 months.
Adam Griffin (Adam the OT)
- Head of Occupational Therapy at Camali Clinic