On a scale of 1 to 10, how excited is your child about the first day of school? Nothing quite compares to the exhilaration of finally being a part of the “big kids”, whether it be the “big kids” in kindergarten, in grade R or in grade 1.
For you as a parent, the first day of school will most likely stir up a flurry of emotions; pride, joy and happiness, anxiety and worry, and a haunting fear of illnesses and viruses. But this shouldn’t be the case – with a little preparation and one or two small tricks the only feelings you’ll experience on the first day of school will be happiness and pride.
Here are a few tips to make the first school memories a roaring success – for you and for your child:
PREPARATION: KEEP THE GERMS AT BAY
Children are prone to picking up germs and bacteria while playing, sharing lunches or simply by being in the same classroom. A healthy awareness and an understanding of hygiene principles are essential for any young school-goer.
Hand washing is the golden rule of a healthy childhood – encourage and teach your child to wash his or her hands frequently and thoroughly. A good rule of thumb: hands should be washed after using the toilet, after playing outside or with pets, after playing with shared toys and before eating or working with food.
Flu, colds and tummy bugs are well-known school illnesses, but there’s another bug that can cause a lot of discomfort: the head louse. Once a child carries head lice, an outbreak at school is almost unpreventable. Teach your child that sharing hats, brushes and pretty hair accessories with friends is a no-go.
Tip: Regularly check your child’s hair for any signs of lice. Tea tree oil can also be sprayed into your child’s hair as a preventative measure if any concerns arise.
DAILY LOVE: TURN LUNCH BREAKS INTO WOW-MOMENTS
During a long school day, the lunch box is what connects a child to a parent’s love. Often, this love is shown by packing an assortment of chips and sweets rather than by catering for a healthy, balanced diet.
Does healthy and balanced imply no more treats? Luckily not. You can still spoil your child with a few chips, crackers, cookies or sweets – moderation is key. A healthy lunchbox should contain a serving of fruit and vegetables, a dairy product (yoghurt, for example, which can easily double up as a treat) and something substantial, like a sandwich or a frittata, as well as water or 100% fruit juice.
You might sigh now, thinking that the endless food wars with your child will start. This is where the wow-moments factor in. Boring fruit can be turned into tempting fruit skewers, vegetables and the more substantial elements become pinwheels, wraps, mini-quiches, animal-shaped sandwiches or cartoon-themed mini-meals. Rest assured that your child will adore lunches where you have lived out your creative genius.
Tip: Inform yourself about any food allergies that your child’s peers may have and communicate with teachers about any allergy concerns. Labelling a treat that contains possible allergens (peanuts, milk etc.) clearly makes the teacher’s life a lot simpler.
LONG-TERM PLANNING: BE BAG-SAVVY
The school bag is your child’s daily companion, so it’s important that this particular companion offers optimal support, doesn’t cause injuries or pain and won’t harm your child in the long run.
Finding a suitable backpack is essential for the wellbeing of your child – carrying heavy books and school supplies in an unsuitable backpack on a daily basis can have severe effects of the back, shoulder and neck muscles of your child.
The ideal backpack is sturdy but comfortable with adjustable shoulder straps. Shoulder straps should be thick and padded, to avoid pinching and discomfort. Broad straps also help in distributing the weight more equally. Teach your child from an early age that the straps should be worn over both shoulders, slinging the bag over one shoulder leads to aching muscle and possible postural problems. A hip strap that clips together over the stomach can help stabilize the bag and prevents back strain from balancing the load. Additionally, a thick back pad will aid in keeping your child’s back safe and will prevent any sharp objects from jabbing your child.
Tip: Find out if the school permits rolling backpacks. These can help alleviate the strain on your child’s shoulders too. Just be sure that your child can easily carry the bag when using the wheels is not possible.
The first few days of school set the tone for the remainder of the school year, be sure to enjoy these days with your child!