Best Year Yet
There’s something so promising and full of potential at the start of a new school year. Even after we’re finished with our educational careers, September rolls around and we say goodbye to Summer and we’re ready to get down to business. Those long luxurious days were fun and all, but pass the new pencils, we’ve got things to do!
After Summer, we begin anew. New friends, new opportunities, and sometimes a new teacher and new class. We thought we’d look into a few areas for stretching independence as the new school year emerges. At the end of this post, listen to the latest podcast for more about getting started off on a good foot!
There are a few main areas where we can help children stretch into new independence, namely clothing, food, and habits. A great thing about helping children into independence, is that a little bit of preparation can often mean an easier morning, feelings of confidence and passing on responsibilities from parent to child. An all-around win!
With the start of the school year, often comes a change of season and change of wardrobe. While we could run around outside in the sunshine in perhaps a pair of sandals and a handful of tees and shorts, the Fall and School Activities sometimes require different attire.
This transition can be a nice time to try on last year’s clothes, finding out what fits and what doesn’t. A child might be more willing to let go of even a favorite tee when they’ve experienced first-hand that it doesn’t quite fit, and perhaps someone else might enjoy it more.
Obtaining new clothing can be a lovely moment to reflect on how much a child has grown! Perhaps she’s ready to dress herself, so easily-tugged-on tees and soft pants are key to success. Or maybe he’s developed amazing manual dexterity, and overalls, shirts with buttons, and even tie-shoes are just right for this stage. It’s a great way to honor this new level of development and independence.
We all have clothing we love, that’s not necessarily suitable for everyday wear. Snow boots in Summer, a party dress when we’re having a day full of activity, there are often those items in our closet we just can’t seem to wear often enough.
If this is the case at your house, perhaps those “sometimes” clothes can be tucked away somewhere safe, out of sight, where they can wait until that special occasion. It’s helpful to a child developing decision-making skills and self-control to have every option she sees, in a drawer or in a closet, be a true option.
Food is so ingrained with our cultural experience — a shared meal, stories around the table, questions of, “oooh what’s that?! I want sushi for lunch!” — and an exciting way to foster independence in young children.
Typically children eat breakfast at home, or perhaps on their way to school. Are there one or two options that are aligned with your nutritional expectations for your child, that she could be fairly independent with? Nut butter on toast, overnight oats (cold or warm), yogurt and grains and fruit are all options that children can be independent preparing themselves, without much need for adult help. Children can even be successful preparing eggs, if that’s a choice a family makes!
When we get to participate in decision-making, we’re often more enthused about the process, and we get to explore and express preferences and tastes.
Many children bring a lunch from home. Are there guidelines that can be implemented in order for a child to be independent with this skill? Perhaps, picking a protein, a vegetable, a fruit, a dairy, and a grain from a few selections in a specific eye-level space in the fridge or pantry. One item from each crisper drawer, one side stocked with cut up vegetables and the other with fruits. An item from this basket for proteins, with containers of beans, meat, nut butters, and left overs. Milk in a thermos, a piece of cheese, or a yogurt. Bread, crackers, or rice.
“When we get to participate in decision-making, we’re often more enthused about the process, and we get to explore and express preferences and tastes.”
Suddenly, what was, “lunch?! Again?!” (only at my house, perhaps?) has turned into a creative culinary exercise. Perhaps combinations will emerge that weren’t necessarily what an adult would choose (garbanzos, yogurt, and a slice of bread) but how else do we learn how to put together a meal, and sometimes we even find combinations that are amazing!
For a younger child, this might need a bit more assistance, providing perhaps two choices (a banana or a peach, peanut butter on a tortilla or on a slice of bread), or even no choices, but engaging a child in the process, such as setting out the ingredients and the child assembles, or even merely places closed containers in the lunchbox and zips it shut.
Chances are, if you’re feeding yourself, you can participate in the process, and we all love to participate, no matter our age. It’s relationship-building to know your opinion matters, and to have someone see how big you are, and to respect you.
If the start of a school year involves choosing a new lunch box (always a monumental day when we were growing up, and a sign that school was just around the corner! Any lingering feelings of wishing Summer were just a bit longer went right out the window with a new lunch box in hand!), children often love to help pick out this important accessory, and carry it with pride on those first days and weeks of a new school year. How much has your child grown? Was that zipper tricky a year ago, and now it’s muscle memory? Has new strength for closing and opening a container developed? Does that compartmented Bento-style box make YOU feel envious of packing a lunch, and inspired for a healthy lifestyle? It’s so much more than simply a container for food.
Habits are what we continually do. We are sometimes conscious of them, or choose to change or start or stop a habit, but we all have habits.
The start of a new school year is a lovely time to reflect on what caused a bit of irritation in previous years, and troubleshoot ways to address it this year.
Did lunch boxes often get forgotten under a seat? Perhaps the very first thing is to bring them inside, empty containers and debris, and load the dishwasher. Or perhaps the first goal is simply putting them on the kitchen counter!
“It’s relationship-building to know your opinion matters, and to have someone see how big you are, and to respect you.”
Was everyone dressed and ready to go, but shoes and coats were nowhere to be found? Is there a space right inside the door where these things could live permanently, easy to pick up going out the door?
Is your household filled with night-owls in early-bird lives? Sometimes packing lunch and laying out an outfit the night before paves the way to an easier, if not always easy, morning routine.
Of course, different ideas are going to be applicable for unique family situations. Hopefully, more than this post providing a few ideas, it provided a few bits of information, sparked ideas to start this year as the best yet.
For more about clothing, food, and habits, and supporting independence in preparing for the start of a new school year (or a new week, or even a new day! We can try new things every day!) listen to this podcast!
Written by:Charlotte Wood