It feels like summer has just arrived, and yet…it’s time to start thinking about getting our kids ready for a new – and (yet again) different – school year. Whether your little one will be attending school in person, following a hybrid approach, or fully virtual, you might find your kiddos feeling a mix of emotions – from anxious to excited – about what’s ahead. Here are some tips for using play to help your family prepare for the upcoming school year!
How Play Can Help Kids Prepare for the Upcoming School Year
- Play is one of the most effective ways to help children relax and cope with stress. If kids are feeling anxious or unsettled about the unknown school year ahead, playtime is a great way to help children stop focusing on what is troubling them and instead helps them have fun, express themselves, problem-solve, and be in control.
- Pretend play, including role-playing, is a great way to help children practice social skills, act out different situations, problem-solve, and learn how to communicate with and interact with others.
- Spending time playing and socializing with others – especially after a year where contact with other children and people was limited – helps children develop important social and emotional skills, learn how to regulate themselves and their emotions, and how to interact with others.
- Play is one of the best ways for children to learn about all sort sorts of things – including about things like math, science, geography, history, art, and more. Play can be used to help your child learn or work on skills you think they may need some practice and support in as they prepare for the school year to come.
Playful Activities to Explore
- Encourage Free Play: Free, unstructured play – where children improvise, create and do things like make up games or run around a park or playground – helps children relax, cope with stress, and have fun. It also helps them learn important skills like communication, how to control their emotions, and how to interact with others. Try to encourage your little one to spend time each day enjoying unstructured play.
- Play Pretend School: A great way to help your child imagine and prepare for what’s to come is to encourage them to play pretend and role play so that they can work out what school might be like, how their teacher might act, and what it might be like to be the student. Give them some props and help prompt them to create a pretend school, sit at a desk, and to play teacher and student. You’ll get a sense of what they might be worried or excited about – and they’ll have a chance to figure out what’s ahead.
- Try Journaling, Creating Art, or Putting on a Puppet Show: Help your child express what they are feeling about the upcoming school year by encouraging them to draw, write, create, talk about, or act out what they think the next school year will be like. These activities will help your little learner think about things, express their feelings, and communicate with you – and give you opportunities to help them talk out their worries and feelings.
- Explore playful activities where kids can try their hand at fun science, math, reading, and other activities. These activities may help them work on skills that they may need practice in – but also can get them excited about learning, help them explore what they are interested in, and understand some of what they might be learning about during the school year ahead.
- Take part in playgroups and/or explore places where your child can interact with other children in safe ways. Spending time playing and interacting with others might help your child ease into the social situations they’ll be exposed to in school – and get practice playing, talking with, and reacting to other children and adults. You might find playgroups – planned or impromptu – happening around your neighborhood, in a nearby park, or at a community center that’s convenient to where you live. Other ideas to consider include visiting places like playgrounds, indoor attractions like Port Discovery, pools, and events where your little one will have the chance to meet and play with children they may not know yet.
Play helps children learn, grow and develop in many ways – and can be an excellent way to help your child imagine and prepare for a school year that will be filled with excitement, learning, and fun!