Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

April 22, 2024

The ABC’s of School Readiness for Occupational Therapy Month

Shannon Gaetke, OTD, OTR/L

A is for Animal walks. Animal walks helps build muscle strength and can help with regulation.

B is for Books. Books help kids with listening skills and are great practice for circle time in school.

C is for Crafts. Get creative! Use old cardboard boxes! Paint with water on chalkboards! Be messy!

D is for Dressing and Dress-up. Being able to get dressed for school including putting on shoes and a jacket are important when kids are quickly shifting between indoor and outdoor environments.

E is for Energy. Ensure your child is getting plenty of rest and has a good sleep schedule so they can have enough energy to play and learn.

F is for Food. Frequently explore new foods. Exploration can include looking, smelling, touching, tasting, and spitting even if a kid doesn’t want to eat it. Exploration can help kids feel safe to try new things they may encounter during lunch or snack time at school.

G is for Greetings and Goodbyes. Practice greeting and saying goodbye to safe adults and peers in your home and community. This can help ease transitions when starting school.

H is for Heavy work. Have kids help themselves by pushing heavy objects or carrying heavy items to setup during play. The process of play is more important than the end result and heavy work will assist in regulation and attention needed for learning.

I is for Initiate. Practice initiating thoughts and feelings about challenging tasks as well as asking for help when needed. This can build self-advocacy skills.

J is for Joining. Joining a group of peers is an important skill. Practice joining in with peers at the park or a play date. This may mean joining into the activity or suggesting something new.

K is for Knowing expectations. We all benefit from knowing what to expect. It helps decrease anxiety. Let your child know what a typical school day might look like. Practice at home in advance. Attend meet the teacher nights and take pictures of the school to help your kid know their way around.

L is for Learning. Allow your child to make mistakes. Making mistakes are opportunities for learning.

M is for Music. Music is repetitive and rhythmic which can help your child master skills quicker. Set motion to music for an extra benefit!

N is for Novelty. Introduce new things regularly. It helps kids work on adapting, both to the items in their day as well as to adjustments in their routines.

O is for Organization and Clean-Up. Help kids practice for school by organizing their toys and practicing cleaning up once they are finished with an activity. You can even make it a game by using animal walks or requesting clean up of certain colors or items.

P is for Practice and Praise. Practice activities like standing in line, putting on a jacket, and listening to a book. Give specific paired praise like, “Thank you for sharing your toys” instead of “good job.”

Q is for Quiet time. Quiet time is often part of many routines at school. Practice quiet time via a quick nap or quiet items your child can play with.

R is for Routines. Embed opportunities for learning into your daily routines. Have your child work on safety and exploring new foods while helping you meal prep. Have your child practice matching skills by matching socks or types of clothing during laundry day.

S is for Scissors. Practice scissor safety. Snip play-doh with plastic scissors. Use chip clips or alligator clips to practice oppositional hand movements and build strength needed for cutting.

T is for Taking Turns. Take turns with everything including choosing items or playing games. This will help build social skills needed to develop positive peer relationships at school.

U is for Understanding feelings. Talk about feelings. Start with simple ones like happy, sad, mad, sick, scared, and surprised. This helps to develop emotional awareness.

V is for Validation. Validate your child’s emotions. Let them know it’s okay to feel however they want. Practice using coping strategies to help shift emotions when stressed.

W is for Wellness. Wellness activities may include getting a check-up, having a hearing and vision screening, or getting outside for some exercise.

X is for X marks the spot. Go on a scavenger hunt either indoors or outdoors. This helps your child develop visual scanning skills needed for safety awareness. It also can help build visual abilities in school like finding items requested, cleaning up, and visually tracking peers and teachers in the classroom.

Y is for Yes and No. Try to drop questions that have a “yes” and “no” answer. Instead, use “let’s….” phrases such as: “Let’s play!” “Let’s clean up.” “Let’s get ready.” “Let’s pick a game.”

Z is for Zany. Your child is delightfully unique. Be playful! The more your child see you showing zest for something, the more they’ll want to do it too! If you approach school readiness with zest, chances are so will they!