There’s something larger than life about the first week of school. For parents, it can be a relief to see the kids off on their giant, academic adventures, but for kids themselves, there’s often lots of fear about what’s to come, and sadness about letting go of the summer gone-by. Teachers too can get swept up in the anxiety of it all as well. After all, everyone wants to get off to a good start.
So whether your child is feeling trepidation—or just plain excitement—here's a crafty project that happens to support some early literacy skills in the too. This new school year, make a photo book with your child and make some lasting memories!
What You Do:
- When your child starts asking you questions about school, take it as a sign that she’s ready to talk, and it’s a great time for you to set a positive, constructive tone about the whole experience. Even though you don’t want to spoil the surprises of that first day, you can still teach tell her lots about it ahead of time.
- Schedule some "run-through” time to practice the first day of school routine, and get your camera ready. If you’re talking about a “new” school, your child may not realize that there will be many aspects of her day that will actually be familiar!
- For your first run-through, start with getting up in the morning. Invite your child to “act out” waking up and take a picture. Have her put on a nice outfit, the kind she’d wear to school, and once she's dressed to impress, take a picture again. Do the same for eating breakfast and then for putting on a backpack or grabbing a book bag etc.
- The next step, going to school, can be frightening. Have your child practice and “act it out,” whether that means going to a bus stop, or walking, or hopping in your car. Photograph that, as well.
- School itself comes next, and of course that may be a little tricky if this is summer and everything is closed. Many schools have an open house during mid-summer or a week or two before school, and you should definitely plan on going—with a camera!—if you can. But even if school is closed, you can do a lot. Take your kid over to her new school and take a picture in front of the school. Check out the playground and get a picture of your child on a swing or play structure. And if your teacher happens to be around in the weeks before school starts (many are!), by all means say hello, and see if you can snap a quick photograph of your child with her teacher, or even in the classroom itself.
- Finally, take some pictures of the afternoon transition. Your own family’s rituals probably vary, but in general, try for 1–3 photographs that help your child know just what to expect and be reassured that again, it’s all really very familiar. You can take a picture of her coming home, or eating her after school snack or simply playing outside.
- To assemble the book, print your pictures and invite your child to help you lay them out in order on a table. (Note: parents, it’s tempting to do this sequencing yourself, but it’s much better to give your child some practice. When she can place the photos in the correct order, she'll reassure herself that she's prepared for her first day of kindergarten.)
- Now cut your card stock paper in half, to make a stack of pages 5½” x 8½”. On the first one, place a picture of your child, and write a title. If her writing skills are coming along, she can even help with this part! On each succeeding page, place a photograph and one or two words, such as “waking up,” or “my school” (you can have your child write the word, or have her dictate). Use a glue stick to attach all of the pictures.
- You can make a traditional book by stacking all the pages, but our favorite is an accordion style: use tape to attach each page to the next, so you can read them one by one if you like, but you can also stretch them out to one long “timeline” of the day, like this:
In the days before school starts, this book makes for a great tool to help to the whole family, and keep everyone informed on what's going on in your kindergartener's life. Invite your child to travel through the pages with you, one by one, and visualize a great experience. With a little patience and support, your child will have all the tools she needs for her exciting new adventure as a kindergartener. It's a very exciting time!
Julie Williams, M.A. Education, taught middle and high school history and English for seventeen years. Since then, she has volunteered in elementary classrooms while raising her two sons and earning a master's in school administration. She has also been a leader in her local PTA.