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Children's chatter 0813

August 14, 2003

At this time of year, children are reuniting with school friends and re-establishing their school year routine. The various academic, social and organized activities available to children at school are an important part of their social and emotional growth, learning readiness and academic achievement.

Parents often feel excitement, apprehension, pride and a feeling of emptiness as their child prepares to enter school. While preschool children have had many opportunities to play with other children and attend programs to help prepare them for school, the first few months of kindergarten set the stage for a child's early learning experiences and success in school.

Parents can help to ensure that their child has a successful start in school by arranging a visit to the school. This visit provides the opportunity to show where the bus goes, the cafeteria where they will eat and where the bathrooms are located while also easing the child's fears and anxieties.

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Parents can also provide direction and clear expectations of social behaviors and classroom conduct, teaching their child how to communicate with other children during play and classroom activities. Family activities and social events are a great time to teach children to respect others and their property through cooperative play experiences and sharing with family members.

Mealtime is an excellent opportunity for children to learn how to use their language to express their feelings, ask questions and learn appropriate social behaviors. In addition, children at this age can be taught task-related behaviors that will assist in their classroom routines, such as counting the number of plates needed to set the table, learning how to use eating utensils, helping to clean up after supper and putting things away.

Parents can help their child relate effectively to teachers and other children at school by always establishing eye contact when speaking to their child. This is especially important when directions or critical information are being shared.

The beginning of school is a wonderful, exciting time for children and parents. As a child's first teacher, parents play an important role in preparing their children to start school ready to learn.

Marilyn Peterson is director at A Children's Place, a service of Ephraim McDowell Health. She can be contacted at (859) 236-7176.|None***

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