The weather is chilly, leaves are falling, and school is back in full swing! This can be a stressful time for students and parents, especially due to the uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic. For many students the majority of their previous school year was spent at home, away from their typical learning environment, teachers, and friends. That is why this year is so important! With all of the challenges that this school year can bring, here are some helpful tips to practice with your children that can make this transition easier for everyone.
Practice wearing masks for an extended period of time
Who wants to wear a mask all day? I’m sure most kids don’t. However, the reality is that students are going to be required to wear masks for the entire school day to help keep themselves and other students safe. Due to many schools offering remote or hybrid learning last year, many students are most likely not used to wearing masks for an extended period of time. Masks can be uncomfortable and can become a distraction. For those reasons it is important to practice wearing masks for long periods of time. Students will become more comfortable wearing masks
The best and safest way to practice this skill with your children is to practice wearing masks at home. Parents, make this a fun experience for them. There is so much you can do!
- Play a game to see who can wear their mask the longest
- The winner will receive a small but reinforcing prize (such as their choice of dinner or an extra 30 minutes before bedtime)
- Use a timer and set it to a random interval. Once the timer beeps whoever is wearing their mask will receive a prize!
- If everyone is wearing their mask when the timer beeps an even larger prize is given! Keep in mind that the prizes just need to be reinforcing, not anything costly.
- This can be played during a game night, a trip out for ice cream, or to the store, etc.
Learn about proper mask etiquette
As important as it is to be able to wear your masks for extended periods of time, it is just as important to ensure that your masks are being worn correctly. And even more importantly, is that your children understand the importance of wearing their masks appropriately. Here is a fun craft that you can complete with your child to help them learn proper mask etiquette.
- Construction paper
- Crayons or markers
- A mask
- *I used the “Make Your Own Face Activity” found at Target’s dollar spot* but this craft can be done without it
This is a great activity to do as a family or individually. If you are not using the “Make Your Own Face Activity” craft, first have your child draw a life-sized sketch of their head on construction paper. If you are using the Target craft, have your child select which foam head-piece represents them the best and glue it on a piece of construction paper. Then, have your child decorate the face to match their own. Talk about their eye and hair color, the type of hair they have, the length of their hair, etc. Once they are happy with the face they created then it’s time to add the mask. First, have your child add the mask to the face they’ve created to see if they are able to do it correctly. Here are some things to look for: mask covering the nose and mouth, mask going over the chin, mask fitting over both ears, and hair being moved away from the mask. Once they’ve placed their mask on the face they created, give them a score (out of 4) and then give them another chance to see if they can fix any of their mistakes. Finally, go over each step they did correctly, providing praise and work together to rectify any mistakes!
Discuss the importance of effectively washing your hands
Proper hand washing is extremely important, now more than ever. Most children know that they HAVE to wash their hands (even though they need reminders sometimes) but it is just as important that they know WHY, WHEN, and HOW. Why: Explain to your children that hand washing helps prevent them from getting sick and from making other people sick.
When: Practice before vs. after. Give your child different scenarios: before eating, touching his or her mouth, eyes, or nose, going to the bathroom, being close to someone that is sick, touching garbage, etc. And ask them in each scenario if they should wash their hands and if they should do it before or after the scenario. This activity causes them to think critically and will help them remember the appropriate times to wash their hands.
How: Below is a social story to serve as a visual cue to guide children through the hand washing routine to ensure when they do wash their hands that they are doing so effectively. This social story can be posted near the sinks in your home as daily reminders!
Managing changes in routine
Productive routines decrease stress because they provide order to the natural chaos of daily life. Once stress is relieved in a child’s life, that child’s learning potential is increased making it easier for them to learn new things including habits and skills. However, what happens when that routine faces an unexpected change? It can be difficult for many learners to face these changes and make the necessary adjustments to be able to continue on with their day. Changes in routine for some learners can be devastating. In the unfortunate event that schools do shift back to remote learning or hybrid schedules it is important to practice managing changes in routine. Knowing what to expect can be instrumental in helping your child cope with these changes and get back into his or her routine.
Here are some tips!
- Talk it out and/or use pictures
- Whenever possible, try to give your child a heads up if you know there is going to be a change in their daily routine. This can be done by talking to your child or by adding/rearranging pictures to their visual schedule. By providing them with advance notice, you are giving them time to prepare and answer any questions they may have.
- Introduce small changes slowly
- Practice introducing small changes into their routines and slowly work your way up to a large change over time. You don’t need to wait until a change actually needs to be made. Instead, contrive opportunities to practice this skill. Start by swapping out one favorable activity for another one. For example, instead of taking your child to the park after school, take them for ice cream and a walk instead.
- Add spaces to their schedule to fill in later
- If your child uses a visual schedule, try leaving some gaps between some pictures so you can add other pictures later. This allows parents some wiggle room if changes do need to be made to the routine.
- Practice calming techniques
- In the event of unexpected or abrupt changes, it is helpful if your child has some self calming techniques in their repertoire. Prior to these events, try practicing some of these techniques and talk about them with your child. Calming techniques can include, taking a certain number of deep breaths, hugging their bodies until they feel relaxed, listening to music, etc.