14 tips to help your 4 year old cope with school

When Luca started school in September I added a reminder to my editorial calendar to write a post once we got to half term.  You know the kind, a little update on how he is getting on.  Well in all honesty, it’s been tough for all of us.   Luca loves school, he’s thriving in the learning environment, asking loads of questions about letters and numbers and pointing out shapes wherever we go. He’s doing really, really well.  He has even started to bring books home with words in already!  I couldn’t be prouder of him to say he is a July baby.  I’m so happy that, so far, he is enjoying learning.

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On the other hand though, he has been a challenge since he started.  To begin with I expected it.  Going from 2 and a half days at pre-school to 5 full days was obviously going to take it’s toll.  It was a big change but I was ready for all that entailed.  Or at least I thought I was.

To begin with he was just grumpy and tired.  But then he started to paddy at the slightest thing.  Something he has never done before.  He also started to purposefully ignore instructions and just not listen to me at all.  Then we had the tears.  Lots and lots of tears.

I started to get frustrated with his behaviour and we just didn’t have a very nice few weeks.  Eventually I took my problem to good old Facebook.   From the responses I got it turns out it is perfectly normal for your well rounded child to turn feral once they start school, who knew?

Anyway my lovely friends over there gave me lots of brilliant advice and so I thought instead of an update on how we are getting on, I would share their pearls of wisdom for anyone else out there that is really struggling since their little bundles of joy started of school.

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1.Don’t ask questions – As much as you want to know how their day has been don’t ask.  They have been using their little brains all day and as much as you want to know, they don’t really see why you want to. It’s just another question.  Leave it up to them to tell you when they are ready.  If you really have to know though, wait.  Ask once they are settled at home.  A bedtime chat is a good time.

2. Take yummy snacks at home time – At school pick up a quick snack for the walk/journey home is always a good idea.  It will have been at least 3 hours since they ate lunch so they will be starting to get hungry.  Try to avoid sugary snacks, the sugar rush and then consequent crash won’t help them at all.  Try fruit snacks, or nuts.  A smoothie is also a nice treat.

3. Nutritious food – I know this is obvious but make sure you are filling them full of nutritious foods.  Especially breakfast.  Send them to school with a full tummy to see them through.  You can’t control how much they eat at lunch time so fill them up as much as possible in the morning.

4. Multivitamins – this ties into the above point.  Let’s be honest, we all know children aren’t well known for eating all the healthy food.  Luca can be really fussy at times with food so a little added help from a multi-vitamin can go a long way. Especially over the winter months when bugs are rife at school.

5. Hydration – Luca comes home from school really thirsty.  I think he’s just so busy having fun and learning that he forgets to drink enough.  Make sure you always have a drink handy for them at home, and one on their bedside table during the night

6. Make life easy for them – What I mean by this is help them.  For example, when we were getting home Luca was asking me to take his shoes off. I mean really, he’s been doing that by himself since he was tiny.  Why did he need help now?   Well I’ll tell you why. Because he’s tired and he’s had to do everything with little help all day.  Like carry his tray to the table at lunch, clear it, get his coat on etc to go play out.  The suddenly get so much more responsibility and they have to remember to do these things without being reminded.  When they get home they just want a little bit of extra help.  So carry their bag for them, take their shoes of and hang up their coat.  It won’t last forever.

7. Give them space and independence – I know this contradicts the above point but bear with me.  Suddenly your small person has so much more independence, they start to want to do things by themselves.  Like cut the tops of strawberries and feed pets. They are learning that they can do things without your help, things they may not have tried before as you have just always done it for them. Let them.  They are learning and although it takes 5 times longer than if you did it yourself, they are life skills. This brings me nicely to my next point

8. Pick your battles – Yes it is so frustrating that suddenly they are no longer capable of taking their own shoes off yet they want to try do things that are more difficult.  Pick your battles. It isn’t the end of the world if they spill milk whilst trying to make their own breakfast, or spill sugar everywhere whilst ‘helping’ you make a cup of tea.  Equally it will take you all of 30 seconds to take their shoes off for them. Don’t take a battle on unless it’s really important or else you will be fighting them ALL day.

9. Play calm, easy games – Once you are home after school, try avoiding any play that will challenge them.  Sensory play is good for relaxing children and doesn’t take much effort or energy on their part.  Avoiding games that may lead to frustration or get them wound up will help to keep your evening as calm as possible.  Some ideas of things to do are playdoh, painting, helping to make tea and imaginative play together.    Do you know what, sometimes it’s good to chill out together too, get snuggled up on the sofa and watch a movie.

10. Boring weekends and evenings – Basically don’t keep them too busy.  This is when they need to recuperate and relax.  We were packing our weekends full of fun as we were missing out on our days out during the week.  In hindsight this wasn’t the best idea.  Most weekends now we spend at home playing. Reconnecting and resting.

11. Make learning at home fun – Once at school they start coming home with reading books and lists of words for you to practice.  They have also been learning all day at school and they are fed up.  The worst thing you can do is try to get them to sit down with you and learn some more. So trick them. Turn learning into a game.  Last week we hid jelly beans under bits of paper with words on them. If Luca could tell me the word he got the sweet underneath.   We have also played with a wet sponge and Luca had to rub out words as I called them out.

12. Relaxing bath – Kids may not need a bath every night, but they are a great way to wind down before bed and also a good way to kill half an hour for us parents.  We tend to use relaxing bath bombs from Lush too, like the Ickle Baby Bot one to really help Luca get ready for bed.

13. Sleep – We brought bedtime forwards once we realised just how tiring school was for Luca. Making sure your child has enough sleep is vital to make your and their day easier.  Our biggest mistake was not doing this at the weekends too and through the half term.  If they get too tired everything will just snowball from there, so stick to a routine.

Last but certainly not least

14. Keep calm and carry on – It has been hard. Oh so very hard for us. My happy, funny, cheerful little boy turned into a grumpy, teary little boy overnight.  He gets me so frustrated and wound up sometimes and it can be really difficult to enjoy parenting when he is like that. But it’s because he is finding it hard too.  Remember, it won’t last forever.  They will eventually find their way and settle into this new routine.  Their little lives change so quickly and they don’t really know what is going on.  It’s your time to be the constant for them. To support them and help them whichever way you can.  There is no denying you’ll want to tear your hair out, but keep calm and carry on. You’ve got this.

I can honestly say I have tried all of the above and they definitely made a difference for us.  Luca is much happier now, for the most part, and we have our cheeky, cheery little boy back.  That’s not to say we don’t also have a tiny tyrant at times too, but mostly he’s lovely.

I just want to thank all those other Mama’s who passed on their little hints and tips and helped us through a rough patch, especially Jen from The Madhouse.  I’m not sure we would have turned things around quite so quickly without all the invaluable advice we were given.

4 thoughts on “14 tips to help your 4 year old cope with school

  1. Naomi says:

    I can relate to everything in this post. The food thing is critical with my little boy – he’s also in reception and a summer born child – and he’s always hungry and thirsty when I pick him up. He’s also exhausted, and most days just wants to watch TV, play quietly or read with me. He used to have playtime before bed but now he just asks to go to sleep! Like Luca, though, he’s also loving school.
    They’ll get there, it’s a huge amount of responsibility for them. I love your advice, and will definitely been pinning and sharing this. xx
    Naomi recently posted…Christmas Countdown: 7 Weeks to GoMy Profile

  2. Sharon says:

    These are excellent tips and I know you may think this sounds silly but many of them apply to kids starting in high school too! I am so guilty of firing questions at my kids – it was like an interrogation! I really need to back off and let them process their own thoughts before I expect them to articulate them to me. You’ve learnt this a lot quicker than me! Fantastic post! Sharon xx

    • Franki says:

      Thank you very much Sharon. The question thing made a huge difference straight away for us. We were starting off on the back foot straight out of the school gates. x

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