Get ready for back to school

When the holidays are over and reality kicks in, you’ll need to focus on getting into the school routine again. We are here to help.
By Child magazine

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Timing is everything
After weeks of school holidays and playing, it can be challenging for children to go back to school. Try these tips to get a routine going:
 
  • Get back into a normal routine a week before school begins. Gradually make bedtimes earlier and rise earlier. Practise being ready (washed, dressed, having breakfast) by a certain time. Also, eat meals at similar times daily to provide consistency in the transition from home to school. For preschoolers and toddlers, get the creche or daycare schedule and try to imitate this.
  • “Re-introduce” your older child to school by looking at the coming term’s calendar together, counting down the days and chatting about the year ahead in a positive way. Young children often live in the moment, so reconnecting with the school can go a long way towards reducing any anxiety about returning for the new school year.
  • Don’t neglect the afternoon schedule. Your goal in creating a good back-to-school routine is to get into the habit of doing certain things at specific times, for example, scale down on television time during term when this is the period your child will be doing homework.
  • Stay school-ready during the holidays. Stock up on interesting and educational reading materials and games. Keep your child’s mind active with daily chores such as writing up the grocery list or tallying up the restaurant tab. Keep them active: go for family bike rides or walks and have family swimming galas.
  • Practise certain milestones. Should your child be able to tie his shoelaces, do a tie knot or pack their lunch? Then overcome this challenge during the holidays when everyone is more relaxed.
 
Gearing up
Having the correct school accessories is essential for children who are going to be starting classes. Before going to purchase hair accessories, clothing and shoes, check the school’s code of conduct for requirements. Also, check the school regulations regarding acceptable hairstyles and length.
 
Uniforms can be purchased in slightly bigger sizes so that they last longer. As children’s feet are continually growing, you should buy the school shoes as close to the start of school as possible.
 
Get a sturdy bag that won’t strain your child’s back when they have to lug all those books and stationery to and around school. An orthopaedically-designed school bag that has extra padding will distribute the weight on your child’s back evenly.
 
Be sure to label everything using markers, or iron-on, sew-on or stick-on labels. You don’t want them to come home with half of the stuff missing.
 
Getting from A to B
You might be quite glad to see the little ones going back to school, but getting them there and back can be a mad dash, so be prepared. Getting your child ready and at school on time can be a chore for both of you, but by creating and sticking to a plan, you can reduce the morning madness.
 
When starting at a new school, practise your route to school beforehand to eliminate any anxiety and establish a safe pick-up and drop-off spot.
 
Make sure you use the right car seat for your child. This will depend on your child’s height and weight and the type of vehicle.
 
If you are going to be using a lift service, introduce your child to the driver so that they feel more at ease once school starts. Check that your car seat fits properly in the lift car and that the driver knows how to install it correctly. If they supply a car seat, check that it is appropriate for your child. Also, find out if the lift service can take your child to and from extramurals or if you need to make other arrangements.
 
Gadgets galore
Probably the biggest change in education over the past few decades has been the introduction of new technology. Parents should keep up with the ever-changing digital world. Some schools require children to use tablets or laptops, while others may allow children to use these during class time, homework time or for specific subjects. This may depend on your child’s grade.
 
Check with your school as to their policy on tablets and laptops. If tablets or laptops are allowed, you can use them to download reference books, such as a dictionary. You may also be able to find digital textbooks – several CAPS-approved textbooks are available as e-books. Check with the school if you need to supply a tablet and at what specs and if you need to download any software. The software and apps that you place on your child’s tablet or laptop will probably depend on his age and on what is recommended by the school. But you can include items like Google Docs and office software (which will depend on the make of your laptop or tablet).
 
Some children may be allowed to take cellphones to school. Most schools will allow this, especially for older children, but with limits as to when phones can be used. Depending on where your child is in his school career, you may consider getting him a portable hard drive or USB drive, a portable charger or headphones.
 
5 tips to keep your child safe online
  1. Know what social media platforms your child is active on and what games he is playing online.
  2. Be aware of age restrictions and read the T & Cs of each social media platform. Age restrictions are in place for a reason. Children need a certain level of emotional maturity to process the content they are exposed to.
  3. Ensure privacy settings are secure on each platform your child is on, and make sure you know how to install them.
  4. Install parental control software on all devices. There are free apps that can help you filter inappropriate content, monitor your child’s activity online and set time limits.
  5. Ensure that screen time is limited, this includes TV, all devices and gaming. Psychologists’ research shows that two hours per day is the appropriate amount of screen time daily.
 
Pen and paper
Without the correct school supplies and gear, children can have a hard time keeping up with their lessons and keeping pace with the rest of the school. Armed with the school’s stationery and textbook list, you can do all your shopping from the comfort of your home. There are several suppliers with online stores that offer delivery to the school or your home. Check with your school for their suggested supplier. The stationery and textbook list may be preloaded on their website for your convenience.
 
You can also check the school’s shop for any second-hand textbooks.
 
Don’t forget to get all the necessary materials to wrap the books – pre-cut book covers (check if you need school-specific covers), plastic covers, craft paper, plastic rolls and labels.
 
Is your child left-handed?
Learn everything you can about your child’s left-handedness. Teach them in a way that allows them to learn – with the right equipment, knowledge and instructions. Ensure your child has the correct hand formation and pencil grip. The hand and wrist should be straight and pointing to the line on which they are writing. The paper should be angled about 30 degrees clockwise. This will ensure they don’t smudge their writing. Demonstrate a task from a left-handed child’s perspective. It can be quite confusing for a left-hander to try to copy a task demonstrated by a right-handed adult. Teachers should consider putting left-handers together in a class – this will mean they can use the same equipment and they won’t bump elbows when they write.
 
Lunchtime
The emphasis should be on nutritional meals and functional lunchboxes. Get children a small cooler to take to school, this way, they won’t spill anything in their school bags, or forget about half-eaten sandwiches. You can go for a cooler bag or box, but if children have a locker or designated bag area, ensure that the cooler box will fit. Get a few water bottles, as on days with lots of sport, your child may want to take two bottles to school. Pack healthy food and avoid any junk treats.
 
Lunchbox-friendly fishcakes
Serves 4–6 | Preparation 15 minutes | Cooking time 15 minutes
 
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 spring onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp butter chicken curry spice or mild curry powder, heaped
  • 375g butternut peeled, cooked and mashed (it should be dry, not too wet)
  • 60g flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 120g panko breadcrumbs
  • 4 x 170g cans tuna in brine, drained
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp smoked BBQ sauce
 
Method
Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onion for 4 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and spring onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the curry powder and stir for 30 seconds, taking care not to burn the spice.
 
Add the mashed butternut and stir and until combined. Add the flour, a heaped spoonful at a time, and stir well. Stir in the drained tuna until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.
 
Switch off the heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly until cool enough to handle. In a tray or plate, mix the extra flour and breadcrumbs. Heat a nonstick pan with enough oil for shallow frying. Shape 2 tbsp-spoonfuls of the mixture into a ball using your hands. Repeat with the remaining mixture.
 
Dust the fish cakes in the breadcrumb-and-flour mixture flattening them slightly to form mini fish cakes. Cook each one in oil for 1½ minutes on one side and 1 minute on the other.
 
Gently remove from the pan and drain on wire rack lined with kitchen paper. Allow to cool completely before packing into an airtight container to refrigerate or pack for lunch.
 
Recipe by Siba Mtongana, from her bestselling cookbook, Welcome To My Table, R389 from Takealot.
 
Health first
Whether your child is entering school for the first time or is about to graduate, back-to-school time is a good opportunity for parents to check up on their children’s health.
 
  • Teeth: Take children to the dentist when they are four or five years old, and schedule regular check-ups every six months after that.
  • Eyes: Children’s eyes should be checked when they are between three and five years old, and again when they start school. If children do have vision problems, their eyes should be checked every year or as prescribed. If your child hasn’t had any problems with their vision, get a check-up every two years.
  • Worms: Deworm children every six months, starting just before they go back to school. This means that they’ll be dewormed every January and every July.
  • Vaccines: Your child’s immunisations should be up to date. Check your Road to Health card to see which vaccinations are needed – most are required before children are 18 months old, with boosters needed at 6 and 12 years old. If any are required, or have been missed, visit a family clinic as soon as possible.
  • Medication: If your child needs to take any medication to school, find out what the school’s policy is on dispensing medicine.
 
Book giveaway
Foord Asset Management has published a children’s book, written by one of Child Magazine’s much-loved writers, Christina Castle. The book aims to reach out to South Africa’s children, talking about the importance of saving and investing. More Than Enough is a story about a young squirrel who sets out with her mother one autumn morning to collect acorns. There is no jargon. No reference to money. And not a hint of greed. Beautifully illustrated by Carla Kreuser, this simple story is about acorns and why our squirrel family collects them – to eat, to enjoy, to share, to save and to grow for the years to come. If you would like to request books for your library or school, email info@foord.co.za, with “Child Mag – More Than Enough” in the subject line.
 
Back to work basics
If your maternity leave is coming to an end, you’re probably beginning to explore your childcare options.
 
Dial a nanny
Hiring a nanny is a popular choice among working parents who want their children at home in a familiar space. Employing someone to look after your child at home also means you can set the schedule and be more in control of the kind of care you’d like for your little one. The added bonus is that your child gets one-on-one attention. Of course, staying home can limit opportunities for early socialisation, which is why it’s beneficial to sign up for Nanny ‘n Me or toddler socialisation classes, which gives your child the opportunity to interact with other children and introduces your nanny to childminders in the area with whom she can arrange play dates.
 
Before you begin your nanny search, be clear about what your needs are. Do you want someone who will also help around the house? Do you want a live-in nanny? Must they be fluent in a specific language? Knowing the answers to these questions will help a nanny agency recruit the right person for you.
 
6 important questions to ask
  1. What did you enjoy most about your previous job? What were you expected to do?
  2. If you are looking after a child alone, and they suddenly develop a fever or seem to be unwell, what would you do? (you want to hear that she would call you first)
  3. What would you do to keep a toddler busy on a rainy day?
  4. If you were taking the child to the park, what would you pack to take with you? (this will give you an idea of if she is able to plan and what safety precautions she would take)
  5. How would you warm up a bottle of milk for a baby? (Not in the microwave)
  6. Do you know how to make pureed fruit and vegetables for a baby who is just starting solids?
Thanks to Tania from Village Nannies for the above tips.
 
Au pair at home
Much like a nanny, hiring an au pair allows you to keep your child at home. The difference between the two is that au pairs are usually students or older, educated individuals with their own transport, which is why you can expect to pay more for their services. Should you choose to pay by the hour, the going rate is R60 plus, alternatively you can hire an au pair half-day for around R5 000 per month or full-day for R8 000 and up per month. The benefit of an au pair is that you have a little more freedom because they can run errands for you and take your children to and from play dates and extramural activities.
 
Crèche it is
Many parents send their babies to daycare or crèche at just three months old. The benefit of a crèche is that you know you’re getting experienced childminders looking after your baby. However, you can expect a few more colds as your little one is exposed to more bugs.
Get help finding daycare, go to: childmag.co.za/content/choosing-right-daycare-facility
 
Preschool ready
Child development is not just about academic ability. There are several ways to help your child prepare for other aspects of school life. Ask about the potty-training policy at your toddler’s preschool. Many preschools do assist with potty training, but if your child is ready during the holidays, get this “complex” issue over and done with before school starts.
 
Social skills necessary for preschool include sharing, taking turns, playing with peers, and participating in pretend play. Playdates are the best environment for learning these skills. Prior to preschool, teach your child their full name, parents’ names, and street name and number. Some preschoolers may even remember a phone number.
 
Track everyone’s daily activities on a prominent and accessible calendar. Buy your older child a planner or a whiteboard, so they can make to-do lists, map out assignments or write down things they want to remember.

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