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Many little children are eagerly awaiting their chance to start “big school” this year; the transition into Grade 1 can be daunting, but this is how to prepare for the big change.


South Africa (10 January 2023) – Change is something many people feel uncomfortable with; starting a new job or moving to a new home or city can evoke feelings of fear and anxiety in many adults. Similarly, the move to a new school or new Grade may be overwhelming for our little ones too. For those children starting Grade 1 in 2023, parents can adopt a few strategies to help their children get through their big feelings and practice some basic social-emotional skills before they enter the classroom.

“It’s been a long and unpredictable road leading up to the first day of school over the past two years. Changes in our normal routines have created unique challenges and families and children may have missed opportunities to develop the social-emotional skills they need for school,” explains Mari Payne, Director of Education and Outreach at Sesame Workshop International, South Africa.

“Fortunately, there’s plenty parents can do to support their children, because parents are children’s first and most important teachers,” she adds.

Sesame Workshop is the non-profit media and educational organization behind Sesame Street, the pioneering television show that has been reaching and teaching children since 1969. Today, Sesame Workshop is an innovative force for change, with a mission to help kids everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. We’re present in more than 150 countries, serving vulnerable children through a wide range of media, formal education, and philanthropically funded social impact programs, each grounded in rigorous research and tailored to the needs and cultures of the communities we serve. For more information, please visit sesameworkshop.org.

Payne provides some activities and games parents can play with their children to help get them ready for the first term of 2023:

Taking Turns: Being patient and waiting for ‘their turn’ is something that may be new to children starting school. Practice turn-taking with children by using verbal cues (“my turn, your turn” or “first you, then me, now you, now me”) and use timers to show how much time they will have to wait for their turn. You can use a digital timer, like on a phone or tablet, a kitchen timer, or a sand timer.

Sharing is Caring: Sharing with others is an important school readiness skill, and a little different than taking turns! Practice this skill with little ones by engaging together in cooperative or collaborative play, like building a block tower together or painting together using the same jar of paintbrushes (older children might join you in painting on the same page).

Whole-Body Listening: Playing Simon Says (or Elmo Says!) is a great way to help children practice listening and following directions. Try adding each element of whole-body listening into the game (“Elmo says… sit criss-cross on the floor, look at my face, use calm hands,” and so on). You can also challenge them to listen to an entire story without interrupting.

Independence: Help children practice and build confidence with self-care tasks that they may need to do themselves in a school setting, such as cleaning up after themselves, putting on and taking off their own jackets or shoes, or using a lunch box.

“By practicing these social-emotional skills with children prior to them starting school, it can help better prepare them for the classroom, introducing many new encounters they may face to make things less overwhelming,” explains Payne.

When the time comes for ‘school week,’ Payne notes that a child will have a lot of adjusting to do and may experience a lot of big feelings. The best thing to do during this time is to help children express and understand their emotions.

“In simple everyday ways, you can give them important tools that will help them handle big feelings, little ones, and every feeling in between,” she says.

Payne provides the following advice for the first weeks of school.

  • Managing big feelings is a skill that can take lots of practice. The three-step strategy “Breathe, Think, Do” can help in tough moments:
  • – Breathe: Encourage children to slowly take three deep breaths.
  • – Think: Help children come up with some possible plans to solve their problem.
  • – Do: Together, choose a plan and try it out. If it doesn’t work, try another.
  • Teach them the phrase, “I just can’t do it yet.” Remind them that learning something new takes time and practice, this will help with feelings of frustration.
  • Show them mistakes are okay—in fact, they are an important part of learning.
  • Help them express their emotions:
  • – Act it out through play
  • – Share your emotions – they will be more likely to share theirs with you
  • – Have children draw their feelings or ‘dance it out’

“One of the benefits of using the tips above for children, is that parents will often find it also helps ready themselves for the big move. Knowing that we’ve done what we can to prepare our child for the next step offers parents comfort, as we know these are big moments for parents too!” ends Payne.

Season 13 of Takalani Sesame helps kids deal with their ‘Big Feelings’ and airs on SABC 2 weekday at 15.30. The episodes are available in English on Mondays, isiZulu on Tuesdays, Sesotho on Wednesdays, isiNdebele on Thursdays and Afrikaans on Fridays.

Sources: JNPR
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Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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