School is starting! For some kids, this transition might be relatively easy. They may be able to go right into the classroom without hesitation. For other kids, leaving their parents and heading off to a new place might be a little more anxiety-provoking and they may struggle with the change. Some kids might slip right into the routine of school and remember the rules. Some kids may need a few extra reminders to give their friends space, or to raise their hand before talking, or to sit with the group at circle time. For kindergartners, this is all new stuff. And for ANY child who has been out of the classroom since the COVID-19 pandemic began, some skills might take a little while to remember. We have a positive way to help kids practice their school skills: the KITS school star chart!
This can be used to help any child to practice a skill, like being able to head into their class in the mornings without holding on to mom for too long outside (also see our post on other ways to relieve separation anxieties) or staying with the class in circle time instead of wandering around the classroom. Here’s how:
- Set a goal with your child. Figure out what you want them TO DO. And then make it as clear as possible. If you want your child to go into their class calmly in the morning then set it up for them like: “When you go into the classroom calmly in the morning, you get a star. That means that you give me a kiss or hug, say ‘see you later’ and walk into the classroom/school.” You don’t need to tell them what not to do. That only gets confusing. By telling them what to do (and writing it on the chart) the goal is clear.
- Decide how many days they need to get stars before they can get a reward. If the goal is to learn and practice a new skill, then at first your child may need to get a small reward every time they get a star. Maybe the reward for a star is to get extra time to read with you when they get home from school. Or they might get to choose dessert that evening. They can also earn a bigger reward at the end of the week if they get a certain number of stars. So maybe if they get 3 stars, they can choose a movie for the family to watch on Friday night or a park to visit on the weekend.
If the goal is for your child to do something in the classroom, you will need to team up with the teacher to find out how things go during the day. This can be done with a quick note, email, or text.
- Decide how long to practice. Your child will eventually master the skill so they will not need the star chart forever. As they get better, you can change things up so that they need more stars to get the reward. Or even plan to end the chart with a large reward when they have been successful each week for a number of weeks.
There are a couple of SUPER important things to remember about using a star chart (or any incentive system). The first is that once your child has earned a star, you cannot take it away from them. If you do that, you will take away the incentive for them to practice the skill. And taking away rewards that they have earned for practicing skills at school because they misbehave some other time will only confuse things. Also, if your child does not earn a start on day, don’t dwell on it. In fact, we would not expect a child to be able to earn a star every day at the beginning since they are practicing something new (or brushing up on a forgotten skill). If your child doesn’t get a star one day, remind them that they can try again the next day. You could talk about things they could do to help them earn the star. But don’t spend too much time on it. Tomorrow is another day!
If this sounds like it is something that could work for you and your child, you can download our example (KITS School Star Chart) or create your own. You could also send it to school with your child and have your teacher fill in the stars, as long as you have communicated with the teacher about what you are doing. By keeping things positive and clear, you can help your child sharpen their school skills!
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Text: © Kids In Transition to School 2021
Image: © Volodymyr Tverdokhlib | Dreamstime.com