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When the calendar is flipped to August, one phrase looms imminently: “Back To School”. These words can inspire excitement, dread, fear, and confusion all at once for both parents and students.
There is no period in childhood more influenced by back to school time than early childhood. Going to kindergarten used to be the first stepping stone for school life in past generations. Now preschool is the norm for a first school experience and children are little more than toddlers when they go off into the structured world of school. Even if a child has attended daycare, preschool is a more formalized experience with more learning than the free play and downtime of daycare life.
Developmentally, a three or four year old may have difficulty with separation from home. Teachers in preschool and kindergarten classes often allow (and indeed encourage) a child to bring a “transition object” from home to help them settle into a new place at school. This can be a favorite blanket, doll, action figure or photo of a parent or pet. This transition item helps the child when separation anxiety surfaces in the unfamiliar new world of school.
When my children attended a Montessori preschool, there was a box inside the entry door where children were encouraged to drop their transition items until the end of the day. If they needed the object for courage or comfort, it stayed with them for the day. My oldest left her “ducky blanket” from home in that box. It was a turquoise blue comforter with yellow ducks, and it was clutched when she got tired and sucked her thumb.
Child number two was attached to raggedy doll named “Baby Katie” that had a soft fabric body and a heavy plastic molded head. Real Katie stuffed baby Katie in the front of her shirt or coat with the doll head facing forward and flopped over whenever she left for school. Then daily, she clunked the tattered doll into the transition object box at school, and at the end of the day picked her up and stuffed her back over her chest before the teachers zipped up her coat sealing the doll in for the ride home.
Here is a thought for a functional and healthy transition object: a personalized Lively Bottle custom water bottle. Design one early in summer, with customization especially for a child going off to school for the first time. Choose a background like dots, checkers, pets, music, whatever the child finds comforting and familiar. Upload a photo or two of things that will remind your new student of home: pictures of mom, dad, siblings, or a home bedroom complete with stuffed animal friends or Lego buildings in it. Upload the photos; choose a lid color that your kiddo likes and Bam! You have a cool transition item that can be held and sipped at school – the bottles are insulated, BPA-free, dishwasher safe, made in USA, and designed to fit in a small hand.
With increasing focus on health and obesity reduction in children, more and more schools are allowing children to carry water bottles with them in school. The brain is 73% water and depends on adequate hydration for cognitive function. Even mild dehydration, like hunger, has been found to impede a child from learning optimally. In addition, for a young child, the act of sipping water can be soothing and help settle separation jitters.
Preschool aged kids have been used to having a sippy cup with them at home. Get that water bottle ordered early and then bring it to the playground, pool, or zoo trip so that it becomes associated with fun and happiness. Then when August comes and school bells ring your child will clutch their familiar bottle and march into school with a comfort item for transition that makes them feel like they belong in their new school class. Thinking about back to school early will prevent any back to school panic or apprehension, and allow for a smooth sailing into the excitement of the new world of school.
Pictured is three-year old Parker. After months of watching MSU basketball, Parker enrolled in his first basketball class at the local YMCA. He loves it! He often practices his “slam dunks” and “defense” in the basement after dinner. Says his mom, “the children all bring their own water bottles to class so this will be perfect for him to bring along! The pictures on the bottle are from his recent basketball themed birthday party.”
Lisa is co-founder of Lively Bottle. She teaches health and nutrition, and counsels childhood obesity, in her nurse practitioner role.