Spring is making its way into summer, and before we know it, Fall will be upon us. One of the beautiful aspects of summer vacation is that it is, well, summer vacation. In the rhythm of the year, it is a wonderful and magical exhalation, a time to run barefoot through the grass, climb trees, fly kites, swim, and explore. In fact, some of these activities are actually the best way to prepare your child for their upcoming first-grade year. There is no need to worry about giving your child first-grade prep classes or workbooks or anything like that. What we are talking about is providing your child opportunities to continue on their developmental path and grow physiologically and emotionally in the next few months. The academic stuff will come later in the fall and is actually built upon this vital foundation.
Below is a list of some ideas to think about over the summer in support of the 6 & 7 year old developmental needs. As with any material you get from me, these are merely suggestions and ideas; they are not prescriptive in any way! Each family will have its own unique needs and culture, so there is no one-size-fits-all method. And this list is by no means comprehensive, but I hope it does help you begin to wrap your heads around your child’s needs as a rising first grader.
- I have mentioned this already, but it bears repeating again and again: So much of a child’s academic/educational success rests upon a foundation of well-balanced and integrated physiology. Summer is a great time for a child to develop their sense of balance further, practice fine and gross motor movement, regulate their vestibular system, etc. Here are some recommended activities:
- Fine Motor Skills:
- Learn to tie their own shoes
- Other knotworks like tying a fishing lure or a kite string
- Folding napkins
- Chopping vegetables and helping to prepare a meal
- Helping fold clothes
- Flossing teeth
- Gross Motor Skills
- Climb Trees
- Wrestling and roughhousing
- Rolling down hills
- Sweeping the floor
- Fine Motor Skills:
- You may see rapid cognitive development during these summer months, or you may not. Everyone is going to develop and grow according to their own clocks. But allowing and encouraging your child to approach the world with wonder, curiosity, and imagination is always a good idea.
- A 6 & 7 year olds understand the world through questions, as you likely know. How do we help instill a sense of wonder and kindle the fire of curiosity with our answers?
- “Yes, and…”
- “I wonder” is always a great go-to response to a question. And then ask for a follow-up and another follow-up. Focus on what the child can perceive on their own through their senses.
- Here is an article from WaPo around answering an endless supply of questions.
- Giving your child the opportunity to learn about the world through nature and play is an amazing gift to give them. For example, when they are throwing rocks and sticks, they are experiencing and internalizing the laws of physics (and likely cause and effect as well!). When walking through the forest and prairie, they are making their own scientific observations. It also improves our psychological well-being to a great extent.
- Ah, sleep. I love you so. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children between the ages of 6 and 12 sleep between 9 and 12 hours a night. Summer nights can tend to go late, and bedtimes can be pushed later and later in the evening. Keep an eye on this; their bodies are not necessarily functioning on adult rhythms even though the family is.
- Here is an article on the importance of sleep for children.
- Around the middle of August, consider starting to transition to school-year-bedtimes. It takes a few weeks for their internal clocks to catch up, so this is a good time. Experience leads me to suggest a 7:00 bedtime for first graders, asleep by 7:30.
- Rising first graders still primarily live within the world of imitation. Not only do they imitate what we do, but even more importantly, how we do things. This also figures into the realm of our social interactions. Modeling kindness, manners, and healthy relationship/communication practices provide a healthy model for our children to learn from and imitate.
- Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm. You will hear this word a lot from me as well. A family culture with established daily, weekly, and seasonal rhythms and routines helps form the basis of an environment that feels secure and nurturing. Having predictable routines, including where things are kept and how things are done really helps alleviate a great deal of weight off the parental shoulders as well!. Eventually, from the rhythms and routines that you set up today, will come independence and self-sufficiency.
- Hopefully, summer will see the beginning of the end of our Covid lifestyles. Peer interactions are all the more critical at this time, so I encourage you to seek out opportunities for your child to interact with their peers as much as possible. Time away from adults is also important, so be sure to give your child their own space and agency in play.
- For those who would like to dig a bit deeper over the summer, I have four books that I would offer up as recommendations. The first two give a general overview of Waldorf education, the following two are great books on parenting, which I have personally found very helpful, and the last is a link to the AWSNA website.
- Education Towards Freedom (A bit dated, but still informative)
- Understanding Waldorf Education
- Simplicity Parenting
- The Soul of Discipline
- The Association of Waldorf School of North America (AWSNA)