Guides For Parents Of Junior Infants


Foreword

Starting school will be the first big change in the life of your child. Up to this she/he has felt safe and secure with you in the home and family but now she/he is facing the wider world of classroom and school. This may seem a big step for someone so small but most children manage it without any great fuss or stress - and in fact take to it like ducks to water.

However, it is also a time when parents and teachers should take special care to ensure that the transition from home to school is as smooth as possible. If the child’s first experience of school is one of happy involvement, a very good foundation will have been laid for fruitful school years ahead.

It is important too, particularly during the first year that parents understand what the aims of the school are, as many may be expecting too much in the way of academic achievement.

We know from experience that parents are very anxious to help in any way possible. We have, therefore, included some ideas for the home, which should stimulate the child’s interest and nurture her/his desire to know more.

With these aims in mind we have put together this booklet as a general guide for parents. It deals briefly with the period before your child comes to school and her/his early days in Junior Infants.  Much of the information is taken from a variety of publications and online resources.

We trust you will find it helpful and that your child will be happy and fulfilled with us.

Getting Ready for Learning

Children are natural learners. They have an inbuilt curiosity and an eagerness to know more about everything – about themselves, about others and about the world around them. And they learn quickly – but only when they are ready and their interest is aroused.

Because they come to us so young we must guard against putting pressure on them to learn what they are not yet ready for. Demanding too much too soon can switch a child off completely. At the same time we must cultivate readiness so that they can get moving as soon as possible.

The rates of progress of children can vary greatly. We try to give them an opportunity to move ahead at their own pace or as near to it as possible.

Our first year in school therefore, is mainly about settling in, relating to others, making friends, feeling happy and gradually getting used to the routine of the school. On the learning side the emphasis is on getting children ready for learning by –

  • Developing their oral language and expression.
  • Sharpening their senses, especially seeing, hearing and touching.
  • Developing physical co-ordination especially of hand and fingers.
  • Extending their concentration span and getting them to listen attentively.
  • Learning through play – the most enjoyable and effective way.
  • Co-operating with the teacher and other children.
  • Performing tasks by themselves.
  • Working with others and sharing with them.
  • Getting each child to accept the general order, which is necessary for the class to work well.

 

Before Your Child Starts

You should ensure that your child is as independent as possible - physically, emotionally and socially. If she/he can look after herself/himself in these areas your child will feel secure and confident and settle in readily.

It would help greatly if your child is able to-

  • Button and unbutton her/his coat and hang it up.
  • Use the toilet without help.
  • Also encourage personal hygiene and cleanliness. Your child should know to flush the toilet and wash her/his hands, without having to be told.
  • Use handkerchief when necessary.
  • Share toys and playthings with others and “take turns”.
  • Tidy up and put away play things.
  • Remain contentedly for a few hours in the home of a relation, friend or neighbour. If she/he has had this experience, then separation from her /his parents when she/he starts school will not cause her/him any great anxiety.

 

Preparing for the ‘Big Day’

The child’s first day at school is a day to remember for the rest of her/his life. You can help to make it a really happy one for her/him.

  • Tell her/him about school beforehand, casually, and talk about it as a happy place where there will be a big welcome for her/him and where she/he will meet new friends.
  • Don’t use school or the teacher as a threat. “If you behave like that for teacher she’ll murder you” though said light-heartedly can make some children very apprehensive.
  • If you feel it would help, you could take her/him for a stroll to the junior classrooms and play area on an afternoon during June when the other children have gone home. She/he can browse around and become familiar with her/his new environment. On arrival you could drop in to meet the Principal with her/him and perhaps she/he could meet her/his teacher, as well.
  • She/he will like to have her/his new uniform and her/his new bag when she/he begins. These help her/him identify more readily with the school and other children.
  • Your child’s books will be kept in the class, until such time as they are needed. This minimises the risk of books getting lost. All books/copies will be marked with your child’s name.  Your child will only feel important if she/he has something in her/his school bag, so perhaps you could buy a copy or colouring book for her/him, which she/he could use at home.

 

The Big Day

Coming in…

When you arrive at the classroom, be as casual as you can. She/he will meet the teacher and the other children and will be shown her/his chair.

Hopefully she/he will be absorbed in her/his new surroundings. So having assured her/him you will be back to collect her/him wish her /him goodbye and make your getaway without delay.

 

Healthy Eating

Lunch is an important meal for school-going children. It should provide one third of your child’s food requirements for the day.  We ask you to encourage a healthy lunch right from the start. The following guide is designed to help you provide quick, appetising, and nutritious lunches for your children.  Please also refer to the information leaflets published by the Health Promotion Department of the HSE.

 

Bread & Alternatives

 

  • Bread or rolls, preferably wholemeal.
  • Rice – wholegrain.
  • Pasta – wholegrain.
  • Potato Salad.
  • Wholemeal Scones

 

 

Savouries

 

  • Lean Meat.
  • Chicken/Turkey.
  • Tinned Fish e.g. tuna/sardines.
  • Cheese, including Edam, Blarney, Cottage.

 

 

Fruit & Vegetables

  • Apples, Banana, Peach, Plum, Pineapple cubes, Mandarins, Orange segments, Grapes, Fruit Salad, Dried fruit, Tomato, Cucumber, Sweetcorn, Coleslaw, Celery.

 

Suitable Drinks

The most suitable drinks for children to have throughout the day are water and milk, both of which are tooth friendly, while milk is also very important for healthy bones.  Drinks that are suitable for lunchtime include: 

 

  • Water
  • Milk
  • Cocoa (with milk)
  • Soup
  • Yogurt drinks
  • Unsweetened Fruit Juices
  • Sugar free dilutable drinks

 

 

Be Practical

  • Choose a lunchbox that a child can manage on their own.
  • Ensure that they can open all fruit and packaging to avoid distress.
  • Give small portions and make the contents of the lunchbox attractive.

 

Going Home 

  • Be sure to collect her/him on time. Children can become very upset if they feel they are forgotten.
  • Keep out of view until the children are released.
  • If at any time the pick-up routine has to be changed please ensure that you tell the child and the teacher.

 

Handling the Upset Child

In spite of the best efforts of both teacher and parents a small number of children will still become upset. If your child happens to be one of them don’t panic. Patience and perseverance can work wonders.

 

A Word of Advice 

  • Trust the teacher. She is experienced and resourceful and is used to coping with all kinds of starting –off problems.
  • Try not to show any outward signs of your own distress. Sometimes the parents are more upset than the child and are the main cause of her anxiety.
  • When you have reassured her /him leave as fast as possible. The teacher can distract and humour her/him more easily when you are not around.
  • Check back discreetly in a short while. You will invariably find that calm has been restored.
  • You must be firm from the start. Even if a child is upset you must insist that she/he stay for  a short time-even ten minutes. She/he must never feel that she/he is winning the psychological battle of wills.

 

As Time Goes on…

  • School begins at 8:50am. To ease the child into the school routine we have a policy where Junior Infants go home for the first two weeks at 12:00 (so no lunch). After that they go home at 1:30pm. Please make sure that your child is collected at 1:30pm as the teacher needs that hour between 1:30p.m. and 2:30p.m. to clean up after the day. Get her/him into the habit of being in good time for school from the beginning. Mid-morning break: 10:50am to 11:00am
  • Children need plenty of rest after the effort and excitement of a day at school. You should ensure that your child gets to bed early and has a good night’s sleep.
  • When she/he has settled in and hopefully, looks upon school as a “home from home” do continue to show interest in her/his daily adventures. Listen if she/he wants to tell you things-but don’t pester her/him with questions.
  • Mind that you take some of her/his “stories” with a pinch of salt.
  • If her/his progress is slow do not compare her/him adversely with other children while she/he is listening. Loss of self-esteem can be very damaging to her/him.
  • Be careful too about criticising your child’s teacher in her/his presence. Remember that the teacher is her/his mother figure while she/he is at school and for her/his own well being it is important that she/he has a good positive image of her.
  • This last caution applies to your child’s image of the school as well. Her/his school is always “the greatest”-whatever its faults.
  • She/he is not going to be a model of perfection all the time-thankfully. You should try to have patience with her/his shortcomings and praise for her/his achievements.
  • You will receive a booklist outlining the books and other items that your child will need for the year.  Please note that the teacher will arrange for the purchase and delivery of all the listed items to the school.  You can then pay the required amount in September.  

Some Important Areas of Early Learning 

The Importance of Play in the Early Years

Play helps to bring children to a state of readiness for the more formal learning they will experience later in their primary years and should continue to be part of children’s lives in the primary school beyond the infant classes.  Children should be allowed to live their lives as children.

 

Developing her Command of Spoken Language 

It is important that the child’s ability to talk is as advanced as possible. It is through speech that she/he communicates her/his thoughts and feelings, her/his needs and desires, curiosity and wonder. If she/he cannot express these in words she/he will tend to remain silent and will often withdraw from the learning activity of the class. This can be the first sign of failure in the school system and must be remedied, if at all possible. That is why a lot of attention is given to language development in the first years of school.

 

You Can Help….

  • Talk to your child naturally and casually about things of interest that you or she/he may be doing at home, in the shop, in the car, etc. Remember that all the time children are absorbing the language they hear about them. It takes them a while to make it their own and to use it for their own needs.
  • Try to make time to listen when she/he wants to tell you something that is important to her/him. But don’t always make her/him the centre of attention.
  • Answer your child’s genuine questions with patience and in an adequate way. Always nurture her/his sense of curiosity and wonder.
  • Introduce your child gently to the ideas of Why? How? When? Where? If? etc. These demand more advanced language structures.
  • Your child will have her/his own particular favourite stories that she/he never tires of hearing. Repeat them over and over again and gradually get her/him to tell them to you.   

 

First Steps in Reading

The ability to read is the foundation for all future progress in our school system. However, learning to read is a gradual process and a lot of preparatory work must be done before a child is introduced to her/his first reader.

We very deliberately do not rush or push children into reading. We get them ready for it over an extended period. Reading is something to be enjoyed. It should never start as a chore for the small child.

You can Help 

  • Have attractive colourful books in the home.
  • Read a variety of stories from time to time. Your child will come to associate these wonderful tales with books and reading.
  • You must convey to your child gradually that books are precious things. They must be minded and handled carefully and put away safely.
  • Look at the pictures with your child and talk to her/him about what they say.
  • Read her/him nursery rhymes. She/he will learn them herself/himself.  Don’t try to push her/him.
  • Above all, don’t push your child with her/his early reading. You may turn her/him against it for evermore.
  • Remember that the teacher is the best judge of what rate of progress is best suited to each child.
  • Sing the alphabet song with your child, so that she/he at least heard of the letters. If she/he knows what each one looks like, all the better.

 

Understanding Maths

First a Word of Warning 

Maths for the small child has nothing to do with “sums” or figures or tables or adding and subtracting. These will all come much later. Maths is really part of the language your child uses in understanding and talking about certain things in her/his daily experience e.g.

  • She/he associates certain numbers with particular things – two hands, four wheels, five fingers etc.
  • Counting – one, two, three, four, etc.
  • Colours – black, white, red, green, etc.
  • Matching/Sorting – objects of the same size/colour/texture/shape etc.
  • Odd One Out – difference in size/colour etc.

Understanding of these concepts comes very quickly for some children. For others it takes a long time. Be patient. You cannot force Maths understanding on a child.

 

But You Can Help…

  • In the course of your ordinary daily routine in the home, in the shop, in the neighbourhood, you should use suitable opportunities to casually introduce the maths vocabulary referred to above.  How many cakes? The glass is full/empty. We turn left at the lights.
  • The child comes to understand Maths best by handling and investigating and using real objects. This has been her/his natural method of learning since she/he was a baby.

 

Gaeilge

All children enjoy learning a second language. They have no difficulty in picking it up, because it fascinates them as another code of communication. The first five years of a child’s life is also the period during which the child learns languages with relative ease.

The main objective is to foster the child’s enthusiasm for Irish and to make it enjoyable and relevant

Children are free of any hang-ups about the Irish language unless they become aware that the home attitude towards it is not good. So please be positive in your attitude to the language.

We ask parents to give every encouragement and help to their children in learning Irish. If they learn new words in school encourage them to use them at home. Use little Irish phrases or words now and again. Children are delighted to find out that their parents are into their new code as well. If they must learn Irish, let them enjoy it and master it to the best of their ability.

 

Getting Ready For Writing

Making letters on paper is not easy for the small child. She/he must learn to hold the pencil properly and make regular shapes. Her/his hand and finger muscles are only gradually developing at this stage.

 

You Can Help…

 Your child must develop the ability to get the hand and eye working together. This is very important. Get her/him to manipulate toys like:

  • Jigsaws, Lego, beads to thread etc.
  • Pleistocene  (Marla) to make her/his own shapes.
  • A colouring book and thick crayons.
  • Sheets of paper that she/he can cut up with a safe scissors.
  • When she/he begins to use a pencil make sure that she/he holds it correctly at the start. It will be difficult to change this later.
  • She/he may be making block letters at home, even before she/he comes to school. This is fine. But when she/he starts making lower case letters at school you should try to get her/him to discontinue the blocks and practise her/his new system whenever she/he feels like it. Consult the teacher about this.
  • Don’t discourage left-handedness. If that is her/his definite natural inclination, don’t attempt to change it.

 

Other Areas of the Curriculum 

The child in junior infants learns by engaging in a variety of other activities, which  we need not elaborate on here. Her/his general development is enhanced through Art & Craft, P.E., Music, Drama, Social Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) and Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE).  Religion is also taught in all classes, though there are children of different faiths who do not take part in these lessons. 

As in the other areas of learning we have referred to already, the child will benefit from practising at home what she/he has learned at school.

Social skills are very important. We encourage good manners at all times, please/thank you, addressing teachers properly, being courteous to fellow students and teachers. It is important to ask your child whom she played with at school and to ensure she isn’t alone, also encourage mixing rather than being dependent on one friend only. Rough behaviour is totally discouraged in the playground. You will find a copy of the school’s Code of Behaviour in the Parents’ Information Pack.

As well as having a dedicated Computer Room with a networked computer system with broadband internet access, each classroom also has computer facilities and interactive whiteboards.  Your child will become familiar with these facilities quickly.

 

Parting Thoughts

Who is the Boss?

Gradually the child will get used to the general discipline of the classroom. She/he will come to understand very quickly that in certain important matters an instruction from the teacher must be obeyed promptly and without question.

 

Teacher and Parent

At the early stages some parents meet the teacher almost daily and this is a very desirable thing. However, if there is something in particular that you would like to discuss you can arrange to meet her /him at a time when you both can have a little peace and quiet.

 

Easy Does It 

There are lots of ideas and suggestions in this booklet as to how you can help your child. We are not advocating that you do ALL of these with her/him in a systematic way. But if you find from time to time that she/he enjoys a fun approach to certain aspects of learning then we would say – give it a go – but remember don’t overdo it.

 

Our Hope

We are offering this Guide to Parents as a practical aid in dealing with the education of their children at the very early stages.  We hope that you find it useful as you and your child embark on this great journey together.