Monday, August 1, 2011

Back to School Shopping: The Preschooler’s Backpack

As stores bombard you and your toddler with many choices for backpacks, choose wisely. This investment should be able to last the full year, not cost too much, and make your child proud and excited with her choice. Believe it or not, something as seemingly insignificant as a backpack can actually help your child’s transition into preschool.

Though remembering a backpack may seem like one extra thing you don’t want to have to deal with each morning, it is the most effective way for the teachers and parents to communicate with one another.

Please allow your child to help choose her backpack. If she loves Cars or Dora, she will be excited to bring it to school and show it off to her friends. It is also a great way to allow your child to make a decision about something that is important in her life. It is fine for you to limit her selections to just a few to choose from that you feel are appropriate for her but it is important to allow her some independence with this decision.

Today, many backpacks are available with wheels on the bottom. For a middle or high school student who is lugging 25 pounds or more of books, that’s a great idea. But for toddlers, wheeled packs often become troublesome. Sometimes, the backpacks are as big as the child, and it isn’t easy for a toddler to navigate them through narrow doorways and around chairs and toys in the classroom. There is very little weight among the notes and art projects that the backpack must hold, so wheels are just not necessary for a preschooler.

Try to choose one that will easily hold an 8 1/2” by 11” piece of paper. Sometimes, we use larger paper for projects, but we can easily fold those to fit. The backpack must also be able to hold whatever the child chooses to bring in for show and tell. I’ve taught students who came with adorable tiny backpacks, which were easy to carry, but pretty much useless for their intended purpose.

And I urge all parents and teachers to check the child’s backpack every day. Sometimes there are important notes that should be reviewed right away. If your child had a rough night for some reason, it makes sense to give her teacher a heads-up, and the backpack is a great place for such a note. From the teacher’s perspective, there are times we want to inform you of something that occurred in the classroom, and it may be important that you know something that same day. It is a shame when a child doesn’t bring in a show and tell item because her parent never read the note in her backpack.

This is the time of year when you are building up preschool and preparing for a smooth transition. Allow back-to-school shopping to help in that preparation.

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