Packing the School Bag - Supporting Your Child's Development

Many children need step-by-step support to pack their school bag before school. As a result, this activity often tends to be adopted by many parents and carers. This reduced independence can take away a child’s sense of control and may lead to feelings of helplessness. It can also lead to frustration in the family, especially to due the time pressure that is associated with the morning routine. There are however many strategies that can be implemented to help support engagement in this everyday task. For example, to help compensate for reduced cognitive skills, such as planning, organisation, sequencing and working memory skills.

Each of these strategies explained below can be very helpful to promote your child’s independence with packing their school bag, whilst your child is busy developing their cognitive skills in therapy sessions:

Packing the school bag the night before:

  • As mornings can be very busy and chaotic with everyone either getting ready for school or work, it can be easier to pack the school bag at night and then add the lunch box/water bottle in the morning.
  • This can be incorporated into the bedtime/after dinner routine. Visual schedules can help reinforce this when first introduced.

    Checklists and whiteboards:
  • Have your child write down or mark off items as they are placed in the school bag to keep track of what they have.
  • Have your child cover the checklist and to try and recall what they needed. This will aim to reduce their reliance on the checklist overtime.

    Daily planners/calendars:
  • Have your child write down items they need for the next day or specific days later on in the week.
  • This task will need to be completed each day when the child gets home from school, in order to get the child in the routine of doing so.

  • Place your child’s bag on a large piece of cardboard and trace around the bag to produce an outline.
  • Have you child collect each of the items required to go in the school bag (using their checklist if necessary).
  • Have your child practice organising each of their items on the cardboard first, to work out how the items will fit best, before trying to put in their bag.

    Bag and school supplies nook/corner:
  • Allocate an area in the home for the storage of your child’s school equipment. This will ensure that all of the items they require for school on a regular basis are readily accessible and it will reduce the likelihood of items being miss-placed.
  • A small bookshelf/storage shelving can be accessed at a low price at various stores. For example Ikea, Fantastic Furniture and Kmart.
  • Use of labelling on shelves/draws can also support organization.

If you have any questions about the strategies listed above, please ask your occupational therapist at the next therapy appointment. Your occupational therapist can also discuss and provide various activity ideas and home practice in order to develop your child’s planning, organization, sequencing and working memory in the home as part of their home practice.

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