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Parent to Parent


Betsy Flagler: Little things help teachers in a big way

By Betsy Flagler
John Rosemond
Betsy Flagler, who lives in Davidson, writes the nationally syndicated Parent to Parent column.

Imagine taking whatever activity you’re doing for your child, then multiply it 12 times over. Or 24. That’s why teachers ask for seemingly trivial things such as lunches and clothes your child can manage.

One juice box? No big deal. But try stabbing 14 straws into 14 tiny boxes on a time crunch. Individually packaged cheese sticks are tricky, too. Tips: Open the plastic partially before packing the cheese so your child can open it without squawking for assistance along with his pals, or buy cheese in a chunk, slice it and wrap it.

Lunchables may be convenient, although expensive for a parent, but a selection such as a do-it-yourself pizza can be hard for a 4-year-old to put together and eat without dripping tomato sauce on play clothes. Or worse, on a darling new spring outfit.

Kids develop confidence because of achievements both little and large, and packing a lunch that a child can open is one way to develop that self-esteem. In a class of 12 3-year-olds who have an average of four items that need to be opened at one sitting, the child who can help others is a hero at the lunch table.

Over the summer, pack “school lunches” from time to time – even if you detest the chore – and see how your child does at opening everything on a picnic.

Similarly, have your child practice buttoning and zipping this summer. If your child likes to play dress-up and take clothes on and off, all the better for learning self-care skills. Pants with a zipper and belt also fall under the multiplication rule: One is not a big deal for mom or dad, but several kids clamoring for help with their coats or pants keeps a teacher out of her classroom.

If your teacher or day care provider asks you to write your child’s name on his lunch box, water bottle and coat, it’s not just for kicks. Using a permanent market, write the name of the child, not a sibling. It’s to avoid mix-ups of one Spider-Man water bottle with another, or one jean jacket with another, and is another safety step by teachers to keep possessions straight.

Until she had her own preschool classes, one teacher from Richmond, Va., says she could not understand the big deal about her son bringing in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure into class. Then she realized that more rules – such as no toys in school – have to accompany more children. What makes no difference with one child can easily turn into a battle with a group of busy kids.

Similarly, rough-and-tumble play that children sometimes need is OK for kids at home, but it quickly gets out of hand in a classroom. Encourage rule-following in conversations on the way to and from school.

Betsy Flagler is a mother and preschool teacher. Email her at

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