Demonstrate that you are watching and that you care

624 weeks remaining…

These are the fun and enthusiastic years. Imagination runs wild and first graders have a ton of energy and want to have a blast in everything they do. There’s also lots of growth to celebrate physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

The best way to support your child in this phase is to be with them. Even though they are starting to read, they still want you to read with them. Even though they like to be around friends, they still want to be around you. Even though they like doing cartwheels in the backyard or play with their friends at the playground, they still like it when you’re watching.

Psychologically, their brains are wired for attention. They repeat the same things over and over or even act out on purpose. This attention-seeking behavior is your first graders way of determining if he/she really matters. To the first grader, negative attention is still better than being ignored.


  • Physically: They lose teeth, often grow taller (2-3 inches), and gain weight (5 pounds). They can swim/skip/gallop/move to music. They draw with detail. They need 10-12 hours of sleep a night.
  • Mentally: They can focus on one activity for 5-15 minutes. They are beginning to understand ironic humor and can tell simple jokes. They are ambitious and motivated to learn. They begin to logically interpret cause and effect.
  • Emotionally: They tend to be enthusiastic and express feelings through play and art (versus words). They are sensitive to harsh criticism/tone/body language. They might deal with fear and anxiety by distracting themselves. They benefit from relaxation techniques (e.g. take a deep breath).
  • Socially: They want to finish first (often highly competitive). They can be bossy and critical of others. They need guidance in taking turns and losing well. They may or may not have a best friend.


"Do I have your attention?"

Your first grader needs to know you see their efforts, their ideas, their accomplishments, and their failures.


Designate 10 minutes each day to give your child your undivided attention (without your phone). This might be easiest to do when your child is done with school and he/she is having a snack, recounting their day, and beginning to play. Don’t just be there – be present.

  • Make observational statements that affirm their actions (opposed to judging statements). Example: Say, “I see all of the colors you chose to use on this picture,” instead of, “This is the most beautiful picture I’ve ever seen!”
  • Make every effort to affirm their effort in trying new things (opposed to critiquing their performance). Example: Say, “You are working so hard on your cartwheels and it seems to bring you a ton of joy,” instead of, “Try to do the cartwheel again, but this time straighten your legs while they’re in the air.”
  • Provide productive and positive reinforcement after their failures. There are certain skills and character traits that can only be achieved through failure, and that is worth celebrating. This will help your child develop intrinsic motivation instead of relying on extrinsic motivation (e.g. rewards, praise of others based on good outcomes). Example: Say, “You fell off your bike 3 times. You made progress today when it was hard, and I’m so proud of you,” instead of, “Once you learn how to ride a bike, we’ll have an ice cream party!”