Learning to write
There has been a lot of focus on educational apps and programs while schools have been shut, including online resources for children below school age.
While every parent wants to give their child the very best start in life, there are some vital precursors to learning, especially for writing with little hands, which we can help our children with easily at home, and for free! Working with your child to develop these will really help with their school readiness.
There are 3 key elements to preparing to write:
This doesn’t just mean writing, but the creation of different patterns, lines and shapes by children. This can be with pens and pencils on paper, but also paintbrushes, sticks, their hands, quite simply anything they choose. Varied mark making gives children the opportunity to express themselves and explore new materials other than pen and paper. You can encourage them to create marks using their fingers to draw in the sand, a stick in the mud or a paintbrush dipped in water on a fence.
Developing gross motor skills
Gross motor (physical) skills are those which require whole body movement, and start to develop from when babies start to roll over and crawl. As children get older they involve the large (core stabilising) muscles of the body to perform everyday functions, such as standing and walking, running and jumping, and sitting upright at the table. They also includes eye-hand coordination skills such as ball skills (throwing, catching, and kicking) as well as riding a bike or a scooter and swimming. They are crucial for many every day skills like dressing, getting into a car and moving safely around a busy environment like a classroom. They also are key for being ready to learn. A child’s ability to maintain appropriate posture at a table will affect their ability to learn fine motor skills such as writing, and if they can’t control their whole arms, they will struggle to control the smaller muscles in their hands. You can support this development by providing your child with plenty of opportunities to use and move their bodies, and adding whole body exercises into every day.
Refining fine motor control
Fine motor skills involve the use of small muscles in our hands, wrists, fingers, feet and toes. Fine motor control requires your child's brain to coordinate between the movements of these small muscles and what they can see. These skills are important in most school activities as well as in life in general. Fine motor skills start to develop when a child uses the smaller muscles in their hands, wrists, fingers, feet and toes. Developing those muscles includes actions like grasping, holding, pressing, or using a pincer grip (holding something between the fore-finger and thumb), and these muscles are absolutely vital to being able to learn to write.
Some ideas for activities that can be done at home are: playing with playdough, putting together puzzles, drawing, painting and colouring, using tongs or tweezers to pick things up, practising cutting with scissors safely, lots of water and sand play (such as filling and emptying cups, pouring between containers, scooping and spooning, and squeezing sponges), using Lego and other building blocks, and threading and lacing.
As a parent or carer of a preschool child or toddler, giving them the best chances to build up these muscles and learn to control them is a great way to prepare them for school, and for life. Many of the activities we enjoy at Overton Preschool Playgroup may look like play, but are carefully designed and chosen to help all our children acquire these vital skills.