Before a child starts any formal learning there are some great activities that you can encourage at home that will lay a solid foundation on which to build skills that will be used for a life time. Even when your child has started formal learning, reinforcement and enhancement of skills can be achieved through some fun activities. Learning can always be fun.
Writing is made up of a lot of skills that need to be achieved before achieving mastery. Even in today’s High Tech culture, these skills are still needed.
- Pre-writing skills is not just about forming letters, it helps hand-eye coordination, fine motor control, pincer grip, transfer of objects etc. Many children find these skills easy to accomplish, but other children may benefit from a little support in this area.
- Pre writing skills start well before a child actually picks up a pencil or crayon to ‘make a mark’. Gathering these skills start as soon as a child starts transferring food into their mouth or moving objects to a more preferred place; playing catch with a ball or simply rolling a ball away from them.
Looking at the physical development that takes place during the first year, did you know that all the milestones and skills such as rolling over, pushing themselves up and crawling all help develop core strength, shoulder stability, and the ability to use both sides of the body? Crawling also helps develop hands to form arches, as without this development hand will remain flat and unable to hold a pencil let alone gain control to form letters or numbers.
When a child first picks up a crayon or paintbrush let them hold it in a way that is comfortable which will probably be a ‘fist grip’. Just let them make ‘marks’, as they gain confidence they will be more acceptant of encouragement to hold the ‘tool’ in a more conventional way.
‘Read’ books together, point out the letters that are in their name. Remember that to begin with they will not have the skill to turn one page at a time. Help children experience different types of writing – cards, invitations etc.
Using the first letter of their name, make a pattern a series of dots and encourage the child to join the dots using different mediums. If you have the space you can put paint on a table (messy) or use an old baking tin and encourage the child to form big letters in the paint. Don’t forget the computer – using software packages to ‘paint’ using a finger! When the child gets more able play a game by using your finger to write a ‘letter’ on their back, can they recognise the letter?
Use writing patterns. This may sound a little old fashioned but following patterns encourages coordination skills.
Play matching games, start off by playing ‘snap’. Try spot the difference activities either by making your own (choose a shape – could be seasonal such as decorating Easter egg shapes, making one slightly different to the other and encouraging the child to find the differences).
Folding paper and cutting to make snowflake shapes or even paper aeroplanes.
Have fun learning.
Activities based on Developmental Milestones
In the first year
- Reaching out and touching objects.
- Dropping and picking up toys, at this stage they are grasping with a full fist
- Feeding themselves with finger foods
In the second year
- Using a paintbrush using big arm movements. Finger painting using shaving cream or paint
- Turning pages in a book (at this stage it will be 2-3 pages at a time)
- Throwing a ball using 2 hands
In the third year
- Using scissors try cutting a short straight line (with supervision)
- Encourage to paint using wrist action. Encourage holding crayons using thumb and fingers instead of a fist
- Tear paper and make collage pictures
In the fourth year
- Making ball shapes out of clay. Encourage use of lacing boards and colouring books
- Encourage making marks on paper starting at the top of the page and left/right
- Let the child use which ever hand they prefer when using a pencil or scissors
In the fifth year
- Encourage use of scissors to cut circles and triangles etc.
- Draw pictures of people and animals (they will be very basic to begin with but more and more detail will be added through encouragement and ability).
- Write their own name.
In the sixth year
- Most children should be able to form letters and numbers correctly.
- Still have fun – use different colours to write with or even use chalks
- With a bit of imagination, use a simple letter shape to make drawings of people or animals or objects.