Parents with preschoolers are often on the search for activities that can help prepare their children for the basic or fundamental skills they need for school, usually termed as “the three R’s,” namely reading, writing and `rithmetic (arithmetic).
What some parents don’t know though is that laying the foundation for their skills need not entail enrolling their kids in school as early as 1 or 2 years old. There are actually a lot of activities that young kids can do in the comfort of their own homes – whether under the supervision of Mommy (or Daddy), Lolo/Lola or even yaya.
When it comes to preschool-aged kids, fine motor skill development is one of the basic things parents must focus on in order to prepare their children for writing.
Here are just some ideas for helping your child develop her fine motor skills:
1. Play some music and have your kid wave scarves or pieces of cloth in time to the music. Demonstrate how to move the items down, up and across. You can even ask your child to try “tracing” letters in the air with them.
2. Encourage coloring activities in different positions, for example, while your child is lying on his stomach, or while standing in front of a piece of paper taped to the wall. You could also let him doodle away on a whiteboard or chalkboard hung on the wall. These positions help promote a proper wrist position as well as grasp.
3. When doing coloring activities, don’t be so obsessed with having your little kids color in the lines, and don’t overwhelm them with too many coloring pages or pictures. Instead, encourage them to scribble first, and then do vertical strokes, followed by horizontal strokes and circular motions. Once they’re ok with these, get them to try to copy a circle.
4. If your child is not so much into using crayons (like my son!) try using different materials such as finger paints, cotton buds (or Q-tips), paintbrushes and sponges. She may also enjoy “finger food painting” using whipped cream, pudding and the like.
5. Let your children paint the walls, sidewalk or other objects with water using paint brushes.
6. Playdough is a good pre-writing “tool” – demonstrate to your kids how to make vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines using plastic knives or pizza cutters. An alternative activity would be to “hide” coins inside the dough and have your child retrieve them. (Beware of choking hazards for younger kids though!)
7. Have your child practice pulling up zippers, doing up snaps, lacing and buttoning. You can purchase special educational toys for this, or just use pieces of clothing from your family’s wardrobe.
8. Raid your family toolbox for nuts and bolts, place them in a box, and let your kids practice putting them together. Show your little one how to use a large pair of tweezers to transfer items from one container to another. You may use rice, cotton balls or small pebbles for this activity.
9. Have your child pitch in when it comes to household chores. Even if you have a yaya or helper, your kids will benefit from doing practical life activities such as sponging off or wiping tables, helping dry dishes, washing vegetables and slicing fruit.
10. Puzzles are one of our family’s favorite kinds of “toys.” They are not only fun to do but they help our kids improve their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. For the younger kids, start with simple 2-3 piece puzzles with knobs (I recommend wooden ones made of non-toxic materials) then advance to more “complicated” ones with more pieces.
These are just some of the endless activities you can ask your preschooler to do to improve his pre-writing skills. At the end of the day though, remember not to be too pressured about your kid’s development as he or she will indirectly feel pressured to learn, too. Remember, learning SHOULD be a fun process for your children, as this will help them embrace education as a gift to be treasured and explored, even when they grow up.