A common misconception is that toddlers need to practice writing their name and tracing letters on a worksheet in order to be ready for Kindergarten.
Many developmental stages need to occur before a child is ready to write. If these stages are missed, a child may end up with an incorrect pencil grip, incorrect letter formation or inadequate pressure.
The first step in teaching pre writing is increasing a child’s hand strength. Hand strength is achieved through independence with everyday life skills such as opening their own containers, using food utensils, dressing themselves, putting on shoes and socks, and playing with manipulative toys such as Lego.
Below are five activities you can use to increase your child’s hand strength through play:
People often think of playdough as a messy activity that kids just naturally love to participate in. However, it is amazing how many skills are being practiced and achieved by just playing with playdough. It is great for building strength in hands, vocabulary, communication and learning to share. The simple act of making balls, rolling playdough into snakes/snails, or creating fun designs is preparing your child for writing.
We love to use this easy but colourful activity in Kindergarten. It can be as basic as placing beads onto a pipe cleaner. Using the pincer grip to slide beads onto pipe cleaners strengthens the muscles in the hands whilst increasing a child’s hand eye coordination.
Parents often avoid the use of scissors at home due to a fear of accident or deliberate haircuts and potential damage to furnishings. However, using scissors is a great way to build hand strength. Scissors can be used to cut playdough and help prepare dinner. There are even soft cutting scissors that will only cut fine paper, which can reduce the chance of unplanned haircuts.
Hanging the washing out can be a real chore however once you realises the value it can have for your child you can begin to multi task. Opening a peg takes a lot of hand strength. Why not make hanging the washing out a game and see who can peg the fastest or who can peg the most clothes.
You also do not need to save the pegs just for the washing. Design and build a cubby with your child using pegs and sheets.
Who would have thought the simple act of just scrunching paper into a ball is a great way to build hand strength! Allowing your child to be creative at home is a simple way of achieving this. You can use newspaper, tissue paper, wrapping paper or junk mail.
Giving your child the best start for Kindergarten does not have to involve a structured or explicit activity each day. Allow your child to be involved in your daily activity and give them the opportunity and time to complete everyday life skills for themselves.
For all the mums out there with children who are shaking their head to the above list… allow your children to run, climb, dig, throw, catch and build. All of these gross motor skills can also prepare your child for writing as well as creating emotional regulation.
Written by Heidi Adams, Kindergarten Teacher.