With the start of a new school year right around the corner, many parents are busy preparing their young learners for kindergarten. Parents dive into books, scour websites, and get as much information from the schools as they can in attempts to figure out just what their child needs to know to begin school. In our efforts to prepare our kids for school, we often tend to focus on the academic skills we think they'll need to succeed.
Many of today's kindergartners enter school with an ability to count, say their alphabet, and write or recognize their name. However, I was always surprised at the start of each school year how many of my students had never used school supplies. Helping your children practice with supplies prior to the beginning of the school year can help them develop the fine motor control they need.
Spend some time each day helping your child work with the following learning tools. The more exposure a child has to these tools, the more prepared he/she will be to use them properly in the classroom -- increasing classroom productivity and student confidence. Yes, some of these tools and supplies are "messy." (Trust me, I get it!) Sometimes the last thing I want to do is hand my five-year-old some glue or paint….BUT, a little bit of mess on your table or floor is worth the help it can give your child. (Don't worry -- I'm not asking you to break out the glitter -- just a few basic supplies!)
Get your child busy practicing the correct usage of the following tools. Make it fun. Keep it simple. With just a bit of practice, guidance, and instruction, your child will be better equipped to take on the many fine motor activities that are central to the kindergarten curriculum.
? Pencils -- Most kindergarten students will be required to do all of their writing with pencils. Grip can be a difficult skill to master, so allowing your child time to practice with a pencil is critical. If your child is struggling to hold a full-size pencil correctly, either invest in a rubber grip, or have him practice with a golf pencil, as the smaller size forces him to use the correct grip.
? Crayons -- Most children have been introduced to crayons prior to the beginning of kindergarten, but many of them have not been taught to use them correctly. Work with your child to hold the crayons at a slight angle, rather than pressing down on the top with full force. Another great crayon skill? Teach your child how to unwrap a bit of the paper when necessary (and only when necessary!)
? Scissors -- Parents who have experienced a "home haircut" may be skeptical to hand over the scissors to their child, but I urge you to give your child a stack of scrap paper and a pair of safety scissors, and let her practice! Mastering how to hold a pair of scissors correctly can prove difficult for many sets of little hands. Help your child master not only grip, but how to correctly maneuver the scissors and paper as she cuts. Start by letting your child freely cut scrap paper and transition to having her cut along a variety of lines. Draw straight lines, zigzags, and squiggles, and allow her to attempt to cut along the lines.
? Glue -- Kindergartners need to be able to use both liquid glue and glue sticks. My glue reminder for liquid glue is "When you use glue, a little dab will do." Teach your child how to use glue without wasting or playing. (It's tough, but teachable!) Additionally, many young children are fascinated with glue sticks and long to twist them until they resemble the world's largest lip gloss. Help your child learn to twist just enough to get what he needs, and how to apply the correct amount of pressure.
? Watercolor Paints -- Watercolor paints are typically introduced in kindergarten, and for many students, those bright dabs of paint quickly turn to various shades of brown. If not taught to use ahead of time, many students ruin their paint sets during the first use. Teach your child how to use a small amount of water, and how to rinse his brush EVERY time he switches colors.
? Markers -- For many parents, markers are the bane of their existence. So many young students have just never been taught to use markers properly. It is important to always reinforce the rule of "paper only" when it comes to markers. Try to discourage your child from marking on her body, as well as on furniture, walls, etc. Discourage the full force "dots" so many children enjoy making, which often obliterates the tip of the marker within a few uses. Children also need to be taught to listen for the "click" when they put the lid back on the marker.
Have fun helping your children prepare for kindergarten. Just a bit of practice each day can help develop their fine motor muscles and have them ready to tackle the tasks of kindergarten. Want to read more about helping your child become ready for kindergarten? You can check out the "Kindergarten" section on my blog.