How can I help my young child learn to write? Building those muscles in 5 easy ways!

Writing is a complicated process that involves many, many skills yet we expect young children to become writers without giving it too much thought. We also know that parental involvement is crucial in supporting children gain the skills they need to become readers and writers. So how can we help young children to become confident writers enabling them to find their own voice and become successful communicators?

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Use different writing tools such as crayons, felt tips and pencils.

There are 4 stages of writing that have are clear and are backed up by various research such as Temple, Nathan, Temple 2012. These are:

  1. Drawing and making marks (scribbling). During this stage the child does not see the difference between their marks and their pictures. They do not connect their marks to meanings. They may give names to their pictures -“Mummy” but will happily paint or scribble over the top of their picture. This is from about the age of 18 months until the child is about 3. Children at this young age will often hold their crayon or pen in a fist grip.
  2. At this stage children begin to give meanings to their marks. They will begin to pick up letters that are familiar to them; these are often the letters in their names. They don’t always associate sounds with the letters but they may know their name. e.g that is an ‘a’ and its in my name. This usually happens at about the age of 4 depending upon the child. The correct pencil grip may not have been developed.
  3. Beginning sounds. Inventive spelling occurs at this age and children must be allowed to just write and not be too worried about the correct spellings. Children will write what they hear so ‘cat’ may be written as ‘ct’. This often occurs at the age of 5 but can be later depending upon the child. At this stage it is important to ensure that the child is holding their pencil correctly using the tripod grip as bad habits can form.
  4. Children add middle and ending sounds to make plausible spelt words. They will begin to add spacing to their sentences and have some awareness of commonly spelt words and simple punctuation.  This often occurs by the age of 6 or 7 but some children may develop this stage earlier or later depending upon maturity.

Scaffolding and supporting each stage can help children become more confident in their writing skills. There are many muscles involved with every stage of writing so developing strength in these muscles is essential to ensure young children become successful writers.

 

5 easy activities for building those muscles!

Young children need to develop the muscles in their shoulders, arms, hands and fingers before writing becomes comfortable for them. You know how your hand hurts when you have been writing for ages? Children get these feelings quickly when they write so it’s important to try activities that will help this. Try writing using your non dominant hand and you will quickly see what our children have to put up with!

My favourites are:

  1. Play dough. I love play dough! I use it all the time in the classroom because children love it too. Ask your child to make ‘worms’ by rolling the play dough between their hands and the table. Try rolling the dough into balls in between their fingers or hands. Think about the muscles this is helping.
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Play dough or Plasticine.

2. Play with hoops outside. Spin the hoop on your arm. This is super fun but is actually strengthening the muscles in your child’s arms and shoulders too.

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Playing with hoops

 

3. Play with beads or small toys such as Polly Pockets. The clothes of Polly Pocket are so tricky to put on aren’t they? But they are great for strengthening little fingers! Threading beads are also great for this too.

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Threading beads

4. Painting at an Easel. This is a great activity that develops the shoulder and arm muscles. Holding a paintbrush at this angle and whooshing it across the paper trying to put the paint where your brain wants it to go is skillful! Watch young children paint at an easel and they often are having to really concentrate. Encourage children to reach across the page as this helps to develop ‘crossing the midline’ ie being able to use your right hand on the left hand side of your body. We want to develop a dominant hand as this is crucial for writing development. The children who find writing tricky often have 2 mediocre hands because they haven’t developed a strong dominant hand (and it can be right or left of course). You can also see children later on turning their paper sideways to compensate for their lack of dominant hand strength.

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Lego

5. Lego. Children learn so much from Lego but have you tried putting those tiny pieces together? Tricky! I did not play with Lego as a child but love it as a parent/teacher! It is excellent for the development of the muscles in the fingers.

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I hope this is useful. Do get in touch if you want to know more.

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The End of the Summer….

As September begins there is a definitely an end to the summer as the children go back to school and a routine emerges once again for all parents. There are packed lunches to be made, children to get up and out within a certain time and bags to be packed. There are no more PJ days when we all hang out until 11am watching TV just because we can. There are no more going to the beach on a whim, days. However, there is comfort in routine and I don’t mind the getting back to three meals a day instead of eating brunch or the definite bed time. I know that many parents will agree with me.

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Teachers do this every year. It’s a strange existence in a way. After doing this for 20 years, I still get the same nerves, the same worry about “have I packed my school bag.” It’s the buying of the school shoes (yes, I have shoes that I wear to school!) or the making sure I’ve been to the dentist/hairdresser/optician. It’s like a start of the new year but in September with “this year I will resist puddings at school,” type mantras!

I often make plans in the summer to get fit or to lose weight but it never happens! I enjoy the summer like a teenager (apart from all the cleaning and dog walking!) and make the most of the long sunshine filled days and lazy time with my family. I am lucky in so many ways and I feel blessed. This year was no exception and we have enjoyed a fun-filled summer holiday. This will be my last year as a parent to two school children as my daughter is in her last year.My last year of watching hockey matches in the cold or enjoying a sneaky hot chocolate whilst we wait for her brother to finish rugby training. I will miss that.

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My funny kids cooling their feet in the 42 degree heat in Seville!

I wonder how I will feel this time next year?

So to all of you making new beginnings, whether it be starting a new job or watching your child go off to their first day at school, I wish you luck and happiness. I also hope that you have made strong and fun memories of your summer to look back on with a smile. Have a lovely September. x

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10 signs it is the almost the end of the school year

It’s the end of another school year and everything is rush, rush, rush!

You know it’s the end of the school year when:

  1. If someone asks you for anything, you lose the plot…literally. Do NOT ask me for one more thing! Triple this for teaching parents…..
  2. The kids look like they have been dragged through a hedge backwards. Their shoes don’t fit, trousers up to their ankles and hair needs a cut. If your child is in Year 6 or 11, times this by 10. Then they want your child to look “smart” for the end of term assembly. Hmmmmm
  3. The school send home “stuff.” It seems that every picture and book has been hiding in some drawer has been released and brought home in the customary plastic bag (so that’s what that huge plastic bag was for!)
  4. Talking of drawers….your child tidies their school drawer and finds several pound coins (oops that was the charity hair day money), 20 hair slides, 4 erasers, 16 chewed pencils and a party invitation from Sam dated 4 months previously.
  5. You keep getting emails from Mrs Organised for money for Mrs Teacher, Mr Head and Mrs Lovely the TA. In the end, you forget to give money to Mrs Organised and end up getting chocolates from the garage.
  6. Pack lunches get really, really boring as you haven’t had time to go supermarket shopping for 3 weeks.
  7. Your child’s teacher looks like she/he may pass out with tiredness or has the “I’ve only got Johnny in my class for 10 more days” look of glee on their face.
  8. Even the Headteacher looks like they need a stiff drink or a hair brush.
  9. You have overslept every morning for the last week.
  10. You realise that in less than 2 weeks, you have the children at home for 6 weeks…..and you’ve spent all your extra money on those gorgeous shoes….

So there we have it!

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Happy Summer everyone! I will be taking a blogging break at some point in the next few weeks so have a safe and relaxing break!

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5 Top Tips from a Reception teacher for preparing your child for Big school.

I often get asked how a parent can prepare their child for Reception and starting school. With the end of the school year almost upon us, I thought I would share my top tips to ease the transition for your Preschooler.

  1. Let them meet their new teacher. Most schools have an induction day or Meet the Teacher day. Don’t skip this! This is a really important time for your child to see what their new classroom is like. They will probably enjoy an afternoon or morning in the classroom which will be set up to be very similar to a nursery with lots of free play. The teacher will probably read them a story and like to chat to each child. If your child misses this, they will miss out on knowing what you mean about going to school. Hopefully, this will be an extremely positive experience and they will take that home with them.
  2. Let them practise wearing their uniform and PE kit. Lots of parents forget this and then expect their child to be comfortable on their first day. Lots of schools have uniforms in the UK and these clothes can be very different to what your child is used to. Children of this age can be sensitive to change and I know that my son was ultra sensitive to clothing (it was always too scratchy or zips were in the wrong place!). Make it fun! See if they can change into their PE kit using a stopwatch! Make it a game. Remember, children will have to change into their PE kit on their OWN with very little help so practise makes perfect (most schools will offer help but with 30 in a class….).
  3. Please don’t buy your child lace up shoes or trainers! Your child has to become more independent so help them as much as possible by either buying velcro shoes or slip on trainers/plimsolls (we call these daps in the west country!).
  4. Your child’s teacher will not be wiping your child’s bottom so teach them to do this for themselves. She/he has not got time to do this with 30 children in the class, think about it! If they insist on you doing it, you need to wean them off this. Visit the school toilet if you can do. These toilets can be worrying for some children. On a visit day, the teacher will do make sure he/she shows the children their new toilet.
  5. Do not hang up your child’s coat for them. They are old enough to hang up their own coat and know where to put their bag after a few weeks. Help them become more independent by asking them to do some things at home. Prepare them by teaching them to put their shoes together at home or putting some of their own belongings away. Start small and they can do it. With my own children, I remember showing them how to put their PJ’s under their pillow, put their shoes in the cupboard and making sure they knew where they school bag lived at home. These small things help them to be more independent at school too. Mummy/Daddy doesn’t need to do everything! Remember by helping them to be more independent you are helping them.

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Academics are less important believe it or not. If your child has basic self care skills, they will be able to access the curriculum with confidence. If they are very reliant on adults for their own care, they will find school more daunting.

If you want to teach some academic skills, my top tips are being able to write their name using lower case letters (my son couldn’t do this but he could make an ace Lego model) and being able to sit still long enough to enjoy a story.

I almost forgot…..don’t show them you are upset on their first day….if they see you upset, they will think they should be upset too and this is very unsettling! Do not linger, explain that they are going to have the best time ever (implanting this idea is very powerful) and that you will see them later. Do not dwell and cry with the other parents at a coffee shop!

So there we have it! I hope these tips are useful to you.

PS. Thanks to Joshua -NAME LABEL EVERYTHING!!!

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10 maths skills a child needs to attain by the age of 7.

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I have written posts on how to help your child with reading here.

I have also written a post about schemas and offering stimulating play ideas for toddlers and preschoolers here

I thought I would share with you the most important maths skills that I think your child should learn before the age of 7. Obviously, each child is different so this is for a typical child. Aged 7 is a crucial time for mathematical understanding in my opinion, especially the understanding of numbers. Your child will have enjoyed at least 2 full years in school and will be moving to Key Stage 2. By 7, those early skills will hopefully have been embedded and your child will be ready to move on. Unfortunately, this can be the age when gaps may appear in your child’s understanding and this can affect their confidence with maths. Helping your child with these early stages may prove beneficial as they mature.

I hope you find this post helpful.

The 10 maths skills

  1. Name one more/less than a given number to 100.
  2. Name 10 more/less than a given number to 100.
  3. Understand the number system to 100 (find any number on a 100 square)
  4. Count forwards and backwards in 2’s, 10’s, 5’s
  5. Sequence numbers out-of-order to 100.
  6. Know what each numeral represents in a given number e.g 45 the 4 is actually 40.
  7. Know all pairs of numbers that make 10 and 20. e.g 2+8=10 so 12+8=20
  8. Find a double or half of any number. e.g. double 6 is 12. Half of 12 is 6.
  9. Understand the principle of multiplication and division. Be able to recite 2,5,10 times tables (and others if they are keen)
  10. Know what a fraction is and find 1/2 or 1/4 of a shape or number.
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Encourage your child to use their fingers to count.

How can I help my child?

  1. Play games in the car. We are all time poor aren’t we? So when we are driving from A to B, engage with your child and ask them questions (if it’s not too distracting!). Learn tables, pairs of numbers that make 10, ask them to name numbers in between, less than, more than etc. I know so many parents who are waiting to collect an older/younger sibling so use this time to engage with your child.
  2. Give them something to count. Food is always great! Use raisins or sweets. Count the group of raisins in 10’s. Group them to practice division.
  3. Laminate a 100 square or number lines to help your child see what it is you are asking them.
  4. We prioritise reading but perhaps leaving 5 minutes for maths each day and 5 minutes for reading may be a better use of our routines with children.
  5. There are so many great Apps and online maths games for children. These can be great in the summer holidays as children do need to practise their maths skills during this long break. I really like Doodle maths, kidsacademy (for younger children) and let’s do mental maths. There are so many with new ones coming out all the time. We use Doodle maths at school and I know other schools use Mathletics. I like anything that children will use regularly.
  6. Make it playful. You can incorporate maths into so many games. Let your child lead to make it fun!

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Pinterest. Take a look at my Educational Boards for young children.

I love Pinterest, don’t you?

I discovered Pinterest a few years ago now but have only just learnt that I can share these ideas on my blog too!

This board has lots of ideas for using play dough in different ways. Play dough is awesome!

To make play dough, mix 2 cups flour with 1 cup salt and 2 cups of water in a saucepan on a low heat. Add one tablespoon of cream of tartar (this is the magic ingredient!), one tablespoon of oil and any extras.

I have written an old post about play dough here

Here are some fabulous arty ideas for all those crafty kids.

I’m a big fan of the outdoors!

I have written a great post about outdoor ideas for your family here 

These ideas are great for pre-school children.

Did you know that without strong muscles in a child’s arms, hands and fingers, they will find writing tricky? Here are some great ideas to help build those muscles in a fun and playful way.

I have many other boards on Pinterest that you may love. Why not pop over there to take a look and feel free to rePin any you like. Of course, there are garden pages too!

Thanks for reading!

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10 things nursery rhymes teach babies and young children.

Do you know traditional nursery rhymes? Do you sing them with your baby or young child?

If you do then that is awesome! If you don’t then you really should! Why? Here are the main reasons.

  1. They teach children about language structure, rhyme and alliteration.
  2. They are your child’s first stories.
  3. Nursery rhymes develop your child’s vocabulary.
  4. They instill a love of books in your child.
  5. Your child will be a better reader as nursery rhymes introduce phonetic patterns.
  6. They are traditional and should be shared as a link to the past.
  7. Nursery rhymes often have finger plays too and connect the sides of the brain enabling your child to develop.
  8. They are great at improving your child’s memory.
  9. Nursery rhymes are social. We can all join in together.
  10. They are fun; they introduce fun and interesting words that can be manipulated.
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A baby enjoying books.

Some interesting Nursery rhyme facts:

Did you know now Humpty Dumpty was a cannon?

Did you know Ring O’Roses is about The Plague?

Baa Baa Black Sheep is from a tax system in 1275 and yes, the black sheep was the master (We sing Baa, Baa pink sheep at school!)

Jack and Jill were possibly Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

Baa Baa Pink Sheep

Baa Baa pink sheep,

Have you any spots?

Yes sir, yes sir,

Lots and lots!

Some on my fingers,

and someone my toes…

and some on the end of my little pink nose!

OH THE JOYS OF LIVING IN THE OLD HOUSE IN THE SHIRES.

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