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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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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