Kids are so easily over stimulated today. Everywhere we look there are kids on iphones, Kindles, handheld games or parked in front of a TV. The kids at my MIL's daycare can operate my husband's iPad without any instruction. It feels like it is born into them. I think all of these electronic devices have awesome qualities that can help kids learn and keep them entertained. But I have a problem when the iPad becomes a child's number one source in learning and entertainment. These devices are not meant to replace parent involvement in a child's life or education.
I was recently at and Early Ed meeting where Pre-K and Kindergarten teachers come together to share and learn. One of the interesting points made was the large number of Kindergarten students who could "swipe" their index finger (thank you iPad), but could not maintain a correct pencil grip.
So why is this so important? Fine motor development begins at birth and continues to develop until about the age of six. Squeezing, grabbing, pinching, coordination of hands and fingers, reaching, etc all start to develop early and continue throughout childhood. There are checkpoints that children should be at different ages. From ages 3-4 children should be able to maintain a correct tripod or pincer grip, trace with a dominant hand and stabilize the paper with the other. These skills also lead into cutting skills as well. By Kindergarten mastery of the dominant hand should be evident. Students should be able to color inside the lines, copy lines steadily without wiggles, cut precisely. Correct pencil grip, thus the development of fine motor skills, is extremely important in order to hit these benchmarks on time.
The preschool program I teach for offers classes for 3&4 year olds and 4 turning 5 year olds. We spend time everyday correcting pencil, crayon and scissor grip. We allow them opportunities through craft, art, free play, centers, gym, and exploration to develop these important skills. However, this does not COMPLETELY replace parent involvement at home. We have kiddos for a very short period of time. Parents need to spend some nurturing these skills in their child as well.
So how can you help prepare your child for Kindergarten at home?
Please for the love of all things good, stop worrying about the mess things are going to make and start letting your kids play with Play-doh! Play-doh is a wonderful fine motor skill builder. Kids pinch it, roll it, squeeze it, and pull it. They smash it and use cookie cutters and play-do tools to create things. They are using their imagination to create things rather than accepting graphics that pop up on a screen! This builds spatial skills: Is this blob of Play-doh big enough to cut out this shape with a cookie cutter? Do I need to roll it out flatter? How can this much Play-doh that fits in a can roll out to look like so much more?
It is also a great sensory experience. Who doesn't love the feel of Play-doh?
The conversation that this can foster between an adult and child or child to child can help build concepts and vocabulary. Help them make shapes. Help them roll it into letters. Use words like squish, squeeze, flatten. They will "bake" you cookies, make you "pizza" and present you with Play-doh gifts that will get your brain working to figure out what it is. They will build you castles and houses. They will be creative. They will use their imagination. Best part? It will usually entertain them for a while. While you make dinner, set out the Play-doh. You can be a part of the conversation and learning experience without actually having to play with the Play-doh yourself the whole time.
And guess what? You don't need all those fancy Play-doh toys. Grab some cookie cutters that you never use from the back of your junk drawer, a rolling pin and some butter knives and let them have at it. Play-doh is rather inexpensive. I am a Play-doh snob. You buy the brand name stuff or you make it at home. None of that cheap knock off stuff. It will take you less than 5 minutes and few cents to whip up a large batch. The kids LOVE to help make it. We make it in preschool every year.
Here is my favorite recipe because it is colorful and smells good. ( I have used this recipe for years and cannot remember where I found it originally.)
1 cup of flour
1/2 cup of salt
1 package Kool-Aid mix
3 tablespoon cooking oil
1 cup boiling water
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add boiling water slowly. Mix well with a fork. As the mixture cools, mix with hands. Add oil, kneed and fold with hands until the consistency of play-dough. Add glitter if you desire! Enjoy! (Store in a large gallon zip top bag or in an airtight container.)
If you are really worried about a mess, only allow them to play with it on hard floors or outside. In the summer, we play with it at the picnic table then hose down the deck when finished. You can also lay down a vinyl table cloth on the floor to contain the mess then shake outside when you are finished.
Let them make messes. We clean up so many unnecessary messes all day long. Helping your kids learn and develop is necessary. So what if you have to vacuum again? You are creating a wonderful learning experience for your kiddo!
Check back soon for Part 2!