Kindergarten readiness is a big concern for many parents of preschoolers, and the lifelong process of writing officially begins in kindergarten. Is your child ready to write? What can you do to ensure that he's off to a good start as he begins his journey as a writer?
You may think that the first step to becoming a good writer is to give your child old standby pencil and paper activities like workbooks. Don't be surprised if workbook work bores or frustrates your child. What's more, those kinds of activities may even have the opposite affect of what you intended. “Getting preschoolers ready to write in Kindergarten does not mean letting them practice with a pencil while drawing and coloring,” says Tracey le Roux, occupational therapist and creator of OT Mom Learning Activities.“Instead, let them strengthen their hand muscles and get fingers working together to get ready for future pencil control. Doing a range of fine motor activities in this way will have a profound positive impact on their future handwriting skills.”
Looking for some inspiration? Here are some simple but fruitful (and fun!) activities that will get your soon-to-be writer ready to write while thinking outside of the workbook. The best part is, he won't even know he's boosting his writing skills!
Finding activities and objects around your house that allow your child to squeeze will help to strengthen the muscles in his hands.
- Play dough is an excellent, fun fine motor strengthening activity. Show your child how to put some in his hand and squeeze to make it ooze out.
- Washing clothes in the sink or a tub is a great squeezing activity as well. Even just squeezing the water out of a washcloth in the tub has benefits to his hand muscles. Have a contest to see how much water he can squeeze out or how dry he can get the washcloth.
- Stress balls are a fun way to get some tension out and work those hand muscles.
- Many parents are afraid to allow their child to use scissors, but preschoolers need practice to master this skill. Three-year-olds can begin the process of learning how to cut. Allow your child to cut up old magazines, newspapers or even junk mail under your supervision and he is sure to be kindergarten ready before too long.
In a Pinch
The pincer grasp (picking objects up between two fingers) is developed in infancy, but practice makes perfect! Giving your child opportunities to pinch will help his hands prepare for good penmanship in kindergarten.
- Clothespins are perfect for using those pinching muscles. Let him play until his heart's content! Create a clothesline by tying a rope between two chairs and allow him to pin laundry (matching pairs of socks work well) to the line using clothespins.
- Picking up small objects such as cheerios and raisins using his fingers is a great finger workout.
- Using eyedroppers will also do the trick. Allow him to mix colored water using an eyedropper for a fine motor and science combination.
- Pinching tweezers (under adult supervision) will have the same effect. Picking up small objects and moving them into a bowl is a fun activity for preschoolers. Make it a race and it will be even more appealing.
- Peeling and sticking stickers onto paper is a fun way to practice fine motor skills.
The Write Stuff
“Working on visual-motor skills will help preschoolers get ready to write in Kindergarten. Get your preschooler to trace simple shapes and patterns that you have drawn, working with fun mediums such as sand trays, finger paint and sidewalk chalk. This will help him develop the ability to let his eyes guide his hands - a skill which lays the foundation for forming letters in Kindergarten,” says le Roux. “At this age, it is important to avoid too many worksheets that use pencils and crayons – instead let them make big movements with their hands and arms.”
- Writing in cake pans with a fine layer of salt, sand or flour is a perfect beginning writing experience.
- Writing in shaving cream is an excellent tactile experience. You can do this in the tub to make clean-up a snap.
- Try pudding or whip cream to add another sense (taste) if you're brave.
- Sidewalk chalk dipped in water makes the colors even more brilliant and helps the chalk to write more smoothly.
Don’t worry about forming letters and writing words just yet (other than his name), there will be lots of practice ahead! Instead give your child many activities to help strengthen the muscles in his hands. This will make for fun learning while giving your child all the “write stuff” for writing in kindergarten!
For more great ideas on practicing fine motor and letter formations, take a look at the rest OT Mom Learning Activities site. And check out all of Education.com's great preschool writing activities here.