Preparing your child for Kindergarten: 10 Tips for The Reluctant Writer

This week’s blog will commence our new series, “Preparing your child for Kindergarten”. This series aims to tackle some of the most common issues facing parents of children who are about to start Kindergarten in the New Year. The blogs will be filled with practical examples and give lots of ideas of how to ensure that your child’s transition is a smooth one.

The first blog in this series deals with the issue of pre-schoolers who are reluctant writers. Before I begin this blog, I want to make it very clear that it is not expected that children are able to write words or even letters before commencing Kindergarten. However; by the age of 4 – 5 years old, most children become interested in print and how we use it to communicate messages.

It is very common for a child to begin Kindergarten, being able to write their name and for some, they are able to identify the names of the letters in their name as well. There are children, however, who are very reluctant to pick up a pencil and therefore parents become concerned that their child will struggle in their first year of formal schooling.

This is by far the most common issue I get asked about. Many parents want to know how they can motivate their child to write their name or even participate in drawing activities. Below is a list of 10 facts that will help all concerned parents of reluctant writers.

  1. Pre writing skills

imgresBefore children can start writing formal letters they need to be given MANY opportunities to participate in activities that develop pre writing skills. They need to be able to draw straight lines from top to the bottom, humps, zig zags and draw circles (preferably anti clockwise). I like to get children to do this through their drawings. I encourage them to draw rain or grass or flower stems that incorporate a lot of straight lines. I get them to draw waves or clouds for hump practice, zig zag patterns on clothing and circles for faces and eyes for circle practice.

  1. Do it with them

imgres-1Children love to spend time with grown ups, so this would be a perfect opportunity to do something with them. You need to ensure that it does not become a teaching session where a child can become quite stressed. Simply drawing a picture with your child will develop all the pre writing skills that they need. Make sure you talk about what you are drawing and ask them to talk about what they are drawing. This is where you can gently guide them by saying “I like to draw my lines from top to bottom because it is easier”

  1. Variety of tools

imgres-2It is essential that children are exposed to a variety of tools to write with. They need to work with larger tools such as thick chalk and thick paintbrushes to develop their skills and then move onto thinner chalk, markers, crayons and pencils.

  1. Writing must be meaningful

imgresChildren will only want to write something if it is meaningful to them. Get them to write a word on your grocery list (like ham) and take them shopping with you to buy that item. When there is a purpose for their writing, children are really motivated to do it.

  1. Give them ownership

imgres-1Talk about the importance of writing their name on their artwork when they attend preschool or daycare. Explain to them that their name is special and it belongs to them. Start with the first letter and then you can fill in the rest. When they are confident with that, move on by getting them to write the first 2 letters.

  1. Forming letters

imgres-2It is important to not enforce the correct formation of letters straight away. At the beginning, children need lots of opportunities to explore writing and they need a no fail environment to motivate them to keep going. Once your child begins writing letters often, you may mention to them the correct way to form that letter. But remember it is still in the experimental phase.

  1. No lines

imagesChildren should not be writing on lines until they are writing lots of sentences and are very confident with their letter formations. We should not restrict children to write straight at such an early stage. They need lots of room to form their letters.

  1. Restricting their size

Try not to restrict the size of their writing as well. Children start big and as they develop it will naturally get smaller.

  1. Fine motor skills

imgres-3Many children who are reluctant writers have poor fine motor skills. As a result I tend to find reluctant writers also struggle to operate small tools such as scissors. If your child finds it difficult to use their pincer grip (thumb and index finger) to pull coins out of play dough or thread small beads on string or open and close pegs with their pincer grip they may have underdeveloped fine motor skills. This will need to be checked out by an Occupational Therapist as soon as possible.

  1. Use what they like

Most children have a few obsessions and it is important to tap into it to motivate them in an area that they may struggle with. Get them to write the toy they really want for Christmas on a paper and send it to Santa or get them to write one of their friend’s name on an invitation for their party.

The key to motivating reluctant writers is to create a no failure environment, ensure that the writing activity is meaningful to them and make the activities fun which you both can enjoy.

I hope that this first blog in the new series “Preparing your child for Kindergarten” gives you food for thought in how to encourage your child to start writing.

Our next blog in the series will be dealing with the issue of how to keep your child engaged in a task for longer than 5 minutes.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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How to teach your child about Remembrance Day – 11 simple activities

The 11th November is an important date for all Australians. It is the day that we remember all the Australians who have died as a result of war. Even though it is not a public holiday, it is still observed annually by all Australians.

A minute silence is usually observed at 11am on this day. This is significant as World War 1 (also known as the Great War) ended after the signing of the armistice, which happened on the 11th hour of the 11th day, of the 11th Month in 1918.

The symbol of the poppy is a well-known one associated with Remembrance day. Poppies were one of the first flowers that grew on the battlefields of France and Belgium after the war ended.

Below is a list of 11 activities that you can share with your child or class to help them gain a deeper understanding of Remembrance Day.

  1. Make a Poppy Pinwheel

Poppy pinwheel

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Make a Poppy Wreath

Poppy wreath

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Poppy Lantern

lantern

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Folding Fan Poppy

foldingfanpoppy

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Soldier thank you card

soldierthankyou

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Field of poppies drawing or painting

field of poppies

 

 

 

 

  1. Soldier collage

soldiercollage

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Book: The Poppy Lady

the poppy lady

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Book: Simpson and his Donkey

simpson and his donkey

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Book: A Poppy is to remember

a poppy is to remember

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Book: The Red Poppy

The red poppy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hopefully some of these ideas have given you some inspiration for commemorating Remembrance Day with your child or class.

Lest we forget

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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How To Get Your Child To Put Others First This Christmas Time

Can you believe that we are in November already? Where has 2015 gone? Once November hits, we all know that our calendars start filling up quickly, the shops put out all their Christmas decorations and we definitely begin the silly season!!

We live in such an egocentric society that tries to condition us into thinking that we need certain products to achieve happiness. Even children are targeted through advertising in believing that they NEED the latest toy, even if they already have one hundred similar ones at home. At Christmas time, it seems that this mentality is heightened and people are under so much stress to get everything they need to make it a “special time”.

I have decided that for Christmas 2015, I am challenging this notation and I am wondering how many others also feel the need to try something different.

This Christmas season my personal challenge is to teach my children about the importance of thinking about others and the notation of giving to people, not in the superficial sense but by giving their time and effort to bring others happiness. Is this not the true meaning of Christmas?

How do we do this, so children understand the importance of giving that will be appropriate to their age? I have come up with the idea of a challenge calendar for the month of December. It will work the same as the normal Chocolate Countdown Calendars that can be bought. Each day, a door is opened that matches the date. Behind the door will be a challenge that the child must complete before the end of the day. At dinner time, each member of the family can discuss the challenge and how they met it.

You may want to make up all the challenges with your child at the end of November and you can randomly put them behind different doors. For younger children, like my own (4 years and 2 years), the parent can make up all the challenges and complete the challenges with them.

Some inspirational quotes that my family will live by in the month of December

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give” Winston Churchill

“No one ever became poor by giving” Anne Frank

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted” Aesop

“If you can not feed one hundred people, then feed just one” Mother Teresa

This idea of the Challenge Calendar would work well in both a home environment or a school classroom. Below are 4 examples of what it could look like but be as creative as you want.

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images-1  images-2

 

 

 

 

images

 

 

 

 

So the tricky part will be coming up with 24 challenges that your child or children would be able to complete. I have written some ideas for different age groups to help you create your own.

Age group : 2 - 8 years Challenges

  • Shop for a new toy and donate it to a Christmas appeal (eg KMART Wishing Tree)
  • Make Christmas cards and take them to a nursing home
  • Donate 3 toys to a Charitable organisation
  • Donate 3 pieces of clothing to a charitable organisation
  • Give extra love to a pet or animal (eg take for a walk, play with them, wash them)
  • Draw a picture of a relative and send it to them
  • Help your parent make dinner for the family
  • Sing a Christmas Carol to a grandparent
  • Make a christmas hamper (full of non perishable items) and give to a charity
  • Donate some of your money to a charity

Age group: 9 - 15 years Challenges

  • Perform a random act of kindness to a stranger
  • Do something around the house to help a family member
  • Visit a relative you have not seen for a while
  • Give 5 honest compliments to people
  • Be a secret santa to someone (give a small gift to someone and not tell them it was from you)
  • Write a letter of gratitude to someone and send it
  • Donate some of your money to a charity
  • Play a game with a younger child
  • Volunteer for something to help others
  • Have a conversation with someone you have never spoke to
  • Make a plate of food for a neighbour (eg could be cookies, a cake etc)
  • Thank a volunteer who helps people

I hope this blog will inspire you to create your own Challenge Calendar for your family or class. Christmas is the time of giving so lets try to spread this special message for Christmas 2015.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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