As we approach the start of a new school year, we wanted to
share with you a few ideas to help children with fine motor control. Remember
that establishing a proper pencil grip early on is important. One good way to
do this is to first build hand muscles. You can do this by having children play
with the following:
·use a hole punch
·build with small blocks
·play with spray bottles
·use squeeze toys like small squishy balls
·pick up cotton balls with tweezers
·pop bubble wrap
·squeeze glue onto paper
·play with pay-doh (you can hide small objects in
a clay ball and have children find them)
These activities can be games at home and school. Share one activity
each week with families. Explain that using a pencil for a prolonged time too
soon can result in a poor pencil grip. These “games” are more helpful than
putting a pencil into a child’s hand too early. Undeveloped hand muscles may
result in a bad habit.
We always suggest that pencil grips be used with
preschoolers when writing is necessary. These help develop proper grips.
Anything can be a lesson, even the invisible air that
surrounds us. We like to begin by asking children what they already know about
a topic. While the new trend in education is to avoid too much “frontloading”
(a term for discussing a topic, often for an extended period of time, with
children), we still like to have children think about a lesson topic. This
helps preschoolers listen to one another and also guides our English Language
Learners to hear and begin to understand important vocabulary. You may want to
make a list of children’s ideas about air or simply listen as children share
Invite children to consider what air does. Thoughts such as
air blows tree leaves, it moves clouds, or can dry puddles may be shared.
Children can draw a picture of something air can do. Ask children to hold up
their pictures and explain their art. This gives them valuable experience in
talking in front of the class as they explain their work. There is not a right
or wrong answer so this should be a relaxed session, allowing children to
explore oral language.
Finally ask children if they think air is strong. You may
want to vote and make a chart showing responses. We like to say things like, “I
wonder how in the world I am going to figure this out.” Accept children’s ideas
but you can guide them to participating in an experiment. Here is what you will
A clear glass
Tissues (like Kleenex)
A large bowl
We like to show children these materials and ask if they can
think of a way these four things can show if air is strong. You may be
We illustrate the strength of air by putting a tissue into
the bottom of the glass.
We turn the glass over and put it straight down into
the large bowl of water.
Ask children if they think the tissue will be wet or
dry. Most of them will say wet. Then pull the glass straight up, carefully take
out the tissue, and voila – the tissue is dry! Ask children to explain.
children have a difficult time with an explanation, do the experiment again but
this time tilt the glass. As you do this, tell children this lets air out of
the glass. The tissue will be wet.
Even though children can't feel the power of air, it is strong. Let them feel the dry tissue to show the strength of air!
Most children can then understand the power of air – when
trapped in the glass as it is placed straight down in the water, it will keep
the water from soaking the tissue!
delight in sharing riddles. We can use this love of word play to help children
develop oral language, an understanding of sentences, and how details work. Your
use of language doesn’t need to follow the true riddle format that older
children may enjoy. As children become more familiar with language they see the
humor in little ditties such as, “Why do birds fly south for the winter?”
Answer – “Because it’s too far to walk.” These joke-type riddles will be
popular as children grow. For now, think of riddles as brain exercise.
Ask your child to
play a game with you. Say, “I am going to give you clues. See if you can solve
the riddle.” The following is a good sequence:
What animal is black
This animal raises
its tail as a warning.
This animal gives off
a bad smell?
What animal is it?
You can give many
clues like this. More examples include:
What animal lives in
This animal is a bird
but cannot fly.
This animal waddles
on ice and swims to catch fish.
What animal is it?
What animal is large
This animal likes to
eat grass and bananas.
This animal has a
What animal is it?
Children will hear
clear sentence structure and vocabulary about the natural world. They may learn
new details about animals.
Then ask children to
come up with their own “riddles.” See if they can match your sentence structure
and use vocabulary about the animal world. Go outside and have children look
around for ideas. They can give clues about what they see: squirrels, dogs,
ants, etc. You may easily know what animal is being described but let children
speak a series of clues. This gives valuable vocabulary practice - - - in any