How do we as parents give our little ones the best chance at becoming successful learners?
Let’s start with babies and the skill sets they learn in order:
- Little babies are designed to first master the suck, swallow, breath synchrony; essential to drink milk to survive.
- Next comes the need to develop core body strength in their trunks in order to start moving about and roll.
- Once baby has a chance to practice this, they begin to develop strength in their arms and legs. This is required to crawl and then lift themselves up and walk.
- Next comes stength and development of muscles, bones and coordination of the hand and finger, or the extramities of the body needed for fine motor skills. This stage often isn’t completed until about four years of age.
How old are our little ones learning to write now? About 3 years old!
Why are they struggling to write? Because their hands and fingers are not yet developed enough to hold a pen, let alone to start writing letter.
So what can we do to help?
- From about 2 years old keep chunky pens, pencils, crayons and paintbrushes available for your little one to discover and play with in their own time. Note some (particularly girls) may be more interested in these activities than others. Let your child discover colouring and drawing in their own time.
- Make sure your child isn’t using thin pens and pencils designed for adults. Their hands are not strong enough or developed enough to hold such a thin instrument and they will have trouble holding and controlling it, and will learn incorrect pencil grip and writing habits, making it much harder to reteach them at a later age.
Try this: Write your name in the air in front of you now while putting your non-writing hand on your writing hand’s shoulder. Where does the movement come from? Now repeat this but on a piece of paper with your other hand on your wrist. Again where does the movement come from?
- Young children need to learn to use and control their whole arm before learning to colour, draw and write effectively with their hands. To help your child develop this whole arm movement first, stick pieces of paper to the window or onto an easel where is is positioned in front of them just below eye level.
- Don’t stress if your child is not interested in drawing and writing. Don’t stress if your best friend’s child is writing their name and loves copying strings of letter onto paper. All in good time! Remember if your child is not interested in colouring, drawing and writing, they are probably busy developing other necessary skills that will be just as important in later life including at school. And they will catch up at school!
- Waiting is better than forcing. OTs find that reteaching children to write correctly is much harder than teaching them when they are developmentally, physically and emotionally capable of completing the task with success. Children that don’t want to write and are forced to often act out behaviorally in order to avoid the task. This causes emotional upset, stress, anxiety, all of which are harder to ‘fix’ than if handwriting was left till the child was older, skilled and ready to tackle the task.
Our Letter Basics pre-writing guides are OT (occupational therapist) approved and are perfect for teaching your child good handwriting habits before teaching them how to write letter and numbers.
Click the above images to be taken to the Letter Basics Pre-Writing Guides on the website!