Don’t under-estimate the power of a game of catch!

Even with all the fabulous online learning tools available for children today, handwriting is still a core skill for children to acquire. There are many factors that can affect your child’s ability to form letters from the actual grip on the pencil to poor visual perception meaning children are unable to discriminate between different letters (e.g. b & d).

Children with poor handwriting may be disadvantaged if teachers cannot mark their work accurately. A less obvious disadvantage is that a child may struggle to write creatively if it takes all their concentration to just form the words. You can imagine the frustration this would cause a child.

There are a few simple ways you can help which we discuss below. However, if you identify significant issues and challenges with your child’s handwriting and reading and are concerned this should be followed up with an Occupational Therapist who is a specialist in this field.

Good hand-eye coordination is necessary to guide the pencil but simple garden games can help develop this key skill:

• Basic throwing and catching a ball with a parent or friend. Start to add variation in height and pace to gauge improvement
• Use a bat and ball and see how long your child can keep the ball in the air
• Swingball is a great game and very good at helping coordination
• Throwing a ball against a wall and catching it, increasing the height and pace for variation

When the weather is not so friendly then use worksheets or books with mazes or follow the path exercises inside.

Another important element in handwriting is a child’s fine motor skills or dexterity. This is the coordination of the movement of small muscles in the hands and fingers and synchronising them with the eyes. You can work on these by encouraging lots of scissor cutting, using playdough and lego to improve dexterity and your child’s ability to manipulate a pencil successfully.

Visual perception is an element that has been found to have a significant effect on handwriting. Visual perception enables children to understand what they see, for example to recognise the difference between an ‘n’ or a ‘h’. Poor visual perception may mean a child doesn’t realise an ‘o’ which is not joined at the top is actually a ‘u’.

Visual perception games can be incorporated into your child’s day like ‘seek and find’ books or bingo games, any games that required the child to notice, and act on small visual difference.

Playing the games is one part, putting the writing skills into practice is also necessary.

So make the most of your time in these early years to provide lots of opportunities to give your child a great start, and you can have a lot of fun doing it too!

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Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) – information for parents

The Early Years Foundation Stage is the time in your child’s life between birth and age 5.

This is an important stage as it helps your child get ready for school as well as preparing them for their future learning and successes.

Nurseries, pre-schools, reception classes and childminders registered to deliver the EYFS must follow a legal document called the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework. This sets the standards that all early years providers must meet to ensure that children learn and develop well and are kept healthy and safe.

The framework sets out:

  • The legal welfare requirements that everyone registered to look after children must follow to keep your child safe and promote their welfare
  • The 7 areas of learning and development which guide professionals’ engagement with your child’s play and activities as they learn new skills and knowledge
  • Assessments that will tell you about your child’s progress through the EYFS
  • Expected levels that your child should reach at age 5, usually the end of the reception year; these expectations are called the Early Learning Goals (ELGs)”

There is also guidance for the professionals supporting your child on planning the learning activities, and observing and assessing what and how your child is learning and developing.

The seven areas of learning and development are:

  • Communication and language development involves giving children opportunities to experience a rich language environment; to develop their confidence and skills in expressing themselves; and to speak and listen in a range of situations.
  • Physical development involves providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive; and to develop their co-ordination, control, and movement. Children must also be helped to understand the importance of physical activity, and to make healthy choices in relation to food.
  • Personal, social and emotional developmentinvolves helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves, and others; to form positive relationships and develop respect for others; to develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings; to understand appropriate behaviour in groups; and to have confidence in their own abilities.
  • Literacy development involves encouraging children to link sounds and letters and to begin to read and write. Children must be given access to a wide range of reading materials (books, poems, and other written materials) to ignite their interest.
  • Mathematics involves providing children with opportunities to develop and improve their skills in counting, understanding and using numbers, calculating simple addition and subtraction problems; and to describe shapes, spaces, and measures.
  • Understanding the world involves guiding children to make sense of their physical world and their community through opportunities to explore, observe and find out about people, places, technology and the environment.
  • Expressive arts and design involves enabling children to explore and play with a wide range of media and materials, as well as providing opportunities and encouragement for sharing their thoughts, ideas and feelings through a variety of activities in art, music, movement, dance, roleplay, and design and technology.

Assessment

If your child attends an Early Years setting, they will have a Progress Check between the age of two and three. This will identify their strengths and any area where progress is less than expected and where additional support may be needed.

All children are assessed at the end of the Early Years Foundation stage (in the summer term of their reception year). This assessment is called the EYFS Profile and gives a full picture of a child’s knowledge, understanding and abilities, their progress against expected levels, and their readiness for Year 1.

For more information on the EYFS and how you can help your child at home in supporting their learning and development, visit the Foundation Years website.

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