Leaves of Grass (and Playdough!)

In order to be ready to write, children need to have developed hand skills. This means they need to have the strength and dexterity to handle, and control, small objects with their hands. But, they will also need to develop the muscles in their forearm and upper body to provide the strength and stability that will allow them to use their hands to manipulate and control writing instruments.

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Eye-hand coordination is another pre-writing skill, as is the ability to process sensory information. The brain coordinates tactile and movement sensations as a child is writing, which allows him to make changes as needed to maintain muscle control. One of the best ways to prepare your child for the exciting world of writing is to provide lots of opportunity to work with Play-Doh and clay which helps develop finger and hand strength and control.

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When they are playing with these materials, children are squeezing and kneading, poking and pinching, rolling and pressing – all excellent strength building movements. For this activity, we talked about the letter L. We initially learned a song about this letter, which included silly words that reinforced the sound that L makes. We then discussed a variety of words that began with this letter. Lastly, we stuck plastic “leaves” into green Playdoh. As they shaped their Playdoh into the letter O, they were strengthening the small muscles required for writing. The muscles in the palm of our hands control the movements of the thumb and fingers. When a child has developed strong fine motor skills, he is able to control the thumb and fingers individually, rather than just grasping items with his entire fist as an infant does.

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Blocks and the Letter O

When learning about letters, it is important that preschoolers only focus on one sound at a time. The letter O, for example, has many different sounds. For this week, we chose to focus on its short vowel sound. Your child learned, initially, that this is the first letter in the word October. We then came up with other words containing the same ah sound.

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The second component in this activity involved classifying letters and building a block tower. Regular blocks were affixed with a variety of letter stickers. Some contained O, while others held other letters. Your child was then encouraged to separate the Os from the rest of the letters. They then took their “O” blocks and constructed a tower. One building block of reading is learning that each letter has a corresponding sound. This doesn’t need to be dull or full of repetitive exercises. Your little scholar can have fun  and learn at the same time!

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Dot to Dot Letter Writing

Dot-to-dots (connect the dots) are excellent vehicles to encourage pre-writing skills, number order or letter recognition and problem solving. To incorporate this into our week of learning about the letter G, we created  the letter G using stickers as our “dots” and crayons to form straight lines from one dot to another. Each point enabled your little one to create their Gs correctly (from top to bottom, and left to right). Working on dot-to-dots teaches children number order and helps with counting.

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Little ones may need a little help, but as they get older, completing this type of pre-writing activity all by themselves is a great confidence booster. Dot-to-dot games are also wonderful for improving hand-eye co-ordination. There’s a lot of concentration that goes into completing a dot-to-dot! Visual motor control is developed through this type of task. In addition to these benefits, doing dot-to-dot activities really helps improve handwriting skills and are a valuable pre-writing teaching tool. Children learn how to create shapes, focus their writing implement and learn how much pressure to apply to the paper.

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Diamonds and Rhythm Sticks

Your child was born ready to learn math. As she explores her environment, plays with different objects, and moves her body in different ways, she is learning about shapes and developing a sense of her body in relation to objects and people around her – also known as spatial sense. An awareness of shapes and spatial sense will help your child get ready to learn about geometry.

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Geometry is the study of mathematics that involves shape, size, position, direction, and movement and describes and classifies the physical world that we live in. Learning about geometry will also help your child learn about numbers and measurement.  For this activity, we created diamonds and squares with rhythm sticks. Your budding mathematician learned that both shapes contain four sides. They also learned that if you make a square and turn it onto its side, it creates a diamond! We then applied our understanding of these shapes by making them for ourselves!

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Goo Goo G

All too often, young children are given writing tools to use before they are ready for them. Young children from three to five years of age use their hands to explore and learn about the environment and themselves. By developing good hand skills and other pre-writing skills young children will be prepared for the next step, which is writing. Working on hand skills will also assist older children who are experiencing writing difficulties. This week we have been learning about the letter G, and words associated with it. We not only discussed the words, but the different sounds that G makes. In our discussions, your budding writers were also asked to use their own thinking minds to come up with words that have any G sound in it. For this activity, we discussed the “ga” sound that G makes. We then conversed about what goo is then brainstormed to make up silly words, such as “Goo Goo Grandma, Goo Ghost Gaga”. Following this, your child used the small muscles in their hands to create “goo” that they eventually scooped and pinched to place onto a taped letter G. Doing so created a visual representation that aided their understanding.

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Halloween Playdough – Imaginative and Sensory Play

Squishing, rolling, sculpting, molding . . . young children love to play with playdough. Add some props from around the home and playdough play becomes a powerful way to support your child’s learning.

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This simple preschool staple lets children use their imaginations and strengthen the small muscles in their fingers—the same muscles they will one day use to hold a pencil and write.

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Using playdough with you, a friend, or siblings supports your child’s social skills such as sharing, taking turns, and enjoying being with other people.

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Playdough also encourages children’s language and literacy, science, and math skills—all at the same time! For this activity, we used orange playdough, plastic knives, rolling pins, ovens (made from boxes), and baking accessories to create Halloween treats!

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An Ensemble of Pots and Pans

Two-, three-, and four-year-old children need an environment that includes a variety of sound sources, and opportunities for free improvised playing.  An exploratory approach, using a wide range of appropriate materials, provides a rich base from which conceptual understanding can evolve in later years.

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A variety of individual musical experiences are important for children at this age. As a result of their experiences with music, young children should initiate both independent and collaborative play with musical materials, and they should demonstrate curiosity about music. To continue our exploration of sound, we experimented with pots and pans.

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Using rhythm sticks and pans suspended from the bars outside, we practiced making noise! As they banged happily, your budding musicians learned that sound changes. In addition to this open-ended play, Miss Carrie initiated and call and response game. Using our listening ears, we listened to Miss Carrie play to rhythmic phrase on our new instruments. We then repeated this sequence!

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By doing so, students accessed a variety of developmental skills. By watching their teacher, they practiced reading visual and verbal cues. By creating their own  sounds, they experimented with cause and effect. Lastly, by collaborating, they enjoyed the social benefits of performing as a group.