Back in the ‘old days’ when I first started teaching, Year 1 was the first year of formal learning and there were three terms each year. In Year 1, students spent the first term participating in pre-reading, pre-writing and pre-maths activities. These activities provided students with the skills underpinning reading, writing and maths. Unfortunately, many students are now not exposed to these activities which make learning reading, writing and mathematics more difficult. If your child has not yet started school (or if they are finding writing difficult), then the following activities could be of benefit.
Upper Body Strength
For controlled hand movement, children require strength and stability in their shoulders. Activities to improve upper body strength include:
- Crossing monkey bars.
- ‘Walking’ along a bench or bar using your hands with arms straight.
- Playing tug-of-war.
Writing requires using both hands at the same time with each engaged in a different activity. The dominant hand holds and moves the pencil while the other hand holds the paper to stop it from moving. Activities to help develop bilateral integration include (make sure you alternate activities between your hands):
- Rubbing your stomach while patting your head.
- Beating a rhythm with one hand while doing a different activity with the other hand.
- Learning to juggle – start with scarves.
Fine Motor Activities
Fine motor skills are required for children to be able to hold a pencil correctly and manipulate
Activities to help develop fine motor skills.
- Making objects with play dough which require rolling balls, making rope shapes, etc.
- Cutting with scissors.
- Playing games that require picking up or manipulating small objects such as pick-up-sticks.
- Using clothes pegs.
- Using tongs or tweezers to pick up objects.
- Constructing with Lego or other small building blocks.
- Threading beads onto a shoelace or pipe cleaners or ‘sewing’ with a shoelace (or similar).
- Doing up buttons and zips.
- Scrunching up paper.
- Pull off and stick down stickers.
Draw Lines and Shapes
Children need to have sufficient control of a pencil to draw lines and shapes accurately as letters are composed of a series of lines and shapes. In order of difficulty these include: |, —, O, +, /, square, \, X, and Δ. It is important that children hold pencils and other writing implements correctly using a tripod grip. If your child has difficulty doing this it may be worthwhile purchasing pencil grips that are shaped to help children hold pencils correctly. Activities to help develop pencil control.
- Play games such as noughts and crosses using pencil and paper.
- Do dot-to-dot drawings.
- Draw different patterns and make into a picture (e.g., a spiral could be turned into a snail shell, an up and down zigzag pattern could become a mountain range, a series of semi-circles could become Easter eggs.
- Draw around hands or feet and decorate.
- Complete mazes.
- Draw around large stencils.
- Trace over pictures using tracing paper.
- Draw simple pictures using basic shapes such as circles, triangles and squares.
- Pre writing worksheets. Google ‘pre writing activities’ under images and you will find many resources for practising these types of skills.