As a parent or caregiver, you are your child's first teacher and can influence the rest of their academic career. Your influence can help make learning enjoyable and promote life-long appreciation for learning. During your busy life-style, even the smallest amount of time or gesture can impact the development of your child's skills. This document includes strategies from various resources, including information from our district related service providers and materials used for screening.
Simple things you can do include the following:
- Spend quality time together. Brief periods of undivided attention are rewarding. If you can't engage immediately, offer an alternative time and suggest other activities. Keep your promise to play later.
- Observe and promote your child's interests. Each child has unique interests, skills, and attention spans. Watch your child's behaviors and include new tasks related to their interests. Following your child's rhythm helps you know when to introduce something new or take a break.
- Lead by example. Create an environment valuing various skills, not just academic or sports achievements. Incorporate learning into your home's culture by reading for pleasure and attending cultural events.
- Have realistic expectations of your child and avoid pressure for your child to excel in everything. Be accepting of mistakes. Show love and affection unconditionally and avoid comparing your child to others. Praise your child's efforts, regardless of whether or not they were successful in what they attempted. This will help encourage them to continue to try new things they might not be confident in.
- Promote independence. Children can help with chores in an age appropriate way and can develop self-help skills. Be patient and accept if things are not done exactly as you would do them.
http://www.familyeducation.com/home/ - An online network of learning resources for parents, teachers, and children of all ages. Includes many different types of activities. Fact-checked by doctors, child psychologists, educators, and more.
Keep reading for strategies to help develop specific areas!
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Rockwell Elementary School
"The Little School with a Big Heart"
Growth of Specific Skill Areas
DEVELOPING MOTOR SKILLS
Encouraging the growth of large-muscle, small-muscle, and hand-eye coordination skills will build your child's confidence and foster independence.
Posture, balance, and coordination area all impacted by large-muscle strength. Building strength in these areas will help development of other skills such as writing. Some activities to help strengthen these muscles include:
- Walking: Practice walking forward, sideways, backward, and marching.
- Balancing Games: Walk on a string or tape on the floor, along a sidewalk crack, or on uneven surfaces like sand or rocks.
- Kicking, Bouncing, Throwing, and Catching Games: Use objects of various sizes and weights, like beanbags, beach balls, and soccer balls. Play creative throwing games.
- Jumping Games: Engage in hopscotch, jumping rope, or "Follow the Leader" with hopping and skipping.
- Swinging, Sliding, and Climbing: Utilize park or indoor playground equipment.
- Riding Activities: Ride bikes, tricycles, scooters, or other ride-on toys.
- Pulling or Pushing Wagons or Carts: Build and go on a race using common objects.
- Dancing: Move freely to music or songs, like "Ring Around the Rosie."
Writing, eating, and getting dressed are all impacted by finger, wrist and hand strength. Some activities to help strengthen these muscles include:
- Clay Play: Squeeze, pinch, and shape clay into objects or animals.
- Building: Use blocks, ring stackers, and puzzles to enhance finger and hand strength.
- Container Activities: Put small objects in containers, like plastic bottle caps into a box with a small opening.
- Lacing or Threading: String beads, cereal pieces, or macaroni onto pipe cleaners.
- Drawing and Coloring: Use crayons, colored pencils, markers, chalk, or bathtub crayons for educational bath time fun.
- Cutting Shapes: Cut out shapes or pictures from catalogs or magazines using child-safe scissors.
- Manipulative Toys: Play with toys with dials to turn, lids to twist, keys to wind up, or strings to pull.
- Dress-Up Activities: Put clothes on dolls or toy animals with zippers, buttons, or snaps.
- Everyday Tasks: Engage in common tasks like using kitchen tongs, closing zipper-lock plastic bags, using a trigger spray bottle, or squeezing out sponges filled with water.
- Vertical Drawing: Draw or color on vertical surfaces like paper taped to a wall or a toy whiteboard/chalkboard easel.
These activities are not only enjoyable but also essential for the overall development of your child's motor skills.
HealthyChildren.org is a parenting website created by pediatricians with information from the American Academy of pediatrics' publications and child health resources.
Outdoor kids games and how to play
Let's Read. Let's Move. This website was created to combat childhood obesity and summer reading loss by engaging youth in physical activity and encouraging summer reading. It is led by the Corporation for National and Community Service in collaboration with First Lady Michelle Obama, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Interior, U.S.Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Institute of Museums and Libraries.
ZERO TO THREE is a national nonprofit organization that provides information and support to professionals, policymakers, and parents in order to improve the lives of infants and toddlers.
This website offers free printable handwriting exercises (e.g., how to print letters, numbers).
This website provides free, step-by-step, simple instructions for drawing basic figures such as dogs, people, flowers, houses, etc.
DEVELOPING CONCEPTUAL SKILLS
Learning fundamental concepts such as colors, sizes, shapes, and numbers lays the foundation for children to grasp new words and ideas. This helps enable them to express what they see in their environment and communicate wants and needs.
Body Parts Awareness:
- Name body parts during bath time.
- Ask your child to identify body parts on dolls or toy animals.
- Sing "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" for interactive learning.
"Same and Different" Game:
- Use pictures, small toys, or playing cards.
- Match identical items or pictures.
- Identify objects that typically go together.
- Integrate counting into daily routines.
- Play "Simon Says" with counting instructions.
- Count objects seen during car rides to associate numbers with quantities.
- Name colors of favorite toys or clothes.
- Sort household items by color.
- Conduct a color hunt at home.
Comparing Shapes and Sizes:
- Compare shapes and sizes of common items.
- Play a guessing game, asking questions like "Which is bigger? A raisin or an apple?"
- Identify objects that don't belong in a group.
- Place various objects on a tray for a few seconds.
- Cover your child's eyes and remove an object.
- Ask your child to identify the missing item.
Engaging in these activities not only makes learning enjoyable for children but also enhances their conceptual understanding, providing them with valuable tools to communicate and interpret the world around them.
Toys: Bingo and lotto games, simple card games like "Go Fish"
Many board games and digital games require memory and matching skills. Look for themes or pictures that your child may be curious about (e.g., animals, a particular cartoon character).
The toy and gear manufacturer's website includes a section of online games designed for infants,toddlers, and preschoolers.
With popular Sesame Street® characters, these free computer video games show children how to sort, count, put like things together, and more.
Characters including Curious George®, Sid the Science KidTM, and Clifford the Big Red DogTM show children how to organize, count, put similar things together, etc.
DEVELOPING LANGUAGE SKILLS
The ability to understand, produce, and use words is crucial for children to interact effectively with others and to master reading and writing. Children enhance their language skills through listening, observing, participating, and repetition.
- Read together daily, discussing the pictures and encouraging your child to narrate the story.
- Explore the library together and attend free story time sessions.
- Sing simple songs and recite nursery rhymes.
- Add amusing twists to familiar songs or rhymes to capture your child's interest.
- Invent stories or act out everyday activities with your child, using toys as story props.
- Create a book or film a short movie with your child's story.
Narrating Daily Activities:
- Discuss daily routines, describing steps as they happen (e.g., making breakfast).
- Observe and describe surroundings wherever you go.
- Respond to your child with well-formed sentences, introducing new words or ideas.
- For example, if your child says, "Truck broke," respond with, "The truck is broken. It needs a new wheel."
Word and Sound Games:
- Play games involving clapping out syllables, finding objects with specific sounds or letters, and exploring opposite words.
- Engage in interactive activities like, "Soup is hot but ice cream is _____."
Printed Word Awareness:
- Demonstrate that printed words have meaning, pointing out examples beyond books, such as street signs and household items.
- Use foam letters during bath time to create words or spell names on the bathtub wall.
- Encourage sounding out words, even if they are nonsense words.
- Support the use of any language your child hears frequently.
- Recognize that young children's brains can grasp more than one language.
These activities not only make language development enjoyable but also lay the foundation for effective communication and literacy skills.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association offers information representing, on average, the age by which most children speaking one language will be able to do certain things. The website provides a chart of what your child should be able to do and ideas for activities to improve skills.
Khan Academy Kids - Free educational app (no ads or subscriptions) for children ages 2-8 that includes books, games, and activities to build/reinforce language, concepts, and academic skills.
The Reading Rockets website features reading tips for parents of preschoolers, including tip sheets in other languages. Reading Rockets is an educational first step of WETA, the most popular public television and radio station in Washington, D.C., and is funded by a major grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.
With only four letters in the beginning Bob Books®, your child can sound out all the words and read the whole book on his or her own, thus increasing confidence.
The Learning Disabilities Association of America has published a speech and language milestone chart online.
The Family Education Network shares activity ideas for your preschool-aged child to build learning skills.
This streaming video program features Screen Actors Guild members reading children's books.
PBS Ready to Learn Program
DEVELOPING SELF-HELP SKILLS
Children, like adults, crave independence. Mastering everyday tasks such as dressing, grooming, and chores not only fosters self-importance but also empowers your child with the confidence to explore new activities.
- Set daily routines to teach the order of tasks, such as washing hands before meals and brushing teeth before bedtime.
Breaking Tasks Down:
- Divide tasks into small, clear steps with concise directions (e.g., handwashing: wet hands, use soap, scrub, rinse, and dry).
- Show how to perform tasks multiple times before encouraging your child to try independently.
- Verbally describe each step as you complete the task.
- Allocate ample time for practicing new skills.
- Offer praise for both attempting and successfully completing a new task.
- Involve the family in working together to complete chores.
- Early involvement in household tasks helps prepare your child to be a responsible and helpful adult.
- Explain safety rules and ensure your child is aware of potential dangers at home (e.g., stove controls).
- Teach your child essential information like their full name, phone number, address, and when to dial 911.
Chore Charts and Rewards:
- Utilize chore charts with stickers and a reward system for tasks like getting dressed, tidying up, and washing hands independently.
- This approach not only builds self-esteem but also nurtures a sense of independence.
By instilling these self-help skills, you equip your child with valuable tools for daily life and promote a sense of capability and responsibility.
This resource website provides articles about child health, development, and behavior.
The American Dental Association offers videos for children on brushing their teeth.
This U.S. Department of Agriculture website includes food safety games and activities designed for children.
In addition to free printable chore charts that include popular characters, this website offers behavior management resources for parents and teachers.
DEVELOPING SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL SKILLS
Fostering children's ability to express emotions and navigate social interactions is essential for building meaningful connections and promoting empathy. Here are strategies to nurture social-emotional skills in children:
Establish Attainable Goals:
- Define practical social skill objectives for your child.
- Clearly communicate expectations (ex. “Keep your body still”), avoiding vague requests like "be good."
- Plan social activities at times that align with your child's needs.
- Be sure to establish what happens if rules are not followed and be consistent in follow through.
Structured Daily Routines:
- Introduce daily routines to instill a sense of order.
- Acknowledge and praise your child when they complete tasks and routines without distractions.
Model Positive Behavior:
- Demonstrate positive behavior in situations requiring politeness, honesty, or handling mistakes.
- Engage your child in conversations about various feelings and model caring actions.
- Teach and reinforce polite phrases like "Excuse me," "I'm sorry," and "Are you okay?"
Effective Communication and Conflict Resolution:
- Teach your child the art of waiting during conversations and saying no respectfully.
- Encourage the expression of feelings and provide comfort to others.
- Maintain composure during your child's moments of distress, guiding them to communicate their needs effectively.
- Allow your child to concentrate on one activity at a time.
- Provide opportunities for play that support skill development and encourage creativity.
- Engage in imaginative play, valuing and encouraging your child's original ideas.
- Encourage interaction with other children to promote sharing, taking turns, and building relationships.
- Organize playdates with children of similar ages.
Encouraging Independent Thinking:
- Support your child's imaginative play, valuing their creativity.
- Provide props for creative play, such as dress-up clothes, kitchen items, or puppets.
- Opt for plain paper to stimulate imaginative drawing and storytelling.
- Prompt your child to articulate preferences and reasons for likes or dislikes.
- Initiate a "This is Me" album for preserving keepsakes and encouraging personal reflections.
By implementing these strategies, you contribute to the development of your child's emotional intelligence, paving the way for positive social interactions and personal growth.
The early childhood section of the mental health tool kit from Bright Futures at Georgetown University includes PDFs of articles and activities related to fears, sleep, limit setting, creating special time, behavior, communication, sibling interaction, and time outs.
Free Spirit Publishing offers books for children and parents about children's social-emotional needs. If you need more ideas, consider talking with other people who have young children's interests in mind, such as early childhood family education (ECFE) program coordinators, other parents, your family doctor, a social worker, librarians (especially those who lead preschool activities), and daycare professionals or teachers you meet in your neighborhood or at your place of worship.