The early years are a major period of intellectual, physical, emotional and social development. Although each child will come to Kindergarten with a wide variety of skills, there are certain activities that can help them start the year with a sense of confidence. Please remember that children will progress at their own rate. Encourage, but do not pressure learning. The more fun you make it, the more success you will have in getting your child to participate. All of the activities listed below are both enjoyable and developmentally appropriate for your child. ENJOY!!!
Fine and Gross Motor
Buy or make play dough. Use a variety of tools to increase hand strength and coordination. Tool ideas include garlic press, cookie cutters, utensils, rolling pin and a muffin tin.
- Set up a “writing center” or “office”. Provide a wide variety of writing instruments (fat markers, thin markers, colored pencils, etc.) as well as paper, envelopes, rulers, scissors, an alphabet chart, stencils, stamps, and a hole punch. Use your imagination. A calculator or mailbox can add extra enticement. Encourage them to send people “letters”. Remember, even drawing pictures or punching holes are beneficial in increasing fine motor skills. Let them have fun with it!
- Purchase or make lacing games. You can make them by tracing a shape on heavy cardboard. Cut it out and use a hole punch around the perimeter approximately ½ inches apart. Have your child use string or shoe laces to sew around the shape. Can be used over and over.
- Fill a muffin tin with different size beads. Have your child use a tweezer to pick up the beads. Make sure they are using the thumb and the forefinger to control the tweezer.
- Set up an obstacle course. Have your child practice hopping on one foot, both feet and balance on each foot. Skip, gallop, jump like a frog. Take turns timing how long it takes to complete the course.
- Go to the park. Have them practice on the monkey bars. If they are timid, stand next to them and help support them until they build confidence. Great for upper body strength. Show them how to pump their feet on the swings.
Auditory and Visual Memory
Play word games. Repeat a sequence of words (ex. apple-dog) and have them try to copy you. The sillier the better. Start with two words at a time so they feel successful and increase the number of words in each set until they have difficulty. Have them take a turn making up the words and letting you copy them.
- Listen to songs together. Learn the lyrics and sing them together. You can also do this with poems, rhymes and tongue twisters.
- Play memory games. You can purchase these at most toy stores or make your own by placing a set number of objects on a table. Have your child look at the objects and then cover them with a towel. See how many you and your child can remember. Start with 5 objects and work your way up.
- Get some index cards. Write a sequence of numbers or letters on the cards. They should be out of sequence (ex. 3-6-1 or G-V-S). Show your child the card, count to five and then place the card face down. Ask your child to repeat what was on the card. Start with a few numbers/letters and gradually increase them. Also great for number and letter recognition.
- Do puzzles together, play board and card games.
READ, READ, READ!! Together you can look at books, catalogs, magazines, comics, newspapers, street signs, license plates and show them that words are everywhere. Visit the library or bookstore regularly.
- The market is chock full of activities. Have them help you find items you have coupons for, play I Spy (give clues to something you see that starts with a certain letter and have them guess what it is) and read labels and directory signs. See if you can come up with an item in the market that starts with each letter of the alphabet.
- If your child likes the computer, let them play games that encourage reading readiness skills (many incorporate math and other skills into the same program).
- For letter recognition and letter/sound correlation go to the library or bookstore. There are hundreds of ABC books available. Read them to each other. Focus on the name of each letter and the sound it makes. Together with your child, create your own ABC book. Designate a page or so for each letter. Print the upper case and lower case letter on the page. Draw or cut and paste from magazines pictures that begin with each letter. You can also write or cut from the newspaper words that correspond with each letter. * Note-Be careful with the vowels A-E-I-O-U. They each make more that one sound. Focus on the short vowel sounds: the a sound in cat, the e sound in egg, the i sound in igloo, the o sound in ox, the u sound in umbrella.
- Keep a journal. Let them take pictures and collect memorabilia from their experiences (ticket stubs, fall leaves, postcards…). Write for them a description of the day. If they are able to, they can begin to “write” for themselves using “guess and go” spelling. This means they write down the letters they hear in each word. Please don’t be alarmed that it is not conventional spelling. They have plenty of time for that. The purpose is to let them see the connection between the spoken and written word. It is also a great boost for self-esteem for them to be able to write on their own.
SORT, SORT, SORT!! Have your child sort their sock drawer, buttons, Tupperware, shells, toy cars, Barbie accessories…. Have them make up different categories (ex. size, color, purpose). They can count the items in each group and make comparisons between the groupings.
- COUNT, COUNT, COUNT!! You can count anything and everything. Count the number of red cars on the freeway, place settings for dinner, lampposts between school and home, seconds it takes to eat string cheese. You can also make up simple math stories ex. If I had 2 cookies and I ate one, how many cookies would I have left?
- Once again, stores are chock full of activities. They can read prices, try to find the best price on a particular item, weigh produce, count out apples or whatever produce you need, estimate how many crackers are in a box, have some of their own change to count or spend or search for a sequence of numbers (find the number 1, 2, 3…). Be creative!
- Cook together. Help them read the recipe. Let them gather and measure ingredients.
Get a birdfeeder or put out a dish of birdseed. Put it in a place it can be easily viewed. Keep track of how many birds visit. Go to the library and get a book that will help you identify different birds.
- Let your child plant seeds in the garden or a pot. Hypothesize how long you think it will take them to sprout. Have your child keep track of the growth by drawing pictures and/or measuring with a ruler.
- Get an outdoor thermometer. Create a graph of the temperature each day at a specific time. You can even take a reading several times a day and compare and contrast the readings.
We hope you have fun with these activities. Enjoy the natural curiosity your child has and give them time to explore and experiment with objects, materials or toys. Cherish these ideas as opportunities for you to interact with them in a purposeful, positive, and relaxed way!