On December 2nd, 2020

Before You School

Math readiness and reading readiness can be learned when your child reaches certain developmental stages. Fortunately, these skills can be tried and practiced for months or even years before school begins. Gaining certain flags of readiness is not only relevant and required but fun for you and your toddler or preschooler.

At approximately 10 months of age, your child will be attempting the pincer grasp. Thumb touching index finger is the main sign to watch for. Then you can give your child dry macaroni, or pieces of cereal (pay attention to watch for choking) or small cubes of cheese to strengthen the ability to grasp small objects with the thumb and idex finger.

Until your child is comfortable doing this maneuver you shouldn't expect anything with a writing utensil to be more than scribbles. Once he or she can hold a crayon or thick pencil with the pincer grasp, it is possible that the child can draw lines deliberately, if you show her how. No one is born knowing what "line" means so you must demonstrate. It is rarely advisable to hold the child's hand in place. This is uncomfortable and disempowering. If your child shows an interest in writing but can't hold a writing utensil then have them trace lines with their finger or follow the path a presented line makes with a token or finger.

Playing simple board games can give your child practice following a path or a line. When their little nervous system is ready to skillfully use his finger then the child is ready to follow lines. Watch for signs of stress and change the activity if the child exhibits stress, for example by furrowing her brow, grunting, excessive blinking, body restlessness, inattention, or extra wiggling.

Tracing or drawing a line is often mastered within a month. After this, you might move on to circles, wavy lines, or a combination. Imagine your child takes a kindergarten entrance exam and the first task is to circle the picture that begins with the letter p. Does your child know what it means to encircle something? Test instructions are specifically checking for certain skills. Your child may know the answer yet not have the understanding of the instructions.

Once a child can encircle a picture, have them practice this skill in other ways. Use yarn to encircle miniature farm animals, for instance. Trace around other items. For whole body reinforcement, you might let them experiment with a hoola hoop, or play musical chairs.

Next your child will be ready to create sets with small objects. This is the beginning of math readiness. Counting out loud is great, too. Basic patterns in learning must be taught as well. The primary objective of learning patterns is to enforce the idea that there is order in the child's world and the power to organize that chaos is in her hands.

Standing in line. Sorting by color or shape. Determining small, big, or bigger. Reading from left to write. The order we impose on our environment makes it more manageable, less stressful, and easier to learn. Even before the child knows left and right, she can practice sequencing, another readiness skill. What happens first? What happens next? What happens last? Ask your child these measurement questions frequently and with ease. Which block is the biggest? Which block is on the top or bottom? Proportion and context are organizational tools, too.

If you're chomping at the bit to teach your little one, these and more readiness skills can and should be learned, practiced for months, and perfected from before your child turns one until school. Readiness. Fun, engaging, and on point.

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