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Getting Ready for Kindergarten Language, Literacy, and Communication Learning through Play Mathematics Physical Development and Health Science and Technology Social and Emotional Development Social Studies

Kindergarten Prep: How to Get Your 5-Year-Old Ready for Kindergarten

Welcome the third and final part of our Kindergarten Prep series. We’ve already laid out how the Ages and Stages Questionaire can help guide preschool parent’s understanding of what their three and four-year-old children should be able to do. Now, we are going to use the 60-month ASQ to guide us through the skills that are developmentally appropriate for a 5-year-old to master.

For the last time, I want to share the four items that will guide our work with developmental assessments.

  1. Even if your child has a developmental delay, he/she can overcome this hurdle and still enjoy massive success in school.
  2. Comparison breeds dissatisfaction and can even negatively affect self-esteem.  I caution parents all the time about comparing their child to other children.  Please do your best to avoid comparison.
  3. Children are not robots.  They are going to excel in some areas and then in others.  Child development is not a straight line with movement at 60 beats per second where every child arrives at the same place at the same time.  This is how you see one healthy child walk at 10 months and another at 14 months.
  4. Highlight your child’s strengths just as much as your highlight areas you want to work on.  

These four items are important because we don’t want to use developmental milestones as an assessment of our child.  We can use the information to help guide us in how we focus our time with our children or what games we choose to play with our children.   

Section 1: Communication

The ASQ asks your preschooler to complete 6 tasks related to communication.

  1. Follow three unrelated directions without gestures or repeating.
  2. Use a four or five word sentence.
  3. Use -ed endings on words when talking about the past. 
  4. Use -er words to compare items.
  5. Answer, “what do you do when you are hungry/tired?”
  6.  Repeat a set of sentences without mistakes.

These 6 tasks are focused on listening comprehension and speaking and they are more complex than those skills asked of 4-year-olds.  The importance of these skills hasn’t changed.  Listening comprehension is important because it applies to your child’s ability to understand spoken language such as commands or directions, as well as understanding words read from a book.  Speaking is the primary means in which your child will communicate, therefore, it is important that your child is a competent speaker and is able to convey his/her ideas clearly.

Here are some ways that you can support your 5-year-old’s communication skills:

  • Reading to your child and having back and forth conversations (can I say it anymore??).
  • Playing listening games (jump up and down, run to the door, and clap three times).
  • Read chapter books to your child.  They can listen and enjoy the story even though they cannot read the words. 
  • Listen to audiobooks together.   

Section 2: Gross Motor

The ASQ asks your child to complete 6 tasks related to gross motor skills:

  1.  Throw you a ball overhand while standing 6 feet from you.
  2. Catch a large ball with both hands while standing at least 5 feet from you.
  3. Without holding on to anything, stand on one foot for at least 5 seconds.
  4. Walk on tiptoes for at least 15 feet.
  5. Hop of one foot for 4-6 feet.
  6. Skip, alternating feet.

“Gross motor abilities also have an influence on other everyday functions. For example, a child’s ability to maintain appropriate table top posture (upper body support) will affect their ability to participate in fine motor skills (e.g. writing, drawing and cutting) and sitting upright to attend to class instruction, which then impacts on their academic learning. Gross motor skills impact on your endurance to cope with a full day of school (sitting upright at a desk, moving between classrooms, carrying your heavy school bag). They also impacts your ability to navigate your environment (e.g. walking around classroom items such as a desk, up a sloped playground hill or to get on and off a moving escalator).  Without fair gross motor skills, a child will struggle with many day to day tasks such as eating, packing away their toys, and getting onto and off the toilet or potty.”

childdevelopment.com.au

So like with the 3 and 4 year olds, you can support your 5 year old’s development by allowing him/her the time and space to run, jump, and climb.  Take time to play outside, go to parks, take walks and run outside.  If outside time is not really your thing (but I hope it is) you can go swimming at a gym, play basketball indoors, and even practice yoga.  

Section 3: Fine Motor

The ASQ asks your child to complete 6 tasks related to fine motor skills:

  1. Trace a line.
  2. Draw a picture of a person with more than three of the following body parts:  head, body, arms, legs.
  3. Cut a paper in half by cutting on a line.  Be sure the scissors blades are moving up and down.
  4. Copy three shapes; plus sign, square, and triangle.
  5. Write 4 of the 5 letters:  V, H, T, C, A.
  6. Copy his/her first name.

Fine motor development has important implications for children’s writing.  These implications become more important as our children grow and enter school.  Your 5 year-old will enter kindergarten and be asked to write with great regularity.

“Writing is a complex process that requires the development of language, visual information, grapheme knowledge, word knowledge and concepts of print, to name a few. The motor control to produce text through drawing, mark-making and symbolic representations of letters is vital in the communication of the message.

Fine motor development is essential in developing the ability to mark-make and write effectively, so that a message can be communicated”.

2019, Victoria State Government

Each of these tasks requested in the ASQ require a greater level of fine motor control.  How do you support this greater level of control?  You don’t have to do anything different.  The same activities that would support a three-year-old’s or four-year-old’s fine motor development will also support the fine motor development of your five-year-old.  The key is to provide your child with  many opportunities to practice: 

  • Molding and shaping playdough with his/her hands.
  • Manipulating playdough with cookie cutters, rolling pins, and tools.
  • Stringing beads.
  • Drawing and writing.
  • Coloring.
  • Pouring back and forth between containers.
  • Cutting string and paper.
  • Using tweezers to pick up small objects like beans or cheerios.

Section 4: Problem Solving

The ASQ asks your child to complete 6 tasks related to problem solving:

  1. Select the smallest from a set of 3.
  2. Label five different colors when asked, “what color is this?”
  3. Count up to 15 with no mistakes.
  4. Finish a series of sentences with the opposite word.  Ex.  A cow is big and a mouse is _______.
  5. Label numbers 1, 2,3 (out of order).
  6. Label at least four letters in his/her name (out of order).  

These tasks focus on measurement, number and letter identification, counting, colors, and understanding the concept of opposites. As your child increases in age, the skills in this section are more of the academic skills that your child will be asked to display in kindergarten.  These skills are a mix of early math and early literacy skills. 

How can you support early math skills?

  • Cook together.  Following recipes incorporates measuring and counting.
  • Record with a chart:  Count objects and record the numbers with tally marks on a chart.  Talk with your child about interpreting the chart. 
  • Build a structure together.  Plan for the building, whether building with legos or shoes boxes.  Count the materials needed.  Measure the final result. 

How can you support early literacy skills? 

  • Read with your child.
  • Have back and forth conversations with your child.  Listen to their ideas and respond with your own ideas.  
  • When pointing out letters be sure to always include the letter sound.  This practice reinforces the association between the letter name and sound.  

Many of the skills presented here in the Problem Solving section of the 60-month ASQ are the same skills covered in the Ultimate Kindergarten Readiness Starter Kit.  The starter kit highlights five of the most important skills for your preschooler to master, according to kindergarten teachers.  Plus, you receive 25 activities to support early literacy and math. 

Section 5: Personal-Social

The ASQ asks your child to complete 6 tasks related to personal-social development:

  1. Serve him-/herself
  2. Wash (with soap) and dry hands and face independently.
  3. Name at least four of the following:  first name, age, city he/she lives in, last name, boy or girl, telephone #.
  4. Dress and undress him-/herself including medium-sized buttons and zippers.  
  5. Use the toilet independently.
  6. Take turns and share with other children.  

The skills presented in this section focus on three areas:  self-help skills, self concept, and building peer relationships.  

It is important that as your child grows, he/she develops a strong self-concept.  Preschoolers “define themselves in concrete terms. Included in this internal picture of the image that preschoolers have of themselves are such things as their physical attributes, names, ages, genders, social affiliations, possessions, and abilities” (Miller, Scholastic.com).  The way that your child feels about these characteristics can relate to whether he/she sees him-/herself positively or negatively and is often related to self esteem.  Your child’s self-concept can be affected by the interactions that he/she has with you because you are important to your child and your ideas about him/her are very influential.  “Although forming one’s self-concept is a lifelong process, how the child feels about himself in the early years (positive or negative) can set a pattern for the rest of his life” (Miller, Scholastic.com).  

It is just as important for young children to be able to complete self-help skills.  When we think about sending our children out to kindergarten classrooms, we want them to be academically prepared, but we also want them to be capable of taking care of themselves–using the bathroom, washing their hands, dressing themselves.  Your child’s ability to complete these skills independently will have an impact on whether or not they feel successful in school.  Being sure that your child has mastered these skills will also relieve some of the pressure they may experience when having to perform the skills on command.  

“Research supports the notion that children benefit in many ways from positive peer interactions. In early childhood programs, friendships foster a sense of connection and security and build self-esteem and self-confidence, helping young children adapt more readily to the preschool setting” (Manaster and Jobe, Young Children, Nov. 2012).  If we are teaching our preschoolers at home, this applies to their first classroom experiences in kindergarten, as well.  We can support peer relationships by providing time and space for our children to interact with other children in such a way that they can have conversations and play collaboratively.  You can be sure to model taking turns when working with your preschooler at home.  Skills learned with you are often translated to play with peers.     

So, how do we support the other concepts with our 5-year-old preschoolers?

You can support self-help skills by allowing your child to do as much as he/she can independently.  Making this commitment often means getting ready to go will take a bit longer, but the pay-off for your preschooler is huge.  So it is worth the wait.  

You can support the development of your child’s self-concept by talking to your child about his/her characteristics.  Talk with your child about how he/she is special and the ways that he/she is similar to and different from you. You can also read books that will reinforce a positive self-concept.  This is a great list to get you started. 

There is such value in using developmental assessments and the greatest benefit is having a guide for how you will spend your time with your preschoolers.  Using a research based developmental assessment like the ASQ can take much of the guesswork out of where you should spend your time supporting your preschoolers learning.  Don’t forget that play is a child’s favorite way to learn.  And each and every one of these concepts can be taught and practiced through play.  Independent play will support some of the skills and you will need to interact with your child to maximize the benefits of play and support other skills.

If you’d like quick and easy activities to support learning through play with your preschooler download The Ultimate Kindergarten Readiness Starter Kit. You’ll get 25 activities you can do in 20 minutes or less. You’ll teach your child important skills and your child will have fun learning.

Categories
Adult-child Interaction Getting Ready for Kindergarten Language, Literacy, and Communication Learning through Play Mathematics Physical Development and Health Science and Technology Social and Emotional Development Social Studies

Kindergarten Prep: How to Get Your 4-Year-Old Preschooler Ready for the Next Steps

We’ve already looked at the 36 month ASQ as a guide for what a three-year-old should be able to.  We are going to continue using this research-based development assessment to guide our understanding of what your 4-year-old preschooler should be able to do. 

 So before we get into the meat of this topic, let’s be clear on a few things:

  1. Even if your child has a developmental delay, he/she can overcome this hurdle and still enjoy massive success in school.
  2.  Comparison breeds dissatisfaction and can even negatively affect self-esteem.  I caution parents all the time about comparing their child to other children.  Please do your best to avoid comparison.
  3. Children are not robots.  They are going to excel in some areas and then in others.  Child development is not a straight line with movement at 60 beats per second where every child arrives at the same place at the same time.  This is how you see one healthy child walk at 10 months and another at 14 months.
  4. Highlight your child’s strengths just as much as your highlight areas you want to work on.  

These four items are important because we don’t want to use developmental milestones as an assessment of our child.  We can use the information to help guide us in how we focus our time with our children or what games we choose to play with our children.   

Section 1: Communication

The ASQ asks your preschooler to complete 6 tasks related to communication.

  1. Name 3 items from a common category such as food or animals.  
  2. Answer “what do you do when you are hungry or tired?”
  3. Name two things about a common object.
  4. Use proper endings on words; -s, -ed, -ing.
  5. Without your pointing or repeating, follow three unrelated directions.
  6. Use all of the words in a sentence.

These 6 tasks are focused on listening comprehension and speaking.  Listening comprehension is important because it applies to your child’s ability to understand spoken language such as commands or directions, as well as understanding words read from a book.  Speaking is the primary means in which your child will communicate, therefore, it is important that your child is a competent speaker and is able to convey his/her ideas clearly.  

These skills are strengthened by two main supports–reading to your child and having back and forth conversations with your child.  We’ve already learned that the more words that a child hears, the more prepared that child is for school.  We also know that by reading to your child for just twenty minutes per day, you can increase their exposure to words by millions before they start school.  In fact, “reading daily to your child means that they are likely to pick up reading skills more quickly and easily” (Grabmeier, 2019). The more you engage your child in two-way conversations, the more proficient he/she becomes in speaking, listening, and responding.  Additionally, having two-way conversations with your child helps you understand how much your child comprehends when he/she listens to your talk.

Here are a few ways that you can specifically support listening comprehension with your preschooler.

  1.  Read your child’s favorite story and ask your child to recall 3 or more details from the story.  If your child can recall three or more details with ease, encourage your child to recall three details in sequence.
  2. When reading stories with your child, stop throughout the text and ask your child to make predictions about what will happen next.
  3. Allow your child to interrupt the story to ask questions and share ideas that connect the story to his/her own experience.  

Section 2: Gross Motor

The ASQ asks your child to complete 6 tasks related to gross motor skills:

  1. Catch a large ball with both hands
  2. Climb the rungs of a ladder without help.
  3. While standing at least 6 feet from you, throw a ball overhand.
  4. Hop up and down at least one time without losing balance or falling.
  5. Jump forward a distance of 20 inches, starting with both feet together. 
  6. Stand on one foot for at least 5 seconds.

Most of us parents don’t feel as though we were intentionally taught how to use our large muscles.  It seems as though our gross motor development just happened by itself.  The world was different when we were children and video games, smart phones, and endless TV channels were not such a powerful temptation for us to sit and sit and sit.  Our children are growing up in a different world and we have to be intentional about providing them the time and space to move their large muscles. 

Gross motor development is important because as those large muscles become stronger, a child’s entire body becomes stronger.  Those large muscles are important for the execution of everyday tasks such as walking, running, and participating in sports.  My favorite way to encourage gross motor development is to spend time outside!  

You can support gross motor development with your four-year-old by encouraging him/her to:

  1. Walk up and down steps with alternating feet.
  2. Jump off both feet.
  3. Gallop and skip.
  4. Hit or kick a large ball thrown towards him/her.

Section 3: Fine Motor

The ASQ asks your child to complete 6 tasks related to fine motor skills:

  1. Complete a 5 to 7 piece puzzle
  2. Cut a paper in half by cutting on a line.  Be sure that your child is moving the blades of the scissors up and down.
  3. Copy three of the four shapes: L + I O
  4. Button one or more buttons
  5. Draw a picture of a person with at least 3 body parts.
  6. Color mostly within the lines of a coloring book.

We’ve already learned that fine motor skills are all related to the ability to control the small muscles in our hands and that adults use fine motor skills constantly to complete tasks during the day.  When we type, write, and cook we are using fine motor skills.  Our preschoolers use fine motor skills in many self-help tasks such as dressing and tying shoes.  The importance of these skills cannot be overstated and the tasks presented on the 48-month ASQ require a greater deal of control than the ones presented on the 36 month questionnaire.  

How do you help your child reach this greater level of control?  You don’t have to do anything different.  The same activities that would support a three-year-old’s fine motor development will also support the fine motor development of a four-year-old.  The key is to provide your child with  many opportunities to practice: 

  • Molding and shaping playdough with his/her hands.
  • Manipulating playdough with cookie cutters, rolling pins, and tools.
  • Stringing beads.
  • Drawing and writing.
  • Coloring.
  • Pouring back and forth between containers.
  • Cutting string and paper.
  • Using tweezers to pick up small objects like beans or cheerios.

Section 4: Problem Solving

The ASQ asks your child to complete 6 tasks related to problem solving:

  1. Repeat three numbers.
  2. Pick the smallest from a set of three.
  3. Follow the directional words under, between, and middle.
  4. Label 5 different colors, when asked, “what color is this?”
  5. Dress up and participate in pretend play scenarios.
  6. Count 5 objects correctly. 

All of the problem solving skills presented on the 48 month ASQ can be classified as early mathematics.  These skills are important because as a preschooler, your child is learning the skills that they will use forever.  Think about it!  As an adult, you still measure, sort, notice patterns, compare, count, and name shapes.  These skills do not become obsolete.  They are important in adult-hood and we lay the foundation for these skills when our children are just preschoolers. 

How can we support these early math skills with our preschoolers?

  • Measurement can be supported by using measurement terms when speaking to your child–small, medium, large, big, little.  
  • Measurement can also be supported by comparing items using -er and -est endings on words.  “This one is the largest can.”  “I made a tall tower, but yours is taller”.
  • You can support number sense and counting by counting all the time.  Remember, counting objects is different than rote counting.  Provide your child with many opportunities to count objects.
  • Obstacle courses are a really fun way to practice following direction words like under, between, over, and around.  Scavenger hunts work well for this, too.
  • Color names are memorized.  If you expose your child to the color/name association he/she will begin to pick them up.  The more you point out and name colors, the more proficient your child will become.
  • Let’s not forget:  Pretend play allows our preschoolers to practice solving many different problems and developing many different solutions–some based in reality and some in imagination.  Regardless, “pretend play presents your child with opportunities for problem solving and finding a variety of solutions for the same problem. It allows children to gain information and discover relationships between objects.”  (2018, playfulpittsburgh.com)

Section 5: Personal-Social

The ASQ asks your child to complete 6 tasks related to personal-social development:

  1.  Serve him-/herself.
  2. Tell you at least four of the following:  first name, age, city where he/she lives, last name, boy or girl, phone #.
  3. Wash hands (with soap) and dry them independently.
  4. Name two or more playmates that are not siblings.
  5. Brush teeth independently–put toothpaste on brush and brush teeth.
  6. Dress and undress him-/herself without help (not including snaps, buttons, or zippers).

The skills presented in this section focus on three areas:  self-help skills, self concept, and building peer relationships.  

It is important that as your child grows, he/she develops a strong self-concept.  Preschoolers “define themselves in concrete terms. Included in this internal picture of the image that preschoolers have of themselves are such things as their physical attributes, names, ages, genders, social affiliations, possessions, and abilities” (Miller, Scholastic.com).  The way that your child feels about these characteristics can relate to whether he/she sees him-/herself positively or negatively and is often related to self-esteem.  Your child’s self-concept can be affected by the interactions that he/she has with you because you are important to your child and your ideas about him/her are very influential.  “Although forming one’s self-concept is a lifelong process, how the child feels about himself in the early years (positive or negative) can set a pattern for the rest of his life” (Miller, Scholastic.com).  

It is just as important for young children to be able to complete self-help skills.  When we think about sending our children out to kindergarten classrooms, we want them to be academically prepared, but we also want them to be capable of taking care of themselves–using the bathroom, washing their hands, dressing themselves.  Your child’s ability to complete these skills independently will have an impact on whether or not they feel successful in school. 

“Research supports the notion that children benefit in many ways from positive peer interactions. In early childhood programs, friendships foster a sense of connection and security and build self-esteem and self-confidence, helping young children adapt more readily to the preschool setting” (Manaster and Jobe, Young Children, Nov. 2012).  If we are teaching our preschoolers at home, this applies to their first classroom experiences in kindergarten, as well.  We can support peer relationships by providing time and space for our children to interact with other children in such a way that they can have conversations and play collaboratively.   

So, how do we support the other concepts with our 4-year-old preschoolers?

You can support self-help skills by allowing your child to do as much as he/she can independently.  Making this commitment often means getting ready to go will take a bit longer, but the pay-off for your preschooler is huge.  So it is worth the wait.  

You can support the development of your child’s self-concept by talking to your child about his/her characteristics.  Talk with your child about how he/she is special and the ways that he/she is similar to and different from you. You can also read books that will reinforce a positive self-concept.  This is a great list to get you started. 

The best part of reviewing a development assessment is determining how we can guide our play and learning activities with our preschoolers.  Each and every one of these concepts can be addressed through play.  Whether independent play or play guided by your interactions.  If you’d like some ideas for how to support learning through play with your preschooler download The Ultimate Kindergarten Readiness Starter Kit. You’ll get 25 activities you can do in 20 minutes or less. You’ll teach your child important skills and your child will have fun learning.

Categories
Getting Ready for Kindergarten Language, Literacy, and Communication Learning through Play Physical Development and Health Social and Emotional Development

Kindergarten Prep: How to Get Your 3-Year Old Preschooler Ready for the Next Steps

When friends, family, and associates know that you work in early education, they start bringing you questions.  

“I’m having a hard time teaching Jake to count, what should I do?”

“How should I start teaching Billy to read?”

And just after, “what does my child need to know for kindergarten (because that is the question I am asked the absolute most),  I am often asked, “What is my ___-year old child supposed to be doing”. 

Because child development is not this perfect linear movement from one point on a spectrum to another, it is not easy to answer this question.  Often, I don’t have an intimate enough relationship to know what a child “should” be able to do or where that child started from and has grown to.  

Parents are often very concerned about whether or not their children are meeting developmental milestones.  I get it!  I try to stay abreast of what my children are able to do and the developmental milestones that they “should” be reaching.  We want to know if our children are measuring up and if they are on pace for success.  So before we get into the meat of this topic, let’s be clear on a few things:

  1. Even if your child has a developmental delay, he/she can overcome this hurdle and still enjoy massive success in school.
  2.  Comparison breeds dissatisfaction and can even negatively affect self-esteem.  I caution parents all the time about comparing their child to other children.  Please do your best to avoid comparison.
  3. Children are not robots.  They are going to excel in some areas and then in others.  Child development is not a straight line with movement at 60 beats per second where every child arrives at the same place at the same time.  This is how you see one healthy child walk at 10 months and another at 14 months.
  4. Highlight your child’s strengths more than you highlight areas you want to work on.  

These four items are important because we don’t want to use developmental milestones as an negative assessment of our child.  We can use the information to help guide us in how we focus our time with our children or what games we choose to play with our children.  

The Preschool Parent’s Developmental Tool

The Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) is a development assessment that I am very familiar with.  It is used across the country in many early-education programs as a tool to provide parents with feedback on their child’s development.  Many pediatricians use the ASQ in their medical practices at well-child visits.   I like the ASQ because it is designed to be completed by parents.  So there is no need for specialized knowledge and the child doesn’t have to complete the tasks in the moment.  The parent can report based on what he/she knows the child is able to do.  The assessment is based off of your child’s age (taking into consideration premature birth) and can be completed rather quickly.  Let’s use the 36 month ASQ as a guide when we answer the question, “what should my 3 year old be able to do?”

Section 1: Communication

The ASQ asks your preschooler to complete 6 tasks related to communication.

  1.  Follow the directional words on and under.
  2. Explain what is going on in the pictures of a book.
  3. Follow the directional words up and down using a zipper.
  4. Say first and last name when asked, “what’s your name?
  5. Carry out three unrelated directions like, clap your hands, touch the door, and sit down.
  6.  Use all of the words in a sentence, when speaking.

These tasks are focused on comprehending verbal communication and speaking.  This gives you an idea of what your three year old should be able to do–understand directional words, speak in complete sentences, follow verbal instructions, and say his/her first and last name when asked.  

Before we get into the how, let’s talk about why these skills are important for children at age three.  Birth to three is an important time in your child’s development, especially brain development.  By the time we are three almost all of our physical brain growth has taken place, like 85%.  Now that doesn’t mean that we are done learning, it just lets us know that birth to three is a critical time for learning.  

One way to work on communication skills with your 3-year old is to focus your literacy activities on reading books and having two-way conversations. Listening to books and engaging in back and forth conversations allow your child to develop vocabulary and understand language far greater than what he/she can say or read.    “Simply put, the more words a child hears, the more prepared they are when they enter school. By the third grade, children who hear more words tend to have bigger vocabularies, be stronger readers and perform better on tests” 2018, Shrier). 

Section 2: Gross Motor

The ASQ asks your child to complete 6 tasks related to gross motor skills:

  1. Walk up stairs placing only one foot on each step. 
  2. Stand on 1 foot, without holding onto anything, for 1 second.
  3. Throw a ball overhand.
  4. Jump forward at least 6 inches with both feet leaving the ground at the same time.
  5. Catch a large ball with both hands.
  6. Climb a ladder.  

It can seem like some children were born to run, jump, and climb.  In reality, children that excel at gross motor skills probably have been given many opportunities to practice.  Allowing for the movement of your child’s large muscles is one of the most important things parents can do to support this type of development.  

Going outside is a great way to support gross motor development.  Children are able to move their bodies outside in ways that they would never be able to accomplish inside.  Not to mention the many brain benefits that we’ve learned come from being outside.  In my membership site, Preschool at Home there is an outside activity planned each and every day.  Don’t short circuit your child’s physical development.  Make a commitment to provide the time and space for your child to develop his/her large muscles.  

Section 3: Fine Motor

The ASQ asks your child to complete 6 tasks related to fine motor skills

  1. Copy a  circle after watching you draw one.
  2. Draw a horizontal line after watching you draw one.
  3. Open and close the blades of scissors with one hand.
  4. Hold a writing tool with a tripod grasp.
  5. Complete a five to seven piece puzzle.
  6. Copy a plus sign.

These skills are heavily focused on your child reproducing what they see and displaying control over tools.  Through these tasks you get a sense of what your three year old should be able to do at this time.  At the heart of these tasks is your child’s ability to control the small muscles in his/her hands.  That’s what fine motor skills are all about.  And they are so important.  You’d be surprised how many times you use fine motor skills as you go about your day–zipping, buttoning, tying your shoes, typing on a computer, etc.  Fine motor skills are especially important for preschoolers to be able to carry out many self-help skills.  

What’s great about fine motor skills is that they are really easy to practice and often kids don’t even know they are “working” because you can develop fine motor skills through play.  See how we can always tie play back into what we do with our children.  Playing with playdough is a great way to develop motor skills.  What little kid doesn’t love to play with playdough?  You can also finger paint, string beads, draw, scribble,  or write, pour back and forth from one container to the next, cut string or paper, and use tweezers to pick up cheerios, beans, or beads.  Lots of play and lots of fine motor practice! 

Section 4: Problem Solving

The ASQ asks your child to complete 6 tasks related to problem solving:

  1. Recognize that an incomplete stick figure is a person.
  2. Repeat a pair of numbers in order.
  3. Copy the way you stack blocks.
  4. Repeat three numbers in order. 
  5. Identify the smallest from a set of three. 
  6. Participate in pretend play.  

These six tasks are focused on holding information in mind and using prior knowledge to figure out a challenge.  Young children have to develop the capacity to hold information in mind and this task is essential to problem solving.  You can’t solve a problem if you can’t recall the details.  Have you ever asked your three-year old to count a set of blocks and tell you how many?  Often when asked how many, a young child will start counting again.  That child hasn’t developed the capacity to hold that number in their mind just yet.  And that’s okay.  Because with practice, children will develop this skill.  

And guess what?  Play supports this kind of learning.  Pretend play can specifically help children develop problem solving skills.  “Pretend play presents your child with opportunities for problem solving and finding a variety of solutions for the same problem. It allows children to gain information and discover relationships between objects.”  (2018, playfulpittsburgh.com)

Section 5: Personal-Social

The ASQ asks your child to complete 6 tasks related to personal-social development:

  1. Understand that the person he/she sees in the mirror is him-/herself.
  2. Put on a coat, jacket, or shirt without assistance.
  3. Recognize if he/she is a boy/girl.
  4. Take turns.
  5. Serve him-/herself food from one container to another.  
  6. Wash (with soap) and dry hands independently.  

These skills are all related to understanding self and being able to complete self-help skills.  It is important that young children understand key information about themselves.  As a child develops he/she begins to distinguish between him-/herself and others.

“By 2 years old, children have gathered enough information about their physical selves that they can identify themselves in photographs.At the same time, babies and toddlers are also gathering information about other people as separate from themselves, constantly making comparisons between their own bodies and images and the bodies and images of others. These comparisons help them gain a growing understanding of the distinction between self and others.”

https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/2648-who-am-i-developing-a-sense-of-self-and-belonging

It is obvious why being able to complete self-help skills is important.  Many children would come to my preschool classroom at 4 and not be able to put on a coat or serve themselves lunch.  I quickly came to realize this wasn’t because the children were unable, it was because parents weren’t allowing the children to help themselves at home.  And let me tell you, I understand.  Have you ever wanted to hurry up and get in the car, but you are waiting for your three year old to put his/her shoe on or zip her coat.  Woooo!  It is a genuine test of patience.  The silver lining in that tortuous wait, is that our children begin to see themselves as able to care for themselves.  They learn that they can put on their cat, tie their scarf, or button their shirt, even if it takes a lot of effort (and a lot of time).  

Recap

The 36-month ASQ highlights five areas of focus:

  1.  Comprehending verbal communication and speaking.
  2. Balancing, climbing, and throwing.
  3. Displaying control over tools such as scissors and pencils and reproducing simple figures.
  4. Holding information in mind and using prior knowledge to figure out problems.
  5. Developing self-concept and self-help skills.
Support Your 3-Year Old's Development in 5 Easy Steps

How you can support these areas of development:

  1. Read books with your child and have two-way conversations.
  2. Find a space for your child to consistently engage in gross motor play–running, jumping, climbing.
  3. Encourage your child to use the small muscles in his/her hands through play–playdough, stringing beads, cutting paper, using tweezers, etc.
  4. Encourage your child to engage in pretend play scenarios.  You can join in, too.
  5. Allow your child to complete self-help skills at home. 

If you liked the ideas listed above and you’d like more quick and easy ways to support your preschoolers’s development, download The Ultimate Kindergarten Readiness Starter Kit. You’ll get 25 activities you can do in 20 minutes or less. You’ll teach your child important skills and your child will have fun learning.

Categories
Adult-child Interaction Getting Started with Preschool at Home Initiative, Planning, and Reflection Social and Emotional Development

The Only Rule to Teaching Your Child at Home

The only rule to teaching your preschooler at home

Okay, okay.  There really are no rules.

But this one strategy will make the MOST difference is teaching your child at home.  

Shared Control.

What is shared control?

Shared control is just that…sharing control with your child.  Parents who share control with their children provide choices, listen to their children, and allow for flexibility in activities. 

So let me break it down for you a little bit.  I want my child to circle his name.  But, nope, he wants to make lines.  Okay, perfect, let’s make lines.  I’m going to encourage him making lines.  I’m going to talk to him about his lines.  And once he’s done with the lines.  I am going to encourage him (and maybe even model for him) how to circle his name.  And if he REALLY REALLY REALLY doesn’t want to circle his name, I’m going to let it go. 

This actually happened…see that picture above…it was happening right then.  Lucas wanted to write the letter “L” over and over instead of whatever I was asking him to do.  So I followed my own advice and let him do what he was SO excited about.  By taking a step back and giving him the opportunity to make his own choice surely made him feel empowered and that empowerment translated into ownership.  That means that Lucas doesn’t see our time together doing preschool at home as something that I make him do, it is something that he has a say in, as well.  

A Little Bit of Self-Reflection

This is something you will hear me say again and again: if you don’t want to do it, neither does your preschooler.  

Let’s apply this situation to your own life.  You’re at work and you have a few tasks to do to get your day going.  Do you want the latitude to choose which tasks to do first or last?  Do you want the autonomy to do these tasks in your own way as long as they get done and done well and on time?  Do you want to be able to decide to do something else completely and work on those tasks tomorrow?  

I bet you would say yes to all of these questions.  We don’t like being micromanaged at work.  We want to be able to make choices about when and how we complete our tasks as long as we hit deadlines and perform well.  

Guess what?  Your preschooler wants that, too.

Imagine going into work and your entire day is preplanned for you. You’ve got to write emails from 9-10 and work on expense reports from 10-1130.  Then you can get coffee and then you can make your phone calls for the next half-hour.  Do you feel empowered in a situation like this?  Do you take ownership of your work?  Most times adults don’t.  When we are in situations like this we often look for an exit.

We don’t want our children to look for an exit from learning at home.  Really, we want them to look forward to this time.  We want them to seek after this time. I always feel so privileged when Lucas comes to me and says, “Mom, let’s do my school”.  Even if he makes missteps and even if I don’t share control perfectly or focus on his interests every time, I know I am getting some of this right because he comes back and asks me for more day after day.  

And I know that’s what you want, too.   

How Not to Share Control

Before I take you through the five strategies that will help you share control with your child, I want to highlight what NOT to do.  Let’s go back to Lucas. I wanted him to circle his name and he wanted to write the letter L all over the paper.  In this moment, I had a few choices to make.  

Let me tell you what I did not do.

I didn’t choose to create a power struggle and try to FORCE Luc to circle his name.  You know what? It’s not that important.  We can circle on another day.  We can circle later in the day.  We can circle next week.  I don’t want to micromanage Lucas and I don’t want to engage in a power struggle because a power struggle usually ends in him being upset, me feeling frustrated, and nobody learning anything.  

Circling his name would be far less important than making his learning time exciting and engaging.  When he feels successful and excited about what we are doing together, he will want to do it more.  He will learn more.  He will grow more.  And in all of that, I will get what I want, too–a preschooler prepared for kindergarten when the time comes.    

Don’t let power struggles derail creating a fun and engaging preschool experience for your child.  That is easier said than done, though.  Power struggles can be so common when working with preschoolers, especially our own preschoolers.  Why?  Your child has come into a time in his development where he has learned that he has a certain amount of control.  And HE IS EXERCISING THAT CONTROL!

This can be especially frustrating, but we have to acknowledge that it is appropriate.  At some point, children will learn that they are autonomous and have control.  In fact, we want our children to learn this.  We just need to help guide them along the way.  

So, I’ve told you a lot about sharing control, but let me take you step by step through actually doing it with your preschooler. 

Five Strategies to Use Right Now to Start Sharing Control

  1.  Provide Choices

Building choice into whatever you are doing with your preschooler is a sure-fire way to share control.  This doesn’t mean that your child has infinite choices–that wouldn’t be appropriate for a preschooler’s level of development.  Providing choices with a preschooler may look more like, “which blocks would you like to use right now?” or “what do you want to play with first?”   Even giving limited choices provides your child with some control.  “Do you want to use crayons or markers?” “Do you want to paint with your fingers or use a paintbrush?” Permitting your child to make the final choice allows her to feel in control and creates that sense of ownership.    

  1. Listen to your child

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I am guilty of this.  In fact, Lucas just said to me, “Wait. I am trying to say something”. 

And I felt like a giant dork!Giving our children the respect of listening to them when they talk is a pretty easy way to share control.  When we make a habit of listening to our children to understand their point of view and to hear their ideas they grow to believe that their ideas are important which has all sorts of positive learning benefits:

  • Development of a growth mindset
  • Increased ability to take risks
  • Confidence in their own learning/speaking ability
  1. Be Flexible

Sometimes we are doing things with our preschoolers and we haven’t built in choice–like when I asked Lucas to circle his name.  There wasn’t another option.  So how do you share control in those moments?  You choose to be flexible with your child.  

Lucas wanted to write letters and I wanted him to circle.  Being flexible means that in that moment, Lucas got to write letters.  Let’s say I planned an activity for us to build towers with blocks so that he could practice counting.  I got all of the materials ready and shared my idea.  And Lucas decided that he wanted to build a house for Spider Man, instead.  If I am going to share control, I am going to be flexible here and switch gears.  Cause you know what?  Lucas can practice counting the blocks in Spider Man’s house, too.  

  1. Allow Your Child to Make Mistakes

Duh!  Right. 

Of course, preschoolers will make mistakes.  

But sometimes (and I must slowly raise my hand here), we forget that immense amount of learning that is taking place within our preschoolers..and we are quick to punish them.  

I had a trainer once tell me something like, “we expect preschoolers to make mistakes with academic material but we often don’t expect them to make mistakes with social interactions.”  That really hit home for me. Of course, preschoolers are going to mess up social interactions.  There are many adults that mess up social interactions.   

We can share control with our children by viewing their missteps as mistakes and taking the opportunity to teach them.  Help them solve a problem they are having, help them come up with a solution before we jump to a punitive response.  

  1. Focus on the Relationship

Lastly, treat your preschooler the way you want to be treated.  You don’t want to be micromanaged, right?  Don’t micromanage your preschooler.  In respecting your child’s feelings, choices, and ideas you will continue to strengthen the loving relationship that you already have.

Relationships that are based on power and strict control are likely to breed situations where kids will misbehave because you’ve set up an adversarial relationship and kids are going to try to win.”–John Zola