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Building Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills involve using the smaller muscle of hands, finger, and thumb. Developing fine motor skills is essential for common activities such as writing, buttoning, using scissors, and zippering. These abilities gradually develop through experience and exposure to a variety of toys, materials, and even foods.

What skills do fine motor skills include?

  • Pencil skills (writing, scribbling, drawing, coloring)
  • Cutting using scissors
  • Construction skills with Lego and puzzles
  • Doll dress-up
  • Tying shoelaces
  • Closing/opening zips, buttons, belts
  • Opening lunch boxes
  • Using cutlery
  • Brushing teeth and hair

Why are fine motor skills important?

Fine motor skills are important for performing everyday tasks. Without the ability to complete these daily activities, children’s self-esteem can suffer along with their academic performance. They are also unable to develop appropriate independence in their life skills, such as dressing and feeding themselves.

How to encourage fine motor skill development

Children don’t need much prodding to seek new adventures but it takes time to master a new skill. With some encouragement, patience, and support from your side, children will be more confident about the tasks and eventually surprise you one day with their abilities.

So the next time you hear “Let me do it!” try to step back and let children try their hand at simple tasks like getting dressed or spreading jam on a toast. It will require some patience on your part, but it will be well worth the wait.

Squeeze the sponge:

Set up two separate bowls – one empty and the other filled with water. Let the child soak up the sponge with water and squeeze it out in the other bowl. The simple activity will strengthen the hands and forearms.

Make macaroni necklaces:

Stringing necklaces is a great way to improve children’s creativity and improve hand-eye coordination. To start, use a thick piece of string and large pieces of pasta. Over time, you can add different shaped dried pasta along with big, colorful beads to enhance children’s creative skills.

Finger painting:

The idea of finger painting might sound a bit messy to you, but for children, it’s an important aspect of development. Finger painting allows children to improve fine motor skills by strengthening finger and hand muscles while encouraging precision and varied levels of pressure. Additionally, children learn more about colors, shapes, and patterns while showcasing their creativity.

If you are concerned about children marring furniture or walls during the art activity, set up an easel or a thick piece of paper in the yard, garage, or any other area that can be washed easily.

Playdough:

Don’t underestimate the power of the old-fashioned playdough. Manipulating playdough helps strengthen the muscles of children’s hands, improves creative skills, and develops hand-eye coordination.  So let them squish, roll, and flatten it as much as you want to. But make sure you use a non-toxic form of playdough or better yet, extend the activity by making your own playdough. Recipes abound on the Internet and allow children to create their own colors, to boot!

Remember, the skills that children master today will help them gain a steady position once they advance towards formal learning in kindergarten and beyond. With some effort, children will gain one of the most important skills that will ultimately help them reach many more milestones in the future.

 

 

 

 

June 20th, 2017

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Encouraging Independence – 9 Tips for Parents of Preschoolers

“I’ll do it myself!” If you’re a parent of a preschooler, you’ve likely heard this a thousand times.

Of course, it’s usually when you are running late that 4-year-old Cathy decides to put on her own socks and shoes. So you help her – but this time only!

Preschool experts say that children should be encouraged whenever they wish to exert their independence. Even though they may need plenty of parental help, preschoolers are typically able to do more than we expect from them.

So how can we as parents encourage their independence?

According to Diane Kinder, PhD and a professor at the University of Washington, “It takes more time in the beginning to teach independence, but in the long run, it benefits both parent and child.”

Here are some tips to encourage independence in young children:

  1. Expect more. At Montessori Kids Universe, children are expected to clean up after themselves, hang up their jackets, and pour their own water at snack time. However, when they leave the classroom…they change! The thumb goes in the mouth and the lunch bag is handed over to the parents. Maybe it’s a good idea to raise the expectation bar a bit more and allow children to stretch and meet it.
  2. Resist doing it for them. It might be quicker and easier for you to help them put on their shoes, but in the long run it won’t help children become more self-sufficient. Instead, ask them if they can do it themselves or if they need help. The words will work like magic and most children will take pride in doing it on their own.
  3. Assign chores. Assigning children age-appropriate chores not only builds their confidence but also helps them feel more capable as contributing members of the family.
  4. Don’t redo. Resist the urge to help children between tasks or “fix” their work. Praise them for what they have done well. If you redo their work, you might discourage them from trying in the future. If you find your child getting frustrated with a task or having difficulty, don’t just take over. Instead, say, “Wow, you did a great job and we’ll do it again tomorrow.” Don’t let them give up. You want them to learn perseverance and dedication to a task.
  5. No ifs. Most of us have a habit of saying, “If you clean up your books, we will go to the park.” How about saying, “When you are done cleaning up, we’ll go to the park.” Give it a try and see how a minor change in the sentence transforms children’s attitude.
  6. Let them work it out. Kids often get into mini squabbles about petty issues, and you won’t always be there to referee. Stand back and let kids work out their own problems (unless the mini tiff has turned into a beating competition).
  7. Involve them. If your daughter has colored on the walls, have her help wash it off. If she knocks over her friend’s block tower, tell her to reconstruct it. Include her in righting her wrongdoings.
  8. Lighten up. We parents also get frustrated easily. It’s okay if your children are not perfectly setting the table or buttoning their shirts. They are young and still learning. Let them learn at their own pace and make mistakes along the way.

As parents, we struggle when our children struggle. But have patience, take a step back, and watch from the sidelines so your children can learn new skills – regardless of the time it takes.

May 3rd, 2017

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Summer Matters – The Importance of Learning All Summer Long

Summer is just around the corner and we all know what this means – warm sunshine, outdoor activities, maybe a vacation, and best of all – freedom from SCHOOL! Undoubtedly, kids get up early to work hard at school approximately nine months a year, so they deserve a fun-filled break to recharge their batteries. They should be able to enjoy their summers, just as adults do.

But where do academics fit in? Should we press “pause” on all learning materials and expect children to just pick up where they left off when the new school year starts in the fall?  Is summer vacation all about sleeping until late morning, watching TV, playing video games, and hanging with friends?

According to education experts, children are in constant learning mode when they are in school. But as soon as the final bell rings, their focus changes and the academic skills they acquired throughout the year simply slip into the background. This results in an academic loss that hurts them when they return to school. To make matters worse, teachers must then spend countless days reviewing previously learned material, time that could be better spent learning new concepts.

This is why it is important for parents to stay involved with children during summer holidays and set aside a specific time each day when they can review and enforce what they learned throughout the school year. Summer months are also a great opportunity for students to strengthen the areas in which they are weak.

The same goes for preschoolers. Since they are just developing various social, mental, and emotional skills, the summer months are a great time to polish and strengthen these skills so children don’t forget their newly acquired abilities.

Learning is a lifelong process and should not be pushed aside for TV shows, video games, and long slumbers. The beauty of the summer months is that they give children a chance to have fun while learning.

Summer Learning Tips:

Read, Read, Read

The summer holidays are a great time to catch up on reading material with children. Plan to visit the library and allow children to select books of interest. Consider participating in a library reading program that rewards children for reading.

At home, set a designated reading hour every day where each family member can enjoy a quite reading time.

You can also put together a summer reading list for each member of the family and celebrate the completion of each book with rewards.

Encourage Art Activities

Provide children with space and materials that encourage creativity and imagination. This can be anything from paper and art supplies to Legos and building blocks and even sculpting materials for older children.

Art plays a vital role in children’s development and enhances fine motor skills, problem-solving capabilities, concentration, and even confidence. So give children different art supplies and watch their imagination unfold.

Stay Active

Children not only suffer from lack of academic activities but they also become couch potatoes due to lack of participation in scheduled physical activities. Encourage them to stay active by enrolling them in a team sport, going swimming, taking walks together, and bicycling in the park.

Remember playing outdoors for several hours a day leads to improved concentration and better academic performance.

Take the Learning Outside Your Home

Use the summer holidays as an opportunity to visit all your city has to offer such as the museum, zoo, and the science center. If you are planning a vacation out of the city or state, make a point to tour historical landmarks and teach your kids what makes each area so special.

Plant a Garden

Learning can also happen in your own backyard or in pots on your balcony. Select some seeds and plant a vegetable garden. Take turns watering them daily. Extend the activity by having children decorate or paint the pots to personalize them.

Apart from all the above-mentioned activities, don’t forget to enjoy your fair share of carnival rides, movies, and lazy pool days. A balance of learning and fun will be the perfect combination for the perfect summer.

March 27th, 2017

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Success through Montessori Style Learning

Success through Montessori Style Learning

The Montessori Method is a method of education that emphasizes the importance of keeping children at the center of activities and lessons. It is a set of beliefs that seeks to allow children to be themselves and act as children tend to behave. More specifically, the Montessori Method encourages the eagerness of children to explore their world and actively engage with their environment and their peers. This is much different from the more traditional method of schooling, which tends to place children in rigid classrooms that demand their attention and obedience. This can have a poor effect on children and actually work to reduce their interest in learning and observation.

The Montessori Triangle

As a highly effective educational method, the Montessori Method makes use of three separate elements. The child, the environment, and the teacher create what is sometimes known as a learning triangle. Every point is important for the overall success of the program. The environment, usually carefully prepared and organized by the teacher, is meant to stimulate interest and encourage children to engage. The teacher works to keep order while also guiding children through periods of self-teaching as well as more traditional instruction. The child, of course, is the center of the entire process and the most important point. All other points on the triangle are created to foster their intellect and ability.

Multiage Groups

Another important aspect of the Montessori Method is the use of groups of multi-age children. This is beneficial to both the younger and older children. Older children, for example, can help the younger children learn new concepts or ideas. Younger children provide older children with a means to reinforce their previous learning by helping someone new to the concept. In this way, a beneficial environment for all involved is created.

Allowing children to interact with their environment, their peers, and their teachers can have incredible effects upon their desire and ability to learn. Montessori style learning is one that can have a surprising amount of success, and help bring children to new academic heights and pursuits.

January 25th, 2017

Posted In: Montessori Education

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