A Practical Guide for Parents:
Specific Skills and Strategies to Assist with Prep Transition
Finger and Hand Strength
Finger and hand strength and being able to coordinate hand and finger movements is important for using pencils, scissors, grasping or manipulating objects, tying shoelaces and managing buttons and zips.
Ways to improve finger and hand strength include:
- Watering the garden with a spray bottle to increase the strength of the small muscles of the hand
- Practice cutting (Play-Doh, thin strips of paper)
- Squeezing, manipulating and finding hidden objects in Play-Doh or Theraputty
- Scrunching paper in one hand and flicking it into a goal across the room
- Threading beads or peeling the backing off stickers
- Using tweezers (games such as Operation, Giggle Wiggle or popping bubbles with tweezers)
- Feed the hungry tennis ball
Visual skills can involve using your eyes in a controlled way to focus and attend on relevant information in the environment.
This is especially important once a child starts school. They will be expected to focus on the teacher and listen for instructions for extended periods, copy from the board to their book, track from left to right as they learn to read, play games with their peers in the playground while avoiding obstacles at the same time.
Ways to improve visual motor skills include:
- Eye Spy games (in the car, at home, or books like ‘Where’s Wally’)
- Ball games (kicking, catching, hitting, rolling)
- Marbles mazes
- Time tasks using a visual timer (there are many ways to create visual timers including Apps (Time Timer), bubble timers or stopwatches. You can slowly increase the amount of time spent on a task.
Drawing helps to improve pencil control, shape formation, eye hand coordination, and visual motor skills (copying what the eyes see). Drawing skills are an important prerequisite for handwriting.
Visual motor skills is the ability to coordinate visual information (visual perception) with a motor response i.e. copy, draw or write what the eyes see. Below is a table of a child’s expected visual motor skill development. A child should be able to copy these shapes before they move onto the more complex tasks of learning letter formation and writing.
Ways to improve visual motor skills include:
- Use a whiteboard to draw and copy shapes before moving on to pencil and paper.
- Use thicker triangular pencils instead of the standard thinner pencils. This will increase the ability to control the pencil more efficiently while supporting a developing pencil grasp.
- Give your child fun and basic dot-to-dot or maze worksheets while you’re getting lunch or dinner ready.
- Take turns with your child drawing different shapes. Start with the child tracing over a shape and then use dot points
Self Care Skills
Self care skills are important for starting school to ensure your child is able to be as independent as possible during school time.
Ways to improve self care skills include:
- Practicing buttons, clothes, shoelaces, shoes and socks, zips, opening containers, opening bananas or packaging.
- Some self care skills require increased hand and finger strength and the fine motor activities above may assist with improving independence in these areas.
- Setting up a reward system at home for completing tasks independently.
- Getting ready for the day earlier to ensure there is enough time for the child to complete or practice activities during the morning routine independently.
Correct posture when seated at the table can affect a child’s speed, quality and neatness of their handwriting. It requires good trunk and shoulder stability, and can impact a child’s ability to sit for extended periods.
Ways to improve postural and shoulder stability include:
- Implementing animal walks into the family routine to help strengthen shoulders, arms and hands. For example, bear crawl or crab walk to the dinner table, bathroom or bedroom each night.
- Make sure when writing or drawing at the table that feet are flat on the floor (or on a foot stool), back is supported and the table is at an appropriate height (see below).
- Paint or draw vertically (on a chalkboard or paper on the wall) to increase shoulder strength and wrist positioning.
- Do activities while laying in their belly, resting on their elbows to increase shoulder and neck strength.
If you have any concerns about your child’s development, we encourage you to speak with your child’s educator. Or contact us at Empowered Kids to speak with an occupational therapist who can identify the underlying factors contributing to the difficulty your child experiences, and strengthen the skills required to transition to primary school.