Emotional and Social Development
- Help your child to handle his or her emotions and get along with others. Here are a few tips:
- Let your child be independent. By the time they start school, children should be able to choose clothes and dress themselves, brush their teeth, tidy up after themselves and so on. Don’t be tempted to do everything for them because it seems easier or quicker.
- Listen to your child. Be interested in what he or she says, and ask for an opinion about things. Let your child choose what you will have for dinner (give two choices and let them pick one). In this way they will learn that they have something valuable to say.
- Teach your child to be responsible for his or her actions. When your child does something wrong, he or she should be able to own up to their responsibility. Make sure your child understands that it is the action you don’t like, not them. For example, don’t say “You are a naughty girl.” Rather say, “That was a naughty thing to do.”
- Be proud of your child’s achievements. Display his or her artwork around your house, phone up relatives to tell them when he or she has done well in sport. Let your child know that you are proud when they do well, or even when they try hard.
Perceptual Development (Listening and Seeing)
- Perceptual development is about how your child’s brain makes sense of the information they see and hear.
- You can help to develop your child’s listening skills by:
- Spending time with your child, with your eyes closed, trying to see who can identify the most sounds.
- Singing songs and nursery rhymes together and teaching them to your child.
- Playing counting games (this is also good for number skills).
- Playing rhyming games with your child (“What rhymes with cat? What rhymes with house?” etc.)
- Talking and telling stories to your child.
You can help to develop your child’s visual (seeing) skills by:
- Looking at pictures together and finding things in the picture.
- Playing memory games. Show your child a few small objects, then cover them up and see how many he or she can remember.
- Building puzzles together.
- Having your child help you to match socks, put cutlery in the right place, or any other matching activity. You can also do this with beads, buttons, blocks and other small items.
- Play throwing and catching games – beanbags or tennis balls are great for small children.
- Your child needs to understand how her or his body looks and moves.
- You can help your child develop a body image by:
- Standing together in front of a mirror and pointing out “Mom’s elbow, Clare’s elbow,” “Dad’s knee, Charlie’s knee,” and so on.
- Asking your child to close his or her eyes and then name their body parts as you gently touch them.
- Getting your child to draw pictures of themselves or other people. Always say positive things about the pictures first, then you can add “I wonder how you can smell with no nose?”, or “What about drawing some feet so your person can walk nicely.”
- Playing ‘mirrors’: Stand face to face with your child. Move an arm or leg, or make a face, and ask your child to copy you. Keep going, using different body parts in different ways.
- You can help your child to understand how their body moves in space by:
- Asking your child to walk forwards, backwards, and sideways, and then to jump up and down and to the side.
- Talking about how things are on top of or underneath, or next to, other things.
- Asking your child to lay the table and showing them how the knife and fork must both point in the same direction. You can also ask them to line up things so that they face the same direction.
- Your child needs to have good muscle control in order to be able to sit, concentrate and use a pencil in the classroom.
Gross Motor Skills
The gross motor skills are those that are controlled by the larger muscles of the body. This includes being able to walk, run and jump. You can help your child develop her gross motor skills by:
- Playing ball games with your child. Encourage your child to throw and catch a beanbag or small ball.
- Help your child to stand on tiptoes and to stand on on foot to help her learn to balance. Teach him to walk along a low wall or a plank balanced on a few bricks. When he can walk forwards confidently, get him to walk backwards and then to catch a ball while balancing.
- Practising jumping, hopping, skipping and rolling with your child.
Fine Motor Skills
These skills are controlled by the smaller muscles, and include the ability to pick up small things and to hold a pencil. You can help your child develop his fine motor skills by giving them the following activities:
- Making little balls out of play-dough or prestik by rolling it between a finger and thumb.
- Cutting out pictures with a small pair of scissors.
- Tearing newspaper or tissues into strips or rolling it into little balls.
- Stringing beads or pieces of drinking straws onto a piece of string or wool.
- Drawing and colouring in.
Speech and Language Development
Your child might be a real chatterbox or more quiet and thoughtful. Either way, being able to communicate is very important. You can help your child to develop his or her language skills by:
- Not using ‘baby talk’. Teach children the right names for things and speak clearly and plainly to them.
- Talking about her day. Try to set aside a short time each night to ask her about the things she did that day.
- Saying nursery rhymes and singing songs together.
- Describing things to your child and asking him to describe things to you. Ask things like: Is the tree short or tall? Is the material soft or scratchy? Is this thing hard or soft? Is it hot or cold?
- Telling stories to your child, and asking her to tell you the ending, or to describe a scene.
Number skills are very important in everyday life, and your child should have the basics by the time he or she starts school. Your child needs to know the following concepts:
- Rote Counting: counting out loud (at least up to twenty).
- Ordinals: Understanding a thing’s position in a sequence, such as first, second, third and so on.
- Seriation: Being able to sort things from smallest to biggest and vice-versa.
- One-to-one Correspondence: Being able to put the right number of objects next to a written number. For example, putting five beads next to the number 5.
- Sequencing: Being able to copy and finish a pattern.
- Classification: Being able to sort different objects into groups of things that are the same or similar.
You can help your child to develop these skills by:
- Counting things with them. For example: How many trees are in the field? How many children are playing outside? How many forks do we need to set the table?
- Counting together from 1 to 20 (or 50, or 100 – you’ll be surprised at how well she does).
- Showing written numbers to your child and helping him to recognise them. Start with just 1 to 10.
- When you are looking at a group of things with your child, ask her to show you which one is third in line, or fifth, or ninth.
- Ask your child to help with matching socks when you’re folding the laundry. Get him to count how many socks there are, and how many pairs there are when they are folded.
- Practise basic adding and subtracting with your child. For example: If you have two biscuits and I give you one more, how many will you have? If you have five sweets and you eat three, how many will you have left?
- Make a pattern with beads on a string, or draw one, and ask your child to copy it.
Your child needs to know and understand a few basic concepts when he or she starts school. The four main concepts are:
- Colour: Teach your child to recognise the Primary Colours (red, yellow and blue) and the Secondary Colours (orange, green and purple. She should understand that the secondary colours are made by mixing the primary colours together (red yellow = orange; yellow blue = green; red blue = purple).
- Shape: Teach your child to recognise and name circles, squares, triangles, rectangles, diamonds, ovals, semi-circles, hexagons and stars. You can make a game out of seeing how many of each shape you can spot while on a walk or bus-ride.
- Size: Help your child to practise recognising difference in size. Talk about small, smaller, smallest and big, bigger, biggest. Ask her who is the tallest in your family and who is the shortest. When looking at pictures of animals, ask which is the biggest and which the smallest; which has the longest tail and which the shortest.
- Texture: Let your child feel the different textures of things and talk about how they feel and the words that describe them. Is the tree bark smooth or rough? Is the dog’s coat soft or wiry? Stone is hard, cotton wool is soft, and so on.
- Time: Learning to tell the time is hard for young children, but you should talk with them about time and show them clocks and watches. Your can tell him that his bedtime is at half-past seven, and that you will have lunch at one o’ clock and dinner at six o’ clock. You can teach her about yesterday, today and tomorrow, and about morning, afternoon and evening. He should know the days of the week, and the months of the year. Songs and nursery rhymes can help children to remember the names of days and months and the order they go in.