Fun, everyday activities to strengthen some of the foundational skills that your child needs for academic learning.
Skills subserving classroom performance
We are often so keen to get our children reading and writing, that we sometimes miss out on valuable opportunities to strengthen the foundations on which these skills are built. Apart from feeling emotionally secure, there are a few underlying skills that subserve learning.
- Postural control and stability around large joints
- Mature sensory processing
- Bilateral integration & midline crossing
- Dominance and specialisation of one side of the body
- Fine motor coordination
- Visual perceptual and auditory perceptual skills
- Higher cognitive functions
The apple-a-day concept
The whole idea behind the ‘apple-a-day concept’ is that a little quality time can make all the difference. In our rushed and busy lives today we have to be smart about how to use everyday occurrences as learning opportunities for our children. Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to zoom in on what truly interests your child can put them on a learning path, encouraging thinking skills that others might not have. As parents, we can inspire our children by using the opportunities that the environment gives us and enrol your child in the ‘University of the World’.
To get your creative juices flowing, our Occupational Therapists at Success Therapy Centre have put together a list of activity ideas that help make use of everyday opportunities to develop some of the underlying skills needed for academic learning.
- When your child is playing on the jungle gym or at the park, let them design a special route where they are required to climb, hop, swing and balance. Place 10 plastic animals (or little stones collected in the garden) at the beginning of the route. Your child needs to “save the animals” from a natural disaster (forest fire/ flood/ volcanic eruption) by carrying them in their pocket across the obstacle course from one side to the other.
- Garden work: water the garden, push the wheelbarrow, shovel sand, pull out weeds, mow the lawn.
- Let them stand on a stable chair and help you hang up the washing with clothing pegs.
- While they are swinging: throw a ball at them, let them throw the ball back to you.
- Go for a short hike on the mountain or in the forest, walk over uneven surfaces, talk about the various types of flowers/fynbos which are edible or used in cooking etc.
- Next time you are in the countryside; walk outside in the dark and look at the stars.
- Draw a hop-scotch course with a piece of chalk on your drive way.
- Write the days of the week, spelling words, letters or numbers with a piece of chalk on the patio. Later wash it off with the hosepipe or a spray bottle.
- Encourage cycling (especially uphill), canoeing and kite flying whenever the opportunity arises.
- Next time you are at the beach, let your child bury you in the sand or bury them under the sand. Your child can also practice spelling words in the sand.
In the kitchen:
- Let your child make an instant desert such as jelly. Read and follow the instructions with them.
- Grate the cheese, peel oranges, mash potatoes, cut the cucumber.
- Let your child help you organise your food cupboard and discuss the reason for organising it in that way.
- Ask your child to lay the table for dinner.
- Give your child the opportunity to make their own sandwich or yoghurt and fruit smoothy.
- Let them carry a tray, first make them practice with empty plastic cups, then with plastic cups filled with water. Grade it slowly until they can safely carry a tray with tea.
- Assign your older child with the duty of offering guests tea. Teach them how to set up the tray and let them make the tea.
- Squeeze out oranges to make juice.
- Make pizza dough with them, allowing them to knead the dough and roll it out.
- Bake with your child and let them measure out the various ingredients, learning the differences in measuring spoons and cups.
In the car:
- Your children can take turns to give you directions on how to drive home, to school or to the shops.
- On a long road trip, do simple story sums, helping them to visualize. If they struggle, explain how you would solve the problem.
- Let your older child look up the route to a new friends house in the map book.
At the office:
- Play with office equipment (string paperclips together, play with the paper punch, cut cardboard).
- Write a letter to yourself, granny or a friend, write on the address and post it.
- Instead of dialling 1023, or using Google use the old fashion telephone directory and look up a number.
- Let your children play school-school on the white board in your office.
- Play hang-man (remind your child to use the correct letter formations, make sure they start their letters in the correct places).
- Look at a busy picture in a magazine and play “I spy with my little eyes, something that starts with a….”
- Draw only half of a simple picture, let your child draw the other half (the mirror image of what you have drawn).
- Do a simple crossword puzzle or word search.
At the shops:
- Let your child write the shopping list and let them tick off the items as you find them in the shop.
- Allow your child to find the correct sum of money at the till.
- Give them the job of hunting for the best value for money (The cheapest option is not always the best, let them compare quantity and price).
- When you get home, let your child tick off the till slip as you unpack your groceries.
- Prioritise the homework (start with the most difficult task first).
- Set up a designated area with stationary used exclusively for homework.
- Help your child to take responsibility for their own concentration, set an egg timer. Make sure the area is quiet, organised and well lit.
- Bring out the scrap paper and help your child plan.
- Let them double check and mark their own work.
- When taking a break during homework sessions, let your child do a movement or heavy work activity- run around the house, jump on the trampoline, eat a crunchy or a chewy snack (carrots, cucumber, biltong, dried mango, apple), use a stress ball.
Make a rainy-day cupboard:
Make a special cupboard or drawer with clearly marked boxes with indoor games and activities. In this cupboard you can have:
- Puzzles and board games.
- Paper dolls cut out of cardboard. Help your child to design outfits using the shape of the dolls body. Cut out dresses, shirts and pants using recycled gift wrapping, stick them on another piece of paper to make it more sturdy and on little strips to fold back and attach the outfit to the doll.
- Beads for making necklaces.
- Wool and knitting needles of knitting scarves (your child can make a scarf for themselves or their Barbie doll).
- French Knitting.
- Scrapbooking material.
- Colouring and other activity books (tear a page from the colouring book, stick it up against a window and let your child trace the picture or colour the picture against a vertical surface).
- Craft making such as paper maché, masks etc.