Developing your child’s body through movement and interaction is an important step towards putting your child on the path to literacy.
heading for 5
Below is a list of skills that children usually acquire around the age of 5, but it’s important to note it’s just a guide. There is no perfect formula, and young children change very quickly and acquire new skills every day, so just keep providing lots of opportunities to practise these skills.
What does any of this have to do with reading? It is fact that there is a strong link between the developing child’s brain and their body. When the physical perceptions and reactions are automatic, the brain is free for higher-thinking tasks, such as reading and writing.
Basic colours, basic shapes, counting 10 objects, counting up to 20 and beyond, sorting similar objects by colour size and shape, playing rhyming games, knowing sounds at the beginning of words, looking at pictures and being able to tell a story, identifying some alphabet letters, recognising some common signs like ‘Stop’ or shops such as ‘Countdown’, ‘The Warehouse’.
There are also the other gross and fine motor skills that are equally important for developing the neural pathways that prepare the brain for formal learning. These are things like: being able to hold a pen or crayon, being confident cutting with scissors, buttoning shirts, zipping up jackets, using a knife and fork, confidently going up and down stairs, balancing on one foot for at least five seconds, bouncing a ball, catching a ball, being able to use pouring and measuring equipment such as jugs and cups.
Give your child lots of practice in activities that require them to balance. Here is an old favourite of mine – a homemade gymnastics beam, placed only 5cms off the ground. It’s simple and great for balance and visual perception, as well as perception of themselves in space. Even though it’s only a few centimetres off the ground, it can be surprisingly challenging, and it’s a real confidence-builder when they master it.
Local parks have play equipment tha will encourage them to develop problem-solving confidence, as well as monkey bars to develop upper body dexterity and strength. Encourage them to have a go on everything, and give them some step-by-step help whenever there’s a challenge. And talk about it! Give them the language of movement to describe what they are doing – this strengthens their perceptual motor awareness.
Not every child is confident about answering questions from adults, but it’s worth getting them to practise being able to say their full name, their address and phone number when asked. If your surname is different from theirs, teach them how to say your full name too.
The benefits of reading aloud to young children are well-known, and there are also benefits to introducing very young children to children’s books for their own enjoyment. At an early age, they can learn how to hold a book, open and shut it, look at it from front to back and ‘read’ the pictures – all important emergent literacy skills.
It’s easy to think that books are the only way to create success in reading, yet there are also all the other informal skills that develop the child’s brain through movement and interaction with the environment. These skills make a huge difference in developing concentration, memory, comprehension, problems solving and confidence, to name but a few. See our ‘Heading for 5’ points opposite.
Mary Ashby-Green is a former Acting Principal, who specialised in teaching children with learning and behavioural difficulties. Today, she trains teachers in Jolly Phonics, and she works individually with children who have anxiety about learning, using her NLP training. For more information, go to www.phonics.co.nz