I am going to mention a few fun ways to stimulate these areas in your children - priming them with the building blocks which they will need for a strong foundation for the rest of their learning lives. There is a lot of information in the following document. Print it out and keep it on-tap, as you need it during the year. Have fun and please feel free to contact me should you wish to discuss your children or any of the concepts listed below.
Always bring new concepts into every day life-very surreptitiously. (eg: number concepts: ‘Won’t you get out four mugs’..... ‘how many yellow cars can we see....’) If they get stressed out by formal learning, let them learn through games, they won’t even realize they are ‘learning’. Always link what they have a tough time doing, to something that they are successful with and enjoy. (E.g. count as they catch and throw balls or jump on the trampoline, learn colours looking at sport car magazines...,) Songs and rhymes always help with remembering info. The sillier it is, the better it ‘sticks’.
Let them learn from the actual life experience: Animals (go to the zoo), marine life (aquarium. at the beach, in rock pools), scientific-info (MTN science centre in Canal Walk, Cape Town), plants (in the garden). Read street signs and bill boards etc... This info will be understood in the greater context and therefore retained more than from books. Let them move around when they learn: The best thing to get is an inflatable robber cushion (for them to sit on during ring/story time, at their desk or when doing homework at home) or give them plenty of movement breaks. Have a small trampoline close to where they work.
All of us require movement to activate our brain. If a child is specifically a kinesthetic learner (movement, versus auditory or visual) or if they are low tone, or very active- they will tend to fiddle, fidget and move around to keep their brain and body activated. By telling them to SIT STILL! & STOP FIDGETING!, you might as well switch off their brain. Always give them a turn to be the leader and for you to copy/follow. If you are always telling them what to do, They get resentful and it seems like too much hard work, Then when you make mistakes, they see it is OK to make mistakes- it lakes the pressure off. Also play a game where you make silly mistakes (eg. in reading or maths) and get them to correct you/ be the teacher.
Get involved with them in learning (at least at the beginning). Whether it is doing tummy exercises (for OT/Physio homework) or looking for pictures in magazines for a collage. Make it fun, put on music where appropriate, have races, do it with them. They aren’t as receptive if you are standing at a distance and reminding them to do a bunch of things, which they find challenging or boring.
Children love stop watches and sand-timers: time them doing a task. Get them to time you. Be aware that you don’t overuse this- you don’t want to encourage them to race through all their work and make silly mistakes. Try to encourage them (and yourself) to keep a sense of humour. If they can’t laugh at themselves, even their mistakes and faults- they will become very serious, judgmental of themselves and self-pressurized.
Rest and Sleep is essential. Try not to over-burden them with too many extra-mural activities. Their brain and body needs time to assimilate, integrate and put into memory the work they are learning at school. This takes place during times of relaxation and sleep. Make sure they have plenty of sleep on school nights. Have a designated relaxation space at home for them: in a corner, on a bean bag, with a heavy blanket and a few special toys, away from all distraction and excitement. Just as they need an area in which they can get out their energy (in the garden, trampoline, swing…), so do they need an area which is a quiet spot, where they can “download” the day’s stresses and refocus. They can create this space in the garden too (in a hidden corner, under a tree, out of the way).
TV: Keep TV, video and computer usage to a minimum during the week. The content of many programs (especially cartoons) is mostly violent in nature. At this age, the child’s subconscious is unable to differentiate the difference between real and perceived danger/threat. The body’s physiology responds the same way. Not only does the subject matter set up a stress reaction, but due to the nature of TVs light and scene changes on the screen, a physiological stress response gets triggered which keeps us ‘glued to the screen’. This response is the adrenal fight/flight response that is detrimental to the learning process and our overall health. Definitely do not allow them to watch TV just prior to coming to school or going to bed. Computers are great but use them as a reward. The fine motor skills used on the keyboard and mouse do not generalise to assisting them with their pencil control or handwriting.
Rather than buying ready made toys- encourage them to make their own toys: fantasy toys out of Lego, boxes and scrap, construction sets, huge boxes, blankets and sheets to make hide-outs etc... These are all creative ways of expanding the mind. It takes no creativity or fine motor manipulation to re-enact scenes from TV using the latest power-ranger character.