Dedre van Wyngaard Occupational Therapist (M.Occ.Ther).
Occupational therapist educational consultant and part time lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch.
At WriteAbility, we aim to provide quality activities, worksheets and posters to assist parents, teachers and therapists with early childhood development. And what makes us unique is that our activities are created by an occupational therapist specifically for use either in the classroom or at home.
We've designed our resources to address different problem areas or areas of development with a wide range of therapeutic and remedial activities and teaching strategies. We address fine motor activities, eye-hand coordination, visuomotor integration, perceptual development that supports reading and writing, as well as math's development.
As you know, children learn best through playful exploration and fun learning experiences. Our resources have been created by an occupational therapist who specializes in early childhood development needs across the ages of 3-9.
Teachers, we provide a wide variety of educational themes for your classrooms and themed activities that incorporate early development skills and provide a solid foundation for academic learning.
Therapists, our therapeutic resources for occupational therapists, can be used as home programs or activities during therapy, designed to build academic skills.
At WriteAbility, we aim to always provide high-quality resources. We look forward to receiving your feedback and suggestions on how we can improve upon or expand our product offering.
Follow our online groups to ask questions or share experiences and find practical activity ideas on our Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram pages.
By the time children reach the age at which they enter Grade 1, AKA formal school education, they should have achieved a specific set of developmental milestones and mastered some basic skills.
School readiness implies that your child has reached the stage in their development where formal school education will be good for them. It is important to note that all children develop at different rates, and some need help achieving specific skills.
There are a number of things to factor in when deciding if a child is school ready: from social and emotional readiness, to language abilities and the cognitive skills they will need to succeed in a classroom environment.
A big part of school readiness is a child's social-emotional development which plays a vital role in adjusting to formal education demands. We can support children's development in this area by encouraging and developing the ability to work in a group.
Also, important parts of school readiness are the development of gross and fine motor skills. For example, a child who stills battles with correct pencil grip may find the initial writing tasks more challenging than those who have mastered this skill.
So, what can we do to support our children's development in an easy and fun way?
Our Kindergarten / Grade R resource bundle provides a variety of ways to develop fine motor skills and perceptual abilities. We recommend improving pencil control by tearing and pasting paper, rolling small balls with tissue paper, peeling and sticking stickers, and practicing writing patterns. Using a variety of methods keeps the kids engaged and working hard without them even realizing!
Fine Motor Skills
Fine Motor Skills are skills that require the small muscles of the hand to work together to perform precise and refined movements such as letter formation. As children start to use crayons, pencils and scissors their fine motor skills begin to develop.
Many activities that help with the development of fine motor skills (and handwriting) do not include the use of a pencil. We recommend activities like tearing and pasting paper to create a picture or peeling and pasting stickers to decorate a picture, both of which are not only great ways to develop their hand muscles' endurance, but also encourage the development of pincer grasp, eye-hand coordination and bilateral hand-use, all the while improving their fine motor skills.
We have a range of fine motor resources that include a number of fun activities to assist parents, teachers and therapists with fine motor skills.
Playdough is a creative way to practice fine motor skills, strengthen hand muscles and consolidate perceptual development concepts such as letter, shape, and number concepts, color recognition and more.
For younger children you can use playdough to build upper and lowercase letters. It is such a fun way to consolidate the letters of the alphabet in an age-appropriate way.
Building letters from playdough provides the children with the opportunity to develop their auditory and visual perceptual skills and to exercise their little fingers.
Good spatial perception helps a child sequence letters and numbers correctly. Spatial perception is all about the ability to perceive an object's position in relation to yourself or in relation to other objects.
Children who struggle with spatial perception often reverse letters and figures when writing, struggle with the spacing of words, writing in lines and sometimes even write upside down or the wrong way round without realising. We often also observe difficulty understanding graphs, maps, and diagrams.
Difficulties in the above areas will lead to poor understanding of spatial concepts and instructions such as left, right, between, next to, front, or behind. Our Spatial Perception resource is designed to help children who struggle with spatial perception.
Handwriting is a complex process, with many aspects going into producing properly formed letters, and neat writing. Poor letter formation leads to handwriting that is untidy, slow, and often hard to read.
Difficulty with spatial planning and perceptual development makes a simple task like planning and writing sentences with appropriate spacing and orientation difficult. Correct letter formation supports better spacing of written work, helps avoid reversals and letter confusion.
We always recommend multi-sensory handwriting strategies when teaching correct letter formation which saves time and prevents a lot of frustration while making it easier later to learn to space written work effectively.
Our Handwriting Bundle was created specifically for children who find spacing of written work and writing in lines challenging.
Reversals and Letter Formation
The b/d letter sound confusion remains a real challenge for many children and teachers.To prevent letter confusion and reversals, it is essential that these letters begin correctly and are formed correctly.
Why do children confuse these letter sounds and what can we do about it?
Two letters that often cause most reversals or confusion are the ‘b’ and ‘d’ sounds. It is essential that these letters begin correctly and are formed correctly. When children learn to form their letters in a fun, multi-sensory way, the unnecessary reversal of ‘b’ and ‘d’ can be reduced or avoided.
We have a number of bundles aimed specifically at addressing number reversals and reinforcing correct number formation in a fun, interactive and multi-sensory way, find the resources here: Letter/Number Formation Resources.
The Importance of Good Posture
Poor posture and postural stability definitely have a negative effect on the quality of fine motor skills. Proper fine motor development depends on strong trunk and shoulder muscles to provide the necessary stability to perform fine motor tasks such as writing, coloring and cutting with scissors.
To support handwriting encourage a functional ergonomic posture, shoulder stability, and correct positioning of the arm, wrist, and fingers which all play a role. Also consider proper page positioning because the position for left and right-handed individuals differs for comfortable writing.
Bilateral coordination is the ability to use your limbs in a coordinated way. It also supports school-related activities such as cutting with scissors, stabilizing your page while writing, or using a ruler to draw a line.
It is an important skill that children require when doing various daily activities such as riding a bike, skipping, tying shoelaces, and eating with utensils among others.
We have a lovely challenge to practice using those hands in a coordinated way, download the free activity here: Bilateral Hand Use.