Recently, I met a mother of a three year old toddler and she narrated to me about how the school her son goes to stresses a lot on writing work, giving pages of written assignments as home work. It set me thinking as to what kind of skewed thinking can lead to forcing 3-4 year old kids to hold a pencil and write legibly?
Fine motor skills- the skills that aid a child to pick smaller objects, turn a knob, or use a scissor; basically the use of the finger, hand and wrist for finer movements along with eye coordination- are grossly neglected in the mad rush to churn out students that excel in academics. Fine motor skills need to be well-developed in a child as they are an important milestone and precursor to writing.
Instead of jumping head on into the bandwagon of writing, educational institutions must first focus on developing these skills. They can be developed by engaging toddlers (in the age group of 3-4) in activities that are fun and simple to carry out. One can even carry out these at home to strengthen the toddler’s hand and wrist muscles:
Play dough: Play dough is an interesting activity where the child carves out various shapes using child-friendly dough. You can even let your child help in kneading the dough at home to make rotis, rolling it out and making different shapes with the dough.
Cutting and sticking paper: invest in a pair of kid-friendly scissors and encourage the child to cut out different coloured paper in different shapes and sizes. The child can then stick these pieces of paper on a card paper to make an interesting collage.
Drawing rangoli: The act of using the fingers to draw using rice flour helps to fine tune the coordination between the fingers and hand.
Craft work: any craft work that uses a lot of painting, colouring, cutting and pasting.
Fold paper or clothes: Small cloths like a handkerchief or towel or socks can be given to the child to be folded.
Self-help activities: encourage the child to do by self the act of buttoning or unbuttoning clothes, pulling up or down the zipper, eating with hands and spoon, wearing shoes, etc.
While, each child develops these skills at his/her pace, it is imperative to concentrate first on developing these skills and then proceed to teach them write on paper.