Teaching your Child to Read

Reading to your child

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your child’s early literacy development is simply to let them play. Turn off the TV and anything battery operated then let your child pick up their toys, build blocks or duplos, or manipulate puzzles or game pieces. Not only are you giving your child the gift of childhood, something we so often fail to do in today’s hectic, achievement-oriented world, but you are actually helping them build skills that are key to learning to read and write.

Hand-eye coordination is a necessary skill for written language and the best way to help your child develop this skill is to let them play with toys and activities that involve looking at, using, and discriminating a number of elements. Puzzles are obviously a great activity for this but so are manipulative toys such as blocks and Lego.

My son just spent over an hour this evening playing dominoes with his father — OK they weren’t so much playing as setting up complex patterns and then knocking them down — but I didn’t tell them they were engaged in a pre-literacy activity. They were just having fun together.

Studies have shown that spending time on hand-eye coordination activities improves children’s ability to learn to read and lessens the difficulty they face during the process. In fact engaging in a variety of craft activities, which most kids love, can be very beneficial so add play dough, stickers, and glue sticks to your list of educational supplies.

Research shows that early practice of hand-eye coordination activities reduces the risk for reading difficulties.

Activities to Encourage

Reading activities

Puzzles help develop hand-eye coordination because learning to control hands and fingers according to information received from sight is a coordination skill that aids children in early attempts at reading and writing.  Determining which piece goes where, working to fit pieces into place by making adjustments, and seeing a sequence develop in an organized pattern can be a great learning experience as well as very satisfying for children.

Puzzles, matching games, and the like are also important to help children learn visual discrimination. Visual discrimination is the ability of the brain to quickly tell the difference among visually similar letters, like “p,” “b,” and “q” or between words such as “was” and “saw.” Students with difficulty making these distinctions often struggle with learning to read, write, and spell. Playing games, engaging in activities, or with toys that help children discriminate among similar objects can be fun for the child and help them master an important preliteracy skill. My son loves to help his father sort change before rolling it to be deposited at the bank. Sure, we could use an electronic sorter but our son loves to engage in the activity and it is a valuable learning experience for him.

Visual discrimination can often be learned with your child’s existing toys. Matchbox cars, dolls, and action figures all offer the opportunity for your child to learn visual discrimination.

Encourage children to work their wrist and finger muscles as well as work on their coordination and small-motor skills to help prepare them for the handwriting practice in their future. Activities to help with these goals include legos and other building sets, playdough, puzzles, pegboards, beads and other table toys. These fun, natural activities help children improve their cognitive and fine motor skills without frustration or boredom.

My son engages in many activities every day that encourage hand-eye coordination and visual discrimination. I don’t suggest the activities to him.  I make the toys and manipulatives available to him and he chooses them on his own. The activities vary he may go an entire week building and rebuilding his wooden train set every day and then the next week his Magnetix set dominates his play time.  Some days he plays with both together and pulls in his Duplos and wooden blocks for added fun.  It doesn’t matter to me which activity he chooses because I know he is having fun, challenging his imagination and learning.

Discover more ideas for hand-eye activities for children

Stimulating Activities for Children

Handwork activities for kids

When children have lots of opportunities to participate in a wide variety of stimulating activities, it stimulates and develops their confidence and willingness to try new things.  

When actively engaged with art and crafts, cooking or textile activities, they are stimulating their senses.  They are experiencing texture, touch, smell, soft, hard, wet or delicate things that stimulate their minds to problem solving, awakening and exploring their creative skills and abilities and desires

Hand-Eye Co-ordination

Playdough Activities

Hand eye coordination develops when they experiment with practising drawing, painting and using scissors and gluing.  Parents need to read stories to their children, which further stimulates their imagination as they listen to the different adventures of the book characters. Even though they cannot read yet, if helps to develop their language skills and how different words express feelings, thoughts and action.

Children are learning more about themselves, developing words and phrases, expressing themselves through feelings and their developing thought processes. They learn language through facial expression, saying new words they hear, trying to put them in a sentence and mimicking others around them.

Because children are watching and listening to those around them, parents and teachers shouldn’t use “baby talk” when expressing themselves, but rather express themselves as normal, explaining why, how etc and using normal adult speech. This helps children understand and develop their use of language, how words are put together and expands their vocabulary.

Parents need to provide a safe learning, stimulating environment where children can experiment, imagine and play happily.  

When parents or teachers facilitate a stimulating environment for young children, the children are given a distinct advantage when it comes to language skills, confidence, self-esteem levels and creative, imaginative development.

Read more about Activities for Children

Encouraging Children to Exercise and be Active.

Children at a playground

It’s important for parents to allow their children to explore new physical challenges as this strengthens bones and muscles and aids their emotional learning.

Obesity is rising in children, due to the lack of exercise along with poor diet.  Obesity will increase dramatically if children don’t engage in at least the moderate recommended exercise rate of 60 minutes per day. This can only be achieved if parents and teachers have organized fun exercise activities for children to get involved in during school hours and after school and on weekends. You live in an age where it is so much easier to sit on the couch, watch tv, look at your iPads while eating highly processed food, all washed down with the many fad sugary drinks that are so easily available.

Exercise for children

Physical education programs run by educational fitness trainers, along with parents and teachers need to educate and show direction, encouraging more children to get involved with low to medium activities.  Sporting programs need to be part of the school curriculum from an early age, as this gets children more active.

Weekend sporting activities are another way to get children out and about, exercising on a more regular basis. Sporting activities help children learn to participate fairly with others, using teamwork skills, supporting each other and enjoying playing, winning or losing but ultimately exercising and being active.  Playing sport with others of their own age is good for developing new friendships and being more socially engaged.  Playing against other sporting groups helps children to develop new skills, new techniques, tactics and strategies when participating against other sporting groups.

Read more Helpful Parenting Tips

Why Kids Need To Exercise

Children at a playground

Why do kids need to exercise?

Regular exercise aids children’s overall psychological and physical well-being.  Physical activity develops children’s strength and gives them more confidence and self-assurance, giving them a good sense of self-worth and increased self-esteem.  This in turn will reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

What are the Benefits of Physical Activity?

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, muscles, lungs etc giving children improved health advantages.  But the benefits of physical activity extend far beyond the mere strengthening of muscles and improved body tone.  Exercise strengthens and builds concentration, enhancing mood levels, resulting in better cognitive abilities, enabling children to be more alert and focused.  This results in higher levels of clear thinking and problem-solving skills, giving children an increased advantage over others at school.

Exercise for Kids

Children need to exercise

It’s essential for young children to try many and varied activities such as skipping, jumping, stretching, running. bike riding, skating, cricket, ball catching games, basketball and so many more, as all these help balance, hand control and develop hand-eye coordination skills.

Children who exercise, along with a healthy eating plan on a regular basis, are better able to control weight issues, decipher difficult problems and develop their problem solving skills …..this gives them a distinct increased advantage over other children.

The Health Benefits of Exercise

Physical activity is important for a young person’s developing brain, lungs and muscles, helping children to be less likely to suffer from mood swings, anxiety or body image difficulties.  Fun physical activities, such as aerobics, pilates, jogging and stretching, along with many other things, encourage healthy, happier children.

Encourage your Children

When children have a supportive environment, where their teachers and parents are actively participating and being involved in watching, helping, transporting them to activities, a child’s health and well-being is greatly strengthened.

When children are encouraged to be actively involved in sports and exercise, they are more likely to take care, not only of their physical well-being, but will take a greater interest in their overall health and nutrition.

Read more Helpful Parenting Tips

Parenting Styles

Parenting Styles

Parenting Experts have concluded that there are at least three parenting styles. 

Effective parenting styles can vary according to culture.  

The three main parenting styles are authoritarian parenting, authoritative parenting and the permissive parenting style.  These parenting styles are all very different in their parenting approach.

Authoritative Parenting has been found to be the most effective style of parenting in western culture.  Authoritative parenting is consistent and enforces boundaries.

Authoritative parenting is characterized by the parent giving reasonable demands, setting consistent limits, expressing warmth and affection and listening to the child’s point of view.  American children raised by authoritative parents tend to have high self-esteem and social skills.  Whilst the authoritative parenting style is the style that is most encouraged in modern American society, this is not necessarily the case in other cultures.

Parenting Styles

In contrast, Authoritarian Parenting which is characterized by parents placing high value on conformity and obedience, tightly monitoring their children, and expressing less warmth, is seen as more beneficial in other cultures. For instance, in a 2010 study by Russell et al, first-generation Chinese American children raised by authoritarian parents did just as well in school as their peers who were raised by authoritative parents.

Many parents today adopt a Permissive Parenting style which has few guidelines and rules. Permissive parenting, however, can lead to undisciplined children as they develop.

No new parents would want to regard themselves as bad parents.  And no parent wants to be accused of excessively permissive parenting but, on the other hand, few parents would want to be regarded as “the world’s strictest parents”.

In raising happy children, parents need to be vigilant, active parents but not “helicopter parents”, hovering and rushing to meet their needs at every turn.  Parents of happy children are active parents who foster care, nurture and warmth, whilst at the same time demonstrating and setting examples to their children.  

Positive parenting is a child-centered approach that ultimately leads to Raising Happy Children.