Posts Tagged ‘attention to task’

5 Skills Your Child Needs for Kindergarten Success

Posted August 9, 2012 by pehl

Whether your child is beginning kindergarten in a few weeks or is further along in his academic career there are 5 skills he will require for classroom success this year.

Attention to Task:  Your child needs to have developed the ability to remain focused on an activity for up to thirty minutes in some situations and in some classrooms.  More realistically, at least to begin the school year, ten to twenty minutes is not unusual.  How long is your child able to attend to a learning activity (not including electronic games or computer-based learning programs) without requiring your attention, assistance or re-direction?

Sitting on a Chair:  This may sound silly, I mean most kids can sit on a chair, right?  Probably, but how long can your child sit still in a chair?  How long can he sit while attending to a task or story without standing up or fidgeting?  And as long as we’re talking about sitting let’s discuss sitting on the floor.  Your child will likely be expected to sit criss-cross on the floor with the rest of his class for periods of time, often in a circle or group.  First of all can he sit criss-cross?  This means, of course, with his feet crossed IN FRONT of him, not under his knees or behind/to the side of his hips, (i.e. W-sit. W-sitting is just plain awful for the development of his feet, knees and hips.  Don’t let him do that.)  If he can sit criss-cross, can he do this without touching the kids on either side of him?  How long can he sit in this position without touching anyone else?

Following Directions:  There is a huge emphasis on auditory learning in our classrooms today.  Children need the ability to understand spoken language in order to learn concepts, of course.  But even before that they need to be able to complete multi-step commands.  For example, “Go get your coat and backpack and line up at the door.”  Is your child able to follow 2 and 3 step directions?  Now see if he can do it without your use of hand gestures.

Sharing:  The classroom environment is one of cooperation.  There is a great deal of sharing these days. In fact little, as I understand it, belongs to a child individually other than his coat and backpack.  I’ve been told that boxes of Kleenex, pencils, erasers, glue, all of those items on the back-to-school list are pooled and shared by everyone.  And that’s the easy part.  What about sharing the basket of crayons and markers, knowing how to wait or ask for the red one, waiting for a turn at the drinking fountain, or giving someone else a turn?  Does your child know how to make a polite request or how to respond to one?  Does he know what to do if he isn’t ready to give up something he’s using?  Does he know what to do if something is taken from him by someone else who doesn’t yet know how to be polite?

Pencil Grasp:  Granted I’m an Occupational Therapist so I have a bias about this particular issue.  But although you might think kindergarten is the time to start practicing this, the truth is kids have already been practicing for 2 or 3 years.  And many of them have established bad habits.  It’s really difficult to train away an inefficient pencil grasp, so let’s look at what’s good and what’s not so good.  An efficient pencil grasp allows mobility of the fingers and pencil, marker or crayon.  It is exemplified by the tripod grasp.  The tripod grasp uses the pad of the index and thumb to guide the pencil with the middle finger providing “mobilized stability”; the ring and little finger are held close to or into the palm.  Also, the pencil lays against the web of the thumb rather than standing straight up.  Many children wrap their thumbs around their index and middle fingers in order to stabilize them on the pencil.  This grasp lends strength, but disallows mobility.  There are many variations on this type “power grasp”, but all have the same outcome.  How does your child hold a marker or pencil?  When he colors does he move his fingers and hand or does he move his whole entire arm?  Does he change the angle of his hand to accommodate the needs of the page, or does he turn the page this way and that?

Here’s to a fun and safe Labor Day weekend and a bright and happy first day of school!  – Elizabeth