COLUMN: Giving your child the best start

Kristina Johnson, senior nursery manager at Mon Ami Nurseries, writes for the website...

Kristina Johnson.

It’s so long since we first learned how to write that most of us have forgotten how we did it – and we certainly can’t remember how hard it must have been!

Reading, writing and number are three of the most important life skills a child will learn, and it’s never too soon to start giving them a hand. This month we will look at simple activities we can do that will help your child to learn to write.

When your child is very young you can help to develop what we call their gross motor skills – you can build up their large arm muscles with activities that everyone can do. Dancing to music with wide and expressive whole-arm movements could be incorporated with colourful ribbon twirling and waving high in the air – something most children love! Either choose familiar music that the children know or introduce some different styles of music to widen their interest. If you choose a favourite song you could even develop some dance steps!

Playing games outside that involve a child balancing using his or her arms is a great way to develop gross motor skills. You can visit the local park and use the play equipment, or climb trees (safely and under supervision of course).

To develop fine motor skills which involve the fingers you can introduce activities that require the pincer grasp – for example, picking up objects with tongs and tweezers of various sizes, threading shoelaces through colanders or making shapes in card with a hole punch.

Small children love putting things inside other things, so why not make a box for posting things into using different shaped holes and sizes? Making and decorating a post box out of cardboard is a lovely activity to do together, as is finding different shaped items to put in there, and your child’s fine motor skills will improve as a result.

Mark making is a very important step on the road towards being able to write. Encourage your child to use paintbrushes in water to create patterns on walls or hard surfaces outside, and let children watch and copy as you write and encourage mark making with lots of positive praise.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should read to your child as much as possible, from a very young age, to help them to understand the link between the written word on the page and the spoken word in your voice. Always have a book handy to encourage a love of reading and to show how interesting books can be - as your child gets used to seeing the written word being used he or she will soon grasp the connection!

Kristina Johnson is Senior Nursery Manager at Mon Ami Nurseries which has settings in Boston, Swineshead, Alford and Wragby.