Back to Basics
By Carolyn Tomlin

It’s the beginning of another school year and new students are ready to learn. It’s the perfect time to help your children grow and develop self-confidence and responsibility. Some of your preschoolers will be heading off to kindergarten next year as well, so it’s helpful to teach them some of the skills they will need for school, i.e., carrying lunch trays and putting on their jacket. We hope the following activities help you develop activities children enjoy and learn from.


1.       Teaching Left and Right. Identifying left from right is an important skill for developing pre-reading and pre-writing. Playing “Simon Says” by calling out left and right body parts (stand with your back to the children so modeling is easy) or celebrating “Left Hand and Right Hand Day” by wearing a ring, bracelet, sticker on the appropriate hand are both fun activities for children to play.


2.       Opening milk cartons. Save several empty milk or juice cartons. Point out the arrow on the top, and say, “This arrow shows where the box opens. First, pull on this flap. Next, pop up the top. Now, you try it.”


3.       Carrying a lunch tray. First, encourage the children to practice walking with an empty tray. Demonstrate that both hands must support each side. Hold the tray at waist level, near the body. Add a plastic place setting and a carton of milk. Practice walking and keeping everything balanced. Emphasize “walking,” not running.


4.       Cutting with scissors. Before beginning any cutting activity, teach the children scissor safety. Encourage the children to walk, not run, when holding scissors, hold the points of the scissors down and never point them at others, and keep the points out of their mouth. To teach basic cutting skills:


·        Provide scissors that actually cut, not tear, paper. Plastic ones only frustrate
young children.

·        Hold the paper for the child to cut.

·        Model cutting on the line.

·        Next, draw large circles for cutting. Move to geometric shapes. After mastering shapes, move to more difficult patterns.

·        Build confidence by displaying work for family and friends.


5.       Putting on outdoor clothing. What happens when it’s time for children to play on a cold day? If your program is like most, it takes several minutes for coats to be zipped and buttoned and hoods tied. Not to mention, pulling on outdoor boots. Make this task easier by having a “pretend” experience before outdoor playtime.


·        Provide small jackets with zippers and buttons for stuffed animals or large dolls. Children will enjoy dressing and undressing these toys in the dramatic play area.

·        Practice putting on a jacket, zipping, or buttoning closures by singing, “This is the way we zip our jacket” to the tune of “Here we go round the mulberry bush.”

·        Say, “Let’s pretend to pull on rubber boots.” Next, push your foot inside. Now, we can go outside and play in the snow. Play “Follow the Leader” inside in your pretend boots. Always offer praise and support for small accomplishments. Realize that some children may need more opportunities to learn these tasks. Be ready to reteach.


Carolyn Ross Tomlin is a former assistant professor of education at Union University. She contributes to numerous education publications.