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Motor skills are the key to success – developing gross and fine motor skills

From the first step to the first letter, or how to prepare your child to learn to write and read.

Writing and reading are the two most important and, at the same time, the most difficult to learn skills for a child, which they acquire from the very beginning of their educational path.

Each of us remembers learning the alphabet from school, drawing lines for many hours, writing letters in the ruler, putting letters into words and then words into sentences. Many hours of work of children, teachers and parents, which led to the achievement of the intended goal, but did they leave us with positive, enthusiastic memories? Each of us can answer this question in spirit.

In this series of articles, I will try to disenchant negative memories of learning to read and write. In a few steps I will describe how in out pre-school unit and in an attractive, creative way and, above all, in the spirit of Maria Montessori’s pedagogy, we develop children’s love for the language and how parents can support children in this direction at home. Enjoy!

 

Step 1 – Motor skills are the key to success – developing gross and fine motor skills.

Motor skills are one of the four main spheres of a child’s development that should be developed from the first moments of his life. It has an extremely significant impact on the child’s later physical fitness, and in the context of shaping writing and reading skills indispensable.
Gross motor skills are the primary stage of motor development, it includes all movements that involve the entire body or a larger part of it. Everything that is related to general mobility, therefore: all fours, walking, jumping, running, swimming, etc.
How do we support the development of gross motor skills in kindergarten and what games and activities can children do at home? Here are some examples:

  • In our pre-school we follow the principle: Let’s give the child the opportunity to move freely and play outdoors. Therefore, children spend time every day at the pre-school playground, on walks or playing in the Sołacki Park. In the spring and autumn, they participate in sports activities with a trainer outside, and in the winter, in a sports hall. Sports activities are based on basic gymnastic exercises, rhythmic and movement games, elements of athletics and team games adapted to the age, physical development and temperament of children. The classes develop psychomotor qualities in the child, such as: orientation in space, dexterity, reflexes, perceptiveness, and improve physical condition, as well as positively affect the overall development of the child. The classes take into account the elements of sensory integration, educational kinesiology processes and games important for children of this age, shaping the proper body posture.

 

  • Let’s show children the games that we adults know from childhood: hula-hop games, hopscotch, jumping rope or rubber jumping, king of jumpers, throwing at a distance or to the target, all ball games – kicking, rolling, throwing, grabbing with feet, jumping on a trampoline, cycling and also all music and movement games;

All these activities not only favor the harmonious motor development of a child, but also perfectly develop the nervous system of a young person. What’s more the child’s fine motor skills depend on the correct development of gross motor skills, which is directly related to learning to write and performing everyday life activities.

 

So what is fine motor skills?

Fine motor skills include all activities performed with the hands or with the fingers only. These are movements of a much smaller range than in the case of gross motor skills. It requires a lot more focus and concentration of attention. It includes activities such as holding, eating with fingers / cutlery, drawing, painting, buttoning, carving, cutting, writing, etc.

 

How do we support the development of fine motor skills in Montessori preschool and how can it be done at home?

Maria Montessori believed that:

“The real” motor characteristics “associated with intelligence are speech and the movement of the hand that performs work under the dictation of intelligence”, (…) “The hand is a delicate organ with a complex structure that allows intelligence not only to manifest itself, but also to enter into special relationships with the environment.”

Maria Montessori, Discovery of the Child

Therefore, in order for a child to learn about the world, become independent and independent, it must accumulate experience and be able to move freely in the space that surrounds it.

“The environment is the basis, it must facilitate development by keeping obstacles to a minimum.”
Maria Montessori, Discovery of the Child

For this reason, Montessori attached so much importance to an orderly environment that supports the natural development and independence of the child. But how does an orderly environment translate into fine motor development?
In Montessori rooms, all materials are at the level of the children’s eyes, preschoolers have free access to them, each material has its specific place, so you know where to look for the thing you want next time, the materials are adjusted to the size and weight of the child’s body, which encourages little ones to get to know them. Being in such an environment, the child feels safe, gains independence and independence. Montessori aids supporting fine motor skills find a place in every department, from practical life to cosmic education. Montessori dedicated the most aids that support the development of the hand to the youngest – hence in the practical life and sensorics sections we can find the most of them.

In the sensor department, the shelves contain materials that directly improve the senses: sight, touch, taste and smell. However, they indirectly enrich vocabulary, prepare for writing – by practicing the tweezers grip and the right direction of work (from left to right) and prepare for reading (while working, we practice rows, sequences and consolidate the right direction of work). Examples:

  1. Spilling – with a spoon,
  2. Water overflow,
  3. Frames with all kinds of fasteners: with Velcro, snaps, zippers, laces, bows and buttons;
  4. Sweeping.

W dziale sensoryki na półkach znajdują się materiały, które bezpośrednio doskonalą zmysły: wzroku, dotyku, smaku i węchu. Natomiast pośrednio wzbogacają słownictwo, przygotowują do pisania – ćwicząc chwyt pęsetowy i właściwy kierunek pracy (od lewej do prawej) oraz przygotowują do czytania (podczas pracy ćwiczymy szeregi, sekwencje oraz utrwalamy właściwy kierunek pracy). Przykłady:

Pink tower;

Bronze stairs;

Cylinders;

Colored signs;

Touchpads;

In addition to working with Montessori materials, children exercise their hands and fingers every day by performing such activities as:

  • Threading beads – (starting with large ones, then using smaller and smaller ones);
  • Playing with plastic masses – plasticine, modeling clay, velvet mass, porcelain mass, etc.
  • Threading cords, ribbons through holes;
  • Tearing out;
  • Cutting;
  • Kneading, e.g. of paper balls and throwing at the target;
  • Finger painting on large sheets of paper, on foil;
  • Sorting items with fingers, tweezers;

 

How to support the development of fine motor skills at home?

The best and easiest way to support fine motor skills at home is to actively involve the child in everyday and family life. Preparing meals together – peeling vegetables and fruit by the child, setting the table, and even washing up will give him great satisfaction and joy, and will also improve small motor skills. In all activities with the child, let us follow the main Montessorian idea: “Let me do it myself”. So let the child put on pants, dresses, sweatshirts, take off a hat or jacket on his own. These everyday activities of a child will positively affect the efficiency of their hands and fingers, and in the future they will result in the correct writing technique.


Author
Sylwia Kocjan
Montessori teacher