Prepping for Prep - how montessori can help

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Making your child ready for prep can happen years before they are due to start.

When your child is able you can give them many practical life activities to help their independence. These can include:

  • Washing their hands
  • Pouring a drink
  • Learning to do up their shoes
  • Put on their clothes
  • Sweep the floor
  • Be in charge of where they put their hat and shoes
  • Brushing their hair
  • Placing activities back when they have finished
  • Keeping order and routine.

The list could go on forever as children are capable of doing many things if you give them the chance and opportunity to do so. All these activities are also developing their fine motor skills, eye hand co-ordination, cognitive thinking, building their language and making them aware of numbers and counting.

 As children are reaching prep age they need to be doing exercises that promote strengthening these muscles such as:

  • practicing to use scissors
  • wringing out a hand towel
  • using tongs
  • squishing play dough
  • squeezing an orange, etc.

Learning how to hold a pencil or crayon when writing or drawing is important, and correcting their grip as early as possible will benefit them immensely. 

At I AM Montessori we have found specially developed crayons for children having problems with their pencil grip. These crayons are wonderful as you can only hold them with a pincer grip so the child is learning to place their fingers in the right position.

Practicing puzzles is also important as this helps to build their cognitive thinking and their fine motor skills to enable them to pick up the pieces of the puzzle and place them back in. By prep age, they need to be able to put together a 10-piece puzzle by themselves.

Gross motor skills are also important to a child’s brain development.  A child playing outside is not about burning off excess energy; it is about having an outside environment that has order, beauty, structure and purpose. Equipment needs to be available that meets the child’s development. When children reach prep age they need to be able to run, skip, jump and walk backwards.  They also need to walk up and down stairs.

As your children develop it is important to talk to them about different things you see everyday, talking to them about the colours you see, the colours and textures of their clothes, the food they eat, the traffic lights, different vehicles and so on. Talk to your children about different sizes: things that are small, medium, big. Building a tower teaching them which is the biggest block and learning the different sizes in between. Tell your children the different shapes; such as circle, square, triangle, rectangle, etc. Your child needs to learn the names of different parts of their body.  This can be done easily and in a fun way if you put it in a song such as head and shoulders, knees and toes.  You can also teach them all the different parts of the body when you are dressing them. It needs to become part of everyday conversation so it forms part of their regular language.

When they are in prep, they need to know the names of their body parts.  They need to understand up, down, in and out. This can be done in a playground with a swing or going in and out of a tunnel, or in practical life placing things in a tin and taking it out of the tin.

Making numbers a part of your language is important to children’s learning.  Counting all things is a good way for children to remember and understand numbers. Counting fruit and vegetables as you take them out of a bag, counting the steps as you go up and down them, also counting fingers and toes. The tactile numerals are a wonderful way to learn numbers and how they are written (the abstract representation). The children learn them two at a time, they feel the numbers and use their fingers to feel the shape of the number in the way it is written, this is developing their muscle motor memory to help them write it correctly.

Children need to be able to sort and classify, so practice putting different objects that vary in colour, size and shape and get them to place them in their correct groups. You could do this by having a tray that has 4 compartments and a bowl with 4 different kinds of objects; they then sort the objects into the compartments that are the same.

 By pre school age your child needs to recognise their name and try to write it. Having their name written on their bedroom door, or written on a place where they put their hat, on their brush or toothbrush. You can help your child to write their name by practicing to write each letter. If this is done with the Sandpaper letters they can trace the letter with their fingers to feel how to write it and then write it on a piece of paper with a pencil, or in a sand tray.  Children need to know their full name, age, address, telephone number and their parents first name. So it is good to practice this with them, you could do this in a game, maybe pretending to have a phone call and asking them to say their names and ask their age, etc.

When it comes time for prep children need to be able to take off and put on their shoes and socks by themselves, use the toilet without help, open and close their lunch boxes and drink bottles. Ensure you buy containers your child can manage; and also through their earlier years you can teach them how to open and close containers and bottles, as this helps to build their fine motor skills and their concentration. With your child’s clothing they have to identify their own clothes at prep, putting their name inside is a good way for them to know, and talking about what clothes they are wearing each morning will help them to remember. It is important to teach your child from a young age to care for their things and helps put away their activities. In a Montessori environment they are taught this from a very young age so it has become habit for them to care for their environment.

Children’s social skills are incredibly important at this age.  At prep they will have learnt to use words instead of being physical when angry, they need confidence to speak clearly so an adult can understand them. They need to follow simple directions and play with other children. It is important that children express their feelings and needs so they are not left unaided. Sharing and taking turns is important at school to avoid conflict.  As parents we need to explain why they need to have manners and be polite. Children, by now should be able to talk in sentences, ask questions and say please and thank you. Having a book read to your child should be something they enjoy, this should be started from when they are very young. By this stage children should be comfortable with you leaving them and be left for an extended time and feel happy and safe.

Food is a very important part of a child’s life, when children are at school they need healthy lunches which will help them to concentrate on the tasks they are given and also help their brain and body develop.  Teaching children to use a spoon or fork to eat is necessary for them to manage different kinds of food in their lunch. Children by prep age must cover their nose and mouth when they sneeze or cough and know to wash their hands after going to the toilet. Having a routine for your child is important, so they know to brush their teeth before bed and in the mornings.

Children’s first year at school should be a happy introduction to the rest of their school life. Helping them feel positive and genuinely being interested in what they did in their day, is very important. Prep will give them confidence and make them feel what they are learning is helping to make them into an adult that will be a wonderful contribution to the world.

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  • Rebecca Grugan
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