Use flashcards in fun ways to practice letter and number recognition.
I know some people are anti-flashcards, but if you can integrate movement or make silly up silly games, I think they can be useful, effective, and fun. If you don't want to go out and buy flashcards, you can easily make your own or print some out. Here are some of the fun ways we use flashcards.
- I scatter them on the floor and say a letter or number and he has to jump to the one I say or the next one in alphabetical or numerical order.
- I hold up a card, and if he correctly identifies it, I "fire" it at him (frisbee style). This is his favorite game. He pretends to be dodging it, but actually he wants it to hit him. He laughs the whole time and is motivated to give the correct answers.
- Once in a while he is willing to go through a few cards in typical flashcard style, especially if we are "playing school" and he gets a turn to be the teacher and quiz me too. He doesn't seem to mind that most of the time my answer is, "I don't remember what that one is, Teacher. Will you tell me?"
- I hold up a letter and gave a "prize" to whoever identified the letter first (yes, Tyler is in on this too - amazing how much he learns from watching big brother). The prizes are as simple as tickles, hugs, kisses, races around the room, being tossed in the air, spun around, or danced with. At the end, when I am exhausted and hoarse, the last letter is M and we get a family prize of a few M&M's.
Use toys to practice writing and letter formation.
Using a toy is less intimidating to a beginning writer than a paper and pencil. Use a MagnaDoodle or other drawing toy to practice writing letters and numbers. They also enjoy writing with and on different mediums - think chalk, finger paint, forming letters with Play-Doh, bending pipe cleaners into letters, tracing in pebbles/sand, etc..
Gradually introduce activities that require focus.
Attention-building activities are frustrating and must be used in small doses. As soon as your child begins to get overwhelmed, stop! I try to have I Spy and Spot the Difference type books available for car rides, waiting rooms, and quiet time. He also enjoys simple mazes and puzzles. Sometimes he really enjoys them, but once he is frustrated, he does not want anything to do with it. Problem solving skills are important, and that includes how to express frustration.
Buy a few inexpensive workbooks or print out materials from free websites.
As with flashcards, some people are anti-workbook, but my son is at an age where he takes delight in having his own books to write in and completed pages to show Daddy and Grandma. These are mixed in with other books, and it is up to him when he wants to pull it out and do a page or two. Ours are all from the dollar section at Target, the Dollar Tree store, or garage sales. He also enjoys these cutting and folding books, which he got for Christmas last year.
Lastly, a fine motor skills trick I learned from friends who work with children with special needs:
Don't bother buying the jumbo crayons or pencils for your toddlers. Their hands are little, and they need little things to hold onto! It is better for them to learn how to hold a regular crayon and a golf pencil correctly than to learn how to hold onto something bigger when their hand is little and then how to hold onto something smaller when their hand is bigger. You may disagree with this or have been given conflicting advice from someone else. I'm not an expert and am just passing on what they explained to me. So far it has worked for us.
Next I'll be sharing a few of the books we are reading and how you can develop pre-reading skills with your young children.