Skills to develop to prepare for Grade 1

Skills to develop to prepare for Grade 1

It’s that time of the year again when school readiness tests look at which skills to develop to prepare children for Grade 1. As Occupational Therapists we are often asked by parents and teachers which developmental milestones are important for this transition.


Spend some intentional time developing the following skills, regardless of whether your child has done well or not in these tests:


1. Gross Motor Skills:

The big muscles in the body form the foundation for almost all school tasks. Your child will need to have a strong core so that he can sit up straight on the mat or at his desk. Having strong shoulders will free up his hands and fingers for writing and cutting. Being strong can also aid good attention and concentration due to better endurance. Grade 1 is often the start of exploring different sports and having good balance and coordination will boost his confidence in this area.


Activity ideas:

  • Visit your local park – look out for parks with monkey bars, trapeze bar swings, climbing ropes, jungle gyms and swings.
  • Wheel-barrow walking – when taking your socks from the laundry basket to the cupboard ask your child to hold a pair of socks rolled into a ball in each hand and wheel-barrow walk him to the cupboard.
  • Super hero’s – ask your child to lie on his tummy and lift his arms and legs (making sure his knees are straight and off the floor) to fly like superman while he counts out loud to 20 or 30. Conversely ask him to lie on his back and cross his arms over his chest while curling into a ball (putting his chin onto his chest and bending his knees). Ask him to hold this position for 20 to 30 counts. Do Super hero’s daily and watch him improve!

2. Fine Motor Skills:

As children learn to write in Grade 1, small muscles in their hands and fingers as well as in their eyes need to be strong and coordinated. As these muscles get stronger they will have better fine motor endurance, which is important for task pace and completion. Early hand muscle development is linked to good maths and reading skills later on.


Activity ideas:

  • Paper tearing – teach your child how to tear straight strips of paper using a ruler; try tearing around a simple shape like a circle; show them how to tear a fringe to use as a lions mane or hedgehog spikes. Turn your paper tearing into art.
  • Folding – start with simple folds like folding a card in half and progress to folding on a specific line. You could make a heart (draw half a heart on the fold) or snowflake (cut small pieces out of a piece of paper that has been folded many times). Make a paper fortune teller or quack-quack together.
  • Flicking – teach your child how to position his middle finger behind his thumb to flick a ping pong ball, pom-pom, cotton wool ball, a spinning dial, playdough ball, small pebbles or marbles. He could try to knock down a tower of empty match boxes, lego or empty pill bottles in a game of finger skittles.


3. Visual Perceptual Skills:

How your child’s eyes see shapes, forms and designs and how his brain interprets this will help with maths, handwriting and memory. There are many different important visual perceptual skills, we have highlighted activities for our top 3.


Activity ideas:

  • Figure-ground – this is being able to find an object against a busy background and is a pre-reading skill. Look out for busy books (e.g. Where’s Wally, Richard Scarry) and enjoy hunting out the details. Ask your child to find specific utensils or socks in a busy drawer.
  • Spacial perception – this is being able to see an object in relation to another object. Build Lego by copying the instructions, make toothpick and candy (e.g. jellytots, liquorice all sorts or mini marshmallows) 3D constructions for your little one to copy, plan a treasure hunt with positional instructions for your little one to follow; create a picture on a dot-grid and ask your child to copy it.
  • Sequential memory – this is the ability to remember items in the correct sequence which is important for spelling and the following of instructions. Practice following 3 to 6 step instructions at home; practice learning your address and phone number; make up a memory tray of objects and ask your child to copy your tray.

Remember that play is your child’s form of work so if you have fun then you will know he is learning and getting ready for his big year next year!

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