My oldest son began kindergarten this year. He is enjoying all of the “big-kid” perks of going to school like riding the bus and having recess. But he’s also discovered that school also comes with responsibilities. Not least of which is a list of skills to be practiced as homework, including several penmanship tasks like drawing shapes and writing letters, numbers, and his first and last name. I don’t think my guy is the first child to react as though writing practice were akin to being kidnapped by terrorists, but there is at least one way I’ve found to get around this response. Make it fun and exciting!
Instead of sitting him down in front of yet another sheet of lined paper, I take a standard cookie sheet and pour in one container of salt. That’s the magic ingredient– salt! It costs all of 35 cents, but it transforms the exercise from mundane to motivating! (Don’t be scared of my tarnished cookie sheet. That old girl has seen more than her fair share of tasty treats!)
Using a pencil or a finger he writes right into the salt. Besides being a little less physically taxing, the salt provides an element of sensory stimulation and the cookie sheet gives room for larger strokes. I usually let him experiment a little, and then we play some games copying each other’s zig-zags, curves, and lines. He thinks it’s just fun, but writing really comes down to recognizing and intentionally generating these types of written lines, so this “non-writing” game is actually building his writing skills as well! (But don’t tell him!) To erase he gently shakes the cookie sheet back and forth like an Etch-a-Sketch to settle the salt again.
His teacher requests just ten minutes of skills practice for homework, but without fail, when the timer goes off to signal the end of our writing practice, my guy is content to continue exploring with the salt. He writes, doodles, and draws, all the while building that fine motor strength and control. And every now and then he grabs some toy cars or heroes (or an eager younger brother) to get in on the action as well. When we’re done, I just pour it into a ziplock and save it for next time.
It’s just one way to get play and learning back together!
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