Hello Grade I!
Grade I symbolizes the transition from a world of free play and imagination to a world of formal studies, duties and responsibilities. This change is thrilling and significant both for the child and his family. Nurit Hellinger, occupational therapist and Coordinator of Instruction in the Institute of Child Development and the Facilitator of the “Hello Grade I” workshops at Schneider Children’s, offers advice to children transitioning from kindergarten to school.
The guideline when transitioning from framework to framework is personal organization, i.e. the ability to plan a multi-level task in advance and to evaluate its execution thereafter. This is especially apparent in the mornings, when in a relatively short space of time, the child is required to dress, brush his teeth, put on his shoes, brush his hair, eat breakfast and leave the house with all the needed equipment for that day in school. Another example is completing homework assignments which also demands good planning and execution. Children need assistance to fulfil these tasks effectively and independently prior to starting school. They should be involved in completing complicated and varied tasks by themselves even if they are not connected to school such as setting the table, tidying up a room, making a sandwhich. In this way, the child learns how to organize things himself and transfer the capability to other tasks required of him at school. Of course the objective is not to “throw the child into deep water”, rather to guide him, intercede for him, and help him in different ways such as creating a table of duties (with pictures) reminding the child of the sequence of tasks.
A recommended activity to practice within the home in order to improve organizational skills is cooking and baking which have several degrees:
Promotes practice of hand skills (mixing, cutting, kneading, opening and closing jars) in preparation for putting writing items in a pencil case in the long term
Exposes children to literature and letters that appear on packages of various items and in the cookbook
Requires social interaction, role division, attention and patience when frustrated
A task in the kitchen operates all the senses. Touching substances, sometimes wet, dirty, hot or cold, cooking various soups, pureed or with pieces, the exposure to different smells and tastes, and even sounds and noises – all these are significant for adjustment of the senses, which are vital for the child’s development. As mentioned, this is a task that requires planning, supervision and organization. and must be done under adult supervision.
What are the games and activities that best prepare the child for Grade I?
Games that improve needed cognitive skills for school such as Taki, Fours, Dominos, and memory games
Games that improve hand function for adjustment to and precision in writing such as tracing mazes
“Reality” games that dramatize the interaction between teacher and students. Through free play, feelings that focus on the transition to school will surface and be addressed: fear, excitement, sadness, confusion, happiness and more.
What activities should be less emphazised?
Work books in preparation for writing and copying. It is not recommended to weigh the child down with monotonous activity such as tracing printed letters. This will, in the long run, burden the child’s writing capability.
Electronic games, cell phones etc. It is difficult to stay away from these games as they do improve the speed of response and hand-eye coordination, but it is important to regulate time spent opposite a screen which does not encourage social interaction and where games are frequently unsuitable from the emotional standpoint for the child’s developing brain. In addition, for the most part, they do not contribute to the child’s attention ability.