Developmental Tools for Teaching Letter Recognition

teaching letter recogntion

This blog discusses activities for teaching letter recognition. At its most basic, letter recognition refers to letter identification. It is one of the main skills children need to know before they can name, write, or sound out the letters. The following fun letter recognition games for preschoolers are based on development and skill progression.

Be sure to read through our blog post on name practice for kindergarten for resources and tools to support letter use and recognition in children ages 5-6 or for kids at the level where they are recognizing letters in their name.

Use our new color by letter worksheet to further develop this letter recognition skill.

Teaching letter recognition

What you need to know about Teaching Letter recognition

Letter recognition, or the ability to recognize and identify letters begins at a very young age. But did you know that teaching letter recognition skills starts way before kindergarten and and even before entering the classroom?

Kindergarten students are many times exposed to writing and copying letters on trace worksheets, and writing pages. But before a young child can do these skills that are part of the curriculum, knowing what skills lead up to these skills is helpful.

Even before a young preschooler is able to identify and name letters in printed context such as books or letter play activities, they are learning this skill through the immersion of seeing letters in everyday life.

Letter identification and the ability to recognize letters in printed form might occur through exposure on television, printed media, following along while a book is being read, or while engaging with technology. 

There is a progression in the important literacy skill of recognizing printed letters:

  • Letter recognition in isolation – example, pointing out all of the upper case letter As on a letter picture book
  • Letter recognition in every day life – example pointing out the letter S on a stop sign
  • Letter identification – identifying and stating letter’s names
  • Letter identification in text -reading and sounding out a letter’s sound in reading or sounding out written text
  • Matching upper case and lowercase letters– matching the upper case letters to lowercase, and vice versa

Each step of teaching letter recognition skills is founded in experience and practice. This includes communication with others, exposure, and reading with caregivers. 

Not every child learns the same way. Starting as young as preschool, caregivers can support children by using their interests and strengths to teach them new skills.

Children don’t need to read or write until well beyond toddlerhood, but preschoolers enjoy looking at books, finding letters on walks, and learning letters through movement. 

The best way to teach letter recognition
The best way to teach letter recognition is by first covering the prerequisite skills.

Prerequisites to Letter Teaching Letter Recognition

Several areas are needed to develop letter recognition skills:

  • Object permanence
  • Form constancy
  • Visual discrimination
  • Visual figure ground
  • Working memory
  • Visual memory
  • Visual scanning skills
  • Cognitive skills
  • Physical development

You can see that these components are founded in visual motor skills, perceptual skills, and working memory.

Before any of this can happen (and through the process), young children should be exposed to rhymes, songs, and singing the alphabet song. (Add alphabet exercises for movement fun!) This is actually the first step in the road to literacy!

Teaching letter recognition requires Visual discrimination Skills

Letter recognition/identification is when a person is able to look at a letter and recall it from previous experience. Recognition of letters occurs both in uppercase and lowercase form. Additionally, there is a cursive letter recognition aspect as well. This blog post covers cursive letter recognition skills.

This site states that even before letter identification, there are a few other skills that should be taught, including visual discrimination, so the child is able to find differences among lines and shapes. 

Visual discrimination can be taught in isolation through books or worksheets, or in games and activities such as Memory games, matching and sorting activities, or playing “what’s the same” and “what’s different” through hidden picture activities and puzzles.  We cover this visual perceptual skill in our blog post, Wacky Wednesday book activity.

Visual Memory Another great play-based activity to develop the visual perceptual memory skills needed for letter recognition, are games that challenge kids to notice differences. Present the child with a tray of everyday items, and ask them to memorize the items on the tray. Ask them to look away or cover their eyes. Take away one or more items, and have them recall the missing items. 

Letter activities- Other ways to encourage letter play is through printed alphabet worksheets, puzzles, letter magnets, or other alphabet manipulatives such as letter beads. You can ask the child to sort letters based on shape, such as those that include straight lines, versus curved line, or diagonal letters. You can also sort letters by letters based on size: tall letters, short letters, and letters with a tail that hangs below the lines.

One way to encourage functional handwriting is through addressing letter size. This tall and short worksheet has a fine motor and visual motor component that can be incorporated into whole-body movement activities to teach these concepts that carryover into letter sizing and use in handwriting.

Prerequisites to teaching letter recognition begins in infancy

These prerequisite skills that support letter recognition, such as visual discrimination and memory, develop as early as infancy, when young children identify 3D objects that are familiar to them like their bottle, favorite toy, or their parents. It is important infants experience tummy time in order to develop visual motor skills, and strong oculomotor skills, as a result of time spent on the belly while looking at objects.

As children grow, their visual discrimination becomes more refined and they are able to identify pictures and written words.

Toddlers are able to point to a picture of a puppy in a book they are reading, or identify who is hiding under the blanket.

Object permanence and working memory

When a child sees an object and knows what it is called, this is referred to as object permanence. This requires working memory skill development to use what is seen, remember it, and store it for later retrieval.

While visual discrimination is the ability to detect differences and similarities in size, shape, color and pattern, cognitive ability is necessary to recognize these differences based on previous exposure, along with memory to have stored that information away in their mind’s eye to recall when needed.

This skill is typically associated with letter formation and handwriting skills. Identifying and discriminating between differences in letters allow kids to copy and write letters from memory. However, noticing and identifying the differences in the curves, diagonal lines, and lines that make up a letter are essential build up to that skill.

Hearing and saying the letter sounds associated with letters are part of the process, too. Phonemic awareness is developed initially through play, but this skill continues to develop and progress as reading and literacy skills are refined in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and beyond.

Teaching letter recognition begins with the ability to recognize details in visual images

In more depth, students should identify likeness and differences of shapes or forms, colors, as well as the position of various objects and people. Developing discrimination skills will help children learn the alphabet and then both read and print letters a lot better. 

There are numerous types of visual discrimination that children should begin to understand and develop. These include: 

  • 3D Objects
  • Shapes
  • Drawings & Pictures
  • Colors
  • Letters and Words
  • Sequences

Letter recognition games

The letter recognition activities and games and listed below are fun ways to instruct children in the essential skills needed for reading and literacy. It’s literally the building block to reading.

  • Name Recognition- Start with recognizing the letters of their name. Point out letters in the child’s name and ask them to point to letters in a book or on a sign. Children can first begin with recognizing upper case letters of their name, then moving onto the lowercase letters. Working first with uppercase letters is best, because capital letters are easier to discriminate between. Lowercase letters have many similar letters, b,d,p,g,q, and j. 
  • Bean Bag Letter Toss – Affix upper and lowercase letter stickers to one side of each bean bag. Put a basket or bucket across from your child. As your child throws the bean bags into the bucket, ask them to name the letters and their sounds of the letters. Students can run around looking for matching letters scattered around the room.
  • Alphabet Play dough- Write down large letters on a piece of paper and place that paper into a sheet protector. Encourage your child to form the letters on the sheet protector with play dough of their choosing.
  • I Spy Letter Walk –Take a walk with your child and look for letters in their environment such as on license plates, street signs and building. Play, I Spy, searching for different letters, or letters in sequential order. The printable tools in the Letter Fine Motor Kit are a great resource for this activity.
  • Jumping to letters – Create a letter pathway with sidewalk chalk on a playground or sidewalk. Children can walk, run, jump, or crawl across the letters, naming them as they move forward! Change it up by asking them to walk backwards along the path. This is a fun motor planning activity.
  • Chasing the Alphabet – (Amazon affiliate link:) Sammy Chases the Alphabet is a book I wrote about Sammy the Golden Dog playing fetch with balls around his farm. Each ball has a letter on it. After you read the book, bring the story to life by adding letter stickers to ball pit balls. Toss the balls around a room or outside, and encourage your child to find them all, naming the letters on each ball they find.
  • Food Alphabet Worksheets – Pair real food items with these food worksheets. These worksheets include the letter, a food that starts with the letter, and all of the letters that make the word. As children sound out each letter, ask them to point to the letter that makes that sound.

more letter recognition Activities

Alphabet activities like the ones below support recognition skills through repetition. Alphabet recognition occurs through songs, play, and hands-on activities.

  • The Soundabet Song – Letter identification doesn’t just include what letters look like, it also includes what letters sound like. Can your child point to the letter name as well as the sound it makes? This Soundabet Song is a great way to teach kids how to pair the sounds of the letters to what the letters look like. 
  • Letter Push – This ABC play dough activity uses plastic letters and play dough! Add in some fine motor skills to alphabet identification, by having children push plastic letters into play dough while they name the letter. This can be done as a circle time game, where each child take a turn pushing in a letter, or a small group time where every child has the opportunity to push the play dough letters. 
  • Alphabet Sensory Bins – Nothing keeps my preschoolers entertained more then a large sensory bin! Adding alphabet letters or letter markers to the sensory bins for children to find and match, is one of the most exciting letter identification games. Check out these sensory bin base ideas to use in different letter recognition sensory  bins.
  • This alphabet sensory writing tray requires users to recognize letters by uncovering them from a sensory medium. This is a great activity for recognizing letter parts such as diagonals or the curved part of a letter as the letter is uncovered.
  • Metal alphabet tray play – My favorite is to add a metal pan to the sensory table, and ask kids to stick the magnet letters they find in the sensory materials onto the metal pan!
  • Alphabet Discover Bottle – This sensory discovery bottle can be used before naptime, bedtime, in a calm down corner, or as a learning activity. As children shake the bottle, they can name the letters that appear! 
  • Match letters- Match uppercase letters to lower case letters, match different fonts of letters, and match letters in different environments (books, signs, on television, in print, etc.)
  • Gross motor activities- Use a letter floor mat to jump on a specific letter. Ask the child to find a letter magnet and place it on the letter mat.
  • Letter recognition scavenger hunts- Use ideas like these letter clothes pins scavenger hunt for ideas.
  • Write letters in shaving cream or in sand
  • Sort letters by word families when teaching letter groups
  • Play beginning sound games- I spy with my little eye, a word that starts with /b/
  • Use dot markers to dot letters
  • Spot letters on a white board and trace with a dry erase marker
  • make letters from pipe cleaners
  • Sensory play activities
  • Trace letters on sandpaper

A final note teaching letter recognition skills:

Learning through play doesn’t have to be stressful. Every child learns differently, and that includes recognizing letters of the alphabet. Once a child has developed the visual discrimination, expressive and receptive language skills needed to participate in letter identification activities, notice what motivates them to learn.

Do they like to move, cut, color, dance, or sing? Pick a letter activity that you know your child will love, and they will keep coming back for more. This will result in increasing their attention span and learning new letters daily. Follow your child’s interests and you will surely have a wonderful time!

Jeana Kinne is a veteran preschool teacher and director. She has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. Her Bachelors Degree is in Child Development and her Masters Degree is in Early Childhood Education. She has spent over 10 years as a coach, working with Parents and Preschool Teachers, and another 10 years working with infants and toddlers with special needs. She is also the author of the “Sammy the Golden Dog” series, teaching children important skills through play.

The Letter Fine Motor Kit is a 100 page printable packet includes everything you need for hands-on letter learning and multisensory handwriting!

This resource is great for pediatric occupational therapists working on handwriting skills, fine motor skills, visual motor skills, and more. Use the activities to promote a variety of functional tasks.

Teachers will find this printable packet easily integrated into literacy centers, classroom activities, and multisensory learning.

Parents will find this resource a tool for learning at home, supporting skill development, and perfect for therapy at home!

MULTISENSORY HANDWRITING

Grab the Letter Fine Motor Kit and use all of the senses, including heavy work, or proprioceptive input, through the hands ask kids build and manipulate materials to develop handwriting and letter formation skills.

Fun Friendship Activities for Preschoolers

Preschool friendship activities

The preschool setting is a place social emotional skills develop, and these friendship activities for preschoolers are sure to be a hit in the preschool classroom. We’ve covered friendship activities in the past, but these preschool activities support development during the early years. Preschool is a wonderful age, full of exploration and a thirst for knowledge, and making friends in preschool is one aspect of learning. It also comes with a set of challenges while learning to navigate social skills.

This blog discusses the foundational social and emotional skills that support friendships in preschoolers. It also includes seven friendship building activities. If you are looking for ideas for friendship lesson plans, these ideas are founded in developmental progression.

Preschool friendship activities

Friendship Activities for Preschoolers

Young children in preschool begin to practice friendship building skills with others, such as cooperation, negotiation, turn taking, communication and trust.

Children as young as three years of age may make inseparable friendships that prove the importance of social function. While participating in specific activities designed to develop friendship skills, children are participating in social emotional learning.

Preschool Friendship and social skills

Emotional intelligence is part of development during the preschool years. Over the course of ages 2-5, many of these skills develop in order to support friendship.

The emotional intelligence skills that impact friendship include:

  • Empathy
  • Awareness of others
  • Awareness of impact of self on others
  • Conversation
  • Self-management
  • Relationship management

There are six social skills needed to make and sustain friendships at any age. Preschoolers often experience their first group experiences at the park, preschool, in a community sport, or family event.

The more that children have opportunities to participate in group activities, their social and emotional skills develop and refine, as they prepare for less adult intervention in Kindergarten and beyond. 

Social emotional considerations that impact friendship skills in young children include:

  1. Cooperation
  2. Negotiation
  3. Turn taking
  4. Communication
  5. Trust
  6. Emotional regulation
Let’s take a closer look at the friendship skills preschoolers develop during the ages of 3-5, and explore friendship activities for preschoolers that support development in each of these areas:

Cooperation

When children are engaging in activities with others, understanding the needs of others, while also acknowledging their own needs, they are cooperating. As described in this Zero to Three blog, “Cooperation is the ability to balance one’s own needs with someone else’s. We often think of cooperation as children doing what adults want. That is compliance. True cooperation means a joint effort—a give and take that is mutually satisfying. To develop a cooperative spirit in children, we need to help them understand how our requests and rules are good for everyone.”

Negotiation

Negotiation is the ability to communicate with others in order to compromise on how to complete a task.  This Embracing Horizon’s blog describes the difference between negotiations and arguments. It is important to understand that negotiation is a life skill. “The art of successful negotiation is a skill which is important to social situations throughout life; going far beyond agreeing on a movie to watch with the whole family. Negotiation involves abilities such as listening to others, expressing empathy, and to coming to a good compromise.”

Turn Taking

Turn taking is a skill that often needs adult intervention, especially with preschoolers. Children who are working together, often need to take turns with toys or objects. Children can utilize turn taking resources, such as turn taking cards, lists, timers, picture symbols, or participate in teacher directed turn take activities, such as group games, or assignment of class jobs, to become familiar with waiting until it is their turn. My book, Sammy Learns to Share: A Lesson in Turn Taking includes some great turn taking tips and resources for the classroom. 

Communication

As children develop communication skills, they are able to be understood, and understand other children. Communication can be verbal, gestural, non verbal, or through using picture exchange cards. When children can communicate their wants, needs, and ideas clearly to each other, they are more equipped to be able to cooperate in large group activities. As children advance into new developmental stages, their communication skills advance, and their play skills become more sophisticated. Lack of language skills is often a source of frustration and maladaptive behavior among small children, especially those with communication disorders.

Trust

The foundation of any relationship is trust. If someone says they are going to do something, then they need to do it. This consistency and reliability builds trust. As preschoolers grow and engage with others, they learn to follow through with their promises, and expect others to do the same. They learn that adults generally do what they say they are going to do, follow routines, follow-through with promises, and offer positive reinforcements. 

Emotional Regulation

When young children become overwhelmed and are unable to communicate their feelings with others, completing a group task can be difficult. Children who practice calm down and problem solving skills, are more easily able to participate in a variety of group activities, even when they become frustrated. My book, Soothing Sammy’s Emotional Program, teaches children how to help calm down, communicate and problem solve in a positive way. 

7 Friendship activities for Preschoolers

Include these games and activities when developing preschool lesson plans:

  1. Friendship Hands Group Project is one of my favorite pre-K activities! The handprints are of the kids in the class, and we write down exactly what they like best about their friends inside the heart! All you need is a marker, some paint and a large piece for cardboard!
  2. Group Art- is a great way to encourage cooperation, collaboration and negotiation. Roll out a long piece of butcher paper and provide only one package of markers. Children are able to decorate the paper however they would like, but they have to take turns with the markers, discuss how they want to split up the area of the paper, and figure out where each peer will be drawing. A lot of times, the kids end up sharing the space with their peers, creating some amazing images together. 
  3. Dramatic Play Roles and Props – Creating a pretend play area in the classroom that is based off of the interest of the children, by the children, and for the children, is one of the most exciting and collaborative experiences that I have had the pleasure of taking part in. Props that preschoolers can use in play include interactive toys, sharing toys, imagination toys, and manipulatives for pretend play. As children create props, assign roles, and negotiate through the process, they are able to practice all of the components of building friendships.
  4. Friendship Gross Motor ActivitiesPreschoolers love to move. These super fun gross motor activities make building friendships fun! They include activities such as, “move like your friends,” that supports the  developing and awareness of personal space.
  5. Friendship Books – We have many friendship activities for preschoolers in our Exploring Books through Play book. Reading books about friendship is a wonderful way for children to talk about characters in a book, describe how they became friends, and what make their friendship special. Our Leonardo the Terrible Monster activity that pairs with the book, Leonard and the Terrible Monster, is fun way to extend the conversation about friendship into small group time. My book, Sammy Goes to Preschool, talks about friendship between children of all abilities. 
  6. Friendship Science Activities – These friendship science activities are bound to be a great time for everyone! They include measuring activities, fingerprints, homemade telescopes, flowers, and more! You’ll find more science and exploration activities in the book Exploring Books Through Play.
  7. Circle Time Friendship Games – When all the children in the classroom are sitting together and ready to engage, this is a great time to participate in some friendship games. Friendship games to use during circle time activities are fun. They include the Friendship Yarn Web, Friendship Matching Game, and Friendly Music Chairs!

A final note of preschool friendships

Building friendships takes a lot of different skills, most are learned in the early years. Preschoolers will not be able to do it on their own, so it is up to adults to help facilitate friendship skills through modeling, providing resources, and having age appropriate expectations of early childhood development. As children practice their language, social and play skills, friendships will form, and children will learn life-long skills.

Jeana Kinne is a veteran preschool teacher and director. She has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. Her Bachelors Degree is in Child Development and her Masters Degree is in Early Childhood Education. She has spent over 10 years as a coach, working with Parents and Preschool Teachers, and another 10 years working with infants and toddlers with special needs. She is also the author of the “Sammy the Golden Dog” series, teaching children important skills through play.

Exploring Books Through Play contains 50 hands-on, multi-sensory play-centered activities for anyone helping kids learn about friendship, acceptance, empathy, compassion, and differences in others.

In this preschool friendship activity book, kids can develop social emotional skills resource, you’ll find therapist-approved resources, activities, crafts, projects, and play ideas based on 10 popular children’s books.

Each preschool book covered contains activities designed to develop fine motor skills, gross motor skills, sensory exploration, handwriting, and more. The resource helps preschoolers understand complex topics of social/emotional skills, empathy, compassion, and friendship through books and hands-on play. Get Exploring Books Through Play today.

Separation Anxiety Activities and Tips

separation anxiety activities

Today, we have a couple of separation anxiety activities that can support kids who struggle with school drop off. Many times, kindergarten or preschool drop off is full of tears, especially those first few weeks of school. Here, you’ll find a great connection activity to help preschoolers and parents find a way to make preschool drop off easier by connecting through the book, Owl Babies. Use this Owl Babies activity to help with that preschool separation stage. This post shares movement based separation anxiety activities that can help kids who are experiencing separation anxiety in preschool drop off, with ideas based on the children’s book.

Separation Anxiety in Preschool or Kindergarten

Step into a preschool classroom on the first day of school and you will likely see a few tears here an there (possibly some of those tears coming from the parents dropping off their child for the first time!).

Separation anxiety in preschool age is normal! But here’s what you need to know about that visible preschool behavior that may be fueled by something besides getting used to leaving mom/dad/caregiver for the first time…and how to help with a simple preschool self-regulation strategy.

The movement-based, sensory activity we share below can actually be used with preschool through kindergarten:

  • the 3 year old preschooler who is just being dropped off for the first time
  • the 4 year old preschool student
  • pre-k kids
  • kindergarten students
  • older, grade school students who are sad or upset on the first day of school

preschool anxiety

So, what is happening with preschool anxiety that causes tears, meltdowns, and clinging to mom or dad at the day care or preschool drop off?

You have probably seen it before:

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, it’s time for preschool. The routine at home is the same: excitement, packing the bag, and gearing up for a day of learning colors, songs, preschool activities, and nursery rhymes. Getting into the car and driving to preschool is no problem.

But then you pull into the parking lot and the worries begin.

Tears, crying, clinging to Mom, negotiations, promises of seeing the little one in just 2 short hours.

Two minutes later, she is happy, playing with play dough, and dry of all nose drips.

It might even seem as if the preschool separation meltdown is just part of the morning routine.

As a momma of four, I’ve seen plenty of tear-filled drop-offs.  

And it just never stops breaking your heart.

Separation anxiety is actually considered a normal process that occurs in early childhood, as a result of a maturing physical, cognitive, and emotional development. Specifically, the areas of development that lead to a period of separation anxiety in young children include:

  • Visual processing system (visual memory, visual closure)
  • Executive functioning skills (working memory)
  • Self-regulation skills (connecting emotions with behaviors)
  • Social-emotional maturation (emotional connections, attachment, and feeling safe with certain individuals)

Despite the normal development that results in fears, worries, or flat out meltdowns following or leading up to a period of separation, severe separation anxieties do have the potential to negatively impact a child’s social and emotional functioning and this is especially true when the young child then avoids certain places, activities, and experiences that are necessary for healthy development.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

Sometimes, the family, parents, or caregivers also avoid these places, experiences, and activities. This can lead to even more negative experiences. When the family supports avoiding certain places or situations because of the young child’s separation, we can have situations where separation anxiety “hangs around” longer than is part of typical development.

Officially, Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is defined as “developmentally inappropriate and excessive anxiety concerning separation from home or from those to whom the individual is attached” (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). However, for the young child, separation angst does not mean a disorder is present. It is only when the anxiety levels are so severe that they are not appropriate for developmental age that the official diagnosis of Separation Anxiety Disorder should be investigated.

For those with severe symptoms, Separation Anxiety Disorder may result in school refusal and a disruption in educational attainment, refusal to attend doctor’s appointments, dentist visits, or other situations where a child is separated, no matter the physical distance, from the parent or caregiver.

What causes Separation Anxiety Disorder?

There are many developmental areas that enable to progression of separation anxiety in toddlers and preschoolers from levels of worry and age-appropriate anxiety at separation to an inefficient and “disorder” level of worry.

Studies show us that some of these considerations may include:

  • Parenting behavior
  • Low parental warmth
  • Poor attachment
  • Trauma to the parent during the baby’s young years (death in the family, environmental, or other big situation)
  • Trauma to the child (Adverse childhood experiences, both large and small)
  • Insecure or anxious attachment styles
  • Diminished sense of control over one’s environment
  • Overprotective and over involved parenting behaviors
  • Parental intrusiveness- including extreme decision making on the part of the parent
  • Parental intrusiveness- including providing excessive assistance in the child’s daily activities (beyond age-appropriate ability)

Common signs of separation anxiety in kids

The natural and developmental stage of separation anxiety occurs from around age 6 months when the baby is able to notice that something is missing from their field of vision. This skill requires development of several areas:

  • Visual perception
  • Attention
  • Working memory (executive function)
  • Sensory motor

Separation anxiety typically continues from around 6 months of age to about 5 years of age, however signs of separation anxiety can persist after age 5 and through age 6.

However, the cognitive and emotional development that occurs during this age allows for kindergarten and younger elementary aged individuals to separate from their loved ones and know that they will be there even when the are not in view.

Once the underlying areas noted above develop (around 6 months of age), you may see some common signs of separation anxiety:

  • Crying when the parent leaves the room or home
  • Upset and crying when a babysitter or caregiver comes into view
  • Tantrums
  • Avoidance behaviors (refusing to participate in activities that require separation)
  • Clinging to parents
  • Refuse to attend certain situations
  • Apprehension about harm coming to parents
  • Fears the parent will leave and not return
  • Running from the classroom/school bus/appointment setting

Today, I’m sharing a simple trick for helping kids with separation anxiety at preschool or other drop-off situations like our weekly church nursery adventure.

Separation anxiety activities

separation anxiety activities



This post contains affiliate links.

Social Stories- Use social stories to create a visual narrative about how drop offs go and that parents will be back to get the child. Social stories can offer a verbal narrative for the child to use during these situations. Some of our social stories include:

Self-Regulation Strategies- Practice the regulation tools that support the individual’s emotional status with self-regulation strategies. Select a set of calming or heavy work strategies that can be used in preparation for the separation situation, whether that be using at the school bus stop (like this deep breathing school bus exercise) or while driving into school. Having those set of strategies readily available and discussing how the child feels will go a long way.

Movement-based separation activity – One fun way to work on separation anxiety in preschoolers that becomes part of the routine…here we are talking about the preschooler or kindergarten aged child that cries, clings to Mom or Dad, but then warms up to the classroom activities.

Practice routines- Do the same thing every day during the week in preparation for school, including bed times, morning routines, and transportation routines. These visual schedules can help with some individuals.

Wearable Charm- Another similar strategy is to create a DIY separation anxiety charm. Kids can make this along with the family adding heavy work through the hands. then, wear the charm to know that parents and caregivers still love and miss them even when not in view.

Get enough sleep– Practicing good sleep hygiene is important for the child as well as the parent or caregiver. This has an impact on behavioral response and self-regulation. Read a related blog post on supporting newborns not sleeping as sleep in young ones in the home can impact sibling and parent sleep.

Books about Separation- The activity listed below uses the book Owl Babies. But we added a heavy work goodbye sign that parents and children can use at school drop offs to ease separation anxiety. Or, this activity could work for kids that struggle with the transition to the classroom, because they are missing Mom and Dad or other caregiver.

Use the book, Owl Babies by Martin Waddell!

Owl Babies Activity

We read the book, Owl Babies  and fell in love.  

The sweet little Owl Babies in the book wake up from a nap to find their mother gone from the nest.  The owl siblings go through a series of concerns and thoughts about where their mom might be with a little almost-tears.  

My older kids thought the book was pretty awesome and decided that each of the owl babies in the book were one of the girls in our family.  There were a few similar personality traits that aligned with the owls in the book and the sisters in our house.  

The idea of knowing that mom comes back when she leaves is a lesson we’re going through at Sunday School each week and one that happens so often with kids.  Just like the Owl Babies, it can be hard to stay calm and not worry when mom goes away.  

We decided to come up with an owl themed movement activity that kids could do when they are feeling anxious after leaving mom or dad.  

Try this trick to help with separation anxiety in preschoolers, based on the children's book, Owl Babies.


School Drop Off Anxiety

This activity would be perfect for preschool kids who are experiencing separation anxiety at the start of school or in a new classroom situation. For kids that cry at school drop off, or really struggle with missing Mom or Dad, this school drop off anxiety activity can help.

To do the activity, first read Owl Babies together.  Then, talk about how the owls in the book must feel when they see their mother has gone out of the nest. Finally, talk about how when the mom or dad in your family has to go away for a little while, they always come back and that they are thinking of the little one in your home while they are gone.

Try this trick to help with separation anxiety in preschoolers, based on the children's book, Owl Babies.


One easy way to help with separation anxiety is to come up with a hand signal.  We decided that making a bird wing sign would be a lot like an owl in flight.  Hook your thumbs together and spread your fingers out to create the wings of an owl.

Then, wrap both hands around your thumbs to create a little owl baby of your own.  Now, squeeze your hands tight to give them a hug.  Your child can do this motion when the are feeling sad or nervous at school.  Tell them to think about the owl babies in the book and how they felt when their mom came back.

School drop off anxiety activity for separation anxiety in students

Squeezing the hands tightly can provide a bit of proprioceptive input that is calming in a stressful situation like the preschool drop-off.  A simple hand hug might be just the thing that can help! It’s a self regulation activity that supports the whole body as a mechanism to address emotional regulation needs that show up as crying, clinging, and bolting “behaviors”.


Then, when you pick up your little baby, be sure to swoop them up in a big hug!


This activity would work with preschoolers who are a little older than my two year old.  She really enjoyed the book, Owl Babies, though and we have read it again and again!


Let me know how this tip to help with separation anxiety works with your preschooler!

Use this separation anxiety activity to support kids that struggle at school drop off with anxiety or worries.

 

Try this trick to help with separation anxiety in preschoolers, based on the children's book, Owl Babies.


 

Auditory Sensitivity in the Classroom

Auditory sensitivity in the classroom

In this blog post, we are covering an important aspect of the classroom environment: auditory sensitivity. Students with auditory sensory overload are challenged to learn and participate in classroom activities. Let’s discuss auditory processing with the focus on classroom sounds with sensory tips and strategies, as well as supports to set up a classroom for success. This blog post is a great resource aligned with our post on visual noise in the classroom.

Auditory sensitivity in the classroom

Auditory Sensitivity in the Classroom

Students are VERY busy! Whether they are at home, school, or out in the community, children are affected by their surroundings. Setting up a preschool classroom for success is essential. The environment can make children “hyper”, or calm them down. Sometimes preschool (and older kids) have ears sensitive to noise that impact learning and participation in their education. Noise impacts a child’s ability to calm, that can be modified by adults in any environment. We are going to dive into how to support children who are sensitive to noise throughout this blog!

Setting up a Preschool Classroom for Success

Have you ever noticed when there is a lot going on, children tend to lose focus? A child sensitive to loud noises will be challenged to be successful in the classroom environment because the sensory need takes priority. Adults, when they have multiple senses engaged, can be overwhelmed by chaos as well.

This is especially true when there is overwhelming auditory input.

One way to look at this concept is by experience. Think about an amusement park and all of the sounds happening around you in a noisy crowd. While one of my favorite places to go is an amusement park, it can be very overwhelming! I love the rides and the shows. But, when I go to the food court, I start to get overwhelmed. Children are usually crying because they are hungry, parents are annoyed, people are talking on their phone as they wait in 30 minute lines for a $10 hot dog, and there are attendants screaming “next”, or “move along!” There is so much going on auditorily, that many adults get frustrated, and want to find a quiet corner to eat with their family. 

What is the noise like in your Classroom?

In a typical preschool classroom there might be 24 or more children running around, laughing and screaming, while a CD player is playing rambunctious music, and parents are talking about what their child had for breakfast. The preschool setup can become very noisy.

In an elementary classroom, you may have more towards 28 or more students. Kids having conversations, dropping books, running the electric pencil sharpener, screeching tennis shoes, or scraping chairs. Then there is the announcements over the loud speaker, teacher instructions, hallway noises, and the lawn mower outside the classroom window. It can get noisy, quick!

With different types of sounds echoing throughout the classroom, auditory overstimulation can affect behavior and engagement. For ears sensitive to noise, this can be huge.

According to an exploration of sensory processing and the limbic system, the sensory system receives sensory messages, like sound, and directs them to the part of the brain that needs to process them. This process is also responsible for keeping your body safe. Sometimes it will trigger an automatic safety response called a ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response.

This response is a protective mechanism based on our ancient ancestors who had to be on constant alert for saber tooth tigers rustling bushes. While we no longer need to worry about the threat of danger lingering in our periphery, we have this awareness of auditory input that keeps us safe in other ways. Our brain and body regulate the sensory input that comes in so it’s not too overwhelming for us.

An example; when you jump if you hear an unexpected sound.  The “sensory traffic controller” in the brain tunes in to help locate and identify the sound.  You may be instantly more alert if you hear your head teacher, or manager’s voice. Researchers think this part of the brain processes sounds differently in children or adults who are overwhelmed by sounds, noise, or auditory sensory input.

Auditory overload often occurs when there are too many sounds happening at the same time, or if the noise is at a certain frequency.  In addition, the brain can also become overwhelmed by a constant noise which has occurred over a period of time. This information is important when setting up a preschool classroom.

Tips for setting Up a Preschool Classroom

In order to create a calm preschool classroom environment, the sound needs to be purposeful! Being cognizant of all of the different environmental sounds, is key to creating a soothing classroom.  

Here Are aspects of your preschool classroom setup to keep in mind when addressing noise

  • Music – Depending on the time of day, music is a wonderful addition to any classroom. This can be through singing or the electronic media. Use calming/soft music to calm down a classroom during free play and nap time. This can include nature sounds, white noise, soft melodies and children’s music. 
  • Echoing noise – Every classroom is created differently, keep track of where there may some extra echoes. Hearing noise from multiple places at once can be very overwhelming, especially when echoes are coming from multiple children. This can be important when it comes to hallway noises, outside noises (lawnmowers), or echo within the classroom. Some ideas to support echo sensitivity include adding padding to the bottoms of shoes or desks. Felt sheets or foam sheets are inexpensive options for this. Other things to consider is going into the cafeteria, gymnasium, or area with higher ceilings and larger groups of children such as special events.
  • Sensory Headphones- One tool to support students with sensitive ears is a pair of sensory headphones. There are many on the market that can reduce the auditory stress of a child in the day to day noise of a classroom. Other options include sensory noise-reducing earplugs and noise cancelling headphones. To increase sounds try a DIY whisper phone.
  • Consider Other Students – Children are noisy, especially during free play! When indoors, encourage children to use an inside voice, while they are playing and talking. When children are focused and engaged, they tend do this naturally. Creating learning centers that support engagement is the best way to keep noise down, and children learning. Some children who have difficulty regulating their verbal output may need extra help in this area. Check out all of the learning stations (block, art, science, manipulative, sensory, dramatic play) ideas on how to set up your classroom by the age of the children you teach in this Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale.
  • Consider Other Adults – Keeping tabs the adults in the room is key when thinking about the noise in a classroom. Caregivers tend to talk loudly when around a lot of children, either to get their attention, or intervene when they see a problem about to occur. If caregivers practice talking to children, while getting down to their level, and making eye contact, the level of our voices naturally decrease. You can also try a “do not disturb” sign in the door during important lessons or instructional periods. Consider these auditory attention activities.
  • Consider Classroom Pets – Classroom pets are wonderful additions when setting up a preschool classroom. Although they are fun, they can also be noisy! The most popular classroom additions are fish tanks and guinea pigs. The sounds of the bubbles can be soothing for some, but loud to others. Guinea pigs are quiet until they start shuffling around and squeaking. When thinking about where to place a fish tank or cage, keep in mind where the children will nap, and where the quiet spaces are. 
  • Small group activities – When children are actively engaged in activities as a group, their voices tend to become loud. This is a great time to teach children how to turn taking skills, by waiting for others to ask questions. Allowing children to communicate with each other, have discussions, and engage in play, is more productive when they are using their inside voices. 
  • Consider the classroom sound system- There are many options when it comes to auditory needs in the classroom. We talked about the low tech strategies above, but along those same lines is a “high tech” classroom auditory system. This can include things like wireless voice amplifier for teachers, a classroom sound system with wireless microphone, a classroom speaker system, a voice amplifier for classroom, and other technical pieces of equipment.

Auditory input can affect behavior

Young children can feel overwhelmed by many environmental components. This can affect their behavior at home, and in the classroom. The sensory system, and the way the brain processes information, varies for each person. The ability to respond to the environment, greatly depends on how sensitive you are to sensory stimuli. 

The OT Toolbox has a great sensory processing checklist to better understand the sensory systems. You can learn more about this sensory processing checklist here.

What happens when a child is so overstimulated by their environment, they are nor able to calm down, without being redirected?

One strategy is having a safe space such as a calm down corner. Consider setting up a preschool classroom with a calming area.

Including a space in your classroom or home that allows children to take a break form their environment, along with using calming techniques (such as deep breaths, squeezing a ball, sipping water), are wonderful ways to help a child center themselves, so they can reintegrate into the classroom in a more calm state of mind. 

Enourage the use of visual, tactile and auditory calm down cues when setting up a preschool classroom, that two year olds understand. 

*If you notice a child having a hard time calming down, even with the removal of noise, they may have more sensitivities to stimuli than others. This is a sign that an Occupational Therapy evaluation might be appropriate, to determine if they need more supports with their sensory system. The occupational therapist will review the sensory systems, triggers, and behavioral outcomes.

A therapist may then suggest a sensory diet as part of the plan. For more information about a sensory diet, check out this search on the OT Toolbox. In addition, this amazing printable includes 130 different ideas on introducing a sensory diet for your child.  

Auditory classroom management is just one aspect of setting up a preschool classroom

Other aspects to consider are:

  • visual input – is your class cluttered, messy, or busy
  • tactile – is there a lot of touching going on, are children in close proximity
  • olfactory – what are all the good/bad smells in the class
  • vestibular – are there times for movement breaks and outlets for energy

Preschool classrooms are a lot of fun, and children are born to be noisy, but if caregivers take the time to create a classroom that has more soothing sounds indoors, children learn to socialize in a calm way. This allows for classroom management to be easier and more productive, supporting every child’s needs. When planning your classroom, home environment, or an outing with your child, notice the auditory stimuli, and how it is affecting your child.

Free Handout: Classroom Auditory Sensitivity Strategies

We’re coming up on the end of our Summer Handout Series here on the OT Toolbox. Want to print of a list of strategies to support auditory sensitivities in the classroom? Use this printable handout as an educational tool to support auditory needs.

This handout is also available inside our Member’s Club. Just go to the handouts section to grab it without entering your email address.

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Free Handout: Auditory Sensitivity Strategies

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    Jeana Kinne is a veteran preschool teacher and director. She has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. Her Bachelors Degree is in Child Development and her Masters Degree is in Early Childhood Education. She has spent over 10 years as a coach, working with Parents and Preschool Teachers, and another 10 years working with infants and toddlers with special needs. She is also the author of the “Sammy the Golden Dog” series, teaching children important skills through play.

    The Auditory Processing Kit is one tool to support auditory needs. Use this auditory processing kit to support learners with hyper-responsive or hypo-responsive auditory systems. Use the hands-on activities to support learning and active listening through play and handwriting tasks. Use the handouts and posters to teach about the auditory system and auditory sensitivities, with strategies to support individualized needs.

    The Auditory Processing Kit supports listening and comprehension activities into multisensory learning styles.

    Visual Noise and Learning

    Visual noise in the classroom

    In this post you will be discovering how to create a calm classroom, specifically tips to avoid the visual noise that distracts learning in the school environment. Classroom décor and organization can directly effect the engagement level of children in any classroom or learning space. When the environment is too visually stimulating, a student’s ability to focus becomes difficult. Keeping children’s attention can become frustrating. When a classroom environment that is soothing and organized is created, children are better able to stay engaged. In this blog, you will learn about the three different ways to make your classroom visually calm. 

    Visual noise in the classroom

    What is Visual Noise?

    When working with children, teachers think about all of the colors of the rainbow, and want to make classrooms bright and cheery. So many classroom theme sets have fun colors, bright designs, and patterns, contrasting bulletin board boarders, etc. Many believe that having a colorful classroom will keep children interested and engaged. 

    Visual Noise is just that: a visually distracting, or “noisy” visual scene in the classroom. A lot of teachers set up bulletin boards throughout the room with cut-outs in various themes: animal/monster/any theme , alphabet stickers, and painted murals on the walls. Maybe your classroom has a circle time rug that includes the ten different color squares. Perhaps you want to make sure all the children have something they like to do, so you have 20 fine motor choices in the manipulative area. 

    There is just one problem with using these types of visuals in the classroom, they are distracting! 

    • The bulletin boards all around the room are adorable, and fun to look at. So during circle time, you might find a child gazing at the wall, figuring out what new item is there. 
    • When there are rugs filled with colors, you may notice children looking down at the rug, maybe at the bright colors, while singing the color song in their head.
    • If teachers provide too many choices in one area of the classroom, children work with one toy for three minutes, then they are onto the next, without honing in, or practicing the skills that were intended.
    • For young children, and lots of adults, less is more! 

    visual processing

    Humans use vision from birth, to engage with the world around them. The way your brain process what you see, impacts how you interpret your interactions with the environment, and the people around you. To learn more about vision, this amazing PDF discusses visual hypersensitivity and under-sensitivity (or sensory seeking). 

    There are some visual processing red flags that may indicate difficulties with visual processing or ocular motor control:

    • Increased sensitivity to light
    • Easily distracted by visual stimuli, or difficulty sustaining visual attention to an activity
    • Frequently squints, rubs eyes, or gets a headache after visually demanding tasks such as reading, using a phone/tablet/computer, or watching television
    • Loses place in reading or writing
    • Trouble finding things they are looking for, even when they seem to be “right in front of them”
    • Distractions with reading
    • Difficulty tracking visual information
    • Difficulty initiating or holding eye contact
    • Difficulty focusing on one piece of visual information
    • Increased fear of, or desire for, being in the dark
    • Difficulty discriminating between similar shapes, letters, or pictures
    • Letter reversals or number reversals
    • Difficulties with handwriting such as letter reversals, sizing, spacing, or alignment of letters
    • Frequently loses their place while reading or copying
    • Often bumps into things
    • May be slow or hesitant with stairs
    • Difficulty with visually stimulating activities, i.e., puzzles, locating objects in pictures, completing mazes, word searches or dot-to-dots
    • Trouble knowing left from right or writing with both hands

    How to reduce visual noise when planning your classroom

    When planning out your classroom, visual stimulation is important, however there are many ways to make sure there is reduced visual noise, so the environment is not overwhelming.

    Think about how you feel when you go to the spa. Those deep earthy wall colors calm your bodies and nerves instantly! The Montessori and Reggio Emilia educational philosophies advise visual components as a way to keep their classroom calm and focused.

    The Reggio Emilia philosophy recognizes the environment as the child’s third teacher. What is in a child’s environment, how it’s organized, and what it looks like, directly impacts what a child will learn that day. 

    two ways to make sure your environment is visually calming 

    Colors – When picking out colors for your classroom, whether it be for the furniture, rugs, or wall decor, the best way to support a calm visual classroom, is to choose more natural colors. These include blues, greens and browns.

    • Choose toy baskets, or white bins, as opposed to brightly colored ones.
    • Consider turning toy shelves around or covering with neutral fabric to further reduce visual noise.
    • Choose predictable carpet rugs (Amazon affiliate link) like this one, instead of random colorful squares. Carpet samples of neutral colors are an excellent idea to create boundaries while limiting visual distraction.
    • When decorating your walls, allow for empty blank space, and use more of children’s artwork. Consider the use of cloth and fabric.

    Classroom Organization – When choosing how many activities and materials to place in each are of your classroom, keep in mind that less is more! When children have too many options to choose from, this can create a short attention span, and overwhelm from choice overload.

    Organization in the classroom can mean stacks of papers, tons of sticky notes, messy desks, and disorganized files, too.

    In a typical preschool classroom, there are 8 areas of learning: art, fine motor, science, reading, dramatic play, block, large motor and snack! When you use furniture to visually create specific spaces for each center, the classroom is organized, and children know what is expected of them in each area.

    Older classrooms may not have the toys, block areas, and motor components, but there are designated areas: group areas, centers, desks, cubbies, or lockers, teacher areas, information centers, etc. All of these areas can be considered when it comes to visual input.

    This blog from Lovely Connection, on preschool classroom set up, includes important aspects to think about as you plan your classroom layout. She includes information about including noise, popularity, supervision, boundaries, space, and the race track (when kids run around the room in a circular pattern!)

    What happens when children are still overwhelmed, even when the environments are visually calming?

    When a child feels overwhelmed for any reason, having a calm down corner, that is easily accessible and they can stay in as long as they need, is a must have.  My Soothing Sammy Emotions Program.” is an effective calm down area because students are excited to spend time with the adorable golden retriever Sammy. Not only does “The Sammy Program” teach children how to calm down, it guides them through communication and problem solving situations in a visual way that isn’t overwhelming.

    Check out this great blog about visual processing and visual efficiency from the OT Toolbox archives. When a child has visual processing difficulties, they have a harder time taking in visual information, and processing it in order to make sense of it.

    This visual processing bundle, also available in the Toolbox, can support children who are demonstrating visual processing challenges. 

    The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook (also available on Amazon) written by Colleen Beck of the OT Toolbox, is a great resource to start understanding sensory processing disorders.

    A final note about visual noise

    Visual noise doesn’t only occur indoors, it can happen outdoors, especially if there is a lot of activity and sunlight. Being mindful of the visual stimuli outdoors, is just as important as setting up an indoor classroom.

    If you have a child who is having a hard time visually processing their environment outside, these visual sensory activities can be completed outdoors to support their sensory system.

    While considering visual sensory overload in the classroom, also be sure to check out our resource on auditory sensitivities in the classroom. Both are very useful in setting up an inclusive classroom environment for success.

    Classroom themes are adorable and cute! When planning your classroom, keep in mind how “busy” and overstimulating different colors and amount of objects can be. This will help keep your students calm and engaged. Although everyone processes their environment differently, anyone can all benefit from a more calming environment, especially when learning new skills! 

    Jeana Kinne is a veteran preschool teacher and director. She has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. Her Bachelors Degree is in Child Development and her Masters Degree is in Early Childhood Education. She has spent over 10 years as a coach, working with Parents and Preschool Teachers, and another 10 years working with infants and toddlers with special needs. She is also the author of the “Sammy the Golden Dog” series, teaching children important skills through play.

    Co-regulation

    In this blog, you will learn how the environment, and the feelings of those around us, directly affects behavior. You will learn simple ways to support children in calming down, while in our care, through co-regulation. This important skill is part of our emotional intelligence and one that takes fostering and nurturing. Let’s go over what coregulation means, how this skill develops, and how we can support co-regulation through practical strategies.

    Co-regulation information, facts, and references for developing this emotional intelligence skill in children and peers.

    CoRegulation

    The feelings and behavior of people in close proximity to us, directly impact how we feel, and respond to our own emotions. When children become upset, if those areound them stay calm, demonstrating how to calm down, the child can calm down quicker.

    How would you feel if your neighbor was yelling at the mailman for stepping on their freshly cut grass?  Do you feel annoyed? Can you feel the fear the mail man is feeling?

    How would you feel while walking past someone doing yoga in the park? Do you feel calm?

    In the same way adults are impacted by others actions, children pick up the moods of others around them. When people around us are behaving a certain way, we can be directly affected, responding both internally and externally. 

    When witnessing an uncomfortable event such as the confrontation at the mailbox, internally you might feel your heart start to pound, or clench your teeth as nervousness sets in. You might run and hide behind the window curtain to try and separate from yourself from what is making you feel uneasy (while still peeking in horror). 

    Once separated, you are often able to calm down using strategies to regulate your sensory system. I like to sip water and take breaths of lavender. My husband likes to go for a run and lift weights to decompress. As adults, we have learned how to adapt and overcome these intense feelings through different strategies. Children need support to separate themselves from stressful situations, and regulate their emotions.  They are not able to understand the triggers and determine an acceptable calming mechanism.

    Co-regulation definition and terms

    What is co-regulation?

    The definition of co-regulation is– the ability to regulate emotions and behaviors to soothe and manage stressing internal sensory input or external situations, with the support and direction of a connecting individual. Co-regulation is nurturing connection of another individual that supports regulation needs through the use of strategies, tools, and calming techniques in order to self-soothe or respond in times of stress.

    Co-regulation and self-regulation are part of the developmental process. In order to move from a co-existing place to a place of independence, the child needs to develop emotional intelligence and social emotional learning. All of this is part of typical development.

    Development of co-regulation

    Co-regulation is a part of development. Before one can self-regulate, they need to co-regulate.

    • Co-regulation begins in infancy. Before a young child can self-soothe, they need a parent to help them. When an infant is crying a parent picks them up, holds them close, rocks, and wraps them up in a tight swaddle, and offers a pacifier. All of these strategies are tools to provide correct sensory input that calms and regulates the baby’s system. This is co-regulation; the parent is offering tools and strategies to support the infant’s needs. 

    As caregivers we play a huge role in helping children calm down. When children are upset or overwhelmed, they look to us for help with regulating their emotions. This article explains how to support co regulation in infants through three year olds. A caregiver needs to project calmness in order to soothe their infant. This is very difficult for an anxious or upset parent.

    • Co-regulation in toddlers might look similar, but with more input from the child. The toddler prefers to be active and jump, run, roll, or move, rather than be held and cuddled all the time. The caregiver offers toys and activities to get the child moving in the way they enjoy. If the toddler only does these alerting activities, they might run themselves down, and move into a meltdown state. The parent then offers a calming tool such as a cool sip of water, a slow walk, singing a song, a break from the action, or a moment to stop and look at something interesting (also known as mindfulness). All of these are co-regulation strategies for toddlers. The parent offers strategies to the young child, and hopefully, the child accepts them. 

    As children grow into toddlers, the most successful way to support their feelings is to calmly use words and gestures to redirect them when they are upset. When adults are feeling anxious or upset when trying to redirect the child, children respond with increased adrenaline, becoming more upset and dysregulated.

    They match or mirror the energy of their caregivers. When adults stay calm, children can become calm. When children become or stay calm, they are able to listen and problem solve. 

    • Co-regulation in preschoolers can be similar to that of a toddler. As they develop, preschoolers are able to offer more input as to their preferences, interests, and dislikes. For example; the young child can request a certain sippy cup they like. They may not know why they like certain activities or items like the long straw on their favorite cup, or the weight of a plush toy, but they know that it feels good. Similarly, adults often do not understand why they choose to run or listen calming music, they just know it helps. Parents can help young children co-regulate sensory and emotional needs through providing ideas for strategies and activities. 
    • Co-regulation in older children– Preschoolers, kindergarteners, elementary aged children and teens are able to self-regulate using skills taught to them while being supported through co-regulation at a younger age. As children grow, they have more autonomy. They have more ability to move from co-regulation to self-regulation. 

    The ability to self-regulate occurs through co-regulation with parents, teachers, and older peers. Typically, it’s through the first 7 years of life that children need support to regulate emotions, sensory input, and external stressors.  Even after the age of 7, most kids need help! 

    Self-regulation development continues over time, but the ability to co-regulate begins to move from a supported mechanism, to an individual and independent ability.

    Co-regulation parenting tips and strategies to support emotional development.

    Co-regulation Parenting

    The above paragraph should help explain what coregulation means in young children, but how can we help support kids with co-regulation, so they can develop these self-soothing skills?

    We can focus on co-regulation parenting as a tool and a means to support our children.

    Many adults struggle with self-regulation. This is where we see additional problems. When young children need support to co-regulate, sometimes the adults in their lives are not offering the tools and strategies as a support person.

    If a parent responds to a young child’s meltdowns or behaviors with emotional outbursts, anger, stress, and anxiety, the young child cannot soothe themselves.

    It is important for adults to take a look at stressors, internal anxiety, and emotional state so they can support the young child. 

    • How many times have you witnessed frustrated teachers/parents/caregivers yelling at children?
    • Does it calm them, or make them afraid and shut down?

    This is why it is important for caregivers to step away from a situation where the toddler is “pushing their buttons”. Take a deep breath, get a date night out, go for a run, or some other mechanism of self-regulation.  I often said, “Mommy needs a time out.”

    self regulation

    You have probably heard the term “self-regulation” which refers to the ability to control oneself in any given situation by balancing and calming internal sensory systems within the world around us. 

    Before young children can self-regulate, they need the support of adults around them to teach and help them develop the abilities to regulate on their own. They need to co-regulate, or co-exist with parents, teachers, and others, who can “show them the ropes” and learn to balance and calm their internal and external systems. Co-regulation comes before self-regulation developmentally.

    Neuroscience of Co-regulation

    What does co-regulation look like in the brain?

    Brains are amazing machines, capable of processing the environment, including the feelings of others. Dr. Caroline Leaf, neuroscientist has stated “As you co-regulate with someone, the mirror neurons in their brain are activated, and this enables the person in the deregulated state to literally ‘mirror’ your calmness,” For long-term benefits and effective results, Johnson recommends practicing co-regulation often. “It will effectively rewire the brain so that over time, things that once were triggering or set off alarms no longer have the same effect and happen less often.” 

    Wow! The brain can process the feelings of others in milliseconds, directly affecting our our own moods and behaviors. No wonder all of the children in a preschool class feel overwhelmed, as soon as one child becomes dysregulated. 

    How do you prevent the whole room from becoming overwhelmed, when only one person is stressed? Co-regulation is the first step for a person to learn self-regulation. 

    According to this research article by Howard Beth, “Neuroscience shows that humans develop their abilities for emotional self-regulation through connections with reliable caregivers who soothe and model in a process called “co-regulation.” … In time, the child internalizes the expectation of a soothing response which provides a foundation for learning self-regulation. “

    It is the responsibility of caregivers to support co-regulation, which directly impacts a child’s ability to self soothe as they grow. When children are upset, the most important thing for caregivers to do, is remain calm.

    If caregivers become upset or overwhelmed in response to another person’s behaviors or actions, everyone will continue to feel stressed, and the situation will explode.

    Co-regulation activities and strategies to help kids with emotional development of cooregulation skills.

    How to help kids with co-regulation

    My own regulation techniques were put to the test once, when I was teaching at a preschool that backed up to a farm. The children (all 2-5 year olds) were inside eating lunch and I was setting up their nap mats. We had a futon in the classroom for children to relax and read books on.

    Out of nowhere, a humongous snake slithered out from under the futon! The initial shock wore off quickly, and my nerves set in. The snake was coming towards me, and I had 24 preschoolers eating lunch only ten feet away! I calmly helped the children walk out the door to the playground with the aide, breathing and saying “It will be okay. No need to worry.” 

    The kids walked out of the room curious, but not frightened. I raced to the phone and called for help (my voice was much more panicked as I talked to the janitor about the huge snake in the room)! I knew nothing about snakes, and I wasn’t about to get in its’ way. Luckily it ended up being a garter snake, removed quickly by a specialist and relocated, far away from my classroom!

    At that moment, I knew that I had to “keep my cool”, so the children wouldn’t become scared. They co-regulated off of my calmness, and were able to safely follow directions and watch the situation unfold from outside.

    Children learn new skills through hands-on activities. Regulation skills are learned the same way.

    Regulation Strategies:

    1. Deep Breathing- Deep breathing exercises for kids teaches young children how to calm down through pausing, and taking large breaths. Relaxation breathing is a great strategy for adults and kids to do together. The ones on this site use a fun and engaging strategy that introduces breathing techniques using visuals and imitation. The printables in this resource form the OT Toolbox teach kids all about breath control using fun pictures, arrows, and places to pause, and hold their breath. Print out the free PDFs, show the child the picture and the arrows, and practice deep breaths. When your child becomes upset, immediately start to “breathe like a polar bear”, or “do rainbow breaths” and watch as your preschooler starts to calm down too!

    Some of the most commonly used deep breathing tools include on the OT Toolbox include: 

    1. Toys and stuffed animals- Using a preferred toy or stuffed animal integrates strategies from DIR Floortime therapy strategies.  Kids gain the emotional vocabulary, and strategies to use in co-regulation, through play. I developed the Soothing Sammy (affiliate link) learning system. It is a great tool for co-regulation, because of the picture books and activities included with the emotional regulation toy. 

    In my book, Soothing Sammy, a golden retriever puppy, teaches children how to calm down using a variety of sensory strategies (such as jumping in place, blowing bubbles, sipping water, singing a song and squeezing a ball or play dough). First, read the Soothing Sammy story, where children visit Sammy in his dog house. He provides them with all of the tools needed to calm down. Once calm, the children are ready to play again. Use the stickers and shipping container to have your own preschoolers create a space for their own calm down items and place Sammy, the plush dog, inside! This is your child’s very own Sammy house to visit, just like the children did in the story.  When children are overwhelmed, experiencing big feelings, they are easily redirected to these activities by saying “Sammy Time.” Help children co-regulate by creating your own Sammy House and using items to calm down when they are upset, modeling calm and soothing behaviors.

    1. Go outdoors and co-regulate!

    Sometimes all we need is a little bit of fresh air to help feel better. Use these outdoor sensory diet cards to discover calm down strategies to use outside with children. These cards contain outdoor play challenges to get kids moving, experiencing various sensory systems, and receiving calming input from the great outdoors. Included, are over 180 ideas on how to calm the bod through movement. The outdoors is a great place for a sensory diet. In the backyard there is a variety of movement opportunities. A playground is another great space for calming and regulating play. Check out this blog post on sensory input at the playground

    Children, especially toddlers and preschoolers, depend on adults to show them how to calm down or self-regulate.

    tools for adults to learn self regulation

    Being that co-regulation requires the ability to support another individual with regulation needs, it’s important to address emotional and coping needs as the adult in a parent/child (or other adult/child, peer/peer relationship). As a support person, regulating ones’ own needs can go a long way in modeling appropriate reactions, coping strategies, and following through with regulation needs.

    Below are some great tools for adults to learn, or improve self-regulation so they can be models and important roles in the co-regulation relationship include:

    If you’ve ever flown on a plane, taken a cruise ship, you’ve heard the safety information: In the event of an emergency, adults should place the breathing mask over their faces before they attend to their child.

    Parents should put on their life jacket before they put the life jacket on their children. This seems backwards and selfish, however these life-saving mechanisms are of no use if the adult is struggling.

    If they don’t put on their own face mask or life preserver first, there is no chance to support and help the child. The same is true for regulation; parents must first self-regulate in order to help co-regulate their children’s internal and external needs.

    Empathy versus Empath

    Empathy is being able to understand a person’s feelings, or realize why someone might be angry or sad. It is an important social skill, especially if you are the one causing the upset. Young children do not have the capacity to understand the complexity of empathy.

    An empath is a person highly attuned to the feelings and emotions of those around them. Their ability to discern what others are feeling goes beyond empathy (defined simply as the ability to understand the feelings of others) and extends to actually taking those feelings on; feeling what another person is feeling at a deep emotional level.

    Try this empathy activity to teach these concepts to children.

    According to this article, What we do know is that researchers have discovered what they’ve dubbed “mirror neurons” in the brain which may help us to mirror the emotions of those we come in contact with.1 And it appears some people may have more mirror neurons than others; suggesting that empaths may exist.

    The positives of being an empath are being able to offer support to others, knowing when someone is in need of assistance, and reading a person’s energy to see if they are a good fit for you.

    The cons of this “ability” are that it is draining taking on the emotions of others around you, it feels like you are too sensitive, and you feel burdened taking on so much.

    Being an empath can be described as feeling like a vacuum cleaner, sucking up the emotions of those around you, often before they realize how upset they are.

    Empaths need to be experts at co-regulation because of the amount of sensory and emotional input they are “sucking in”.

    A final note on co-regulation

    Children aren’t born knowing how to manage their feelings in a positive way. As infants, they depend on their caregivers to soothe. As they grow into toddlers and preschoolers, children continue to depend on cargivers to teach them new strategies to calm down. When they sense how calm their caregiver is, they calm down also. The best way for caregivers to help children develop their self-regulation skills, is to support them in co-regulation, by showing them calming activities they can learn to use on their own.

    To learn more about sensory processing disorder and strategies, check out The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook and this resource on sensory processing disorder chart to understand all aspects of SPD.

    *Note: The term caregiver has often been used instead of parent. This is to be inclusive. Caregivers can be parents, older siblings, grandparents, teachers, daycare workers, bus drivers, coaches, and many more.

    Jeana Kinne is a veteran preschool teacher and director. She has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field. Her Bachelors Degree is in Child Development and her Masters Degree is in Early Childhood Education. She has spent over 10 years as a coach, working with Parents and Preschool Teachers, and another 10 years working with infants and toddlers with special needs. She is also the author of the “Sammy the Golden Dog” series, teaching children important skills through play.

    Perineal Hygiene

    perineal hygiene and pericare tips

    Here, we are covering an aspect of potty training that comes up for every parent: pericare, or perineal hygiene, and teaching kids how to wipe when toilet training. So often, a young child learns to use the toilet and other aspects of potty training, but then struggle for a long period of time with the wiping aspect. Teaching children to wipe thoroughly is a hygiene task that can be limited by many underlying areas. Here, you’ll find strategies to help wiping bottoms and interventions for perineal hygiene.

    How to teach pericare, or perineal hygiene needed to wipe completely during toileting.

    What is pericare?

    For the uninitiated, pericare (or peri-care) is short for perineal care. Perineal care refers to the hygiene and self-care of the perineal area following toileting, cleaning, and wiping of the perineal area of the body is the “private parts” area. Pericare is a term for the hygienic tasks involved in this part of the body, such as wiping one’s bottom.

    Anyone of any age may need help wiping their bottom with their perineal care, but it is especially important to teach our little ones the proper way to manage their bottoms as they become more independent. 

    This component of toileting is one that impacts overall independence and self-care with the toileting process. So often, we cheer and celebrate making it to the toilet on time, but the perineal hygiene aspect is equally as important.

    Related: Potty Training Seats for Special Needs

    You may be thinking, “Why do I need to teach my child how to wipe!?!”. For something that is such a natural task for many, it can feel odd to teach somehow how to do it.

    However, learning how to maintain a clean bottom is important for one’s health and confidence. Wiping properly, washing gently, and wearing appropriate clothing decreases the risk of yeast infections, urinary tract infections, and odors. Plus, discussing peri-care can open the door to many other conversations about the body, health, and safety – if that’s something you are interested in exploring with your child.   

    A great time to educate your child about peri-cares is while potty training. It is easier to teach the correct way first than to re-learn how to do it later. If you are stuck on potty training, we feel you there! Check out this Toliet Training Book that can help you help your children of varying needs.

    Don’t be discouraged if your child is already potty trained and they have yet to learn how to take care of their bottoms independently – it can take time and practice! 

    Development of Pericare

    An important area to cover first is the development of pericare skills. It is so important to remember that we are talking about young children who are learning a whole new skill with toileting. There are many considerations: autonomy, body awareness, interoception, self-awareness, the sensory processing and interoception aspect, family perspectives…potty training can be very overwhelming for kids.

    Then, to break it down even further, the hygiene aspect of toileting is another ball game!

    In our book, The Toilet Training Book, we cover the development of potty training and really cover what underlying skills play into potty training and independence with toileting.

    But, one important thing to remember is that a three year old child may be able to make it to the toilet in time to go, flush, and wash their hands, but the wiping aspect can developmentally, come with time.

    Developmentally, perineal hygiene, or wiping completely after toileting, may be a skill achieved during a range of 4-6 years. This range is so wide due to the underlying skills, sensory considerations, motor skills, and cognitive growth needed for perineal hygiene including knowing when and where to wipe after a bowel movement or urination, using enough pressure on the toilet paper to clean completely, wiping enough times to clean completely, and maturity to complete the task.

    The emergence of these skills takes time, but there are ways to support development of perineal hygiene.

    GET COMFORTABLE with perineal hygiene

    Everyone wants a clean bottom, let’s start there. It can be smelly and embarrassing to talk about, but it is an important step to understanding personal healthcare.

    We want to give you the confidence to discuss this in any way that you and your family feel comfortable with because it is a “touchy” subject for some. The more comfortable you are with peri cares, the more comfortable the child will be. 

    Let’s start off the potty training wiping techniques by talking about good hygiene.

    Here are some ideas to talk about perineal hygiene with kids:

    • Make it silly: Some people respond best to humor but watch out for demeaning jokes. 
    • Make the conversation about pericare hygiene scientifically accurate: It becomes less embarrassing when you hardly know what is being said! 
    • Make pericare sound similar to washing hands: We have to clean away the germs; they can make us sick! 
    • Make discussions about perineal hygiene your own: You know your family best. Think about terminology that works for the individual. In what ways can you increase trust and comfort for all? 

    GENERAL GUIDELINES for teaching perineal hygiene

    Here are some general tips for a healthy bottom that should be shared for children and adults alike. Please speak to your family physician if you have any questions or concerns related to your child’s unique needs. 

    • Wear breathable (preferably cotton) underwear that is not too tight. Change daily or when soiled. 
    • Don’t hold it in. While it is good to wait to “go” until you reach the toilet, holding in pee or poop for too long can result in a variety of issues
    • If it is comfortable, sit on the toilet with elevated feet. You may have heard of the (Amazon affiliate link) Squatty Potty – placing the legs in more of a squatting position helps bowel movements pass. More importantly, children should have access to a either a smaller potty or a footstool (or a box,etc.) near the toilet so that their feet do not dangle. 
    • Wipe from front to back to reduce bacteria entering the urethra. Talk about anatomy and why wiping front to back is effective and safe.
    • Wipe gently with 3-4 squares of folded toilet paper (each household can determine the amount – some kiddos use way too much!) until clean. I always recommend to look at what you are wiping away so that you learn about how much you need to wipe. 
    • Consider use of warm or cool wipes over toilet paper.
    • When bathing, wash the genital area gently with mild soap and rinse with clean water. No soap should be entering the body through the anus or the vagina. 
    • For bathing a uncircumsized child, refer to this article for great information and consult your family doctor for personalized advice.   

    Pericare INTERVENTION IDEAS

    Children will not know unless we lead them, so here are some fun ways to teach pericare! 

    Areas that can be broken down to increase overall self-care include:

    • Address balance
    • Pulling up and down undergarments
    • Wiping front to back
    • Wiping thoroughly
    • Wiping with enough pressure
    • Gripping the toilet paper
    • Washing hands after wiping
    • Reaching around to the back

    Each of these areas can include aspects of balance, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, strength, coordination, sensory processing, executive functioning skills, and visual motor skills. It’s important to look at each individual’s area of difficulty and then break it down into the underlying areas that are impacting success with pericare.

    First look at the area of difficulty. Then, consider how underlying areas are impacting that particular area. Come up with intervention strategies that support that need and create a “just right” challenge to build independence and pericare functioning.

    Let’s look at each of these areas of perineal hygiene…

    Pulling up and down undergarments:

    • Fine motor strength and coordination fine motor activities to the rescue! There are so many fantastically fun ways to increase this skill, but here are some that are more directly associated with potty training. 
      • Lei Obstacle Course: Grab some Hawaiian-inspired leis, hula skirts, or long necklaces and create a long pathway. As a child walks through the pathway (hopefully to another fun activity in the course), they must step inside the lei and pull it up as high as it will go. If it fits over their arms/head, they can wear it as a necklace. Pulling up the lei and wiggling their body through will strengthen the same skill as in pulling up pants. Reverse the challenge to mimic pulling pants down.
      • Silly Socks: Grab a variety of socks in fun colors and different sizes and see how many you can put on in one minute! Layering socks up the arms and legs (and removing them, too!) mimics the skill of pulling up and down undergarments. 
      • Stickers: Challenge them to peel off stickers all along the waistband of their pants. Don’t forget the backside! 

    Pericare: Wiping Activities

    Balance and reach are huge parts of perineal hygiene. Staying balanced on the potty while wiping is a big challenge for our core strength, flexibility, and range of motion. To practice this skill through play-based activities, see the ideas below! 

    Play-pretend: Place peanut butter on the back of a disposable or washable diaper and have your child wipe it off. Any familiar paste will do – sun butter, nutella, cookie butter…anything to wipe! When they think they are done wiping, show them the diaper to see if they actually cleaned it. 

    Art-based: Wipe a plastic plate with toilet paper to create an art project – the toilet paper acts as the paintbrush. They must wipe clean the whole plate! For an extra challenge, place the plate behind their backs, and the work of art in front of them. 

    Play activity: Using static electricity, tape, or velcro, have your child squat to “pick up” pom-poms or other sticky and lightweight items on their bottoms (think: window stickers, damp tissues, etc.). They carry them carefully to a container and remove them one by one. You can really make this game your own!

    Wiping Front to Back

    There are so many ways to work on perineal hygiene to cover other aspects besides the balance consideration. Consider these strategies to teach kids to wipe front to back:

    • Use toys, books, clothing, and other items to work on teaching front and back directional concepts.
    • Teach children to count to help with wiping a certain number of times.

    Reaching Back to Wipe During Perineal Hygiene

    • Clip and unclip clothes pins on the back of clothing to work on reaching back and around..
    • Use a pool noodle to reach around and through the legs to work on reach, visual attention, scanning, and eye-hand coordination. You can tap the pool noodle on a target and create a game.
    • Practice wiping the backside in the bathtub.
    • Put a handkerchief or scarf in their back pocket for the child to reach for and pull out.
    • Put stickers on the child’s back or pants for them to reach for and grab.

    Wiping with enough pressure

    • Work on tearing paper for hand strength and eye-hand coordination to pull off appropriate sizes of toilet paper.
    • Use play dough, LEGO, tong activities to develop hand strength.
    • Wipe dry erase marker off a dry erase board. Then, position the dry erase board on the ground between the feet to bend and wipe. Then, position it behind the back to reach and wipe.
    • Wipe peanut butter or washable paint from a plastic baby doll.
    • Help kids to wipe thoroughly by painting with toilet paper with having them try to wipe a blob of paint off a plastic plate and remind them to keep going until the plate was empty.

    More perineal care and potty training tips

    Looking for more information on underlying considerations that impact toileting? Need strategies, supports, and tools to facilitate independence with toileting skills? Need support strategies for potty training an older child, but not know where to begin?

    Looking for ways to help individuals with toileting skills when cognitive, behavioral, motor skills impact participation in independent toileting? Trying to initiate or progress with potty training when a diagnosis of Down Syndrome, Autism, or a motor skills challenge is at hand? Check out the Toilet Training Book: A Developmental Take on Potty Training for Kids of All Abilities.

    Sydney Thorson, OTR/L, is a new occupational therapist working in school-based therapy. Her
    background is in Human Development and Family Studies, and she is passionate about
    providing individualized and meaningful treatment for each child and their family. Sydney is also
    a children’s author and illustrator and is always working on new and exciting projects.

    Preschool Pre-Writing Skills

    pre-writing skills

    This pre-writing skills resource is a resource for anyone working with preschoolers. The fact is that in the preschool years, developmentally, preschoolers should not be writing. Rather, pre-writing is the area of focus. A huge topic of discussion for pediatric occupational therapy professionals is the fact that preschool pre-writing skills are developed rather than introducing handwriting at this young age. Developmentally, there is a lot of progression in the preschool years and pre-writing skills are just one of the many areas. Refer to more information on preschool activities for other developmentally appropriate activities.

    pre writing skills needed before preschoolers can write with a pencil.

    Pre writing Skills in Preschool

    Many times, parents of very young children don’t think about handwriting skills. It’s not typical to think about holding a pencil, writing words and sentences, and copying letters when children are just mastering building with blocks, learning to pull on socks, and creating finger paint masterpieces.  

    But the truth is, when young preschoolers are playing, they are building the very important precursors to handwriting.  

    The skills needed for managing a pencil, copying letter forms, and managing pencil control when copying lists and paragraphs into a space on a page are initiated in the early childhood years.  Below, you’ll find more about preschool pre-writing skills and the components of pre-writing skills that are developed through play.

    Related, is this blog post on friendship activities for preschoolers.

    Pre-writing skills development begins with preschool aged children through play.

    What are Pre-Writing Skills?

    Preschool is prime time to develop the underlying skills needed for handwriting. So often, the older, school-aged kids that are struggling with handwriting are missing the underlying areas that make up the skills of handwriting.


    First, it’s important to recognize that handwriting is made up of so many areas. Handwriting is much more than holding a pencil (pencil grasp) and forming letters and numbers!  

    There are many pre-writing skills that transfer to accuracy in written work. These areas need to be developed and refined before handwriting can be successful. These skills are pre-requisites to even holding a pencil to form shapes and then letters.

    Consider the following skill areas that relate to handwriting: 

    1. Sensory Motor Pre-writing skills
    2. Fine motor pre-writing skills
    3. Visual-motor pre-writing skills 

    Let’s go into each area separately.

    Sensory-Motor Pre-Writing Skills- The sensory motor component is closely related. Consider the pyramid of learning and the developmental base that enables refinement in higher levels of development. The closely related areas of sensory and motor skills are pre-requisites for pre-writing before copying lines and shapes is even possible.

    • Gross motor development
    • Motor planning
    • Initial core control and core body strength
    • Bilateral arm and hand use
    • Crossing midline
    • Imitation of movements
    • Ability to learn novel motor movements
    • Tactile sensory awareness
    • Discrimination of sensation
    •  

    Fine Motor Pre-Writing Skills- From holding the pencil to moving and controlling the pencil when writing letter forms, handwriting requires a variety of motor movements that all must work together.

    These fine motor pre writing areas of development include:

    • Hand dominance
    • Pinch precision (using a tip to tip grasp)
    • Finger opposition
    • Finger isolation
    • Separation of the sides of the hand
    • Hand strength (endurance in play)
    • Fine motor development
    • Separation of the two sides of the hand, including:
      • Development and control of the skilled side of the hand                  
      • Development and control of the strength side of the hand stable side of the hand
    • Thumb Isolation and use as a stability point
    • Thumb dexterity and strength
    • Finger Isolation
    • Development of a dominant hand and an assisting hand
    • Manipulation of objects and dexterity of the hand with objects
    • Grasp strength

    Note that preschool can begin as early as 2 years old with some preschool classes. There is a big difference in development from the 2-5 year range in all areas, including fine motor development. A young 2 year old will developmentally have more primitive fine motor skills than a 5 year old child.

    Young preschoolers will develop precision and refinement of fine motor skills through play.

    Visual Processing Pre-Writing Skills- Additionally, there are the eyes.  What is seen and recognized needs to be coordinated with the hand.  Visual processing has a huge component in written work!

    During the preschool years, visual processing skills are developed through play. These components include:

    Cognitive Pre-Writing Skills- In addition to the motor components are the cognitive skills. These include the ability to follow directions, pay attention, and focus. The cognitive areas are closely related to the motor skill prerequisites.

    • Direction following
    • Attention and focus
    • Directional concepts
    • Memory
    • Sequencing
    • Awareness of left-right concepts in books and written work

    When Preschoolers are asked to write letters

    When young children are asked to write, trace, or copy letters before these skills are developed, bad habits can form. In these cases, you’ll notice that older students tend to have difficulty with handwriting.

    There are many things happening all at once that develop poor motor plans and bad habits. Because preschoolers are not developmentally ready to write with a pencil, you may see these issues:

    1. Immature grasp on the pencil/writing utensil
    2. Inability to form diagonal lines
    3. Forms letters from bottom to top
    4. Forms letter segmentally and inappropriately
    5. Weak grasp on the writing utensil
    6. Inconsistent hand use
    7. Weak pinch and base of support on the pinky side of the hand
    8. Poor posture
    9. Inattention
    10. Difficulty identifying letters and copying complete parts
    11. Many other issues!

    These mentioned issues with starting handwriting in preschool is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to introducing letter formation before kids are developmentally ready.

    Pre-Writing Lines in Preschool

    It is very important to mention pre-writing lines. These are the pencil strokes that precede formation of letters. Here are some resources you’ll want to read over and utilize in this important step in preschool development:

    1. We cover a great deal about pre-writing lines here.
    2. Use this pre-writing lines activity to work on this essential step.
    3. Consider this pre-writing lines slide deck when working with preschoolers in a virtual setting.
    4. Read about the developmental progression of pre-writing lines.
    5. Use this pre-writing leaf activity to work on the development of underlying skills as well as pre-writing line formation.
    6. Use these handwriting activities to work on pre-writing skill development.

    If any of these areas might be an issue for your child with handwriting troubles, consider grabbing The Handwriting Book as a resource that covers all of the underlying skill areas related to handwriting.

    So how are all of these areas addressed as a pre-writing skill in preschool? 

    The answer is through play!

    Can you believe that all of these areas are being addressed htrough play in the early childhood development stages?  And that all of these areas are building and developing with a resulting use in handwriting?  Amazing, right?  

    Pre-writing skills start to develop in preschool aged kids.

        Stop by later this week to find out easy ways to encourage development of the above skill areas in group settings in the preschool environment.  It can be difficult to address the needs of a preschool class when there are 16 four year olds that need reining in.  I’ll have easy ways to encourage development of fine motor skills, visual motor skills, and attention skills in fun and creative ways…coming soon!  

     The Handwriting Book

    BUY The Handwriting Book NOW    

    Want to know more about The Handwriting Book?  Click on the image above to find out how to address every underlying area related to handwriting skills.     Click here to BUY NOW.

     
     

     

    Use these Fine Motor Kits for hands-on activity kits to develop fine motor skills, strength, dexterity, and manipulation. Kids LOVE these fine motor kits for the motivating activities. Therapists love them because it’s fresh, fun ways to work on pinch, grip, manipulation skills, and much more. Try some of these themed therapy kits:

    Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.