Is Your Child Ready for School? Boost These Top 10 School Readiness Skills Now

Family Matters on 08.16.12
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Photo: Laura St. John / Discovery Kids Puterbugs

Stop fighting your child to do boring workbooks: Learning is best when it's fun, meaningful -- and incognito! With a little help from technology, you can cleverly disguise important school readiness skills to help prepare your child this year.

Here are some helpful tech tips to give your young children a jumpstart on the top 10 school readiness skills they'll need for back-to-school. So plug in, power up, and let's go!

1. Fine Motor Skills. Using the mouse helps build little muscles in your child's fingers and hands. So tune up your child's mouse skills and you'll help boost fine motor skills necessary for holding the pencil and for good handwriting. Even though many kids today swipe on a tablet, most schools are still using traditional computers with mice. Many states are starting standardized test-taking on computers instead of paper -- as young as kindergarten. So get your child clicking, dragging, and navigating today.

2. Letter Recognition. The keyboard is like a game in itself: It's the entire alphabet all mixed up! Open up a word processing program, and play a game to race your child to find each key in ABC order. Hover your finger over the right key so your child's eye goes to that section of the keyboard. Let her beat you by a split second. You know you're playing it correctly when it turns into a giggle-fest.

3. Beginning Sounds. As kids use the keyboard, you can reinforce the sounds of those letters. You can start simply by having your child type her name, sounding out each letter. Move on to other family members' names (kids are very proud to spell siblings' names) or even simple words, like C-A-T and D-O-G.

4. Writing Skills. Talk to your child about what he did this summer, and let him choose his favorite summer highlight or event. Open a basic paint program and have him draw a picture about it. Picture-drawing a story is a precursor to writing a story. Let your child dictate a story about what happened that day: Focus on the beginning, middle and end to help promote story-telling and writing. Write a sentence on paper then have your child type it into the computer. Your child will be ready for the first day of school circle time, where the children often tell their new teacher and classmates about the favorite thing they did this summer!

5. Reading Readiness.  Open up a word-processing program and write a simple rhyming word, such as HAT. Let your child type as many rhyming words as possible (CAT, FAT, MAT...). Focus on left to right eye movement as you rhyme, as both of these skills will be a big help with reading readiness.

6. Number Recognition and Counting. Play a simple game around your house, such as "How many windows do we have in our house?" or "How many steps does it take to get to the mailbox?" You can then have your child track quantities or measurements in Excel and type the numbers on the keyboard. This will help brush up on number recognition, counting, measurement and quantity -- all while you take unique notice about everyday surroundings!

7. Shapes and Colors. There are hundreds of educational websites for kids that integrate simple games to reinforce shapes and colors. Practice matching and sorting games while building drag-and-drop mouse skills.

8. Recognize Your First Name. Use any keyboard to teach your child how to type her first name. Her name will be on new cubbies, name tags and all over the place on the first day of school. You'll help build visual discrimination skills when she can identify her name from the rest.

9. Following Directions. While you're using technology on all the activities ideas above, your child will be following simple and multi-step directions - important school readiness skills. Your child will be a teacher's pet!

10. Attention Span and Focus. While you're plaing all the activities above, you'll also build up your child's concentration, which will help with attention span and focus on his work. Encourage your child through the process of completing the activities by pointing out something he's doing right, such as "I love the way you're typing your name so quickly!" Remember -- focusing on his effort versus praising him with a simple "good job" will make him a much more motivated learner.

When your child completes the fun activities for the day, celebrate her achievements with the best kind of reward -- doing something else fun together -- such as unplugging to go play outside!

Laura St. John is chief mamapreneur at Discovery Kids Puterbugs, a program that inspires children to believe in themselves and reach their potential by harnessing the power of the latest technology. Classes for kids 8 years old and younger are offered both online and in over 700 US locations through a network of entrepreneurs who bring the classes to their area. For more information on starting your own teaching business, register for Laura's webinar Thurs, Aug 16 at 1pm EST or email

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