Engage your kids early for skill development

McIntyreMuch research has been done to show that when parents are actively involved in their child’s life, kids have faster rates of development in multiple areas such as test scores and developmental health.

According to the United Kingdom’s Department of Education, parent involvement has a marked effect on a child’s academic achievement and was twice as predictive of students’ academic success as family socioeconomic status.

The benefits of parental support go beyond good grades. The Parent Teacher Association’s extensive research on the effects of parental involvement in a child’s education found that students with parents or guardians who are active in their academics have:

  • Higher grades, test scores and graduation rates
  • Better school attendance
  • Fewer instances of violent behavior
  • Increased motivation and better self-esteem
  • Lower suspension rates
  • Decreased drug and alcohol use


How much is enough?

How much involvement does each child need from a parent or guardian? Every child is different, and because each child develops at his or her own pace, it can be difficult to tell exactly when or how the child will need your help to develop a skill.

Below are developmental milestones that will give you a general idea of the changes you can expect as your child gets older. Don’t be surprised if your child’s development seems delayed compared to other children in your family. Alert your pediatrician, however, if your child displays any of the following signs of possible developmental delay for school-aged children:

  • Ignores other children
  • Doesn’t respond to people outside the family
  • Resists dressing, sleeping, using the toilet
  • Cannot trace shapes
  • Doesn’t use sentences of more than three words
  • Doesn’t use “me” and “you” appropriately
  • Cannot grasp a crayon between thumb and fingers
  • Has difficulty scribbling
  • Cannot stack four blocks


How can you get involved?

You can help your preschool-aged child to develop hand-related skills by giving the child a wide range of materials to play with. Good choices include blocks, Legos, Tinker Toys, crayons, washable markers and paints, paste, glue, modeling clay, construction paper, tissue paper, safety scissors, coloring books, and basic flash cards. This is also a prime time for puzzles and musical instruments.

Cooking with your kids is a great way to be involved in their development. Cooking provides opportunities for preschool-aged children to develop fine motor skills that they will need in the classroom.

Letting them put butter on toast or jelly on bread mimics pasting things on paper. Drawing and coloring fruit shapes helps them to learn to hold pencils and crayons well enough to color, draw and make shapes.

Arranging food shapes according to size helps your child to prepare for completing puzzles and using safety scissors. This is also a time to work on coloring inside the lines. Coloring inside the lines used to be a school requirement, but many teachers and parents have opted to just let a child scribble if they so choose.

Follow your child’s lead and attention span when it comes to choice of activities and opportunities for engagement. Remember that fine motor skills take longer to master than gross motor skills because of the delicate movements and smaller muscles required to pick up small objects. Fine motor skills require repetition and lots of practice.

As always, reading to and with your child will open doors to early talking, reading and recognition of words, sights and sounds. Much research and testing scores have proven this statement to be true.

Take advantage of every opportunity to be your child’s first teacher and invest in their developmental future. You will be glad that you did!


Tammy McIntyre, M.Ed. is a workforce development consultant providing individuals and small businesses with career development services. She welcomes reader responses to mcintyre_tammy@rocketmail.com.