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My 5 year old DS is really struggling.

(17 Posts)
Lexie1970 Fri 02-Nov-12 15:54:37

So here we are, coming to the end of half term and I need some help / advice about DS.

He is in his 2nd year of school and has been kept in reception for another year along with several others. It is a small village school and there are four classes with mixed years. Tbh he is really struggling with reading and writing and we have just spent 1/4 hour trying to get him to write his 10 spelling words. His writing is almost illegible and I try and do things like hairy letters for formation, getting him to watch me as I write etc but he just gets angry and frustrated. I just want to cry.

At parents evening his teacher commented that he is not the same boy she spent a week with last year (new teacher, same school, moved class) he seems much quieter and really seems to concentrate with his lessons. Yet he is on the school council and will come back and tell his class-mates all what has been discussed. Loves telling jokes to the teacher so is not quiet in that sort of sense.

I happened to show a work colleague some of his writing and she was surprised by its poor standard (she is a private tutor) and asked about his eye-sight - fine has been checked at school. His hand to eye co-ordination - I think fine as he makes Lego, can do up buttons, zips with ease. Catches and throws a ball accurately and will keep a balloon up in the air for nearly 2 minutes (he has made me time him) I don't think there is an issue.

Screen time - the telly is on but will watch a bit and then play with toys. Has use of ipad but fairly restricted. We don't have a wii, play station nor a Nintendo. Food - has balanced diet with plenty of fruit and veg. Some form of sweets most days. Sleep - generally about 11 hours. If he has a couple of late nights it is back to 7.30.

How on earth do you make learning fun so that he retains the info and progresses without it degenerating to a temper tantrum. We reward him with a bungee toy every week for trying.......

Sorry, this has turned into an epic sad

JennerOSity Fri 02-Nov-12 15:57:54

Awwww - sorry no advice as I don't have the necessary experience. But my heart feels for you both and I can just imagine how much you want to help him and get is sorted. I am sure someone will give you helpful advice, in the meantime I can offer sympathy. smile

Declutterbug Fri 02-Nov-12 16:04:24

It's just time and patience usually. 5 is so young and by 6 they are v different. So hard when they're young in yr1. Can you talk to the teacher and ease off all pressure at home? "writing" can be done in play, eg making marks in sand or shaving foam, or drawing on paving stones with chalk. Playing with fiddly beads (little hama beads), plasticine or simple colouring will all ultimately help with handwriting (fine motor control).

If things are taking a litttle longer at age 5 it means nothing necessarily for age 11 or 16, especially if you are interested and motivated and can help support him. He'll get there smile and do keep your anxiety to yourself if you can wink

mrz Fri 02-Nov-12 16:05:10

School eye checks are very basic so it's worth visiting an optician for a thorough check.

haggisaggis Fri 02-Nov-12 16:10:17

Lots of games - use shaving foam - spray it onto a tray or something (our glass kitchen table was great for this as easy to clean!) write letters with your fingers in the foam (dd loved this). Trace letters on each others back with your fingers and try to guess what they are. Put salt on a tray and trace letters. Use water in a squeezy bottle outside to make letters / words. Write sounds / words on sheets of paper (once per sheet). Call them out and get him to jump to them. Play matching games. Make letters out of plastacine etc etc etc.

haggisaggis Fri 02-Nov-12 16:11:54

By the way - there are loads of apps on teh Ipad to make learning fun.

CecilyP Fri 02-Nov-12 16:21:43

I happened to show a work colleague some of his writing and she was surprised by its poor standard (she is a private tutor)

How much experience of 5 year-old boys' writing does your colleague have? How is your DS at drawing and colouring and suchlike pencil and paper activities? There are lots of activities to improve fine motor skills before worrying about handwriting - mrz has posted a really comprehensive list before now. DS was fortunate that they used something called 'Foundations of Writing' popular in Scottish primary schools at the time, where children were not even expected to try to form letters before they had mastered other drawing and observational tasks - so your colleague would have been even more surprised by the non-existant standard of many of the younger children's, particulary boys', writing.

Don't worry too much. You sound like you have a bright little boy who will get there eventually.

releasethehounds Fri 02-Nov-12 16:25:01

My DD's handwriting was APPALLING up until Year 3 then it suddenly took an upward turn. Now she's in Year 4 and everything seems much improved. I'm not sure if it's a change in her attitude to work (she's laid back and really couldn't be bothered before) or if it's just a matter of age.

I work in adult education but have also worked a short while in schools and IMHO I think there's too much pressure put on very young children now. 5 is nothing - some children are ready, some are not. One grandmother I know was once telling me that one of her granddaughters was starting to read simple sentences at age 4 whilst the other granddaughter of the same age could not read at all. I said to her "and they'll both be able to read at 7". What's the rush in this country? Some European countries don't even start to teach reading until children are 7!

OP - please try not to worry. It doesn't sound like your DS has any learning difficulties as teachers (I think) would have noticed dyslexia by now. Like my DD it may just be a matter of time.

Lexie1970 Fri 02-Nov-12 16:37:08

Thanks for your replys smile cecily tbh she does a fair amount at primary level so she does know what she is talking about..... In terms of colouring, painting etc not much interest as a toddler as he would always be running around and now would rather play with his Lego.

Can anybody recommend some good ipad apps - we have hairy letters and if anyone can link to mrsz list that would be fab smile

mrz Fri 02-Nov-12 16:43:47

Things to remember:
Upright working surfaces promote fine motor skills. Examples of these are: vertical
chalkboards; easels for painting; flannel boards; lite bright; magnet boards (or
fridge); windows and mirrors; white boards, etc. Children can also make sticker
pictures; do rubber ink-stamping; use reuseable stickers to make pictures; complete
puzzles with thick knobs; use magna-doodle and etch-a-sketch as well. The benefits
for these include: having the child's wrist positioned to develop good thumb
movements; they help develop good fine motor muscles; the child is using the arm
and shoulder muscles.
Fine Motor Activities
Moulding and rolling play dough into balls - using the palms of the
hands facing each other and with fingers curled slightly towards the palm.
Rolling play dough into tiny balls (peas) using only the finger tips.
Using pegs or toothpicks to make designs in play dough.
Cutting play dough with a plastic knife or with a pizza wheel by holding
the implement in a diagonal volar grasp.
Tearing newspaper into strips and then crumpling them into balls. Use
to stuff scarecrow or other art creation.
Scrunching up 1 sheet of newspaper in one hand. This is a super
strength builder.
Using a plant sprayer to spray plants, (indoors, outdoors) to spray snow
(mix food colouring with water so that the snow can be painted), or melt
"monsters". (Draw monster pictures with markers and the colours will run
when sprayed.)

Picking up objects using large tweezers such as those found in the
"Bedbugs" game. This can be adapted by picking up Cheerios, small cubes,
small marshmallows, pennies, etc., in counting games.
Shaking dice by cupping the hands together, forming an empty air space
between the palms.
Using small-sized screwdrivers like those found in an erector set.
Lacing and sewing activities such as stringing beads, Cheerios,
macaroni, etc.
Using eye droppers to "pick up" coloured water for colour mixing or
to make artistic designs on paper.
Rolling small balls out of tissue paper, then gluing the balls onto
construction paper to form pictures or designs.
Turning over cards, coins, checkers, or buttons, without bringing them to
the edge of the table.
Making pictures using stickers or self-sticking paper reinforcements.
Playing games with the "puppet fingers" -the thumb, index, and middle
fingers. At circle time have each child's puppet fingers tell about what
happened over the weekend, or use them in songs and finger plays.
Place a variety of forms (eg. blocks, felt, paper, string, yarn, cereal,
cotton) on outlines
Match shapes, colour, or pictures to a page and paste them within the

Self-Care Skills
Fastening Snaps
Using a screwdriver
Locking and unlocking a door
Winding a clock
Opening and closing jars
Rolling out dough or other simple cooking activities
Washing plastic dishes

Sweeping the floor
Scissor Activities
When scissors are held correctly, and when they fit a child's hand well, cutting
activities will exercise the very same muscles which are needed to manipulate a pencil
in a mature tripod grasp. The correct scissor position is with the thumb and middle
finger in the handles of the scissors, the index finger on the outside of the handle to
stabilize, with fingers four and five curled into the palm.
Cutting junk mail, particularly the kind of paper used in magazine
subscription cards.
Making fringe on the edge of a piece of construction paper.
Cutting play dough or clay with scissors.
Cutting straws or shredded paper.
Use a thick black line to guide cutting the following:
A fringe from a piece of paper
Cut off corners of a piece of paper
Cut along curved lines
Cut lines with a variety of angles

Cut figures with curves and angles
Sensory Activities
The following activities ought to be done frequently to increase postural muscle
strength and endurance. These activities also strengthen the child's awareness of
his/her hands.
Wheelbarrow walking, crab walking
Clapping games (loud/quiet, on knees together, etc.)
Catching (clapping) bubbles between hands
Pulling off pieces of thera-putty with individual fingers and thumb
Drawing in a tactile medium such as wet sand, salt, rice, or "goop".
Make "goop" by adding water to cornstarch until you have a mixture similar
in consistency to toothpaste. The "drag" of this mixture provides feedback to
the muscle and joint receptors, thus facilitating visual motor control.
Picking out small objects like pegs, beads, coins, etc., from a tray of salt,
sand, rice, or putty. Try it with eyes closed too. This helps develop sensory
awareness in the hands.
Midline Crossing
Establishment of hand dominance is still developing at this point. The following
activities will facilitate midline crossing:
Encourage reaching across the body for materials with each hand. It
may be necessary to engage the other hand in an activity to prevent
switching hands at midline.

Refrain specifically from discouraging a child from using the left hand
for any activity. Allow for the natural development of hand dominance by
presenting activities at midline, and allowing the child to choose freely.
Start making the child aware of the left and right sides of his body
through spontaneous comments like, "kick the ball with your right leg." Play
imitation posture games like "Simon Says" with across the body movements.
When painting at easel, encourage the child to paint a continuous line
across the entire paper- also from diagonal to diagonal.

mrz Fri 02-Nov-12 16:45:28

I use a Busy Finger Box in the classroom but you could easily find most things at home

1. Pegs –
You need pegs of different sizes, clothes pegs, small bulldog clips, stationery clips etc. Get the children to use one hand only at a time. I usually get them to peg about 10 pegs of different sizes onto the sides of a gift bag. They might put them on with their left hand and take them off with their right.
They can also try squeezing the pegs between the first finger and thumb (on each hand) then the middle finger and thumb and so on.

2. Elastic bands –
Elastic gymnastics! – Start by putting 2 elastic bands (the same size) around the thumb, first and middle fingers, ask the child to open and close the fingers. Then add another 2 elastic bands and so on. The more you have on, the harder it is to move your fingers. These exercises help to develop the muscles which make the web space when writing.

3. Beads –
Get beads of different sizes and thread. Ask the children to thread some beads onto their string. The smaller the hole obviously the harder it is to thread. Develops hand/eye coordination.

4. Ball bearings and tweezers –
Put the ball bearings in one little box and ask the child to try and pick one ball bearing up at a time with the tweezers and place in a second small box. If this is too tricky try using Hama beads and tweezers.

5. Floam / Playdough –
These products are great for squeezing and rolling which provides necessary sensory feedback and helps to develop hand strength. Ask the children to squeeze the dough and roll it with the palm of their hand.

6. Doodle board –
The Doodleboard is just a way of children practising handwriting patterns or letters without having to commit them to paper. Provide some patterns and shapes to copy.

7. Gummed Shapes –
Give the children a sheet of plain paper and ask them to make patterns or pictures with the gummed shapes. Just picking up on shape at a time, licking it and then sticking it down all help to develop hand/eye coordination and the pincer grip.

8. Hama Beads –
Hama beads are good for pincer grip and hand/eye coordination. The children have patterned sheets to copy and peg boards to put them on.

9. Lacing cards –
Also good for hand/eye coordination. Just give each child one card to lace.

10. Bean bags –
Give a child 4-5 bean bags and place a container about 3 feet infront of them. Ask the child to try and get as many beanbags in the container as possible. (Hand/eye coordination)

11. Chalk and blackboard –
If you can, try and wedge the blackboard between two tables and provide the child with a piece of chalk in each hand. Ask them to draw the same pattern with both hands at the same time on both sides of the board. This helps develop bilateral movement.
Allow the children to draw patterns, shapes and letter shapes on the blackboard. The chalk gives sensory feedback and sound simultaneously.

12. Stencils –
Children can use the stencils to make a picture. Helps develop pencil control and special awareness among other things.

13. Feathers –
Ask the children to try and balance a feather on different parts of their body. This helps to develop balance and coordination.

14. Handhugger pens –
Hand hugger pens are the triangular shaped pens. These help the children to establish a better pencil grip.

15. Tissue paper strips –
Place the child’s palm (at the wrist) on the end of a strip of tissue paper. Ask them to only use their middle finger to get the paper to scrunch up under their hand.
Repeat, but this time place the side of the child’s hand on one end of the tissue strip and ask them to only use their thumb to scrunch up the paper and bring it under their hand.
These activities really help to develop the hand arch, web space and muscle tone of the hand.

16. Stickers –
Children love stickers. Just peeling them off provides an opportunity to develop fine motor skills and hand/eye coordination.

17. Peg boards –
These can be peg boards where the child has to place pegs in the holes, maybe copying patterns.
They can be the boards with plastic pegs already on where they have to stretch elastic bands between them to make patterns.

missmapp Fri 02-Nov-12 17:45:36

Reading Eggs really helped my ds improve his phonolical awarness, with this his spelling improved and, as he grew more confident with how to write, his handwriting improved too.

Lexie1970 Fri 02-Nov-12 18:38:47

mrsz thank you for those lists - very helpful smile

MegMogAndOwl Fri 02-Nov-12 20:27:21

I know you've already got loads of ideas to try but if you're looking for iPad apps, try school writing. My ds has just turned 6 and has been a reluctant writer, he loves this app though and asks to use it most days. smile

RaisinBoys Fri 02-Nov-12 22:15:11

He's 5

CecilyP Sat 03-Nov-12 09:35:08

I think the school is putting the cart before the horse, if he is expected to learn, and therefore write 10 'spelling words', if he cannot yet form letters at least legibly. It would be better to ditch the spelling words for the time being, and concentrate on letter formation - one at a time; starting with letters in groups of similar shapes eg c o a d g, if my memory serves me right.

mrz Sat 03-Nov-12 09:39:00

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