Preparing for Academics

Visual Skills

To help your child develop visual skills you can:

  • Sort household objects by color, size, shape (buttons, food items, desk items, etc.)

  • Do jigsaw puzzles

  • Describe objects

  • Match objects (laundry, socks, towels/washcloths, earrings, knives/forks, canned goods with labels)

Listening Skills

To help develop your child's listening skills you can:

  • Close eyes, listen to, and identify sounds inside and outside your home

  • Give your child simple oral directions to follow--increase steps and difficulty when ready

  • Model good listening

  • Teach your child manners regarding listening such as not interrupting and waiting your turn to speak

Fine Motor Skills

To help develop fine motor skills at home your child can:

  • Screw nuts onto bolts

  • Work with Play Doh or clay

  • Make a paper hole punch

  • Trace pictures, shapes, or cookie cutters

  • String objects (make a necklace)

  • Tie knots

  • Use old newspapers and cut along the lines

  • Cut out pictures, letters, words, or shapes

  • Play "clothes pin pick up" (pick up, transfer or sort objects using a clothespin)

  • Play "pick a pair" (put pairs of objects in two different paper bags and your child tries to match the objects by only feeling them)

  • Draw with fingers in sand, mud, bubbles, Jell-O, pudding, finger paint, or shaving cream

  • Draw/paint/or color at an easel

Math Skills

To help develop math skills at home your child can work on:

  • Counting objects such as dots on dice, toys, or food items

  • Sorting or matching laundry, silverware, animals, foods, shoes, or gloves

  • Comparing sizes (cups, silverware, toys, clothes, socks) use words such as longer, shorter, biggest, heaviest

  • Geometry--identifying basic shapes and objects shaped like circle, square, triangle, and rectangle)

  • Ordering smallest to largest, first, second, third, by size, age, value, or length

  • Patterns--make patterns using table arrangements, toys, household objects, shapes, color, wall paper

  • Measuring--fill objects to a certain mark, measure length using household objects (how many hands long, shoes, pencils, popsicle sticks, etc.) pouring/filling containers with water or sand, make a homemade balance scale using a hanger, string and margarine tubs or use a bath scale to compare weights, while helping with cooking, separating food items into equal servings

  • Money sort, save in piggy bank, handle at the store

  • Explore numbers through use of a calculator, search for numbers in grocery stores/ads, search for numbers in old phone books or on an old telephone; when traveling--search for numbers on license plates or billboards, play "higher/lower" (child guesses a number--you give clues), complete dot to dot pictures, play card games such as Old Maid, Crazy Eights, Uno, or War

Reading Skills

To help develop pre-reading skills at home you and your child can:

  • Read a variety of materials for a variety of purposes. Read in a soft, clear voice using appropriate tone and expression (use books, magazines, cards, menus, newspapers, mail, recipes, grocery or department store ads)

  • Take regular trips to the public library and allow your child to select several books of interest

  • Use books and reading as a reward

  • Start with "picture reading", discuss details in illustrations and allow your child to tell a story from the pictures

  • Recite nursery rhymes and sing songs

  • Establish a regular/daily storytelling or reading time

  • Make sure reading is an enjoyable experience

  • Make your child aware of the many uses of reading in daily life

  • Read signs, labels, billboards, cereal boxes, and ads

  • Use advertisements (Krogers/Walmart) to play "I Spy" (give hints to child and have them identify the objects)

  • Comic strips are a colorful source to be used for sharing, then cutting to practice sequencing or to create puzzles

  • Have your child sit on your lap or close to you during reading time

  • While reading

    • Model book handling skills such as: reading left to right, turning pages, locating the front/back of the book, locating the top and bottom of pages and the title

    • Encourage your child to ask questions, make predictions, retell the story, recall details or the sequence of events

    • Identify and describe the characters in the story and their feelings and activities

    • Describe and discuss the problem in the story and the outcome

    • Point with your finger to words or pictures or direct your child's finger

    • Relate stories/objects, shapes or color in pictures

    • Relate stories/objects in books to familiar objects, people or places

    • Discuss facial expressions on characters' faces in illustrations and relate to feelings or experiences

    • Discuss sizes and shapes of objects in illustrations and make comparisons

    • As your child begins to identify letters, do letter searches in books, newspapers, signs, ads or on food containers

Handwriting Skills

To help your child at home develop handwriting skills you can:

  • Encourage your child to use and control the muscles needed to print both upper (capital) and lower case letters

  • Teach printing only the first letter of the name in upper case letters

  • Allow your child to begin by simply "scribbling"

  • As your child progresses, begin trying to make large circles

  • After making circles, work on making lines (vertical and horizontal)

  • Make writing movements progress from very large to smaller

  • Use sidewalk chalk to develop large muscle control

  • Practice the basic writing strokes. Horizontal strokes and circles should start at the top

Writing Skills

To help develop writing skills at home, your child can

  • Draw a picture that tells a story, have your child "read" the story to you

  • Randomly make letters and "read" what it says

  • Have your child draw a picture and tell you what words to write

  • Copy pictures in place of words

Speech and Language Development

Sound Acquisition

Generally, children should be able to speak in the following ways:


  • 12 to 18 months first words

  • 2 years 2-word sentences

  • 3 years 3 to 4-word sentences (400 - 900 words)

  • 5 years 5 to 6-word sentences (1500 -2500 words)

  • After age 5, the child rapidly advances. The child understands many more words than he/she can say. These are general guidelines. Children will vary.


Hesitations in speech are normal from ages three to six. Listen to your child encourage and praise him/her. Do not correct him/her or appear anxious about their speech. Do not make him/her speak or recite before strangers or visitors. Let him/her do so if he wishes, but only then. Try to keep your own speech clear and unhurried. If you are very concerned, check with the school's speech and language therapist to see how your child performed at the screening.