My child is only 3 – Is Little Sparkz™ suitable?

Yes! Level 1 of our Little Sparkz™ program is perfect for 3 year olds as an introduction to the basic skills they will eventually need to enter big school with confidence.

My child is already in Kindergarten – Is Little Sparkz™ suitable?

Little Sparkz™ takes children through the basics of what they should have mastered in order to enter Kindergarten with confidence. If your child is already in Kindergarten, but is struggling to cope with some of the curriculum, we would recommend taking them through the Little Sparkz™ program in order to identify where the gaps lie and to work one-on-one with a specialist to get back up to speed.

Which level of Little Sparkz™ should my child start with?

Little Sparkz™ is a two-level program, with Level 1 being more appropriate for 3-4 year old competency levels, and Level 2 being appropriate for 4-5 year old competency levels, however, these ages are just a guideline! To find out if your child should start at Level 1 or Level 2, answer the following questions:

1) Can your child write their name correctly without assistance?

2) Can your child cut along a printed zigzag independently?

3) Can your child count to 20 and recognize numbers 1 – 20 without assistance?

  • If you answered “yes” to all of the above, your child could start at Level 2, although we do recommend working through Level 1 first.
  • If you answered “no” to any of the above, your child should start at Level 1.

What is Little Sparks?

The Little Sparkz™ program was designed by a team of specialist ECD teachers to get your child ready for Kindergarten and Grade 1! This program tests and builds on a variety of skills that your little sparkz needs in order to successfully navigate starting big school. The program centres around all developmental milestones for this age group, and ensures that all of the main competencies are addressed in a fun-filled environment. The program comprises play and games, as well as stimulating educational activities:

  • Basic Literacy & Numeracy
  • Gross & Fine Motor Skills
  • Co-ordination & Midline Crossing
  • Vocabulary & Language

Summer Is Here!

How to incorporate Little Sparkz into summer-time outdoor fun

Is your child more interested in playing outside than doing arts and crafts inside? We share some insight into how to get your child to complete their educational activities, all while having FUN outside during the summer months! 

During the cold, wintery months it is easy to snuggle up inside with a blanket and help your child through their Little Sparkz activities. The warm Summer days, however, paint a different picture. During summer children are less likely to sit down and study as they would rather be playing outside in the sunshine, swimming and playing in the mud. As a parent it is important to help your child establish those vital skills needed for early childhood development. It is important to be able to adjust your child’s learning environments without too much distraction. 

Learning is incredibly important between the ages of 3 – 6 years. During these years it is crucial to be building the necessary building blocks that will help your child successfully navigate big school. Playing outside and learning through outdoor activities are as important as literacy and numeracy worksheets, colouring in and painting, and kids at that age should not have to choose between the two. Early childhood development is essential and this way you can show your child from an early age that learning can be FUN. This will help them to associate learning and studying with things they enjoy, and they will hopefully take this on to when they go to kindergarten. Getting them into the habit of learning from a young age is very important for their future learning endeavours. Why not move class outside for the summer?

 How does outdoor learning benefit your child?

  • Helps build confidence, self esteem and self-awareness 
  • Develop a love and appreciation for being outdoors
  • Positive health benefits both physically and mentally
  • Relaxing and thus they are more willing to learn
  • Less anxiety surrounding learning
  • Helps establish a wider sense of imagination and creativity
  • Improves concentration 
  • Limitless resources

The most obvious choice would be to take your printed copy of Little Sparkz outside and have them complete the pages while sitting in the sun. However, we have come up with a few ideas as to how you can get your little spark to put the pen and paper down and engage in some educational activities outside. 

Literacy & Numeracy:

The idea behind introducing Numeracy at  pre-school level is to familiarize children with the visual appearance of numbers, as well as how they are formulated and pronounced. This is achieved using objects relating to the number. How can I get my child to go from colouring numbers in and counting on paper, to incorporating numeracy while playing outside? Here are a few ideas:

  • Collecting leaves and flowers which can be used for counting as well as gluing on to a printed out number at a later stage
  • Make  numbers out of different colour stones/leaves or flower petals
  • Hopscotch to practise counting
  • Leapfrog (count how many leaps)
  • Chalk numbers in driveway – Write out the number for your child and have them recognise the number and place the exact amount of leaves next to the number

Similar to Numeracy, the Little Sparkz Literacy section is designed to familiarize the child with the visual appearance of letters and words, as well as how the English language is formulated with the use of letters and the sounds associated with those letters. Here are some fun ideas:

  • ABC hopscotch game (instead of blocks with numbers you can write letters). Get your child to repeat each letter they jump on. 
  • Sight-word hide and seek: hide different sight words in the garden and once a word is read out, the race is on to find it in the garden (for the older kids)
  • Draw big chalk letters in the driveway and have your child dolour the letter in. 
  • Collecting sticks and branches to make letters
  • Get your child to write their name with flower petals and practise recognising the different letters

Vocabulary:

The vocabulary section of our Little Sparkz program is designed to help children improve and build on their communication & language skills. Here is how this can be incorporated outside:

  • Understanding the grasp of plurals: 
  • Teaching preposition: Get your child to climb on top of something, to crawl underneath something and to climb inside something in the garden (on;under;in).
  • SImon Says: Run to the tree; pick up a green leaf; pick a purple flower
  • Get your child to communicate what they enjoy doing outside, and to tell you about the activity while doing it. This can include having a picnic with different foods and them telling you which foods they enjoy *and are they sweet or salty)
  • Senses game – Five things you can see; 4 things you can touch;3 things you can hear

Fine Motor Skills and Gross Motor Skills:

Being able to master both fine motor skills and gross motor skills is an essential part of early childhood development. In a classroom setting this would include activities such as cutting and pasting, pencil grip, learning to colour inside the lines

  • Hula hoops
  • Water balloon fights (helps to establish proper grip when holding something)
  • Jumping rope 
  • Climbing trees
  • Gardening (garden tools can replace pencil grip)

By now we hope that you have heard all about our fun and interactive Little Sparks course. These activities are a great addition to our Little Sparkz program during the summer months, encouraging healthy outside play. If you’d like to find out more about Little Sparkz, you can do so here.

 

Written by Sula Cooper, BrightSparkz Staff & Blog Writer

Teaching Basic Numeracy & Literacy

There are many different techniques we can use to teach our children Literacy and Numeracy skills. There are also a number of important factors to consider, the most important being the age of the child, and of course, the child’s specific learning style. All children learn differently. My four year old may not yet be able to recite the alphabet or count to 100 like yours, however he is able to impressively colour within the lines. At the age of four, neither child is smarter than the other, they simply learn using different parts of their brain, predominantly. 

Total Physical Response (TPR) is a method of teaching language or vocabulary that can be applied to all young children. It uses physical movement to react to verbal input. This technique can be divided into two sub categories: instructional TPR and educational TPR.

Instructional TPR encourages the child to learn through means of  doing something, or following an instruction. This instruction links different cognitive reactions in the brain (listening and visual) for the child to understand the basics of the word they are expected to write or learn. If we are learning how to count, we will encourage the child to use their fingers, and point to each finger as they are counting. If, for example we are learning how to write the word ear, we would first form an understanding of what ear is. Instructional TPR would guide the student to cup their ear to grasp the concept that we hear with our ears. Once this basic understanding is formed, the child can easier learn to write out the words. Additionally, instructional TPR could be used to guide the child to create a certain letter using their fingers.

Educational TPR looks at the “what” & “how”: 

  • WHAT are literacy and numeracy? 
  • HOW exactly do we teach literacy and numeracy?  

Educational TPR is a method of teaching languages, numeracy, or vocabulary (basic concepts) through using physical movements to get a verbal reaction from the child. Young children are visual learners and at the ages of three or four they are constantly wanting to touch, taste or see things. While a distracted toddler may seem like a difficult student, we should use this to our advantage. A child of three or four is surely not going to sit down quietly and diligently repeat the alphabet, or repeat counting to ten three times. This is where educational TPR comes in: using physical gestures to help the child understand a specific letter, number, word, sentence pattern or even a specific counting pattern. TPR is a method of learning that mimics the way that infants learn their first language. The purpose is to establish a brain link between speech and action to boost language and vocabulary learning. This can include using facial expressions, large hand gestures, body movement or props. The key here is to teach numeracy and literacy in a way that it is linked to an action that the child can physically see!

It is essential to ensure that your child is learning basic literacy and numeracy skills at the right age, and at the right speed for their specific learning needs and style. In the early years of childhood development, literacy is more than just writing and learning letters. It is movement, music, drawing and many other activities which encourage  communication. Just as important is reading and talking to your child from a young age, These are vital first steps in encouraging the development of literacy skills. Use fun outings and activities as a way to teach your child new vocabulary and communicative skills. When it comes to numeracy skills, it is important to remember that it goes beyond merely teaching your child maths and numbers. Teaching them about patterns and shapes can be a fun and interactive introduction to numeracy too. 

This is where BrightSparkz can help you and your child! Our Little Sparkz Kindergarten readiness program focuses on helping children to master essential skills that they will need to enter Kindergarten with confidence. Our fun and interactive program helps to build basic literacy and numeracy skills, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, coordination, memory and improved vocabulary. The program comprises 10 themed lessons made up of worksheets and activities that engage all the senses and encourage learning for children with any learning style. The program is suitable from the age of three upwards, as well as for children currently in Kindergarten needing a refresher on basic skills.

 

Written by Sula Cooper, BrightSparkz Staff & Blog Writer

Building Fine Motor Skills & Co-ordination

The idea of building fine motor skills and coordination may seem daunting! However, these are simple concepts that parents can understand and help to develop in their children. 

  • Fine motor skills involve the use of both your fingers and hands and the coordination of these movements with your smaller muscles. 
  • Coordination is the ability to use various parts of your body together efficiently. 

The big question: How do we as teachers and parents build these skills? 

Fine Motor Skills

When developing fine motor skills necessary to cope with the demands of Grade R, we look at how we can develop the smaller muscles in our hands and fingers. This is done through activities such as:

  • Playing with play dough
  • Creating pasta necklaces
  • Tearing paper
  • Using scissors
  • Using glue to stick paper or other objects 
  • Building puzzles
  • Playing with food and feeding themselves
  • Colouring in
  • Drawing and painting
  • Playing with sand or water
  • Building with blocks or lego
  • Learning to brush their teeth

Coordination

Additionally skills like coordination are also essential when starting Grade R. Parents can assist their children in developing their coordination by:

  • Practicing balancing on one foot
  • Throwing and catching a ball
  • Running 
  • Jumping
  • Walking backwards
  • Playing tug of war
  • Jumping on a trampoline or jumping castle
  • Swimming
  • Playing sports like football or tennis
  • Learning to ride a bicycle or tricycle
  • Learning to play a musical instrument

 

It is important that preschoolers develop their coordination and fine motor skills as these are essential for their development. They help with various daily activities in both the classroom and on the playground. By creating activities that get children to use their fingers and their hands, you’ll be assisting them in developing their fine motor skills.  These skills will build the foundation for writing, being able to pick up and manipulate books, tie shoelaces and do various art activities. By developing coordination, children will show more confidence in walking, running, climbing and will have more fun on the playground. This is important for their self-confidence, and for almost all activities they’ll need to do as an adult. 

How Can BrightSparkz Help?

Not sure where to start? BrightSparkz’s Little Sparkz™ is a fantastic way to introduce the basics of fine motor skills and coordination, as well as some other important skills your child will need in addition, such as memory. During each lesson, your child will have the opportunity to strengthen their pencil grip, practice colouring in, using a paintbrush, using glue to stick objects, handling paper and other materials in art activities, as well as learning to cut. Here’s what a happy Mom had to say about Little Sparkz™:

“In just 3 sessions they went from not being able to cut with scissors at all, to being able to cut out small objects. They also quickly learnt the difference between big and small letters in writing their names. I think all preschool kids would benefit from this program. Big schools seem to expect so much from kids at Kindergarten level and the leap is just too big for most kids. This program really seems to bridge that gap!”

Written by Jade Hales, ECD student and BrightSparkz Blog Writer. This article first appeared on brightsparkz.co.za.

Is Your Child Ready for Kindergarten?

The idea of letting your children start big school may seem overwhelming as a parent, as you want to ensure that your child has a successful learning experience. This begs the question: How do parents ensure that their children are ready for kindergarten? One of the answers is to work with your children to help them develop certain skills that ensure school readiness. This task can be broken down into some easy steps: 

  • Help with Physical Development

This aspect involves encouraging the development of coordination, fine motor and gross motor skills and balance. Get your child to practice cutting with scissors, throwing and catching a ball, hopping on one leg, balancing on a beam or a line on the floor, riding a bike or building a puzzle.

 

  • Both Emotional & Social Development are Important

Talking to your child about emotions and how they feel when they are angry or sad is vital. It will enable them to identify their emotions in different situations. Build healthy boundaries and rules for your child as this will be implemented in schools too. Allow your children to have play dates or participate in outside activities where they can learn to socialize, how to share, how to listen and compromise. 

 

  • Develop Literacy & Numeracy Skills

These skills are extremely important in children’s success at kindergarten. No need to include difficult or advanced tasks – just simple activities that give your child simple and fundamental skills that they take with to schools. This can be done by practicing counting with your child, teaching them colours and basic shapes, reading to your child and exposing them to basic sight words.

 

  • Overall Healthy Development

It is important to try to limit the amount of screen time you allow your child and encourage outdoor time or playing with toys instead. Stimulate their senses with a variety of fun activities like tasting different foods (sweet or salty), smelling different scents, hearing and identifying different sounds, for example. Make sure that your child is maintaining a balanced diet and getting all the nutrients and vitamins that they need to grow and develop their body and brain!  

Most importantly, remember that children learn through play, so try to ensure that your child is having fun while learning! This doesn’t have to be time consuming – it’s all about making the small changes in your daily routine to help your child. Instead of TV at night rather read with your child, while driving in the car you can talk to your child and play games. Games can Include I spy, can you spot this? Or counting practice. Make it fun for both you and your child! Lastly, children will mimic you, so make sure you express excitement in this new adventure of their life. They will in turn feel positive as they go on this adventure!

 

  • Little Sparkz to Aid Development

If you’re not sure if your child is ready for kindergarten, or you feel that your child may lack even some of the skills needed to enter kindergarten with confidence, Little Sparkz is the perfect solution! Created by experienced Early Childhood Development educators, Little Sparkz focuses on an introduction to literacy, numeracy, gross and fine motor skills, coordination and memory, through a variety of activities designed to teach your child in a fun and engaging way. Taking your child through the Little Sparkz program will introduce learning as something to enjoy and get excited about, while building your precious bond! 

 

Book your Little Sparkz program today!

Written by Jade Hales, ECD student and BrightSparkz Blog Writer. This article first appeared on brightsparkz.co.za.

Milestones To Check Off Before Big School

How did your little one get so big so quickly that the time to consider “Big School” is just around the corner?! And on this note, how do you know that your child is as prepared as possible to cope with the demands of big school?

school

There are several considerations to assess your child’s school readiness. These are:

  • Academic readiness
  • Physical (motor) skills
  • Social skills
  • Emotional maturity

All these aspects are extremely important in ensuring that your child does achieve their full potential.

Academic Readiness

Your child’s creche or nursery school should have taught them certain academic competencies. If your child didn’t attend a creche or nursery school, they  will need to catch up in Grade 1. 

Although the academic preparedness of new Grade Ones may differ according to their circumstances, the general expectation is that your child will have the following skills:

  • Recognize his/her written name
  • Can name and recognize colours
  • Speaks well enough to make him/herself understood
  • Able to participate in a conversation, taking turns to listen and speak
  • Able to follow basic instructions
  • Be able to count to at least 10
  • Can understand sorting and grouping
  • Knows and identifies shapes

Physical/Motor Skills

Certain fine- and gross-motor skills will allow your child to participate actively in the classroom, as well as keep up with their classmates during playtimes and breaks. These include: 

  • Be able to hold a pencil correctly and form basic letters and numbers
  • Goes to the bathroom by him/herself; has bladder control
  • Blows his/her own nose
  • Being able to kick and catch a ball
  • Washes own hands
  • Crosses their own midline (can place left hand on right hip, or draw a line between two objects on opposite sides of a page)
  • Copies patterns
  • Ties shoelaces

Social Skills

It’s important for your child to get along with others in a classroom environment. Does your child:

  • Share with others
  • Understand the concept of taking turns
  • Listen to others
  • Relate to peers and adults
  • Participate in activities with others 

Emotional Maturity

They’re getting so big, but is your child emotionally ready for big school? 

  • Can separate from their caregiver to participate in school
  • Shares the teacher’s attention with others
  • Shows empathy and understanding of the pain of others
  • Can work independently or in a group
  • Shows signs of persevering with tasks
  • No longer carries around a dummy or “blanky”

 

If your child displays most of the above, this is a good indication that they will be able to perform some of the important tasks at school and cope well enough not to be left behind their peers. 

Ready For Big School

Should you have concerns about whether or not your child will be able to cope well at school (or be on an equal footing with their peers), you can set up a meeting with the child’s Kindergarten teacher, or even an Educational Psychologist. These professionals will give you expert advice. 

BrightSparkz Tutors offers a 10-lesson program specifically for young learners called Little Sparkz. This school-readiness program will take your child through a variety of age-specific activities, ensuring they are able to meet the requirements to succeed in Big School. You can take your child through the materials and lessons yourself, or with the help of a nanny or au pair. 

It’s better for your child to repeat Kindergarten rather than starting school before they are ready. Starting school too early can be more stressful to your child in the long-term, causing stress and your child to  struggle to keep up with the required standard. This can lead to a loss of self-worth and confidence. 

Having your child repeat Kindergarten is often in the best interests of the child (especially those born in the second half of the year) to allow for maturity and coping in all aspects, and to prevent problems further along in their academic career. It is a decision not to be taken lightly due to the long-term outcomes, so it is best to consult with education experts before making your final decision. 

You know your child best, and with the help of their favourite Kindergarten teacher or an excellent educational psychologist, or maybe even a 10 week school-readiness course, you can make the best decision for your child’s future! It takes a village to raise a child, and the BrightSparkz village is here to help :)

 

This article first appeared on www.brightsparkz.co.za, and was written by Natalie Wilke, BrightSparkz Staff & Blog Writer