By Smarty Guest Blogger, April B. Whitlock, Owner & CEO of Fundanoodle
I spend every work day interacting with pre-school and Kindergarten teachers. Each has their own curriculum favorites, discipline philosophy, teaching style and classroom layout. But none of them are impressed with your preschooler’s prowess with an iPad. Every single teacher I meet agrees that, collectively, we are raising a generation of children who cannot fully use their hands.
It’s not just the random educator who tells me about an isolated incident in the classroom of one student who cannot use scissors or properly hold a pencil. It’s EVERY Preschool or Kindergarten teacher talking about the MAJORITY of the classroom. It doesn’t matter if they teach at a high-income school, a Title 1 school, a high-performing school or a struggling school. The onset of touchscreen technology and increasingly tech-savvy (and tech-focused) parents mean we are raising kids with one really, really strong index finger on their dominant hand as they swipe their way to learning.
Traditionally, pre-school was a time of active play that stimulated the development of hand strength and muscle skills. Google “fine motor development” and review the expected milestones of children ages 3 – 5 years. They should be drawing with crayons, cutting paper, building, beading, lacing, gluing . . . anything that engages their growing fingers and stimulates hand-eye coordination. Their preschool brains are wired for this stimulation. But, a technologically focused world and changing parenting styles have impacted the availability of this stimulation.
Now private school J-K teachers tell me that the parents want to know why Johnny is spending time cutting and ripping and pasting when he should be learning on the computer or iPad. Weekday school teachers tell me how scissors have been banned in the classroom because Little Suzy got a hair cut by her classmate last year. And because teachers are witnessing deteriorating core strength and motor skill development, schools invite people like me to speak to parents and explain why hand strength is critical to future educational success.. Fine motor skills, hand strength, using all five fingers are basic skills that humans need. It’s not just about holding a picture and learning to write. They are life-skills – buttoning, buckling, tying shoes, properly holding forks, knives and spoons . . . the list goes on.
Granted it’s not a medical epidemic, but do we really understand the long term ramifications for undeveloped hand strength?
– How much longer does it take your musical protégée to master her instrument (read this blog from a music teacher)?
– Is your budding artist hindered because it hurts her hand to hold a paint brush too long?
– Are there impacts on the performance of your future All-Star athlete if his hands are not fully developed?
– Is your future brain surgeon developing the fine-motor skills and finger strength needed to one day save a life?
– If you need strong hands to play the piano wouldn’t that infer that you need strong hands to effectively use a keyboard?
– And did you know that as of today, the SAT essay is still required to be handwritten by pencil?
Don’t get me wrong – I love my iGadgets and I understand that because of technology my children will have educational opportunities I never dreamed possible. And, trust me, I get the allure of the screen. Even though I own a company that touts active learning, I’m as guilty as the next Mom of turning on the minivan DVD for a quiet ride, handing the fussy 4 year old the phone or turning on a movie so I can have a moment to make dinner. But, I’ve quickly learned that if a child is directed to something with a kinetic stimulation (beading, lacing, pounding, cutting, stickers, drawing), most preschoolers will forget anything screen related and engage. Further proof that children are programmed to use all 10 fingers on both hands! My personal theory is that the Rainbow Loom reached cult-like status because our children’s bodies are craving activities that engage their hands beyond their index finger and thumbs.
Join me in the #writenotswipe revolution! Preschoolers and Kindergarten students do not need a screen or technology to learn. They need active, kinetic stimulation (for fun DIY ideas check out Pinterest). There will be plenty of time to learn from an electronic or touchscreen device as they grow older. Step away from the touchscreen because Preschoolers and Kindergarten students are wired to learn with their 2 hands and all 10 fingers!
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Fundanoodle is an early education product line designed by Charlotte-based pediatric occupational therapists and elementary educators. Our products combine the best of motor-sensory development and foundational learning for children ages 2 ½ to 6 years old. Learn more online on Facebook; YouTube; Twitter; and Instagram.