Parent Place!






Since I firmly believe that you are the first, best teachers, I hope to offer you many tools and activities to use at home with your preschoolers and your school age children. At this point I will refer you to three of my other websites: Word Way (, Alphabet Avenue (, and Little Book Lane ( for many full color reproducible activities and suggestions. The Mother Goose page is another section on this site that you might want to explore. 

Click on the following link to view a new section on fine motor skills. If your child's teacher has expressed concern about handwriting, you may want to visit this section for practical help.

Developing vocabulary
Fine Motor Skills
Pencil Possibilities
Tantalizing Tools
Computer Classics: Children's Choices


   Here's a poem for parents that I discovered years ago:

Cleo Victoria Swarat

I dreamed I stood in a studio 
    and watched two sculptors there.
The clay they used was a child's mind,
    they fashioned it with care.
One was a teacher,
    the tools he used were books, music and art.
One was a parent,
    with a guiding hand and a gentle, loving heart.
Day after day the teacher toiled,
    with a touch that was strong and sure.
While the parent labored by his side,
    with a heart that was clear and pure.
And when at last their task was done,
    they stood proud of what they had wrought,
For things they had molded into the child
    could neither be sold or bought.
And each agreed they would have failed
    if they had worked alone.
For behind the teacher stood the school . . .
    and behind the parent, the home.





Developing Vocabulary

If you are the parent of a young reader, you will notice that they bring many small books to read at home. These books are written to support early and emergent readers. Through these books, young readers learn to recognize hundreds of new words, but they already know most of the meanings of the words. They are in their everyday spoken or listening vocabulary.

In upper grades, your children will come into contact with many unfamiliar words. They will be required to recognize them, but they will also have to learn the meanings of these new words. Here's how you can help your child gain understanding of new vocabulary:

Read aloud to your child and discuss the story vocabulary. Select books that are just beyond the reach of your reader, ones that they are not able to read yet. This stretches their understanding of the language used in literature.

Avoid talking down to your child. Use words that build their vocabulary. Research shows that if a child has a word in their listening vocabulary, they will have an easier time decoding an unfamiliar word. In other words, a "heard word" will make sense in the context of the text and they will almost automatically try that word.

 Play vocabulary games to develop understanding. You may want to look at Jeopardy Drive for Junior Jeopardy games and focus on spelling patterns at the same time. Here are more suggestions that are also good to use in the car when your children are tired of riding!

Look and Label: Label everything in a room in five minutes, taking turns. The goal is to maintain and increase speed and the number of words, or to make the list as long as possible. You may want younger children to point to or touch the labeled item to check for accuracy. This game ends when you either run out of time or words!

Go Together: List objects in a category, taking turns. Sample categories: types of cars, vegetables, winter words, holidays, emotion descriptors, sports, toys, etc. The game is over when one player runs out of words. 

Tell a Tale:    Ask your child to think of three words for you to use in creating an oral story. After you finish telling your story and modeling the process, give your child three words to use in making up a story. Stop when they get tired of playing or run out of ideas. You don't want to overdo a good thing!

Frumdiddle:    I don't know where I got this one, but kids love it. A frumdiddle is a secret object. Think of a "frumdiddle," provide clues to its identification and ask your child to guess what it is. Give just one clue at a time and let them guess. Use "in your face" or obvious clues to start with and when they get better at the game, you can use more discreet or obscure clues. Use what teachers call $100 words in your clues to expand their vocabulary (a thesaurus helps). When your child guesses the secret object, exclaim, "Frumdiddle!"  





Fine Motor Skills

What Are Fine Motor Skills?

Being prepared for all of the skills involved in paper, pencil and scissor tasks at school require well-developed fine motor skills. Handwriting is more than forming symbols on a page. It is how the child "grasps" his pencil, small muscle development and control in the fingers and hand, handedness (left or right?), positioning and the approach of the teacher.

In my experience as an educator, I have seen many young children coming to school with awkward pencil grips, poorly developed coordination and visual motor skills, and frustrated parents! Be patient. Most children will develop fine motor skills with practice and opportunity. However, if you happen to have a child in your class who seems to have a delay in this area, there are many rewarding remedies for you to try in class and/or to suggest to parents for practice at home.

Please note that if a child still appears to have severely delayed handwriting/fine motor skills by second or third grade, there may be other issues such as vision problems. This can lead to other difficulties in school. Don't let this slip by you! They may need occupational therapy, and alternatives to printing such as word processing. These are often the children who have difficulty copying from the board, poor cutting skills, coloring within the lines, etc. In her article, "Why All Students Need Fine Motor Skills," Kathleen Fedele strongly suggests that "students need fine motor control for eye muscles to focus and distinguish letters, crossing midline, and tracking -- all essential skills for reading and writing."






Pencil Possiblities


Sometimes fumbling fingers and helpless hands need the right tools for acquiring the power of print. Try a variety of writing implements, particularly pencils, colored pencils and crayons that have a triangular shape.


Explore an assortment of pencil grips. There are many that are commercially available at school supply stores and via the internet. I keep a wide variety on hand for children of all ages who have awkward pencil grips. It helps to break old habits.


Use colored marking pens, although this suggestion is not about fine motor skills. However, I have found that younger children seem to let go of some of their inhibitions when they use thin or broad markers for writing on unlined paper. Too often we expect beginning writers to conform to writing within the confines of lined paper when they are still exploring the shapes and directionality of letters and numbers.


Allow time for "flexible practice," using vertical and horizontal surfaces and working for flexibility. This involves having children write letters or construct words in new places using an assortment of materials or medium in a variety of sizes: chalk, finger paint, water and a paintbrush, sand trays, white boards, MagnaDoodles, etc. They may also write it in the air, using their whole arm or writing on the carpet with their finger. Whatever you do, don't always insist on using pencil and paper at a desk for a child who has not developed fluency and automaticity in their writing performance. 


Use tactile-kinesthetic methods with a child who appears to have reversals or difficulty forming letters. Actually hold the child's hand to guide the formation of the letter. Use directionality language when guiding the writing. Have an assortment of models for tracing with the finger: sandpaper letters, magnetic letters, etc. There are many commercially produced aids, but talented teachers can create their own!


Upper grade students with handwriting problems seems to do better with mechanical pencils and gel pens. I know, some of them tend to spend too much time playing with them instead of paying attention to the task at hand. However, if you fill them with larger lead, which is softer than regular pencils, there will be less breakage and they are easier to write with. You may want to suggest this for homework if you are uncomfortable with them in class. Mechanical pencils are particularly effective for children who seem to break the lead in their #2 pencils all the time and use a heavy hand when writing. Upper grade and middle school students may also use the newer pens that come with built-in grips. My sixty eight year old husband prefers those, but it hasn't helped his handwriting!


Find fat pencils for fat fingers! They are often easier to grip and to control.


Take away the erasers! Children will be more willing to take risks if they can't erase. Encourage them to cross out errors and to insert changes. This will also allow you to see what their thinking processes are when they make attempts. Did they make reversals? Capital letters in the wrong place? How will you know what minilessons to do if they erase all of their early attempts?


Still frustrated? Go to for super suggestions and tools for "homework without tears," specialized writing tools and paper and multi-sensory activities that are fun, inexpensive and practical.

Tantalizing Tools


Set up a Handwriting Highway practice area or center in your kindergarten or first grade classroom. If you'd like suggestions or a sign, go to the Centers City link on the left. Apprenticeship in Literacy by Linda Dorn has superb suggestions for handwriting practice and manipulating letters.


Explore the feeling and the power of print with an assortment of tactile tools: pudding print, finger paint, shaving cream, Wikki-stix, and Play Doh. Place pudding or hair gel in a Ziplock bag and allow children to form letters, numbers and shapes with one finger. Caution: don't keep the pudding overnight without refrigeration! That's why hair gel works better for longevity.


Rainbow write letters and words with crayons and colored chalk. Younger students like to do this with their spelling words for homework.


Use water and paintbrushes to write letters and/or words on a chalkboard or on the sidewalk outside the classroom. All mistakes simply disappear!


Don't throw out those old pegboards or geoboards! My kindergarteners love to form shapes and letters with them and they get multi-sensory practice at the same time.


Keep your model at eye level for your children. Unfortunately, most teachers, myself included, keep a beautiful, visible alphabet chart above our whiteboards or chalkboards. This is okay if you also provide a desktop version for each student. I have multiple charts in my classroom so that any student has easy access to a good model.


Use a hole punch to develop designs and fine finger muscles!


Stencils have become an essential addition to primary classrooms. They are available from many sources, in many sizes and fonts.

bullet has a convenient handwriting practice tool. You type in the child's name, for example, and it gives you a traceable sheet for practice.


Believe it or not, but working crossword puzzles helps to develop proper spacing in children who can already read and write. I also like to use a center or worksheets that I call "Configuration Station" to coordinate the eye-hand skill. You can see a sample in Word Way in a link to The Long and Short of It page.


Teachers and parents have many tools for practice in their households, garages and classrooms: clothespins that snap, spoons, paperclips, nuts and bolts, and large plastic stitchery needles and thread. Each of these items provide finger fun and good practice. Gosh, this takes me way back to the dark ages when I first started teaching in a kindergarten classroom. Some of my favorite activities for fine motor skills came from a book called "Work Jobs." I wonder if it's still in print. 







  Computer Classics:
Children's Choices



Living Books (Broderbund)

Sheila Rae, the Brave

Arthur (assorted titles)

Just Me and My Mom/Just Grandma and Me, etc.

The Berenstain Bears (assorted titles)

Dr. Seuss ABC

Get Ready for School, Charlie Brown!

The Art Lesson (Creative Storybook from The Learning Company)

Jump Start (assorted levels)

Reader Rabbit

Bailey's Book House

Kid Works Deluxe

The Magic School Bus (assorted titles)

Disney's Interactive Winnie the Pooh

Paint, Write & Play! (The Learning Company)

Madeline Classroom Companion: 1st & 2nd Grade

    Go to this page for printable handwriting worksheets for all ages.
(for teachers, parents, and kids) (for "Arthur" and other educational links) (Sesame Street)
This site offers links to interactive sites  in math, language arts, science, social studies, and alphabet and reading activities for children.