Springfield preschool teacher makes motor skill building fun
In Kaitlin Benner’s preschool classroom, crab walking, wheelbarrow racing and Army crawling is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, all are encouraged.
“Some students lacked the skills, muscle strength and/or stamina to cut with scissors, open water bottles or even pierce Capri Sun pouches with straws,” Benner explains. As a masters student working on closing the gap between preschool and kindergarten achievement, Benner says, “I noticed a gap in my students’ abilities, and I decided something needed to change.”
Once Benner began teaching preschool for Springfield Local Schools’ students this year, she observed the occupational therapist to study the muscles required for simple motor activities children develop at that age. Benner then began to incorporate different activities into students’ daily routines to supplement the kindergarten curriculum they will encounter in the following school year.
“On the playground, we practice climbing, hanging from the monkey bars and holding on to the parallel bars – all of these activities help children build arm strength,” Benner says. “My students also pull a wagon, push carts outside and paint with washable water colors on the sidewalk.”
When inside the classroom, children may play with the sensory table, which often includes rice or sand. Children dig through either medium to find objects or pick them up using large tweezers. When the weather cooperates, Benner enjoys taking her students on a nature walk to pick up leaves for leaf rubbing art.
“The act of gathering leaves, peeling crayons and creating the leaf rubbings is not only enjoyable to the students, but it also benefits their motor development,” Benner says.
“The parents in my classroom enjoy learning how to help their kids get ready for school,” Benner says, adding her school hosts a kindergarten social for preschool students and their families in the spring.
“The purpose of this event is to show parents what they can do with their kids in summer to help them prepare for kindergarten – without necessarily putting a pencil in their hands.”
Benner often shares tips with parents throughout the school year. She encourages them to visit local parks with their children; “Parks are free!” she says. Playing with water – squeezing saturated sponges, squirting eyedroppers and using spray bottles – is also a great activity for children in summertime. This could complement a picnic that includes homemade lemonade (children may help squeeze the lemons to build hand strength) and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (children may spread the peanut butter and jelly on bread).
As Benner further explores the preschool world, she hopes to impact students’ success beyond her own classroom.