Parents play with their children less than 5 minutes per day!

Does that shock you? For me, it does and it doesn’t.

From the number of enquiries I get from parents anxious their child is falling behind I know that play is probably low on the agenda. Even if parents aren’t bothered about their child getting into a selective/grammar school they are anxious that their child does well academically. Parents of preschool age children are anxious that their child can read, write their name, know their sounds, count to 20 etc before they even start school.

The reasons for this are many but mainly because we are led to believe that our children must do well in school in order to get a good job and have a good life.

This leads me to ask 2 questions:

  1. Is that actually true?
  2. Is stuffing our kids full of academic concepts the best way to do that?

I have been chatting to The Curiosity Approach over the last few weeks about the importance of Early Childhood experiences and valuing childhood for its own sake rather than viewing childhood as merely a preparation for adulthood. I’ll tell you more about that in a later blog.

This is what they have to say on writing preparation:

Get a grip ! 

When children go onto school, they’ll be expected to hold a pencil, write their name, open their lunch box, put on their shoes!

Even earlier, in some Early Years settings, sadly children are ‘expected’ to follow the dotted line with their pencil and formally practice name writing completing worksheets in anticipation of moving onto school. It’s formal table top planned lesson! 

But earlier is NOT better, why are we expecting 3 & 4 year olds to participate in planned lessons that replicate a school? 

They are not school age children.

Let them be little, let’s take the pressure off and recognise handwriting and writing their name needs so many other skills and development FIRST 

Dexterity, a good grip, fine motor skills and the ability to use strength,force. 

Not just in their fingers their whole body too. 

Movement is essential for learning 

Movement IS learning! 

Fine Motor Skills





Pivotal joint development 

Auditory discrimination

Force, or grading of movement

Balance vestibular 

Gross motor skills

Bilateral coordination

Body awareness


Hand preference

Body position

Postural reflexes 

Tactile discrimination

Eye-hand coordination

Muscle tone

Postural stability

Visual discrimination

All the senses

Power. agility, strength 

All these are essential in order for a child to write their name! 

A child writing their name is NOT an indication of how well they’ll do at school! 

Let’s stop the focus on being able to write their name before getting to school and turn our attention to playing, movement, getting outside. Big scale movements that require, strength, GRIP. 

If a child is moving, PLAYING, lifting things, free marking, painting, scribbling, vertical painting, digging, climbing, crawling along the ground, swinging, hanging upside down, rolling, stirring, pulling, stretching, kneading, pushing, pulling, prodding, poking. Running, jumping, climbing trees! 





Let’s set children up with the skills necessary to achieve. 

This came to mind yesterday when I was having a session with 1 of my Year 2s. She seems to be behind what is expected of Year 2 children. Over the few weeks I have worked with her I can see how she probably struggles in the classroom but what a brilliantly diverse mind she has. She has loads of great ideas about how numbers work and has a great memory. What is not happening in her mind is joining up all the dots of the concepts she has been taught. So she is confused.

When we work together we use lots of beautiful practical things like glass beads. These are much better than plastic counters because they feel and look lovely which engages more of her senses. I had a plan for what we were going to do with them yesterday but when I sat back and followed her lead I observed that she knew a lot about number bonds and partitioning that I probably would not have uncovered if we had done pen and paper exercises.

We didn’t move through the activity very quickly, in fact it  was slowly, which again helps to really bed in what she is doing in that moment. If we had moved too quickly I’m fairly sure that she would have gone home not learning very much because she would have felt anxious. Anxiety stops us learning.

I have a 3rd question: Do you play? Either by yourself or with your children?

I believe play is a fundamental part of our lives. We are driven to be constantly learning and play is the best way to do this. My challenge to you is to pause and consider how much play is in your life. Watch out for further activities in the Facebook group this week. Give them a go with your children and ponder upon whether they seem to learn more than completing worksheets.