Last week we posted the following article (Losing our Grip http://bit.ly/2ghoMsv) on our facebook page. The article discussed the increasing number of children in kindergarten without the fine motor skills needed to manipulate scissors, hold pencils, etc. The New York Times reported in February that public schools in New York City saw a 30 percent increase in the number of students referred to occupational therapy, with the number jumping 20 percent in three years in Chicago and 30 percent over five years in Los Angeles.
Why is this? The article points to three causes:
- Our culture has increased pressure on parents to involve young children in organized activities. More organized activities does not equal more body awareness. There is less time for free play and opportunities for children to manipulate their environments to understand spatial concepts. As we Montessorians know, young children learn by doing, not by being told what to do.
- Parental Fear. Some parents are afraid to let their children engage in physical play or use tools such as scissors. Today’s children spend less time outside, where they have more opportunities to explore how their bodies move through space, learn balance and figure out how to handle tools and toys in relation to one another. Playgrounds have changed tremendously over the years. The equipment that supported sensory integration, such as merry go rounds and monkey bars, are no longer present.
- Technology. The “educational” tablet has replaced the activities which support fine motor skills such as playdoh and coloring.
Montessori Children’s House classrooms offer ample opportunities for fine and gross motor development. With the absence of technology in our programs, the children are free to work towards developing their hands and bodies and in turn their minds for the academic work to come. Many people are surprised to learn that fine motor skills are a robust predictor of academic achievement. Read more about that here.