Series Part #20: Is Following Instructions a Challenge for Your Child?
Before children go to kindergarten, some areas do a readiness assessment, and one item is often following directions or instructions. This can be a concern for some children and the problem is not because a child has not heard or listened to the instructions. Rather, it can be due to a lack of experience and learning. As with other thinking skills and strategies, children need time and opportunity to develop the brain connections needed for following instructions.
For young children, we should start with giving only one-part instructions first, such as put your cup on the table. Once children can cope with one part, we can include two: get your backpack and wait at the door. Often, when we give kids instructions we give them too many all at once and they got lost somewhere in the middle. It goes without saying, that short sets of instructions are easier to deal with than longer ones.
I have shared this story before, but it is a hilarious anecdote about a little boy in a friend’s kindergarten who followed instructions, more or less. Before going to school, a mother told her son that when he went to the paint center, he needed to take off his sweater and not to get paint on his clothes. He remembered parts of the instructions, but not all, “he needed to take off his… blah, blah, blah … clothes. When his teacher turned from helping another student, there was this boy at the paint center completely stripped down. He had certainly heard and listened to his mom and even got part of it right.
Simon Says is a great game to play with kids for practicing following instructions. When you give instructions at home, use different voices and accents, such as a squeaky mouse or a rumbling robot. Singing the instructions helps get kids attention and makes the directions easier to remember. Doing crafts, cooking, and simple science activities are practical experiences with both following instructions and doing the steps in order.
For a play-of-the-day and to help your child get ready for kindergarten, how about a fun activity with instructions?