It’s that time of the year! The holidays are upon us. Our hard-working kids definitely need a break – time to rest their brains and recharge their batteries. That being said, you may be wanting to strike a balance between letting your child ‘chill out’ and not losing any of the hard-earned progress they have made this year. If that is the case, here are some fun activities that can keep some of the momentum going over the holidays.

  • Let your child help in the kitchen. Following recipes will give them practice with reading as well as math concepts such as measurement.
  • Get your child a crafts activity book for Christmas. There are lovely books available from Reader’s Warehouse that will give your child a fun way to work on their fine motor and visual perceptual skills.
  • If there is one routine not to break, it’s the habit of bedtime stories. This special quality time between parent and child helps your child develop a love of reading as well as practice literacy skills. Takes turns with your child to read, let your child follow along as you read, and ask your child questions about the story as you go along.
  • Play games! If your child struggles with impulse control, there are lots of games you can play. The rules are easy to find online. Examples include Stuck in the Mud, Simon Says, Red Light Green Light, and Wolfie Wolfie What’s the Time? If your child needs to work on their memory, card games like Memory Match will be helpful. Games like Guess Who? are great for language development.
  • Out out out! Don’t allow too much screen-time and instead get your child to go outside and play the good old-fashioned way. Outside play tends to be more interactive, allowing opportunities for your child to practice their social, gross motor and language skills. It also encourages creativity and good health.
  • Instead of dishing money out as needed for activities, get your child to look up the costs involved in the activities they want to do, work out how much they will need, and count it out from your stock. Money = math!

For suggestions specific to your child, please contact your Catch Up Kids supervisor.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

We are born with an innate curiosity to discover the world around us. Curiosity is the way in which we initially learn, as babies it is through curiosity that make initial contact with the world. New borns orient to faces and sounds in their environment.  It is through this curiosity that a child has the desire to investigate, explore and discover new things.

We develop and embrace curiosity through observing and studying our environment. Curiosity  opens our children’s eyes and minds to what is happening around them. Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) consists of many techniques when it comes to transferring and encouraging the development of new skills. It ranges from structured teaching to natural teaching by creating opportunities to learn in their environment.  This is called Natural Environment Training (NET). NET makes use of naturally occurring opportunities within the child’s environment to encourage learning skills in a natural and experiential way. It encourages learning by having the child experience first-hand opportunities and guiding them through new experiences. This also encourages ample opportunities for curiosity and developing an interest in many different areas of importance.

As ABA instructors we constantly draw on our children’s environments to encourage experiential learning opportunities. Learning through experience not only encourages curiosity but also encourages other cognitive processes. Once we have experienced a new activity we reflect on this experience. This reflection helps us to conceptualize what we have learnt and internalize the new information/experience. (Kolbs model). Every day we as instructors also experience new environments with our children in the classrooms, play groups and outing groups. In order to ensure that we encourage a lifelong learning passion within our children we need to strive to make learning as practical and accessible as possible for our children.

There are multiple ways in which one can stir up curiosity in a child. Firstly, lead by example, if your child sees that you are interested in the world around you they are more likely to share these interests and become curious about what’s going on around them. Let your child develop their own interests and hobbies. Parents should expose their children to different activities for the child to get a feel of what they like and want to pursue. A great example to look at is our Case Manager Monique Erasmus who is constantly planning fun learning opportunities for her son. She plans activities such as baking, painting, obstacle courses and  experiments. Encourage your child to ask you questions and in turn ask them questions to stimulate their minds. For example, questions like “Why is this your favourite place to play?”, “How does it make you feel?” Ensure that your child understands the answers you give them. Create a space where the child feels comfortable to ask any question. When a child shows interest in new things praise them for doing so. Provide an enriched environment for your child to experiment and investigate his/her surroundings.

Curiosity is a driving force for learning.  It is important that we develop curiosity in our children not only to expose them to a vast spectrum of knowledge and experiences but also to develop their minds, build their confidence and a sense of self. Curiosity and experience go hand in hand. We cannot hope to encourage and develop new creative thinkers if we do not encourage internalisation of experiences and development of a sense of self. We as parents, instructors and even teachers need to take our role as “lead explorers” very seriously if we truly want to encourage lifelong learning and out of the box thinking.  Being a kid is not just for those who wish to grow up, but also for those who are serious about learning.

One of the executive functions skills we teach at Catch Up Kids is memory.

  1. Auditory Memory

What is it? Auditory memory is the ability to recall information that has been heard.

Give me an example of how we use it in daily life: To remember the names of new people you have been introduced to at a party or work meeting.

Give me an example of how my child would use it in the classroom: To recall information given verbally by the teacher.

Give me an example of how Catch Up Kids might teach improved auditory memory skills: Teaching your child to follow multi-step instructions, starting at one- or two-step instructions and building up systematically until they can follow complex multi-step instructions.

  1. Visual Memory

What is it? Visual memory is the ability to recall information that has been seen.

Give me an example of how we use it in daily life: To remember what was written on the grocery shopping list you left at home!

Give me an example of how my child would use it in the classroom: To remember information written on the board by the teacher.

Give me an example of how Catch Up Kids might teach improved visual memory skills: Having your child look at a simple picture for a few seconds, then hiding the picture and asking them to recall details about what they saw in the picture. Thereafter we would systematically increase the complexity of the picture or perhaps build in a delay between when your child sees the picture and when they are asked to recall details from the picture.

  1. Spatial Memory

What is it? Spatial memory is the ability to recall spatial information.

Give me an example of how we use it in daily life: To remember the geographical layout of your hometown or the interior of your friend’s house.

Give me an example of how my child would use it in the classroom: To remember how to get from one class to another or to remember where various classroom materials are stored.

Give me an example of how Catch Up Kids might teach improved spatial memory skills: Showing your child a picture of a simple block structure for a few seconds, then hiding the picture, providing them with the materials needed to recreate the block structure in the picture and then asking them to do so. We would systematically increase the difficulty by increasing the number of blocks used in the block structure and/or increasing the delay between when your child sees the picture and when he or she is asked to recreate the structure seen in the picture.

  1. Episodic Memory

What is it? Episodic memory is the ability to recall events.

Give me an example of how we use it in daily life: To remember an event you attended with someone so that it can act as a basis for conversation.

Give me an example of how my child would use it in the classroom: To remember social events attended with friends so that it can act as a basis for conversation and friendship maintenance.

Give me an example of how Catch Up Kids might teach improved episodic memory skills: By asking your child details about memorable events that have happened, at first soon after the event and gradually after longer and longer periods of time.

  1. Working Memory

What is it? Working memory is the ability to store information on a short-term basis so that you can process it in some way and produce an output.

Give me an example of how we use it in daily life: To take summarised notes during a work conference.

Give me an example of how my child would use it in the classroom: To hold numerical information in his or her mind while problem-solving in Maths. Note: improvement in attention, another domain in our executive functions curriculum, often leads to improvement in working memory.

Give me an example of how Catch Up Kids might teach improved working memory skills: By giving your child a sequence of words or numbers to recall in reverse order.

There are so many fun games you can play with your child to improve his or her memory! Here are a few:

  1. Put five objects on a try, such as a pencil, pen, small toy, shell or ornament. Ask your child to study them for a couple of minutes. Put a cover over the tray. How many objects can your child remember? A variation of this game is to remove one of the objects while the tray is covered and ask your child to spot which one is missing.
  2. Take a standard pack of playing cards and remove the numbers 6-10 from the pack. Place the remaining cards face down on the table in eight rows of four. Each player tries to find a matching pair by turning up two cards. If it is not a matching pair, the cards are placed fade down again in the same position. If they do match, the player keeps this pair of cards and has another turn. When all the pairs have been found, the player with the most pairs wins.
  3. Tell your child to imagine going on a holiday. Start off by saying, “I packed my suitcase an put in my… hairbrush”. The next person repeats the phrase but adds on an extra item, e.g. “I packed my suitcase and put in my hairbrush and t-shirt.” And so on.
  4. Get three plastic cups and a small item such as a coin. Place the item under a cup, making sure your child knows which one it’s under. Move the cups around and ask your child which cup the item is under.
  5. Ask your child to study you, paying attention to what you are wearing. Leave the room and change one thing. For example, you could take of an earring, tie your hair back or change your shirt. Come back in and ask your child to spot what you have changed. You can also play this game on a white board. Draw a person or scene and rub one thing out when your child is not looking.

Homework aside, there are several concepts in the government education curriculum that your child has lots of opportunities to be exposed to at home, in the car, and in the community. Here are some examples for Grade R and 1 learners:

  • When reading a bed time story to your child, let him hold the book and turn the pages.
  • Have her tell you what number is on the cake at another child’s birthday party.
  • Have him read the number for the delivery company to you when you order food for the family.
  • Have her tell you what numbers are on the door of the house/gate you visit together.
  • Ask him to help you at the grocery store by getting you the specific number of items you need off the shelf.
  • In a small parking lot, tell your child that you will count how many red cars there are and you want her to count how many white cars there are. Then ask her which colour there are more of. This helps your child learn to categorise and collect and compare data.
  • Talk to your child about the properties of things, for example which things on the dinner table can roll and which can’t.
  • Look for patterns while shopping. For example, talk about the patterns of the tiles on the floor of the mall.
  • Find shapes in the things around you. For example, talk about the shapes of the various road signs you see while driving.
  • Make observations and comparisons while enjoying a family meal. For example, who has the most/least food? Whose plate might be the heaviest? Whose glass is the fullest?
  • Help your child read and recognise familiar signs, e.g. Woolworths and Pick ‘n Pay.
  • Ask your child what sound different words start with. Make sure here that you are focusing on the sound she hears at the start of the word, and not the letter name.
  • When paying for things in cash, let your child help you. Tell him about each of the notes and coins, and talk about payment and change.
  • Let your child and his siblings or friends put on plays or shows for you where they get to practice their acting and story-telling skills.
  • Tell your child what the plan for the day is at breakfast each morning. This introduces her to the concept of the passage of time and order of events. Mention what day it is today, what day it was the day before, and what day it will be the following day.
  • After a fun day out, have your child tell you about his experience so that he gets to practice talking about personal experiences in a way that is easy to follow.
  • Let your child use paint, chalk, crayons, playdough and every other medium you can think of!
  • Have your child contribute to birthday cards you write.

Grade R places focus on the development of fine motor skills, visual perception skills, pre-numeracy and pre-literacy skills. Pinterest is your best friend for fun activity ideas to develop these skills!

In Grade 1, reading, writing and number concepts are critical. Your child should move from hands-on experiential activities into more desk-work and worksheets.

CAPS for Foundation Phase

The National Curriculum Statement Grades R-12 (NCS) stipulates policy on curriculum and assessment in the schooling sector. To improve implementation, the National Curriculum Statement was amended, with the amendments coming into effect in January 2012. A single comprehensive Curriculum and Assessment Policy document was developed for each subject to replace Subject Statements, Learning Programme Guidelines and Subject Assessment Guidelines in Grades R-12.

Having difficulty getting your child to do his/her homework? Tired of nagging/begging/pleading/threatening? Star chart not working?

Here are some keys to unlocking your child’s best performance:

Key #1: Motivation is critical to changing behaviour. We keep doing the things we do because they benefit us in some way.

Key #2: Motivation is person-specific. Find what motivates your child rather than just assuming that a particular reward will work.

Key #3: Don’t get hung up on “but he’s supposed to be doing it” or “she should just do it, I shouldn’t have to bribe her”. Fact is, it’s not happening. So let’s take action!

Key #4: Set realistic goals: If your child currently has difficulty completing 10 minutes of homework per day without complaint, then it’s not realistic to expect him/her to jump to 2 hours per day without complaint. Set him/her a goal that’s within reach, for example 15 minutes of homework without any complaints. After a week of success, set the goal at 20 minutes of homework per day, and so on. Also recognize when to stop – there are other things just as important for your child to be doing as homework.

Key #5: Have clear expectations. Make sure that your child knows exactly what he/she has to do in order to earn the reward. 20 minutes of spelling practice? 40 minutes of Math and English? All the homework in the diary? All the homework and no complaints? In some cases, it might be appropriate and helpful to have your child help you decide on the expectations. This can develop maturity and give them a sense of ownership and responsibility.

Key #6: Make the reward contingent Part 1: make sure that the only way for your child to earn the specified reward is by doing his/her homework. If I could choose to go to gym for an hour or put a load of washing into the machine once and both actions would result in the same weight loss I can guarantee you I wouldn’t need my gym membership!

Key #7: Make the reward contingent Part 2: make sure that you deliver the promised reward every time your child reaches the goal. If we don’t get the rewards we are promised we lose motivation to continue trying.

Key #8: Stick to your guns. If your child doesn’t meet the expectation, he/she doesn’t get the reward. No negotiation! Getting your child to take you seriously is half the battle won.

Key #9: Heavily praise your child when he/she meets the expectation and you give the reward. Eventually you want your praise to be motivating on its own so make the association now.

Under 15 months: none

15 months to 5 years: 30-60 minutes per day with adult supervision

5-7 years: 30-60 minutes per day

7-12 years: 1 hour per day

12-15 years: 1.5 hours per day

16 years and older: 2 hours per day

These are maximum recommended times from the American Academy of Paediatrics

2 years: vertical line

2.5 years: horizontal line

3 years: circle

3.5-4 years: plus sign

4 years: square

4.5 years: diagonal line (/ and \)

4 years 11 months: cross

5 years: triangle

Grade 1 and 2: 20 minutes

Grade 3 and 4: 30 minutes

Grade 5: 45 minutes

Grade 6: 1 hour

Grade 7: 1-1.5 hours