Tag: learning



When it comes to gaining independence, children will go through different stages as the days go by. Newborns and infants, for example, need us for pretty much everything. Toddlers and preschoolers tend to think they are independent (“Me do it”) but, in reality will need our guidance and assistance often. Teaching kids to be self-sufficient is a big but very important step in development.

As your children enter school, they become more self-governing and this self-sufficiency will continue to increase with the passing weeks and years.

But how self-sufficient should your kids be? How much should they be doing themselves? And how much should they still be relying on us?

This depends on so many factors including your child’s individual ability and temperament and your personal parenting style. But, no matter where your child is, developmentally speaking, or what kind of parent you are, it’s important to encourage self-sufficiency into their routine.

Why Let Them Try?

Self-sufficiency is a learned skill and one that we need to nurture from a young age. Sure, we can do everything for our kids, but this isn’t good for anyone.

First of all, it’s absolutely exhausting. Take it from someone who’s been her children’s personal chef/maid/chauffeur/hairdresser/toy picker-upper for nine long years. The constant demands can start to drag you down, burn you out, and turn you into an exhausted mum zombie who survives purely on coffee and chocolate.

Secondly, it’s no good for your kids either. It can lead to laziness and, worst still, a sense of entitlement. They come to expect this same treatment from everyone – teachers, peers, co-workers, and partners.

Giving kids a chance to try teaches them responsibility, boosts their confidence and prepares them for the future. But, most importantly, it gives them a sense of pride that yes, they have the ability to do it themselves.

Self-Sufficiency Success

Your kids aren’t going to become independent overnight. But there are ways to help them learn to be a little more self-sufficient and gain a bit more responsibility without putting too much pressure on them.

1. Add to their workload (gently)

The easiest way to do this is to give them age-appropriate chores. But before you dump a list of chores on their tables, teach them how to do it, even if the task seems simple to you, like making the bed or setting the table. Offering support, praise and guidance, when needed, can make them want to help out.

2. Explain WHY they need to help

Telling a child to do something doesn’t always work. Kids often need a reason WHY (“because I said so,” often isn’t good enough). But if you explain to them WHY they need to help out and take responsibility, you have a better chance of getting a good reaction. And without having to constantly nag at them.

For example, try:

• Can you set the table? Because I’m busy making dinner and would love the help.
• Can you pick up your socks? Because it’s rude to leave your dirty clothes on the floor.
• Can you wipe the toilet seat? Because you’re the one who peed on it.

3. Help them find their way

The path to self-sufficiency is usually riddled with bumps and opportunities for kids to give up and mums to take over. Take the fine art of learning to tie shoes. I cannot tell you how many times my daughter has tried to learn this, gotten frustrated and given up. And how many times we’ve been late for school and I’ve just done it for her.

Don’t let them give up. Avoid the urge to take over. Instead, you assist them, supervise them or guide them. They may be slow, or sloppy, or make mistakes. Or they may do it differently than you. But this is all part of their journey towards independence.

4. Give them the tools to solve problems

The main tool children need to solve any problem? The assurance that they have the capability to do it, to think for themselves, to brainstorm a solution and to put this solution into play. For example, your child may have lost his shoes. Rather than run around the house like a mad woman searching for them, ask him to think about where he left them last, to backtrack his steps, to use his knowledge to find them.

5. Control less, enjoy more

One of the hardest things about teaching your kids to be self-sufficient is that it may feel like you’re losing control, like they no longer need you anymore.

But here’s the thing: No matter how old they are, you are always their parent. And your kids will always need you. You will be the one they turn to when they need a cuddle or a confidence booster, when they need homework help or relationship advice. This won’t change, even if you’re no longer doing their laundry or making their bed for them. It simply means you’ve given them the tools they need to become confident, self-reliant individuals.

When it comes to being there for emotional support, don’t take a step back. Be front and centre, always. But when it comes to picking up their dirty underwear from the floor, it’s okay to step back.

The bottom line

Watching your kids become self-sufficient is a rewarding experience. It means you will spend less time picking up after them and more time enjoying time together. It means you can share the workload, reduce the stress and put your feet up every once in a while.

But, most importantly, it means you’re giving them the confidence to tackle new challenges and the tools to grow into independent individuals. Watching their eyes light up with pride when they set the table correctly or cook their first family dinner or tie their own shoe laces is such an amazing feeling. Especially when you can enjoy the moment from the comfort of your couch.



Sensory play involves more than just exploring textures, it includes activities that stimulate all senses – touch, sound, sight, smell and taste. Sensory play is a great way for children to develop their motor skills. It also teaches language skills and critical thinking skills in a fun and challenging environment. There are numerous different types of sensory play.

Think outside the box when introducing sensory play to your children. Here are a few ideas for all the senses:

Messy play – Perfect for touch. Texture toys like slime, play dough and kinetic sand give children the chance to feel these different textures through creative play.

Baker’s delight – Let their noses guide them by introducing the smells and tastes of the kitchen through baking. You can even stage a pantry treasure hunt and sniff various herbs, spices and other aromatic ingredients.

Music to their ears – Explore sound sensations by crafting musical instruments at home. Try filling rice into an empty water balloon or creating a drum from a MILO tin.



Most people think of sensory play as ‘messy’ play or exploration of different textures but it is much more than that. Sensory play includes activities that involve touch, hearing, vision, smell and taste, as well as movement.

Sensory play promotes exploration of the environment and also helps build important connections in the brain. These help children to make sense of incoming sensory information. This is important for developing attention and self-regulation skills.

You will notice that many baby toys and books are colourful and have different textures or noises that can be elicited by exploration. For older children paint, sand, rice, slime and play dough are always popular. Musical instruments are great for all ages to explore and in addition to the sounds, involve different skills such as blowing, striking, shaking and pushing buttons.

Nature play is full of different smells, textures, colours and sounds that you can explore with your child. Children also love to play with food and participate in cooking experiences which allows exploration of multiple senses.



STORY Sandra Barclay, Education Officer – Disability, Cairns Catholic Education

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey.
Do you think your child has a learning difficulty or a learning disability? Have you noticed milestones not being met at the same rate as their peers or perhaps your child’s teacher or other family members have voiced concern?

The terms ‘learning difficulty’ and ‘learning disability’ are used to describe unexpected and persistent learning problems. The overarching term ‘learning difficulties’ includes all children struggling to develop skills in literacy and/or numeracy and children with a learning disability. To clarify the difference between the two terms, children with learning difficulties underachieve for a variety of reasons while children with a learning disability generally have an impairment in one or more cognitive processes.

There are many reasons children may have a learning difficulty including behavioural, psychological or emotional issues, having English as a second language or dialect, high absenteeism, gaps in learning or inadequate instruction. Prior to seeking professional help for a child’s learning difficulties, take time to reflect if any of these factors may be impacting on your child’s learning. Your insight will help professionals support your child’s learning. While we know what causes most learning difficulties, we do not fully understand the exact cause of learning disabilities.

The defining features of a learning disability are that it continues to exist, despite appropriate instruction and intervention and often the child may have a family member with learning difficulties. Children with a learning disability do not respond to evidence-based targeted intervention in an expected way. A learning disability has nothing to do with a child’s intelligence, is inherent to the child and is lifelong. We do not fully understand what causes learning disabilities and many famous people including Richard Branson, Jamie Oliver, Daniel Radcliffe and Keira Knightley have a learning disability. The rights of children with learning disabilities are protected by the Disability Discrimination Act (1992) and the Australian Disability Standards for Education (2005). Should you think your child has a learning disability contact your child’s school or GP for further information.

If your child has a learning disability, remember they are a unique and wonderful individual who has much to offer the world. Maintain high expectations and optimism to build your child’s resilience and confidence. Be careful with the language you use and say, “It takes my child a little longer to learn than other children” rather than saying “My child has a learning disability.” Focusing on your child’s strengths and gifts means your child is more likely to experience success and build a positive image of themselves as both a learner and a member of the school community.

Children with learning disabilities have the potential to succeed just like their friends. Parents of children with learning disabilities need to be advocates for their children and develop a skill set to negotiate a world of specialists. Along the way, remember you are your child’s first teacher. Appreciate your natural authority as you are in the best position to see the child in their entirety and must live with the long-term consequences. Believe in yourself as an advocate and strive to work collaboratively with professionals and remember your views matter as much as a specialist opinion.

Consultation and collaboration with your child’s school are vital to achieving positive outcomes. When meeting with professionals remember to:

•• Keep the meeting focused on your child and their needs.

•• Be sure of the purpose of the meeting and who will be at the meeting.

•• Speak positively and commend the school on strengths and successes, highlight what is working well.

•• Have a plan as to what outcomes you would like from the meeting.

•• Take notes and keep a record of the outcomes you have agreed to.

•• If you don’t understand technical terms or professional jargon, ask for clarification.

•• Don’t be afraid to bring a support person to the meeting.

A healthy relationship between parents and teachers is essential for successful inclusion of children with learning disabilities, and good communication maintains a working relationship with your child’s school. It is important to share information about your child with his or her teachers to enable them to develop personalised learning plans. It is important to negotiate times and ways to communicate that work for both parties and to understand that your child is one of many children requiring support.

Children with learning disabilities require appropriate evidence-based intervention to ensure they can achieve at levels close to their academic potential. Parents can gain a greater understanding of what is happening at school by being involved in their child’s education by providing practical help and getting involved in the school community. It is often through involvement in school events and being involved in parent groups that lifelong friendships for children and families are made. If you have an issue with your child’s school, raise it without blame or criticism. Remember to pick your battles and where possible support the teacher and the school.

Most importantly remember to nurture yourself as it is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life and forget to look after yourself. Make some time to take part in activities that fill you with joy, use support networks, and maintain a healthy lifestyle to ensure you have the energy to support yourself and your child. Looking after your emotional strength is important and a little like the airline safety announcement, “Remember to ensure your mask is attached before attaching the child’s.” With academic and emotional support your child can achieve to their potential, build resilience and develop strategies for successful independence beyond the schoolyard.


Princess Diana always sent handwritten thank you notes immediately after attending an event or whenever she received a gift. Putting today’s etiquette standards aside, Diana’s handwritten notes were considered a personal and meaningful form of communication and many of them have been preserved for posterity.
The French also take the art of handwriting very seriously with daily classes dedicated to proper formation of a delicate cursive script. Handwriting lessons and direction in how to hold a pencil are given as much priority as mathematics or language learning.
Some say that a correct pencil grip is not important but I tend to disagree. An improper pencil grip makes the correct formation of letters difficult – sometimes impossible – so letters and numbers start to be written in reverse and from the bottom up. A thumb wrapping round over the top of the pencil and index finger will automatically make the writer tilt their head and alter their posture so that they can see what they are writing.
As an education consultant I see some real doozies! When 99% of the children we see for learning difficulties have an atypical pencil grip it begs the question: what are the links between a poor pencil grip and a learning deficit?
It stands to reason that messy handwriting can often be the result of a poor pencil grip but more alarming in today’s students is a nonchalant attitude towards a scribbled effort in their workbooks.
Even poor spacing can affect a student’s work. Imagine a string of words with little or no spacing between them. It becomes a long string of letters that may be impossible to re-read for editing so grammatical errors go unnoticed and comprehension becomes impossible.
Progression to a cursive script is important for writing at speed. The automaticity of cursive allows a student to get their ideas down before they are forgotten.
It is never too late to try and correct your child’s pencil grip but if they are resistant to change you may find that a commercially manufactured device could be their saviour.
There are several finger grips available on the market that may assist to correct common problems, specifically a ‘claw grip’ and a ‘thumb cross over grip’. Any old triangular pencil grip from the newsagents serves little purpose.
A great deal of research is now being conducted by educational neuroscientists on the mechanics of handwriting and the implications of modern learning on reading and writing skills and the development of cognition and intelligence. Handwriting could well be the glue that connects the visual look of a letter and the sound that it makes. The grouping of those alphabetic symbols and their individual sounds into words… then sentences… paragraphs… etc.
Assistive technology for students with a learning difference such as dysgraphia is important but may not be their saving grace. Dysgraphia often goes hand in hand with dyslexia and a dyslexic child will no more remember where to find an ‘a’ on a keypad than they will remember which direction a ‘d’ or ‘b’ goes when writing by hand. In fact, searching for letters on a keypad would more than likely slow them down.
Before your pre-schooler picks up their first crayon, fine motor skill development activities are a great idea to give them a head start. Threading pasta, picking up grains of rice and putting them in a bowl, doing up buttons and squeezing toys to strengthen hand muscles are all things that can easily be done at home. Most importantly, encourage correct grip from the onset.
Those who say handwriting is a thing of the past are mistaken. It is important in so many ways. I commend the French for exercising all parts of the brain that contribute to language learning and will always remember Diana and her handwritten notes as an icon for humanness.

Julie Chin is an Education Consultant, Author and Irlen Screener


Maths is everywhere. We use it every day, even if we don’t realise it. Mastering maths helps us to understand and describe our world, solve everyday problems, make predictions, develop our abstract reasoning and make better decisions.

But, for many kids, a love of maths doesn’t come naturally. Or easily. Helping your child learn to love maths starts at home. Here is what you can do to get them mastering maths.

1. Promote a sense of relevance and interest in mathematics.

Make connections between math and everyday life which encourages them to want to use maths.

Taking part in everyday activities like going to the shops, cooking, or even setting the table can help your child with maths. Getting dressed and learning to take turns when playing a game all help your child to understand pattern and shapes, measuring and sorting.

2. Bring maths into your daily reading routine.

Reading to children is a treasured activity. What better way to integrate mathematics into the lives of children than to read them stories that bring mathematical ideas to life? Children’s books related to mathematics can be separated into four categories: counting books, number books, storybooks and concept books.

Some good ones to consider are Alfie’s Number by Shirley Hughes, One, Two Buckle My Shoe by Melissa Everett, Sorting Through by Spring-Lizann Flatt and What’s a Fraction by Nancy Kelly Allen.

3. Connect play time with maths.

There are plenty of board games and card games that can help encourage maths but you can also incorporate math lessons in other ways as well. Play ‘shop’ and count out money. Play ‘builder’ and measure various items around the house.

Children need lots of experiences in making, counting, drawing and talking about numbers. Make connections for your child by explaining how numbers and counting are a part of everyday life.

4. Think outside the traditional maths lessons

You may feel that the maths your child is doing at school is different from how you were taught, but you will still be able to support your child in many ways and encourage your child with other ways to solve maths problems.

Giving your child more than one way to solve a problem is highly beneficial to their learning. After all, there is always more than one way to get the right answer.

5. Encourage them to problem solve.

Problem solving is about engaging with real problems – guessing, discovering, and making sense of mathematics. It is about developing young mathematicians who have an ‘understanding of the world, the ability to reason mathematically, an appreciation of the beauty and power of mathematics and a sense of enjoyment and curiosity about the subject’.

You can help them build their problem solving skills without them even realising it, and in no time they’ll be mastering maths. Encourage them to ask questions, to analyse the information they have been given and to look at the various ways to solve the problem.

6. Focus on their individual journey.

Like reading and writing, maths is something that we are constantly learning and consistently using. Maths today is about understanding number patterns, not learning by repetition.

Avoid comparing your own maths skills with that of your child’s. Saying things like “I was bad as maths too” is one of the worst things you can do as it lowers their own expectations of themselves.