5 Fine Motor Skills Needed for Kindergarten Readiness in 2021

A kid practicing gardening activity

Even if your child has experienced pre-school, moving on to kindergarten is still an exciting step into the “big kid” world. Besides shopping for school supplies and new shoes, there are things you can do to make sure your little one is ready for the transition, including working on fine motor skills.

What Are Fine Motor Skills?

We’re so used to our bodies doing whatever we need them to do for daily tasks that it may seem like gross and fine motor skills are completely intuitive. This isn’t the case. Whereas gross motor skills refer to how well we use the large muscles in our body to run, jump and get out of bed, fine motor skills develop the small muscles in our wrists, hands, and fingers, allowing us to do everything from tying our shoes and buttoning our shirts to typing on a keyboard.

For small children, honing their fine motor abilities and hand-eye coordination are important steps toward independence. The ability to open doors, zip up a backpack, and wash their own hands lays the foundation for skills that come later, such as holding a pencil and playing a musical instrument.

For example, before children can learn to write or draw, their hands need to be strong enough to hold a pencil steady for extended amounts of time. Dexterity and coordination are also essential in order to take part in school sports and games.

Here are 5 skills to help your child master before entering kindergarten:
Use a pencil or crayon with some control
– Cut with scissors
– Copy basic shapes
– Form numbers and letters, especially the ones in their name
– Put together simple puzzles

What Are Some Fine Motor Activities for Kids?

1. Playing with Play Dough
If you don’t have any play clay on hand, it’s easy to make your own. To strengthen hand muscles, encourage your child to squeeze, stretch, pinch and roll “snakes”.
2. Playing with Sponges
Gather together a clean sponge, two bowls, and some water, and you’ll have another fine motor skills activity to strengthen hands and forearms. Fill one bowl with water and leave the other one empty, so your child can soak the sponge in the water and then squeeze it out into the other bowl.
3. Painting
Finger painting is a great way for kids to not only practice using their hands but also get really messy! You can also introduce painting with a brush, which helps children learn how to hold a brush correctly and use it as a tool. Try paint-by-number kits for this activity.
4. Practicing with tongs and tweezers
Moving different tiny objects (like Cheerios or beads) from one container to the other builds strength and coordination – and is also really fun.
5. Water play
Find an eyedropper, fill a cup about a quarter full of water and let your child try to transfer the water from one cup to the other by drawing the water into the dropper and squirting it into the empty cup. To make this even more exciting, have several cups and dye the water different colors with food coloring.
6. Gardening and planting
Digging and gardening might seem more like a way to build gross motor skills but certain enrichment activities, like transferring seedlings, require smaller muscle control and hand-eye coordination skills. Grasping a trowel also practices using a pincer grip.

Are You Looking for a Private Kindergarten School in Virginia Beach or near Chesapeake, VA?

Strelitz International Academy is one of the best private schools in southeastern Virginia. We take pride in our IB® Primary Years Programme (PYP), which is available to 3- to 12-year-old elementary school students. We believe your child will flourish in our environment, thanks to smaller class sizes, a unique curriculum, and exemplary teachers, staff, and administrators. Our goal is to put your child on the path to a lifelong love of learning and educational excellence.

We invite you to visit and learn more about our curriculum. Click here to find out more, or please give us a call at 757-424-4327.

Summer Fun for Toddlers

Two toddlers playing with magnet pins

Adventures in Science Week Led us to Many New Discoveries!

Science offers so many exciting ways to engage young students. Our Adventures in Science Week was a fun-filled five days of activities and experiments we hope might start our early learners on the path to a life-long love of science.

Toddler Class

Magnets are pretty magical, even if you understand the properties behind them. For our magnetism activity, we learned how to use a magnetic block to push and pull paper clips through a plastic bag, watching as a trail of clips lengthened as we swirled it on top of the bag. The children also built with the magnet blocks, quickly figuring out that they only attached when they were placed in the right direction.

During our playground time, we traveled into another area of science and scooped up a cicada to examine. Our children were very curious to look at this bug! We taught the concept of evaporation by wetting down boxes and having the children “water paint” them as they dried.

For our weather unit, we created our own clouds and rainbows in a container using common household ingredients. The children were fascinated as they watched shaving cream puff up into clouds. Dripping watercolors over the clouds created a mesmerizing rainbow as the colors seeped through. The students were so entranced that we found another colorful science project involving the properties of oil and water.

Infant Class

Our adorable infant class also had a fun week, beginning our regular outside water play. The babies saw some older toddler friends in the opposite playground and had a good time interacting with them. What a great organic way to learn about being a part of a larger community, and the roles we all play within that community!

The class continued working on sitting up and tummy time. At Strelitz International Academy, we spend a lot of time focusing on strengthening core and neck strength in our wee ones, all through play activities. This is essential to helping them move up to the next level of their gross motor development.

You can recreate a simple sensory activity at home that was a big hit with both the babies and teachers. All you have to do is pour a handful of baby soap into a mixing bowl and use an electric mixer or whisk to stir it up, adding a little bit of water to loosen it up. Voila! You’ve made soapy foam bubbles!

Our Adventures in Science Week activities are just a few examples of the many ways to keep your young ones engaged and creative during the summer months. At Strelitz International Academy, our lively educational games keep your children active and learning all year long. Since the early years are crucial to healthy brain development, we encourage inquiry through play, singing, early literacy, and verbal acquisition at all developmental stages.

Searching for a “top private school near me”? We are a top private school serving Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake with a proven track record of exceptional education. Strelitz’s International Academy’s IB Primary Years Program offers an integrated curriculum of core subject areas, supported by our specialty classes. Our culturally enriched curriculum benefits students in a variety of ways.

Our Infant/Toddler Program is for children six weeks to two years old. We’d love to welcome your child into this stimulating, supportive environment. There are still a few spots open for the 2021-2022 school year! For more information or to schedule a tour of one of the best private elementary schools in Virginia Beach, please contact Carin Simon, Admissions Director at 757-424-4327 or email.csimon@strelitzacademy.org. We look forward to hearing from you.

Importance of Pre-Kindergarten

Teacher teaching all Pre-Kindergarten students

What Is The Difference Between Preschool & Pre-Kindergarten?

Essentially, the goals of both preschool and pre-Kindergarten are the same – to get your preschool or pre-Kindergarten age child ready for kindergarten. One of the main differences between a preschool and a pre-Kindergarten classroom is the age and developmental abilities of the children who participate.

Depending on state licensing regulations and enrollment needs, the appropriate age for preschool is usually from 2 ½ to 4 ½ years old. Regardless of the child’s age, the learning is very similar, with emphasis on learning ABC’s, numbers to ten, and how to interact with other kids.

During the early preschool years, children develop vocabulary and language skills, are introduced to a wide variety of materials, and begin to learn how to work with others as well as independently. Both preschool and pre-Kindergarten classrooms emphasize learning through hands-on experiences, and exploration.

Pre-Kindergarten acts as the essential bridge between preschool and kindergarten and are designed for children who are 4 or 5 years old. While each child develops at his or her own pace, activities in pre-Kindergarten programs are focused on developing the skills and more advanced learning they’ll need to ensure success in kindergarten.

Why Is Pre-Kindergarten Important?

Research has shown that young children who participate in high-quality pre-Kindergarten programs enter school more ready to learn than their peers. A study in Michigan, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia found that children in state pre-Kindergarten scored 31 percent higher on vocabulary tests and 44 percent higher on math tests than those of non-participants, placing them three to four months ahead of non-participants.

According to the Urban Child Institutes, school readiness, i.e., the cognitive, behavioral and social skills that help a child perform at an appropriate level in school, is a good predictor of long-term achievement. Research suggests that there are four key dimensions of readiness – language and literacy, thinking skills, self-control, and self-confidence.

When these four foundations are strong, a child is ready to thrive in kindergarten and beyond. When a child enters kindergarten lacking the necessary skills to be successful, it’s much hard for him or her to keep up with their peers and move forward.

Pre-Kindergarten is also useful because many students need an extra year to get used to a classroom, and an educational environment where they can get excited about learning. Pre-Kindergarten can help a child develop confidence, making it easier to master concepts and learn to cooperate with their peers.

If you’re interested in a private school pre-Kindergarten program, consider our Strelitz Early Years Program. Our teachers guide students in a loving and nurturing environment which encourages language development, creativity, logical thinking, problem-solving and exploration of the world.

We know Early Childhood Education teaches emotional and social lessons along with basic educational skills. That’s why the staff, administration, and teachers of Strelitz International Academy believe in inquiry-based education rather than the standardized curriculums used in public school.

It’s also a reason why we chose to meet the rigorous demands necessary to become an International Baccalaureate (IB®) school, offering their Primary Years Programme (PYP) to students between the ages of 3 and 12 (kindergarten through 5th grade).

We invite you to come join us, learn more about our curriculum and our dedication to helping children learn so we can get their journey started. Give us a call at 757-424-4327.

Parent Communication at SIA

Parent Communication in SIA

Parent and Teacher communication is a very important part of the private school experience at SIA. We are one of the best affordable private schools near Chesapeake and Norfolk. At the Strelitz International Academy, parents are encouraged to reach out to their child’s teacher with any questions or concerns that arise during the school year.

Being an IB primary school in Norfolk, our goal is to bring out the best in each of our students and an important part of that process are our parents and teachers working together.

At the beginning of the year, parents and students are invited to meet their child’s teacher at a Back to School Meet and Greet. This past year, with Covid protocols in place, each teacher held a virtual meeting to meet students and parents excited about the new school year.

A few weeks later in September, after the school year begins, parents are invited to meet with the teacher to learn more about the curriculum for their child’s grade, classroom expectations and how they can support their children in their new grade level.

During the school year, the year is divided into trimesters and parents receive a very detailed report card carefully explaining their child’s strengths and areas for growth. Each teacher is very thorough in their narrative assessments giving parents an accurate picture of their child’s academic, social and emotional progress.

Parent and teacher conferences are offered in the fall and student-led conferences are offered in the spring. Parents are always invited to contact their child’s teacher if an issue or concern arises at another time.

This past fall, due to strict Covid protocols, all student conferences were held virtually. With most of our teacher community vaccinated, SIA is excited to hold in-person conferences outside this spring, on school grounds, weather permitting with distancing and masking protocols being followed.

As an IB Primary School in Virginia Beach, this is a very important part of the learning and evaluation process. During the conference, students will share their IB Portfolio with their parents. The portfolio includes special projects and student reflections to document each student’s growth as a learner.

In addition to report cards and parent conferences, regular teacher- parent communication is an essential part of student growth. Teachers regularly communicate with parents throughout the year.

SIA uses a communication platform called www.parentsquare.com allowing teacher to parent, parent to teacher and school wide messages to be sent out. Parents can program the messenger system to go to their email, phone or both to ensure they are alerted to all important school messages.

From infant care to SIA’s outstanding academic program, parents can feel secure knowing that their children are in the best learning environment as they grow and develop into confident and high achieving students ready to take on the world.

To schedule a visit, contact us at 757-424-4327.

Ten Questions To Ask When Choosing The Right Education For Your Child

Rubin Testimonial

Sending your young ones off to school is an exciting, yet intimidating process for any parent. Not only do you want to ensure they are getting the best education possible, you want to be confident knowing that your child will be in a happy and nurturing environment when they head off to school each morning.

It’s important that both parents and the students are comfortable with a new school, whether the child is going off to school for the first time, or if you recently moved to the area and are looking for the best educational setting for your child.

To start your search, ask yourself a few questions first. Private or public school? Are religion and values an aspect of the experience that you want for your child? Are extracurricular activities an important factor in your child’s overall educational balance?

Once you have your own plan in mind, you can always ask your neighbors and coworkers who have children of a similar age for recommendations about the best elementary schools or best private elementary schools in the area. You can also do a web search based on the answers to the questions above to start a list of facilities that meet your initial criteria.

Once you have found a school or schools you like, make an appointment to visit their campus or schedule a virtual tour to speak with their Admissions Director. You’ll have an opportunity to learn more about the school philosophy, environment, faculty, facilities, and curriculum.

Here are common questions we hear from prospective parents:

– What are the admission criteria?

– Is there a spot available for my child right now, is there a waiting list?

– How many children are in each class, what is the student to teacher ratio?

– What makes your school the best choice for my child?

– How do teachers identify students who may need extra help and how do they provide that assistance?

– How often do teachers communicate with parents?

– How are behavioral problems handled if any arise?

– What will my child’s school day look like?

– What happens if my child gets sick at school?

Strelitz International Academy would love the opportunity to meet with you and your young student, show you around our campus and answer any questions you may have. Choosing a school for your child is an important decision. We want you and your child to be confident that choosing our school will exceed your educational expectations.

Building A Great Educational Partnership

Conversation Between Parents and Elementary School Teacher

Building an educational partnership is an important component of student growth. With parent conferences over and the end of the first trimester nearing, there are a few things to ensure that positive communication remains open between parents and teachers.

Communication about student progress is continuous: At the beginning of the year, teachers introduce themselves and discuss classroom routines at Parents’ Night. SIA teachers continue to communicate with highlights of classroom experiences through their newsletters and posts on ParentSquare. Parent-Teacher Conferences are held during the first and third trimester. SIA’s reporting system closely aligns with the IB philosophy, and teachers provide detailed information about student progress. Throughout the year, when teachers have information they would like to share with parents they will call, write a note, or send an email or ParentSquare message.

Teachers’ biggest passion is supporting student growth as they develop into strong learners with agency. As parents, you want your child to make the most out of their learning day. Keep discussions open with your child’s teacher. Share what you know about your child’s development and listen to the recommendations of the teachers. Working together, we are a great team for educational success.

Here are some great tips for partnering with your child’s teacher:

Help your teacher get to know your child: Often, the things you observe your child doing at home, the teacher also observes in the classroom. You may have strategies to share with your child’s teacher that works for you at home. If you are new to the school, share information that has helped your child to be successful in the past.

Ask questions: If your child brings home news of classroom happenings that leave you with questions, ask the teacher. Discussing situations with students or even other parents can sometimes stray from the facts. Never hesitate to ask about a situation from the teacher’s perspective so you get all sides of a story.

Openly discuss concerns: Listen to the recommendations of the teacher and if strategies are suggested, follow through at home and we will do the same at school. If you still have questions after speaking with your child’s teacher, you are welcome to reach out to a director.

Early Literacy Development for Infants and Toddlers

Infant Daycare

As our little ones come into the world, we watch them develop so many new skills in their first year of life. They smile, they pull up, they crawl, they speak. Did you know that many of these skills correlate to reading readiness a few years later.

Early literacy development is a process that begins in the first years of life. How do you engage an infant in activities that encourage early literacy? Best practices include many techniques which combine developmental milestones with “preparing” our youngest learners to become future readers. Simply engaging in everyday conversations, telling stories, and singing songs promote language. Even games like “peek-a-boo” are all ways to incorporate early literacy into daily routines. Singing repetitive songs while changing diapers, buckling seat belts and preparing dinner are easy ways to incorporate language and early learning with a simple daily routine.

Infant Daycare

At ages eight to sixteen months, older infants love to sing and dance. How does this help with early literacy? Singing and dancing are just a few of the activities that help our young learners develop a necessary phonological awareness which helps ready them for reading. There are many research based ideas which link music with early literacy development. For example, while singing or listening to music, children need to retain patterns and rhythms in their memory, which is also an integral reading readiness skill.

As our children grow and become toddlers at sixteen to twenty- four months of age, this early literacy development continues in various ways. As our infants become toddlers and begin to develop their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, they love to use instruments during musical play. As children clap, drum or shake to the beat, they learn to listen to, recognize, and attempt to imitate these same rhythms and patterns that are in their memory. Once again, this helps children develop phonological awareness, making meaning from sounds. Toddlers are well known for their desire for independence and personal preferences as they develop a sense of self. They have their favorite books and often ask for those to be read over and over. The importance of this repetition cannot be understated, as both babies and toddlers thrive on routine and consistency. Keep those favorites by their beds, in your diaper bag or in the car. It’s an easy way to incorporate books into their day and a healthy distraction when babies get fussy.

Have you ever seen a toddler “hiding” in a box? Surprisingly, even this favorite activity of most toddlers has a connection to early literacy. Empty boxes encourage creativity and develop higher level thinking skills. While building with these boxes the children are learning about spatial relationships and problem solving, which are directly related to reading. After all, reading is a complex form of problem solving at its heart through decoding letters and making meaning. As a child narrates this exploratory play while playing in, out and with the box, language skills are advanced as well.

To develop a child’s lifelong love of reading, children should be interacting with books early and often. The earlier that we can help children begin to associate books and reading with positive emotions, the better we are fostering a love of reading and preparing them for reading success in the future.

Strelitz International Academy Students Return To School on Campus!

First Day of School After Pandemic COVID-19 Lockdown

SIA students returned to campus for in person learning on August 24. After almost 6 months away from their school campus and their friends, SIA students were so excited to come back to school!

It was a very unique and busy summer as the Strelitz International Academy prepared to return to campus. After going virtual on March 13 along with every school in Virginia, SIA Head of School Heather Moore was determined to open school safely on August 24 as planned to be able to better meet the educational, social and emotional, and childcare needs of the Strelitz families.

As word spread that Strelitz was opening, the admissions department became flooded with inquiries. Many families who had previously been satisfied with their neighborhood public schools applied for admission to SIA. The International Baccalaureate Program, Jewish Education and face to face learning made the decision to switch an easy one for many families in Tidewater. By mid summer, many classes had waitlists.

Opening school safely is not an easy task. It requires many safety measures to be implemented, including no parents or visitors on campus, mask wearing, social distancing, desk screens and a daily health screening done by parents along with student temperature checks during carpool drop off.

Heather Moore explains, “Our COVID team began meeting in May to begin researching and planning a way to open school safely this fall. The team met regularly and developed safety protocols and ordered equipment to ensure we could open school. Once we had a plan to safely open, we opened summer childcare p for early years on July 6 to help our families who had been in need of childcare for their little ones. We created a COVID parent handbook to help everyone acclimate to the new rules that parents, faculty and children would need to follow to maintain a safe environment.”

A virtual meet and greet was planned for the Friday before classes started so that students could meet their teachers and see their classroom before the first day of school. Parents and students were so grateful to be back on campus and didn’t seem to mind this unusual start.

On the first day of school, students were ready for school with their personal assortment of cute masks to express their style, parents were patient in the drop offline, and even our littlest learners were happy to be handed off to their teachers. The students have been amazingly resilient and parents were thrilled and grateful.
SIA parent Jasmine Amitay wrote on the SIA Facebook page, “Thank you for everything you did (and keep doing) to keep our kiddos safe! The boys had the best 1st day ever!”

SIA is looking at the year a little differently and creatively planning to come together virtually for parent and family events. Many SIA community highlights such as Shabbat Singalongs and parent coffees will not be possible this school year due to SIA’s safety protocols. The Parent Volunteer Committee has met virtually and is working on a schedule of enticing virtual events for parents and families.

After 5 long months of being apart, SIA is back on campus! Students are happy to be able to see their friends, learn with their classmates and enjoy a normal routine. And their parents could not be happier!
To learn more about the Strelitz International Academy, please contact Carin Simon, Admissions Director, csimon@strelitzacademy.org or 757.424.4327

What To Expect When Strelitz International Academy (SIA) Reopens

Students are doing some experiment with Microscope

A major advantage of the International Baccalaureate® (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP) is that students are immersed in their learning environments, to not only learn by example, but also to understand through action. Because of that, we decided to open our campus this August for the fall semester and welcome returning students and faculty. We believe that because of our small class sizes, we can monitor and control their environment, to keep our students, staff, and faculty as safe as possible from the spread of COVID-19.

In order to do so, we fully took into account the need to revise our guidelines and policies regarding illness and health issues. We are utilizing resources and guidance provided by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) to formulate our policies and procedures.

Taking into account that infants through fifth graders cannot safely wear facemasks, shields, or other personal protective equipment (PPE), and they are generally not developmentally or physically astute enough to cover coughs and sneezes, we have put together a policy that will always err on the side of caution.

The full details of our updated illness policy are available on our website and in the August 7th SIA newsletter. In a nutshell, students and staff at SIA must go home or stay home and be evaluated by a licensed health professional who can determine if further testing may be needed for the following symptoms:

– Fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, with or without other symptoms present
– Fever of 100.0 degrees Fahrenheit with other symptom of illness present or an upward trend in temperature
– Cough
– Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
– Stomach pain
– Vomiting or diarrhea
– Body aches
– Headache unrelieved by hydration/rest/cool compress
– Persistent and/or heavy nasal secretions
– Lethargy
– Unusually persistent fussiness
– Rash or skin eruptions
– Chills
– Redness/irritation/swelling of the eyelid lining with crusting, discharge, discomfort, and/or itch

Children with household members who are known to have COVID-19 must not come to school.

The bar will be set low for sending/keeping students/staff home, and it will be set very high when evaluating their return. If your student is sent home, he or she must be picked up within 45 minutes. Please plan appropriately for this possibility.

We thank you in advance for your patience and support.

What is the difference between Honors, AP®, IB®, and college classes?

Students Learning by themself at IB Classes

For high school seniors hoping to continue their education at a college or university after graduating, getting accepted to a school of higher learning can be a very competitive process. College admissions committees are looking for students who show an aptitude for scholastics, receive good grades and score well on their SATs, and strive to push the borders of their studies. In some cases, they also factor in community service or extracurricular activities.

To set themselves apart for other candidates, some students will enroll in more challenging study programs while in high school. In addition to their regular coursework, they may enroll in Honors classes, Advanced Placement classes, or take college courses at a local community college. A fourth option is to choose a school that offers an International Baccalaureate programme, which is an advanced curriculum in itself, as opposed to adding coursework to a standardized publicly dictated curriculum.

Let’s take a look at each:
Honors Classes are courses offered by individual schools that provide slightly more advanced content than traditional high school courses. While Honors Classes do look good on a transcript, there is no standardization of the classes or how they are taught.

Advanced Placement courses are authorized and regulated by The College Board, the same group that develops and administers the SAT. Schools that want to offer AP courses must go through an application process that ensures their courses meet AP standards. Individual teachers may also request approval to teach AP courses. Therefore, as a rule, college admission committees generally rank AP courses higher on an application over Honors Classes.

College Classes can be taken by students while still in high school. These courses can be helpful in preparing students for the college experience while also potentially earning credits toward college work, allowing students to skip required courses once they are full-time college students.

The International Baccalaureate is a curriculum founded with a mission of creating a better world through education. It offers coursework that focuses on teaching students to think critically and independently, and how to inquire with care and logic.

At Strelitz International Academy, we believe the International Baccalaureate is the best way to prepare students from a young age to move on to higher education, and become successful in their chosen career paths. We have invested a significant amount of time and energy into applying to and working with the IB® to be able to become a IB Primary Years Programme school. Contact us 757-424-4327 to find out more.

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