Try This With Your Toddler: How A Particular Type Of Drawing Is Associated With Reading Achievement In Kindergarten

Parents spend lots of time trying to ensure that their child is ready for kindergarten. Much of that effort is devoted to things we know are important – for example, reading. But it’s becoming accepted that fine motor skills are also a critical domain of development which intersects – in sometimes surprising ways – with cognitive development. And the results of an interesting study published in the journal Child Development hones in on one particular type of fine motor development – design copy or, more simply, copying shapes. 

A group of researchers recruited over 200 3- and 4-year olds. They studied the kids prior to entry to kindergarten, testing them on a number of things, including a variety of fine motor skills. They then collected data on the kids’ reading performance throughout kindergarten.

What they found was that design copy was an especially good indicator of reading skill and progress through the kindergarten year. Kids who showed higher design copy skills – being able, for example, to copy shapes like a square or a circle – had elevated scores on a number of indicators of reading achievement, including phonological awareness, decoding, and reading comprehension. This association held after accounting for a number of other factors, leading the researchers to speculate that design copy plays a unique role in the development of literacy.

All this makes sense when you think of what kids are doing in kindergarten – part of their language development is to learn how to write (copy) letters. The researchers speculated that, in part, when kids have good design copy skills, they can focus their attention more on learning the sound and meaning of words (as opposed to having to focus more on using a pencil). That said, they also suggested that there are probably unique cognitive skills that come from developing fine motor skills in general, and design copy in particular.

So, in addition to having fun reading to your toddler, spend a little time encouraging them to copy shapes. That’s fun as well – and it’s a nice way to help them learn a skill that will serve them well in kindergarten.

Image of adult and child drawing via Shutterstock.com 

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