Montrose Messenger

March 23, 2020

Greetings Montrose School Community,

I hope this newsletter finds you healthy and safe. I also hope that you are able to find moments of peace and create moments of happiness during this time of great uncertainty.

In this edition, I have included some helpful tips which may help you in keeping your child engaged in some routine and learning during the emergency closure.

We use plenty of music during the day, and these help with transitions. One of the Montrose favorites is "The World is a Rainbow" by Greg and Steve. Though they may need a bit of reminding, many children know it is time to clean up and move on when they hear this song.

Learning opportunities are all around us. Take a few moments to discuss sounds, colors, sizes, shadows, weights and measures, speed and distance, and more. When indoors, look at the shapes in your home (how many rectangles or cylinders can you find in the kitchen?) the textures of things (touch something smooth, bumpy), the weights of items (bring me 3 things that are each lighter than a can of soup) and play the all-time favorite, "I Spy". If you are able, have the children measure for your recipes or water the plants. Whatever you do, remove the pressure. Our goal is to have balanced, resilient preschoolers who love learning and are well-poised to change the world.

Teachers, Therapists, Case Managers, Nurse Steffi and I will continue to be available to you. If you are unsure of an email address or need to relay a message, School Secretary Ms. Nikki is checking voicemails and emails daily. She can be reached at or 973-378-2086.

Nothing about this is easy, but we are in this together. Along with the Montrose Staff, I wish you wellness and peace.

Mrs. Samuels

Calming Breathing Techniques

Your children have calming spaces in their classrooms, and have learned techniques to help them in times of dysregulation. Here are a few ideas to introduce and practice calm breathing with the children at home:

Belly Breathing

  • Lie down on the floor, place a small stuffed animal on your belly.
  • Breathe in through your nose and watch the animal rise as your belly fills with air.
  • Breathe out through your mouth and watch the animal go down as you belly goes flat.

Bubble Blowing

  • Using a bubble wand, practice slow, deep breaths that blow bubbles.
  • After practice (and for fun), blow imaginary bubbles without the wand.
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Including Fine and Gross Motor Skills into Your Day

Play “find and tag it”

This is a versatile game that can be used to review many different skills. Just tell your child to find something and tag it. For example, “Find and tag something blue.” Or “Find and tag something that starts with /s/.”

Move like an animal

  • Move like a bird (run with arms outstretched)

  • Move like a snake (wiggle on tummies on the floor)

  • Move like a bear (walk on all fours)

  • Move like a frog (get down on haunches and hop)
  • Move like a kangaroo (take big leaps with arms in front of chest)
  • Move like an elephant (with heavy stomping)
  • Move like a penguin (waddle with ankles close together and arms pinned to sides)

Copy Me!

This is where you can get in your workout for the day. Simply do a series of exercises or silly actions, and have your child copy you. Jump like a kangaroo. Run in a place. (Whatever it takes to get that heart rate up!)

Create a Wiggle Jar

Make action cards and place them in jar. When your child needs a movement break, pull a few cards. Here are some ideas for a preschool wiggle jar:

  • Jog in place while you sing the alphabet

  • Touch the sky and then your feet five times in a row

  • Pretend you’re playing the drums

  • Fly around the room like a bird
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5 mistakes to avoid when introducing handwriting skills

Mistake #1: Skip Pre-Writing Lines.

If you are to remember just one step out of five, this is the most crucial one that you don’t want to skip over. Pre-writing lines are the lines, strokes, and shapes that makeup letter formation. Researchers suggest, that children should muster pre-writing lines before any formal handwriting instructions begins.

What are these pre-writing lines?

  • Vertical Line – (Age 2 imitates, age 3 copies/masters)

  • Horizontal Line – (Age 2 1/2 imitates, age 3 copies/masters)

  • Circle Shape – (Age 2 1/2 imitates, 3 copies/masters)

  • Cross Shape (+) – (Age 3 1/2 imitates, age 4 copies)

  • Square Shape – (Age 4)

  • Right/Left Diagonal Line – (Age 4 1/2)

  • X Shape – (Age 5)

  • Triangle (Age 5)

Imitating is when a child watches you draw the line or shape before they try it. Copying is when there's already lines on a page and the child looks at it and then they figure out how to make those lines.

Mistake #2: Expect a Child to Write Their Name or Alphabet Too Soon.

While some children may be ready to write their name at pre-school age, many preschoolers have yet to master their ability to draw pre-writing lines which are a big part of letter formation. So, once again, before you teach your child to write their name, focus on pre-writing lines. Once you see that your child can consistently draw the lines, you can introduce their name first and then alphabet.

Mistake #2: Only Providing One Type of Writing Utensil

We always suggest providing shorter and smaller diameter pencils to preschool age children (broken crayons are the best!). It helps them develop proper grasp and strengthen little muscles in their hands and fingers. We also suggest to provide various types of writing utensils and let each child pick which one they want to experiment with.

Some examples could be having golf size pencils, no. 2 pencils, mechanical pencils, small colored pencils, or triangle pencils, flip-crayons, etc.

Mistake #4: Only Focus on Using a Pencil for Handwriting Practice

Working on handwriting practice in hands-on ways can be a lot of fun. Plus it's a great way to work on the fine motor and visual motor skills needed for handwriting.

Do you need some ideas?

  • Use play dough to form letters and numbers

  • Use Wiki Stix

  • Trace letters in a sand tray or salt tray

  • Write with water on a vertical surface (a chalkboard or whiteboard works best for this)

Mistake #5: Stop Working on Fine Motor and Gross Motor Skills

All children need movement. As they move into higher academic levels, it's easy to not focus on fine motor and gross motor skills as much. Including fine motor and gross motor movement can have huge impacts on focus and attention, which are part of handwriting skills. Plus it can support and strengthen the motor skills needed for handwriting and pencil grasp.

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Embed Choices within the Day’s Schedule

Consider creating opportunities for your child to have some choices within the day’s schedule. You and your child may work together to determine the order of the other activities on the list. It might be dictated by you or perhaps it can be negotiated with your child. There can be a million variations of this. The home schedule is not expected to be rigidly timed like the school schedule is. Adjust the timing in a way that fits your family. The point is that there is some structure to the day and some time limits for specific activities. The bonus is that when your child needs a change for any reason, you can lead him back to the schedule to move on to the next activity.

A visual “choice board” can be used very creatively to help your child feel like they have some control over life. For example: The schedule says you need to do a job during “Job Time”. But creating a choice board for jobs will give the child an opportunity to choose which job gets done. Choice boards are useful to help children know what their options are.

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