From Rattles to Writing: Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills by Barbara A. Smith, OTR/L

From Rattles to Writing: Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills by Barbara A. Smith, OTR/L

Did you know learning to write does not just happen by chance when you sit in a grade three classroom? Parents, you have an important role to play and it starts when your child is still an infant. If you are not sure this is true, read  From Rattles to Writing: A Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills by Barbara A. Smith, MS, OTR/L and you will be convinced of the importance of providing the right developmental activities at each stage of your young child’s life. Barbara’s parenting guide to hand skills takes you from birth to 5 yrs. We could say from cradle to kindergarten, from cooing and babbling to reading and writing.

Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills

Are you thinking it sounds a bit too much like work?  Oh no, what Barbara cannot emphasize enough, is that all this is done through play. Barbara writes, “Children learn best when they are having so much fun that they do not realize they are developing new skills.”  Barbara has also written a resource manual with activities for young children using  therapy tools handmade from recycled containers found in all homes. Our review of The Recycling Occupational Therapist: Hundreds of Simple Therapy Materials You Can Make is here.

Barbara Smith’s book, From Rattles to Writing: A Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills, is for every parent… what a great gift for a “Baby Shower”! Day Care workers, therapists, preschool teachers, homeschoolers, or any caregiver of young children will also benefit from Barbara’s book. Designed to be used as a reference tool , the activities were created for typically developing children but with the many suggestions on how to simplify or adapt the activities, it is also good for children with learning delays. If your child has delays in his development, going back to activities in this book for children of a younger age would be good.

The activities should be framed for success. The author stresses to provide toys, games, and activities that are just right for your child’s skill level so that he is motivated to do more without it being difficult or stressful.

This guide book has all parents need to do, how to do it, when to do it, and why do it. Barbara’s fun sensorimotor activities that get your child moving and touching helps your child’s brain to organize sensory information and learn. The gross motor skills and fine motor skills your child learns in the first five years will promote the visual-motor skills necessary for writing and reading.

Congratulations to Barbara Smith for being one of the  2012 National Parenting  Publications Awards Winners (NAPPA) winners! On the NAPPA site it says, ” Why it’s a Winner: From Rattles to Writing: A Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills is a comprehensive parent’s guide that breaks down the writing development of young children. It focuses on hand skills, sensory motor development, visual motor perception and social interaction and communication The book is divided into different stages and offers concrete strategies that help parents in aiding their child at their level.
• Offers interactive “play” activities to help kids develop their skills
• Features clear directions on how to interact with the child at each step of development
• User-friendly written”

Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills

Remember when you were told by grandparents who raised a houseful of children not to spoil your baby by holding and rocking him too often?  This is what Barbara has to say, “Early sensory stimulation, such as touch and movement provided by rocking a baby in your arms, prepares the brain for learning.”

The visual-motor skills leaned by playing with infant toys and later playing  the board, card, ball games for preschoolers prepare  your child for school work. When your child hops, gallops, climbs, and swings it increases his body awareness, his balance, and sense of direction. Bilateral coordination increases when lots of time is spent skipping, To develop hand dexterity and coordination takes years of “playing” with the right toys and games to eventually be able to zip his jacket, use a scissor, control paint brushes, and marking tools (pencils, crayons, markers).

What are the goals parents should be striving for? You want your 5 year old to be “Ready” to learn to read and write. And getting him ready, starting at birth, is what Barbara Smith’s parenting book is all about.

Features of the Book

What did I like about From Rattles to Writing: A Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills? I liked it all and the only thing missing is an index. A few times while writing my review, even though I had taken notes while reading it, I would have loved to quickly search an index to locate information I know is somewhere in the 223 book. However the chapters are arranged according to age groupings, therefore users can easily find in the Table of Contents the chapter pertaining to their child.

  • Chapter 1: Your Baby—Birth to Three Months
  • Chapter 2: Three to Six Months
  • Chapter 3: Six to Twelve Months

The pages are numbered. The title of the chapters is always on the right hand page. The book is the right size, feels good in your hands and opens well. The text is not crowded and there are blank spaces for writing notes. What else?

  • Looks very professional.
  • Is extremely well organized. The layout of the content is user friendly, easy to read, and interesting as well as informative.
  • Has a pleasing font and the use of larger, bold font for titles of chapters and sub-headings is very effective.
  • Has many black and white photos with captions. For example, chapter 8 has fourteen  photos.
  • Is written in an easy-to-understand language for all  parents.
  • Provides in small grey boxes within the text any new definitions.  In chapter one there are 9 of these boxes. For example, one box has, Isolated Eye Movements means moving only the eyes while the head remains stationary. “
  • Has a wonderful 8 page glossary of new words related to child development.
Throughout the book there are  4 different headings with symbols to indicate one of the following learning opportunities.
  1. Suggested Toys—will promote visual, sensory, and/or motor skills.
  2. Make Your Own—making your own toys increases the opportunity to adapt the toy to your child’s needs.
  3. Fun Activities—teach specific skills but in a fun way.
  4. Music—indicates a song or dance to teach movement and language concepts. The lyrics are also provided.

From Rattles to Writing: A Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills has so many studied features it is difficult to name them all. You will find charts, effective use of bulleted formatting, and numbered lists. Each chapter begins with a short overview of the coming chapter.  Each chapter ends with “What’s Next?” It briefly summarizes what you just read and gives you what to expect during the next stage in your child’s life.

One very worthwhile section is the Visual-Motor Developmental Scales. Here you will find general guidelines for the developmental milestones from birth to five years. Wonder what are some of the things a three year old should be able to do?

  • Bounces and catches large ball.
  • Catches 8-inch ball.
  • Laces lacing board with small holes.
  • Inserts small pegs in holes.
  • Sorts objects by color.

Being thorough to the very end of her book, Barbara has seven pages of resources! Yes, without a doubt anyone who is raising a young child or working with one has to remember children learn best when using a hands-on approach. Follow the suggestions in Barbara Smith’s book, From Rattles to Writing: A Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills, and the chances are on your side that you will get it right and that your child will easily learn to read and write!

About the Author

Taken from Barbara Smith’s web site: I have worked for over twenty years developing activities for children and adults with developmental and learning disabilities. It all began after graduating from the State University of New York at New Paltz with a B.A. in English.

After working with developmentally disabled adults in community residences, day habilitation centers and sheltered workshops, I realized that the field of occupational therapy would offer opportunities for professional advancement and creativity.

While working as an occupational therapist at the Hogan Regional Center in Danvers, Massachusetts I observed that many of the activities designed for children were not appropriate for the aging population of developmentally disabled individuals. Yet, these individuals did not possess the motor and cognitive abilities to perform activities designed for adults. The solution was to make my own activities and the cheapest way to do so was by using common household recyclable objects such as soda and laundry bottles, card-board boxes, rubber bands and newspaper.

The activities were so successful I decided to put them into print and thus, my writing career had begun with the publication of The Recycling Occupational Therapist: Hundreds of Simple Therapy Materials You Can Make.Weavable Toys: Basic Shapes by Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR, The RecyclingOT

We are updating this post, Nov. 24, 2016

Follow Barbara A. Smith, MS, OTR/L, The RecyclingOT:

READ Also:

From Flapping to Function: A Parent’s Guide to Autism and Hand Skills by Barbara A. Smith, MS, OTR/LBuy Books by Barbara A. Smith, MS, OTR/L

    • From Flapping to Function: A Parent’s Guide to Autism and Hand Skills
    • The Recycling Occupational Therapist: Hundreds of Simple Therapy Materials You Can Make :

This post was written by Lorna
Lorna d’Entremont: Co-owner of SentioLife Solutions, Ltd. the company behind KidCompanions Chewelry (2007) and SentioCHEWS (2013), mother of three, grandma of 5 and wife. She is a retired teacher and special needs advocate. Throughout she has taught all levels from grade 2 to grade 9. Lorna loved teaching and enjoyed seeing the students progress in the school system. During her 30 year career she took a few years off to raise her three children.