Due to popular demand (actually, just one of my friends asked me to) I am writing the current post to go through the ways we are trying to teach my son the basics like fine motor skills, numbers and letters. He is currently in Prep and a little behind (see previous post for more detail).
(Update: Just found this website with a lot of great ideas! http://lessonplanningwithme.blogspot.com.au/.
She's got a list of themes on the left hand side, so areas that you need some ideas in are easy to find!)
Because all he did all day was run around and climb trees, there hadn't been much development in the area of fine motor skills...he was about to go into prep and he had barely ever picked up a pencil, much less held it properly! I had no idea how to teach him to hold a pencil without holding his fingers in the right spot myself...until I found this great trick. I can take no credit for it, I just found it as I was searching the net for an answer. Simply take a tissue (or half a tissue) have your son/daughter hold with their ring and pinky finger - leaving their thumb, index and middle finger free. Then give them a pencil to hold...it worked like magic. One step down...a million to go. The secondary problem with my son not having much experience holding a pencil was that his fine motor skills were pretty weak...he had no interest spending loads of time drawing pictures so here is what we did...
In order to get him interested in using a pencil more often, I bought him a journal (he actually had this idea himself after watching 'How to Train Your Dragon'...the boy in it had a journal that he drew maps and inventions in). He loved drawing maps in it with 'x' marking the spot (a great way to teach him the letter 'x') and I told him he was only aloud to use the journal if he held his pencil properly...
He also got a present from his Aunty from the Australian Geographic store that was a block of dirt with gems in it he had to dig out (see picture) ...great way to use those finger muscles! Other things we did was giving him a thin piece of rope and getting him to tie knots for us to undo...then we would tie knots for him to undo. Playdough is another good one, playing with stickers, stringing noodles etc...there are heaps of ideas that can be found with a simple Google search...but the above ones our son had the most interest in.
Next...the alphabet and sight words...*sigh*. This is a big one because although he could sing the alphabet song, he couldn't recognize ANY letters (or numbers for that matter). The first thing we did was tell him that once he learned all his letters we would take him to the zoo. I made up half page letters with pictures on them (i.e. the letter 'Aa' with an apple) to put up on the wall that we go through on a regular basis (I don't push this...if he really isn't interested on a particular day I just leave it - sometimes a reminder about the zoo is enough to get him interested). I started with only a couple of letters and didn't put more up until he knew those...slowly the wall is getting filled up. The other thing I do with those is let him colour in the picture on a letter once he knows it well. From what I understand it is better to teach them the sound of the word and not worry so much about the name of the letter...that way they can sound out words.
An idea I have had which I have yet to try out is painting letters on rocks and doing a bit of a treasure hunt. I've tried being silly with a letter...my son loves to see me dance around the house making funny faces and making funny noises with the letters...I tend to do this one when no one else is around...
Reading Eggs is a great online game for learning letters and words. Luckily his school has paid for it because they use it at school. And because it's online he is able to use it at home as well...otherwise it does cost.
Sight words are a bit tricky since my son doesn't yet know his alphabet, but we go through them a bit. I've got a chart set up for star stickers and I point out any sight words as I'm reading him a book. I will tell him there is the word 'the' (for example) on a particular page and if he finds it he gets a sticker. His teacher gave me a board game with the sight words written in blocks and you roll some dice and land on a word...
I also found the idea of using labels and putting individual letters on duplo legos. Letters can be put together to make words...honestly my son isn't interested in this at the moment...maybe when he's a bit older...this can also be used for numbers (he was a bit more interested in this).
Finally numbers...as stated above numbers can be put on duplo legos so they can be stacked in order. One big hit I had was drawing a sort of 'hop scotch' with numbers on the sidewalk. I'd pick a number he had to jump to. This way he had to try to recognize the number on the ground to jump to. This could also be done with a few letters at a time.
Variation is, I think, the key...not pushing, being creative and being silly. I have gotten a lot of feed back from parents who have kept their kids (mostly sons) back a year or letting them repeat prep/kindergarten and I have heard no regrets...yet I have heard a few stories of parents who didn't do this when it was suggested and wished they had.
If you have any more ideas or things you've tried that have worked for you PLEASE leave me a comment I'd love to have more ways to teach my boy!