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Kumon First Steps Workbooks and 3-D Paper Crafts Review by Dr. Anne Margaret Wright

Kumon Publishing North America, Inc.
Glenpointe Centre East, 5th Floor
300 Frank W. Burr Blvd.
Teaneck, NJ 07666

My six-year-old son, Benjamin, has been reduced to tears more than once, by the difficult skills of cutting, pasting and coloring. Benji has Down syndrome that causes muscle and sensory challenges, so fine motor skills are very hard for him. When I saw the Kumon First Steps Workbooks ($5.95 each), I knew we had a winner for Benji! This award-winning series of workbooks for learning cutting, coloring, folding, and stickers/pasting are filled with bright, beautiful pictures and simple instructions. The skills progress very slowly allowing adequate practice before moving on to the next step. The pages are sturdy enough to hold up to small hands and the activities are fun enough to engage kids easily.

I think these books provide excellent practice for various fine motor skills for young children, ages 2 and up. For example, in the Let's Cut Paper! book, the exercises start with making small cuts for whiskers on a dog. A gray line with arrows shows where to cut. The book progresses from small, single snip cuts, to longer straight cuts, then to cutting along mazes and irregular shapes. Each of the 40-page books ends with a certificate for your child, and a dry erase back cover to practice drawing skills.

Let's Color! starts with freehand drawing to add ketchup to an omelet and hair on a boy, then progresses to drawing sprinkles on ice cream. My favorites are the pages with a picture, such as a strawberry, that has a white shape in the middle. The child colors in the shape to complete the picture. By the end of the book, the child is coloring in irregular shapes in a colorful picture. Let's Sticker and Paste! and Let'Kumon Publishing North America, Inc.s Fold! use the same principles to practice more skills. The idea is based on a system of learning developed by Kumon Learning Centers that starts with small skills that a child can master, and then slowly move up in difficulty. This system keeps the learning fun and keeps the goals attainable.

I also looked at several of the 3-D Paper Crafts books ($4.95 each), which are just as excellent as the First Steps Workbooks. These books contain beautiful paper crafts to cut out and assemble, providing more advanced fine motor practice. Through cutting out the parts, and folding and pasting as directed, a child can create a beautiful 3-D animal masterpiece. These books are recommended for children aged 7 and up, and would be particularly wonderful as a project on teamwork and fine motor skills for two or more kids together.

Instead of tears, Benji was all smiles while he worked on these lovely books. The combination of bright, beautiful pictures, and a slow progression of skills, made them much more fun than just cutting regular paper. I think they would be helpful for any child who is ready to tackle some early fine motor skills, particularly children with physical or developmental disabilities that often need extensive practice to master a skill. I would like to see longer versions of these great books, because for some kids, like our son, Benjamin, it will take much more practice to master the skills. The cost is very reasonable, the books are excellent quality, and the concept is fun and low-stress! All in all, I think the Kumon First Steps Workbooks and 3-D Paper Crafts books are an excellent resource for helping kids practice important fine motor skills in a delightful way! Kumon also has other great workbooks for practicing reading and math skills that would definitely be worth a second look!

-Product Review by Dr. Anne Margaret Wright, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June, 2006