Fine Motor: Bean Scoop

FINE MOTOR

Today we did our Fine Motor activity, bean scoop. I love this fine motor activity because there are so many ways to tweak it and make it new each time we do it. That is one reason why you will see this activity popping up quite a bit throughout the Fall months. No reason to reinvent the wheel each week!

Check out the link below to see how we did it, as well as different ideas to change it up in the weeks to come and how to make it fun for different ages.

Bean Scoop

And if you haven’t seen this week’s plan you can check it out here!

Happy Playing!

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Fine Motor: Button Flower

I like to call this activity button flower, even though it doesn’t really end up looking like a flower. Oh well, it makes it feel springy! My kids always love this one, and like other fine motor activities we repeat it and they have never minded.

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You might be familiar with classic fine motor activities that you can buy, like stringing big beads on a piece of string. Those are great, but I find younger kids have a hard time with the floppy string. I like this activity because we use pipe cleaners. The stiffness of the pipe cleaner makes it easier to get the buttons on.

When you are finding buttons for this activity, you want to get some big buttons that will be easy for your child to pick up, hold, and get the pipe cleaner through the hole.

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Start by demonstrating to your child what they can do and see if they would like to try. I find when my kids are younger sometimes they want me to help them hold the pipe cleaner. So, if your child is struggling but still wants to do the activity be creative about helping them. And then like always do a lot of talking, encouraging, and ask questions. Talk about the colors of the buttons and pipe cleaner, describe what you see them doing, and even do it alongside your child and describe what you are doing. This is obviously a fine motor activity, but the more creative and descriptive YOU are will enhance it in areas like color recognition, new words and creativity.

Have fun making button flowers! Here’s what our finished product looked like!

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Fine Motor: Pumpkin Seed Transport

No, don’t check your calendar… today really is still Wednesday, but I had to get this activity up on the blog, even though it’s for Fine Motor Tuesday…

I hope you have some extra pumpkin seeds, because this is a super fun activity! If not you could use sunflower seeds or even some of the beans from the bean scoop. We had a lot of fun with this activity!

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I was recently re-reminded of the importance of fine motor skills when I heard of a Kindergarten teacher who reported she has seen a decline in Kindergarteners’ fine motor skills. At that age that transfers to writing ability, scissor skills, pasting skills, tying shoes, buttoning, zipping clothes… among many other things! So, fine motor development is important, and of course it’s the reason why I include a fine motor activity each week.

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What we know about development at the toddler and preschool stage though, is that they learn best in their daily environment. What that means is that you should encourage your child to participate in fine motor movements even when you aren’t doing activities like this. Play with fine motor toys, use play dough, encourage them to color, do fingerplays together, and then let them have some independence with things that are a little difficult for them to do. Whether it is a toy, opening a package, trying to button something… don’t immediately step in assuming something is too hard for them. For instance, opening a snack bag of crackers… let your child fumble and struggle with it a little bit. Too often I see great moms get a little over-involved when they assume their child can’t do something, and that is impeding both their fine motor practice and their problem solving skills. Let your child try, struggle, and either succeed or communicate to you their need for help.

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There are two ways to set up this activity. I wanted to make it different than the bean scoop, so I started with 15 seeds already separated into individual compartments for my son to take them out one at a time with tweezers (you can just use a mini muffin tin if you don’t have something like this container). If your child is younger using their fingers will be plenty of a fine motor workout if they aren’t ready for tweezers. Let them try both. If your child is younger or new to activities like this it might help if you demonstrate how to take one out at a time and put it into a separate bowl, and then let them do the rest. Once they get going they will probably want to do it again and again!

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The second way to set it up is to roll out some playdough (like a pumpkin, wink wink) and stick each of the pumpkin seeds in the playdough.

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From there it’s pretty much the same, except that the dough might offer a little more resistance as your child pulls it out of the dough. Of course, it’s not quite the same if you don’t do it all glammed up with your finest jewelry! And a quick note on which hand your child chooses to use… your child may or may not have a preference yet which hand they use. Don’t worry if they are switching back and forth, giving each hand a try to see which one they like the best.

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This is such a simple activity to set up you don’t have to just do it on one day of the week. Bring it back later in the week and let your child try again. It is giving them amazing fine motor benefits and it is a lot of fun!

Happy Playing!

 

 

 

 

Fine Motor: Bean Scoop

Bean scoop… so easy but such a fun addition to the week! A simple bag or 2 of beans in a large container along with spoons, cups, bowls & measuring cups!

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This activity gets repeated a lot throughout the fall activity plans. I do that for a couple of reasons.

  1. Kids keep having fun! They enjoy getting to play again and again with materials that they don’t see on a regular basis.
  2. Your child will build upon what they learned & experienced last time they did the bean scoop activity. They will be able to do some of the same things they tried before, as well as try new ideas.
  3. If your kids keep enjoying the activity, they are still having fun and learning at the same time, why make it complicated? By keeping it simple we make it something that we can keep doing because we aren’t constantly preparing new play materials!

IMG_0549This time- since it was our first time I put the beans in a bowl and provided a small muffin tin and a small spoon to scoop beans into the individual sections of the muffin tin. Since we will do this several more times though, here are some other ideas to keep it fresh if your child needs some new ideas!

-The simplest variations to doing this activity are to offer new kinds of spoons and containers every time you do it. Also, help your child stay engaged by giving new ideas of ways to play or use the utensils to dig in.

-Your child can pretend they are cooking with the beans. Put 1 or 2 bags of beans in a large container and provide measuring cups, spoons, and smaller bowls. Give them ideas about measuring out different amounts of beans into the other bowls. They can also stir them and pretend to be making their own dish. Adds Early Science and Math concepts.

-Older 2’s, 3’s and 4 year olds may like to sort the beans. My 5 year old begged to get to do this activity this week too, and this is how she wanted to do it:

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Let’s talk about what’s going on here:

IMG_0554Fine Motor: Of course, this is a fine motor activity so there is a lot of fine motor experience happening! The muscle movements can change though. For instance if your child is using their fingers to pick up the beans and move them they will probably be practicing the pincer grasp (thumb and forefinger together). If you give them measuring cups they will be needing to really engage their forearm muscles to dig the scoop down into the beans. Alternatively, using smaller spoons will require them to use more control to balance their spoonful of beans to transfer to the other container. Keep it fresh and offer different ways to do this activity! Your children will continuously have fun and they will be able to practice different types of fine motor movement!
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Sensory: Do you remember the old sensory table in preschool? There’s a good chance you played with things like rice, sand, and maybe even beans. If your child is using their bare hands to move the beans they are also getting a sensory experience!

Early science and math: Using scoops, measures and spoons, and moving beans to other containers is giving your child early play experience with volume. What fits and what doesn’t? What happens when I fill the measuring cup too full? This scoop is bigger than the other one. How can I fill the bowl? Although they aren’t explicitly asking these questions, they are learning these concepts by early experimentation!

Happy Playing!

 

Time for Art: Making a Patriotic Hat

IMG_0174Today we pulled out all of our red, white, and blue paper, stars & stripes, and glittery stickers! It’s time to celebrate the USA! I love the Fourth of July and I love incorporating patriotic activities into our day this time of year.

We just started out by decorating a blank piece of red or blue construction paper. My kids picked stickers (they’ve been on a sticker craze lately), and cut out paper stars, and stripes that I had cut for them. Quick side note, I usually try to keep materials to things that most people already have around the house, or things that are easy to grab at the grocery store or local department stores.IMG_0179 But, we received these shape paper punches as a gift a while back and they are great for my kids! They are something that isn’t always out to play with, something they have to problem solve with, a fine motor process, and something that gives them a fun outcome! So, if you see some of these on sale sometime at the craft store, I think they are worth getting a few! My kids pull them out a lot to use even when we aren’t doing a specific craft.

We have a star punch and a heart punch, and the star got used a lot today! We did a lot of gluing, sticking on stickers, some coloring with glitter crayons. This is another art activity that the sky is the limit. Have some glitter, have some paint, stars, stripes, markers, crayons, whatever you have on hand will make a rich but fun learning experience. IMG_0172

Once their piece of paper was decorated and the glue had dried some, I rolled it into a “tube” and stapled it. I was going to glue it, but it just worked better to staple the edges closed. Then, to make it more stable I stapled it to a clear plastic cup with elastic already stapled to it for a chin strap. IMG_0173You could do this, or you could just skip it and attach the elastic to the construction paper, it just might not be quite as stable. Now with the finished product you have a craft that your child will be proud of, as well as a prop for pretend play to continue the fun!

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Let’s talk about what’s happening in this activity:

Art: Of course this is a great opportunity for practice with art materials and getting to useIMG_0192 their independence to make their own creation. Your younger toddler may need more suggestions and help putting decorations on the paper. Give a little help, and then give them a little space to try some things. For your older toddler, try to let them take the reigns a little more on deciding what they use, how they use it, where it goes etc. It’s a great chance to allow freedom, but I still capitalized on opportunities to offer suggestions too. Like, “do you want to try some red stars?” “You have a bunch of glue already on the paper, use that before you add any more,” or, “Here are red stripes, just like on our flag on the house! Do you want some stripes?”

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Fine Motor: Picking up stickers and decorations, squeezing glue or using a glue stick, coloring or painting… this activity is full of fine motor experiences!

Communication: Just like any other activity, take these chances to talk and talk some more. Talk about colors, talk
about materials, be encouraging, talk about what they are making, describe what you see them doing, and ask questions along the way. Remember that they hear and understand words they hear before they are able to express things
themselves, so even if your toddler isn’t talking back, they hear you and you are constantly adding labels to the things in their world by talking to them.

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Balance a Golf Ball

IMG_0080Generally, when we think of fine motor we think of picking up tiny objects between fingers, but fine motor movements can also include grasping an object with our hands and using the small muscles in the forearm. I love this activity because it not only offers a variation in fine muscle movement it also brings in large muscle movement and hand-eye coordination components. It’s so great when we can include activities that get the whole body moving! (You can find additional instructions in the Summer Week 3 plan!)

IMG_0082Let’s take a quick second and talk about how to make 1 activity work across the huge developmental span of ages 1 through 4! How we do this, or any activity, with a 1 year old is going to vary greatly from how we do it with a 3 or 4 year old. The key is knowing your child and being creative about how you modify the activity. With a younger toddler I recommend using a big spoon, or even a small plastic bowl to hold onto. Demonstrate how to hold the ball on the end of the spoon, and see if they would like to try. If your young toddler isn’t mobile, don’t worry about it. Just adapt the activity so that they are interested in it, and it fits their abilities. To keep it interesting with a stationary toddler you could show add a component of dropping the ball into a different bowl on the floor. IMG_0084

For an older toddler, do the same modifying, just make it harder or easier based on their developmental abilities. For my 3-year-old son, I used a larger plastic serving spoon for him to balance the ball. My 5-year-old daughter didn’t want to miss out! So she attempted this activity only with a much smaller spoon. (I also encouraged her to walk faster). Eventually it turned into a race with an imaginary competitor! They would cross the finish line with the ball on their spoons and yell “I won!”


One amazing thing about kids is that they have no limit to their minds yet. As adults we tend to be boxed in by how to do things… read a book from front to back, color a picture a certain way with realistic colors, use the toys the way they were meant to be used. “By the book” thinking has it’s place, especially with older children and in adulthood. With toddlers and preschoolers, it’s all about the experience, so it is important to think outside the box when we play with toys, and it also means when activities are about them, let them take the lead. Toddlers and preschoolers learn from a more trial and error creative type of play.

Did this activity go exactly how I pictured? Definitely not! But by adapting the activity to fit their needs and interests all they knew was that they were playing with something new. They didn’t even realize they were still getting the fine motor, large motor, and hand-eye coordination practice!

Happy Playing!

 

 

Make a Tie Like Daddy’s

A big part of the beginning of summer is celebrating Father’s Day. I first started doing this Father’s Day tie with my daughter a few years ago. Our daddy wears a lot of ties, so it seemed like a good craft to do to talk about daddy and how much we love him. If a tie doesn’t make sense in your family pick a different object to decorate to make it fit your child’s experience.

To get started prep the tie shape and stripes to decorate the tie. You can free hand the tie shape first, or make a handy little template like I did, whatever is easiest for you! We did stripes this time, but you can personalize this as much as you want by cutting out different shapes, or using stickers if you would rather. Either way, the prep should go fast, the goal is not perfection on your part, just a new canvas for your child to experiment!

Once your tie shape and stripes or other decorations are ready, bring in your little one to decorate it. You can do this a lot of different ways. Either have your child squeeze the glue on, or if they aren’t quite strong enough yet a glue stick is a nice method, or they could dip the stripes into a puddle of glue and then stick it to the paper… you know your child best and will know the best method for them. From there, give them a lot of freedom to fill in and decorate their tie just the way they want. I think you will enjoy getting to see their artwork unfold!

Let’s talk about what is happening in this art activity…

Creativity & Autonomy: Art activities allow for your child to exercise their own ideas and realize a sense of autonomy. In this case children are getting the chance to choose the color of their stripes and where they want them. Being able to start from a blank paper tie to then being able to admire their own work when it is finished, will bring about such a sense of pride. Give them freedom, but still enhance the activity by asking questions, commenting on what they are doing, and maybe giving an occasional idea to expand their horizons a bit.

Fine Motor: This activity is full of fine motor opportunities- from getting the glue onto the paper to picking up the stripes and other decorations and sticking them down… your child is getting a workout with their small movement muscles in their hands and forearms.

Have a ton of fun getting to do this activity with your child… you will continually be amazed at their ideas through these experiences!

Cooking and Baking with Young Children

Is it just me, or are some of your fondest memories getting to cook as a child? But, does the thought of cooking and baking with toddlers make you cringe thinking of the mess?

Head to toe covered in flour and sugar,

                 eggs stuck on the ceiling…

                                           chocolate chips up the nose…

Of course it’s never that bad, and cooking and baking can be quite fun, even for us! There are two pieces of advice I have for you when you are cooking and baking with toddlers and preschoolers

  1. img_1221Before you start… mentally prepare beforehand and accept the mess. I’m being dramatic of course, but realize it is going to be messy, and messy experiences are good for our kids. Hopefully you’ll have so much fun that it won’t really be that big of a deal in the end anyway! And…
  2. Let go of the end result… commit this experience to your child’s learning and the experience you will have together. It’s also best to not count on your finished product being for something or someone- unless you are ok with imperfection. If it is an activity just for you and your child it will be easy to remind yourself that it’s ok if your Christmas cookies are too thick with tie die smears of frosting, or if your peanut butter balls look more like peanut butter blobs… the process is more important than the product!

Cooking and baking with young kids is such a rich and fun experience for them. I’ve never been around a young child who didn’t want to help in the kitchen. Let’s talk about some of the learning opportunities that take place in a cooking and baking activity…

img_1047Fine motor is probably one of the first I think of, from stirring a cupcake batter, rolling a cookie into a ball, or sprinkling in a pinch of salt, all of these activities are forcing those little muscles to work. These are the same muscles that they will later use to hold a pencil when they are learning to write. Let your child scoop, dump, pour, pinch, roll, squish, pat, tear, crush, mash, and shake as much as they can! Give assistance as it is needed for younger toddlers, demonstrate as needed for older toddlers, but then give them space to experiment on their own.
IMG_0271The next thing I think of is the sensory experience. It’s fun and important for kids to get messy every now and then to experience different textures. When you have the chance give your child the words to express what they are feeling… “that is so slimy!” “this peanut butter is sticky,” or “these crackers are really crunchy.” Also keep in mind that it’s really easy to get stuck in the mindset that sensory experiences are only those things that we touch, but keep in mind that sensory experiences can and should include all of our senses! Look for opportunities to point out something that you are smelling, like vanilla or peppermint extract, herbs and spices, or anything as it bakes in the oven. We can also have sensory experiences through what we are seeing, in things like colors and shapes. And of courseimg_1392 one of the more fun senses to explore while doing a cooking activity is taste! When it’s safe (ie. no raw eggs or meat, or anything that might be icky for a child’s tummy) try and see how individual ingredients taste, compare a little salt and sugar, lick the pudding bowl, or when you’re making cookies… that heavenly concoction of brown sugar and butter, right before you add the eggs, yuuuummmm!

Two of the less obvious experiences going on in a cooking and baking activity is early math and early science. You might be thinking I’m crazy to even talk about science and math for a toddler or preschooler, but keep in mind we are talking about the very early building blocks of these areas of learning. Even though we aren’t teaching our children what volume is, or how to use numbers in adding or subtracting, or the fact that they are really doing a science experiment by combining img_1388ingredients… they are gaining that experience every time they fill a measuring cup with flour, or a teaspoon with salt.   Every time they help or hear you count in the number of eggs, and every time they see their ingredients transform over time in the oven, they are making those connections in their brain that they can build on later in their learning.

I love when it’s Fridays and we get to do a cooking activity together- it always feels like we saved the most fun for last! My kids love it, and I’m not going to lie, I look forward to the treat that we get to enjoy just as much as my kids! I’m by no means a food blogger or professional cook, but I have done my best in adapting most of the recipes to combine things I grew up with, things I’ve seen over the years, and things that I’ve learned in my own cooking experiences. If it makes sense to use your cookie recipe instead of mine, by all means, use your recipe. What I have provided is part of a plan, just the springboard for you to add in things that are meaningful to your family. And remember, ultimately, aside from all of the learning processes going on in these activities, the main goal is that you both enjoy one another and create meaningful experiences that just happen to take place in the kitchen. Happy cooking!

 

 

 

Ping Pong Ball Drop

Today’s activity was the ping pong ball drop. At first look, even to me, it looks a little bit boring, but my kids always enjoy doing it! The thing about activities like this are that they are fresh and new… new materials and new concepts, plus it’s up to us make it more exciting with our questions and comments. This is a super easy activity that focuses on the ability to hold out their hand a drop a ball into something. We take it for granted, but the ability to drop a ball like this is something that comes with time for our young children.  This can easily be incorporated into regular play and will probably only take about 5-10 minutes.

I started with a big jar and ping pong balls. He knew right away how to get the balls into the jar and then out again. So I added a more difficult concept with the smaller jar and smaller craft balls. It involved more fine muscle movements and made him think a little more about ways to get the balls back out since his hand wouldn’t fit in the jar anymore.

You can do the same. Start with a big jar or cup and ping pong balls, golf balls, styrofoam balls, whatever you have. Let your child play with it and experiment. For younger children you might stop there. For older children you might add in a smaller container and smaller balls and let them think about and explore those. All along be sure to ask questions and comment on what you see your child doing… “Do you think the big ball will fit into this new jar?” “How can you get the balls out of the jar?” “Oh, you just got the balls out by dumping them out. Is there another way to get them out?” These types of questions reinforce what your child is doing, but also helps them think “outside the box” to expand their knowledge.

Let’s look at what things are going on in this activity…

Fine motor: This will work on the ability to pick up ping pong balls, craft balls, golf balls, whatever you have around that will fit in a jar or cup that you have on hand. Younger children might prefer the ease of picking up something larger like a golf ball or ping pong ball, older children might like to do both but get the extra challenge of picking up something smaller like the craft balls that we used.

Problem solving: Problem solving comes in a couple of ways in this activity, how do I get the balls in, what will fit and not fit, and how do i get them out. It is important for us as we play along with our child to find the balance between helping them think things through and ask questions without doing the activity for them. We have to stay out of the way, let them fail a couple of times so that they can really learn what works and what doesn’t, without causing too much frustration. We are never looking for perfection in completing the task, rather experiences for your child and the ability to think and figure things out. Stay mindful of their age and developmental abilities with your questions and comments, be encouraging, and remember to have fun together!