LEGO Challenge for Beginners -Fine Motor Skill Development

preschool lego challenge

My 4 year old has just started playing with LEGO. As much as I loathe the whole pink LEGO and pink everything that is marketed to girls when she asked for this set there was no way I was saying no. I love LEGO  and all the learning opportunities inside each box, especially the fine motor skill development which is a building block for writing. I was telling my 7 year old about doing some LEGO challenges when my daughter asked if she could do some. Of course! That said she hasn’t had much practice with the little blocks yet so I set this easy LEGO challenge up for her and she breezed through it… at her urging I made it harder and we did a totally of 3 trays full of mini challenges. The next day she asked for even harder ones. That’s my girl!

 

Gather your materials. I am using plain old LEGO blocks and an ice tray. This lets me keep the individual challenges organized without too much prep. There are some seriously cool Lego challenge tutorials out there… this one isn’t as polished but as long as you have Lego block you can do it NOW. lego see and build for preschool

Start by creating simple structures. I grab the pieces I need first in duplicate and then create the structures popping the duplicate bricks into one section of the ice tray and the completed structure in the other. lego challenge for beginners preschoolThe first challenge was simple and she breezed through all four quickly. lego challenge for preschool

So we made more… lego challenge for preschool see and build

 

and more… Lego challenge fine motor skillsThese were our most complicated ones and as you can see she had to concentrate. concentration lego puzzles for kidsIf your child is breezing through all of these don’t give them the duplicate pieces separated out. Put all of them in a small bowl or container. I wouldn’t expect my child to dig through thousands of Legos without getting frustrated but it’s a logical next step for this activity to combine the loose pieces and add in a new step. lego puzzels for preschool

What I like about these little challenges  is that she is still just starting out with Lego and this is giving her bite sized models to recreate while she works on some seriously rad fine motor skills. Being able to manipulate the models in her hands make all the difference.

 

Flower Lab – Explore With Nature Activity

flower science project

Kids love to tinker and take things apart but you don’t have to stick to mechanical things they can take apart natural things too. This is a great nature activity for a rainy summer day when you still want to explore but can’t do it outside. Our bouquet was starting to wilt so  I decided to grab it off the hearth and gather some tools to dissect it with.  My three year old was slow to get into it but once she did the exploration was a hit.

Gather your materials. You will need some flowers with leaves and stems, a cutting board, plain white paper, a rolling pin or brayer roller, tweezers, and scissors.

Start by setting up the lab. Make it inviting. There is no wrong way to do this but creating an inviting set up can peak your child’s interest much more than if you just say ” Want to take apart some flowers?”. I put the lab on our coffee table and just left it alone waiting for her to decide it was time to explore. science for preschool

The tweezers drew her attention right away. She pulled petals off and I was giddy looking at how she was using and strengthening her fine motor skills. flower fine motor exploration

Next she made some prints by squishing the petals between the paper and using the brayer on it. Opening the paper to reveal the color left by pressing the flower into the paper.flower lab experiment for kids

She took her time taking these flowers apart. The buds were especially interesting. flower lab science for kids

The finale was cutting. She loves scissors and cutting the different textures was interesting and we talked about why some parts for the flower was easier to cut than others. flower lab exploration for kids

 

Books About Flowers

Here are a few of my very favorite books about flowers. For a longer list check our Flower Book List here. All of our book lists contain affiliate links.

tiny seed

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle is a story about a tiny seed who unlike the other seeds from his flower makes it against all odds to continue the cycle of life. I really enjoy this book and love how it shows all the obstacles along the way for a simple little seed. My children both really like this book and I like how it connects kids to nature.

zinna's garden

Zinnia’s Flower Garden by Monica Wellington is really useful not just about teaching about flowers and gardens, but also about patience and the annual cycle of a garden. Zinnia plants and waits, waters, enjoys her flowers, then they die, she collects the seeds and plans her garden for next year. I love that the main story is perfect for my almost three year old but there is much more for older children with longer attention spans. There is a little journal with notes about what’s happening with her garden, and various facts about plants as well. Like in so many of her books the author celebrates hard work and her characters take great pride in what they do. A fantastic message for readers, big and little. I also love the mix of illustration and photographs in this book especially, it gives the illustrations depth and a really interesting look.

Fine Motor Skills – DIY Cutting Station

cutting skills When I was a director of a large childcare center one of my 3 year old classes had a cutting bucket. It was a huge bucket with piles of scrap paper in it and three pairs of scissors tied to it. Kids loved it. It allowed them to cut and for the teacher to supervise them while not having to worry that anyone was running away with scissors. Cutting isn’t just about being able to make clean lines for gift wrapping ( although that is a nice bonus) cutting is about hand and wrist strength, fine motor skills, and hand eye coordination. All of these are important for writing. Children are expected to write even earlier than we were and while there is no rush for preschoolers to form every letter perfectly working on these fine motor skills is really worthwhile. I used that teacher’s idea and made it perfectly sized for one child. It took 3 minutes and she sat cutting for more than 4 times that!

Gather your materials. You will need a thin bowl. I got this one at the dollar store. You will also need a hole punch, some sturdy cord or ribbon, kid safe scissors, and scrap paper.cutting station supplies

Start by punching a hole in the bowl. This took some serious muscle but I have freakishly small hands ( pumping my own gas is painful my hands are so little),  I am sure it won’t be so hard for y’all with normal sized hands.cutting station punching hole

Using the cord ( ours is from craftprojectideas.com ) thread it through and make a sturdy knot. Make sure that it’s secure.cutting station for preschool fine motor skills

Tie the other end to scissors. Do not make the rope too long. I am kinda a worry wart and never make any rope too long when young kids are handling it. Of course like all our activities this is not meant to be used without adult supervision. That said making it as safe as possible from the get go is always a great plan.cutting station set up

Add scrap paper and someone to cut and go! The tiara is optional but we always encourage self expression. cutting station fine motor skills activity at home

What I like about this is that it’s portable. She can use it at the kitchen table if I am cooking, in the family room if I am cleaning, even outside if you want to cut with nature like we did last year! It also helps to contain the cuttings and you can make sure that they are cutting things they should by saying ” If it’s in the bowl you may cut it.” If you aren’t ready for the sharper scissors yet try plastic ones and pop playdough in the bowl. cutting great for fine motor skill development

Need more simple but worthwhile ideas like this ? Check out our BRAND new eBook – Playful Preschool ! It’s only $6.99 until 5-25-2014 so get it before the price jumps. Click on the image below to buy.

3-5 preschool ebook

Button Mural – Number Recognition

button number fine motor math muralMy daughter is a big fan of murals, buttons, and numbers. I love seeing the differences between children while also celebrating their similarities. My daughter has always loved number recognition and picking up teeny tiny objects so this activity was a sure fire hit. What I didn’t expect was for her to complete the whole thing in one sitting. I expected her to do a few numbers then come back to it later. Instead she did them all one after the other and we were almost late for preschool. I loved how many different aspects of working with numbers and quantities this activity naturally encouraged. As you will see not only did my daughter make the shape but she counted, traced, and compared sizes as well. **Please only use items that your child is ready for. If your child is still in a mouthy stage you can use paper cut out shapes instead.**

Gather your materials. You will need some contact paper, painter’s tape, a marker and buttons.button numbers math preschool

Start by attaching the contact paper to the wall. Painter’s tape works great and won’t muck up your walls.math button number mural

Write numbers on the contact paper.button number mural for preschool

I  welcomed my mini math whiz to check out what I was doing in the hall. She started by tracing the numbers and noticing how hard that it to do with contact paper’s sticky surface.button number mural exploring the numbers

Next she added and added and added buttons.button mural adding the buttons Stopping to count from time to time.button mural counting the buttons

She noticed that one button was exactly the same color as her sweatshirt.button color match mural

She kept adding and talking about the numbers she was creating. I loved when she noticed that she needed either one large button or a few little ones to finish off a number. Good little lesson there!button mural finishing the whole things

If your child does one number and is excited that’s great. I originally asked her to choose her favorite and then was going to ask her to choose her next favorite but she just kept going. Go with the flow and look for those little unexpected lessons like color matching and size.

No matter what celebrate !

button numbers all done celebration

 

 

Counting Books

 
All of our book lists include affiliate links to Amazon.com .
Anno's Counting Book

Anno’s Counting Book by Mitsumasa Anno almost didn’t make it into my library bag. I am so glad it did. This is a wonderful book full of possibilities. There is no text just simple aerial illustrations of a field as it evolves one number at a time. The field fills up quickly and it can be tricky to classify the pictures on each page to match it with the number displayed but once you do , each page is a lesson!

doggies

Doggies by Sandra Boynton has been one of my daughter’s favorite books for ages. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a simple counting book about dogs, their different barks and one pesky cat. Toddlers love barking along with it so it’s a great book for places where they don’t have to be shushed, it’s not a great one for quiet only places like a church service.

math books for preschoolers

On the Launch Pad: A Counting Book About Rockets by Michael Dahl was a great find, my son loved counting down from 12-1 with the bright illustrations , simple text and hidden numbers on each page. Something that seems simple but was really awesome was that each page had the number written as a word, shown as a digit and as dots to count. You can take the time to count each dot, read the word or simply recognize the digit!

Ten on the sled

Ten on the Sled by Kim Norman is a really fun and educational book. The book is a new spin on the old song ” Ten in A Bed” but instead of squeezing onto a bed these cold weather animals pile on and off the sled one at a time. What is wonderful from an educational sense is not just the obvious counting element but as each animal exists the sled the verb used for how they exit begins with the same letter as the animal does. My daughter and I read this last night and even though she knows there is a moose and a caribou on the sled she insisted they were reindeer. We stopped each page to count and double check that the correct number of animals were on the sled. It took forever to read and might just have been a kid led tactic to make bedtime stretch out but I can’t say no to counting.

Trim The Tree Fine Motor Activity For Kids

christmas fine motor activity for kids We love playdough and this fine motor activity isn’t just a fun way to build and challenge fine motor skills it also naturally encourages counting, color recognition and or course pumping everyone up for Christmas. We had fun trimming our tree earlier this month and my daughter has been moving ornaments around so I knew she would be into a tree trimming themed activity. If you have Styrofoam from Christmas packages you could use that instead of playdough for the tree but we didn’t have any handy so we used this.

Gather your materials. You will need some mini ornaments ( these were found in Target’s dollar spot a few days ago), toothpicks, green and yellow playdough, a mat and a fun container for the ornaments. Trim the tree fine motor activity for kids

Start by making a tree with a star with the playdough. Kids can do this or you can.  I did it for my daughter. Make sure it’s thick enough to hold a toothpick upright.

Invite them to play. fine motor christmas tree activity for kids

Stick the toothpick in and add the ornament. fine motor trim christmas tree

Look at that concentration! fine motor winter activities

Keep going and from time to time stop and count to see how many you have added so far. fine motor playdough activity for kids

My daughter was interested in the metallic colors trying to decide which gold tone one was rally gold and what the other one was. She ended up calling one gold and one pink-gold. I thought that was pretty accurate. fine motor christmas activity for kids

I was so pleased with how well she took to this activity. She loved it.

When they are done let them be done, don’t push to add them all. As long as kids gave the activity a great go pushing them to do more more more will only end up in a negative feeling about these little skill building activities and can result in them refusing to give the next one a try. They will have lots of must do activities while they are older when they are little I like to be a fun buffet of ideas to try instead. Leave it out if it’s something they can do independently and let them return or not return to it at their leisure. I left this out for a few hours. She was done for good though, and that’s OK.

fine motor fun for kids