## Playdough Kabobs – Preschool Math & Fine Motor

“It’s just pretend!” is a very common phrase at our house. From my daughter telling us she is eight not three, my son yelling at imaginary troops in the backyard, and even when we set extra place settings for imaginary friends at meals, we do a lot of pretending. Often pretend play is a way for kids to practice being an adult, try on new roles, and do things that are not usually for them. This playdough activity that includes both math and fine motor skills came about because my daughter loves helping me cook dinner, especially when we are having kabobs. She is a master at skewering veggies and will often make patterns. So on a rainy day { get ready for lots of those…} we decided to grab the playdough and pretend we were making dinner and do a little learning along the way.

Gather your materials. You will need Play-Doh, skewers, a bowl, and a cookie sheet. I was setting up the materials shot when my daughter grabbed my phone and took her own. I don’t think it was too bad!
Start by rolling the playdough into balls. This is great for hand strength which is part handwriting development. Make a bowl full – we worked on ours together.
Next gently thread the playdough balls on. If they stab the playdough too far from the center they will fall off. If they aren’t on well just show your child to give them a squeeze.
This activity naturally welcomes counting. After she was done one skewer she laid it on the cookie sheet and counted all the playdough balls.
When she picked up the next skewer I asked if she thought she could make a pattern. So she did. She informed me that it was pink and “orange pink”.

Simple activities like these tap into so many different kinds of learning as well as creates a space to sit and work on something with your child.

## d

Everybody Cooks Rice  by Norah Dooley is a fantastic book! The book follows a sister who is looking for her brother in their San Francisco neighborhood. As she goes from door to door each neighbor invites her in to eat some of their supper. Everybody is having some sort of rice dish even though they are all from different countries. My 6 year old really enjoyed this book and understood the message well , my 3 year old sat through it no problem too. There are so many future lessons about geography, nutrition, and travel packed in this one little book! Awesome find.

Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert is an alphabet book extraordinaire and perfect for a letter F eek, since it’s all about food!  Wonderful paintings of fruits and vegetables seem ultra simple and it is but somehow the way the author has pieced this simple book together is brilliant. Maybe it’s that children learn about food at the table multiple times a day and feel proud being able to identify not only some of the letters but some of the pictures too! From a teaching standpoint I love that there are both upper and lower case letters on each page! This book will grow with your child, and beware it will also make you hungry.

Yum Yum Dim Sum by Amy Wilson Sanger is a book that makes me crave dumplings something fierce but my daughter seems to like the rhymes and pink and red colors throughout. The book explains in a zippy text all about Dim Sum . It’s a board book targeted to babies it’s really useful to use to teach children about foods they may be unfamiliar with. There is even a little appendix with Chinese words for all the items mentioned in the book like tea, rice and tarts.

## Nature Cuttings – Outdoor Scissor Skills Activity

One of the great things about the summer is to take plain old activities like cutting and finding fresh ways of doing them outside. This scissor skills activity was inspired by a pin I saw from Raise A Boy and I re-worked it for our yard and my daughter’s love of picking flowers and plants out of our garden. Scissor skills develop differently with all kids. My daughter loves to cut things and we are trying very hard to get her to hold the scissors correctly- but it’s a challenge. In the photos below she is NOT holding the scissors in the proper way. Her index finger should not be in the handle of the scissors. Offer kids lots of practice with activities like this so you can work on issues like these gently with lots of time before they develop bad habits that are harder to break. Scissor skills work on building the muscles and coordination needed for writing so don’t shy away from cutting practice!

1. Gather your materials. You will need some kid safe scissors, a bucket, a bin or water table ( without the water) and a yard to gather things to cut. The goggles are completely optional though very fashionable.
2. Start by exploring your yard. This step took a long time, we went all around our yard talking about the flowers that were blooming, the flowers that were dying, grass etc… take as long as you can with this step. Also if they aren’t into the exploring no biggie, there is nothing wrong with our kids not loving every idea we have. I have had many that never got blogged about because they didn’t get finished. It happens to all of us sometimes.
3. Bring your spoils back to your water table or bin and dump them out.
4. Start cutting ( with your goggles on if you have them) . I like providing a few different pairs of scissors in an attempt to find the one that feels good in the proper grip. My daughter would hold them correctly at first then pop all three fingers back in the handle. It’s just going to take time and persistence which is always fun with a stubborn child…no clue where she got that trait!While you cut together talk about what you are cutting, explore with your senses. I invited my daughter smell many of the items ( especially the herbs)  and crush some in her hands and smell her hands. We talked about which things were easy to cut ( petals) and which were harder to cut like the stem of a dead daffodil. I playfully asked her how her “pointer” finger sneaked back in that handle and she pretended to be shocked.
5. Leave the scissors and cuttings out and return to it later. My son joined in and they pretended to be in herbology class at Hogwarts. My daughter had no clue what that was all about but happily went along with her brother who could use some scissor practice too.
This post contains one affiliate link.

## Cork Board Letters

Over the summer my son is focusing on play but I am focusing on working on his fine motor skills.  This activity satisfies both .  The best part of these letter puzzles are how adaptable they are. You can make letters, shapes, even spell simple words. You could provide your child with a card next to each group of pegs to let them know what letter it is or leave it as a puzzle for them to figure out like I did to combine fine motor and spacial skills.

1. Gather your materials. You will need a cork board, some pushpins and elastics.
2. Start by stretching two elastics across the board to make 4 distinct areas.
3. Using the push pins I created 4 letters. I wanted to make sure that they could be made into letters so created them myself. Then removed the elastics and called my son.
4. He dove right in. The A was easy but the B was tricky. It took a while for him to see that it was a B but once he did he couldn’t make the B fast enough.
5. I took all the pegs out ( adults only if you aren’t careful the elastics can pull the pegs out and they go flying) and reconfigured them into 4 new letters.  These were easier and he flew through them but he was still getting lots of opportunity to fine tune his fine motor skills.

These books aren’t your basic alphabet book. They offer challenges that will appeal to school age children but could still be shared with kids 5 and under.

Animalia by Graeme Base is iconic in teaching circles, you can loose yourself for hours in the detailed illustrations. The book is an alphabet book on steroids! Each page had a wonderful paragraph in each letter such as for the letter L ” Lazy Lions lounging in the local library.” The pages are filled to the gills with pictures of things that start with that letter as well. Parents and kids a like will fall in love.

All Aboard!: A Traveling Alphabet by Bill Mayer was more fun for my husband and I than for my son when he was a toddler, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s a book of pictures, with hidden letters in them. For example the letter O is overpass with loops of road and hidden in it is an O. Some letters were easy to find some were hilariously hard. We read this to my son tonight at bedtime and while we stared at the letter H ( highway) picture debating where the h was, he fell asleep between us in his bed. This is a great alphabet book for families with children just learning and those who have mastered the alphabet. Oh and the debate was settled , we were both wrong. The final page highlights the letter in each picture in a compilation of the whole alphabet.

Al Pha’s Bet by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a rare find. An alphabet book that can keep a 5 year old who says alphabet books are for babies, completely engaged. The story follows Al who has bet himself that he can win a contest ordered by the King figure out an order for the brand new 26 letters that were just invented. In a string of adorable events and a little chance the alphabet as we know it is put together. My son thought it was hysterical that P was put in the line up after Al went pee. It’s a cute idea for a book and abstract enough to be a bit of a challenge for preschoolers but just the right level of interest for kids that think they know it all when it comes to the alphabet.

## Paper Plate & Pom Pom Octopus Craft

When I took stock of all my craft supplies and shared the progress with my facebook community members I was shocked at how many pipe cleaners and pom poms I had.  I immediately wrote down in my brainstorming journal to do a craft that would use some of this stock up.  After a trip to the aquarium where we saw an octopus I knew just what to do. These paper plate and pom pom octopus crafts were big hits and they also worked on a handful of important skills like fine motor , eye hand coordination and counting!

1. Gather your materials. You will need some paper plates, pom poms , glue, googly eyes, a single hole punch and pipe cleaners. If you are doing this with a child who is still eager to put small things in their mouth skip the pom poms and instead paint or use crayons to color your octopus!
2. Start by punching holes in the bottom of your plate. I did this for my daughter but my son did it himself.
3. Thread your pipe cleaners through until the short end can be twisted around the long one.
4. Next glue on the eyes.
6. Add pom poms. Pinching and placing the pom poms is also great for fine motor development. As they added the pom poms they counted them and my daughter compared sizes as well.
7. Let dry .

Does your little one love octopuses? Check out some of the other octopus crafts we’ve made over the years. Click the image to check them out.

## Spelling With Nuts & Bolts

This is not something I thought up at all. This idea has been around for ages but when my husband had to run to Home Depot for something else I asked him to grab us some nuts and bolts. If you are a regular reader you may know that I am forever trying to get my son to work on his fine motor skills. The way I approach this is to mix them with a task he really likes and excels at. For him that is anything language related like reading or spelling. There are way fancier tutorials out there but I am a busy mom so I needed to make this activity quickly . It’s bare bones but it works.

1. Gather your materials. You will need bolts, nuts and a sharpie. A fine tip one would be best but mine was dried out and I’d already told my son we were doing a project so I used my huge one. Also my nuts and bolts are matte not glossy which makes the sharpie stay on better. Please test yours out to make sure it adheres before playing.
2. Write out simple CVC ( consonant vowel consonant) words on the end of the bolt. We did cat, rug, tub, top, jar and bug. This could easily be adapted for younger children by writing uppercase letters on the bolt and matching lowercase ones on the bolts.
3. Write the letters on the bolt. You can chose to only use a handful of bolts and make your child take them off one bolt to use on another word or make multiple copies of the same letter on different nuts. I decided only one copy of each letter because I was trying my hardest to get my son to work his fingers putting the nuts on and off.
4. Invite your word builder and go for it. The first thing he said to me was ‘ How about we do this together. I will do the spelling, find the letters and you can screw them on. ” Nice try buddy. No. Don’t forget to put the letters on right side up. You must pay attention to which way they are on or your bug will look like bng … my son had to unscrew , flip it and screw it back on.
5. Soon he had the hang of it and I felt good knowing he was working on his fine motor skills. He told me the words were too easy so I am going to get longer bolts and give him a bigger challenge soon.

After he was done his sister decided she wanted to try. This was really tricky ( near impossible) for her which means you will see some preschool fine motor posts in the near future! If you want to see more check this round up of fine motor activities out.