Fine Motor Skills Challenge ( and some math)

My son like many kindergarteners has been focusing a lot on writing this year and while they hone their letter formation they are also working on spelling and punctuation. It’s a lot to coordinate. If the physical task of writing is using up all their concentration the more complex ones just add to the possible frustration . The best thing parents can do is to find ways to build those fine motor skills. This task was NOT easy for my son.  What I did with this was to balance it with an element he loves ( math) in order for him to do all 4 corks instead of giving up with the first. Don’t be afraid to make something hard just decide what your goal is.  That said had there been a complete refusal I would have adapted it using larger objects.

1. Gather your materials. You will need some wine corks or rectangular blocks and many elastic bands.
2. Wrap the bands around the corks. Wrap a different number of bands around each. Make some tight and other looser.
3. Invite your child to make a prediction about how many rubber bands are on each cork. No need to write it down but if you want to add some writing into the activity by all means grab some paper and a pencil with an eraser.
4. Start unwrapping.  A lot of things come easy to my son so challenges are not always welcomed. I reminded him not to give up that we needed to find out how many were on these little corks. After getting them off count.
5. Repeat with the other corks.  This one was wrapped very tightly and he got frustrated initially but oh wait for it… I got a smile out of him too. I slipped in a little chat about how over coming challenges is way more fun that doing a task that is easy to start with.

Other ways to easily build your child’s fine motor skills are to play with play dough, beading or lacing , sewing and needle arts, playing with stickers, and our favorite Lego.  Check out more ideas from all over the web on our Fine Motor Pinterest Board.

Q-Tip Painted Easter Eggs {Fine Motor & Art}

Time is not in abundance here. It seems like after getting kids where they need to be, food in our fridge, clean clothes and floors there is not as much time as I thought there would be.  That is why I love activities like this Easter egg craft that work on developing a skill like fine or gross motor skills as well as teaches a lesson and gives my daughter free reign on how the craft will look. Most arts and craft projects have some fine motor work but using q-tips amps it up when time is short. Creativity, art lesson and fine motor. All in about 8 minutes. Toddlers don’t sit long, they aren’t meant to so don’t force them to. Keep things short sweet and packed full of learning disguised as play.

1. Gather your materials. You will need some sturdy paper ( like paper plates), paint ( any colors but you must include white), some containers or tray like an ice cube tray to mix the paint and q tips.
2. Start by cutting out your eggs.
3. Next pour some paint in your tray. Talk about the colors. Add white to each color and have your child mix the paint. What happened to the color? This is a basic lesson on tints. As kids learn their colors the next step is to see the differentiation and results of color mixing. I love adding white to make lighter tints of the same colors. This is especially great with toddlers who insist on only ever using 1-2 of their favorite colors. Since doing this activity late last week my daughter has been evaluating colors in our house ” Dat light gween Mama, not dark gween.” it’s pretty fun to see her put her new knowledge to work.
4. After all the tints have been mixed pour a little more of the original color in an adjacent container or slot in the tray. Make note of the difference. Ask your child which tint of each pair they like the best. As you can see she chose light pink.
5. Time to paint. This has no desired result other than exploration. Let your child explore how the q-tip makes marks on their egg. They will naturally be holding the q-tip in a pincer grasp and controlling it will be giving their fine motor skills a good work out.
6. She explored with dots and stripes.
7. I started making a polka dot one too and after she finished her two eggs she joined me in covering mine with dots. Let dry and if you want use as little Easter cards for loved ones. As soon as her’s were dry she gave them to her brother. Who thankfully was full of praise for her efforts. Kids love giving away their art so if you find yourself drowning in it start sending it to loved ones who will no doubt love it.

For more about fine motor check out this Google+ Spring Into Education chat ( you might recognize a face or two)

Simple Heart Craft for Toddlers

This is one of my favorite classic Valentine’s Day Crafts for little kids and toddlers. It’s simple for toddlers , fun for older kids and is gorgeous no matter how you do it. I also love that working with eye droppers requires some great fine motor and coordination skills so it’s more than just a pretty craft !

1. Gather your materials. You will need some coffee filters ( 2 per heart) , ribbon, markers, double stick tape, scissors ( ours are pinking shears) , eye dropper, water, dish, something to protect your table and something absorbent like paper towels or a old cloth towel.
2. Start by cutting your coffee filters but folding them. I love using pinking shears because they make it that much prettier.
3. Time to color. My daughter did dots but go wild any design will work. Make sure kids know that their designs will change.
4. My daughter colored a bunch . She was just in that sort of mood. Usually toddlers are quick to be done so if your child does 3 dots and declares they are done do not fret. That happens here all the time too. A trick to make many of these when attention spans are still on the short side is to not separate the filters keeping 2-4 all in a pile and coloring those. The color will bleed through . Another way to extend the activity without forcing is to offer a new color of marker as the interest starts decreasing.
5. Add water! Talk about it spreading and the water mixing with the color and how the dry filter absorbs it like a towel absorbs the water on their body after a bath. Using every day references to learn new words and explain new experiences is a great tool for learning.
6. Let dry .
7. Choose pairs. You can even sneak in some simple math ” Can you find 2 hearts?” She was gleefully helpful with this. You can’t tell from the pictures but she was actually really taking her time making pairs. I was fascinated in a way only parents can be fascinated with their own kids 😉
9. Sandwich together and repeat.  Find the right place to hang them to add a little love to your home. Ours are in the window that faces the driveway and every time I drive home they are the first things we see from the car.

Rhyming Peg Board {Learning After School}

My son is a good student but like most new writers he needs to work on his fine motor skills . He enjoys writing now but I still like to sneak in some fine motors skills in with activities he loves like rhyming. This rhyming activity uses novelty to keep kids interested. The rubber bands and pegs are great because it takes a lot of patience and fine motor skill to carefully place them on the correct pegs. This was just enough novelty for my son to be eager and interested even after a long day at school.

1. Gather your materials. You will need a shoebox or other sturdy box ( we used our Kiwi Crate) , push pins , elastics, a sheet of paper, glue stick or double stick tape and a marker.
2. *Before doing anything make sure that the push pins are secure when you push them into your box. Test out how far apart you can make the push pins and stretch your elastics so they stretch but aren’t so tight that that pull the push pins out and turn them into projectiles.
3. Write out a list of words on the right side ( we did Christmas themed words but obviously do what works for your kids). Write a second list on the left of rhyming words.
4. Tape or glue onto your box.
5. Add push pins remembering to keep them not too far apart.
6. Add a kiddo to start matching these words up. This is a fast activity but it’s designed to be. It’s a splash of learning not a long lesson. My son really liked it and I plan on making more with different themes , spelling words etc…

Disappearing Letters – Alphabet For Starters Activity

It’s been a while since we have done an Alphabet For Starters activity. This is our popular series of alphabet activities that aim to introduce and play with letters in simple ways for beginners. This one was a true “Throw it together” activity. I was on a conference call for the first half sitting on the other side of the table jotting down notes while she played. When I saw what a hit it was I grabbed my camera and started clicking. This combines letter recognition, color mixing and fine motor all in a super simple activity.

1. Gather your materials. I have no photo because this wasn’t planned at all but you will need a container for water, an eye dropper,  some coffee filters, a plate to protect your table from the running colors, markers and coffee filters. Have multiple coffee filters on hand because kids love this.
2. Start by writing letters on the coffee filter.
3. Ask your child to find their favorite letter. I like saying this instead of ” Find f, find r…” because in my experience it leads to them deciding which letter to find next and naturally declaring which letter it is. Drop the water on using the eye dropper and watch it disappear. My daughter LOVED this. ” It’s gone Mama!” She made multiple ones and helped me choose which letters to write.
4. After my call was done I gave her the markers and she made her own letters on some coffee filters. When kids are learning to write even at the very early stages never say to them ” That’s not a B it’s a scribble, here let me make you a real B.” Their writing is a B it’s just in the early stages of development and by encouraging them their development will get there slow and steady as it is meant to.

Alphabet Books

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. { This is one of my daughter’s very favorite alphabet books right now and possibly the number one reason she knows all her upper and lowercase letters} .

The Sleepy Little Alphabet: A Bedtime Story from Alphabet Town by Judy Sierra is a great alphabet book. I couldn’t help myself, I read it to my son to the tune of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom . It is clearly it’s own book though. The alphabet is getting ready for bed and just like your little ones, these lowercase letters are pulling out all their tricks and antics to avoid bedtime. Well almost all of them, z is more than happy to go to bed! It’s a sweet book that your kids can relate to and I like that it focuses on lowercase letters .