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Chopsticks and Other Tools for Fine Motor Skills

Looking for a fun idea at home, at a pre-school center or just for fun? Get those chopsticks and pom poms (or cotton balls) out for a variety of activities. Pictured below is the simplest form for young ones to practice hand dexterity, fine motor skills and coordination. Notice the child’s chopsticks are connected and much easier to manipulate.

This idea can be used for many purposes in learning:

Children can sort by color or size and even label after sorting.

One to one correspondence, by placing in egg cartons or on a paper with circles drawn on it.

Simple math problems with adding or subtracting.

There are many other ways for little ones to develop and improve dexterity.

As babies encourage your child to turn the pages of a board book by slightly lifting page and guiding their fingers to complete turning the page. Have them feel different textures, play hand games like “Where is Thumbkin” and wave hello and goodbye.

Toddlers and preschoolers can work on finger dexterity as it is important for each finger to work separately from the others. continue hand games and songs such as The Itsy Bitsy Spider and the Wheels on the Bus.  Hand and finger puppets are also a fun and excellent way to develop hand coordination. Playdough-makes balls or just poke holes with different fingers. the normal play of children such as blocks, using tupperware out of your drawers can all help with coordination. Cutting food so children can easily pick up and eat is a great everyday practice for children. for example, cut small chunks of cheese instead of slices for easier pick up and eating on their own. hand eye coordination is easily practiced with a balloon for all ages. the simple and cheap things we already have at home can serve as tools for learning and growing.

Preschool and early elementary age children can start learning sign language, using more complex puppets and making shadows with their hands. Smaller items such as tweezers and eyedroppers can be used to continue the growth of  fine motor skills. A turkey baster to play with outside or the bathtub allows for fun play and more hand dexterity. Crafts and games also become more complex and an excellent way for strengthening the hand and fingers. Remember the games Operation, mandala and Connect Four? Some of the oldies but goodies still apply today. Instruments give plenty of exercise to develop the motor skills and so much more!

Shared Journals

I am always searching for ways to be simple and connected. Creating a new tradition of a shared journal with each child allows for freedom to share, be creative and to keep communication with your child. My hope is that even though my son is not one to chat and share the details of life, he will know that I am always available and that I do care what he thinks. I want him to know that I will be there if he ever needs it. My daughter on the other hand has a different need. The need to feel loved and to know how much she is cared for. So, on those busy days when life is like a tornado, and maybe we missed the chance to show or say we care, she can find a little note to remind her on how special she is to us and the family. Raising children is intentional and can be challenging. So, I tried this with my children because I knew it was easy enough to keep up and the message I wanted to give to them was clear, “I want to know how you feel, It may have been a crazy day but I am happy we are family, you are a special and important part of the family.”  I know that days go by in every family and we do not know where they went. Life is whizzing by, so try this simple and easy journal and see where it takes you and your child.

Buy or make a journal that is easy to keep or place on or near their bed. Decide your rules. I do not have rules for my experience, maybe that will change. Right now we write when we feel like it and then place it on the persons pillow to find. Sometimes, a lot of time goes by and I will find it and re-write something else to get it started again.If you have a child that does not want to write, you can ask simple questions. It does not have to be deep, it can be simple and short. At least you are opening up for a possible dialog and showing that you care enough to take the time to write.

This is not the time to edit or critique writing skills. It is the art of expressing one’s self and to also foster the lost art of writing cards and notes to people, as we have texting and electronic tools to do that now. Of course, role modeling correct writing, sentence structure and grammar is always a nice bonus.

Here is my one dollar find and could not be more perfect.

My Many Colored Days

I just love designing a day around a theme. Colors are fun and creative and simple.

Read the book My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss. It explores the many feelings children experience throughout the day. The bright pictures are attractive. Discuss how colors resemble feelings. Have children fill in the sentence:

Today is a _____ day because____________.

Then using the main color from the sentence and the mood, paint a picture.

Blue can be many things including sad or peaceful. In this case it was a peaceful and relaxed feeling.

Click here for more color theme ideas!

Leaf Activities

Guess what I woke up to? A beautiful and colorful plant! My daughter decided that we needed some color in the desert. Luckily our home is not in need of more color!

Besides the artistic look of our new plant, we discovered the cool veins of the leaf.

So, what is a leaf and what does it do?

Leafs are very important to the plant. They make the food for it to survive, the whole process is called photosynthesis. Within the leaf there are structures that convert the sunlight energy into chemical energy that the plant is able to use as food. Chlorophyll is the molecule that uses the energy in sunlight to turn water and carbon dioxide gas into sugar and oxygen gas. Note: This is a great time to ask what we need to survive and an open ended question about why plants are important to us and the earth.

The leaf has an epidermis that is a tough skin cell. In between the two outer layers are several other layers such as the spongy mesophyll. The epidermis excretes a waxy substance that is called the cuticle. this is important as it leaves a protection on the leaf against pests and bacteria. Take a look at a leaf and the veins. The veins support the leaf and have vessels that transport food, minerals and water to the rest of the plant. Leaves can be found in many shapes and sizes.

Leaf Hunt:

Search and find many leaves from around the community. If it is not the right time of year or there are no trees, find a book. Younger children can draw or tape leaf on a large board and write describing words for each leaf. They can also sort the leaves by a trait such as round, pointy, small or large.

Vocabulary Tree:

Individual children can make a tree out of construction paper and then write a vocabulary word on a  leaf with the meaning. a classroom or homeschool children can make a larger tree out of butcher paper and add on a leaf and it’s meaning as they are discussed. if there is not the time for this activity, it is possible to add words to a science journal or a small book titled Leaf Vocabulary Words. Many definitions could also have drawings and diagrams.

Label a Leaf:

Have child draw and label a leaf. This is a better way to have child remember and discover all about the leaf.

A Flag Worth Waving

“In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

There are many reasons in America to wave your flag. Here is a simple idea to show your pride and instill some tradition in your children. A dear friend of mine had us over for Fourth of July and gave us blank linen flags to take home and write words that we thought would show our feelings of the brave men and women on the

Fourth of July.

Blank Mini-Flag

When we returned home with our blank flags, we read Star Spangled Banner by Peter Spier and then wrote with Sharpie marker onto our mini-flags.

Each year on Fourth of July, Veterans Day and Memorial Day we display these in a glass jar with confetti, curling ribbon or whatever I have on hand.

This activity is ideal for classroom or homeschool children when learning about american symbols. It may be used for Flag Day, Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. Flag day is in June and falls during National Flag Week. Search your area for flag raising ceremonies and celebrations. The National Flag Day Foundation is focused on educating and organizing activities and events that honor the country.

Flag Facts:

-On June 14, 1777 the continental congress changed the symbols on the Grand union flag to a new design. The new flag had thirteen stars, one for each state at the time, in a circle on  a background of blue and also had thirteen red and white stripes.

-The United States flag is also called “Old Glory” and “Star Spangled Banner.”

-The modern flag has fifty stars, one for each state and thirteen red and white stripes for the original thirteen colonies.

-Flag Day is observed on June 14th.

Rainbow Poetry

Creating a color poem is fun and can be incorporated into mini-lessons and most curriculum. Here are a few ways to use this creative poetry lesson on your class or home.

Rainbow Poetry

Many Colored Days:

Read the book My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss. It is about feelings and a great way for parents to discuss feelings with their children. The book goes through emotions and ties them with vibrant illustrations and color. Make a large list or a personal list in a journal of how certain colors make the writer feel. Transfer thoughts on to strips of paper that match color as the sample pictured.

Click here for another activity for this book!

Color of the Day:

Younger children may enjoy the color of the day or week. Choose a color and focus the whole day and lessons around color.

For example: Red day or week may include eating red foods such as apples, strawberries, cranberries, berries, red bell pepper, red potatoes and the list goes on!  A quick and fun lesson on adjectives or using descriptive words in writing could be to bring in several red items. Have the children list words to describe. For little ones, you will need to write a list for them. A red ball could have several words such as round, bouncy, smooth or bumpy, etc.

Make a red (or any color you choose) collage. Collect red items such as paper, yarn, tissue paper, buttons, art supplies like sequins, ribbon, wrapping paper and more. On sturdy paper like card stock or poster board have the children create a collage. If you have room in your house or classroom, you could have a large poster board size for each color day to reinforce the theme and have some super fun decorations up for color week.

Make prints with fruits or vegetables. Red or green apples make good prints. Potatoes are easy to carve and make prints.

For each color, books and poems should be incorporated either as a read aloud or as a introduction to an activity. Hello, Red Fox by Eric Carle is a great example for the red day.

Games and clothes: Have the children wear the color of the day to school or at home. If you have a large class you can play games like red rover or red light, green light.

The possibilities to include writing, reading, math, science and more into the color theme is endless. Have fun!

Of course do not forget to write one line per day about the color so at the end of the thematic lesson, children can make the rainbow poem.

Spring Poetry Unit:

Poetry ideas are fun to incorporate throughout the year and there is not an age limit. Tying all of the writing skills and expression at the end of the school year is a great way to showcase a student’s progress. Study words and poetry. Have the children or child start a word collection journal. as they read poems, quotes or passages that sound good to them they write them in their journal. This appreciation of words cannot be taught, but if you can show them and have them stop to soak them in, you are giving a gift of  loving words. Words can be powerful and move emotions. Allow students to choose their own and allow for time to share.

Making A Tree With Meaning


As a teacher, there are many fun ways to send home art projects that capture the child’s age and size. This is a fun activity that may take some extra helping hands if you have more than one child or doing as a group. Looking at the picture you can see how messy the kiddos are going to get with paint up to their elbows. This art activity will take some preparation before the children enter the picture.

You will need:

Paint (red, green and brown)

Paper

Area with paper or plastic art covering to protect flooring

Start with the brown paint and place along child’s arm and thumb. Have them place their arm onto the paper. Make sure you help them lift the arm off of the paper. If not, it could lead to some messy prints. Have the child clean up. Next, use the green paint to put on child’s hands and fingers to make leaves. Again, clean up and place red paint on one thumb to create the apples on the tree. This would be a creative project for the end of the year gift to parents with a child’s poem written about growing like a tree. As always quotes add an inspirational moment to the gift. Younger students can write a sentence such as “Look at me, I am growing like an apple tree!”

If you wanted to include a math project for kindergarten and younger, you could have them make a certain number of apples in the tree. For example, have index cards with numbers written “ten” or numerically written “10,” then the child would make the amount that their card was labeled. It all depends on the child or children. They could have to make an even number of apples to practice the meaning of even and odd in mathematics. The mini-lesson possibilities in art and all day long are endless!

This art project would also relate to Arbor day, seasons, family tree and a beginning of the year art project for the wall. This applies to teachers, child care professionals, home school moms and scout leaders.

I always recommend finding a paint with no gluten in it, as some art supplies contain hidden gluten. This would be for classrooms or parents that have children with celiac disease.

Earth Day Song and Poem

This is a simple song and tune for children of all ages to enjoy. Ideal for Earth Day or during any unit on nature and recycling.

Recycling

Sing to the tune of I’ve Been working on the Railroad

We’ve been working on the recycling.

All the trash we can.

We’ve been working on recycling.

It’s a simple plan.

Separate your glass and paper,

Separate your plastic and tin.

Take the trash you have recycled

to the recycling bin!

If you would like a memorable, yet simple activity for children to celebrate nature, try writing a poem.

Write Your Own Poem or Song

First have children with a paper and clipboard or poetry journal if they have one. Lay down outside and watch the sky, trees and surrounding environment. Have them write words, phrases and feelings that come to their mind. then, gather at a table or back inside. Have them write a poem using the words and feelings they noted outside. Another version is write a letter to the earth or nature.

A List Poem

Poetry is an exciting way for young learners to play with words. This is an easy but still important poetry lesson. It is a simple way to introduce brainstorming and adjectives as well as poetry. if you are working with a group of children such as scouts or a classroom you need to have a board or large paper for the group poem. this is to role model the process. as I always state (or think in my head) this lesson can be tailored for younger or older students.

As a group decide on the topic of the group poem.

Let’s say someone said dolphins:

Then you would write the title and write down all of the responses of descriptive words. Depending on the crowd, you may have too many words. So, this is your chance to discuss words that are similar and how to eliminate.

Then you write the final list poem.

Dolphins

Sleek

Friendly

Fast

Jumping

Dolphins

When you have completed writing the first poem together, allow the child or the children to write their own.  The beauty of this lesson is that it can be used for almost any topic. It would be ideal for animals, seasons, nature, social studies and much more.

A Few Examples:

Beginning of the year:  Have students write a list poem about themselves.

Mother’s Day/Father’s Day: Have child make a card and write list poem inside about parent.

Earth Day: Choose a topic such as the earth, land, pollution, ocean, trees etc and write a list poem. Extend it into an art project using paint and paper to illustrate the topic.

Veterans Day Celebration

Honoring military veterans, the holiday Veterans Day falls on November 11th.  This is the anniversary date of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War 1.  In the 1950′s the name of the holiday Armistice Day was officially changed to Veterans Day to honor all veterans.

Each Veterans Day check your local area for celebrations, parades and activities.

Here are a few things and activities to do with your family at home:

IDEAS:

READ STORIES (Appropriate for age)

My favorite book is The Wall by Eve bunting. Most of her books are my favorite!

  • Activity Idea:  In the story they make a rubbing of the name on the wall, you could place objects like a quarter under paper and rub with the side of a crayon to make your own  rubbing.

Books about Flag

  • Design flags
  • Write words/phrases on flag as below that have to do with story read or Veterans Day

Here is the plain flag that was bought from the store. The child could draw or paint the flag and then write on it when it is dry.

The words were written on the flag with a fine point sharpie permanent marker.  The words below were written by an eight year old boy who studied the civil war in his second grade class and also had just read the Star Spangled Banner.  That may explain some of his words he chose to write on the flag!

WRITE LETTERS

  • Design notes and letters to send to troops or veterans.
  • Younger children draw pictures and have the adult write a short message and note the child’s name and age.  If the child would like a certain message, put quotes around the message along with child’s name.

If you do not know anyone to send letters to, we  have found troops to send to through churches, local VA medical centers and check with local retirement center for veterans that would like to receive notes of thanks.

RESEARCH

Older children can research American war heroes such as George Washington. Have them write or present their findings. They could even act out the part for a meaningful experience they will not forget!  Give some creative free choice on how to present the material, children (and students) always amaze me how creative they can be when allowed the time.

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