Posts Tagged ‘fine motor skills’
When Dylan was a toddler, I hated the late afternoon. By 4:00 p.m., my delightful, happy, playful son turned into a raging monster of frustration and dissatisfaction. Nothing made him happy, and that is not hyperbole. I wanted to crawl under a bed and sing “I caaaan’t heeeaaaar yoouu!” at the top of my lungs. Not a pretty time. But, I did learn how to handle it in ways that didn’t involve duct tape. At least, most of the time.
Knowing what skills toddlers are developing helped me figure out witching hour interventions that had a prayer of success. Here’s some development guidelines for kids 15 to 36 months old. This is a fairly good list. The most useful part is the information about what kids are physically capable of in terms of gross motor and fine motor skills. It helped me think of physical and sensory activities to do with them.
One game that my son loved between about 18 and 24 months was Fill It Up, Dump It Out. He would spend 20-30 minutes happily putting every action figure sized toy he could find into a juice pitcher and then dump it out. The narrow mouth made the dumping part tricky when a toy would get stuck. It was great fun watching him figure out how to get out the things that fit on the way in.
Both my kids loved blowing bubbles outside. By that I really mean they loved stomping and catching and watching the bubbles that I blew. They also loved trying to blow bubbles, but they made slobbery messes until they were about four. One thing that made this successful was not blowing bubbles every single day. Blowing bubbles was kind of a treat, and they responded to that excitement. I heartily recommend making your own bubble solution, since kids are going to spill a fair amount of it. Also, investing in spill-proof bubble containers is worth it. You can usually find these at Target or Wal-Mart. Just so you know, spill-proof bubble containers are only spill-proof until your child learns to unscrew the top and open them. They are not dump-proof, and you’ll still be making your own bubble solution.
Another great way to distract kids is with finger plays and songs. We all know these and if you don’t this is a great collection of rhymes and songs. Do the actions with your child, sing in silly voices, and be as animated as you can stand at 4:30 in the afternoon. You’ll find your child’s fascination with repetition kicks in and you’ll have “Five Little Monkeys” stuck in your head for about 3 weeks solid. But, you’ll make it through the witching hour.
When all else fails, defy the guilt trip, turn on Barney or Elmo or (heaven forbid!) Teletubbies and hand your kid a bag of goldfish crackers and a sippy cup. It doesn’t involve duct tape.
What’s your duct-tape-free afternoon survival strategy? Please tell me I’m not the only mom who had to dance to The Witch Doctor with a 2 year old for 45 minutes solid.
Skills Children Learn While Playing Games
- Sharing and turn-taking
- Basic social skills such as conversing and staying focused on a social interaction
- Winning and losing with grace
- Making decisions for beginning strategy and learning consequences
- Early counting, color and shape recognition, and other cognitive skills
Tips to Make it More Successful
- Team up with a parent while learning the rules
- For card games, have children lay all the cards down face up in front of them
- Teach children how to win (strategy) in addition to basic rules
- Support decision making and strategy
- Insist on turn taking as much as possible
- Help winning children realize that it was their “turn” to win
- Help losing children realize they’ll get a “turn” to win if they keep playing
- Emphasize that the goal is to have fun to playing together
- Play together regularly!
Games We Love
What games does your family love? Leave a comment and share a recommendation or a tip to make playing together fun for everyone.
A customizable handwriting exercise is a valuable tool for parents. I would print out a sheet of my daughter’s name as big as I could. Then she could make a rainbow of her name by using a different color marker or crayon on each line. She preferred the fat washable markers because the lines were bold and easy for her to make. I guess I’m the one that preferred the washable aspect of the markers! As she mastered her first name, I reduced the font size and ultimately added in her last name.
Another easy way to get your child to practice name writing, is to encourage him to sign whatever artwork he produces. This reinforces the feelings of success and accomplishment when his work is done and is clearly another opportunity to practice spelling and producing his own name. Also, let them label things that are important such as books or toys or their lunch sack.
Sometimes when my kids saw me make a grocery list or watched me writing in my journal, they would want to join in. I tried to be as accommodating as possible and let them write their names on my stuff. It’s also a great idea to have them sign birthday cards or holiday cards for family members or write a picture “letter” to grandma that they can sign and then fax or send through the mail.
For easy reusable, practice, print your child’s name in as big a font as fits on one page. Use a simple font that is as close to basic handwriting as you can. Then slip the page in a clear plastic sheet protector that isn’t textured at all. With supervision, children can use dry erase markers to trace over their names. You’ll want to supervise because dry erase marker is really not very washable at all. But kids think the erasing is fun and it might be just the thing to get them engaged in practice. Also, erasing is easy with this activity. This can help minimize the frustration of making a mistake. If you keep this activity near the kitchen table, your child can practice writing her name while you’re making her lunch or snack.
Initially, writing anything is difficult for children, because fine motor skills are still developing. So anytime you can practice these skills in any form, you will also be improving name writing skills. So let your kids play with Play-doh, cut with safety scissors, draw and color with all kinds of writing instruments, and work with small manipulative toys. All these activities improve and refine hand strength and coordination.
Finally, you can practice writing names (or anything else) in sugar, flour, sand, shaving cream, dirt, mud, etc. A sensory activity like this will improve memory and often lengthen your child’s attention span for the activity. This activity lasts longest if you participate too. They love your attention!!
Correct your child’s letter formation and writing position (left to right, top to bottom) slowly over time as she gains confidence and the writing skill itself improves. Most of the time, these mistakes simply clear up over time with only a little direct correction.
Elementary age children still like to use beads. I have used stringing beads with my older children as a way to teach counting to 100 as well as skip counting by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s.
I have found that when they are learning to count to 100, it does help to separate the beads into groups of 10 to help children not loose their place. This also helps, because (invariably) they do loose their place, and it’s easier for you to figure out where they are when the beads are in sets of 10. It’s easiest if the groups are sorted by color. Have the children count as they string the beads or have them count how many are on afterward.
Sometimes it’s just fun to string on as many of a variety of beads as fit and then count up how many are on the string or the pipe cleaner. This can also be an estimation activity. Kids can guess how many beads are on their string and then count to find out.
When using beads to teach skip counting, first start with counting by 10’s. There’s only 10 numbers to 100 to memorize in this sequence so it’s easiest. First sort the beads by color into 10 groups of 10. Use little Dixie cups to hold the groups. Then have your child start stringing on the beads. Each time 10 more beads are added on, you can count by 1’s and then by 10’s to reinforce the concept. Memorizing 10, 20, 30, etc. is called rote counting. This is a first step in learning skip counting, but the beads make the idea concrete and help the child understand the meaning of counting by 10’s to 100. Once counting by 10’s is getting fairly well mastered, introduce counting by 5’s in the same way, but start by only counting up to 20 or 30 while the concept is developing.
Go slow and make sure that your child is engaged in the activity. If it’s too complicated or overwhelming for your child, you will quickly realize it when their attention wanders to other things. If this happens it’s ok to stop and just have fun and try again another time.
Younger children can also practice counting the beads that they string. One-to-one correspondence in counting develops through the preschool years. Initially, children are able to count about as many objects as they are old. Around 4-5 years old this starts expanding and children can count larger groups of objects. As this is developing you’ll notice your child skip numbers, double count objects, or easily loose their place. This is normal and resolves as children continue practicing and their brains continue developing. At some point in the late preschool or kindergarten years, kids will have an “ah-hah moment” when they realize that counting is a pattern. They realize that after 20 will come 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29 and often will think that twenty-ten is next followed by twenty-eleven. You will supply the word thirty to them and then they’ll count 31, 32, 33, etc. Giving kids all sorts of opportunities to count develops and solidifies both rote counting and one-to-one correspondence counting. So when playing with beads or Fruit Loops or Cheerios always have kids count the number they have.
Writing books can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. I think that simpler tends to work better most of the time. The core benefit of writing books with children is developing and practicing literacy skills and imagination. This should happen as often as possible. At my house, simple is most likely to happen often and complicated is most likely to happen on a day that mom is feeling really good about things. This is why my focus here is on writing books instead of making books.
However, sometimes it is important to make a book particularly special for a child. Be sure to always give plenty of encouragement, praise and reinforcement as children engage in the process of creating a book. Don’t focus on the end product as much as you focus on their efforts and growth. Also, look for ways to reduce frustration over the process.
How to encourage writing books:
- Have some pre-made blank books available to your children as part of their art supplies
- Write letters to family members about exciting things that happen in your day or week
- Prompt children to make up a silly or different ending for favorite book or movie
- Prompt children to follow the story patterns of favorite books or movies
- Use story paper
- Be willing to write the words for the books younger children illustrate
- Accept and encourage invented spelling with beginning writers
Here’s a .pdf of a book my son created one morning while I was sleeping in. He was 6 years old when he worked on this and it was one of the first times he did a book alone.
How do you get your kids involved in writing and storytelling?