Category Archives: Fine Motor Activities
Have you ever wondered what might be the best order to introduce letters to young children? There is no standard for which order to teach the alphabet. Some educators use a letter-of-the-week method that may or may not be based on letter frequency, while others follow the alphabet in order.
Very young children may already have some print knowledge. Typically they are motivated by the letters in their own name. When introducing the alphabet to young children, here are some things to consider in your planning.
The two greatest predictors of reading success are knowledge of letter names and letter sounds (phonemic awareness) in the early years. Once children begin to have an understanding of these concepts, they can grasp the relationship between sounds of speech and letters (alphabetic principle).
It is easier to predict the sound of some letters than others. When a letter’s sound can be extracted from its name, it is easier to build an understanding of the alphabetic principle. The name of the letter E, for example, can be heard in its sound. However, when W is spoken, it does not sound like its name: ‘double-u.’ So when choosing which letters to first introduce to your group, consider letters that have an obvious correlation between letter name and letter sound such as: A, B, D, O, T, V, and Z.
There has been much debate about whether to introduce uppercase before lowercase letters. One could argue that most print is in lower case and therefore children should be taught how to read these letters first. But when it comes to learning to print, it is easier for young children to reproduce uppercase letters. These letters are larger and can be more easily reproduced with their predominantly straight lines. With limited pencil control, young children can print large letters with vertical and horizontal lines more easily than smaller ones with curves and diagonal lines. Begin with letters that have vertical and horizontal lines such as H, L, I, and E.
To help you decide what order to teach your children the alphabet, here is a look at what is age-appropriate:
- Toddlers can learn to sing the alphabet song and should be read to daily. This age group enjoys simple, rhyming stories and songs.
- Encourage toddlers to recognize the first letter of their name.
- At two years of age a child may be able to produce vertical strokes, and horizontal ones by two and a half years.
- Expose toddlers to print and model adult printing for them.
- Encourage the development of the fine motor control needed for printing through scribbling, manipulatives and play dough.
- Preschoolers may be able to learn to recognize and name some of the letters of the alphabet. To strengthen their understanding of this, focus on beginning letter sounds of a word. For example blue, berry, brown, bag.
- They can develop dexterity and pencil control through colouring, tracing letters, and completing simple mazes. Children this age may scribble, create mock letters that are unrecognizable, or string random letters together to represent words. Typically at three years old a child can draw circles, print a cross at age four, and a square at age five.
- Continue to expose children this age to increasingly complex stories. Ask them questions about the stories to encourage development of their narrative skills.
Keep in mind that writing tools for young children should be small. Short, thin crayons are recommended over thicker ones.
Literacy is a journey that takes time and cannot be rushed. Encourage print motivation (an interest in reading) by providing a child-centered environment that is rich in literacy. Incorporate the interests of the children into their learning.
Each child develops at their own pace and there are many cognitive and fine motor skills needed before the process of reading and writing can begin. As educators, our role is to set a strong foundation for success and foster a love of reading in the early years.
References: Lucy Hart Paulson, Ed.D, CCC-SLP Communicative Sciences and Disorders University of Montana. Taken from Niagara Speech Services Emergent Literacy Conference 2015.
This summer we reached out to our members and Facebook followers to ask what kind of resources they’ve been looking for. Then our little CCPRN worker bees went to work developing new and unique die cut packages to sell. So if you’re looking for some fresh new resource kits in time for Fall – you’ll be impressed by these new ones!
Coming soon: Felt sets based on the Froggy Gets Dressed book by Jonathan London – a funny way to look at putting on all those extra layers once again. Use these props to visually enhance your storytelling and then have your children play with the set to retell the story themselves.
Felt packages based on the Eric Carle Book Little Cloud are a great addition to your weather theme.
Halloween Costumes play kits were designed by Sharon Cunningham of Story Time Felts for your little ones to play with and dress up the felt dolls.
A farm theme is a natural fit around Thanksgiving and it can be used to enhance so many different learning concepts. This very special limited edition farm felt kit was created by former CCPRN President Andrea Gingras. She embellished each of the die cut pieces by hand. The attention to detail in each piece is really quite something. These kits are a bit more expensive than our regular ones but they are absolutely gorgeous and come with an extensive handout of farm stories, circle time songs and rhymes.
For crafting purposes we also have the following seasonal paper kits for Halloween, weather, and Fall:
These kits and more are for sale at the CCPRN office. Call and book a time to come into the office to browse through all of our resources! * Please note: kits are subject to availability.
Julie’s been heating up winter with her play-based learning children’s events. Here are just a few of the activities she had waiting for the little ones when they arrived at the CCPRN office earlier this week.
Children had so much fun building snowmen made from Styrofoam balls. This was a great activity for those gross motor skills, improving hand-eye coordination and sorting large and small.
Next up was a mitten colour match game. Toddlers got to practice their pincer grasp while sorting and matching the coloured clothes pins with the coordinating mittens.
Those little fine motor skills got even more exercise from hanging mittens on the clothesline. Caregivers discussed the different kinds of patterns found on the mittens such as plaid, diamond shapes and stripes.
Kids of all ages love to manipulate goo and these extra-large Ziploc bags keep the mess inside for lasting fun! Inside were die cut foam snowflakes, beads, buttons, and the secret ingredient… hair gel!
Julie brought the outside in and filled our sensory bin with snow and these beautifully coloured balls of ice. Children delighted in playing with the cold snow as they discussed colours and hot versus cold!
To make the ice balls, simply put a good dose of food colouring inside some balloons and then add about 1 or 2 cups of water. Tie them off and place them outside to freeze (or in your freezer). Note that the balloons can take up to 2 days to fully freeze.
At the end of the event, the children enjoyed a snack while Julie told the story “Polar Bear Polar Bear.” They watched in awe as that silly polar bear changed colours throughout the story.
There are still spaces available for some of Julie’s upcoming Winter Heat events so if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up!
Eye spy games are a natural fit for young children and there are so many varieties to keep it fresh and exciting. These games foster a child’s curiosity, visual discrimination and language skills. Some promote fine motor manipulation, print motivation and sensory exploration.
The beauty of creating eye spy bottles is that you can choose smaller items that you wouldn’t normally give very young children to play with.
Recycle your plastic bottles or containers and fill them with all kinds of fun things. Pictured above (from left to right): oil and water with small plastic beads and food colouring – hair gel and googly eyes – oil and water with food colouring – tiny pasta (or beads with miscellaneous items hidden inside). Seal the lid with a glue gun (and consider taping it closed with electrical or duct tape for extra security).
These rugged little eye spy boxes were made from old cassette cases and are an ideal size for small hands to manipulate. Simply fill with small items (themed or by colour) and seal with packing tape! Consider making alphabet themed boxes for your preschool and kindergarten aged children.
You can even make an eye spy game by hiding related items inside your sensory bin. The possibilities are endless.
A very special thank you to CCPRN Board Member Laurie Boucaud for this picture of her bug themed sensory bin.
Consider taking pictures of assorted items or of your sensory bin to create custom eye spy pictures to use at a later date. Simply print and laminate for a fun game that can be used again and again. This tool can be enhanced for older children by including a checklist of items to find.
Eye spy books are a great option for incorporating literacy into fun! This is an ideal activity for quiet time as well.
Eye spy bags require some sewing skills, but if you have a sewing machine equipped with a walking foot, all you need is a small piece of clear plastic vinyl, fabric, and items to hide inside. These themed bags were filled out with flower arranging beads from the dollar store.
Your children can have so much fun with these homemade toys they won’t even know they’re learning!
He recently joined us for some of our children’s events and he was a big hit with the kids.
Each event started off with reading ‘Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes’ ~ with everyone’s favourite part: Julie acting out the role of Pete!!
She placed different coloured slippers into 4 different coloured buckets, each with a different picture on it – one of strawberries, one with blueberries, another with mud and of water.
When the story began, Julie was wearing a white pair of shoes (slippers from the dollar store). As the story progressed, she would step into the buckets and slip off one pair of slippers and replace it with another. So to the children, it appeared that her slippers changed colours!
Later, the buckets were used again for another activity. The slippers were replaced with grippy footprints on the floor and the children practiced their gross motor skills by following them along and carefully stepping in and out of the buckets.
After reading the first book, we read “Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons.”
Julie made this large Pete the Cat as a prop, and held up number cards as Pete’s buttons popped off.
Then, of course, when Pete lost all of his buttons….
…he flaunted his belly button.
Some of the activities that followed story time with Pete, included:
A colour and left/right orientation shoe matching game:
Play dough mats for fine motor manipulation, pre-writing and reading skill development:
A colour-match wheel where the children matched the coloured shoes to the colours on the wheel. We added a gross motor component by placing the shoes and the wheel at opposite ends of the room so that the children would have to bend down to pick up a shoe and walk over to the wheel to place it on.
There was also a sensory bin, shoe lacing activities, and a picture match game… and the kids just thought it was “aaalll good.”
All of these activities were created as extensions to a favourite book. The learning comes naturally when you’ve got a child’s interest already! You end up with ‘planned’ curriculum instead of ‘canned’ curriculum (as described by Monique at the E.L.E.C.T. training earlier this month).
We’d love to hear about any activities you’ve developed around a treasured story.
Thanks for reading,
Halloween doesn’t have to just revolve around candy and scary things ~ it can be fun too! There are so many things you can do in your home to get the little ones ready and excited for the big day.
– If you’ve got your pumpkins picked out already, it’s time decorate them! Young ones may not be able to carve them, but they can certainly turn them into eye-catching works of art! They can have just as much fun pasting and painting them too!
… if you still prefer the glow of candles in your carved pumpkins, why not use battery operated tealights inside to set the mood.
– Dig out and dust off a few extra items from the back of your closet to add to your dress-up bin. I just know you’ve got some things in there from past decades… give them new life!
– Involve the senses: Make some goop or slime for the children to play with. Or theme your sensory bin to Halloween. Include plastic bugs, worms and skeletons, or cotton balls and ghost felts just to name a few ideas.
– Play Halloween music and maybe even have a dance party with your group! If you have a laptop or computer in your playroom, it’s easy to create a *free* playlist of Halloween songs on www.grooveshark.com (and yes they have the Original Monster Mash album in their extensive online library)!
– There is no shortage of Halloween craft ideas. Here are just a few of our own:
Children can decorate their own masks;
paper treat bags with paper, foam or felt shapes for toddlers and preschoolers;
or go one step further with fabric bags with fabric markers or paints for schoolagers.
For even more Halloween craft ideas, check out our pinterest page here.
And if you have a real sweet tooth and insist on having treats for your little ones this Halloween – have them decorate some cookies or cupcakes as an alternative that is fun to make!
Licorice, marshmallows, sprinkles and chocolate chips can jazz up any cupcake to make them festive!
Of course we all love to see our little ones dressed up in their costumes on the big day but they are often purchased with the cold weather in mind. They might be too warm to be worn indoors for long periods or they may be a couple of sizes too large to accommodate a bulky coat underneath. Consider having the kids dress in orange and black on Halloween so that they can still feel festive, even when they’re not wearing their costume.
For more info on Halloween safety check out Health Canada’s website.
Wishing you all a safe and happy Halloween!
Children as young as 18 months can begin to practice cutting with (dull) scissors.*
There are so many child-safe varieties available today to help little hands master this important skill. Some are designed for hand-over-hand assistance while others simply involve squeezing the handles closed.
Begin by cutting long strips of paper so that your child can snip pieces off.
Then you can build on this skill by incorporating it into a craft activity. A larger piece of green paper can become grass for a nature scene.
Here we’ve added die-cut bugs, but remember you’re not limited to paper – children love to cut play dough too!
Using scissors develops hand-eye coordination and strengthens hand muscles needed for other fine motor activities such as printing.
As children become more competent at cutting, you can draw lines across a page for them to follow and cut along.** Begin with a straight line, then progress to wavy or jagged lines.
Long strips can be used for weaving crafts.
Advanced cutters can cut out circular spirals or paper lanterns to be hung as decorations.
To learn more about how to help young children develop root skills – sign up for our full day workshop on the E.L.E.C.T. document. Details are available in our Sept/Oct newsletter and online here. Find the E.L.E.C.T. document here.
* ELECT (14 months – 3 yrs) 5.2 Fine Motor: Tool Use – Using toddler-safe scissors
** ELECT (2.5 – 6 yrs) 5.3 Fine Motor: Cutting paper with scissors; Cutting a straight line
Thanks for reading,
Quiet books are inexpensive to make and are amazing tools for developing your little one’s finger dexterity (or fine motor control). They give children the opportunity to practice and improve their self-help skills through activities such as lacing, buttoning, and using zippers – all without being rushed to get out the front door. Your little one’s newfound independence will prove most helpful when school starts.
This quiet book belongs to one of our members.
It was made from children’s clothes, sewn over foam core squares, and assembled with ribbon.
This one was made using ring clips. Or why not try a 3-ring binder?
The possibilities are endless.
Pinterest is a great source of inspiration if you want to create one of these books yourself. They can be as simple or as intricate as you like: machine sewn, hand-stitched or made with felt and fabric glue.
So even if you’re not a sewer, you can do this!
Thanks for reading.