The best way to work on letter identification is through sensory- motor based learning. What I mean, is that when we crawl, hear hop, look, stretch, run, feel, climb, touch, and push, the brain is at an optimal state for learning and retention.
In this activity, we were working on upper case letters (remember that its best to teach letter identification for uppercase then lowercase letters). We had been working on the Frog Jump Capitals (Handwriting Without Tears) and so I took 4 of the ones the child new and added the next two. The letters were written on one of the foam shapes and then scattered upsidedown in the gym. The letters were also written on the chalkboard. I wrote several on the chalkboard that were not hiding so that it increased the visual discrimination work that was demanded. Then I called out the letter that the pirates were looking for (I was the pirate and the child was the pirate on the treasure hunt) and he then had to follow the path (steps/foam blocks) to retrieve only the letter that was called out. Since the letters were written on the chalkboard out of sight from where the letters were hidden, the child had to rely on auditory memory and visual memory. The child then brought back the foam letter to the chalkboard and squeezed the clothespin to place it above the stimulus letter. The game could easily be modified for any level of difficulty. Fun!
When you come into my occupational therapy studio or classroom, you'll find that several of the tables are coffee table height and without chairs. This seems to puzzle the kids I work with.
So, why no chairs? Well, I found out that little kids really have a hard time sitting in chairs. They fall out of the chairs, they wiggle in the chairs, they rock them back and forth..they do anything but stay in chairs. Kids don't want to sit ! They need to move. While we are working on fine motor or handwriting, we sit at my "kneeling tables". While working, the kids have the freedom for movement AND for working on trunk stability and core strength via long kneeling.
I always urge my pre-k and elememtary school teachers to use kneeling tables and any that have used it say the kids love it! Of course, it can be tiring, however, with 10 minutes a day (during a functional fine motor, art, or handwriting activity), kids can really benefit. From an O.T. perspective, this kneeling strategy not only improves trunk stability, balance and oculomotor skills but also can help with attentional skills. This is because the movement (and dynamic balance required) wil help give the sensorimotor centers of the brain input which in turn, generates better attention.
So, bring out the kneeling tables and see better developmental and attention skills!
I've seen where others used these stamps with play dough ( on Pinterest) but my Play Dough had tried out so I was happy to see that they work great with Magnetic Sand! I am always happy to find interesting ways to have my kiddos practice letter identification and handwriting.
I love that you can imprint a line (using a pencil edge or ruler) and have kids practice "writing" their words right on the line. This is a fun way to practice alignment.
How fun that this company also make lower case letters. I'll be making that purchase soon. Happy stamping.
Once a child has learned to identify uppercase letters, then its a good time to start learning how to "build" them . Its best to build the letters before actually writing them, because the building helps children remember the strokes needed and the large muscle movement is great because it helps them to integrate what they have learned. I used this simple activity with a child that was also working on core and upper body strength. He brought along a favorite stuffed animal, so I gladly let the doggie play too.
Platform swing or a therapy ball will work well too
Various wooden shapes (or make your own) from Handwriting Without Tears
Building Mat (in orange here, which is a 9.5x11 foam with smiley face in upper left corner)
Uppercase letter card (or if you child knows the strokes, then you can call out to them)
I spread out the shapes and he worked on finding and building each uppercase letter one at a time. I put some shapes further away so he'd have to pull and crawl to retrieve the shape (therefore using core and upper body strength).
Once he found the shapes needed, he built the letter on the mat beside the stimulus. You can modify the activity to be more or less challenging. For example: to make it harder, you could take away the stimulus cards and ask child to find a "big line and a big curve" and then see if they can make a letter with it (D).
Mini Charmer's Class:
All of this to make a cool ice cream cone! I would say this was one of the kids' top 5 art activities all year long. I think they would have played in this mixture of shaving cream, paint, and school glue, all day long!
They first cut out and glued on their waffle cones to paper. Then, they used droppers to add colors of their choice to the shaving cream.
Our children in the Mini Charmer's Preschool class had a great time with this glue and salt art activity. I love this multi-sensory activity, but not as much as the kids do! First, they squeeze glue into any shape onto card stock paper. Then they cover the glue with salt. The grown ups shake off the extra salt and then the children use droppers to drop paint (we use water and food coloring) onto the salt. The color "drives" up the salt path, which is fun to watch.
Our gym activity was a new "treasure hunt" game. The kids were divided into 3 teams. Each team had to find the same number of cones, gingerbread mean and round shapes. These items were hiding in the gym. It was fun to watch the kids count (they had to have the exact number of each item to win), to see who ended up to be the "counter", the item seekers, and the mediators.
Yesterday, our Mini Charmer's class enjoyed our rice tubs that had letter stickers "hiding" in them. The kids were instructed to find and then match letters (building a letter team) on the wall. The boys liked counting and keeping current stats. The "W" team ended up winning with the most! This activity helps with letter recognition (visual discrimination), sensory processing, pre-handwriting, fine motor dexterity and team work.
On the other center, kids were instructed to pick out a stencil and use 2-3 marker colors to create the design on a coffee filter. Once done, we put the filter over a white piece of construction paper. The kids then used a spray bottle to squirt about 5 squirts on the design. The colors bleed together to make a cool design. Kids will lift the coffee filters this coming week to see what kind of design it made on the construction paper. This activity helps with pencil grasp, non-dominant stabilization, truck stability, finger/hand strength, and sensory exploration.
Our weekly "Mini Charmers" preschool class gets to play with lots of messy sensory activities that encourage handwriting preparation. Yep, thats right. Work on handwriting without doing handwriting. In the studio, we had a few centers going at once.
Our first center was the cornstarch tubs. Lots of gooey cornstarch, mixed with water, washable paint and small things thrown in. Kids were Encouraged to find and pull out everything they could find-- from frogs to tiny perler beads. The cornstarch is resistive, so this works the finger muscles. The activity also encourages tactile processing as children have to distinguish between textures.
Another preparatory center was our "N" and "M" activity. They cut the big lines out of magazines and placed them on the construction paper. Building letters is a great reinforcer for visual memory of letters and for the stroke too. We use Handwriting Without Tears curriculum so there are lots of building and writing inside of boxes and with consistent language.
In another center were our clothespin activities. Miss. Kelly and the OT students made these foam sea creatures, etc, a few minutes before class. Kids loved adding legs and candles!
Then, we always have our group direct handwriting instruction for our letters of the week. These kids are laying on their stomachs as it increases core strength and helps their forearms and hands be in the correct position. You can see that these 4 years olds are writing their letters very well and independently. These are some bright Charlotte kids!
Our occupational therapists enjoy working with kids and making therapy fun. if your child is learning to recognize letters, up the challenge by offering letters turned this way and that in a bowl of non-letters. This challenge in picture actually uses water beads, which is a sensory experience in itself. The specific goal here is to increase visual discrimination (meaning, can the child recognize the upper case letter if it is turned a different way?). Once they find the letter, have them place on a line and see if they can orient in the right direction and perhaps spell out their name or another word. Have fun!
Have you seen our new rock wall? Each child that comes for OT or handwriting tutoring gets the opportunity to climb our rock wall. Traversing a rock wall helps to increase upper and lower body (including finger) strength, core strength, planning, and bilateral use. You may find pirates, frogs or lizards "hiding" on the rocks. Fine them and find a spot for them in our tree! Say "yea" is O.T. is fun!!
About the blogger: Stephanie Wick is a pediatric occupational therapist that founded and is lead O.T. at Learning Charms.
Read past Blog here