All preschool kids seem to love Mat Man. Mat Man helps children learn how to draw representational drawings and also how to learn to draw details . As children learn to spell and write sentences in kindergarten, knowing how to draw will help them to write more detailed sentences, as they can often refer to their drawings and then describe what they have drawn.
We used STIFF FELT and regular felt to create our mat and all shapes. I ordered my stiff felt in a big pack from walmart (because shopping in person wasn't available during Covid-19 stay at home) but it might be available at other hobby stores now. The stiff felt is also great for building in general because its so kinesthetic. It sticks to itself and the other felt pieces and can even be used as a felt board activity.
Click here to download your free pack of templates!learningcharms.ck.page/24010db0d0
If you have stumbled upon the NFL TeenyMates in the stores, you know that your elementary and middle school kids might be a little crazy about collecting them. You also know that they are expensive and take some time to collect "all" the teams. Another thing I have found out is that dogs like to chew on them and they hurt when you step on one.
If you need a reason to console yourself after buying 4 packs of TeenyMates for your child, instead of having 4 Starbucks, then here is a reason to feel better: for the young child they can be a fun sorting activity and lining them up is a nice motor coordination activity. You and your child might even learn all the NFL teams along the way, and their colors (I'm reaching here).
Avoid those choo choo pencils and jumbo crayons. Start kids with short or broken crayons and lottery sized pencils when they begin to draw. You'll see better grasps and save yourself from going to occupational therapy! #LearningCharms #OccupationalTherapy #finemotor#finemotorskills #handwriting#handwritingwithouttears#learningwithouttears #learninghowtowrite#occupationaltherapists #pediatrics#enrichmentoccupationaltherapy#OTeveryoneisdoingit #kids #children#teachingchildren #parenting#elementaryschool #manuscript#teachingkids #teaching #charlotteNC #OT#visualmotor #coordination#visualperception
This is Sweetie. Like many dogs, she hates storms. She seeks out proprioceptive input (tight spaces = tight hug) to decrease her anxiety. She also has her Thundervest on which helps too. You can decrease your child's anxiety or worry by offering opportunities for deep pressure (wheelbarrow walks, tight hug, heavy blanket, jump on trampoline, etc.). It works and their autonomic nervous system will thank you! #learningcharms #proprioception #dogs #anxiousdog #occupationaltherapy#thunderstorm #heavywork #autonomicnervoussystem @wickstephanie
Those packing forms that are all kinds of shapes have been very useful for some unique and free artwork around Learning Charms. I let the kids pick the form that they wanted and then they turned it into whatever they "saw" (visual closure). We painted them, but markers & crayons would work too. They are so lightweight that they can be hung with a string and a pushpin. Time to go recycle bin diving!
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!
I am currently helping one of my awesome elementary schools with ideas to build a sensory room/gym. A sensory room is a great resource for parents and schools to facilitate the sensory needs of a child in a safe way. In the picture above, you can see this is a pretty large sensory room. This was my gym in the first space that I leased for Learning Charms. The gym itself was a little over 1000 square feet. You can see the exposed steel beams in the ceiling which made it easy to hang swings. The owners of all the spaces I looked at thought I was crazy because the first thing I'd do was get a ladder and peep up in the ceiling -- looking for steel beams!
Below, you'll see a list and links to some must have's for your sensory room. A sensory room can be small-- you just will need to be careful and follow manufacturer's recommendations about padding and clearance. The recommendations below are for a medium sized (about a 10'x10') sensory room for kids aged 3.5 up to school aged children. The ideas below are all from Amazon and you can click and read more about the product. You can find these items all over the web, so look around and find what you need/want!
Lastly, you HAVE to supervise your child in a sensory room.
TO SWING OR NOT TO SWING?
This will depend on if you can easily tie into your ceiling for support. If you cannot, then it will depend on creating a structure that will support a swing (or buying one). A swing provides amazing amounts of proprioceptive and vestibular input, so if at all possible, get a swing system. If you don't have the ceiling support then look for swings such as below to use outdoors on a tree or existing playset.
I have a large painted on chalkboard in my OT gym (actually, I have several) and its hands down my favorite thing to use for handwriting development.
On this particular activity, I write a vertical column of letters (usually about 5-6 that the child is working on mastering identification), such as " N, M, X, O and B". I always throw in at least one letter that the child routinely recognizes. Then, I create a "code" around each of the letters. The example above shows a triangle around the M, wavy lines around the X, and so on. Then I write the letters on the left side of the board and have the child "code" each letter correctly, by using the key on the right. They should use the same color of chalk and same shape. A small sponge and spray bottle are available for mistakes and for after activity clean up.
What are some of the skills we are working on with this activity?
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!
About the blogger: Stephanie Wick is a pediatric occupational therapist that founded and is lead O.T. at Learning Charms.
Read past Blog here