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).
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.
I love this stuff. Way back, us therapists had to order blah putty from rehab suppliers and although it worked, it was just, blah. Crazy Aaron has a variety of putty and kids love it. Adults love it. Other than being fun, and a tactile experience, what do therapists use it for?
Most of my kiddos I see at Learning Charms need hand and finger strengthening and tendon excursion. These things are necessary for proper fine motor skills (think handwriting and arts).
Often I use it initially for preschoolers who are not exhibiting a functional crayon grasp, such as in the picture here. In this picture, this little girl is using a whole hand grasp for drawing. She also has difficulty with buttoning, cutting and manipulating small items.
There seems to be lots of questions each year about what is on the CAIS (Charlotte Area Independent Schools) tests for pre-schoolers. First of all, not all private schools participate in CAIS testing. The private schools that do require it (as of today) are:
Charlotte Christian School
Charlotte Country Day School
Charlotte Latin School
Charlotte Preparatory School
Providence Day School and
Trinity Episcopal School
The CAIS test looks at kindergarten readiness in a variety of areas. The CAIS testing for preschool students are administered by a licensed psychologist that is on the CAIS approved list. For the 2014-15 school year, there are 10 psychologists that can administer testing, including: Melanie Powell, Frank Gaskill (Southeast Psych) and Trey Ishee (Southeast Psych).
The assessment is the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI-IV). Here are some of the areas it tests:
Often, we get occupational therapy referrals from these CAIS tests. The psychologists will note a deficit in an area that needs improvement and suggest O.T. prior to entrance to kindergarten. Really good psychologists will also note children who need to work on their pencil grasp, handwriting, motor skills and processing speed. Sometimes a referral is made to a speech therapist if verbal areas need improvement.
There are times when a child will get "conditional" acceptance to a school based on the criteria that a child makes improvement in a needed area. Schools may even ask for a written progress report from speech or occupational therapy to demonstrate adequate progress and parental involvement.
Pencil grasp questions are common with parents so I will try and provide some thoughts on the matter. There are lots of components that go into handwriting competence (see my previous blog on handwriting ), but the most obvious one is grasp.
How do grasps develop? Children learn to grasp objects from the time that they shake a rattle. Development begins at the core (proximal) and develops outward (distally). So, if you don't have good core you may have difficulty with handwriting. Efficient handwriting uses the small, intrinsic muscles of the hand. These intrinsic muscles are designed for dexterity, not strength. The muscles on the side of your thumb are your movers and the ones near your pinky finger are your stabilizers. A proper grasp ensures that handwriting is being produced by these small muscles so that there is a precise between movement and stabilization.
How are our toys changing grasps? Kids learn proper grasp patterns by playing with fine motor toys, finger foods, and coloring. This develops and refines over time. However, as toys change, so do fine motor exposure. Small pieces in toys have long since been replace with big pieces due to choking hazards. Thus, a reduction in exposure to small toys/parts requiring dexterity.
What does a proper / functional grasp look like? A functional grasp is one that allows the little muscles of the hand to work, not the big one. There are 3 optimal grasps: Dynamic Tripod, Modified Quadrupod, and the Adapted Tripod Grasp.
What does an inefficient grasp look like? A child should start developing an efficient grasp by their fifth birthday or within that year. Most inefficient grasps are developed, not only from lack of proper fine motor toys/experiences, but also from writing /drawing with large or heavy markers and pencils, along with just writing too early (before the hand has fully developed). This creates habits which can be hard to break. Here are some pics of INEFFICIENT GRASPS:
How can I improve my child's grasp?
Around the age of 3, I recommend using crayons that have been broken down to no more than 1" long. If your child still tends to put everything in the mouth, then you'll want to either supervise or wait until they have kicked the habit. For girls, DO NOT, I say, DO NOT break them in front of them as their heart may break! For boys, they will enjoy it and will likely help you in breaking the rest of the crayons in the house. :--)
Activities that strengthen grasp are:
2) spray bottles
3)picking up coins and putting into piggy bank
4) hiding and seeking beads/coins in theraputty or in PlayDough
5) stringing beads (start with large and go smaller as child improves)
6) craft projects with scissors, stampers, hole punchers, etc
7) allow child the time to get dressed fully by him/herself
8) if you need more ideas, go Google crazy! There are tons of great posts by O.T.s and teacher
My child doesn't have a good grasp, but the handwriting is fine. Should I worry?
If your child is past 1st grade them changing grasp is quite difficult. Having an inefficient grasp will not make your child lose vocational ability. For the most part, an inefficient grasp may cause issues as the demands of amount and speed of handwriting increase (think middle school). Your child may complain of : hand fatigue, arm fatigue, not keeping up with note taking, and sometimes a callous on the middle or ring finger. Cursive may be more difficult to execute because it requires more precision and flow. If the student is past 1st grade, I simply show him/her some options for a grasp (such as the adapted tripod below) and explain why and what they can do when their hand hurts from writing.
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.
About the blogger: Stephanie Wick is a pediatric occupational therapist that founded and is lead O.T. at Learning Charms.
Read past Blog here