If the Charlotte weather is keeping your kids inside, consider an obstacle course, like the one here in our gym. You don't need fancy equipment to do it. Obstacle courses are extremely fun for kids and they increase skills in: gross motor coordination, sensory processing, visual motor, sequencing, timing and even visual perceptual skills. A three year old can handle about 3 parts, while older kids (3td grade) should be able to complete 5-6 part obstacle courses.
On mine, I incorporated visual discrimination and matching with the white letters (face down) around the swing. The child had to match letters (visual discrim) of her last name while laying on the swing on her belly (core strength). She picked up the letter and propelled the swing with her arms (upper body strength) to match the letters.
If you have some cushions, pillows, and old comforters, then consider making a big crash area in your obstacle course. Kids love it and it is a great way to get some proprioception (think calming) on an indoor day.
Most of our clients come to us to improve some component of handwriting (manuscript/print/cursive) skill. Parents often question why occupational therapists work with handwriting so much.
Handwriting is a very complicated neurological and anatomical process. Usually poor or inefficient handwriting or penmanship is most often the symptom of a developmental process that is not functioning smoothly. When a well trained pediatric occupational therapist evaluates handwriting issues, they should be evaluating specific developmental areas.
Optimal handwriting skills also require fundamental skills such as:
upper body strength
visual motor integration (also known as eye hand coordination)
visual perception (vision to brain processing)
pencil grasp, finger strength and
When children participate in needed occupational therapy, the child is more successful in academic work. Often, if a child does not make quick progress through conventional academic tutoring then the student may have a developmental need, not an academic need. If your child is typically developing and has participated in handwriting tutoring by someone other than an O.T. for more than 2-3 months without great improvement---then it is likely not an academic need.
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.
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!
About the blogger: Stephanie Wick is a pediatric occupational therapist that founded and is lead O.T. at Learning Charms.
Read past Blog here