Fine Motor Skills

Monday, March 9, 2020

Fine motor skills are defined as the coordination between small muscles, like those of the hands and fingers, with the eyes. Fine motor skills involve the small muscles of the body that enable such functions as writing, grasping small objects and fastening clothing.   Your child's mastery of fine motor skills will allow them greater independence. 

These skills are so important in your child's development and anytime you can give them added practice will benefit them.  Whether you are reading this as a young mom or a preschool teacher I hope I can answer some questions you may have regarding the importance of this skill.

Why is it so important?  Fine motor skills are essential to have in place to be successful at everyday life skills.  For instance tying your shoes, holding a pencil, cutting, coloring, writing, etc.  These are all academic examples, but also brushing one's teeth, eating (cutting with a knife, using a fork) , buttoning and unbuttoning clothing and playing are all examples of when and how fine motor skills can be used in everyday life.

It's important to carve out time in your toddler's, or young child's life to build these skills up and strengthen them.  Some examples include:
*informal play time ( legos, blocks, dressing dolls,puzzles, etc. )
*coloring, gluing, painting
*touching, clapping, fingerplays
*using zippers, straps

Other ideas:
* teach your child or student how to properly perform the 'pincher grasp'. Examples:  picking up cheerios, turning knobs, switches, dials etc.

* give them opportunities to squeeze something.  That is a different sensation with the hands.  Give them a wet sponge and squeeze it over the sidewalk, also give them a paintbrush and a pail of  water.  They will have a blast painting the sidewalk and it will dry and disappear.

* teach your child finger plays...they are a lost art.  With you tube and videos and songs it seems the old nursery rhymes have gone out the window.  BUT research has shown that rhyming carries a lot of importance and is a precursor to being successful at reading.  So, look up some finger plays and get busy.  The itsy, bitsy spider is a great one to start with and here are a couple others you might like:

fine motor skills for kids

Some other ideas that are very helpful are having your student or child practice cutting or tracing things, I have some things to help you as well:

fine motor skills tracing practice

fine motor skills tracing practice

fine motor skills tracing practice

These packs are perfect for 'little hands' you can find them here:

Have fun with your child/student and make these skills fun through play and some structured practice time too.

Happy teaching!

Clever Badge

Saturday, February 29, 2020, it's hard to get away from in this day and age.  I was born in the 70's so I grew up playing outside till the street lights came on and I have amazing memories of being outside playing all day long.  

I have what you would call a LOVE/ HATE relationship with technology - I love to hate it.  Just kidding, kinda.... I tell people I could write a thesis on how technology is the downfall of families and ruining society.  But that's for another blog post...

As a teacher I have to incorporate technology even when I believe some old school ideas work better, it's frustrating at times.  I get it - there are multiple ways to use technology today and in some ways technology has made my job so much easier for sure!

My mom taught when I was growing up and she couldn't type into You Tube letter a and have an amazing, engaging video pop us that includes a song that sticks in kids heads and helps them remember letter a.  

Research comes alive nowadays because kids can virtually see an animal in their habitat live and write about what they experience as if they were right there with them.

But when admin tells me they want me to use technology ( for much of the day ) when I know full well that some of my students are going home to watch You Tube and play Fortnight unsupervised for another 4 hours I just can't do it!  I can't sleep at night knowing my students have been in front of a screen for 7 hours in a day ( my time plus their time ) NO WAY will I ever feel comfortable doing this and being okay with it.

But with all that being said, it's inevitable that they will have some screen time at school and in my 11 ish more years of teaching ahead of me there will probably be more before I retire.  UGH! 

 My district has made my students' lives even easier by providing clever - a website that allows kids to log into all their different sites and accounts with one swipe of a QR code.  Remember the...

button?!!?  Yep well it doesn't get much easier than that.  The clever site is quite popular and many districts have decided to go with so their students have easy access to the sites they log into.  I created these badges for my students a few years ago and they have been a big hit!  So, I thought I would create some that you can easily use as well.  

clever badge

This pack includes directions on how to add your own school mascot, name and QR badge.  Click here to get a closer look:  

Hope you find it helpful...
happy teaching

Starbooks Cafe Dramatic Play + more dramatic play sets

Play is such an important part of formal and informal schooling!  The benefits of playtime are many and sadly it's losing its place in school. By shortchanging 'playtime' kids are losing out on some of the following life skills:  social/emotional skills, cognitive, and even physical skills.   It's a precursor to relationships, problem solving, and so much more.  Playtime actually works on children's neurological development.  Sadly, some children are spending as little as 4 hours a week playing outdoors due to the rise of technology and increased demands on the family/ increased expectations on school aged kids performances as well.

Here are some top benefits of play for kids:
* builds their imagination
* boosts a child's brainpower
* has been found to help children cope with stress
* increases happiness
* builds language and vocabulary skills
* builds self confidence
* allows children to express their emotion
* helps children be more sociable

These are just some reasons of many to promote play time in the home or school ( although much of the latter loss is directed by increased rigorous standards, etc. )

Starbucks is a familiar landmark among people of all ages ~ I mean you can find one on practically every I right?!?!  So this scenario probably wouldn't be a stretch for your young ones to engage in I'm sure.  Offer some tips and model some ideas for them and let them go at it being creative and silly and imaginative.  

You can bring in fake food, ask Starbucks to donate some cups        ( they have done this for me in the past ).  You can purchase plastic ice cubes that look like ice at the Dollar Store.  There are lots of options, white felt can look like whipped cream too.  White pom poms could be marshmallows...the ideas are endless.  You can probably find a green apron and visor from Amazon, thrift stores   
( of course always wash first ), or maybe you have a  family member that can sew.

 Here is a peek at this fun, dramatic play center in action...

Just print, laminate and set up.
Starbooks cafe dramatic play center
They will love pretending to eat and drink as well as scan a gift card or pay for an order.

Starbooks Cafe dramatic play

Signs will help them know where to go to do what...great for following directions.

Starbooks Cafe dramatic play

Teaching your students or child how to go through the order taking process and checking off items in their inventory would be fun and engaging for them.  

Starbooks Cafe dramatic play
AND just ADDED to my STORE:  BULLSEYE Dramatic Play Center ....same fun idea but shopping.  Who doesn't love shopping and coffee?!?!

Target shopping dramatic play center

Target shopping dramatic play center

Target shopping dramatic play center

Target shopping dramatic play center

If you are interested in having this play center for your home daycare, preschool or kindergarten you can grab it here:  

Here are a few more sets I've completed for your young explorers.

Turning your classroom into a detective/police play area has lots of fun options for oral language and creativity!

This play set is probably the easiest low prep/high yield set to use in your home or classroom.  Most of you already have lots of books, stuffed animals, puzzles etc at home to easily convert your fun area into a bookstore.  You're all set with this pack and some books and things you already have on hand for fun learning and exploring and role playing to happen.

Bring in a tent and create a fake campfire with art supplies and you are all ready along with the printables included in this pack to have an engaging center for your little campers.

For more fun ideas follow me on my social media by clicking the icons at the top of my page here.

Happy playtime for your little ones,

Sensory Bins

Thursday, February 6, 2020

I have ALWAYS wanted to teach kindergarten!  In fact, when I wrote my final paper for my credential it was all about my 'dream job' of being a kindergarten teacher.  25 years in, guess what!?!  I have NEVER taught kindergarten.  

I think I was so drawn to it because before I started my credential program and after college I had a preschool job teaching 4 year olds.  Oh my goodness y'all they were the most precious things ever!  It was that job that made this girl - BA in Psychology turn to teaching and go after her credential and masters in education.

My new position has me teaching 20 ish minutes of intervention for  kindergartners 3x's a week and I LOVE it!  I mean, ok, ok, let's be real.  I have ummm 6 kids in a small group in the hallway.  I don't have 20+ something kids that I have to corral and teach and do all the things with so I'm not really even close to the same playing field as my hard working, dedicated k teachers.  BUT, I still LOVE my time with them so much.  It's the highlight of my day for real.

sensory bin options

I have discovered sensory bins and bags and lots and lots of hands on stuff that I have fallen in love with and use all time.  It certainly helps that this little intervention group is super appreciative of anything I bring and begs for more time with me.  But the creative side of me is dying with happiness to work with them and create fun, engaging things for them to do.

I wanted to share some ideas you can do to create sight word bins AND they don't have to be #pinterestperfect ~ ~ I promise you will still get #allthelove.

I started with large containers - and large tupperware pieces to create my bins.   As I started to create multiple bins and running out of space I came to the realization that you can use just about anything with 5 year olds.  In fact - today I used my daughter's shoe box!  Yep, and they didn't even notice or care that it wasn't anything fancier.  So, save some money and save old shoe boxes.  If possible save shoe boxes, label them and keep the same monthly pieces in them so you can just pull them out next year and not have to move, re create or re do any.  #ideal

Also here's a list I created of all the things you can easily include in a sensory bin that you may or may not already have available in your home.

sensory bin winter ideas

sensory bin winter ideas

Valentines sight word sensory bin

*tissue paper for gift bags cut up
* rice ( even better if you dye it with vinegar and food coloring )
* beans
* cut up straws
* Easter grass
* gift filler ( shredded paper )
* beads
* buttons
* popcorn kernels
* pom poms
* cotton balls
* pasta
* styro foam shapes
* birdseed
* pet store fish rocks
* buttons
* water beads 
* craft beads
* split peas
* cornmeal
* coffee grinds
* oats ( which can actually be dyed )
* marbles
* leaves
* shells
* feathers
* packing peanuts
* chickpeas ( can be dyed )
* shredded coconut ( can by dyed )

*** WARNING ***  Many of these items are considered choking hazards.  Please keep your child or students supervised at all times if setting up a sensory bin.

Just add in some sight word flash cards, letters on seasonal shapes to spell out sight words or even cvc words you want them to read/blend.

I have had great success with using several of these items to create engaging bins that they dig through, or use tongs with etc. to hunt for letters or sight words.  Just remember if it's tactile and engaging A) they will  be more motivated to participate
B) often times engaging multiple senses will help things 'stick' for those kids that need to use multiple modalities when learning and exploring.

Have fun trying out new items and if I missed one that you love to use drop it in the comments below so we can all benefit from it.
Happy teaching... 

Small Group Engagement Made Easy

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Engaging ALL of your small group students - ALL of the time.  Sounds a bit daunting right?!?!  Especially if you are herding cats working with kindergartners - I mean.
Well I have found there are ways to keep all your students engaged even if you are playing a game and it's not their turn.  Yep, it's possible friends and the conversations that were happening at my small group table throughout the game made my heart so happy!  Things like:  "I remember how to spell that word without even looking at the fly it was a spelling word last week."  OR 
" Wait, I know that first part it's an 'h' brother. " etc.  I love when they recognize word patterns, chunks, etc. in their reading or spelling.

student engagement with sight words

We started out by playing our fly swat the sight word game.  
At first glance, kids have to take turns swatting sight words with a swatter and reading them.  
What are the other kids doing?!?!  Well,  when we play this game first we roll the die!  I know, I know it sounds strange - it's not a board game but for real.  
Child A - rolls the die.  They swat words in front of them on a plaid placemat of course that many times as they read them aloud.  Next, that child spells the word(s) out with their magnetic letters and then they write the word(s) on their white board.  Not only does this take #allthetime until their next turn but it gives them a multisensory experience with their sight words : 
visually~ seeing them, 
auditory ~ saying/hearing them, kinesthetic ~ spelling them out with magnetic letters OR you can use my squishy bags or salt boxes even.  Then lastly writing them...see the secret here, all this takes a while.  They are staying engaged by doing these, focusing on the sight words they read and while they are waiting for their turn they are so BUSY doing the other things their turn comes up again quite quickly.  

sight word game ideas

sight word game ideas

If you don't have a die like this you can also use a sand timer and see how many they can swat and say before the sand timer runs out.  Also I like the die because with the write on numbers I can control the numbers on there.  If I stick to smaller numbers it's not as overwhelming as it would be if they had to swat, say, build and or write 5 or 6 words as they would on a regular set of dice. 

sight word game ideas

We do it with several of our sight word games/activities.  Here they are picking snowflakes out of a winter sensory bin and after they pull one out and say it I had them write it 3 times.  They are proud to say and write it, it reinforces the word and again it takes time so they are engaged and before they know it - it's their turn again. 

sight word game ideas

I love these sight word sensory bins because they also put a focus on fine motor skills.  I was surprised at how much trouble some of my students had with working the tongs to grab a sight word snowflake. This activity is working so many things at once developmentally for them. 

sight word sensory bin

I hope these ideas can be used in your classroom, just a write on die ( from Dollar Tree ) some tongs, a sand timer, white board and magnetic letters can make your time more efficient and engaging for your littles with games you may already have in your classroom!

Happy teaching!

Multi sensory Bags

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

I'm always trying to think of ways to reach kiddos ( like all of you I'm sure ) otherwise you wouldn't even be reading this right now.  So since I'm now a literacy specialist and working with K - 3 on all things literacy I've tried to think outside the box on what might be beneficial to my youngest learners.

multi sensory bags

I work with kinders on letters, sounds and sight words and know that many of them benefit from a multi sensory approach.  So with that being said, I decided to make some squishy bags that honestly could double as a  calm down kit activity.
This is how I made them, super easy and you probably have most of the items right in your cabinet as I write this.
ziplock sandwich baggies or gallon size bags
food coloring
hair gel

I squirted about 1/3 cup of hair gel into the baggies, added approx. 4 drops of food coloring and several pinches of glitter.  Whala: you just created a bit of magic to a 5 year old.
I just spread all the ingredients around in the baggie and that's it.
For extra precaution you could add duct tape.  I did go over the ziplock top with duct tape to better secure the bags.   You never know when you are going to come across an over zealous kidddo that squeezes just a tad too hard.

squishy bag for multisensory learning

So, it's that easy and cheap...most of these materials you may even have at home or school.  My littles ask all the time if they can use these bags to write their sight words.  It's a great motivator for those reluctant kiddos you have and can double as a calm down activity.  #winning

Let me know if you try this out. Happy teaching my friends!

5 Sight Word Games to Try Right Away

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Sight words....they can be so, well....boring!  Drill & Kill can drive anyone CRAZY!!!  I've always tried ( very hard ) to think outside the box when it comes to sight words and making learning them #moreengaging.  I've included some sight word game ideas I've used over the years that have been popular and engaging for my students that I hope you can find easily implementable --- haha I made up a word there just for you!  Actually it's a legit word #gofigure
Crocodile Chomp
One super fun, super engaging beloved activity involves a toy that runs under $10 - for reals people.  Well worth the investment I'd say.
It's the crocodile toy that looks like this:
click here for link:
alligator sight word game
(amazon affiliate link included)
This toy is soo much fun for the kids - here's how it works, parent helpers show a small group sight words - when a child gets the word correct they push down on a tooth, continue until a child pushes down on a tooth the alligator CHOMPS down on their finger.  It doesn't hurt - the kids laugh and laugh!
I'll have a side of McFries with that!

sight word french fries

This activity gets the kids all silly and hungry.  It costs almost nothing to make:  yellow sponges: $1 Dollar Tree, tongs: $1 Dollar Tree, red construction paper + 10 year old origami kid on you tube = perfect french fry holder for center.
  Have students take turns picking a fry out of the container with tongs ( doubles as fine motor practice ) , then they need to read the sight word and write it down on their white boards.

** NOTE** I used a large piece of red construction paper to create a bigger box to hold more sight word french fries. **
Hulk/Hammer fist pound
This is an all time favorite and my students ask and ask if they can use the hammer or hulk fist.  I've shared this idea before but it bears sharing again for any who missed it.  I purchased this fist on amazon - it was a great investment but if you don't want to pay that much the hammers are a much better deal:

fist pound sight words
(amazon affiliate link included)

hulk fist: 
Pack of 12 hammers:

There are several variations of this game...
a)  spread out flash cards word facing up and have them take turns punching the word of their choice/saying it at the same time.  They collect the word they say.
b) spread out flashcards facing down they fist punch any word, flip it over and if they can read it quick as a snap they can keep the card.
c) set a sand timer and have them fist punch or hit with hammer any and all while saying them before sand timer runs out.  They can compete with themselves or timer to see how many they get and try to beat the number next time.  Below is a sample with the inflatable hammers, you can use letter recognition, sight words, etc. for this idea.

hammer out sight words

Vroom, Vroom
sight word race cars
It's time to dig through your little brother's old box of matchbox cars from the 80's/90's or your own child's box in the garage.  They can be put to good use with this game!
 I came across this game first on you tube from my friend  Susan but I have modified it just a tad.  You can use matchbox cars for this - trucks work best for the first game and any race car will work for the 2nd game.  
1st game:  place a unifex cube in a truck with a sight word on it, have child load up the 'cargo' and say the word.  Then they will drive around the truck to the matching sight word and take out the cargo and place it on top of the sight word to match it.  You can also do this with math problems ( answer on 'cargo' number sentence on map ) etc.
2nd game:  have child choose a car and flip the sand timer over.  They have to zoom around the track as fast as they can.  When they go over a sight word they need to say it quick as a snap.  Say as many and drive over as many as you can before the sand timer runs out. 

Flip it, Swat it

flip it, swat it sight words
( amazon affiliate )

Optional Talking Fly Swatter: Says things like "Gotcha!", "We got it!" "Smack that!" etc.  This just adds an element to the fun.

Regular Fly Swatters: 10 for $6.93

This game is an oldie but a goodie, I'm sure most of you have seen this game floating around pinterest for years.  There are a couple variations I'd like to share with you to spice it up a bit.
1) spread out the flies or eggs and flip over a sand timer.  See how many the kids can swat or flip and SAY in that time before it runs out.  They race the clock and have fun with this.
2) Use a cube or spinner - I have one here:
and have them say the words in the voice that they land on: for instance read the words like a pirate, or a cowboy, etc.  This gets them super motivated as well.
ALSO:  It's more fun to put the eggs on a cookie sheet and the flies on what looks like picnic place mats to make it more fun for them. I purchased red plaid tissue paper from CVS and put them in sheet protectors but you could cut up a vinyl table cloth or use place mats too.

Another fun game I came across on Instagram - gotta love the gram.  I tweaked it just a bit only because I didn't have the wind up toy. That's what I love about these games they can be easily tweaked and still work.
I didn't have a wind up toy so I just used a squishy toy and the kids tossed the toy across the 'sea' of sight words written on paper pumpkins.  They read the word or letter it landed on.

sight word game

You could use a wind up snowman: 
Spread out sight words on snowflakes and twist the wind up toy to walk across the snowflakes whichever one it lands on the student has to read that sight word.  
Chattering teeth would be fun too:

Hope you enjoy these ideas, for more fun ideas follow me on instagram