Developing fine motor skills through play

Fine motor night activities

When a student starts kindergarten and has a hard time holding a pencil or printing his/her name, many of my parents are very keen and willing to help out at home in any way they know how.  They usually offer to do things like printing practice or buy workbooks and are open to any other suggestions I may have to help their child.  I often find myself repeating to parent after parent that, ironically, printing practice is often one of the least effective ways to help kindergarten students who are struggling, improve their printing.  In order to print (or draw, paint, cut, etc.) effectively, students need to have developed hand dominance as well as good muscle strength and control in their shoulders, hands and fingers.  There are many simple things parents can be do with their children to help develop these muscles.

This year in order to help our parents best help their children at home, we decided to try something new.  We held a parent and student evening workshop, by invitation only, targeting our students who were most in need of extra support and practice.  We had an amazingly positive response.

We started the evening in one classroom with the parents while their children played next door.  Parents were all given this “Developing Fine Motor Skills” handout and we discussed some of the simple things they could do at home with their children to develop hand dominance, shoulder stabilization, hand and finger strength and finally, better fine motor control.  After our short presentation, children were given a passport and were asked to complete at least 5 of the 12 stations with their parents.  Parents had the job of identifying how each of the activities they completed helped develop fine motor skills (they could refer to their handout if needed!).

Once done, students could turn in their passport for a goodie bag that was full of fine motor activities to do at home.  The pictures below show the goodie bags we created for each student.

OT Night - goodie bag      OT Night - Goodie bag 2b

At the end of the evening, students left excited by the chance they had to play with their parents at school and parents left with a better understanding of simple things they could do at home to help their child.

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Halloween crafts for early learners

I love Halloween for doing crafts with my kinders.  It seems that my boys (who are often the ones needing more exposure and practice with activities involving tracing, cutting, threading, etc.) are often very motivated and interested in practicing these skills when they involve bats, spiders or anything else Halloween.

Here are my top 5 favourite Halloween crafts for early learners (click for instructions):

#5 – Five Little Pumpkins

#4 – Pumpkin Sewing

#3 – Black Cats

#2 – Spider Webs

And my #1 favourite Halloween craft……Pop Can Bats

Do you have a different favourite Halloween craft for early learners?  If yes, please share your favourite below.

Teaching Kinders to Hold Scissors Properly

If you are like most kindergarten teachers, the beginning of the school year brought you a handful of students who are still learning to hold and use scissors properly.  If you are looking for a strategy to help them remember how to hold those scissors, try using these six cues that our OT used with my students.  I have made them into a poster with visual cues that my students are able to read independently as a reminder to themselves and each other.  (No chicken wings means keep your elbows down).

One other little trick that I sometimes use for students who are having a hard time keeping their elbows down is I have them lie down on their stomach while cutting.  As they need their elbows to support themselves, they are forced to keep their elbows down and in turn, use their helper hand to steer.

What do you do in your class to help your students learn scissor skills?  If you have another trick or idea, please share it below.

Using Scissors on Day 1 – here’s a trick to keep all those little pieces of paper off the floor

If you have ever watched little ones learn how to use scissors, you know how many little bits of paper you can end up with all over the table and floor when some of them try to cut out even the simplest of shapes.  For those of you who can’t relate, imagine taking a piece of paper and trimming the edges, a little piece at a time until you are left with the shape you want.  Now imagine trying to get all those bits from wherever they landed into the classroom recycle bin.  Not an easy feat to say the least!

One simple trick I learned from a colleague a few years back is to put mini-recycle bins on each table.  I teach my students from day 1 to put all their little scraps into these bins and they are emptied when we are all done cutting.  This simple little trick really helps make clean-up time easier.

My students use mini green recycling bins for all their paper scraps when doing cutting activities.

Our table-top recycling bins