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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Hurray for Learning

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Now that I have dabbled with blogging for a bit, I realize that I have many ideas to share that don’t fit my “Hurray for Play” vision.  I have decided to create a second blog, “Hurray for Learning” and from today onward, I will separate “learning through play” posts from “language learning” posts.  To check out my other blog, please go to Hurray for Learning.

Quick Tip – Time Timer, A teacher’s best friend

In one of my early years of teaching, I was given a Time Timer to use in my classroom.  I have since moved schools and had to buy my own Time Timer.  I use it so often that I sometimes wonder what I did before my Time Timer days. 

time timer 2

 

I love this timer because it shows a piece of red for the given amount of time.  As time passes, the red gets smaller.  The visual is fantastic for students.  Some of the newer Time Timers also have a buzzer that, when turned on, beeps when the time runs out .

Here are 5 ways I use my Time Timer on a daily basis:

1.  At snack time – I set the timer for 12 minutes for snack.  Students know that when the timer runs out, everyone puts away the rest of their snack.

2.  As a clean up warning – I give students a 10 minute warning for clean up time.  It gives them time to finish up what they are working on and helps them switch from something they want to be doing (playing) to something I want them to be doing (clean up).

3.  As a signal to rotate centres – If a new center is overly popular, setting the timer to let students know when it is time to switch can be helpful.  (The only time I would limit time in a centre is when it is something new so that everyone has a chance to check it out before home time).

4.  As a reminder not to rush – For students who tend to hurry through a given task to move on to something else, setting the timer for a required amount of time can remind them to slow down and do their best work.  If they finish before the timer, they need work on improving their work until the timer runs out.

5.  And to keep me on track – Any time I tell students that they have __ minutes to do something, setting the timer helps me keep my word.  Before my Time Timer days, I would often say things like  “In 5 minutes…” or “You have __ minutes to…” and while I got busy working with students, 5 minutes could easily turn to 10 or 15 minutes without me even noticing.  When I set the timer, nobody lets me lose track of time!

 

If you are looking to buy your own Time Timer, they can be ordered from places like Spectrum or Scholars Choice or can be bought directly from most “teacher stores”.

Quick Tip – Tracing letters and shapes made easy

Looking for a simple way to practice drawing basic shapes or printing letters?  Try writing it in highlighter for your child to trace.  They can see what they need to write or draw and you can see their pencil lines when they are done.

Tracing highlighter

Here’s one more highlighter tip…..use a highlighter to let students know that they have a simple correction to do.  If they reverse a letter or number or forget a capital somewhere, simply print over top of the error with highlighter.  When they go back to it, it is easy for them to see their simple mistake, erase and correct it.

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.

Shoes on the Wrong Feet? Here’s a simple fix….

Do you know someone who always puts their shoes on the wrong feet?

If this looks familiar, here is a simple trick to help your little one get their shoes on the proper feet.  With a permanent marker, draw a dot on the inside edge the sole of each shoe.  Teach your child to line the dots up before putting their shoes one.  If their shoes are on the correct feet, the dots should be able to touch.  If they can’t touch, a simple reminder like “Did you check your dots?” is usually enough to help the child figure out how to make them right.

Lining up these little dots before putting on shoes helps children get them on the proper feet.

What did I learn today? – Set of Mini-Posters

Here is set of mini-posters I created this past year to help parents understand why we make so much time to play in our classroom.  They link kindergarten outcomes (from the Alberta curriculum) with different centres we have in our classroom.  I posted it just outside our room to help parents understand how play is children’s work.

Mme Melissa