Play based learning builds emotional resilience and strength in children as well as enhances confidence. Through free choice play, children gain empathy and impulse control. Play is essential to the children’s development to build emotional strength. Therefore, lots of child-directed play is crucial, now more than ever.
Encourage parents to allow their children to play; to not feel pressured to engage their child with worksheets or technology programs thinking that they are preparing their child for school. Lots and lots of play, not worksheets and not technology games that are simply worksheets on a screen, will provide the foundation of creativity, resilience, engagement and persistence required for later academic learning.
Below if a a free download containing slides regarding the importance of play as well as some ideas and tips on play for parents. Feel free to share one a week to encourage parents to allow their children to engage in play.
Pour sand, dirt, or water from one container to another. How many small containers full of sand/water does it take to fill the big one? Can you pour it without spilling a drop?
3. Draw shapes, letters or numbers using a paintbrush and water on the garage door (large, vertical writing is great for both fine motor and gross- motor development. Tape paper on the garage wall to draw on.
4. Clean the sidewalk using a spray bottle and water.
5. Fill each section of an egg carton with dirt, make a small hole, and pinch 3 seeds to place them in the hole. Use a spray bottle filled with water to give the seeds a drink. Remember to spray the dirt and the growing plants with water each day.
Collect nuts, pebbles, and/or leaves and then sort them. How many ways can you sort the items you found?
Collect pinecones and snap off each piece. Design a picture out of them by laying them on the driveway or gluing them on paper.
Learning at Home: Fine Motor Fun with Creative Expression
Last week, we discussed avoiding worksheets and instead, engage our children in fine motor activities that will prepare them for writing the letters of the alphabet and numbers – which they will be ready for later- not now.
Earlier is not always better when it comes to handwriting and children. Parents can help provide a strong foundation for later writing by having lots of fine motor fun now.
Here are some ideas that also allow children to express their creativity…
Spray non-menthol shaving cream on a cookie pan and draw shapes and designs (add in some vocabulary words such “I noticed you just drew a line that is … horizontal, vertical, diagonal, curved, straight, wavy, etc.) Note: If you want your child to practice writing the letters in his/her name- this is a great developmentally appropriate learning tool. Ask your child to write his/her name in the shaving cream.
Allow your child to tear apart pieces of paper (old magazines, junk mail, etc.) and
make a picture of him/herself. (note: tearing is a GREAT fine motor activity since your child has to use both hands and use them in opposite directions)
3. Make a “chandelier” by weaving or tying ribbon onto an old bike wheel, an old tennis racket, chicken wire or empty picture frame.
4. Make a cotton ball picture. Pinch the cotton balls and tear them apart to make wispy clouds or designs. Read the book, It Looks Like Spilt Milk by Charles B. Shaw and make your own cloud pictures.
5. Tear tissue paper or magazines into small squares. Roll them in your fingers and glue them on paper to make a picture.
6. Cut apart paint samples and then use the pieces to design a greeting card.
7. Finger-paint or paint with a small square of a sponge (pinching the sponge between your index finger and thumb).
Using an eyedropper, squeeze one drop of colored water at a time on to a coffee filter – watch the colors mix.
YES, helping your child develop his/her fine motor skills can be fun!! Avoid the temptation to succumb to the lure of brightly colored, cute picture worksheets.
Especially when it comes to fine motor development, pushing a child too early to complete paper/pencil tasks is not better. Parents can help provide a strong foundation for later writing by having lots of fine motor fun now.
Quick, easy ideas that use household items:
Cut a small hole in the lid of an empty coffee can or oatmeal container. Decorate the container to be a monster or an animal. Cut yarn or straws into small pieces and then “feed” the monster/animal. OR cut a slit in an old tennis ball, squeeze it open and “feed” it.
Using tongs, move small items such as cotton balls, tissue, pom-poms, noodles from one container to another. OR by looking at the group of items, estimate how many each bowl will have if you share them. Place one at a time in a set amount of bowls and count how many are in each bowl.
Build a tower with cardboard toilet paper tubes, a hole punch, and straws or pipe cleaners. Make holes in the toilet paper tube and connect them with the straw.
5. Weave ribbon in and out of an old bike wheel, old tennis racquet, etc.
Match nuts and bolts and screw them together.
6. Cut letters and numbers from empty food containers. Sort them in lots of different ways. (Learning at Home: Sorting Letters and Numbers Free Download at journeyintoearlychildhood.com)
To read more about why worksheets are not the best learning tool for young learners, read my blog posts:
Reason Number Four: Worksheets do NOT develop problem-solving or critical thinking
If we want children to learn to solve problems we must create safe environments in which they feel confident taking risks, making mistakes, learning from them, and trying again (Fordham & Anderson, 1992). Worksheets do not involve critical thinking or problem-solving. Children instead develop a habit of guessing with passive thinking.
Reason Number Five: Worksheets do NOT develop Fine Motor Skills
NAEYC developmentally appropriate practices (Bredekamp and Copple, 3rd Edition) states, “Writing, drawing, and cutting with precision are activities that can be difficult for young children, who are still developing comfort and agility with fine motor work… Young children should have access to many kinds of materials and objects to help them develop and practice fine motor skills, such as small objects to sort and count and pegboards and beads to string… Pushing children too early into precise fine motor activities (as required on worksheets and color in the lines coloring sheets) is likely to be both unsuccessful and frustrating for young children and may leave them feeling incompetent and stressed.”
The clipping clothespins activity above not only accomplishes the same objective as the worksheet pictured but it also serves to strengthen students’ fine motor skills!