Create Your Own Race Track…fine motor play with Wikki Stix

We had a ton of fun with this activity this past week.
Have you played with Wikki Stix (also called Bendaroos…) This set came in a book that Big Sister had, but Wikki Sticks are widely used by OT’s working on handwriting, line awareness, fine motor skills…
We used them for a little fine motor play, visual perceptual skills, and most importantly, fun play with some matchbox cars!
We lined them up on our dining room floor and made a super fun race track for Little Guy’s cars.  Pressing the sticky stings together requires a little pinch of fine motor strength, so this is excellent for working the little muscles in little hands.
Matching up the ends correctly, and creating two parallel lines is perfect for visual perceptual skills and line awareness.  Both of these skills are vital for letter placement in handwriting.
We had SO much fun making roads, gates, and even a little parking lot.
We will definitely be playing racetrack again…soon!

Share It Saturday #17 and Our Week-In-Review…

The weekend’s here!
We’ve had a busy week with lots of fun play activities:
A few sensory bins…
A little time at the library, and a LOT of time outside:
And a bunch of little Pirate Party details for a nephew’s birthday party happening this weekend…

Share It Saturday!
Our Features:

Our Featured Posts this week are all about BUGS! Our own kids are crazy for worms, ants, butterflies, slugs, spiders…anything that creeps, crawls, or flies!  If we are outside, they are looking for bugs and will hold them, name them, and mostly gross us Moms out 🙂
These featured posts have one thing in common: Fun, creative, and educational play all with one theme… BUGS!  I know our kids will love doing these activities.  Click around and check out the fun ideas our featured bloggers share.  You will not regret it 🙂
Learning and Growing the Piwi Way shares bug themed counting and matching games.
For the Children shows us lots of activities all about worms, snails, and slugs!
The Measured Mom presents LOADS of Ladybug math worksheets.
Preschool Powol Packets shares ladybug math activities.
B-Inspired Mama presents a fun Ladybug counting set by the lovely blogger, Twodaloo!
Crafts N Things for Children made a cute bumblebee craft.
House of Burke shows us a cute buggy sensory bottle. Perfect for baby, toddler, and up!
Little Bins for Little Hands shares a fun bug sensory bin and activities.


Counting Nature

This was a fun play activity that we did one day this week. Simple. Nature…and a little fun Learning.

I wrote numbers 1-12 on the bottom of this candy mold. (I wrote on the bottom and with a sharpie, so I had to write it backwards for it to show correctly. But, just in case it didn’t wash off, I wanted it to be on the bottom and not in the little molds.)

We went for a loooong walk in the woods and around our neighborhood and gathered little items, filling each of the sections with the correct number of items.

One-to-one correspondence, numbers, nature exploration, and just plain old having fun being outdoors…It was a great day!

In-Hand Manipulation ~ 2 fine motor play ideas

In-hand manipulation

is the ability to move small objects around in your hand without using the other hand to help. There are three parts to In-hand manipulation…translation, shift, and rotation.
Translation is using your fingers to moving a little item from your palm to your finger tips (or your fingertips to squirrel the item into the palm). When you hold a coin in your palm and manipulate it to your finger tips to push it into a piggy bank or vending machine, you are demonstrating palm-to-finger translation.   
Shift is moving an object using the pads of your fingers…adjusting the pencil grip is demonstrating finger shift.  Another example might be manipulating a button or a zipper with the finger tips.
Rotation is rolling an object using the fingertips.  Examples of rotation are rolling a pencil in your fingertips, turning a pencil over to use the eraser, or opening a bottle top by rotating the lid on your finger tips.
In-Hand Manipulation is a high level fine motor skill and essential for activities like handwriting, buttons, snaps, zippers, cutting, and play.
If a child has difficulty with any three aspects of in-hand manipulation, you might see them struggling to perform these tasks, use two hands to do an activity or skill that normally would use just one, appear clumsy.  You may see them unnecessarily stabilize their arms against their chests and do a task very close to their bodies.
We have done two different (and FUN) play activities recently that work on in-hand manipulation.  This first one used our bin of water beads. 
I put an empty two liter bottle in the bin and the kids went crazy popping the water beads into the opening.  You can see Little Guy’s hand full of water beads in one of the pictures below.  He was able to hold the water beads in the palm of his hand and move them to the fingertips.  He used palm-to-finger in-hand manipulation skills to maneuver the water beads into the opening of the bottle.
Baby Girl had a lot of fun doing this activity too.
We’ve been playing with another activity recently that really works the in-hand manipulation skills.  We brought an empty grated cheese shaker bottle into our corn bin.  Big Sister held a handful of corn kernels in her palm and would place them, one by one, into the holes of the lid.  
Have your child pick up the kernels one at a time and squirrel them away in their hand before pushing them into the holes of the container.  This would be a one way to encourage finger-to-palm translation.
This is also a great activity for encouraging a tip to tip neat pincer grasp. (A Neat Pincer grasp is important for advanced fine motor dexterity like picking up very small objects from a table surface…very small beads, a strait pin, etc…)
You could also encourage tripod grasp if you presented it with a little larger items, like small crafting pom poms, cut bits of straws, little pieces of pipe cleaners…the possibilities are endless!

What are some other ways that you can encourage in-hand manipulation? 

Push coins into a piggy bank (encourage your child to hold several coins in their palm as they push the coins in)
Push buttons into a slot cut in a plastic tub
Pick up beads and encourage your child to hold them in their palm as they pick up more.
Lite Brite with several colored pegs in the child’s hand
Games with small chips
Pegboards with small pegs
Twisting lids on/off water bottles

Purple (waterbead) Sensory Bin

This was a fun and easy little sensory bin to put together.  Someone (cough, Big Sister, cough) threw some bath water colors into the bin of blue water beads we had out.  They absorbed the color reeeeally fast.  And are VERY vivid in their new purple hue.
I found a few purple bracelets and cookie cutters, and a few other purple things, and voila!
Purple Sensory Bin fun!
I’m not sure why, but every time we do water bead or corn bin sensory play, Little Guy goes into the kitchen and grabs my whisk and whatever other utensils look right.  So, now Baby Girl does the same thing.  I guess it’s just fun to mix and stir when you’re playing with a sensory bin!
Have you done a water bead sensory bin?  Link up in the comments…we would love to see it!

How to Create a Recycled-materials Craft Bin (Happy Earth Day!)

Use materials from the recycle bin to make a recycled-materials craft bin for crafting and play.

We have been known to come up with crafts, activities, learning experiences on the cheap…using free, recycled, or repurposed materials.
This craft bin sits in our basement with the crafting stuff and

is always ready to go for art projects whenever the moment strikes.  It is easy to keep stuff with the idea that “Hey, we can make something with this…” and easily slide into hoarder territory.  Here’s how to create a recycled-materials craft bin and not end up on a reality show.

 Grab a box or bin and watch your trash.  Before you toss something into the recycle bin or garbage, consider the crafting possibilities.  A great craft bin has lots of different types of materials, colors, and textures.
Cut a couple of cereal boxes on a slant to store bigger things.
We use the cereal box storage containers to hold waxed paper from cereal liners, grocery store paper bags, a couple of cardboard tubes, and one colorful magazine.
When the cereal box is full, stop saving.  No need to overwhelm yourself with too much stuff.
Smaller cardboard boxes can be put into the bin to contain little items like plastic lids, empty water bottles, anything that can be used in a craft.
We use an old check box to hold crayons, glue, and scissors.
The whole craft bin is ready to go, easy to manage, and not taking over your basement.  Take it outside for something different!
We started our Earth Day with some recycled crafting. Here’s what we came up with:

Fun, free, creative and open-ended art work.  Process-based art at it’s finest!

You also might be interested in some other fun recycled projects that we have done:
Recycle Bin Project
Process Vs. Product Focused Play
Earth Day Recycle Bin Craft

Share It Saturday #16 and our Week-In-Review

Our Week-In-Review… 
Whew, what a week this has been!  We have been keeping it simple. 
…throwing sticks in the lake on a beautiful spring day…
…a little sensory bin fun…

…starting potty training with my 18 month old “Baby” Girl.  We’re stocked up on paper towels and carpet cleaner!
…and TONS of outside play, nature walks, and just loving the warmer weather!
We found this pin on Pinterest and pinned to our Inspiration board.   I’ve always loved this verse.  I think it’s especially important to remember with the recent events of this week in Boston.  (link to this image can be found on our Pinterest board)

Share It Saturday brought us lots of great ideas to choose from.  We decided to go with the theme of our week and feature posts that help us to keep it SIMPLE.  These posts give us great ideas on how to simplify everything from the house to play to learning, and even marriage…life!  Moms are so great at multi-tasking most times during the day but sometimes life with kids can get just…bonkers!  This crazy messed-up world has so many terrors out there.  It is down-right scary bringing up kids today.  How can we make life in our homes simple and easy?  Our featured bloggers share a few ideas.  These lovely ladies share some wonderful ideas.  I know we will be trying a few of their tips!

We Got Our Hands Full shows us how she Tames the Toys in five minutes.  Sometimes, the TOYS and clutter only add to the craziness at home.
Great Tastes Tuesdays shares 58 easy (and free!) ways to make marriage amazing.  A little effort in this department=happy house!
The Pinay Homeschooler has put together a collection simple activities for introducing math to toddlers and preschoolers. 
Ducks ‘N A Row has some great tips for getting your child organized.
Buggy and Buddy set up a create box for simple crafts.  Recycled materials in a box are ready to go for crafting when the moment strikes (we’ve been working on a similar post…watch for our craft box ideas, coming soon!)
Nannypology shows us her take on Lazy Day Art Projects.  Simple and fun.
Coffee With Us 3 has 5 Fast clean up games to get those kids helping to clean-up their toys.

Magnetic Letters on the Garage Door

We have a bin of magnetic letters that we’ve been playing with for years.  Packs of these magnetic alphabets are everywhere; You can find them at the dollar store and so many other stores.  I have pulled this bin out so many times for play.  Each child has loved to sort, dump the bin out, place all over the fridge, and more.  The big kids are spelling their name and words.  We’ve used these letters in all kinds of sensory bins…even molded into Jello for messy sensory play!
Last week, we took the bin of letters outside and found the BIGGEST magnetic board EVER!

Big Sister is learning to spell and read some words and found the letters for a few words she knows.  Little Guy is a big fan of spelling “stop” at every stop sign we come to on the road.  So, he found the letters to that word.
((He also has the recent …funny…habit of spelling “YES” or “NO” instead of saying the actual word when you ask him a yes/no question.))  SO funny, and SO him!

Movement and Learning in Letter Identification and Spelling

There is a lot of research out there showing that incorporating movement into learning helps with so many aspects of cognition.  Kathryn at Movement and Learning shares a great collection of research.
We played a little game to sort out the letters to a word that both of them knew really well.  I wanted to encourage self-confidence by starting with a word they know.  I put one of each of the letters of “stop” in different areas of the garage.  Little Guy (who is learning letter identification) looked in the pile of letters on the ground and found an “S” and put it with the rest of the “S’s”.  Then he found a “T” and put it with the rest of the “T’s”.  He found each of the letters in order and went through the word “stop” three times.
Big Sister is learning to read beginner words.  I wrote some “-ar” words on the driveway in chalk (car, jar, far, star) and she would walk from the word to copy the words in magnets on the garage.

Cross Lateral Movement and Learning

I had them try another game to put the letters back into the bin.  I asked them to put the letters away one by one, using alternating hands to reach across their midline to grab the letter.
What is the midline?? Imagine a line going down the middle of your body from the middle of your forehead, and strait down, dividing your body into two symmetrical halves.  Your right and left sides are divided by your midline.
The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body.  Crossing midline forces the two halves of the brain to work together.
It was a little difficult to get them to reach for letters with their non-dominant hand.  It required more verbal cues, physical prompts, and visual cues.  Why was this so tricky?  Because the brain was being asked to do something novel.  Both Big Sister and Little Guy needed the extra prompts and cues to reach across their midline, all the while recalling the letter in order to spell the word.
Pretty Cool!
So, is crossing midline difficult for your child?  Try these play activities:
Crawling in a tunnel, finger painting with both hands, digging in sand to find objects, Pat-a-Cake hand and rhythm games, Simon Says games, playing with ribbon wands or scarves.