Today we have a fun free number formation activity for you…printable number playmats! These number formation roads are a great way to work on practicing numbers with hands on play while building strength, dexterity, and fine motor skills. Print them off, use them to drive cars along the number shaped roads, or laminate and us as free printable number playdough mats. The options are limitless!
Cars are so motivating! They are not just for boys either. My girls used cars and trucks in imaginary play, to transport Barbies and action figures to the mall, playground, or to Barbie’s friends house. It is often necessary to use motivators in enticing young learners to do difficult work. The same way adults work for a paycheck, children work for motivators, prizes, incentives, and other rewards.
There are so many ways to use toys in occupational therapy, and these play mats are just one way to work on the skill of forming numbers. Learning letters and numbers is difficult, especially when it comes to writing them.
These Number Road Play Mats are a motivating activity to address number recognition and formation.
Why are learners so resistant to writing, coloring, and cutting?
- These tasks are difficult. It is difficult to keep finding motivation to do something hard.
- Most of the learners we work with are not good at these tasks, that is why they are getting therapy or other help. Again it is difficult to stay motivated doing activities you are not good at.
- Visual motor tasks are not predictable. Puzzles are predictable. There is only one way a puzzle can go together. Cutting and coloring are not predictable. It is difficult for a new learner to make exactly the correct strokes on paper, cut on the lines, or glue items in the correct position. Despite the correct amount of effort, sometimes the eyes/hands/body have different plans.
- It is hard to want to keep trying when failure happens more than success.
NUMBER FORMATION ROAD PLAYMATS
How fun are these number formation play mats? They are not only fun, but functional. People learn by doing. Kinesthetic awareness is the body learning a movement by doing it.
We can do many activities without having to see what we are doing, such as walking, riding a bicycle, or texting. Written expression is the same. It is possible to learn to write without great kinesthetic awareness, but it is more laborious, less fluid, and slower.
The number road playmats use kinesthetic awareness to teach the body to “feel” the movement of the letters.
How to use the Number Road Play Mats
There are so many hands-on, multisensory ways to work on number formation with road playmats. These can be used over and over again, really establishing a motor plan and muscle memory for forming numbers correctly.
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- Have learners color, cut, and glue the cars onto craft sticks (popsicle sticks, tongue depressors), then trace around the number roads in the designated sequence. Learners can custom make their cars to fit their style (don’t forget the glitter!). This adds a coloring, cutting, and gluing element.
- Design and color/cut/glue/laminate these ahead of time to make it more of a kinesthetic than fine motor task. It still involves some visual motor skills, but not as many.
- After moving their cars through the paths, have learners use a marker to draw inside the number road playmat paths. Progress to copying the numbers, when learners are ready to move forward.
- Teach learners to put words to their actions. Examples: seven, “across and down”, nine, “a circle around then a long stick down”. Use whatever language describes the visual image for your learners.
- Use toy cars to zoom around the numbers!
- Find mini traffic cones, small erasers, pom poms, pennies, gummy bears, or other items, and put them on the roads to build fine motor skills.
- Form the numbers on the number formation play mats out of playdough, Wikki Stix, Theraputty, or string.
- Laminate the pages, then spread shaving cream over them and have learners use their fingers to draw the numbers or zoom their cars through them. This turns it into a multisensory task.
- Swap the cars for another picture such as an ice cream truck, bug, puppy, or other motivating object.
How we learn
There are four different types of learning styles. Not everyone learns the same.
- Some people are visual learners, they need to see to process the information. For these learners, visual processing skills are strong.
- Others are auditory learners, preferring to hear directions verbally to understand. For these learners auditory processing skills are strong.
- There are kinesthetic learners, who want to have hands-on experience, to be able to learn.
- Others are more academic, needing to read and write about what they are learning.
It is possible to be one, or all of the above.
For this reason, it is advantageous to have a multimodal approach, or a multisensory learning approach.
Provide visual, sensory, hands on, auditory, and gross motor experiences to enhance learning. The number playmat can provide instruction through all four learning styles depending on the presentation. Be mindful of the learning preferences of your students, working them into your instruction. What is your preferred learning style?
Other great number activities
It would be rare for a learner to be able to write all their numbers from just this one printable number formation play mat. As always, the OT Toolbox is full of great resources to build your toolbox.
- How to teach number formation
- Sensory Handwriting Activities
- Numbers 1-20 Sky/Ground Playmats
- 10 Ways to teach Letter and Number Formation
- Motor Planning and Handwriting
Check them out!
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Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.
NOTE*The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for readability and inclusion. This information is relevant for students, patients, clients, preschoolers, kids/children of all ages and stages or whomever could benefit from these resources. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.