Visual Contrast Sensory Letter Writing

We practiced writing letters in coffee grounds one morning after Mom cleaned out a cupboard.  Why did I buy Instant Decaf? YUCK! So, before we tossed them, we had to play with them.  Of course 😉

Visual Contrast Letter Writing

I poured the coffee grounds onto a white cutting board for maximum contrast and had Big Sister practice some lower case letters.  She loved this!  The black on white let the letters really show.  She felt so special doing this activity because she could play with coffee!

Sensory Letter Writing

We practiced the letters that are easy to reverse (b, d, p, g, d) and a few words that she knows how to spell.  She stood at the kitchen counter for a while making letters. 

Little Guy had to get in on the action and make some shapes, too. 

A great multi-sensory input way to practice letters!

Sensory Handwriting Practice Letter Formation

Practicing handwriting doesn’t have to involve paper!   This sensory handwriting practice activity works on letter formation and line awareness with proper tool grasp and typical writing motor movements (unlike many sensory writing activities that use a writing tray or over-sized letters–while those sensory writing activities DO add to the tactile sense, they prevent the child from becoming accustomed to holding the pencil and the small motor advancements made by a writing utensil.  The child IS working on letter formation but they are not doing so in a typical motor pattern, and this can actually be quite confusing for some children.) 

This creative handwriting task, however DOES use a writing utensil-one that is appropriately sized to what the child typically grasps when writing on paper–and adds a bit of proprioceptive input.  We do love creative handwriting activities around here, and this one is one of our all time favorites!

Practicing Handwriting with shaving cream

Practice Handwriting with Sensory Input

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We practiced writing letters one day last week and this was a super fun way to do it!  I filled a couple of bags with shaving cream (not much, just a little worked great).  I used a permanent black marker to write a few letters that sometimes confuse Big Sister…common reversals: ‘b, d, p, q, and g’. 

Letter Formation with Sensory

 We also practiced ‘a’ and ‘c’ to begin.  When you make a “little curve” to make a ‘c’, you can continue with simple verbal cues to make the ‘c’ into other letters like a ‘d’…”little curve, big line down” makes a ‘d’.

sensory handwriting with shaving cream
Big Sister used a dry erase board marker to trace the lower case letters.  She could wipe the dry erase board marks off over and over again.  You can use a smaller sized dry erase marker or a fine tip marker to make this more similar to the  motor movements needed for writing with a pencil. 
We also practiced writing our address on the sensory bags.  This activity was a fun way to practice letter formation with verbal and visual cues with an added sensory input.  Plus, Big Sister just really loves writing with the dry erase board makers 🙂
This would be a fun way to practice shapes, numbers, and even beginning pencil stokes for the younger kids.
Looking for more creative handwriting activities?  My friend Erica has some great ideas on this post.  You’ll love to dive into some of our all-time favorite creative handwriting ideas: 

Tracing Letters Handwriting Practice with Chalk

 We have a big ol’ bucket of chalk that we play with almost everyday.  Our sidewalk and driveway have been know to be very colorful at times!  We took the chalk to our sidewalk squares one day this week and practiced a little letter formation.

Letter Formation

Our sidewalk squares were the perfect area to practice forming letters accurately.  I used simple verbal cues to describe the formation of each letter (big line down, little curve around, little line) and we started in the corner of each square as we made the letters.  I made the letter first and Big Sister and Little Guy watched.  Then we went to work making our letters very colorful!

Tracing the letters over and over again was a great way to practice accurate formation.  Big Sister got into this activity.  Little Guy only wanted to make a few letters that are in his name.

Motor Planning in Handwriting

When the child is tracing the letters over and over again, they become more efficient at planning out and executing the movements needed to make a letter accurately.  This activity is great for a new writer because they are given a confined space to practice a letter, and visual cues (and verbal prompts from mom).

Share it Saturday #29

Fun Ways to Practice Writing and Learning Letters

Another week has gone by and now we are already over halfway through July.  Before we know it the end of summer will be here and the beginning of the school year (gulp).

My little girl will be heading to kindergarten in the fall and this mommy is already tearing up thinking about it.  Just the thought of sending her off on the big school bus is putting me into an arrhythmia.  I know I am not the only one thinking this…how did this happen?  how did my baby get so big already??
With kindergarten on my mind lately, we have been getting some writing and letter activities into our daily schedule.  She can write her first and last name and the entire alphabet with some help with that darn letter “Q”.

This week we are featuring some of the posts that were linked up relating to letters and writing…
Writing and Letter Activities
Schooltime Snippets- this adorable activity is great for the toddlers and preschoolers.  I love how she cut out strips of paper for her daughter to match up the letters.  This post is full of great ideas.

Domesticated Breakdown shared a lovely framed artwork she made for her sons room.  I have been wanting to try something like this, it looks like such great craft that the kids can help with.
Highhill Education- shared a wonderful activity to encourage writing- postcard exchange!  This is such a great idea, I love that it involves interacting with others.

And Next Comes L shared an alphabet hands obstacle course and scavenger hunt.  This activity is something kids of all ages would enjoy and I could see these hands being used over and over again in other activities. 


Driveway Sensory Drawing: Wet Chalk fun!

We played outside one cool morning and discovered something really fun…We had left a couple of pieces of chalk outside during an overnight rainstorm. 
The texture of wet chalk is so cool! It smears on the driveway so easily and is the neatest texture. 
There was only red and blue that were soaked through, but they combined to make a pretty nice rainbow!

We played with this for a while…the chalk drawing even started to dry on the driveway.
I LOVE this picture!
Baby Girl loved this messy play.  She got her hands right in there and covered them with the chalky mess.

Outdoor Sensory Play

What a great sensory experience!  Check out how Baby Girl is on her hands and knees…She’s putting weight through her upper body and down to the hands, and strengthening her shoulder girdle which is so important for fine motor dexterity.  All this while exploring the texture of the chalk, manipulating little pieces of chalk, and having fun with her sister!
We kept tracing over the rainbow lines until the chalk became so small…great for working on that tripod grasp!  Big Sister was really aware of the lines of the rainbow when she was tracing.  This is fun for a new hand writer who is learning to place letters on the lines of paper ((line awareness)).
Tracing the big arch of the rainbow allowed her to cross midline on a fun activity.   Why do kids need to cross midline?? One reason is so that hand writers efficiently allow the dominant hand to do the work during handwriting while moving left to right across the page in a smooth manner.
And of course, you MUST add raindrops to the rainbow 😉

Fine Motor Table-top Play

This fine motor activity is a great way to build many small motor skills.  From neat pincer grasp to hand strength and arch development, this indoor play activity is one that builds many skills in a fun way!

So, one morning, we had four kids in the house (Big Sister, Little Guy, Baby Girl, and Nephew).  They play well together. Most times.  And then other times.. they argue, fight, agitate, and do all of the normal brother/sister/cousin-who-is-around-often-enough-to-be-like-a-sibling…things! This morning, they were in a mood.  A we. need. to. get. outside. and. RUN. mood. 
and since half of the kids were still in pajamas and there were still breakfast remnants all over the dining room table…we played a little game.
We have a couple of rolls of masking tape hanging around and this mama/aunt thought they would love to do a little picking on the tape.
instead of picking on each other!
They loved it! Picking at the edges of the tape is perfect for little hand’s fine motor dexterity.  They are working the neat pincer grasp (tip-to-tip pinch of the thumb and index finger…think of the way you would pick up a very small bead or pin from a table-top)
It was sort-of like a puzzle, figuring out which piece of tape needed to pull up first.  And then, when they pulled up an intersecting piece of tape, again working the fine motor skills to pull that piece up.
When all of the pieces of tape were pulled up, Big Sister played a word spelling game.  She tore the tape into bits  (…tripod grasp, working on small motor strength of the hand arches, and separating the two sides of the hand in a small motor task…)
I told her how to spell the word ‘CAT’ and then gave her words that rhyme with ‘CAT’.  She wrote the letter and put it in place of the ‘C’.
Agitating/arguing/sibling crisis averted.  We put on play clothes and went outside!

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.

Letter Learning with Bottle Caps

This Letter Learning game was something I made for Big Sister a couple of years ago.  We have played with the letter bottle caps so many times and in a ton of ways.

The cardboard has upper case letters and the bottle caps are used to match the letters. 
I used a sheet of label paper to make the lower case letters. Trace a bunch of circles in the correct size, cut out, write the letters, and stick ’em to the bottle caps.  Easy!

We’ve also played with the bottle caps in play dough, to spell names and words, to label objects with it’s starting letter, and learning which direction the “p”, “b”, and “d” should go. 
They are so great to manipulate and play with in a sensory bin filled with corn, too.
How else can we play with these bottle caps??