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. 

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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??

Pencil Control Worksheets (You can make at home)

These are some easy handwriting exercises that can be done at home.  Does your school-aged child have difficulty with line awareness, pencil control, or letter formation?  Is your preschooler just learning to control the pencil while making strait lines or shapes? 
It is easy to make fun worksheets that apply to your child’s needs/age-appropriate level/skills…and interests!

Pencil Control:

Use a highlighter to make strait, angled, and curvy lines…or add different twists and turns for your older child to trace along.  For a new hand writer, thick lines are appropriate, and the school-aged child can work on very thin lines.
Ask the child to keep the pencil lines inside of the yellow guide.  Fun stickers at the end of the lines always help 🙂

 Graded Pencil Control Activity

This handwriting activity can be “graded” (adjusted to start out very easy for the child and then changed just slightly to make it more and more challenging).  Grading an activity is helpful for the learner because it allows the child to feel success and gain confidence during a task, but also builds success with more difficult  levels.
((I love Little Guy’s knight costume sleeve in this picture.  He rocks the knight costume at lease once a day  haha!))
Draw shapes with the highlighter with progressively thinner lines.  This is a great pencil control exercise for shape formation and showing the child how to make sharp corners and curved lines.  This is excellent pencil control work.


Pencil Control with Line Awareness

Start with a shape like, our square.  Draw a square around it, taking turns with your child, making larger and larger shapes.  It’s a lot like doodling you did in your notebooks or while talking on the phone, right?
Taking turns with your little handwriting student helps them to see an accurate shape right next to the lines that they are drawing…with sharp edges and strait lines.

 


Copying and Spatial Awareness

Big Sister LOVED doing this one.  She filled out the whole sheet and had so much fun!  She would roll the dice, count the dots, and draw the dots (in the correct arrangement) in the squares on the page.
Counting, Copying, and Drawing with accurate spacing all work on her visual perceptual skills and spatial awareness.  These skills are essential for forming letters on lines, placing letters close enough to others in a word, and when copying lists of words.
Make early handwriting fun and your preschooler will have success…and love it!

Multi-age Letter Learning Bin

This was an easy little activity that worked for all of the ages. 
My Pre-K kiddo copied the words,
My Pre-Schooler liked telling me all of the things that started with “D” and exploring the bin,
and my Toddler loved checking out all of the fun things in the bin.
(Especially the ducks…Baby Girl looooooves ducks!)

I’ve seen the letter sensory bin idea over at Life With Moore Babies.  
She’s linked up at our Share It Saturday link up party and I knew my kids would love to do something like that!

We went on a scavenger hunt to search for toys that started with D and everyone had so much fun!
We found Dog puppets, ducks, a doll, and a Dad (ok, this was another doll and a small stretch to get a “D” word, but they got it :).   We also had dinosaurs, a D magnet, a few foam letter “D”‘s, a plastic “Diamond” bracelet, a plastic dime, and Dora.
I wrote all of the words on the writing sheet for Big Sister.  She’s so into copying words right now.  And learning lower case letters.  She loved pulling the object out of the box, asking me which word matched up, and then copying.

 My silly Baby Girl. I have 6 shots of this.  She was hil-arious.
 And she knew it!
Colleen

DIY Light Box

 

This DIY Light Box was something I’ve seen around Pinterest and have wanted to try for a while…Once we had our Christmas lights outside, I thought we would definitely be doing this project after we pulled all of the lights back in.  So, after we brought the Christmas lights in from the outside bushes, this was easy to put together for a cold evening’s play!

I put all of the (already bundled-up) strands of Christmas lights
…seriously, this does not get much easier :)…
 
into an under-the-bed storage bin,
connected the strands,
and plugged in!
 

Once you put the top on, it is perfect for tracing pictures!
 

 
This is so great for new (or seasoned) hand-writers.  They are working on pencil control, line awareness, hand-eye coordination…and end up with a super cool horse picture they can be proud of!
 
 
 Big Sister LOOOOVED doing this!  And, I have to say, that she was doing the tracing thing for so long, that we had to turn the lights off because the bin was getting warm. 
 
 
 
 
We went around the house looking for cool things to place on top of the bin.  Magnetic letters looked really neat with the light glowing through…Baby Girl had a lot of fun playing with this.
 
 
What a great learning tool…Shapes:
 
 
Letter Identification, spelling words:
 

 Color and sensory discrimination:
 
 
 
…All in a new and fun manner!  We had a lot of fun with this, but have since put our Christmas lights back up into the attic.  We will be sure to do this one again next year, once the lights come back out again 🙂
 

Colleen

Please: if you do make one of these light boxes, keep an adult eye on it, as the box did warm up…not to burning warmth, but I would worry about the lights becoming over heated.  This is NOT something that kids should play with unsupervised!