Thursday, March 31, 2016

Fun Fine Motor Products

My favorite thing about fine motor activities is how simple they are to set up.  Just a few easy materials can make for a great learning experience.  Some of the best fine motor materials are things that you already have around the house - clothespins, tongs, spoons, shoelaces, and rubber bands.  All of these can be used to encourage a variety of fine motor skills, but it's still fun to add specialized products every once and a while.  Here are some fun fine motor products that your kiddos would love (all links are affiliates).

Some of these items, like the therapy balls, I've used and absolutely love.  Other items, like the trail mix stringing set and the pop beads, are just awesome and I'd probably play with them myself!  What are some of your favorite fine motor products?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Weaving activity

Did you have one of these as a kid?! I did and I absolutely loved it!  I introduced it to my preschoolers a while back and they were surprisingly good at weaving the loops back and forth.

We've done weaving before, in fact for a while we had a large  loom like this one from Melissa and Doug.

After a while, the big loom wasn't enough of a challenge any more.  So when I spotted the smaller ones I thought I'd give it a shot.  I honestly thought it would be a disaster, so I purposely picked a day when I didn't have very many students so that I would be able to help everyone.  I showed them how to stretch the loops across from peg to peg.  I think the fact that they were successful at this task gave them a little more confidence to try the actual weaving.  

The most difficult part was getting used to the loops, and understanding that in order go over one loop and under the other, you actually had to go over two sides of that loop and under two sides of the next loop.  These little looms also encouraged their persistence - they really felt like they could finish the entire thing, because it was small. They really were able to do the weaving on their own, so I was able to observe.  

This was a perfect opportunity to see a wide variety of skills at work - not just fine motor skills and persistence, but also problem solving and self-regulation.  This is definitely not an activity that I would try with young three year olds, but it was a definite success with my almost kindergartners!

* All links are affiliates

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

DIY Geoboards

Geoboards are one of those amazingly simple things that can keep children occupied for an extraordinary amount of time. They inspire exploration of geometric shapes, as well as persistence and fine motor practice.

Geoboards are also easy to make yourself, so with a few simple supplies you can add a couple of these to your classroom.  Here are a few DIY geoboards that I rounded up, choose whichever works best for your budget and your students!

A board and nails (and a tutorial) from Little Bins for Little Hands

Cork board and push pins - from An Every Day Story

A CD case and clear screw fasteners - from Left Brain Craft Brain

The Light Brite! From And next comes L

Pegboard and screws - from City Suburb Sanity

Geoboards are incredibly versatile.  You can use them for stretching rubberbands into shapes, but you can also use them for weaving yarn, twisting and shaping pipe cleaners, or making impressions in sand or play dough.  Do you use geoboards in your classroom? What do your students love to do with them?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Stringing practice

Stringing takes some serious fine motor skills, not to mention coordination. Have you ever stopped to watch a child who is just learning how to string struggle to get both of their hands to do different functions at the same time - it's one of those things that we take for granted as adults, but it is really really hard to learn, and it's not easy to explain the process to a child because we don't have to think about doing it ourselves.

Stringing is a simple activity that is easy to prep, but it helps to change up the materials so that it always seems new and interesting.  Here is a great list of things that you can string:

  1. Wooden beads
  2. Plastic beads
  3. Homemade beads
  4. Pasta
  5. Washers and nuts
  6. Cheerios and Fruit Loops
  7. Pool noodle slices
  8. Toilet paper tubes
  9. Buttons
  10. Jingle bells
  11. Paper drinking straws
  12. Plastic drinking straws
  13. Pretzels
  14. Pop can tabs
  15. Keys
  16. Empty tape rolls
  17. Spools
  18. Velcro rollers
  19. Small wiffle balls/ping pong balls with holes
  20. Paper clips
What you string is just as important as what you string it on, it's important to know what level your students are at and provide opportunities that help them to be successful while still challenging them.  Here are some different "string" options; 
  1. Yarn
  2. Plastic lanyard string
  3. Shoelaces
  4. Grosgrain ribbon
  5. Curling ribbon
  6. Embroidery floss
  7. Pipe cleaners
  8. Plastic-coated wire
  9. Leather cord
  10. Twine
  11. Rope
  12. Fishing wire
What are your students' favorite stringing materials?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Friday Freebie - Fine Motor Resource

Happy Friday! I have the perfect freebie to go along with all of the fine motor information that I've shared this week!

This AMAZING Fine Motor Parent Resource pack is from Ashley Reed.  It is a set of fine motor activities that parents can easily do at home with their children using materials that they probably already have.  What a great way to share learning experiences with families!

If you're looking for other fine motor activities, check out the rest of this week's posts;
Stringing Practice
DIY Geoboards
Weaving Activity
Fine Motor Products

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Awesome Markers

I have this problem... I LOVE art supplies.  Markers are my weakness, mostly because I refuse to use a dried out marker, oh, and because I love markers that have a perfectly new tip.  I'm the teacher who hoards a box of markers so that they are always in new condition when I need to use them.  So it should come as no surprise that I love shopping for markers - any kind of markers.  Here are some fun products that would be great for the classroom! All links are affiliates.

Super Tips - These are the best markers! They have a fine tip, but you can also draw with the broad edge, so they fill areas better than a skinny marker, plus they come in so many fun colors!

What! Metallic Markers!? I need some of these in my life.  These would be such a fun way to add a little sparkle or shine - without glitter!

I know these aren't new, but these Stampers are one of those things that I had when I was little and would love to share with my students.  I am also a huge fan of stamps that don't require a stamp pad!

I love these Pip Squeaks because they would be so easy for the littlest hands to control.  These washable markers would be ideal for infants and toddlers to draw with. 

Crayola has jumped on the adult coloring bandwagon and all I can say is "I wish I had know this sooner!" I have spent so much money trying to figure out the best types of markers for my coloring books, and I'm pretty sure these Fine Line Markers would do the trick.

Now, I've never tried these Dry Erase Markers so I can't really say if they're better than traditional dry erase markers BUT the colors are definitely awesome and they're low odor, which is definitely a plus!

Every classroom needs a box of Multicultural Markers.  These are awesome and could lead to some really inspiring conversations. 

I think these Tri-color Markers would be amazing for refining fine motor skills.  It would take a lot of focus and precision to keep the tip at the correct angle so that you could use the color you want. 

You can buy anything on Amazon, but this may be my favorite yet.  A box of black markers - this totally speaks to my marker-hoarding self.  The black markers are always the ones I need, and always the ones that don't work!

I seriously love Window Markers.  These are another one of those activities that I stash away and bring out occasionally - when I know we need something extra fun.  I will be straight with you and tell you that they are a pain to clean off your windows, but it's a great excuse to let the children help you practice cleaning the windows.  

What are your favorite kinds of markers? Do your students have favorites?

*This post was not sponsored by Crayola in any way, I just love love love their products!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Friday Freebie - Creative doodling

Happy Friday!!!! I've been sharing great ideas for art projects that use markers all week, and I have one for you today that you might even try this weekend.

This graph paper drawing idea is a great way to encourage creativity.  Children can use their imagination and express what the graph paper looks like to them.  The best part is that Kate from Picklebums shares where she got her free graph paper, that comes in all different fun shapes!  Enjoy your weekend and feel free to share your students doodles (or your own!).

Marker Tie Dye

Marker tie dye is one of those activities that I can count on to keep children engaged no matter what. It's a science experiment disguised as a magic trick and it requires very few supplies or materials.

The idea is simple; children use washable marker to color on a coffee filter and then they spray their coffee filter with water from a spray bottle.  When the children spray the coffee filter with water the colors from the markers bleed together, creating a tie dye look.  Once the coffee filters dry they are perfect for hanging in windows where light will shine through, or for other projects.

Over the years I've come up with a list of additional tips that are helpful when doing this particular project:

  • Have the children spray their coffee filters over trays that will catch the excess water. 
  • Set a spray limit (i.e.  "You can spray it three times") this ensures that there is enough water to make the marker bleed, but also makes sure that you don't have puddles of water in the trays. 
  • Prepare a drying rack or space for the coffee filters to hang while they dry. If you're going to hang them to dry then make sure there are towels underneath the rack because they will drip. 
  • Encourage the children to cover as much of their coffee filter as possible.  The more marker that they have on their coffee filter, the more dramatic the tie dye effect will be. 
Have you done this activity? What tips or tricks would you add?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Elements of art: line

We know that when children are drawing they are practicing pre-writing skills, but did you know that they are also learning about elements and principles of design? I stumbled across this amazing ABCs of Art Booklet (on Pinterest of course) a while back and it has become one of my favorite things ever.  The pages provide incredible inspiration for the children as they draw.

My favorite page in the booklet is the page on line. It is the perfect poster for the art area, or to leave in the middle of the table while the children work. When it comes to playing with lines, I think markers are the best! They move across the paper smoothly, without a lot of pressure or effort.  They also come in a variety of thicknesses - fine tip, skinny, regular, jumbo, etc. - and using a variety of types of markers on one picture can be a dramatic way to explore line.

Drawing lines is an activity that can tell us a lot about a child's fine motor development, as well as there attention and persistence. Simply asking the children to draw some of these different kinds of lines with different thicknesses of markers is an easy activity that you could do a number of times throughout the year.  The work samples collect from each of these would be perfect for including in portfolios because the differences would be immediately noticeable.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Experimenting with permanent markers

Yes, you read that title right, permanent markers.  Think about it - all of those other art supplies you use make a colossal mess, so why not use permanent markers too? Sure, they might get on your tables, or on the children's hands, but if you take the same precautions that you would for paint - covering the table or using a tray, making sure the children wear smocks, etc. -  then you can minimize the mess.  Plus, it's a great opportunity to talk to the children about using the markers appropriately, and expressing your expectations clearly.  If you want to be prepared with a few clean up tricks up your sleeve, check out this article on how to remove permanent marker from everything!

Permanent markers are fascinating because they react differently on different materials.  There are a few different ideas for exploring these markers that will help the children learn about scientific principles such as creating a hypothesis, testing a theory, and observation.

  • Collect different types of paper and fabric and see how the markers bleed on each type.
  • Draw on materials with washable markers and permanent markers and see how each kind of marker reacts on the materials. 
  • Use the permanent markers to draw on things that you don't usually draw on, such as; 
    • aluminum foil
    • waxed paper
    • saran wrap
    • plastic containers
    • glass (like the glass inside of a picture frame)
    • a t-shirt
    • a canvas
    • rocks
    • ceramic tiles
I also suggest keeping your drawing time short or make sure your room is well ventilated, permanent marker fumes can be powerful!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Friday Freebie - Art Supply Labels

Happy Friday! I have been waiting for this day since January because as of 2:30 this afternoon I am officially on vacation!!!!! I'm sure many of you are in the same boat, so therefore, today we are celebrating together!

I also have a fabulous freebie for you.  These art supply labels from Joanna Minor are amazing because they include real photographs of the supplies.  These are perfect for organizing your art supplies, which somehow have a mind of their own - I know, I've been there! Download these labels and have a wonderful holiday weekend!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Friday Freebie - Phone Number and Address Practice

Happy Friday! As we slowly get closer to Easter (and my spring break, yay!) I can't help but be amazed that it is already that time of year - you know, spring, the time of year when we really focus in on those academic skills and making sure that our oldest preschoolers are going to be ready for kindergarten.  They'll make it, and they'll be successful, whether we stress about it or not. This freebie makes one of those pre-kindergarten skills just a little more fun (therefore making your job just a little easier).

This phone number and address freebie includes three simple printables, all of which are editable so you can personalize them for your students.  Each child gets an ID card that you can put their photo, name, address, and phone number on.  They can refer to these as they practice name recognition and begin to familiarize themselves with their phone number and address.  Each child also gets their own personal mailbox, which you can type their address on, and then they can all leave each other tiny messages.  Finally, each child gets their own printable phone, and they can use them to practice tapping the numbers of their phone number into their phones.  The children are sure to love these, and it will make it easy to engage them in learning these important skills. Download your set here!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Age appropriate chores for children

I saw this list years ago and have been looking for it ever since, I finally stumbled across it again today and knew that I just had to share.  When I taught toddlers and preschoolers I was constantly surprising parents by telling them what their children did during the day at school.  These simple chores teach responsibility, but more importantly, they are self help skills that build fine motor skills, coordination, attention, and listening skills.  This awesome list is from The Montessori Notebook, so make sure to spend some time exploring the other wonderful ideas on their blog after you print this list to share with your families!

If you're still looking for more ideas take a minute to check out this post!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Favorite pins of the week

I pin a lot of stuff.  If you've seen my pin boards you know that they are organized by domain and season (among other things...).  I use my pins to help me lesson plan, so I need them to be easy to find when I'm looking for them.  I appreciate that wen I need social emotional activities I can go to the social emotional board and be filled with inspiration.  At the same time, I also like to look at all of my pins at once and see what I've pinned recently.

Here are my favorite ideas that I've pinned this week, I can't wait to try these out!

How fun is this shape book?! I would love to make one for each child and then go on a walk with them to see how many we could find.  

This art journal is perfect for those kiddos that draw on page after page after page.  

These chalk blocks are a super easy DIY that could add so much creativity to the block area!

I feel like I rarely come across a new art technique, so this wax paper resist caught my eye.

This paper airplane target is such a fun way to practice hand-eye coordination.

There are five new ideas for you, what have you pinned this week?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Great app to share with families

I am a self-proclaimed family engagement queen, I tend to collect ideas and resources for sharing with families and not have enough opportunities to share all of them! This one must be shared with all of you because it is amazing!!!

Go check out Vroom - do it right now! This site is all about building parents up and reminding them that they have what it takes to help their child's brain grow and develop.  From the videos and information on the site itself, to the great materials that families can download, to the free app that gives them daily activities personalized for their child's age, this site is an incredible resource for parents and families.

If you still aren't convinced, watch this video (at the bottom of the page), it'll have you in tears, but they will be so worth it! It will also give you a new perspective on the power of creating partnerships with parents and working together as a team!