fine motor

How can we encourage preschoolers to write?

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Preschool creativity journal- open ended prompts to encourage writing in preschoolers.
Preschool creativity journal- open ended prompts to encourage writing in preschoolers.

Do you ever struggle to get your preschoolers interested in the writing center?  The writing center seems to be the least favorite center for my three and four year olds. Preschool age children struggle with coming up with ideas to put onto paper.  Many times, sitting and writing does not look as appealing as stacking blocks in the block center or cooking up food in the drama center. So, how can we as educators and caregivers encourage writing in a positive and intriguing way?

For me and my students, it was through a Preschool Creativity Journal.  This journal is not a traditional journal with traditional prompts.  Rather, I give my young writers a place to start.  The Preschool Creativity Journal encourages children to pick up a writing utensil and use the prompt to put their own ideas on paper.

preschool circle prompt for the preschool creativity journal
preschool circle prompt for the preschool creativity journal

For example, in the picture above is three different student's journals. The prompt was a circle that I drew on their page. In the first picture the student was creating lots of circles on their own.  In the second, the circle was ignored and some small lines were drawn.  In the last picture, the student did some controlled left to right scribbling within the circle.  All the same prompt, with all different outcomes.

preschool snowman prompt for the preschool creativity journal
preschool snowman prompt for the preschool creativity journal

Now, here is a picture of three circles and the word snowman.  In the first picture the snowman was decorated, while in the second, the student created their own snowman after seeing the prompt.  Sidenote: I like to write the word with the shape to model and encourage letter writing.

preschool line
preschool line

In this example, I provided students with a vertical line.  Some students replicated the line, while others traced it.  One student traced the line, then did some invented writing through it!

Benefits of the Preschool Creativity Journal:

-Encourages children to hold a writing utensil, practicing a pincer grasp.

-Journals encourage turning pages left to right.

-Allows children ownership over their journal, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

-Encourages creativity, no other prompting is done other than providing the prompt on paper.

-The journal format allows for teachers and children to look a progress.

Tips:

-Next year I will try to find journals without lines.  I would rather my students have a 'clean slate'.

-I lay out the journals on the table with the prompt showing. Some days I provide pencils, other days I provide markers.  I also like to provide golf sized pencils (for little hands) and even chalk!

-I try my best to keep these journals open-ended, therefore I do not tell students where to write or what they are to be writing. I also allow them to flip to different pages to explore writing.  These are their journals and they are welcome to write in them whenever they would like!

-I put a picture of each student on their journal for easy identification.

-Don't forget to date the writing for when you look back.

I love watching how differently each student takes the prompt and moves forward with it!  It has been such a positive and rewarding learning experience for my children!

If you want to learn more about the prompts I give and how I manage it, check out the Preschool Creativity Journal in my TpT Store:

Preschool Creativity Journal
Preschool Creativity Journal

Silly Faces- All About Me Activity

Help your preschool children put together silly faces in an All About Me themed unit! Click over to learn about this activity and other All About Me Preschool Unit ideas!
Help your preschool children put together silly faces in an All About Me themed unit! Click over to learn about this activity and other All About Me Preschool Unit ideas!

This Silly Faces activity is perfect for an All About Me Preschool Unit!  Not only does this activity encourage naming facial features, it also helps children with spatial awareness.  Understanding that the nose belongs below the eyes and the mouth below the nose.  It also doubles as a nice fine motor gluing activity too!

This activity couldn't be much easier to prepare.  Just cut eyes, noses and mouths from a magazine.  Provide glue and paper and let the silly face creating begin!

This activity is just one of the awesome activities in my new 2 & 3 Year Old All About Me Lesson Plans:

Two and Three Year Old Lesson Plans | All About Me Theme
Two and Three Year Old Lesson Plans | All About Me Theme

Sidewalk Chalk and Cars- 4 fun learning ideas

sidewalk chalk and cars
sidewalk chalk and cars

Got a car lover?  I sure do!  If it has wheels my little guy is all over it!  He loves to bring his cars outside and play, so I thought I would make him some fun ways to play using sidewalk chalk and his cars.  These four simple ideas only took a couple minutes to create, but he played and played for at least an hour.  Now, lets just hope it doesn't rain or I will have to create it again!

TWISTY ROAD

Most roads are straight.  So, creating this extremely curvy road was fun and new for my boy.  Not only is it fun, it helps him practice keeping the car on the 'road' using hand/eye coordination.

sidewalk chalk and cars
sidewalk chalk and cars

PARKING LOT

Kids love lining things up.  So, creating parking spaces allows children to line up the cars in an organizational way.  This activity also reinforces 1-to-1 correspondence, a skill needed when we count.  Adding numbers to the slots helps with number recognition.

sidwalk chalk and cars
sidwalk chalk and cars

CONSTRUCTION TRANSPORT

This is a fun transporting game where my little guy scooped up the pebbles with his toy scooper.  Then he drove the load down the road and dumped it into the circle (which we referred to as the job site).  His fine motor skills are at work with this one!

sidewalk chalk and cars
sidewalk chalk and cars

CAR MAZE

Car lovers adore roads.  But, this road is a bit different as it is also a maze!  Notice, in the picture below, that my son also used the 'dead ends' on the maze as parking spots.  I love how this activity encourages fine motor, with driving between the lines and also problem solving as he makes his way through the maze.

sidewalk chalk and cars
sidewalk chalk and cars

How do you incorporate your car lovers love for cars with learning?  I would love to hear your ideas!

Types of Puzzles and What they Teach

Puzzles, Puzzles, Puzzles!  My kiddos love puzzles!  But, did you know that there are different types of puzzles that help promote different skill sets for young children?  Today, I will be sharing four different types of puzzles for the early childhood crowd.  The puzzles are in order from beginning puzzlers and more advanced puzzlers!  There are Melissa and Doug affliliate links within this post, seeing as their puzzles are the BEST!

types of puzzles
types of puzzles

Melissa and Doug Jungle Friends Jumbo Knob Puzzle - 3 Pieces

Knobbed Matching Puzzles 

-matching: the picture on the puzzle piece to the picture underneath

-fine motor: pincer grasp practice when grabbing the knobbed puzzle pieces

-problem solving: when turning the puzzle piece to make it fit just right

Three piece large- knobbed matching puzzles are a wonderful place to start for young puzzlers.  It narrows down the number of options, making it less frustrating for younger children.  After your child has mastered the 3 piece puzzle, try one with more pieces and smaller knobs.

types of puzzles
types of puzzles

Melissa and Doug Tools Chunky Puzzle - 7 Pieces

Non-Knobbed Matching Puzzles

-matching: the picture on the puzzle piece to the picture underneath

-fine motor: pincer grasp practice when grabbing the non-knobbed puzzle pieces

-task completion: some non-knobbed matching puzzles have more pieces, therefore they take more time and attention to finish the task

Non-knobbed matching puzzles are essentially just like the knobbed puzzles, but are missing the knobs.  The Chunky Puzzles from Melissa and Doug are good examples of non-knobbed matching puzzles.  As far as the fine motor skills go, when children use knobbed puzzles, they generally use their finger muscles to turn the piece as the hold the knob.  Non-knobbed puzzles have to be turned by using the wrist, practicing another group of fine motor muscles.

types of puzzles
types of puzzles

Outline Matching Puzzles

these puzzles do not have knobs and do not have a picture to match underneath

-shape recognition: children match the picture puzzle piece to shaped outline

-fine motor: pincer grasp practice when grabbing the non-knobbed puzzle pieces

-problem solving: by not being able to use the picture to match the puzzle piece, children must look closely at the shape and turn the piece until it fits

*A well-known example of this type of puzzle is a shape sorter.  Children must look at the outline of the hole on the shape sorter and the actual shape to make it fit.  Another example is the Melissa and Doug Magnetic Puzzles  Although, the magnet puzzles make use of hand eye coordination as children must use the magnet on a string to pick up the pieces.

You can easily make your own outline matching puzzles too!  Just trace common household objects onto a piece of paper and have the kids match them up!

types of puzzles
types of puzzles

Jigsaw Puzzles

The puzzles in the picture above are called Progressive Puzzles from Discovery Toys.  The set includes 4 piece, 6 piece and 9 piece jigsaw puzzles.  As far as I know, they are no longer being sold.  I have yet to find an awesome alternative to this set (if you know of one- leave a comment!).

-parts of a whole: helping children see how parts of a picture form to make a whole

-problem solving: when children are figuring out what shaped pieces fit together and how to turn the pieces to make the puzzle come together

-fine motor: pincer grasp when grabbing and fitting together the pieces

-task completion: jigsaws encourage child to work on the puzzle until it is finished and not giving up

-social: sometimes you need a little help from a friend or parent, sharing the puzzle and working together promotes great teamwork skills

When starting children on jigsaw puzzles, it is ideal to use 2 piece or 4 piece puzzles.  You can easily make your own by cutting up a picture or coloring page mounted to cardstock.  As your child progresses, you can add more pieces to challenge him or her!

Do your kids love puzzles too?  What type are they working on right now?

Simple Toddler Shape Book

We were working on basic shapes last week with the toddlers.  My tots love two things: glue sticks and reading books.  So, I combined their two loves by creating them a Toddler Shape Book!  They get to glue shapes into the book and then read it over and over again.  Fun!

toddler shape book
toddler shape book

Considering my tots have a pretty short attention span, I created the book with only three shapes.  A circle, square and triangle.  I cut construction paper circles, squares and triangles from different colors of paper.  I made sure not to cut all the same shapes out of the same color, as I did not want this to become to color sorting activity.  I also cut different sizes and a different shape of triangles.  Quick tip: I used the small square post-it notes for the squares- easy!

We layed out all 3 pages on the table and reviewed the name of each shape.  I modeled how to glue the shape on the correct page.  They caught onto this really quickly and while they worked, I was continuing to name the shapes they were touching.  I was pretty amazed when my 3 year old put the two blue triangles together to make a square.  You can see that on the 'triangle' page in the photo below.  But, he was quite confused when the yellow triangles did not do the same thing!  After all the gluing was done, I stapled the book together and we read it together.

shape book toddler.png
shape book toddler.png

What your Tot will learn:

- shape sorting - fine motor practice - names of shapes - gluing practice - naming colors - book handling skills -

Would you like to make this book with your little ones too?

Get the Toddler Shape Pack FREE!