teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Posts tagged ‘fine motor skills’

What’s it like at your place?

My internet connection is having all sorts of dramas at the moment and I am incredibly frustrated by the inability to post up photo stories! So you’ll just have to believe me when I say that I was incredibly proud of the connection I was able to make with this child and so happy that his Mum was able to see that! As a family new to child care, she has many worries of her own, by following up on a conversation with this activity, I hope that alleviated just one of her concerns!

It all started after Mum left and we were having a cuddle whilst discussing what activities we had available in the yard.

My young man and I talked about what he would like to do and he replied ‘I want to make a machine that turns water into food’.

And there it was. My own kids movie watching had paid off. I knew this was a movie reference and was able to ask questions that could confirm this and extend our discussion.

“what sort of food?”

“Cheeeeez Buurger”

“what does it look like?”

“It has a circle on the top and one on the bottom. A place for water to go in and a bzzzzzzz for the cheeeeezbuuurger”

“What do we need to make it?”

“First we need Yellow Paper!”

(sooo lucky that I happened to have yellow paper amongst the colours I’d put out that day!”

I quickly took notes on what was needed then drew a basic picture of the machine as he’d described it.

By now other children were becoming interested in this conversation and we went together to collect collage items so that we could all invent something.

Masking tape, scissors and glue, paper for planning and we had a class of inventors!

My man and I worked on how to connect things together as we created ‘a machine that can turn water into food!’ Facing challenges of height, balance, fit and shapes we managed pretty well to identify everything’s needs and abilities!

I even made him a ‘cheeseburger’ out of cardboard and carpet off-cuts – which he declared ‘Yum’ πŸ™‚

So as I reflect on this connection between home, family and child I feel positive and validated. Watching movies can create positive interactions with those around us, develop thinking skills, help clarify concepts and create opportunities for creative play!

After all, it’s not every day that you can say it’s “cloudy with a chance of meatballs!”


Who wants an Ice Cream?

Anyone who has worked with me for any length of time, would have heard the holler of “Who wants an Ice Cream?” echoing around the yard πŸ™‚ I love getting involved with the kids role play, so when a castle is turned into a restaurant or someone sets up shop in a corner, I’ve found myself balancing most successful with personal comfort by engaging in ice-cream shop role play. Personally, I can’t follow-up on McDonald’s franchises opening up in our healthy eatingΒ  and learning environments, but will attend them until I can ask for a fancy dessert to redirect play πŸ™‚

When visiting ‘That’s not Garbage’ I came across these old thread cones and couldn’t resist them becoming part of our play!

Painting them with glue and filling the insides with fluffy white cotton balls was a great way to explore full and empty –

but was certainly the precursor to the real fun the kids wanted to have!

We drizzled more glue over the top, then sprinkled an array of glitter on for topping!

If only we’d thought of adding the paper covers to all the glue tables, it would have been a quicker clean up!
*as you can see, not everyone likes their cones to hold ice cream – and I’m cool with that :)*


Once all our glitter was spread, we moved on to the ‘lolly table’.

Realistically threading colourful foam beads on to small skewers, we called them lolly sticks,

fostering our imaginations.

With most children completing at least 2 ice creams and all the cones gone,

we used our beads to make necklaces and bracelets.

The photos look so calm and happy, but in all honesty it was a flurry of activity and the threading of bracelets was a fantastic way to calm the group.

Yay for intrinsic follow-up activities!


OurΒ  ‘shop’Β  was visited by all, with everyone excited to take them home. Some were used in our outdoor Role Play area to continue the shop idea,

and I couldn’t have been more proud πŸ™‚

eye spy bags

During my holidays, I took some time out to make things for my Kindy Kids. One of these projects was a collection of ‘eye-spy bags’. Very simple to make, although if you were more of a perfectionist than me, they would definitely take longer!

Originally I was going to collect all the little toys from around my house to fill them, but then I saw a selection or eraser packs at K-mart and decided to ‘theme’ them πŸ™‚ All up i made six in one night; transport, kitchen, beach, tool kit, aliens and environmental. The pattern was just a rectangle of material – a bit smaller than an A4 sheet, with a hole cut on one half. I then sewed on a sheet of clear, pliable plastic that I got from spotlight ages ago,Β  folded it in half, ran the sewing machine over 2 sides and poured in between one or two cups of rice, before sewing it closed. Done!

I have a real problem with using food for art. Working in a low socio-economic area does that to me. Knowing that the rice I’ve used here could feed my family for a week, really puts it into perspective. I looked for alternatives on the web, but came up with dried beans – another food. I did try to make it with bean bag beans, knowing that they were such a no-no for choking hazards, but the entire thing was closed, so I thought it might work. However, the foam balls floated to the top and stuck to the plastic. Not at all good for a bag that is meant to give sensory feedback as your eyes search for hidden treasures!

The children were intrigued by them, and they have become a great resource during quiet periods for the no sleepers. But the first time they came out I had to explain to a few of the children that the toys stayed in the bags. That they weren’t meant to be opened, but it was a game of hide’n’seek. Of course, with hindsight being 20/20 and all….I probably shouldn’t have put out a cutting activity on the same day!

I was only gone for 10 minutes, leaving two other staff in charge, but it was an opportunity that was taken to by two curious kids! A small group joined them to see what else would come out of the bags, but they all knew they’d made a mistake in opening it. As I walked back in the room, the flurry of activity in this corner drew my attention. There they were, scooping up the rice with their fingers, trying to get it in piles and back in the bags. Using dustpans and brushes to fix the mess they’d made. Seeing that they’d realised their error and were working towards fixing it as best they could, I was proud to see their reasoning skills and awareness of natural consequences had kicked in. They continued to clean up, I gave them cups to put their rice into, as putting it in the bags was making more mess, we talked about how we could use the bags without breaking them and how to react if they saw one of their friends trying to open one of the others. It seems to have sunk in, because we haven’t had another incident like this, yet…

Most of all, I was so exceptionally grateful that I had not used the bean bag filling foam balls!

It’s just a step to the left…



Just a quick entry tonight (it appears getting back from holidays is harder than getting used to being on holidays!) thinking about directionality. One of the simplest things you can do to help kids learn to write from left to right, is to write their name from left to right. Starting from the top left hand corner of the page.

That’s as simple as it gets. if you start at the top left, they’ll mimic that and eventually learn to start at the top left. No special words are needed. No magic wands or fancy tricks, just always start there.

Of course other things help. Like following or tracing paths between pictures.

Using chalk boards and getting the children to wipe off the letters or numbers you write.


Introducing patterns, that start from the top left.


For these reuseable worksheets, I photocopied and laminated worksheets from an activity book. The children love the wipe on, wipe off activities.


The only other thing that I might add to this activity, to make it more successful, is to pop these slippery worksheets onto a clipboard for stability. Because, as you may have noticed, there is a whole new skill involved in holding a paper steady! Just watch children who are new to scissors if you are unsure!

Loking at Lost things to create something new :)

I love my laminator. I know that not everything needs laminating, and I certainly don’t make a habit of having all shiny, smooth poster like art around my class room walls. In fact, I’m often found searching for different textures and mediums to adorn our environment!

Sometimes though, they just make a dead toy fun again.

Last term, I took every single puzzle in our centre and sorted them, completed them and found missing pieces. I was left over with some puzzle pieces whose boards are long gone. I photocopied the pieces, to create dark shadows – although you could colour copy them for true matching – and popped them in a bag with their newly laminated matching boards. By adding small magnets to the back of the puzzle pieces and taping this to the fridge or filing cabinets, you’ve created a new play area in a dead space πŸ™‚

Not a difficult exercise for my kindy kids, possibly more suited to the younger age groups, but certainly a nice way to reuse otherwise ‘lost’ pieces. My other ideas for the remaining puzzle pieces include baby mobiles, as part of eye spy bags or adding magnets to their backs for use on filing cabinets πŸ˜‰

I recently made a selection of eye spy bags, and tried to find an alternative to food based fillings like rice and beans, but each thing I tried just didn’t have the flexibility and movement these bags require. It makes me sad to put good food into a toy, especially when so many people with kids are doing it hard. I never do pasta threading or used food for non-edible art. I have been known to share out a mix of cheerio’s cereal and fruit loops, for the kids to make their own candy bracelets and necklaces, but they got to eat those right away or bag them up and take them home! I remember when I started my child care studies, over a decade ago now, my tutor telling me a story about her time in childcare, where one Mum looked at the pasta and rice on her collage table and said “That would feed my family for a week!” It’s an eye-opening statement for many people. Recognising that the things we throw away or consider ‘broken’ can be reused in so many ways. By Using old puzzle pieces and repairing things with the kids, I hope to subliminally embed the idea that most things can be fixed and we don’t need to throw away nearly as much stuff as we do. After all, today’s catch cry is Reduce, Recycle and Re-Use!

No Mess Tie Dye

I found this interesting activity on the Internet, but didn’t have all the ‘ingredients’ on hand.  The process calls for scraps of material, preferably white or light coloured and definitely cotton,not polyester πŸ™‚ (old sheets or pillow cases from  your local op shop would be great!) A rubber band, small bucket or large bowl each, a medicine dropper or syringe, permanent  markers and rubbing alcohol.

I didn’t have coloured permanent markers or rubbing alcohol, so I initially tried it with water and washable markers.   

It kinda worked, but the  colours really did wash  out. Pretty, but not permanent πŸ™‚

Seeing as the kids enjoyed the activity so much, I decided to was worth it to go buy the missing ingredients. After the activity was complete I had to wonder if I could have just used the antibacterial hand gel that is everywhere? It removes permanent markers from walls and most surfaces, so if watered down into a liquid form, it should work too. Actually, “Impulse” and other body sprays also remove permanent markers from laminated surfaces and whiteboards, so it might be interesting to try this too! Admittedly, that would be a bit much for a class of kids, but interesting to try with my spray obsessed little man!

I asked my kids to draw big swirls and circle patterns, which my girl took to a new level πŸ™‚ I was meaning something simpler and drew one on my son’s work sheet so that he understood what to do.  Choosing complimentary colours and avoiding using black would be my only hints for this.

Once the kids were happy with their designs, we came to the syringes. My kids are fairly familiar with these as water toys and using as hydraulics (a small plastic tube between syringes and coloured water!) So the control they have is pretty awesome. Other children might like to practice with water first, before using the more expensive stuff! For our large cereal bowls, 10 ml was enough. If they squirt the liquid all in one spot, just tip the bucket/bowl upside down and roll it round πŸ™‚

Almost immediately you will see the colours start to travel. To give more even spreading or for new effects, tilt the bowl to a side and watch the colours change direction!

As the material dries out, over the next hour or so, the colours continue to spread over the edge of the bowl, so if you were to hang them up, I can only assume this means the colours would run down! I’m looking forward to doing this one at school, using buckets from the sandpit as our bases and creating our own flags or banners πŸ™‚ The thing I love about ‘slow release’ activities is that the kids can come back and see their art grow and change in short periods of time. Keeping them attached and their curiousity piqued opens doors to some amazing conversations!

As for the ‘no mess’ part, clean up involved putting lids on markers, rinsing syringes and washing bowls. Heaps easier than traditional tie dye and no stained hands in sight!

Foam puzzle construction

I’m really sorry about this, but I can’t find the link that was the inspiration for today’s activity! One wonderful preschool teacher out there had chopped up bars of glycerine soap and used it as the building blocks for toothpick construction!Knowing that my kids would probably try to eat the soap, or rub it in their eyes or slip on it or all manner of other ‘exciting’ things, I decided to use my Eva floor mat/puzzles. These foam puzzles have had a life well lived. They’ve been puzzles, they’ve been floor mats, they’ve been stuck to the bathroom wall and rearranged multiple bath times over! They’ve been set on shelves for dolls to play with, chewed on, lost and stuck in cupboards. Now it’s time to move on.

So I started by getting the kids to pull out all the puzzle pieces, whilst I chopped in to the foam. I originally planned to cut it with a chefs knife, but quickly realised that the knife was just bouncing off its rubbery texture! It’s fairly easy to cut through. Just time-consuming.

The thing with scissors is that once they are out, everyone wants a turn! The foam proved to be a bit tricky to cut through for the kids, but small distances could be worked through!

Once we had an array of pieces I showed them how to push in the toothpicks, without holding the ends. It’s important to note that I purposely bought cheaper toothpicks, because I knew they’d be pointy at both ends. It did also mean that we had a few dodgy ones in our midst!

Assembly began as a fairly 2D affair.Β  Here you can see the back of our puzzle pieces, the numbers were there to help us sort and complete the puzzles as we packed up. now they just become part of the construction!

The projects soon gained 3D effects, as wings were added, stabilising pieces were put in to make them stand up and as we experimented with what we could do! Like any activity that has my daughter in it, something will eventually be made to be worn. First were the glasses, then she moved on to make Bunny Ears, which she used toothpicks to tuck into her head band for support!

I began creating a ‘thing’ out of the little pieces, and found myself thinking that it looked like a Christmas Tree. Not a whole lot, but just enough to start me off on a project to make one. But then Quinn stole my pieces and threw them like frisbees (or flying ninja stars – more likely these, as told by his maniacal laugh!). So you’ll just have to use your imagination when you look at my ‘inspiration’ piece!

After this was done, I had a whole new respect for the Dozers sugar-stick construction, in Fraggle Rock!