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Balance & Coordination - Gross Motor

WHAT IS IT?

Balance and coordination work hand in hand. Balance is the ability to maintain a controlled body position while performing tasks or activities. Children need the ability to maintain controlled positions during both static (still) and dynamic (moving) activities.

Static Balance is being able to hold a certain position without moving.

Dynamic Balance is the ability to remain balanced while engaged in movement.

Bilateral Coordination is the ability to use both sides of the body at the same time in a controlled way. Bilateral coordination also includes using one hand to support the other hand while it carries out more skilled work. Children usually learn to coordinate the use of their arms before the use of their legs.

Laterality is the awareness of the left and right sides of the body and the knowledge that they differ from each other. It is a not a skill that is learnt, but an inner awareness that the child develops within himself.

 

EXAMPLES:

STATIC

  • musical statues
  • standing still on one leg
  • remaining still while aiming
  • sitting upright
  • kneeling
  • sitting on a chair

DYNAMIC

  • hopscotch
  • balancing over beams
  • imitations of animals
  • wheelbarrow walking
  • jumping on a trampoline
  • riding a bike or scooter

 

 

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

It is essential for children to acquire a good sense of balance as it is crucial for competence in physical skills. Balance is the foundation for a healthy life filled with movement.

Having good balancing skills will increase children’s confidence in gross motor activities (e.g. playing on the playground, running, jumping), increase their ability and confidence to engage in physical activities, and promote fine motor skills (e.g. writing, drawing and cutting) because a strong core stability, equips children with a strong base to support the use of their arms and hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making your own Lacing Cards to Strengthen Fine Motor Skills

 

Did you know that the journey to being able to write correctly should start long before your child really even knows how to form letters or shapes? It starts with the strengthening of fine motor skills.

 

Today I’m sharing one of our favorite homeschooling activities. I have three homeschooled children, ages 6 and 4. Yes, twins! It’s not nearly as chaotic as it may seem. To get their little wrists and fingers ready for writing, we do various activities but their favorite by far is lacing cards, taking shoestrings and threading them through holes in specific shapes.

 

WHAT YOU WILL NEED

 

  • cardboard or foam from an Arts & Crafts shop (it needs to be sturdy)
  • hole punch
  • scissors
  • shoelaces, or yarn
  • laminator or self-laminating envelopes for extra stability (optional)

 

GETTING READY FOR PLAY

 

 

  1. Cut cardstock into various shapes. Use geometric shapes to practice math or letters for letter recognition.
  2. Punch holes about 3/4 or 1 inch apart around the edge of each of the shapes.

 

 

PLAY TIME

 

 

Give your child(ren) the string to weave through the holes!

I’ve found that this activity provides a nice session for strengthening tiny little fingers and wrist muscles that my four-year-olds have, but the imagination portion that stems from it is priceless. The song “Go through, go up, go down…” is usually what accompanies my daughter as she strings her shoestring through her shapes.

Some parents aren’t aware of how important it is to do these activities in conjunction with introducing crayons, pencils, markers and other writing utensils to their children. It’s essential because these activities help children perfect their pincer grip – you know, using your thumb and pointer finger together to grab things – which is necessary to hold a pencil properly.
Activities like this are crucial because it allows a break in the sometimes monotonous tasks of tracing or even coloring, and provides a wide range of motion that children can use. They’ll also become aware of the roles of their dominant and non-dominant hands. Stabilizing the cutouts while working the shoestring through the holes really strengthens those little fingers and muscles.

The Importance of Learning Shapes

From an early age, kids notice different shapes even if they don’t yet know that the shapes have names. It takes longer for young children to learn the specific properties of each shape, such as the number of sides or how the shape looks. Giving preschoolers lots of practice with shapes helps them solidify their understanding of the two-dimensional structures. That knowledge of shapes gives the young children an advantage in many areas of learning.

 

1. Literacy: A preschooler who is able to distinguish between shapes is better equipped to notice the differences in shapes of letters. This helps not only with reading but also with writing. Kids who have practice with different types of shapes and lines can translate those into writing

2. Math: A strong understanding of shapes can help preschoolers better recognize the numbers and how they look. Number recognition is an early math skill preschoolers need before they can move on to more advanced math skills, such as addition. The shapes themselves fall under the geometry standards of math.

3. Categorizing and Comparisons: Learning the differences in shapes requires preschoolers to focus on the specific characteristics. Preschoolers learn to use observational skills to identify the different shapes. They also learn how to compare different shapes and group similar shapes together. Those observational skills transfer to other areas. Observation and categorization are key skills in science.

4. Problem Solving: Shape activities can help preschoolers develop problem-solving skills. Shape sorting toys are one example. When a child recognizes the characteristics of a square, he can match it with the square hole on the toy. Shape recognition can also help when putting together puzzles. If he pays attention to the shapes of the pieces and the shapes of the openings in the puzzle, he can determine the correct spot for each piece.

Learning With Magnets (Letters & Numbers)

Learning With Magnets (Letters & Numbers)

Sorting magnetic letters might seem like just a math activity, but it is so much more than that!

To begin with, just the act of playing with and holding the magnetic letters helps teach the child.  The letters will look different, whether by size, shape, color, etc.  On top of that, the letters will feel different in her hands.  The letter ‘x’ isn’t going to feel exactly the same as the letter ‘a’.  While she may not start out knowing what the letters are, her senses will be cataloging what she sees and feels.

 

Plus, the child’s innate sense of curiosity will eventually come into play.  He’ll want to know what these things are that he’s playing with, so he’ll ask questions.  He will make connections, sometimes with parent/teacher help of course.  For example, he might point out that one of the magnetic  letters looks like a letter he’s seen in his name.  He might notice that one of the letters is on the stop sign he sees in his neighborhood every day.

When a child is asked to sort magnetic letters, it forces her to attend to the similarities and differences within the letters.  This will make her take note that the letters are not all the same.  Even if she’s just focusing on the color of the letter, she will quickly learn that there are certain differences to be found.  When looking at letters she’s grouped together in the same category, the child is likely to notice how the letters are the same color but different shapes.  Her mind becomes used to assessing and comparing what the magnetic letters look like.  This is a precursor for learning the individual letters and their distinct characteristics.

When a child sorts magnetic letters, his descriptive language improves.  His teacher (or parent) is giving him the language with which to describe letters.  Having the language to express the ways the letters are similar brings a new perspective to the process.  It allows him a way to verbalize the observations he’s making while sorting.

Keep in mind that sorting the letters can be done individually, in small groups, and as an entire class.  Children can sort on their own or with an adult there to help.  Asking questions and making comments as the children complete this task helps provide them with language.  It also helps draw their attention to the individual letters.  For example, you might make simple comments like, “I notice that the uppercase ‘E’ doesn’t have any holes, but the lowercase ‘e’ does.”

Below is a list of some ideas regarding how children can sort magnetic letters.  Please keep in mind that there are different levels of skill involved in the letter sorts.  Choose ways of sorting that best meet the needs of the children you are working with.

  • Color
  • Letter
  • Uppercase versus lowercase
  • In my name
  • In my friend’s name
  • Have holes
  • Have curves
  • Straight lines
  • Vertical lines
  • Tails
  • Tall versus short
  • Sounds

Those are just some ways you can sort magnetic letters.  What are some other ways you sort them with your children?  I’d love to hear some new ideas!

HOW STACKING / NESTING TOYS CAN DEVELOP EARLY LANGUAGE AND FINE MOTOR SKILLS

HOW STACKING / NESTING TOYS CAN DEVELOP EARLY LANGUAGE AND FINE MOTOR SKILLS

Stacking toys - Oh how I love thee!  Let me count (and stack) the ways.   Don't be deceived - these seemingly simple toys pack a big punch when it comes to early learning development.  How does stacking/nesting improve fine motor and language skills?  Here's how you can play to learn with these classic toys:

 

FINE MOTOR SKILLS

For young children, picking items up and putting them in place helps them learn the important skill of intentional grasp and release, as well as how to control and position their fingers.  Since infants don't have the dexterity or fine motor control yet, they use their entire hands to explore, hold, release, and place objects.  This means that larger, chunky shapes like the one in the picture above (Green Toys Stacker) are just the right size for little ones to grasp.  Have your toddler start with the biggest pieces, progressing to the smaller pieces.  And remember - they don't have to use all of the pieces at first.  Later on, children can progress to using the center posts to pick up and move the pieces.  Since these have a smaller circumference, they require a finer, more controlled grasp.

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VISUAL AND SPATIAL PERCEPTION

Stacking/nesting also works on depth perception, hand-eye coordination, and understanding where your body is in space.  As you put each piece on top of the other, you have to visually gauge where to place each piece both in relation to yourself, and in relation to the other pieces.  For younger children, nesting toys are easier to start with.  Since the pieces "sit" / lock into the other pieces, their design is more forgiving and offers more guidance in the early stages of visual perception.  Traditional (non-nesting) building blocks build upon (pun intended) this skill for older children.  These sets require graded control and pressure as you balance pieces on top of each other so they don't fall over. 

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BALANCE, TRUNK CONTROL, & GROSS MOTOR

Starting at about the age of 6 months and up, babies are gaining the postural stability to be able to sit up by themselves.  They're also working on coordinating their movements.  Sitting up while stacking allows babies to get used to stabilizing their core as they move about and use their hands.  This early multi-tasking activity also gives them the opportunity to let their body "catch itself" and make adjustments to maintain balance (these are known as protective responses).

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CROSSING MIDLINE

Crossing midline is the ability for the right hand to cross over the center of the body to function in the left hemisphere, and vice versa.  This is an important skill for handwriting, cutting with scissors, reading, eating, and anything that requires the hand to move from left to right or right to left.  To practice this skill, place all of the pieces on the left side of the body, next to the left hip.  Have the child reach over with the right hand to grab a piece and then set it down either in from of him or to the right.  Make sure that he is using ONLY his right hand, without using his left hand to assist.  You can see a video of this activity here (and learn more about how trunk turning can also help promote the oral motor skill of tongue lateralization).

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LANGUAGE CONCEPTS

When it comes to working on language skills, keep in mind that you can use almost anything as an opportunity to learn new words and concepts, and stacking toys are no exception.  Before you start, let kids knock all of the pieces over or dump them out of the box.  Kids love to dump!!  They usually don't get to, so you'll immediately catch their attention.  They have to clean it up when they're done, but they can dump and make a mess until then.  Now that you've lured them in:

•   Use the different sizes to work on comparisons.  Put the smallest and the largest pieces next to each other to teach big versus small.  Throw another piece into the mix to work on big, bigger, biggest.

•   Stack three pieces together to start working on the concept of sequencing and what comes next.  If the child is having trouble with visual perception skills, focus on just two at a time.  Put the smallest piece on top of the biggest one first, as these two are the most visually different.  In time, incorporate the other pieces. Then stack a set, but with one of the pieces missing.  Have the child identify where the missing link in the sequence is.

•   Use this as an opportunity to work on colors/matching, top/bottom, counting, etc.

•   Work on turn-taking skills by letting the child stack a piece, then you, and so forth.  Or tell them a particular order to stack them in to work on following directions.

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CREATIVE PLAY

There's no one way to play.  Kids naturally think outside of the box, so encourage them to look for alternative uses for whatever's at hand.  Have them make up a game with the various pieces, let them create a story around whatever they've built, etc.  This exploratory activity will foster their creativity and problem solving skills.  For example, here are a few fun ideas we've come up with for the Stacker:

•  Stack the pieces upside down.

•  If the pieces are rounded, turn them upside down and spin them.

•  Or turn the pieces on their side and roll them.  "Oh noooo!  It went OUT of the door or UNDER the table" (another opportunity to work on prepositions).

•  Play games á la "Who's Line Is It Anyway?"  Pretend the pieces are a clown nose, hat, goggles, bug eyes, and so on.

•   If the stacking pieces are hollow, turn them upside down and use them as containers to sort pom poms with or without a tweezer.  Bonus points if you sort them to match the colors of the pieces.  You can also put a few cheerios or m&ms in the cups and have the child retrieve them for as a tasty incentive.

•   Or use the pieces to scoop and pour water for bath time fun, to scoop beans, rice, water beads, etc. during sensory play, or as molds to make sand castles.

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Have fun and enjoy!

How important is play when learning?

Children play because it gives them pleasure. They do not play when it is not enjoyable or if they are bored with the game. Play is also an essential part of their education because while they are playing they are learning. It is an important part of socialisation.

Children need opportunities both to play with other children and to play on their own. When two or more children are together, many different games are possible. Whatever the game, the children will be learning how others behave and how to mix easily with them. At other times, children need to play on their own and without interference in order to learn how to amuse themselves. If adults spend too much time playing with a child, the child will feel bored and miserable when left on her own. Then, instead of playing happily, the child will spend her time trying to demand attention.

 

Benefits of Play

1. Play enables children to find out about themselves and the world. It allows them to:

A. discover
B. experiment
C. create
D. concentrate
E. express ideas
F. develop speech
G. develop muscles
H. invent
I. learn new skills
J. learn how other people behave
K. role-play (pretend to be someone else)
L. share possessions
M. use the imagination
N. co-operate with others
O. show off (children like to let others know what they can do)
P. act protectively towards someone less powerful than themselves.

2. Play helps towards happiness. A child who is absorbed in play is likely to be a happy child, as play produces feelings of satisfaction and achievement.

3. Play helps prevent boredom. Preventing a child from being bored is very important, as boredom can quickly lead to bad temper, irritability and destructiveness.

4. Play can help reduce stress. The acting out of stressful situations can help them to seem more familiar and therefore less frightening. For example, by playing ‘schools’ a child becomes familiar with the idea of going to school. This will help to reduce any nervousness about school which the child might have. In the same way. playing ‘doctors and nurses’ can help prepare a child for a stay in hospital.

 

Different Types of Play

Children like variety and during the day will change from one type of play to another. Sometimes they use the same toy. More often they use different toys because changes stimulate different types of play. Six types of play can be recognised and each forms part of a child’s total development.

  • Discovery play (exploring play) enables a child to find out about things: what they are like – their size, shape, texture, colour; how they are made; what she can do with them, for example playing with water or sand. The child will also discover that things can be broken, and this can help to teach her to take care of her possessions.
  • Physical play (exercise) takes place when a child is actively moving around – running, jumping, climbing, crawling, balancing, swinging, throwing a ball, and so on.
  • Creative play is when a child expresses her own ideas and feelings to make something which is original, for example, a picture, an animal in modelling dough, a house in building blocks, and so on. A young child is able to express feelings and ideas more easily by painting and drawing than by using words. As the child becomes more skilled with words, she may then be able to write a story, poem or play.
  • Imaginative play is ‘pretend’ or fantasy play. The child imagines that she is someone else or an animal such as a rabbit or dog. Children imitate the ways of adults when they play in a Wendy house or play ‘shopping’. Attempting to behave like someone else helps the child to understand more clearly the ways other people behave.
  • Manipulative play involves skillful use of the hands. During manipulative play the hands, eyes and brain are being trained to co-ordinate, that is, to work smoothly together. Babies become increasingly skillful with their hands as they play with rattles, soft toys and other objects. Later on, they benefit from playing with such things as modelling dough.
  • Social play takes place when children play together. It teaches them to co-operate, to share, and to be honest. It also teaches them that antisocial behaviour, like cheating, leads to isolation and loss of friendship. Children often quarrel and in doing so learn about each other’s reactions.

At any one time, a child may be involved in more than one type of play. For example, when a baby plays with a rattle, she discovers what it is like as she learns to use her hands – this is both discovery and manipulative play. When a group of children play with bricks it could involve all types of play.

So they are finally back to school

The second week is almost done and dusted😅 All the little first timers finding their feet in their new surroundings and new teachers. Not only is it something new for our little ones but for us Mammys and Daddys too, right?😁 How many of us didn't sleep the night before??👐👐 We sure didn't!! Running through all the things they needed for their day in your head, making sure everything is set out for the morning. Your in a frazzle while they're sleeping soundly👌👌 Then the big day arrives and your stomach is doing flips and you're holding back the lump in your throat as your handing over ur precious Johnny or Janey. Lets not mention the clock watching till its time to pick them u🤣🤣⏱⏱ But on the otherhand if you're a seasoned pro, you'll have been the one who was skipping out of that school yard, thinking to yourself 'Yes!!! I can finally have my cuppa in peace, pee by myself, sure jesus i might even have a nap!!😂😂' . All the while, Janey and Johnny are having a blast in school! All that stress was worth it, we get to see our little people so happy and content because they're  making new memories, forging new friendships, that we hope that will last a life time. We do so much for our children and every bit is worth it. 
At the end of the day no matter what path your child is taking, you, as their Mammy or Daddy are made of strong stuff and will guide and nurture their hopes and dreams, even if you look like you havent had time to brush your hair in a week or.... to look down at your feet to realise you have two odd shoes on, your top is back to front and inside out all because little Johnny thought you didnt need sleep last night because he NEEDED to tell you the intricate workings of minecraft😂😂👐👐

Just a little message to say hi.

Welcome to our wee world, a mad busy world at that!! Three crazy children, 2 nut job dogs and a beautiful wife (see i give compliments!). So....what brought me to start this wonderful vocation? Autism! Yep, not just once but twice. We embraced our new path head on, finding out everything we could, you name it, we tried it! But... one of the harder things to find, at a reasonable price were sensory toys, accessories, fine motor, gross motor aids etc etc (you know the drill). So one sunny day (rain and sleet and snow!!) down in our humble little town in the south east, came this light bulb moment to my sleep deprived greying wrinkly little head, why not start up your own business helping everyone in the same walk of life as your own!!?? So here we are... Fuddy Duddy, a helping hand for all our little people... "SEE THEIR IMAGINATIONS GROW" XX

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