Motor Skills

I’m going to try to post once a week this month to highlight our 3 year preschool curriculum. Several people have asked what I do for certain subject areas, often because they want ideas for their own kids. Also, I want to be able to look back and remember what we did. 

We use the timberdoodle curriculum and I supplement with other activities to add variety. What I love about timberdoodle is how much of it is hands on–perfect for my always-on-the-go learner. When highlighting the different activities, I will make a note if the activity is something from timberdoodle and link to their website if I’m able (they change up their curriculum frequently so some things may no longer be available from them). Also, many of the activities fit into more than one category, so you may see them more than once as I go through everything. 

If you’ve followed me on Facebook for any length of time, you’ll know that Snowflake needs no help with his gross motor skills. 😬 He’s been climbing before he could walk and every other gross motor skill since has come naturally. We do provide lots of opportunities for him to practice these skills (and get the energy out). He has 2 trampolines (a big one in the basement and a small rebounder in the living room), we allow him to climb and jump on furniture (within reason), he loves riding his bike and running outside, throwing and catching balls of various sizes, playing on his swing set and spending a lot of time at playgrounds (weather permitting). 

While his gross motor skills are at or above where they should be, his fine motor skills are lacking (very typical for boys). His pencil grasp is still a fisted grasp half the time. It’s definitely getting better (it was fisted grasp 100% of the time back in September) but he’s still behind in this area. I’m working with him daily to get him caught up. Here are my favorite activities for fine motor practice: 

Let’s cut paper: Timberdoodle

Journal: just a notebook and a pencil. I like these pencils because they are easier for little fingers to hold. We practice writing letters, numbers and shapes. Also his name. 

Dry erase board: another medium for us to practice writing. I love this one with the extra wide lines. I got it from the target dollar spot about a year ago. 

Dot to dot for tiny tots: Amazon

Draw and learn animals: originally from timberdoodle but now found on Amazon. I love this book as it teaches placement of facial features and following directions, too. 

Kumon tracing and uppercase letters: I picked these up from 5 Below for $3 each but they are also on Amazon. Here and here

Trail mix and match: originally from timberdoodle but now on Amazon

Reusable sticker pads: he got these as a gift and there are several options on Amazon

Farm finger crayons: these are my all time favorite for helping those fine motor skills. Kids are forced to use their fingertips to draw. We use thes a lot for drawing/writing activities. Found on Amazon

Wooden lacing beads: this is something I’ve had from my years as a daycare provider. It’s similar to the trail mix and match but adds some variety and teaches numbers 1-10. Found here

Alphabet cookie cutters: we use these with play dough or baking sugar cookies. A great fine motor strength building activity. Found here

Letter stamps: I think I picked these up for less than $5 at hobby lobby. Again, these are great for working those fingertips. Any stamps will do, I like the letters because it covers a couple learning concepts. 

So there you have it. My top 12 activities for improving fine motor skills in preschoolers. 😊 Does your child struggle with fine motor skills? What are some of your favorite fine motor activities? 

Kneehigh Naturalist

Once a month, we go to a local nature center for a parent and child class. This class for kids aged 3-5 years is a great way to get children excited about the world around them. Our very first class was about mice and Snowflake has not stopped talking about mice since. Today’s class was on clouds. The hour and a half class includes crafts, story time, projects, a science experiment, and snacktime. After, the kids can play in the child centered nature room with lots of fun kid friendly nature items. This class is a great addition to our homeschool curriculum.

Painting his cloud. 

Bird and squirrel watching using his new cloud watching binoculars. 

The kids were all engaged and excited about this cloud making experiment. 
This morning crafts and projects. 

New Year, New Routine

Wow it’s been a long time since I blogged. So much for getting 2 posts up each month, lol. We are still plugging along, despite my lack of posts. We took a 1 week break at thanksgiving and a 2 week break at Christmas. Otherwise, we’ve been fairly consistent, minus a day here or there for illness, but we’ve typically made it up later. So all in all, it’s going very well. 

Now that winter has fully engulfed Michigan and we’ve gotten a few months under our belt, I used our break at Christmas to make some changes. Snowflake was getting bored with the same 8-10 activities each week and, to be honest, I was too. So I took pictures of all his learning activities, including a bunch of new Christmas presents, and redid the choice board. He now has 35 things to choose from. The goal is to pick 3-5 each morning and/or afternoon that we are home. I finished the chart last Thursday and he was raring to go on Friday. He wanted to do school first thing in the morning, even before his breakfast and morning cartoon. I take that as a good sign! Choice time activities take us about an hour; give or take depending on his level of engagement and focus. 

Handwriting and fine motor is one of his weak areas (typical for boys), so I added a handwriting section to our calendar time door. He loves it and is excited to write the letter or number of the week. Here’s a picture from earlier today. I don’t think he did too bad…. Now if I can just get him moved away from the fisted grasp… This portion of our school time takes us about 10-15 minutes. 

I love the flexibility we have with our schedule. A couple weeks ago, when everyone else was heading back to school, we were able to take advantage of the 40* day and go to the zoo. We just shifted our school time to another day. Also, it doesn’t matter what the weather is like outside, we still do school. And if we are feeling especially lazy, we don’t even have to get dressed. One day last week, instead of doing our choice activities in the library, we did them in a fort. He loved it. 

That’s the New Years update. I’ll attempt to go through the choice activity options in the coming weeks. I know several people have asked about the curriculum I’m using. Hopefully I get a chance to blog about that before March! 

Humorous Challenges

We are now over a month and a half into homeschooling. Overall, it’s still going well but it hasn’t been without its struggles. I’m happy to say that these challenges were expected; however, it often takes more time and patience than I sometimes have to get through them. Most of the struggles are in regards to Snowflake’s desire to be in control and his big imagination. I know he’s going to do great things with his determination, vision, and imagination one day but some days it’s hard to remember because it’s so frustrating. Here’s a few snippets of conversations we’ve had recently: 

Mommy: it’s time to do school.
Snowflake: we can’t. School closed. 
Mommy: can you open it?
Snowflake: no, it’s locked. 
Mommy: can you unlock it? 
Snowflake: keys are lost. 
Mommy: can you find them? 
Snowflake: {sigh} I guess. (He found the keys–his fingers, and proceeded to try each one to unlock “the school”. Then he had to clean the school and I had to wait in line. This was a minor inconvenience that eventually was solved but it took an extra 15 minutes to get our school time started.) 
Many days he’s “too tired” and I have to convince him that getting school done sooner is in his favor. He can’t play toys or watch a show until it’s done, once we’ve started. Other days he is just plain stubborn and refuses to try. This morning he sat in the corner for a good 5 minutes just because. Once he makes up his mind to do it and apply himself, we typically breeze right through.

Mommy: can you count the owls? 
Snowflake: just too many (there was one….😂)

“Stop the talking noise, maa! I relaxing. No school today.” 

Mommy: can you put 3 cows in the barn? 
Snowflake: no, pigs want to roll in the mud (proceeds to roll pigs in mud). 
Mommy: I need you to put 3 cows in the barn. There’s a storm coming and they need to be safe.
Snowflake: no storm coming, it sunny. Pigs want to roll in the mud. 
Mommy: (changing tactic) can you put the green pig and yellow pig in the mud? 
Snowflake: no, only red pig and blue pig can roll in the mud….. 

So yes, we’ve had some challenges. While frustrating in the moment, most days I can laugh about them by the time my husband gets home. It’s nothing that I wasn’t expecting and as with almost anything, we’ll have good days and bad days. We’ve managed to find a good rhythm and routine and it’s working well for our family. He’s definitely learning and that the important thing. And while he’s learning his letters and numbers, I’m learning that I need more patience, time, and to remember to eat a snack before we start. 😉

September Round-up

Our first month of homeschool preschool is over. I was prepared for some huge challenges, but I was pleasantly surprised. There were challenges, for sure, but not near as hard as I expected. 

Calendar time was a big favorite. He loved having control of the pointer and has been engaged each morning.

During calendar time we go over the calendar, weather, numbers, counting, patterns, letters, and our address.

 Immediately following calendar time, we go and make the learning choices for the day. Again, he gets to use the pointer, so he likes this part, too. We have had 6 days of school so far (2 days/week) and we got through almost all the learning activities. Eventually I’d like to get through them all in a 2 week (4-6 day) span, but we are easing in. Here’s what the choice chart looks like now: 

This choice chart is what has made all the difference in our actual learning time. He loves feeling in control and getting to decide what to do each day and in what order. 

After his choices are made, we go up to the library. Sometimes we can get through everything in 30 minutes, other days it takes an hour. It all depends on his level of cooperation. If he’s being highly uncooperative, we will either take a break or switch up the location. We’ve done school in the library, outside and in his bedroom, so far… It doesn’t matter to me where we do it as long as he’s cooperative and engaged. My broken record line during his uncooperative times is, “if you want to ______ then we need to finish this first.” Sometimes it works right away. Other times I need to repeat myself over and over. 

Proud of his tall tower.

Trail Mix n Match outside under a tree.

First self-portrait

We have also completed 3 weeks of mommy and me preschool through our parks and rec program. He’s done well overall, though we have had some bumps, and it’s fun to see how far he’s come even since May (when we finished the first session). Here are a couple of projects he’s completed in that class: 

Overall, things are going really well and it’s become quite clear that this is the right choice for him. I’m excited to see how far he comes as the year progresses. 

Starting Point

One of the bonuses of homeschooling is being able to jump right in. When I taught preschool and kindergarten, it always seemed the first few weeks were getting to know the kids, settling into a routine, and assessments. Oh, assessments. A necessary but time consuming thing for every teacher with a class of young students. In order to know where to start and be able to measure how much kids have learned, you have to know where they are when they start. Homeschooling provides me with several advantages over classroom teachers. One being I don’t need to take time to do assessments as I already know exactly what he knows. 

This post is mostly for my records, so I can look back in a few months and see how far he’s come. At the beginning of 3 Year Preschool, Snowflake knows:

  • Almost all colors (still gets red and green confused and we are wondering about color blindness….)
  • Shapes–circle, triangle, oval, square, rectangle, heart, star, cross
  • How to count to 20 but skips 14 & 15
  • How to count backward from 5
  • Good one to one correspondence when counting objects
  • No number recognition
  • About 6 letters: m, y, u, o, i, x
  • No sounds
  • Many opposites
  • How to follow 2 step directions
  • Book awareness (front, back, left to right, etc)
  • Can identify Michigan and Florida on a US map
  • Can identify the US flag (thank you Olympics!)

He has great gross motor skills. He can run, jump, throw, balance… His fine motor skills are also pretty good; however, his pencil grasp is still at the level of an 18-24 month old. I’ve gotten some advice from some occupational therapists this summer and we will be working intently on improving this skill.  

We will be working to increase his knowledge on all of the above plus more this year. I’m excited to see how much he learns as the year progresses. 

Mommy & Me Preschool

One of the things I am doing with Snowflake is a Mommy & Me Preschool class. It meets once a week for just over an hour. It is the perfect addition to our homeschool preschool this year. He has the opportunity to be with other kids, learn how to sit and listen to his teacher, take turns, and all those things kids learn by being in a group. It is offered through our local parks & rec office and very affordable. Today was his first day (of the new session, we did the spring and summer sessions earlier this year). He did so good and it was fun to see the maturity that happened over the summer. Even his teacher commented on his progress. I’m excited to see how he does through the next 12 weeks and so grateful for this opportunity that compliments our homeschool preschool so well. 

He was very happy to see his teacher this morning.