family activity · positive steps therapy · teaching thoughts · topic

Gross Motor Development with Positive Steps

Positive Steps Therapy

Positive Steps Therapy and I are teaming up to bring you informative posts based on the therapies they provide. Today’s post is all about gross motor development across the ages. Check out the fun engaging activities to do with your child!

Take it away Positive Steps….

We’ve finally made it to spring! Now that the weather will be warming up, there will be increased opportunities for play outdoors. There are so many fun ways to use items lying around the house to improve gross motor skills. In the current times that we are living in, there has been a large decline in opportunities for children to improve their gross motor skills through organized sports or group play. Here are some great ideas to incorporate into your child’s day to help them improve these skills that are so important for their gross motor development. 

2-3 year olds: 

  • Practice stair transitions using fun game ideas 
    • Feed the frogs – Cut out frogs or other animals or use stuffed animals and place them at the bottom of the stairs. Place pom poms (food for animals) on the first few steps. Tell your child to walk up a certain number of stairs and collect the food to bring them to the frogs. Encourage your child to alternate feet on the stairs. 
  • Perform animal walks to encourage gross motor development and overall strengthening. Use your imagination and practice being different animals such as bear, frog, horse, or kangaroo. 
  • Balance activities: 
    • Use tape lines on the ground in various patterns (straight line, zig zag, etc) and have them walk along the line on flat feet and on tiptoes 
    • Play Flaming hoops game by using a hula hoop with streamers taped to the top of the hoop. Challenge your child to step through a hula hoop without touching any part of the “flaming” hoop. Change up the game by having them crawl through or lead using various body parts such as their arm or head. 

3-4 year olds: 

  • Ride a tricycle 
  • Perform animal walks to encourage gross motor development and overall strengthening. Use your imagination and practice being different animals such as bear, frog, kangaroo, flamingo, horse, and crab. 
  • Practice throwing small balls into laundry baskets using an overhand throw. ○ Start with very close distance to work on accuracy increasing distance to up to 5 feet away. 
  • Balance activities: 
    • Trial many different creative episodes of Cosmic Yoga 
    • Stepping over hurdles to encourage practicing single leg balance 
      • Hurdles can be created by using any objects around the house such as tying string around two objects or building hurdles out of large blocks. 
      • They can also be created using pool noodles in the yard outdoors. 

4-5 year olds:

  • Be creative and construct your own outdoor obstacle course using various objects around the house 
    • Use string/jump rope to walk on in order to encourage improving balance skills or use string/jump rope to tie around chairs or table legs to create hurdles 
    • Encourage balancing on one foot for 5 seconds or longer 
    • Practice jumping with two feet progressing to one foot by using hula hoops as place markers 
    • Encourage climbing up/down slides or across playsets 
  • Play simon says with activities such as skipping, galloping, balancing on one leg
  • Complete pool noodle sit-ups to work on core strengthening. Lie flat on your back and hold a pool noodle in both hands above your head. Perform a sit up and touch the noodle to your knees, feet, or toes. Call out different body parts for your child to touch the noodle to. 
  • Have a balloon toss competition by keeping a balloon up in the air or try catching it with a funnel to improve balance and upper extremity coordination 

5-6 year olds: 

  • Play Hopscotch using chalk outdoors or play indoors by using tape to make blocks on the floor. 
    • Encourage hopping on one foot and alternating jumping patterns. 
    • You can also challenge child by adding letters to each block in order to help with letter recognition. 
    • Higher level coordination activities: 
    • Jumping Jack Dance Workout 
  • Be creative and construct your own outdoor obstacle course using various objects around the house 
    • Use string/jump rope to walk on in order to encourage improving balance skills or use string/jump rope to tie around chairs or table legs to create hurdles 
    • Encourage balancing on one foot for 10 seconds or longer 
    • Practice jumping on one foot by using hula hoops as place markers 
    • Encourage skipping to various stations
positive steps therapy · teaching thoughts

Partnership

Positive Steps Therapy

Over the last few months, I have been working on developing a partnership with Positive Steps Therapy . Positive Steps reached out to me after hearing about this blog and my goal of supporting you, the families of children in Pre-K, K and beyond.

I will be posting information on my blog from Positive Steps Therapy that will share activities and/or information that will help you help your child develop and learn.

Positive Steps Therapy has been providing quality physical, occupational, speech and feeding therapy to children from birth to age 21 in the Pittsburgh region since 2004. We employ passionate and dedicated therapists who specialize in areas related to the pediatric population, including concussion, feeding, sensory integration, and orthopedic conditions. Our clinicians focus on play and functional based activities to maximize a child’s potential.

http://www.positivestepstherapy.com/

I am excited about this partnership and what together we can provide you.. the readers… the families. Because we all know…. it’s about the children

(first collaborative post coming soon!)

story · teaching thoughts · topic

You’re a Good Egg

Sometimes it is hard being good all the time. As adults we recognize the fact that you can’t always be good, you can’t always be perfect. But, often times we expect children to behave all the time. While we recognize that it is ok for them to have fun and be silly, do we tell them this? Do we explain to children that it’s ok to make the wrong choice? That they learn from their mistakes?

Let’s read the story The Good Egg by Jory John and Pete Oswald. This story is about one out of a dozen… eggs. What is it like to feel like you need to be the good egg? Well this egg knows. When one egg feels responsible for the actions for the others in the carton, the stress is too much.

Children need to learn this. They need to learn to take care of themselves. They need to recognize when they need to ask for help and that it is ok. They need to learn how to relax when things are stressful. Today help your child brainstorm a list of things they can do when life gets too hard. Talk about a time when you, their loving adult, just needed to step away and do something to relax yourself.

Ideas for your child to use to relax:

  • blow bubbles
  • draw
  • go for a walk with an adult and just be quiet in nature
  • look at the clouds
  • take a bath
  • listen to music
  • read a book
  • breathing activities (pretend to smell a flower then blow out a candle)
  • play with playdough
  • build
  • learn yoga poses
  • give yourself a hug

Remind your child that they are a good egg. But, that doesn’t mean that they won’t make mistakes. They won’t make the wrong choice from time to time. Making bad choices does not make you a bad person. We learn from our mistakes and grow from them. Take time to talk about this when your child is not having a tough time so that when they are, it isn’t something new to learn on top of dealing with emotions.

teaching thoughts · writing

Phonetic Spelling

Have you ever seen your child write on their own? Children will write in play without support all the time, but as soon as you sit them down to write something they expect you to write it for them and/or tell them how to spell it. Why? The reason is the adults.

When children write on their own they go through a natural progression from scribble writing and random letters all the way to correct spelling. But, if adults tell children how to spell and/or that they are spelling words wrong then the child is afraid, cautious and concerned about doing it right. So, what can we do?

Teachers have learned that you can guide children through these writing stages without hampering their development. Wait what does that mean? Phonetic spelling, as known as inventive spelling or transitional spelling, is the process of writing words based on the phonetic sounds you hear in the word.

When children begin the process of phonetic spelling, they start by writing only the beginning sound. This is because it the the key sound you hear in a word. The next step is to add on the ending sound and later when they have mastered an understanding of more letter sounds and especially vowel sounds they will add in the medial sounds. For example, let’s pretend your child drew a picture of a house. When they begin the process of writing they may label the picture just with an “h”. As they gain more confidence in their own writing process they will naturally begin to add more sounds. Now they will write “hs” as house. Moving forward they may learn that “ow” says /ow/ and will write “hows”.

While none of these are the correct spelling they are steps towards getting the correct spelling. One concern that adults often bring up is that the child is learning it wrong. Let me dispel this myth, your child is not learning to spell the word, (s)he is learning the process of putting their thought on paper. At this point in the learning development, we are working on the concept of print has meaning and that you can put your thoughts down in words. Later as children learn more phonics skills and begin to see that words are spelled a specific way, they will master the correct spelling of words.

When teachers assist children in progressing through this process, the key is to sound out words slowly and teach children to stretch out words. We have them visualize the words on an elastic band. Pull the band slowly to stretch out the sounds. Write the sounds you hear. The key is to always go back to the whole word before you are finished. Here is another example: candle. Have your child stretch out the word c-an-d-l. When your child starts writing they will probably write “c” or “k”… either works. Then they may add in the “d” as this is a more dominant sound than the “l”. They will then progress to cndl as these are the consonant sounds you hear in the word candle. This is praised as they have progressed. If your child has learned “an” you can stretch it out and say do you hear the “an” sound in the word?

So why? Why do we want children to do through this progression? Well… a few reasons. One, they are writing. They are putting their own thoughts on paper. They are doing it their way and aren’t being told no that’s wrong. They aren’t ready to do it independently and in book spelling and won’t be for a few years. We want children to view themselves as writers and the earlier they write, the stronger this image will be.

Why else? When children make this natural progression of writing they actually develop stronger phonics and phonemic awareness skills. They need to use these skills to write on their own. They are not waiting to memorize and learn a new word or rule before they can write. If children had to memorize all the words they wanted to write before they began writing they would not get beyond sight words and simple cvc words until late in first grade. With transitional writing they can begin writing words as soon as they master their letter sounds.

So… what does this mean for parents. First if your child writes something that you can’t read it is OK! Ask your child to read it to you. “I see you labeled your picture, will you read the words to me?” “I noticed you wrote sentences to go with your illustration, I’d love to hear what you wrote.”

Next, if your child gets stuck on a word help them sound it out. It’s ok if it is not spelling exactly. In the classroom, I always talk about kid spelling (or kindergarten/preK spelling) verses book spelling. I do not expect the children to write in book spelling, but this addresses the fact that there is a correct way to write something, but since they are in K, preK are kids whatever, it’s ok to write it their own way.

Finally, if you are working with your child to sound out a word and they spell it correctly… tell them. Look you wrote that in book spelling. This will begin to solidify the correct spelling and that they can transition from phonetic spelling to book spelling. Just remember to praise their effort to use phonetic spelling too or else they will revert to depending on you for all the book spelling!

math · teaching thoughts

Addition

Most kindergarten classes are taking on addition at this time in the year. Addition is more than just memorizing facts. Often times families help their child memorize facts and then the child does not want to do that work behind understanding addition concepts. While this is not a huge deal now, it might be later on.

Educators have recognized the need to teach mental math, that is what “new” math is in the early years… mental math on paper. We teach children to not just memorize, but think math. You will see there is a lot more story problems and very few facts sheets.

Now this does not mean that we do not want children to memorize math facts, but we want them to understand the thinking behind the facts too.

For example instead saying solve 4+5, teachers might say: There are 4 large books and 5 small books on the table. How many books are on the table? We want to see the children move from drawing 4 large books and 5 small books and counting each book to moving towards 4+5=9.

For this fact, they might say:

  • Put the big number in my head and count up from there 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
  • that they know that 4+4 is 8 and one more is 9
  • Or they may say that 5+5 is 10 and one less is 9.

While these steps might seem like a lot to teach and learn, it is actually how you do mental addition. Look at the numbers you have, determine a fact you know and manipulate the numbers from there. We talk about making the facts less messy. Later they will learn to break down numbers into 100s, 10s and 1s and then use this breakdown to add.

Ok… so what does that mean for me as a parent? I encourage you to get your child to manipulate math facts. Tell them number stories and help them illustrate the answer. Challenge them with multiple addends. Look at addition as anything that means more.

  • 6 birds are in the tree. 4 more land on the branch. How many birds are in the tree now?
  • There are some children in the room. 3 have on jackets and 7 have on sweaters. How many children are in the room?

They also will need to solve facts with missing addends

  • There are 4 pink candies and some yellow candies on a plate. There is enough candy for 9 children to each get one piece. How many of the candies were yellow? 4+__=9 (four pink and how many yellow makes 9 pieces is this fact)
  • 10 children line up to get a drink of water. Some have their own water bottles and 2 need to get a cup. How many have their own water bottle. 10= ____ + 2

Present facts as number sentences with the answer on either side of the = sign. Use symbols to represent the missing fact piece. Often you will see a box used, but try to use other signs too, this will help later when getting into harder algebraic equations.

story · teaching thoughts

After the Fall

Yesterday I couldn’t decide what to write about, so I didn’t. I didn’t type anything yesterday. Some days life just gets to you more than you realize. I find that the more life is calm, the more I’m excited to sit down and blog. This morning I was reading some of the blogs that I follow and A Teacher’s Reflection, a blog written by a preschool teachers, mentioned the story After the Fall by Dan Santat.

I decided that this story is so important to hear right now. While the story is about Humpy Dumpty and how he copes after his fall, and about moving forward after and accident, we need to think about this in terms of the pandemic. What do we need to do to feel comfortable moving forward? How is your child coping and adapting to the changes that took place with the onset of Covid? How are they dealing with the change over time?

First thing you need to look at is how are YOU the adult dealing with these changes? The way you the adult are adapting and moving forward plays a huge impact on how your child deals with this. Are you talking about how unhappy you are with changes? Are you being positive about the world you are living in? Are you talking to your child about his/her feelings and listening to what they are saying?

As we get closer to having more and more people vaccinated, we need to see that there maybe some hesitation and concern still in children. You can’t see who is vaccinated. You can’t see who is safe. Children struggle to understand when big changes happen and when life begins to open back up again, we may see this struggle again.

How can we as adults help? Talk. Often times adults feel they need to shelter children from change and things that going on in life. We need to talk to children about what is going on. We need to express our concerns and listen to their concerns. We need to keep them in the loop. Using stories is a great way to start this conversation, this is why I shared this story with you today!

high frequency words · teaching thoughts · topic

Sight Word Work

Ok… today’s post will be a bit of a tangent for me. Typically I pick a story and then provide an activity or two to work on related to the story. But, over the weekend a friend asked me for help, so I’m going to share some of this advice with the rest of you.

Many primary teachers (K, 1, and 2… and sadly often even some preK teachers) expect children to master sight words. While I will not get into my opinion on this, I will provide you with an explanation of sight words AND some fun ways to practice.

Sight words, are words that your child read by sight, they master and never need to decode again. The reason mastering sight words is important is for reading fluency. When children have a mastery of sight words (a, the, in, it, is, look etc… ), then when they encounter these words in reading they just know the word and can move forward in reading harder words that (s)he may need to decode. Different schools use different sight word, or high frequency word, lists. Often times they are set by the reading program that the school uses.

Parents often ask, should my child learn to just read these words or do they need to know how to spell them too? While most teachers assess sight words by showing flash cards and having children read them, they often also assume that your child will also be able to use them in writing. My belief is that you should help your child learn to write the word. If you can write it, typically can read it. Just because I can read something does not mean I can spell it on my own.

Activities to help learn sight words:

  • write the words!: pencils, crayons, markers, chalk, paint, water, any medium you can
  • build the words: magnetic letters, play dough, letter blocks, other letter toys
  • play games with the words: bingo, matching
  • Candyland sight words: assign a sight word for each of the colors on the board, have your child draw a card and then read or write the word that matches the color before moving along the path
  • Bang- create flashcards with the sight words include in the stack 2 or 3 “bang” cards. When your child(ren) go through the stack, have him/her read the card they draw. If they get it correct, they keep the card, if they get it wrong it goes back in the pile. If they draw a bang card, they put all of their cards back. The person with the most cards at the end wins
  • Flashlight find- put the words on post-it notes and hang them around the room. turn the lights off and use a flashlight to find the words. Have your child spell and say the word or use it in a sentence.
  • Magazine hunt: provide your child with magazine and have him/her search through the pages to find the sight words. Cut the words out and make sentences on flashcards. Then use these sentences to review the sight words
  • Highlighter reading: Copy a page or two from a favorite story. Provide a highlighter and have your child find the sight words in the text. Show him/her how to use the highlighter to highlight the sight words.
  • Cloze sentences: write sentences with a sight words missing. Have your child read the sentence and determine what sight word belongs. _____ dog ran fast. Simon likes ____ play _____ Lego blocks.
  • Sight word Twister, Hopscotch, Mazes: create “game boards” with chalk, tape or items. Use the sight words on the spaces or as part of the movement in these games.

Here is the key… MAKE IT FUN! While flashcards are simple and yes they work… they aren’t fun and do not make a lot of connections. Children need to see the word in text to make the connection to the reading AND they need to do something with the word to make additional connections. The more you do with the words, the stronger the connections will be.. the faster they will not only learn the word for the assessment, but also master it for ownership in reading.

teaching thoughts

Brain Breaks

Ok… What are brain breaks and why are they so popular in school? A brain break is an opportunity for teachers and students to change gears. During the school day, children and adults are often hyper focused on the learning at hand. But, we know that this isn’t the best way to learn. You need to stop and change gears for your brain to process the information at hand. So, that is when you need a brain break. Teachers in the younger grades often use music and movement as a brain break. This gives your child the opportunity to move and change gears! We recognize the movement is a critical piece in learning. While many primary teachers (and some secondary teachers) allow and often encourage and provide opportunities for movement during learning it isn’t always possible. We need to get up out of those chairs and move around.

The addition of music also triggers additional parts of the brain to work. There are many wants to take these brain breaks and make them educational and fun! Many children’s musicians are seeing the need for this and creating learning based songs with movements. This connection helps our auditory and kinesthetic learners create additional learning connections through music and movement.

There are other ways to use brain breaks such as yoga, breathing exercises, classroom games and more. The key to a good brain break is change! A change from whatever you are doing at the time. So if you have been super active and need a brain break, then use breathing exercises to slowwwww down. If you have been sitting too long, get up and jump around.

Some brain breaks:

  • Go Noodle, Jack Hartmann, Dr Jean, Laurie Berkner Band, Raffi, Ella Jenkins for songs
  • head shoulders knees and toes– switch up body parts, change pacing of the movements, make it fun
  • freeze dance– put on music and then everyone freezes when the music stops
  • high knees/marching
  • show me how you: walk like a penguin, gallop like a horse, float like a snowflake etc.
  • blow bubbles
  • simon says
  • coloring
  • breathing exercises – Go Noodle, The Mental Heath Teacher
  • build with blocks
  • play with play dough
  • and so much more!

The key to brain breaks is to use them BEFORE your brain is ready to shut down. These should last 1-3 minutes (longer with younger children). Remember it is an opportunity change gears and refocus!

story · teaching thoughts

You Can Be President Too

Today is President’s Day. It is a day to reflect on the impact of the former Presidents of the United States. But, we don’t have to only think about the former presidents, we can think about the future too! Start by reading the book I Can Be President Too by Yanitzia Canetti.

One of my favorite YouTube channels to share with my classes is Kid President! If you have not checked out his videos, start today. Here is one called Kid President’s 20 Things We Should Say More Often.

Draw a picture of yourself as the president. What would you do as the president? What qualities would make you a good president.

We all need to dream big dreams. We need to focus on the qualities that makes us important. We need to encourage kindness, acceptance and love.

art · STEAM · story · topic

More Penguin Fun

Today we will read another penguin story. This story is If You Were a Penguin by Wendell and Florence Minor. This fun story looks at many attributes of penguins and various activities that different penguins do based on where they live. You can use some of these facts to add onto your can/have/are chart from yesterday.

my paper penguin (he’s a macaroni penguin!)

Today we will make a penguin! A paper penguin. There are lots and lots of options on the web, or you can just provide your child with black, white, and yellow/orange construction paper and show him/her pictures of real penguins. This in my opinion is the best way to do these projects. Too often people get wrapped up in making the project perfect. They expect all the projects done in a classroom to look the same, or REALLY really similar, but why? I love seeing the size differences. The perception of what is and what is not the main features when you give children permission to be independent and do things on his/her own! So make a paper penguin… just have fun!

How can I add more learning to this craft? Easiest answer is to write. Have your child write a story about their penguin. This can be more information about the penguin OR it can be a story about the penguin. What is your penguin doing? Where is (s)he going? Think about the five senses. What can it see? Hear? Taste (what is it eating?)? What does it smell around? What can it feel?

You could have your child measure their penguin. You can use a ruler or work on non-standard measurement. How many 2×2 Lego blocks tall is your penguin? How many more cubes tall is it than it is wide? Can you find something that is taller than your penguin? Something shorter? Something the same height?