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Encourage Writing – Fine Motor Visual Motor Activities

*Disclaimer: These ideas are not totally my own. I have been given some resources by the Occupational Therapists at my child’s school to help with his handwriting at home, unfortunately not all came with sources attached. I’m simply sharing these ideas in hopes that by seeing how they are helping my child they can help you or encourage you to seek help if you feel it is needed for your child.

The occupational therapist at Cutie Pie’s school sent home a summer kit meant to keep kiddos working on their OT and writing skills throughout the summer.

These tools were meant to give me tools to work with him at home to improve his writing. He tends to hold the pencil with three fingers and his thumb, which seems to cause difficulty in forming letters and slows down his work pace, both of which will cause more difficulties when it comes to writing tasks in older grades.

Some visual fine-motor activities suggested are:
Cutting with scissors
Coloring, painting, writing with chalk
Dot to dots
Puzzles, hidden object seeking

Each of these activities are focused on connecting what you are doing with your hands to what you are seeing. I think as adults we sometimes take for granted that everyone can do this easily. Kids really need to practice this eye-hand coordination, not just in a gross-motor way (like sports) but for writing as well.

Encouraging Writing – Fine Motor Activities We Like

Over the past two weeks I’ve been posting about encouraging Cutie Pie to write as well as ways to help him get better at it. Today I’m sharing some ways he’s working on his fine motor skills, ways he doesn’t realize he’s learning and developing skills.

Cutie Pie loves to draw, so we’ve been doing a lot of drawing on paper together, as well as coloring. We’ve gotten some How to Draw books out of the library, which Hubby and I have noticed have given Cutie Pie more confidence in drawing. This has seemed to help get him to draw even more than before, which helps (in theory) to get him using the pencil the correct way more often!

We have also gotten him some dinosaur dot to dot books. Getting something he is interested in encourages him to actually complete them. The books we have also tell about the dinosaurs, so we get some reading in there, too.

Cutie Pie loves to do mazes, whether on paper or on my iPad. Of course, dinosaur themed mazes catch his attention the most! There are some letter formation apps available for the iPad as well, but as I have stated before, Cutie Pie doesn’t seem to like learning using methods that appear as learning, and most of the letter forming apps we have found are of no interest to him.

He does, however, love finding hidden objects, and so does Sweet Pea! I found a neat free app, called ABCMysteriez, which is all about finding letters in the picture. (As for most products, to get to higher levels you will have to purchase the full game, but my kids love what is available on the free app.) This reinforces letter recognition, too! I love sneaky learning!

We started this whole endeavor with a strong interest in playing with stickers, so the first thing we did was get a dinosaur sticker book, called Dinosaurs, Sticker Encyclopedia (more than 600 stickers), which he loved and we could see that it definitely helped with his fine motor coordination!

Now it’s your turn. How do you encourage your kiddos to write? What fun ways are they gaining control over their fine motor skills?

Encouraging Writing – Fine Motor Activities

encourage writing

Last week I posted about Cutie Pie having a little difficulty with his writing. Today I thought I’d share a section of a basic list of fine motor activities that Occupational Therapy sent home for us to work on for a month to work on coordination, concentration.

Please remember, these aren’t something I am taking credit for, rather something I’m sharing as I’ve seen it has been beneficial for Cutie Pie, age 6, who is having a little difficulty with writing with his left hand, although they aren’t necessarily for left handers.

These are also great activities for younger children developing pre-writing skills!

  • Play with play dough – cut, squeeze, use cookie cutters, squish an object inside to be found
  • Pinch and pop bubble wrap – great pincer grasp work!
  • Use of eye droppers – with water or other crafts
  • LEGO play
  • String beads
  • Cut paper
  • Use tweezers to pick up objects, or play games like Operation
  • Practice zippers and buttons, snaps and shoe tying
  • Squeeze water out of squirt bottles (water plants or clean the driveway this way)
  • Stickers
  • Tearing paper for crafts – my 4 year old loves this!

There are lots of ways you can make these activities more interesting if your child already does fine motor work like this often, however I think most kids just like doing these simple tasks without mixing it up.

If you’d like something different because you’re bored (hey, we’ve all been there doing the same thing over and over with our kiddos), look for resources on the internet. Simply look up “fine motor” and you’ll get a lot of results, make that a ton of ideas! You can also add an age in there, or a school term like preschool or early elementary to get more refined results.

I will share some of the activities Cutie Pie is partial to later this week.

Encourage Writing in Young Children

I personally love to download different fonts for projects from the computer. There are so many different handwriting fonts that I’m seeing. This got me to thinking that everyone writes differently.

I think sometimes we perceive our children learning to write through the same method, be it handwriting without tears or another means, with the end result being everyone writing the same at the same ability in the same timeframe. We know that as adults our handwriting is completely different from one another’s and also that children progress in abilities and skills at different rates. So why should children’s handwriting be the same and progress the same?
While our children may not acquire skills or abilities at the same age, it is still very important for the encouragement of the development of social and academic skills to be taking place, not just from teachers, but from parents as well.

Many children learn the same way. However, there are others than need to use their senses in different ways to learn the same thing. I think it is important that we, as parents, do our best to not only help our children learn what they should, but discover how it is they learn best to further the teaching at home.

Think about it in these terms:

  • Fine Motor activities – strengthen their fingers (to promote a better pencil grip)
  • Visual Motor activities – connecting eye-sight to hand/finger (greater pencil control)
  • Sensory Motor activities – learning through all senses
  • Gross Motor activities – improve balance and coordination on the large scale with can trickle down to improved hand and finger control
I will share examples (ones we use) in future posts. It is my hope that sharing this information will help you discover new (to you) ways of helping your child love to write!

*Disclaimer: These ideas are not totally my own. I have been given some resources by the Occupational Therapists at my child’s school to help with his handwriting at home, unfortunately not all came with sources attached. I’m simply sharing these ideas along with my observations in hopes that by seeing how they are helping my child they can help you or encourage you to seek help if you feel it is needed for your child.

Encourage Writing – Prayer Box

Do you pray with your child and record their requests?

Six year old Cutie Pie’s Sunday School teacher gave him a box, originally for writing down prayer requests. At night when we pray he now draws his prayer requests rather than writing them since drawing is something he loves to do. A prayer box is so simple an idea, one I had thought of for me, but not for my kiddos before. (I’m not sharing a pic because this is something personal to Cutie Pie and out of respect for him I have chosen not to share it.)

Making a prayer box is a very simple (family) project if you’d like to make one with your kids (any age) and help them keep track of their prayer requests and answers to prayer!

What you’ll need:

  • index cards
  • box (small shoebox is great if you don’t have an index card box)
  • pencils or crayons
  • stickers or other materials to decorate the box

Simply have your child decorate the box in whatever form they wish. Insert the index cards, possibly making dividers by month if you want to get detailed and leave near the place you usually pray! (coordination, fine motor)

It’s pretty simple to use, and can be something very personal for your child, or something you do together. It can be a great encouragement for your child to write if praying for others is their gift. Your and/or your child can use it in a way that fits them best, drawing requests, writing them, daily, nightly, recording their thoughts about Bible Stories they’re learning, whatever. The project is completely personalize-able!

When Cutie Pie draws a request we date it. At first this was just to be able to keep some order to the requests, but it turns out this has allowed us to see improvement in his drawing skills over a period of time.

We can also review his prayer requests with him periodically to see if any have been answered, although we haven’t done this with him yet.

We are involving him in nightly prayers, even though he doesn’t always say them. He’s learning to pray for others and to be thankful for what he has. Whether you are a praying family or not thinking of others and being thankful are two great personality characteristics!

Encourage Writing – about their day

In the beginning of the year when Cutie Pie came home from morning kindergarten he’d find a School Notes sheet to fill out while he waited for his lunch. It had a pretty large place for him to draw a picture of something that happened throughout the day as well as had a place to write the names of other kids he played with. (I’m so thankful for Living Locurto! Some really neat ideas over there – you’ve gotta check that site out!)

While this idea has been great for us because it gives me a place to start talking with my kiddo about his day, it has also has proven to show a progression in his drawing skills when I look back through them. (I haven’t used this with my 4 year old because he simply does not want to do it, but responds to questions and more readily offers information about his day, but I think you could!)

Why not take this a step further for older kids? For those who can write? Have them write a sentence or two, or paragraph or two for even older kids, about their day. It can serve as a journal of sorts, but also serve to show you progression in their writing skills. Plus, if school is like it was when I was younger, sometimes you only see one or two words in their writing coming home from school with the longer writing samples being sent home later in the year. (Is school still like this? I have a kindergartener, so I’m not really sure!)

Take an interest in your kids’ writing, by taking an interest in their day by way of what they choose to write about.

Pet Helper

Remember a bit ago I posted about the family now having a fish tank? Cutie Pie’s science interest has really been fueled, so much that he even likes to help clean the tank!

I love that his interest in animals has carried over to the aquarium and all that it entails. He’s learning about responsibility, the species of fish we have, paying attention to another living being’s need for food and a clean habitat and even following specific directions while helping.

Growing up in the country my family had many barn cats make a home under our porch. Some were more pets than my dad would have liked, with us feeding and playing with them, crying when they were killed by passing cars. (In the country this was really common, sad, but common.)

Hubby grew up with a basset hound. Taking her for walks, helping to feed her and train her to stay in the kitchen when the family was eating. Hubby and I aren’t quite there with the desire for a four-legged pet, but after seeing how much Cutie Pie likes caring for the fish I can see ourselves there someday.

What animals do you have in your home and how involved are your kiddos in caring for them?

Glow Board Reading

Hubby spends more time with Cutie Pie at nighttime than I do, I admit it. Cutie Pie wants me to do shadow puppet shows against the wall with him and they just are, well, shorter than what Hubby does. I’m pretty sure it’s because my drawing skills are not good enough for him and Hubby is a great draw-er.

I know there are a lot of ideas out there for teaching kiddos to read, but my kids aren’t drawn to many of them. Are yours? (Sounds like I’m talking about two separate ideas in this post doesn’t it? Keep reading!)

A few years ago Cutie Pie was given this glow board and we have been drawing on it almost nightly ever since. At first it started out with us drawing pictures for him, then letters of the alphabet, then he tried his hand at drawing and writing letters. Now it’s a combination of drawing and writing done by Hubby. Let me tell you it’s been a great tool in helping Cutie Pie get better at reading!

Hubby sometimes writes what Cutie Pie requests be written. It can be a nonsense word, a silly word, whatever, and Hubby will write it so Cutie Pie can make the connection. Other times Hubby will draw something and then label it, be it a silly name for a drawing of a silly man or some such thing that will inevitably make Cutie Pie squeal with laughter.

Making learning fun seems to be one of the ways Cutie Pie absorbs and excels in the learning area. How do you make learning to read fun? I’d love to try other methods!

Writing Skills

Cutie Pie seems not to have an interest in learning how to write and his teacher has talked with me a few times about it now.

One night Cutie Pie and I were talking. I was commenting on his awesome drawing skills and it led to talking about how he doesn’t seem to like to write. He said “But Daddy never writes.”

This made me wonder why I hear so much of ‘your child needs to see you reading to get an interest in reading’, but never have heard ‘your child needs to see you writing to have an interest in writing.’ It made sense several years ago, but with children learning how to use a computer before they even go to school, I’m wondering.

I thought about it more and he’s right. His Daddy usually does his writing on the computer when he’s at home. Cutie Pie sees that. He sees me with the pen in my hand paying the bills, filling out the school forms and making out the grocery lists.

Is learning to read and seeing parents read more important or deserve more of an emphasis than seeing them write in this computer-emphasized age? I would love to hear your comments on this.

Tool for Coordination

What do you do after your kids are in bed? Catch up on the chores? Read? Watch TV?

Hubby and I used to sit together on the couch sharing a snack while engrossed in one of our favorite shows (I love a certain thing on our DVD player that has a red box with white lettering…you can watch a whole season of a show on your time without your kids ever knowing it, and bonus – no commercials!)

Lately, however, I’ve been the one catching up on folding laundry or figuring out my to do list for the next day while Hubby practices his Wii skills. It’s so funny that our uncoordinated Cutie Pie can play some of those games so well now that he beats Hubby!

Cutie Pie is getting so much better and more coordinated. For this boy, having a game system in the house has been a good thing. He’s also been learning about time management, rewards and incentives, spatial awareness. For some, a game system is probably not a good idea. We actually thought well against it for a very long time, but in this case it turned out pretty OK.

Are there things you thought you’d never have in your home, but have turned out to be little blessings in disguise?

Tape Resist Painting

In what ways are your kiddos creative? Do you have to reel them in by setting something up for them, even if it is an open-ended activity?

I set out some painting materials last week to see if I could draw the boys’ interest. Cutie Pie came over almost immediately, and tried his hand at painting dinosaurs and dragons. It took a bit, but Sweet Pea joined in, too.

After a few minutes I set out some painters tape. They were both curious as to why. I began placing strips of it on a new piece of card stock and encouraged them to paint it.

Sweet Pea loves to mix his colors and see what shades of brown he can make and Cutie Pie found the end result cool, but was more interested in creating his dragons and dinosaurs, so I made my own little creation. Do you like the pic I made with it for the blog post?

Interested in doing this with your kiddos? Simply start with a clean piece of paper, card stock or canvas. Place strips of tape as you please on your painting surface, then paint as desired. Once dry carefully remove the tape.

To make something a little more interesting (for any age) you can continue to layer the tape over dry paint and repeat as many times as you like, maybe over the course of a few days. Be very careful when removing the tape using this method as the paint with be thicker and will tend to peel off a bit. You could also use this method on a large piece of paper and watch your child use their gross motor skills to cover the paper with paint!

Cutie Pie asked to do this again another day and that time we painted on canvas with the tape placed right on the canvas making white lines. He added dinosaurs to the white lines using different colored crayons.

My boys aren’t necessarily into making crafts, but when they find a creative activity they like they tend to ask for it again and again!

What was your kiddos’ most recent creation?

Winter Letters

Sweet Pea, my 4 year old, has been learning his letters in preschool. Many times he’ll come home and write them in the air with his finger for me when I call out a letter which I know he knows.

The other day we had just enough snow to cover the driveway, so while we were playing outside I decided to see if he truly recognizes his letters!

This could very easily be done with numbers and lower case letters, too, and for any age that needs some letter recognition practice. It is also a short enough activity to do with younger kids, as once the snow is gone it would be quite hard to replace to shovel again. (Unless it’s snowing!)

This would be great gross motor practice for the older kiddos to do it themselves, and you could also practice name recognition if your child’s name is short enough to fit on your driveway! You just need snow! (But now the snow can go away, I mean, it’s almost April – we did this on March 24th!)

Jack Wax How to

Monday I told you about our trip to a Maple Sugaring Festival. They told us about a treat the Native Indian and early American children used to have during maple sugaring time. They would take a bowl of snow and drizzle the boiling syrup over it to create a toffee or hard treat (think hard like peanut-brittle).

As a child my dad used to give us a bowl of snow with nice warm pure maple syrup over it. I don’t remember it getting stretchy like taffy or hard like peanut brittle, but I remember it being a delicious slushy treat. I think the trick for it to become true Jack Wax is to get the pure maple syrup to the ‘soft ball’ candy stage, if I remember what they told us yesterday correctly.

If you don’t have snow around you, maybe try this with finely chopped ice? If you try it please let me know how you liked it! I’d be interested in seeing what your kids think the science is behind it!

Maple Sugaring Festival

Cutie Pie and Hubby trying to tap a log

Do you live in an area where there are maple trees and maple sugaring festivals?

Maple Syrup and sugar is made from the sap of sugar maple, red maple or black maple trees in colder climates, which store starch in their trunks and roots before winter. This rises in the sap in the spring, providing nutrients for new leaves. Sap can be harvested from the trees at this time by boring holes in the trees to collect the sap (called tapping), which is then boiled down leaving the maple syrup!

Listening to a description of how sap
was collected in hollowed
out logs while the sap boils behind us.
Cutie Pie experiencing how kids his age helped collect the sap

The Native Indians and early Americans in the colder North American areas used to boil this down even further creating maple sugar (hence the name Maple Sugaring Festival) which was used in trading as it was very valuable. Since the maple sugar was the only sweetener, and therefore very valuable on it’s own, tapping trees and collecting sap to make maple sugar was a major family project and very important to their welfare. We were told approximately 16 gallons of sap turns into 1 gallon of maple syrup, so it was also a very large project!

How do I know all of this? We live in central New York, where maple sugaring, as it is called, is common in early spring, and so are Maple Sugar Festivals. We spent Saturday about an hour away at Cumming Nature Center (an extension of Rochester Museum and Science Center) for their festival, where we enjoyed a delicious pancake breakfast, learned about the maple syrup making process, a treat called Jack Wax, walked the snow-covered trails, found lots of animal tracks and picked up lots of ‘specimens’ (read ‘twigs’). A perfect way to spend the day as a family! It was a bit nippy, too cold for the sap to be flowing, but truly fun learning history and how pure maple syrup was and is now made. The free samples weren’t bad either!

If you live in this area, you’ll have to watch for the Maple Sugaring Festivals next year, or possibly there will be some in the coming weeks during the thaw. It is a great opportunity to learn and to get outside and into nature!

Ask the right questions

We gave ourselves a family gift at Christmas. A fish tank. We’ve been trying to teach our boys responsibility with it, as well as just enjoying watching the fish – relaxing! It’s been interesting to say the least!

Unfortunately, the first fish that Cutie Pie named (Big Foot) died about 3 weeks after we got him. Then slowly the next 3 fish died one by one. We discovered we were teaching our boys about death of pets instead. (I would post a pic, but the only one we have that has come out well is of Big Foot and that seems sort of disrespectful in a way, even though he was just a fish.)

We visited the store, asked questions, tried getting our new fish from another store. After much research, a phone call and trial and error, Hubby visited the store once more with a water sample. He talked with yet another person and just happened to phrase an answer to a question just enough different to make this person ask another question which led to the great discovery. We now have healthy fish.

It’s funny how asking the right questions leads to more questions and ultimately the answer that fixes everything. I find often that it is just the same with my boys. We can go around in circles with our conversations, until just the right thing is said and we make the great discovery! (Then I usually do a victory dance….)

Listening to Patterns

The boys love to sit with their daddy after dinner and take turns drumming out patterns and copying what their daddy plays. We used to do this with our fingers on the edge of the table or on our knees, but it’s more fun with our drums!

This is something we all love, sort of a family music activity. I love listening. Daddy loves playing – both with the drums and with the boys. The boys love drumming, copying their daddy and their daddy copying them!

You can do this, too, no matter what the age of your kids! Simply by drum on the table or floor with your hands or play patterns with toy drums, a xylophone, spoons, really anything you can use to thump out a noise!

What they are learning: patterning, listening skills, drumming skills, coordination, steady beat, counting

In a future post I’d like to discuss patterns a little more in depth. In the meantime check out this great, simple resource about patterns.

Drawing Reptiles and Pencil Grip

We brought home a reptile science kit from the library and Cutie Pie was delighted to find a book titled “How to draw reptiles” in it! I think he’s been drawing them ever since!

This actually has been a great thing for Cutie Pie for a few reasons.
It’s given him confidence in his drawing skills. He loves to draw and has developed a few techniques that he learned through the book.
He’s been getting better at following step-by-step directions, not skipping ahead. (following the prescribed process) His pencil grip is improving! This is something we’ve been working on at home at the suggestion of the OT at his school.

This past library trip took us on a computer search for “how to draw” books and we brought one home about “How to Draw Ferocious Dinosaurs” by Aaron Sauter. Boy, are his drawing skills  and pencil grip improving!

5 Senses Experiment – Sense of Touch

I remember being in Earth Science class in High School having to reach into a box and determine what kind of rock I was touching. I put together a simple sense of touch experiment for the boys based on this very thing, but I made it much more simple and you can do it too (and for a big range of ages)! I apologize for the lack of a picture, it was hard to get one and keep them from cheating by peeking!

Simply take your pillowcases or paper bags and fill them with items found around the house (or outside of you don’t mind them getting a little dirty.) Twist the ends closed and blindfold your kiddos, or hold your hands over their eyes. Let them put their hands into the bag and guess whats inside! If you are doing this with several kiddos you might want to record their answers to compare, and make sure to only have one child in the room at a time!

The boys loved this little guessing game. After we compared their guesses we opened the pillowcases and determined if their guesses were correct. We also talked a little about how they knew what each item was. I did the experiment in this order because I wanted to see if they knew that touching was one of our senses! They got it!

We actually didn’t get to an experiment for the sense of smell because the boys came down with colds before we could get to it and I didn’t think it would be much fun to do a smelly experiment if they couldn’t sniff! I’ll be posting about that in another week or so. I can tell you it involves baking ingredients!

If you go ahead and complete your week with a sense of smell experiment please share!

5 Senses – Sense of Taste Experiment

To continue on with the 5 sense experiments theme, today I’ll share about our little taste experiment. (sense of taste, coordination, science) This was also very easy to set up, and I’m sure you have items in your kitchen that you could grab to pull this off quickly. (Very easy to adjust for different ages, ingredients.)

I remembered once a long time ago hearing that different parts of your tongue could detect certain tastes like bitter and sweet. I also remembered hearing this wasn’t true. I, of course, only told them the first part thinking the ‘real’ experiment would be to see if they thought it was indeed true by tasting bitter and sweet things on different parts of their own tongues.
Here’s what we did:

Taste Experiment

Materials needed:
small bowls
lime, lemon or orange slices
marshmallows (or something sweet, we used M&Ms too)
we also used raisins and Craisins to see if they could taste the difference

First, I explained that they would be able to taste different items on different areas of their tongues and showed them a diagram I found on the internet which shows you taste bitterness at the back of the tongue, sour on each side, and salty/sweet on the tip, with little tasted in the center.

I let them each pick up a tiny bit of sugar, asking them to put it only on the very tip of their tongue, then again on the back of their tongues. I asked them if it tasted different in each area. We repeated this with the salt, with me not telling them beforehand which was salt and which was sugar.

I placed either a raisin or Craisin in their hands and asked if they could taste the difference.

They each tasted an orange slice and told me if it was sour or sweet.

Finally, I asked them to eat a marshmallow then an M&M, then taste the orange slice again and asked if the taste was sweeter or more sour. (For one it was, the other it wasn’t.)

They both loved the little tastings, but didn’t seem to notice they tasted everything no matter where they put it on their tongues. An hour or so later, though, Cutie Pie came back to me and mentioned it. I thought it was funny it took him that long!

I’d be interested in knowing (if you try this with your kiddos) if they taste more strongly in different areas of their tongues and whether the sweet treats intensified the taste of other foods. Please share!

5 Senses Experiment – Sight

Yesterday I mentioned doing some other fun things with the boys on the day we did our sight experiments. One taught about visual perception and was very fun. All you need to do it is a large piece of paper and makers. I found the idea, along with a wealth of other experiments for older kids, here. (visual perception, coordination, communication, colors, counting, math)

Sense of Sight Experiment
Visual Perception Experiment

Visual Perception Experiment

  • First, draw a target on the paper.
  • Give each child markers, use different colors.
  • One child stands with their arm outstretched with their hand over the target holding a marker with the cap off. The other stands a few feet away, giving directions to the other.
  • The child without the markers is to give instructions to the other (move your hand to the right, left, back, forward, drop!) aiming for the marker to land on center of the target.

My kiddos used markers of different shades of the same color and kept track of how many drops (marker dots) landed on the target. (You can label each circle of the target with a number and sneak some math practice in there if you’d like!)

After a while they just stood over the target and tried to get their marker to drop in the center without any instructions from the other, which was surprisingly difficult for them!

This was a very fun visual perception experiment, and it can easily be altered for a variety of ages!

5 Senses – Sight Experiment

Next in our week of 5 Senses Experiments we experimented with our sense of sight. (Remember yesterday I posted about our sense of hearing experiment?)

In preparation for our sight experiment I got out just a couple of things: old pairs of glasses, some pictures that included dark outlines.

Sense of sight experiment
Glasses for the experiment

First we closed our eyes and tried to make our way around a room that I led the boys to. I wanted them to see what it was like to not see, if only for a few minutes. (Wearing blindfolds would not have worked with these boys…) And we talked about what things we noticed using our other senses.

Then Cutie Pie and Sweet Pea each put on a pair of my old glasses and I asked them to tell me what they could see around the room and then right in front of them. I also gave them a picture with bold outlines to look at close up and then across the room. They found this pretty humorous.

I explained to them that I see things blurry without my glasses or contacts, just like they see things blurry with my glasses on. We talked a little about how not seeing clearly could be a difficult thing, even though in this experiment it was pretty funny.

They had a really good time going around the house with my glasses on, then taking them off while looking at things. For a few minutes just one day it won’t damage their sight.

Later in the day I did a couple of other fun things with them for sight, but that’s to be shared in another post.

5 Senses – hearing experiment

Cutie Pie’s class recently learned about the 5 senses, so we thought it would be fun to do a simple experiment for each of the senses over the course of a week.

The first day was all about our sense of hearing. After being quiet for a minute or so and then talking about what we each could hear in the silence, we did a simple experiment I had put together on the fly and the boys loved it. You can do it to!

The ‘What’s Inside?’ Experiment

  • First, fill several cups with different items and cover them with paper and tape. You don’t want anyone taking a peek!
  • Then mark each cup with a number. (There is no need to keep track of what is in each cup.)
  • Take turns shaking the cups and guessing what’s inside. 

We made a list of our guesses for each cup. I used a simple sheet of paper with numbers down the side matching the numbers on the cups and made two columns – guess and actual. I filled in the columns as they guessed. (The kiddos can help with this part easily according to their abilities! writing, counting)

Then we opened each and discovered whether we were right or not! We wrote down what was actually in the cup and compared the guess with the actual item, discovering how they were similar and different.

The boys loved this and were totally intrigued. It was so fun hearing their guesses, since I didn’t give them any clues whatsoever!

Density Experiment

Our liquid density tower

Over the past few weeks we’ve done a few experiments, but it’s taken me a while to get the pics onto the computer. I’ve seen this density experiment in many places, several books I have as well as several blogs.

I’m posting about it simply because it was fun, but also to show you can do this with several difference liquids, not necessarily needing to go by an official experiment ‘recipe’. (Just make sure the liquids you are using are safe to be used together as well as safe for your child.)

Density Experiment

Experiment Liquids: olive oil, dish soap, water,
vegetable oil, food coloring

What we used: 

the same amount of olive oil, dish soap, water, and vegetable oil, a drop of food coloring, clean glass jar

What we did: 

I asked the boys if they thought the liquids they had in front of them weighed the same.

One by one I slowly poured the liquids into the jar, letting them dribble down the side rather than pouring into the middle of the jar. (I dyed the water red so we could see it more easily.)

Final density tower with items at each level

What we observed:

The liquids formed layers. (Cutie Pie loved this as he’d been learning about strata!)

It did not matter what order we poured the liquids. If a heavier liquid was added after a lighter one, it settled under the lighter one.

What we learned:

The liquids have different densities (or weights) and therefore do not lie in the same layer.

Further investigation:

After letting our density tower sit for a while to make sure the layers weren’t going to combine on their own, we gathered a few small items and carefully dropped them into the jar. It was interesting to see where they settled. We used a small LEGO, a toothpick, a raisin, and a small stone.

Cutie Pie had fun with this experiment, trying to guess which liquid would be lighter and therefore higher in our final tower. He also had a lot of fun coming up with the items to drop into our final tower and guessing where they would settle!

When you try this experiment please let us know what results you came up with!

Geoboard Revisited

As I posted here, I’m revisiting some activities I originally did with Cutie Pie and am having fun introducing them to Sweet Pea!

One such thing is the Geoboard, which I originally posted about here. Great fine motor and coordination manipulative! It also makes a nice quiet time activity or ‘busy bag’.

Cutie Pie really liked this at first, but slowly his interest waned. I set it aside and it occasionally made an appearance, but not until recently was it met with enthusiasm. Sweet Pea can’t get enough of it!

He is enjoying making shapes, trying to create pretend scenes (making a square and saying it’s a train wheel or house) and counting how many bands he can attach to the board. Basically, he LOVES it!

If you haven’t already made one for your kiddo, I encourage you to. It’s cheap and easy to make! If your child loves it as much as Sweet Pea, it’ll be totally worth it! I think I might be making a larger one with nails instead of tacks, and maybe even elicit Sweet Pea’s help!

Money Counting

Cutie Pie has really wanted to buy “things” lately, but he has no idea how much anything is and even if he did he doesn’t really understand the concept.

I have no idea where to start in teaching him, so I started with the very basics…counting and sorting. (With a little being inserted into his piggy bank, too!) fine motor, math

Cutie Pie was very surprised to discover money came in all sizes. He said he always thought it was plastic or paper. Says something about us, doesn’t it?

Since we tried this, we’ve introduced family contributions and the idea of chores with a small allowance each week. He seems very excited to earn money and (so far) seems eager to help. I’m hoping this will give us opportunity to help Cutie Pie to learn about money and saving through hands on experience.

What has been your experience teaching kiddos about money. Any tips would be appreciated! (Pun not intended!)

Money Exercise

Sweet Pea was a little jealous of Cutie Pie today…Cutie Pie found a penny. Since he doesn’t really have a concept of the value of money, he thought Cutie Pie was pretty rich.

I pulled out our smaller change bucket and let Sweet Pea put several coins into his piggy bank, which he counted as he inserted each into the slot. It was a great little lesson on saving and also great fine motor work! He loved it and later in the day came back requesting to do it again!

(This is actually a great fine motor exercise that I’ve seen on some occupational therapists web sites!)

How to have fun with your boys

There are several times a year that my string music teaching husband has concerts at night and meetings after school and I find I have a hard time balancing being a homemaker and mom (read play-partner).
This totally sets my kids’ routine out of whack.

During these weeks I usually find my kids wanting more attention (hence the play-partner in the opening sentence). This is when I go into survival mode and just try to have fun with my boys. This is how I to it:

  1. Ignore all the housework around you (do it when they are in school or sleeping)
  2. Don’t answer the phone
  3. Be prepared to get dirty/messy
  4. Try very, very hard to not let the whining, begging, fighting and manipulating get to you
  5. Have a few fun outings, or special snacks, fort building with all the extras, etc planned to distract the kiddos and put the attention on how great you are as a mom at least until you have to talk sternly to them
  6. Truly try to have fun and be a kid again

Remember in a few short days (weeks) Hubby’s schedule will return to normal and the kids will be satisfied and happy again. The attention will be all on him and the super fun routine of housework will return.

How do you “do” Survival Mode in your home during times like this?

I wish

Have you ever asked your child what they wish they could give instead of what they would like for Christmas? Last month I had an interesting conversation with Cutie Pie that started after he repeatedly asked for specific toys under the tree.

Stock Photography: Gift Box. Image: 111402
© Photographer: Jinyoung Lee | Agency: Dreamstime.com

I simply asked him what he wished for that wasn’t a toy. In his words…

“I wish we had:
a four-hump gump that keeps growing more humps.
a pet dinosaur
a dragon, wait, no, well, yes, I wish we had one
a pet snake to put in a box and feed it meat and bugs and stuff, and wear a tiny paper collar. A big boa constrictor.
a honey-badger”

After that I asked him what he wished he could give. I didn’t prompt him. This was his (5 year old) response…

“A brontosaurus and LEGOs to a boy with no toys.
To my friends I would give pets.
To a stranger, a piece of paper because I don’t know them and they could do a lot of different things with paper.”

I really wish I had followed through on one of his ideas. I will next time! (I thought it was pretty smart the way he categorized who he would give to.)

Go ahead, try it. I’d be interested to hear answers from your kiddos!

Train Game (Sneaky Learning)

This morning, when Sweet Pea wanted me to ‘play trains’ (running around behind him as he tooted like a train) I asked if he wanted to stop at some stations along the way and the game was born! Of course, sneaky learning was involved!

Stock Image: Train Station. Image: 161331
© Photographer Gfadel | Agency: Dreamstime.com

To Play:
Print Station numbers onto paper. You can specify numbers (or letters) your child needs to work on. Sweet Pea is just learning to recognize his numbers, so I used 1 through 5. I made sure to include the corresponding number of dots, so he can begin associating what the number looks like with how many dots he counts.

Place the station numbers in various places along the ‘train route’. You can be sneaky here and mix them up if you are trying to reinforce, or put them in order if you are working on recognizing.

Then roll a die. Whatever number lands face up is the next station number to stop at. If you roll a 6, simply run the whole route.

This game kept Sweet Pea running around the loop in our home for over a half an hour! (But I think could easily be played on the driveway with chalk!) He’s also beginning to recognize the numbers without having to stop and count the dots to make sure he’s correct! I think next time we play I’ll mix the numbers up to see which ones he needs help on!

Pretend Play with a Twist

You never know what you’ll become when Cutie Pie and Sweet Pea have the magic wand! Hubby was an orangutan, gorilla, you name it! So many giggles, squeals and screams of delight as they were carried away, had ‘bugs’ picked off of them, chased the runaway animal and eventually had the magic wand stolen and used against them leaving me with a living room full of wild orangutans!

I love the imaginations that come to life with just a little suggestion from Hubby’s creative mind!

What sort of fun does your kiddos Daddy bring to life in your children?

Dinosaur Skeleton Experiment

Thursday I posted about this great book we discovered at the library, Dinosaur Discovery. (I meant to post this on Friday, but got caught up in making a really fun LEGO/dinosaur party come together for Cutie Pie’s 6th birthday…sorry!) This great book contains a lot of dinosaur information that we haven’t come across in other books about dinosaurs, or perhaps just not in such a simple and attractive way. As I shared yesterday, this book also contains some really neat experiments! (Simple enough to do with a preschooler on up!)

Sweet Pea, Cutie Pie and I tried the ‘Standing Up to Force’ experiment about skeletons being built “to take the forces pushing and pulling against them, without breaking.” The experiment describes sitting on a table because it has legs positioned strategically to support the force of the tabletop pushing down on it. The bones in dinosaurs are no different.

Quite simply, take two toilet paper rolls, stand one up in its end. Carefully set one book at a time on the roll that’s standing up, balancing them with your hand if necessary. How many can it hold before collapsing?

Now take the other roll and set it on its side. Stack the books on it one at a time, holding the bottom book to keep it in place. How many can this one hold?


What is the difference between the two?

Can you figure out how dinosaur bones are similar to the toilet paper roll standing up?

See, isn’t this so simple and fun? For more really fun experiments check out the book!

According to Cutie Pie the T-Rex rules the roll

The link contained in this post is an affiliate link that I may or may not receive payment from, however, I would not post about any product I didn’t wholeheartedly want to share with you. My just about 6 year old wants me to share this book with you, too!

Got a Dinosaur Lover? (Book review)

Cutie Pie recently checked out the book called Dinosaur Discovery Everything You Need to be a Paleontologist by Chris McGowan, illustrated by Erica Lyn Schmidt. If you have a dinosaur lover in your house you should really take a look at this book!

What we really like about this book is that it contains experiments as well as shares so much detail about dinosaurs. Other books are great at details like how fast a dinosaur probably ran, or how big it was compared to a bus.

Dinosaur Discovery, however, shares interesting details. For instance, for the brachiosaurus “Vertebrae the trunk vertebrae have larger hollows in their sides than the neck vertebrae. These deep openings reduced weight but not strength.” Cutie Pie ate this information right up!

In addition, it contains several unique experiments that are fun to do and help in understanding things such as why a dinosaur held its tail up off the ground, or how different length crests on parasaurolophuses might have produced different sounds.

If you have a dinosaur lover in your home, one who knows so much about dinosaurs but keeps asking for more books, check this one out. We think the details you find inside might just be different enough to satisfy any budding paleontologist!

Tomorrow I will be posting about one of the experiments we did from this book, just to give you an idea of what you will find!

Kid Questions

Do you have an inquisitive kiddo at home? If you’re familiar with my blog you’ll know that Cutie Pie is our inquisitive one around here, but Sweet Pea is right on his heels. What do you do with all the questions?

Sometimes when I least expect it one of the boys will come out with a question that I just don’t know how to answer. I know very well that they will remember their question when I least expect it and will want to find the answer.

I’ve started keeping a small piece of paper and pencil in every room (especially the bathroom – because that’s where the best questions are thought of!) to capture any and all questions. I also make sure to talk about the questions at some point during the week and make it a point to find the answers with them if at all possible.

One thing I’ve learned is to treat all of their questions as sincere requests for information. Nothing makes a kiddo feel bad like truly wanting to know something and have their question be made fun of or taken lightly when it shouldn’t be!

Inflating Balloon Experiment

I’ve seen this experiment several places, so I take no responsibility it. We’ve also done this experiment a few times before and each time it gets my boys’ attention. Most recently, I’ve seen this in the book Child’s Play by Leslie Hamilton, listed as Magic Balloon.

You’ll need a balloon, small pop bottle, baking soda, vinegar and a funnel.

Use the funnel to put about 1 tablespoon of baking soda into the balloon. Use it again to put 1 to 2 inches of vinegar into the pop bottle.

Secure the mouth of the balloon to the mouth of the pop bottle by making sure the baking soda is the the bottom of the balloon and then folding the balloon over so the baking soda doesn’t fall into the balloon. Work with only the mouth of the balloon. Yes, I know, this takes some coordination!

Hold onto the balloon tightly while your child lifts the baking soda-filled part of the balloon, letting the baking soda fall into the vinegar.

What happens? Gas is formed by mixing the baking soda (a base) with the vinegar (an acid) and the gas fills the balloon!

Can you tell there are two underlying themes this week? If you guessed ‘what we did this summer’ and ‘balloons’ then you are right!

If you liked this experiment you may also like: Balloon Rocket!

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