When I’m creating learning activities, several things come to mind. First, I live in a small home where I am constantly battling clutter, so I’m always looking for ways to create learning activities using one fabulous resourceful item. I like to refer to this as getting more bang for your buck!
Second, when I create I look for elements that entice all children. Thankfully my years of classroom experience has lead me to conclude how most young children are fascinated by magnets. When playing with magnets there’s immediate feedback and for those with weak fine motor skills, -working with magnets provides an extra element of control (meaning they stick to a surface and when reaching for them and they won’t easily slip away). There’s also a cause and effect element of sticking and pulling away to release. This experience happens to lend itself nicely to understanding the beginnings of science!
So why oven trays you may ask? For one, they’re magnetic. Second, oven trays define a work space for the child. It’s obvious and helps them focus on the task at hand. Second, oven trays such as muffin pans have built in compartments that lead to natural progression of order and organization.
You might ask, “Why is organization important for learners?” When learning is presented in an orderly and organized manner, not only does it appease children’s natural sense of order but as they work with purposely designed materials it creates and promotes cognitive constructs in their mind. Simply put, if we want our children to be critical and thoughtful learners we shouldn’t limit their abilities, but facilitate it for them. Maria Montessori reminds us how an organized environment is an organized mind just as organized work space is an organized mind. Children are capable of so much…we just have to present the information in a matter that makes sense for them. This notion applies to ALL learners. When a material is designed with Montessori design elements in mind, it fosters independent exploration, self checking, problem solving and fine motor practice just to name a few. Give them the tools and they’ll lead the way!
The best resources for learning believe it or not are items found in your home. There’s absolutely no need to spend lots of money particularly on an item your child may use a few times. Hopefully after reading this blog post you’ll see the endless opportunities for learning and get the most bang for your buck!
When I design learning activities as mentioned briefly above, I use elements incorporating Montessori design methods. This means the activity often focuses on one skill at a time to ensure learner success. Second, the activity starts with left to right progression to train the eyes for reading and hands for coordinating writing. This basically means that while an activity might be a simple matching activity for example, the child often gains much more learning than just learning to match colors. Is this bang for your buck? Absolutely!
Equally important is providing your child with ‘just right’ activities which are important in setting them up for success. Parents often want to introduce children to more difficult concepts and I employ you to pump your breaks. Your goal is to give your child an activity that welcomes success and independence. Once they begin to develop more confidence, you can begin to push but never do this at the expense of their self esteem. This is their learning, their work and their exploration. I promise you that when you hear, “Mommy and Daddy, I did it,” it’ll be the best words uttered from their mouths. I’ve always said to my classroom parents, “Confidence is priceless and only learned by experience and repetition. Confidence can’t be pushed. This must come from the child.”
I will provide you a blend of my own DIY activities and the best that pinterest has to offer. I’m going to list the activities according to developmental sequence from easiest to most difficult. If you don’t know where to begin, start at the beginning and work your way down! Let’s get started!
Activities for Toddlers:
This was put together using a muffin pan from Dollar Tree, swimming noodles and corks. To learn more see…
My in the field outcome as of 9/9/15
I was struggling with getting my lil one to elicit a response when I asked him count this afternoon. I asked my co-worker for some tips as I noticed she had success the day before. She said, “I used one of your activities and he loved it! I lined up the corks and then he happily inserted them! It was perfect and he got fine motor work in too! It’s perfect for much needed fine motor practice!” This was music to my ears! I’m thrilled that these tasks are useful not just for individual skill development, but also used as supplementary support for Discrete Trail Training! Take that autism!
Sorting by shape and letters. If you have multiple letters that are the same, this can be completed by sorting letters or numbers! I designed this on a pizza box. This all inclusive activity makes it a bit easier for young students who may lack that natural order and are needing more explicit organization. Children on the spectrum generally have di cuties with part to whole concepts. Presenting an activity where the activity is defined in its own space provides the understanding that the two parts are whole.
Object to Picture Matching-
For beginning matching you’d want to start with a smaller muffin tray with less compartments. This object to matching activity is perfect for 3.5-4 year olds whom have had some experience with discriminating.
Found on http://www.autismclassroomnews.com
Color Matching and Fine Motor-
Preschool Activities Fine Motor Activities:
Nuts and Bolts-
I purchased the pan from a thrift store for $1.50, spray painted it and purchased the nuts, washers, and screws at my local hardware store for under $5.00. Maria Montessori stressed the importance of giving children hands on reality based experiences. When the bolts are the same color, it encourages the learner to discriminate by one aspect, in this respect it’s shape. Moving top down, this activity requires bilateral coordination and incorporates wrist turning movement needed for hand writing.
Matching Upper Case Letters-
This activity cost $2.00! Thanks to Dollar Tree and a sharpie, this was made in under 30 minutes! The activity was inspired by the activity below with some differences. Using a sharpie to create thick ABC font, the learner is asked to discriminate by shape where as below, the learner discriminates by color and shape. Second, the magnetic letters below are easier to grasp. Both activities have their benefits and certainly are variations to one another. Variations as I’ve mentioned are wonderful as they extend learner’s interests and encourages repetition.
DIY Magnetic Puzzles made from craft sticks! This is great for road trips!
Puzzles on a tray-
Leap Frog Products are great! These are helpful ways you can organize them!
Initial Sound Sorts-
When children are learning their sounds, discriminating the initial, medial and ending sounds takes tremendous work! I found these awesome magnets from http://www.learningresources.com. They’re a bit expensive but worth it as you can reuse these for a number of other activities. I grouped the beggining sounds and then organized them into 3×5 card containers.
ABC Order, Rhyme, Making Words-
Nature and ABC DIY –
Number and Quantity Association-
Sight Word Activities:
Associating Symbol and Quanity-
As always, I hope you feel inspired to create and have begun to think about some of the activities you’d like to put together for your lil one! Please follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram! Check back for updates and for my in the field reflections!