As you may know, this year we are doing Kindergarten at home. I am enjoying the freedom I have in doing just that. When I was teaching in the Kindergarten classroom I needed to follow a specific curriculum. At home, I can do as I please, and more importantly follow the cues of my little guy.
Sam is a lot like many of the 4 year olds I have worked with in my classroom. He is rambunctious and learns with his entire body. He loves to explore and can remember incredible things if he has had the chance to discover them on his own. He needs to touch and feel and do with his hands to really understand something. He loves to hear stories and make them up as well. And like many of the 4 year olds I have worked with, he has trouble holding a pencil.
In fact, he still struggles to print his name. My first year in the classroom I would have jumped all over this. Really worked with him to get that pencil grip, perhaps even contact the occupational therapist for a consultation. If I had worked with Sam in my second year of teaching I would have skipped the consult, and worked with a bigger pencil, perhaps a marker, and some of the neat tricks for teaching proper pencil grip.
But lucky for Sam I have a few years under my belt now. No panic, no consults, no bigger pencils. I have done a lot of research, worked with a lot of little ones, and would like to think I have learned a thing or two from my previous mistakes. After all, when we know better, we do better.
Instead of forcing the pencil grip that is not quite ready to be developed for Sam, we have been working on strengthening fine motor skills in other ways. And there are PLENTY of ways to strengthen little fingers for (future) writing. Rolling dough, working with paper clips and clothes pegs, painting, using tools and scissors, beading, the options really are limitless. And engaging. And developmentally appropriate too.
One way to strengthen fine motor skills is by using buttons. This skill came to be realized recently due to the long pants coming back out of the closet. As it turns out, most of our shorts have elastic waists, but the long pants have zippers and buttons. Making button-learning a high priority in my 4 year olds mind. Because, well, when you gotta go … you best know how to undo a button.
Which brings me to (finally, gosh I really do like to talk to you all) our Button Tree:
We had some left over scrap felt from our stuffed felt numbers which I did not part with because I knew they would come in handy. And they did. I am trying very, very hard to use what we have right now, and so I opted for a yellow felt tree trunk (which we haphazardly coloured with a brown crayon), since I had yellow felt.
I had then cut lots of pretty colours of leaves out of our various scraps of felt. Only to be told by Mr. Sam that he was in a very “orange mood” and thought we should exclusively use orange leaves. I told Sam I was going to put different coloured buttons all over the tree and he could match the buttons with the leaves. He told me again about the “orange mood”, and so I did what most in my position would do. Argued with him for awhile and then fold.
I cut a tree(ish) shape out of the yellow (brownish coloured) felt. Then I sewed yellow buttons all over the tree (I will save you the details of why all the buttons were yellow … ). Sam did some of the sewing as well.
Next I cut little slits into each leaf shape. And that’s it! Perfect for little ones to use for quiet time (just like these 54 other quiet time activities), in the car, or anytime at all.
A wonderful way to strengthen little fingers for writing to come (all in good time).
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