Content

Our tools for fine motor & language skills development

23.2.16
Having a mixed age group is fun. I notice the subtle and not so subtle differences when the kids are in nature, or in learning mode. Learning happens all day every day- this is true; however, we do set aside 2 mornings a week to focus on developing skills and learning about various things, and of course keeping up with our French language learning. 

How I come up with activities
All children need to learn fine and gross motor skills. They also need to have fun while doing it. Sometimes, if a child comes to me with a specific question I will think about how to develop an activity that could help the children explore further. That's exactly what happened when one of our friends asked about magnets (see below).
stenciling/patterns
matching/french learning
When do we do it
We have planned learning activities twice a week. We like to call these mornings our "table top mornings" - although we do the activities in the afternoon sometimes (not too often but...). I prefer to do our activities in the AM because the children are a little more relaxed, and not yet as stimulated. And let's face it, I wouldn't want to wake up to anything but snack and a bit of free play- how about you?

Our treasure box of activities is filled to the brim with various tools and lessons - we also have a French box. The activities in both boxes are only used for the table top learning. Why you ask? Because I tried it the other way. I thought I'd allow the children free range over all of their play/learning, but that was a huge disaster. Activity pieces were misplaced, or broken, and at their young age, self-direction is a bit of a challenge (as expected).
Set Up& the ONLY Rule
Since I have a mixed age, all the children are at different learning stages. This is the difficult part, because I have noticed that the older children like to do the activities that have been created for the younger children, because they "seem" fun. And they are right! The younger activities take very little brain power for the older more advanced children. So what to do?

Technically, the children only have to do 2 activities, but most often they stay and do most if not all, so I begin by giving each child 2 activities that are age-appropriate (no questions asked), they must complete these activities. After this, I set up the "stations" of various learning tools around the table, with a few extras in the middle of the table, and the children rotate activities.

Who gets what? 
That depends! If I know that a child has an interest in a particular activity, or has a hard time completing a task (like zippers), then I will try to focus on that. For example, my son is spelling french words so he loves using letters; our 4 year old pre-schooler loves patterns; another small one loves to sort EVERYTHING; another 2 year old likes to match, and my 2 year old like chalk. I just find ways to encourage all of these things.
drawing/scribbling/erasing & starting again (she uses paint brushes to erase)
The one issue that stands is that children get comfortable with certain activities. For example, some activities can be memorized, others are just plain fun, and more importantly, they have their own comfort zones. For example, some children know their colours, and a simple matching game takes a few seconds, while others are just learning. It's a no-brainer.

Do I allow some to do only certain activities? Not at all. I don't push too much however, as my role is to encourage and challenge - if only a bit. I think if I start forcing the children to do this or that- it will not end well. I simply add a mix and match of activities, AND, since the older children are likely to rotate activities faster than the smaller ones,  in the end it works out- no fuss. They learn and play simultaneously.
stamping/pattern -making
stenciling/ tracing/learning alphabet (both in English & French)
The other issue is time limits. Based on what I just stated, there is no time limit for the younger children- they are really working hard. This rings true for the older children who are doing activities that are age-appropriate. Should a child choose an activity (from the center) that is way too easy, I don't mind, as (s) he has completed the mandatory 2 activities.
various magnets
threading/beading & making patterns
pouring...scooping...comparing
great for hand-strengthening
learning about emotions (English & French)  & matching
looping/weaving
lacing


Our next post will focus on higher order & lower order questioning.


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“A hundred years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in the bank…but the world may be a better place because I made a difference in the life of a child.”
~ Forest Witcraft

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