If you work in a school system, no doubt you know the five little pumpkins poem. A cute story about 5 little pumpkins getting spooked by the fall wind..... It's a cute, short little story about five pumpkins that get spooked by the windy weather in Autumn. It's a great way to teach little ones some basic concepts - including first/second/third/etc and rhyming. I've done many variations of this poem during therapy sessions - finger puppets, printing books, even rolling some legit baby gourds!
One of my main focuses in OT during the initial months of school is developing mature grasp and precision patterns. These hand skills are what enable little ones to hold their pencils, control their coloring strokes, draw fluid lines, manipulate scissors and handle self-care tasks (like buttons and snaps). Functional hand skills rely heavily on an important muscle group known as the "thenar eminence". This group of muscles is what make up the meaty bulk right under your thumb. Weak thenar muscles often lead to inefficient or immature grasping patterns, poor control and difficulty with finger coordination tasks.
A great (and inexpensive) tool to use when working on building up the thenar eminence is a clothespin. Holding the clothespin correctly will put your fingers in the "pinch" pattern. Squeezing it open works those thumb muscles.
With that in mind, I planned for this cute fall project where the little ones work on their pinch patterns and thumb strength by squeezing the pumpkins onto and off of their fence. In addition to pinch developing - the tasks also works on some other important skills such as: fine motor precision for coloring in the boundary lines, fine motor coordination and eye hand skills for cutting on the lines and visual perceptual concepts for fitting all those pumpkins on the fence.
Here is the template we used for our five pumpkins.
Pumpkin Template printed on cardstock
5 squeezable clothespins
7 craft sticks
Paint (I used beige, but any "gate" color is fine)
Hot glue & hot glue gun (regular Elmer's glue will work, but not as well!)
1. Print the above Five Little Pumpkins Template out. I would suggest using cardstock. Since it is thicker, it really works those thumb muscles for cutting.
2. Color in the pumpkin template.
3. Cut out the pumpkins.
4. Have an adult hot glue the pumpkins onto the clothespins. (See picture).
*We used a hot glue gun to glue the pumpkins on the clothespins. Squeezing a hot glue gun can also be a great way to work on finger strength and isolation skills - but use your adult judgement. I let some of my older OT friends squeeze there glue on with my supervision and assistance. You can use regular glue, but I don't think the project will hold up as well.
4. Paint the craft sticks.
5. Have an adult hot glue the sticks together to form a gate (see picture) and paint them.
* Just to make it a little more challenging, I brought the clothespins a step further by using them as "paintbrushes". We used the clothespins to pinch onto a cotton ball, then dipped the cotton ball into globs of paint to paint our popsicle stick fence.
6. Have fun squeezing the pumpkins on and off the "gate" as you read the 5 little pumpkins poem!For our final step, we cut out itty bitty rectangles to make our own Five Little Pumpkins book.
Here is the template for our Mini Book.
Enjoy! And Happy Autumn!
In the beginning of the school year, I like to do a quick activity to get an idea of where a child's skills fall. I developed this worksheet as a quick assessment on some very observable and measurable skills, including:
I hung my OT friends worksheets in the hall by my office. After the first marking period, I may have them complete this worksheet again to see what kind of growth they have made.
I also find the worksheet useful for a discussion on the types of things we will work on in OT. Giving the kids a long term plan definitely impacts how they see treatment sessions.
Don't tell! It looks like the weebly site hasn't been blocked yet this year by the district! That means that I will try to play catch up on updating all of the activities I have put together over last school year. This means you'll be finding some out of season activities in the upcoming posts, but bear with me. I want to have it all available to you, so your little ones can work on their skills.
And remember - my district website is always up and running - and updating a few times a month - so feel free to head on over that way!
My RCSD webpage: http://www.rcsdk12.org/site/default.aspx?DomainID=7704
Friends, I have not forsaken you..... the RCSD has put a block on the use of weebly while on their district server. I get it, spam....internet scams....etc. but as a result, I don't get to upload all of my day to day activities at the end of the day. Sad face. Hey, if you are a RCSD employee (or parent) and want to be able to access my page while in one of the building, be sure to voice your needs to the MIS department. Your voice is much louder than mine, and believe me, I already tried that route....
Anyway, I have an OT student! She's from Keuka and she is absolutely FABULOUS! It makes me happy to think of all she is bringing to the field of OT. Having a student is a very humbling experience, because it makes you question your own reasoning, and brush up on all those dusty areas. I consider myself a "best practice" therapist. I do attend as many conferences as my motherly duties allow, and read articles and studies pertaining to the practice as I can. But it is a challenging, but refreshing, experience to have to justify - right there, in that moment - what I am doing, why I am doing it, and what's the big picture. And you know what? I think I like it :)
So a special shout out to my very special graduate of the Keuka OT Class of 2015 - you are going to be an asset to the field. Here's a little something her & I put together regarding Brain Breaks.... Enjoy!
The Brain Gym is a wonderful program that emphasis the important on moving and learning - specifically how moving specific sides/planes/parts of the body activates specific areas of the brain. These areas of the brain are needed for higher level tasks - like concentration, attention, memory, reading, writing and learning. Many other programs use similar principles, and research suggest that movement and learning are strongly linked. Based on these principles, my student and I developed a handout for our teachers to use as "warm up" activities and "brain break" during NYS testing. The focus of our movements were the two sides of the body - to awaken the two sides of the brain and the corpus callosum. Efficient communication between the two sides of the brain is so important for academic tasks.
Check out Brain Gym if you can, and feel free to use these Brain Break strategies with your little ones. They are appropriate for preK up - remember it's about the QUALITY of the movement - so encourage slow, accurate movement!
Happiest of New Year, my friends! I hope your holidays were filled with laughter and love. Mine definitely were! We spent our break ice skating, bounce housing, and breaking in all of our new Christmas toys. And now, it's back to the grind.
I have an OT student for the next 12 weeks, and I love it. Having a student not only offers new eyes with innovative ideas, but it also makes me question and explain the reasons behind my treatments. We all need that sometimes, to keep the wheels turning.
Anyway, for the next few weeks, I'm really dedicating some time to OT consultation in the classroom. I'll be adding some classroom strategies as I go, so check back often to find some useful tips that your little ones may need/use in their learning environment.
My first is a "Silent Teacher" for my little friend, C. C has trouble with letter memory, letter formation and alignment concepts. Those name tag strips are too visually overstimulating for him, not to mention his tactile seeking side often has him peeling them off his desk more than he utilizes it. What his teacher and I came up with was this laminated "silent teacher". We hang it at the side of his desk and prompt him to take it out for writing tasks. It's more spaced out than those strips, and it is easier for him to scan and utilize. When he's done, he just hangs it back on the side of his desk and it's out of sight, out of mind. Maybe you know a little one who could also use it. The writing lines are highlighted according to "Amanda's House" writing lessons - head on over to the Graphomotor Skills section to read about how I teach handwriting using these cues. Enjoy!
I promised you a cute gift box for your holiday ornaments. Here is a template just for you. Have the child color the pictures, maybe even decorate with stickers. Then, cut along the thick, black lines for both sheets of paper. Using bilateral coordination skills, have the child fold the paper INWARD on all the dotted lines. Place the two templates together, glue the designated areas. Hole punch the 4 holes at the top, and then tie some yarn or ribbon on to make handles. TADA a homemade gift box!
One of my favorite things about working with school age children is being able to do fun things for the holidays. Maybe I missed my calling as a camp counselor, but in any event, there are so many *wonderful* fine motor holiday projects out there. This year, many of my students had goals for shoe tying. So, I found this really adorable Christmas-y project - made solely by tying knots! Perfect!
Shoe tying is a tricky skill. It requires fine motor precision to hold and manipulate the laces; bilateral coordination and motor planning skills to move the fingers of each hand in different directions to tie the knot and bow; and visual perceptual skills to understand the front lace, the back lace and concepts like "around, under, through". Kids are very easily discouraged I've found - even my little guy who's motor skills are age appropriate. I've had success with teaching how to tie a knot, then giving the child tons of positive experiences by "tying" (a knot) all by themselves before moving on to the more challenging bow. This is a great project to master knot tying.....
Here's what you'll need:
1. Green yarn (I used dark green and kelly green to make it a little more festive)
2. Pipe cleaners
3. Small items for decorating (I used small gems, but glitter glue, puffy paint, sequins, small buttons or anything like that would be fine too
4. Elmers glue
6. Scotch tape
Here's what you do:
1. Cut your yarn (or have your little one cut your yarn) into string about 3-4 inches long. (Go on the longer side for kids that have poor fine motor control or precision, this will give them more surface to work with)
2. For your younger kids, tape the pipe cleaner vertically on a table top at the top and bottom to keep it stable.
3. Lace one string under the pipe cleaner, then using the two ends, tie a knot around the pipe cleaner.
4. Repeat this process until you have covered the length of the pipe cleaner. You will probably have to slide the knots upward to fill in all the spaces.
5. Pull the tape of the ends, and twist the ends of the pipe cleaner together to make a circle.
6. Use scissors to trim the ends of the knots, so that the string is about 1/2 inch long (an adult will probably need to do this to make it look even around the whole circumference).
7. Using Elmer's glue and your decorations, make your wreath look festive!
Stay tuned for a cute color, cut and assemble gift bag for your ornament, as well as a tear-jerker card, of course! For more holiday fine motor activities, check out my Pinterest page....
Another one of my homemade puzzles. A simple way to work on fine motor, visual motor and visual perceptual skills. Use the shape template board for students that need some visual assistance to match pieces. Enjoy!
Yesterday, my own kindergartener brought home this adorable color, cut and paste book called "Hide, Turkey, Hide!" about this adorable turkey that was hiding from being eaten. All the hiding places worked on directionality concepts - above, under, between, etc. When I went to pick up "my" kindergarteners at work this week, they were working on the same directionality concepts and I thought, "man, Declan's book would be a perfect way to carry over those skills in OT sessions." I googled for a while to see if I could find a template online, but to no avail. So I did what I do best - I opened up Microsoft office and got to work making my own.
The directions are simple, color and cut out the turkeys and the barn, gate and leaves on the thick black lines. Use the directions on each of the pages to place the turkey where he belongs. You'll find the turkey gets lucky at the end! Enjoy!
Amanda Atkinson MS; OTR/L
Just your average Type-A mom & overzealous Occupational Therapist