A little play, a little learning, a little therapy... or new activity boxes

My accomplishment for the past two days has been to create and assemble R.'s new activity boxes for the year. They aren't actually completely finished, as I ran out of laminating sheets (the horror!), and need to order more, as I still have a bit more laminating to do.

When I posted this picture of my dollar store finds, there was a huge amount of interest in what I was going to do with it all.


Since this pile has turned into neat and orderly boxes, I thought I would share what I did and how I intend to use them.


Right of the bat, don't expect stellar pictures. These will probably be worse than usual, as I'm doing this pretty quickly so as to get to the next item on my to do list. So, if something is blurry or you need clarification, ask. Also, I will link to where I originally saw the idea if it is not original. Here we go...

1. Doll play


What?
This is a box which I came up with just because I saw these little doll sets at the store. I knew I wanted to create a couple of guided play boxes, so these dolls seemed to fit the bill.

How?
I have made little laminated cards with different scenarios printed on them. R. will pick one, I will read it, and then we will figure out together how the dolls would do that and what they would use. I even made a little cover for the table with a checker board on it, so they can play a game and not always eat.

Why?
R. has very little idea of pretend play, though when aided, can participate, so it's not completely baffling. With some practice, I think she could expand this skill. Having her play with these dolls with ideas generated outside of herself should help her to expand her play repertoire.

2. Play-doh counting


What?
Play-doh to help learn numbers. Printables from Life Over C's

How?
This is one I'm borrowing wholesale without any tweaking. You roll the dough to fit into the number, fill the correct number of squares, and put the correct number of objects in the tree.

Why?
R. needs the sensory input from play with the dough, as well as this being a tactile way to begin to slowly introduce counting and numbers. The mats go up to 10, but we will be working on one number at a time.

3.  Textures


What?
This set has fun little drawers which contain shells, rocks, large glass discs, and (when it dries out enough to collect it) wood chips. There are also tags which have each of these names on them.

How?
This is a multiple use box. First is the sensory aspect of feeling how different each of these materials is, and starting to provide vocabulary for those feelings. I will also combine them all to provide a sorting game, and we will probably do some patterning with them as well.

Why?
Something I discovered with H. is that she had no idea that different things were made out of different materials. I remember that being a shocking day when I discovered she had no conception of glass, wood, metal, or plastic. This is a beginning to help fill in that deficit with R. as it is also one that she has. Plus, it provides more sensory experiences that we can discuss and look at.

4.  Q-tip Snowflakes


What?
A matching game using cotton swabs to recreate patterns. Printables from Playdough to Plato

How?
It's pretty straightforward, you take the swabs and use them to create the image on the card. The only addition I made to this was to provide a working square. I've found that if the child has a work area that is clearly delineated it helps her to organize her thinking.

Why?
Interpreting a printed design and being able to recreate it in 3-D form is a challenge for R. I think we will first be placing the swabs directly on top of the pattern cards first. But understanding a 2-D object can represent something is the first step in learning to read. Plus, it is great for her visual-spatial skills which are a continuing struggle for her.

5. Pipe cleaner bead matching


What?
Pipe cleaners and wooden beads of different colors, along with different pattern cards

How?
Once again, this is pretty straight forward. You take a card, collect the correct color of pipe cleaner, and then put on the beads in the correct order.

Why?
This is great for fine motor skills, the pipe cleaner provides some textural sensory input, and the bead matching is great for patterning and visual spacial awareness. Plus, this can be assembled from either end, so it eliminates the issue of which to put on first. (Don't worry, sequential thinking will appear in a couple of other boxes.)

6.  Sand tracing letters


What?
I found a cute little container with a lid that snaps on, so that I think it should contain the sand. The letter printable (which I like because they come in both lower and upper case, and because they have a flower in the upper left hand corner which helps the child to know which way is up), I found at Teaching Mama

This is a little picture frame easel that does a great job of holding laminated cards


How?
Take a letter, place it on the stand, and then trace that letter in the sand.

Why?
Sand is forgiving of mistakes and the child doesn't have to worry about the added complication of holding a pencil. It also provides more sensory input. We will only be starting with one or two letters at first (her initial consonants), and I am hopeful that we can eventually get to the other letters in her name.

7. Cotton ball blowing


What?
This is pretty much what it looks like... straws and cotton balls. The easiest bin I made!

How?
The child uses the straw to blow the cotton ball around the table.

Why?
This is actually a Theraplay game for building attachment. In that version, the parent and child each have a straw, and they are trying to blow the cotton ball to the other's end of the table. It is meant to be a light-hearted, fun game, which then creates warm(er) feelings between parent and child. We will definitely be using it in this way, but I will also be using it as a therapy exercise to help build better breath support as well as control of muscles around the mouth.

8. Hairband fingers


What?
I saw this all over Pinterest, but I kind of made my own version. This was mainly because I was terribly, terribly tired of created dozens of different pattern cards. In the end, this is going to work better than just having a set of amount of pattern cards. So, those are laminated cut-outs of a right and left hand, plus a pile of thicker, colored hair bands.

How?
I put different bands over the fingers of one of the hands, like this...


The child then figures out which hand to use, and then puts hairbands on her own hand in the same pattern.

Why?
I like this because not only is it practice with matching a pattern and determining right and left hands, but also because it forces quite a bit of cross-brain usage. The left hand has to put the bands on the right, and vice versa, but at the same time, the hand with the bands is getting input from the feel of the bands on the fingers.

9. Cutting practice


What?
Trays with squares of construction paper with black lines for cutting. Idea from A Crafty Living

How?
The child chooses a card, and cuts only on the black line. Some are more difficult than others.

Why?
Well, the obvious reason is to practice scissor skills. R. can use scissors, but the curvy or jagged lines will be a challenge. The reason I chose it though, was not so much to practice cutting, but to practice not cutting. R. has a tendency to not be able to stop with the scissors once she starts. If I don't keep a vigilant eye on her, she will reduce any paper within reach to teeny, tiny scraps. It definitely turns immediately into a stimming activity for her. So, to just cut on the black line, to stop, and move on to another card will be terribly challenging. No bathroom breaks for me when this box is out.

10.  Sea Animal Play

The contents of the box

Subject cards

Verb and place cards

Six fun little friends

What?
I found these little bath toys, and thought they were so cute, that I would get them and worry about what I would do with them later. They have become both a guided play activity, but also one to work on the use of verbs, which explains the cards. There is also a large piece of "water" and a large piece of "sand" for the toys to play on and in. (This entire thing still needs to be laminated!)

How?
We will draw a subject card (who is going to do something), draw a verb card (what they are going to do), and a place card (where they will do it). Then, using those cards, we will create a bit of play with the designated creature.

Why?
I've already discussed the need for guided pretend play, so this will help in that area. But, R. really has a thing about not using verbs, so I'm hoping that some creative play doing a lot of talking about actions words will help in that respect. We'll see... I'm sure she will enjoy it either way.

11. Pompom beakers



What? A little glass test tube, little colored pompoms, and more than a few pattern cards. This is another idea I saw all over the place, and just created my own version based on the color of pompoms I found at the dollar store.

How?
Take a pattern card and fill the tube in the correct pattern.

Why?
This covers patterning again, but also sequential thinking, since they pompoms can only go in the tube in a certain order. Plus, from a tactile aspect, this is very satisfying. (At least I think so.) There is something really pleasant about putting the soft and squishy pompom into the smooth glass tube.

12. Ice cream matching



What?
A matching ice cream cone game. Patterns with different combinations of ice cream which need to be matched. I think this is my favorite out of all the ones I made, just because I like how it looks. I saw a picture of this idea on Pinterest, but there was no corresponding website of instructions, so I created this based on the single photo.

How?
Take a pattern card, and then stack your ice cream cone to match.

Why?
Patterning and sequential thinking. Because the ice cream scoops are layered, I imagine that this will be the most challenging of the matching games I made.

I've also made name tags for each of the boxes.


These I will put in a bag, and R. will draw for that day's activity. This way, I'm sure that we have cycled through each of the activities, and by drawing the activity, it is not me that is telling R. she has to do it. This will be especially important when she draws the card marked, "Stepping Stones". This is not a box, but a large motor therapy tool, where the child has to step from bucket to bucket. She can do it, but it is not her favorite thing at the moment.

The activity boxes that I made years ago, and that we made heavy use of last year will still be in play. They will be the activity that R. works on while I work with other people during the morning. I've learned to keep her on my right side, while I work with a child on my left. That way, I can keep a supervising eye on what she is doing. The old activity boxes are kind of like old friends to her now, and she can use most of them fairly independently.

I think I may be ready for school when we begin later this week. I have a schedule, I nearly have all the books we need sorted out, R. has her things. Now I just have to get it all put away in an order where I can relocate it all when I need it. And it's a good thing, since J. and the children have just picked probably over 2 full bushels of peaches from our tree. It is a lot of peaches! So many peaches, we're considering putting a sign out by the end of the drive and try to sell some.

Comments

Donna said…
Thanks. I will be working to recreate some of these as well as some of the other boxes. R us significantly ahead of most of the young people I work with - so interesting to think of the comparison and how ability is so relative.
Peaches! Yum. We have had some good ones this week. Very thankful for that. I bet yours are even better. Enjoy!
Kathy said…
As a special education teacher, formerly of kindergarten, using tweazers to move the cotton balls to the beakers will build up the muscles needed to use writing ustensils. There a game called Snicky Snacky Squirrel (I think) that will also help with colors and hand coordination.
thecurryseven said…
Kathy,

I will have to look for that game... it sounds cute.

Tweezers are also pretty popular around here. I have an activity box which uses them that R. loves. She actually has some pretty amazing tweezer (and chopstick) skills. Go figure. What she really needs some work on is a pincer grasp. The pompoms should be good practice for that.

e

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