ABC Obstacle Course

One thing that’s on my mind now that baby #3 is becoming more a concrete idea rather than an abstract one (in the form of a burgeoning belly) is how much individual attention I am going to have for each of my children once he/she arrives.  Jax has always cashed in on the one-on-one Mommy time by (obviously) being an only child for 18 months and by ingeniously refusing to nap at the age of two-and-a-half.  We spend a lot of afternoons together while little sister snores away upstairs.  I suppose Em is going to get the short end of the stick in this situation, as all middle children do, but she and I have two mornings a week together now and had a few weeks of alone time while Jax was at camp this summer.  So I’m working on quality, not quantity, with her, but there are two hurdles that I am determined we conquer before baby arrives.  First, teach her to recognize her numbers and second, how to spell her name.  She can read it but if you ask her how to spell it, you’ll get any number of responses.  I have middle baby guilt that if I had more alone time with her I would have come up with a zillion creative ideas to teach her this already, like I had with Jax.  I know, I know, they’re different kids, different learning styles and interests.  But I still have 24 weeks–I’m pretty confident I can do it, and make it fun in the process!

Since my more traditional methods of teaching Em haven’t been terribly successful, I have decided to think outside the box and look for some great ideas to teach Em in a hands-on, kinesthetic way rather than just repeating the letters over and over.  I found a fabulous idea at one of my favorites sites, Hands On As We Grow, where you create an indoor obstacle course with yarn and string the letters of a child’s name on the yarn with clothespins.  Well, after a a quick look around my house I realized it was not made for obstacle courses of any kind so I decided I’d create my obstacle course outside on our front deck and use Jax as my guinea pig.  Here goes!

Materials: yarn, letters of your child’s name on individual pieces of paper, clothespins

What To Do:  String up an elaborate obstacle course by weaving the yarn around, through, above, and between as much as you can!  Remember the child is going to have to be able to follow the string from start to finish, so make it as tangled as your child can handle, with a clear starting point!

I tried it out with Jax first, so he helped me weave our web–which might have been a mistake.  His web was more like a bunch of knots, but he had a blast!

Let’s just say, his “help” made unraveling the web at the end WAY more difficult!

Then clothespin the letters of your child’s name to the yarn.  Don’t do it in order if you think they can handle unscrambling their names afterward.  It’s a great way to have them actually use their hands to spell their names, which is good for more hands on learners.

Now you’re ready to have your kids follow the strings from start to finish, unpinning any clothespins and letters along the way.  By the end, they should have made their way throughout the whole obstacle course and found every letter.

Have them lay their letters down and try to get them to rearrange them to spell a word.  Since Jax helped me set this up, he knew what the letters spelled–I’m not sure how advanced a kid would have to be to rearrange letters into an unknown word, but I think that’s pretty higher-level thinking.  Don’t be surprised if your kid needs some prompting.

It goes without saying that you have to help your kids with this activity so that they a) don’t lose their thread as they go through the web and b) don’t strangle themselves.  Jax loved having to climb over, between, and under different strands of the obstacle course, but he definitely let go sometimes and said, “I need help finding my way!”  He pretended the yarn was a “zipline” (where did he even get that word?) and wouldn’t let me take it down until Daddy was home and he could show him the ropes–literally.  And then taking it down took forever–I don’t know why I didn’t just cut my losses and snip away at the knots, but instead I doggedly unwound the whole darn thing.  In the time it took me to unwind it, I could have walked to JoAnn Fabrics and bought another ball of yarn!

And, oh yes, what about little Em?  Didn’t I got to all this trouble for her?  Indeed I did.  Two things became clear once she woke up from her nap and we showed her the obstacle course.  1)  It was way too complicated for her–having one string wrap around the entire house would have been much better for her than to have the whole zigzag approach and 2)  The yarn stressed her out and she kept having meltdowns when she got tangled.  She bailed.  So my conclusion is that this activity was better for big brother’s stage of development, and that simple is best for someone like Em who is just learning.  There is always room to make an activity more challenging!  Better to start of easy and build their confidence than to overwhelm them with a crazy zipline obstacle course right after nap.  But did a boisterous little boy with tons of energy and problem-solving skills and a creative mind have a blast for over an hour?  You betcha!

Stay tuned for part two of this day, in which I created an awesome ABC Scavenger Hunt for Em which was a huge hit!

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  1. [...] I mentioned the other day, I had big plans to help Em learn her name by creating an ABC Obstacle Course, but that was a bit too advanced for her (but rocked for big brother!).  Since my intention was to [...]

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