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Clothespin Fun

Basically I made some flashcards using words that do not repeat letters and added some stickers for fun.  Then the kids used their nimble little fingers to put the clothespins in the appropriate order on the card.  Easy as P-I-E.

Clothespin Spelling @ Rub Some Dirt On It

This is a great activity to do with an older sibling who can read who can help the littler one with some supervision.  I can sit on the couch and hold the baby while these two play and learn together, and have fun while they’re doing it.

Clothespin Spelling @ Rub Some Dirt On It

And I get a bit of a break.  A win/win for everyone, especially me!

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Fine Motor Skills, Clothespin Style

Confession:  I haven’t put a whole lot of effort into developing my kids’ fine motor skills.  I figure, they can eat, they can play, they can tickle, that’s good, right?  I mean, I never remember consciously working on my fine motor skills and I’m pretty dexterous.  So what if Jax can’t put his clothes on or pull them off?  I guess we probably should work on that a bit.  Thus when I came across this post at Hands On As We Grow, I found myself pinning away at the activities for fine motor skill development and was intrigued enough to do one that very day.

I loved this cool activity that combined literacy with fine motor development.  I thought it was so awesome Jax and I embarked on it as soon as Emmy was down for her nap.  Using clothespins to reinforce letters and spelling!

Then I began taping the cards to ribbon I hung on the wall.  After a few I realized, why am I doing this when I am surrounded by clothespins? So Jax and I hung them like laundry on the ribbons, which I think looked really cute.

The difficult part was that once Jax began adding clothespins to the cards, they became rather heavy and started falling off the ribbon.  So after a while we took them down, but if you can reinforce them properly (and don’t have younger children who would destroy them), it would be a fun way to display your work and then they could work like sight words.

I’ve wanted to make a word wall for a while, and now I think I have something similar, with my own twist.  JDubbs was less than thrilled about the idea of having yet another crafty thing taking up wall space, so I was loath to do it, but instead, I’ll just change out the index cards every few weeks so that they are seasonally appropriate and we can talk about what they mean.  I may do one for each letter, too; I’ll let you know how that goes!

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Now that the baby is home and Daddy is back at work, Jax is outnumbered as the only boy at home, 3 to 1.

It’s no wonder he’ll take a little bit of solitude whenever he can get it.

Just like his dad, give him a fishing pole and some peace and quiet, and there’s nowhere he’d rather be.  All boy.

His pole was a dowel with a bit of string with a magnet stuck at the bottom that Em and I made at school, and his “fish” was a clothespin with a magnet with a Spiderman figurine in its claws.  Made for some good fishing, I see.

My dear little boy, the biggest of them all, the big brother.  He has handled the transition very well, and I’m proud of him for being so grown up.  Not that I want him to grow up too fast, but I am grateful that so far he seems to be handling the role of man of the house when Daddy is away superbly, with lots of love for both of his sisters to go around.  We are blessed with all three of our babies!

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Tunnel of Fine Motor Fun!

Having a friend who is a literacy specialist as well as one who is an occupational therapist helps me make fun, creative choices for our free time.  I cannot take credit for this activity–when my friend the OT tells me that clothespins are great for fine motor skills, I listen!  When she says her very active 3-year-old loved this spin on a simple game, I couldn’t wait to give it a try!

I have found that these clothespins with letters written on them have been a huge resource for creative learning around here.  I used them for my very popular Build A Word activity and for sight word play.  My kids–who had been rained inside for what felt like forever–needed a little bit of structured energy-burning, so I set up a literacy/fine motor skills building obstacle course, and they loved it!

Most kids have a tunnel of some sort, or you could make one out of blankets.  I set it up on the living room and told the kids to run around our house, stop at the toy box, pick up an ABC clothespin, crawl through the tunnel, then clip the letter onto the edge of the tube–or blanket, if you don’t have a tunnel handy.

Suggested rule: one kid in the tunnel at a time.  Don’t let child #2 start go in the tunnel until child #1 is finished clipping.  Less kicking in the face that way.

After they clipped every clothespin…

they ran around the course again, this time taking a clothespin OFF as they went.  To make it a little harder, I asked them what sounds each letter made as they unclipped, and then to name a word that starts with that letter.  Em had a hard time with some letters, but her big brother was always ready to help, and she had the big idea to look in our Dr. Seuss’s ABC book for inspiration.

Here’s to great friends who make a me a better Mom; it really does take a village!  It was a great way to learn, laugh, and have fun!  Enjoy this great way to help you through the next rainy way!

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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!

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!

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.

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!

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Spring Sight Words

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Jax is definitely a visual learner.  He just stares at something often and long enough until suddenly he has it committed to memory.  That’s why something like a word wall would be a big success for him, but I honestly haven’t taken the time to make one.  I kind of prefer the kind of learning that can be tucked away and brought back out on a rainy day so it’s always fresh and interesting; I think if my kids see something every day they eventually become oblivious to it (half of their toys fall into this category).  So when I pulled out Jax’s ABC clothespins and sight word box, he was excited to play with me because we haven’t used it in about a month.  Plus the fact that I had found some great spring sight words to add to the mix, we had a really great time learning together while having fun!

We did the same thing as last time–Jax organized his clothespins…

…and then we took a look at his cool new spring words.

This time he tried to find a word for every letter, instead of choosing the word first.  He had a few different words going at the same time but it was a bit more challenging–he had to think about which words he was going to focus on so he didn’t have twenty different words; he focused on two or three and soon was able to complete each one.

Proud of himself for a job well done!

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Spin & Spell

Here’s the play-by-play to make your very own Spin & Spell, for less than three dollars.  First, take a quick trip to your local hardware store to get a carriage bolt, some hex nuts, and a stop nut.  We got two bolts, one for each kid–although I must admit Emmy really wanted nothing to do with this project.  I think her fine motor skills are still a little weak for this kind of maneuvering.

Something to consider: For one bolt, I got the appropriately-sized nuts that required actual spinning on the threads of the bolt.  I don’t recommend this strategy–even I had trouble getting them on and off.  For the other I went one or two sizes up so the nuts slid on and off with ease.  I figure their fingers were getting a workout regardless–no need to be mean and frustrating.

So the brilliant source of this idea, used stickers to add her letters to the nuts.  I shunned this idea as requiring an extra stop at a store, so I put mine on with a black Sharpie.  As usual, follow the original source and don’t be lazy like me.  The Sharpie came off MUCH easier than I expected; a few good twists and the letters were practically erased.  So I recommend stickers if you’re serious about making a Spin & Spell that will last for more than one use.

Then you just let your kid and your imagination drive the rest.  It was fun having two bolts because I said, “Let’s see who can spell fish first,” and we had to shuffle through our nuts to find the correct letters and put them on our bolts in order quickly.  The difficulty was that I wasn’t sure which letters were on which nut, so I was afraid I would ask him to spell a word that he physically could not because of the letter combination.  But he enjoyed it anyway, and liked creating words of his own.

There was also a bit of just free fine motor fun, stacking the nuts and sorting them by size–bigger and smaller.  I love how kids don’t even know that they’re learning; they’re just having fun.  Little does he know he’s actually doing a million things that are making him smarter and more capable and a better critical thinker all at once, not to mention improving his dexterity!  I’m such a happy, dorky mom.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that Jax didn’t go crazy for this literacy tool as he did for others, like the sight word train or using clothespins to spell out sight words.  He got distracted from our actual purpose and started using the bolt as a rocket and started crashing on top of the nuts.  But I think if your kid is a kinesthetic learner, a Home Depot junkie, or likes to fiddle with nuts and bolts, this is an activity that is worth its weight in gold.  It’s a game changer.  Imagine storing this in your purse or diaper bag and pulling it out in a restaurant instead of your phone–small changes like that are what readers are made of.

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