A Whale of a Role Model!

I feel very fortunate to live near the ocean in Santa Cruz, CA.  It continually inspires me to venture outside and enjoy all that it affords.  It is a place of beauty, incredible wonders, and home to the greatest diversity of life on earth.  This week, humpback whales can be spotted not far from the beach.  They are joining herds of sea lions and flocks of birds to dine on the abundant anchovies that are present in the bay.  In the photo below taken by Chris Elmenhurst, you can see a mother humpback teaching her baby calf how to feed on the tiny green fish. The whale mother and her baby will share the strongest of bonds for one year with the mother preparing and strengthening her newborn for the long migration up the coast.  It’s common to see a baby trying to perform a good breach over and over and then have mom come up unexpectedly to show junior how it should be done.

Photo by Chris Edinger at Surf the Spot - click photo to view more photos.

Photo by Chris Elmhurst at Surf the Spot – click photo to view more photos.

While I was watching the humpbacks, I also spotted a mother and son exercising together on the beach.  I couldn’t help but notice the correlation between the mother whale with her calf and the mother and son lifting weights.  Just as the mother whale role models for her baby, so does a physically active parent role model for her child.

sharron whale 2

Parents who encourage and endorse physical activities in their own lives are more likely to pass on these good habits to their children.  Research shows that children who exercise do better in school, control themselves better, and have fewer behavior issues. More good news is that children who lead active lifestyles are likely to remain active as adults and pass on their healthy lifestyle habits to their own children.

Consider the following benefits of regular physical activity for growing children:

  • Promotes healthy growth and development
  • Builds strong bones and muscles
  • Improves cardiovascular fitness
  • Increases flexibility
  • Improves balance, coordination and strength
  • Assists with the development of gross motor and fine motor skills
  • Provides the opportunity to develop fundamental movement skills
  • Helps to establish connections between different parts of the brain
  • Improves concentration and thinking skills
  • Provides opportunities to develop social skills and make friends
  • Reduces feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety
  • Improves sleep
  • Promotes psychological well-being, including higher levels of self-esteem and self-
  • concept

Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, be a role model. Show children physical activity is important by enthusiastically participating in it!

The Mirror Game!

sharron mirror game 1

Why It’s a Great Game!

Objectives & Learning Outcomes

Social Emotional Development:

  • Learning to cooperate
  • Accepting others’ ideas
  • Taking turns

Cognitive Development:

  • Replicating physically what the eyes see (developing visual sensitivity to change)
  • Developing focus, attention, and concentration
  • Learning about the concept of mirror reflection

Physical Development:

  • Practicing a variety of nonlocomotor movements
  • Developing spatial awareness (an awareness of space, relative distance, and relationships with space–experiencing personal space)

sharron mirror game 2

How to Play

Set Up and Materials

  • Available indoor or outdoor space
  • Children paired up and scattered in the space
  • Music
  • If desired, demonstrate the concept of reflection using a mirror

sharron mirror game 3

Directions

  1. Partners face each other at arm’s distance apart.
  2. Ask one child to be the “leader” and perform simple movements in place and his partner (the second child) to imitate the leader as a mirror reflection.  For example, if the leader  waves his right arm, the “mirror” waves his left arm in the same way, duplicating the movement as if he is looking into a mirror.
  3. Start the music–fast or slow.  The use of slow background music might help keep the partners moving slowly at first.
  4. Go from simple (only one body part moving) to complex (more than one body part moving at the same time).
  5. When the music stops, partners change roles, with the leader becoming the mirror and the mirror becoming the leader.

Suggestions & Variations

  • Children will mirror better if they watch each other’s eyes rather than extremities.
  • Ask the leader to move slowly enough so the mirror can follow.
  • Have the players do the activity while sitting.
  • Combine the activity with streamers or scarves.

sharron mirror game 4

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Rainbow Dancing Wrist Bands (RNBW)
Juggling Scarves (JUGGLE)
Daily Fitness 4 CD Set (MOVEMENT)
Circle Time Fun Set – 3 CDs (CTIMEFUN)
Hamilton™ AM/FM CD Player (BOOMBOX)
Look At Me Mirror Kit (LOOKATME)

Physical Activity for Children with Special Needs

childrunningwadult

A child with special needs is one who requires some form of special care due to physical, mental, emotional or health reasons. Children with special needs are also commonly referred to as children with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a child with a disability more specifically as one who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits the child’s ability to care for herself or himself, perform manual tasks, or engage in any other “major life activity,” such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, or learning, in an age-appropriate manner.

Children with disabilities are more similar than different from other children.  Avoid becoming too focused on a child’s disability.  Treat each child as a whole person.  Every child needs to feel successful and capable. Children with Aspergers, autism or attention deficit hyperactive disorder often have the uncontrollable need to move and physical activity can help them learn to do so appropriately.  Most young children need to and want to move frequently and all children benefit while promoting physical fitness (muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility), developing motor skills  (run, jump, hop, walk, gallop, skip, throw, catch, kick, bounce, strike, stretch, bend, twist, turn, balance), improving coordination, and building self-confidence.  The ways you include a child with physical differences or impairments will benefit all the children in your care.  Here are some strategies for inclusion.

  • Modify the environment
  • Modify the task for the individual
  • Use safe, soft objects
  • Simplify instructions
  • Give visual, oral, and kinesthetic cues
  • Provide plenty of repetition
  • Have role models
  • Use communication systems
  • Eliminate elimination games
  • Minimize waiting time

The primary reason that children participate in active play is to have fun, and the key reason they quit is a lack of fun.  With that being said, here is an activity that everyone can get in on the fun!

 Constructors & Destroyers

What:

20-30 Colored Cones
Portable iPod/CD Player
Music Suggestions: Taking Care of Business by Randy Bachman, Barefootin’ by Jimmy Buffett, Footloose by Kenny Loggins

Where:

Outdoor space (grass area or playground, etc.) or large indoor space (gym, multi-purpose room, etc.)

Who:

Children who want to move and play!

How:

  1. Set up the cones randomly spaced about 4-6 feet from each other.
  2. Knock over about one-third of those cones.  Space out those that are upright and those that are on their side.
  3. Organize the children into two groups.  One group is designated as the Constructors and the other group is designated as the Destroyers.  It is better to have a few more Constructors than Destroyers!
  4. The Constructors “job” is to stand up all the cones that were knocked over.
  5. The Destroyers “job” is to GENTLY tip over the cones that are standing up.  Make sure to remind the children to be gentle and only use the palms of their hands to touch the cones.  No kicking or throwing of the cones is allowed.
  6. The game begins (players move through the space doing their job) when the music starts and ends when the music stops.
  7. When the music stops, begin the game again but this time let the Constructors be Destroyers and Destroyers become the Constructors.

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Colored Cones – set of 10 (SETC – $16.99)
Hamilton® AM/FM, CD and MP3 Player (BEATBOX – $158.99)

It’s Screen-Free Week! Let’s Play Outside!

April 29 – May 5, 2013 is Screen-Free Week, an annual national celebration coordinated by the Center for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), a national advocacy organization devoted to reducing the impact of commercialism on children.  Children, families, schools, and communities spend seven days TURNING OFF entertainment SCREEN media (TV, video games, computers, iPads, smartphones) and “TURN ON LIFE.”

Did you know that–

  1. Preschool children spend “an astonishing average of 32 hours a week” in front of screens—and it’s more for older children. CCFC writes, “Excessive screen time is harmful for children—it’s linked to poor school performance, childhood obesity, attention problems, and the erosion of creative play (the foundation of learning) constructive problem solving, and creativity.”
  2. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under 2 should watch NO TV and children age 2 and over should watch less that 2 hours per day.  But, on any given day, 29% of babies under the age of 1 are watching TV and videos for an average of about 90 minutes.  Twenty-three percent have a  television in their bedroom.
  3. TV watching “rewires” a child’s brain, leading to attentional issues by the age of 7.  The “pace of TV is sped up” leading the young infant to believe that the “quick scene shifts of video images” is normal.  TV watching may over stimulate the child’s brain, “causing permanent changes to developing neural pathways.”  As a child is staring at the TV, these hugely important neural pathways are not being developed.
  4. Developers of children’s apps for phones and tablets restrict screen time for their own children.  More than one of these developers said, “We have a rule of no screen time during the week, unless it’s clearly educational. On the weekends, they can play.  I give them a limit of half an hour and then stop. It can be too addictive, too stimulating for the brain.”
  5. Some toddlers are becoming so addicted to iPads and smartphones that they require psychological treatment.  “They can’t cope and become addicted, reacting with tantrums and uncontrollable behavior when they are taken away.”  Young technology addicts (some as young as 4 years old) experience the same withdrawal symptoms as alcoholics or heroin addicts and are enrolled in a “digital detox” program that weans children off computer games and mobile phones.

sharron kid watching tv

This information is disconcerting, to say the least, and needs to be taken seriously.  I worry about our children’s social emotional development, ability to interact with others, language development, and their communication skills.  Research shows that children learn one-on-one from people, not from videos and television!

“The skills children will always need to thrive–deep thinking, the ability to differentiate fact from hype, creativity, self-regulation, empathy and self-reflection–aren’t learned in front of any screen. They are learned through face-to-face communication, hands-on exploration of the world, opportunities for silence and time to dream.”~Dr. Susan Linn, Director, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

sharron kids climbing trees

Screen-Free Week reminds us to go outside and play.  How about committing to 30-60 minutes of active play each day.  Disconnect from all things electronic and do one of the following–

sharron kids running

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:

Decorate a Kite, kit for 12 (KIDSKITE)

Colorations® Washable Sidewalk Chalk, 50 pieces (SIDEWALK)

Shapes Walking Rope (WALKROPE)

Kickball Kit (KICKBALL)

Flying Discs (FLYD) and Soft Flying Discs (SFDISC)

14′ ClassicRider® Trike (REDRDR14)

Excellerations™ Junior Hoop Ball Goal (HOOP3)

Obstacle Course Activity Set (OCSET)

Rainbow Dancing Wrist Bands (RNBW)

Animal Hopping {Really Jumping!} Sacks

The old potato sack “ain’t” what it used to be.  This version of the classic potato sack is made more “kid-friendly” with the addition of pictures of animals that really do “jump” on the front of the sack—kangaroos, rabbits and frogs—and with two sets of handles to accommodate any age (3 to 103 years young!)  One set of handles is on the inside of the sack for little hands and the other is on the outside of the sack for bigger hands.  Once your body is standing inside the sack, there is only way to move from one place to another and that is by grasping the handles and using both feet to JUMP up and down. Hopping is on one foot and is not a recommended way to travel while in a sack.  It is best to play the following activities outside on the grass or on any cushioned or matted surface.  Whether you’re playing a game or competing in a race, you’ll have fun and experience success—no matter what your size!

Objectives/Learning Outcomes:
Playing and using the sacks promotes and develops…

1.  Overall physical fitness—cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, muscular strength and endurance.
2.  Gross motor development—using the large muscles of the arms, legs and trunk.
3.  Bilateral coordination—using both sides of the body at the same time in unison as in jumping.
4.  Eye-foot coordination—eyes and feet working together smoothly to meet a challenge.
5.  Spatial awareness—coordinated movement in relationship to other objects in the environment.
6.  Balance—being able to hold the position of the body through the interaction of muscles working together (maintaining body equilibrium) whether the body is stationary (static balance) or moving (dynamic balance).
7.  Cooperation and teamwork—2 or more people working and playing together rather than against one another, just for the fun of it.
8.  Fun— playful actions providing amusement and enjoyment.
9.  Listening skills—ability to follow verbal directions.

Games & Activities

Animals Jump                                                                                 Ages:  3 – 5

Set Up:
1. Players scattered in open space.
2. One jumping sack for each player.

Procedure:
1. Before starting this activity, discuss with the group about what jumps and what doesn’t.
2. An adult or child who understands the concept of the activity is selected to be the leader of the game.
3. Players stand inside jumping sack but do not hold handles.
4. The leader shouts out various things that jump.
5. Each time the leader names anything that “jumps” the players grab the handles of the sack, pulling it up, and jump up and down vigorously (e.g., “frogs jump,” “rabbits jump,” “kangaroos jump,” “crickets jump,” etc.).
6. If the leader names something that does not jump, players let go of their bags and stand motionless (e.g., “elephants jump,” “worms jump,” “tables jump,” etc.).

Animals Find Your Home                                                             Ages:  3 – 5

Set Up:
1. One animal jumping sack and one hoop or shape spot marker for each player.
2. Arrange hoops or spot markers in a large circle equally spaced apart.

Procedure:
1.  Position each player (standing in jumping sack) in a hoop or on a spot (the hoop or spot is their “home”).
2.  One player in a sack stands in the center of the circle without a hoop or spot  and calls out, “KANGAROO (name of animal sack they are in)  WANTS A HOME!” (e.g. “RABBIT WANTS A HOME!”).  All animals (including the one standing in the center) must leave their home (hoop or spot) and jump to a different and vacant spot or hoop.
3.  One player will be left without a hoop or a spot and should then take his or her place in the center as the next animal home shopper.
4.  The game continues until everyone has had a turn to be a new “home shopper.”  If “home shoppers” are too slow in finding a new spot or hoop, an adult or leader may pick the next home shopper randomly.

Listen & Jump                                                                                 Ages:  3 – 5

Set Up:
1. Players scattered in open space.
2. One jumping sack for each player.
3. CD player and lively upbeat music.

Procedure:
1.  First ask the players to jump in place when the music starts.
2.  When the music stops, the players are to stop and maintain their balance while standing in the sack.
3.  Challenge the players to jump freely around the open space while the music is playing.
4.  The game continues with the starting and stopping of the music.

Animal Facts                                                                                   Ages:  5 and up

Set Up:
1.  “Start” and “Finish” lines or boundaries using cones, ropes or other markers placed a maximum of 12 – 20 feet apart.
2.  One jumping sack for each player.

Procedure:
1.  Each player stands behind the boundary or start line at least an arms width apart from each other.
2.  Each player gets into an animal sack, pulls it up, and holds onto the size-appropriate handle.  Make sure each player knows which animal sack they are in—kangaroo, rabbit or frog.
3.  An adult or child who understands the concept of the activity is selected to be the leader of the game.
4.  The leader of this activity calls out animal facts and if the information is correct for the animal—kangaroo, rabbit or frog— that player(s) in the appropriate sack jumps forward one jump.
5.  Each time a fact is called out, the matching animal or animals jump forward one jump.  If the animal fact does not apply to the animals, nobody jumps forward.
6.  The game ends when all the animals cross the finish line.

Some Animal Facts or Characteristics that you can use in playing this game:
Ask questions appropriate for the ages of children playing.
Encourage the children to add more animal facts to this list.

This animal lays eggs (frog).
This animal is a mammal (rabbit, kangaroo).
A tadpole becomes one of these (frog).
Bunny is another name for this animal (rabbit).
This animal’s skin is smooth (frog).
This animal eats grass (rabbit, kangaroo).
A group of these animals is a herd (kangaroo).
Babies are called joeys (kangaroo).
This animal is a marsupial mammal (kangaroo).
This animal is an amphibian (frog).

Races & Relays

Individual Jumping Races                                                           Ages:  5 and up

Set Up:
1.  “Start” and “Finish” lines or boundaries using cones, ropes or other markers placed a minimum of 12 feet apart (place farther apart for older ages).
2.  One jumping sack for each player.

Procedure:
1.  Each player stands behind the boundary or start line at least an arms width apart from each other.
2.  Each player gets into a sack, pulls it up, and holds onto the size-appropriate handle.
3.  On the signal “GO!” players jump to the finish line.
4.  Every player who crosses the finish line is a winner!

Variations:
1.  Have players try and beat their own previous time.
2.  If not enough sacks for everyone, let those watching be cheerleaders and encourage the players by rooting for their favorite animal—“Go Rabbits!” or “Jump Frogs Jump!” etc.

Animal Team Jumping Races                                                     Ages: 5 and up

Set Up:
1.  “Start” and “Finish” lines or boundaries using cones, ropes or other markers placed a maximum of 12 – 20 feet apart.
2.  One jumping sack for each player.

Procedure:
1.  Players pair up or group together by the type of animal on their sack.
2.  Each animal team lines up single file behind the starting line.
3.  On the signal “GO!” players jump to the finish line, turn around, jump back to the start line.
4.   Upon crossing the start line the next player in the same animal team jumps to the finish line, turns around, and jumps back to the start line.
5.  Game continues until each animal player in the team has a turn.

Variations:
A.  Have same animals stand across from each other on opposite sides of the boundary lines. When one team member jumps across the line, the next team member on that side jumps to the other side and crosses the opposite boundary line.
B.  Make animal teams consisting of equal numbers of kangaroos, rabbits and frogs.

Three-Legged Animal Race                                                        Ages:  5 and up

Set Up:

1.  “Start” and “Finish” lines or boundaries using cones, ropes or other markers placed a maximum of 12 – 20 feet apart.
2.  One jumping sack for each two-person team.

Procedure:
1.  Players pair up and become a two-person team and pick an animal sack of their choice.
2.  Each team stands side-by-side and puts the leg closest to each other in the jumping sack, standing behind the starting line.
3.  On the signal “GO!” each two-person team jumps to the finish line.
4.  Every team who crosses the finish line is a winner!

Variation:
1.  This race can be done as a relay too, with additional two-person teams in the same animal sacks (kangaroos, rabbit or frog) in a line behind the same type animal team.  The first pair crosses the finish line, gets out of their sacks and runs back to the starting line, tagging the next members of their animal team, permitting them to now race to the finish line.

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Animal Hopping Sacks – set of 6 (HOPPY)
Brawny Tough Activity Hoops – set of 15 (HOOPSET)
Shapes Spots – set of 18 (SHSPOT)
Hamilton™ AM/FM CD Player (BOOMBOX)
Popular Children’s Songs CDs – set of 4 (TODCDS)
Colored Cones – set of 10 (SETC)
7′ Nylon Jump Ropes – set of 3 (RPST)

DIY Streamer Ribbons

I really enjoy presenting workshops where I not only share active play products but also play props or toys that can be made using recyclables.  A favorite product is the Rainbow Dancing Wrist Bands from Discount School Supply®.  I prefer to use streamer ribbons that are not connected to a long stick.  The stick can be too cumbersome for little hands and a safety hazard as well.  Streamer Ribbons can be an easy “Do It Yourself” (DIY) project.  In previous posts I gave instructions on how to make a Floppy Flipper, Bread Bag Jump Rope, and a Six-Pack Net.  In this post, I will share with you on how to make a streamer ribbon using one plastic ring and some flagging tape.  Turn trash into toys for active play indoors or outdoors!

Sharron DIY StreamerRibbon

Materials:

  1. One plastic ring from six-pack plastic rings: a set of connected plastic rings that are used to carry six-packs of beverage cans or plastic bottles of soft drinks, aka ”carrier rings.”
  2. Colored flagging tape or surveyor’s tape: a non adhesive marking ribbon used for surveying, mapping, tagging, roping off areas or any other marking application. Available in a wide variety of bright and bold colors.

 Recycle & Play! Six-Pack Net & Bread Bag Jump Rope

Directions:

  1. Cut plastic rings apart, making sure to keep the rings intact.
  2. Cut 3-4 three foot pieces of different colored flagging tape and tie each piece to the plastic ring.
  3. Make two DIY Streamer Ribbons–one for each hand!

Sharron DIY StreamerRibbon Tape

Activities:

Streamer Ribbon Dancing
Start the music and bodies start moving.  With a streamer ribbon in their hand, encourage the children to dance and move about freely in the open space.  Suggest to the children that they move the streamer fast, slow, high, low, side to side, and all around.  Tell them that when the music stops, they are to stop and freeze (stand motionless like a statue).  When the music starts again, children resume dancing.  Ask children to follow along as you move the streamer across the front of your body, circle the streamer in front of your body like a Ferris wheel or circle it over your head like a helicopter blade.  Try to trick the dancers by starting and stopping the music quickly.  They love the element of surprise!  Use all different types of music: fast, slow, classical, rock, salsa.  When playing a slow song, suggest the children twirl, leap and float to the music.  Streamer Ribbon dancing promotes cross-lateral movements (crossing the midline) and develops body and space relationships, agility, flexibility, and listening skills.

Run Like the Wind
On your mark, get set, get ready, GO!  Have children run from one boundary to another with their Streamer Ribbon in their hand.  They will ask to do it again and again. Running is a locomotor skill and a form of vigorous physical activity that increases the heart rate while improving fitness.

Nature Play
Initiate creative movement using the Streamer Ribbon to imitate nature.  Ask the children to show you how they can make:

  • Ocean waves by shaking the ribbon in front of their body
  • A rainbow by moving the ribbon in an arc from one side of their body to the other
  • A river by dragging the ribbon across the floor or ground
  • Tree branches in a windstorm by holding the ribbon above their head and swaying from side to side
  • A tornado by spinning around and raising and lowering the ribbon

Tails
Set up boundaries using ropes or cones in the available space. Each child tucks a Streamer Ribbon into their waistband behind their back. The ribbon is now their tail. The game starts when the music starts and the children run in the available space.  The game is played like tag, but instead of tagging each other, children pull each others ribbons out of their waistbands and drop them on the ground.  The child whose ribbon is pulled picks up his streamer ribbon (tail), goes to “the tail repair area” (a designated spot, i.e., door, tree, etc.) to replace the ribbon in their waistband.  Once the ribbon is secure in their waistband, the child returns to the game and resumes pulling tails (ribbons).  The game ends when the music stops.  This group game promotes cooperative play, vigorous physical activity and lots of laughter!

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Rainbow Dancing Wrist Bands – set of 6 (RNBW)
Colored Cones – set of 10 (SETC)
7′ Nylon Jump Ropes – set of 3 (RPST)

Feed the Frog! Gulp! Gulp! Gulp!

He’s a big green wide-mouthed frog and he loves to eat dragonflies!  I really like this Wooden Frog Toss (FROGTOSS) which comes with 2 supports (prevents it from tipping) and six rainbow-colored dragonfly beanbags.  The supports slide into slots when you are ready to play “Feed the Frog” and remove easily for flat storage. The feature I like the most is the target, the frog’s wide mouth, which is achievable for even the littlest thrower. So many bean bag toss games have several small holes that make it difficult for anyone (even the adult!) to succeed when attempting to reach the target. The Frog Toss game ensures that each child will experience success when playing while promoting eye-hand coordination, gross motor skills and, in this game, color recognition. It’s best to place the Frog Toss on a table or platform (inside or outdoors) where it is at eye-level for your children.  Place the dragonfly beanbags in a basket on the floor or ground and this wide-mouthed frog is just waiting to be fed–TOSS, THROW, TOSS, THROW the dragonflies–GULP! GULP! GULP!  YUM!

When introducing new equipment to children, please allow time for free exploration and practice.  Give children opportunities to throw from a variety of distances and to throw in different ways thus enabling them to experiment and find the position offering challenge but from which they experience success. I’ve provided some information and terminology that will assist you in understanding the levels and stages children go through in learning how to toss (slow or mid-paced looping throw using just fingers and hand) and throw (more forceful using arms and shoulders to propel the object).  Remember that learning a new skill is a process and each skill has its own developmental progression.

Stages of Throwing:

  1. Child only moves his throwing arm. The body does not move as he throws.
  2. Determine which hand the child usually uses for throwing.
  3. A child who throws with the right arm will step forward with the right foot.
  4. A child who throws with the left arm will step forward with the left foot
  5. Prompt children to step forward with the foot opposite their throwing arm. This is the mature way to throw.

sharron frog toss 1

Teaching Cues for Learning to Throw:

  1. “Look at the target.” (the frog’s mouth)
  2. “Bring the beanbag to your ear before you throw.”
  3. “Start with this foot in front.” (referring to the foot opposite the throwing arm)
  4. “Step, turn your belly button, throw.”

Teaching Suggestions:

  • Demonstrate the activity for the children.
  • Use hoops on the floor to designate where children are to stand when engaged in the activities.
  • To increase interest, choose other items for the child to toss into the frog’s mouth, such as: foam balls, soft blocks, plush play food, etc.

sharron frog toss 2

Objectives/Learning Outcomes:

Playing and participating in the activities and with the equipment promotes and develops…

  1. Throwing – a  basic movement pattern that propels an object away from the body.
  2. Tossing – to throw with a quick or light motion.
  3. Underhand throw or toss – made with the hand brought forward and up from below the shoulder level.
  4. Overhand throw or toss – made with the hand brought forward and down from above shoulder level.
  5. Gross motor development – movement of the large muscles of the arms, legs and trunk.
  6. Manipulative skills – gross motor skills in which an object (bean bag) is usually involved (manipulated).  These include throwing and catching.
  7. Fine motor development – movement of the small muscles of the fingers, toes and eyes.
  8. Eye-hand coordination – eyes and hands working together smoothly to meet a challenge.
  9. Color recognition – identifying the difference between colors of the dragonflies.

10. Counting – how many dragonflies did you feed the frog?

11. Cooperation – learning to take turns and play together

12. Listening skills – ability to follow verbal directions

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Wooden Frog Toss Board, with six dragonfly beanbags (FROGTOSS)
Classroom Activity Baskets – set of 6 (CATCHY)
4″ Foam Balls, set of 6 (FOAMBS)
Soft Velour Blocks, set of 24 (VLRBLK)
Yummy Plush Play Food, 25 pieces (YUMMY)
Fruit and Vegetable Sorting Set, 20 pieces (FRUVEG)

Infant and Toddler Movement Scarves

According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, good toys for young children are ones that “match their stages of development and emerging abilities.” Toddler Movement Scarves (MOOVIT) are sized for the very young child (birth-36 months old). Each Toddler Movement Scarf consists of 3 colorful 10” square sheer scarves securely attached to a velcro wrist band. It’s an appropriate version of the “streamer ribbon” for the toddler set. Here are several fun activities that develop gross and fine motor skills, promote moderate to vigorous physical activity, and boost brain development. Get moovin’ and groovin’ with your little ones!

Floating Scarves Ages: birth-18 months
Lie the infant on its back and move the scarves above their face. Slowly move your hand up and down, in circles, and to the right and left. This activity provides practice with visual tracking.

Peek-A-Boo Ages: birth-18 months
Sit on the floor with the baby, and cover your face with the scarves. Take off the scarves and say, “Peek-a-boo.” Do this a few times before trying it on the baby. Then cover the baby’s head with the scarves. Stop immediately if the baby shows any sign of disliking this. Pull the scarves off and say “Peek-a-boo.” Along with being fun, peek-a-boo teaches babies the concept of object permanence, which occurs somewhere between the ages of 4 and 12 months. A baby learns that even if something is out of sight, it still exists. 

Peek-A-Toy Ages: 8-18 months
Sit on the floor with the baby. Cover a toy with the scarves and say, “Where’s the toy?” Let the baby find the toy by pulling off the scarves. This activity promotes eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills.
Car Wash Ages: 8-18 months
Encourage gross motor development by attaching the scarves to a pole or chairs to create a tunnel or “car wash” for the baby to crawl through.

Movement Exploration Ages: 2 + years
Encourage children to use their imagination and be creative with the scarf. It can be a tail on a horse, a butterfly, a falling leaf, etc. Run with it and pretend it’s a kite. Look at the world through the tint of the fine mesh fabric. What do you see? What else can you do with your scarf? Movement exploration allows children to problem solve, explore spatial relationship skills, and use their large muscles.

Scarf Dancing Ages: 2 + years
Start the music and bodies start moving. With a scarf in their hand or around their wrist, encourage the children to dance and move about freely in the open space. Suggest to the children that they move the scarf fast, slow, high, low, side to side, and all around. Tell them that when the music stops, they are to stop and freeze (stand motionless like a statue). When the music starts again, children resume dancing. Ask children to follow along as you swish the scarf across the front of your body, make figure eights in the air, circle the scarf in front of your body like a Ferris wheel or circle it over your head like a helicopter blade.Try to trick the dancers by starting and stopping the music quickly. They love the element of surprise! Use all different types of music: fast, slow, classical, rock, salsa. When playing a slow song, suggest the children twirl, leap and float to the music. Scarf dancing promotes cross-lateral movements (crossing the midline) and develops body and space relationships, agility, flexibility, and listening skills.

Run Like the Wind Ages: 2 + years
On your mark, get set, get ready, GO! Have children run from one boundary to another with their scarf in hand or on their wrist. They will ask to do it again and again. Running, is a locomotor skill and a form of vigorous physical activity that increases the heart rate while improving fitness.

Musical Follow the Leader Ages: 2 + years 
Play “Follow the Leader.” Have children stand in a line, one person behind the other. When the music starts, the child at the head of the line does a movement with the scarf and all children will move their scarf in the same way as the leader (i.e., waving scarf overhead, swinging arms back and forth, jumping with the scarf, galloping with the scarf, etc.) When the music stops the child that was at the front of the line goes to the back and the next child in line becomes the leader. The music starts again and the game continues until everyone has had a chance to be the leader.

Shake to My Lou Ages: 2 + years
Use the scarf as you sing the following song and do the appropriate movements

Shake to My Lou (Tune: “Skip to My Lou”)Shake, shake, shake to my Lou, (Shake scarf in front of body)
Shake, shake, shake to my Lou,
Shake, shake, shake to my Lou,
Shake to my Lou my darling.
Shake up high, shake down low, (Shake scarf overhead, then down by feet)
Shake up high, shake down low,
Shake up high, shake down low,
Shake to my Lou my darling.
Shake to the right, shake to the left, (Shake scarf on one side of body and then the other)
Shake to the right, shake to the left,
Shake to the right, shake to the left,
Shake to my Lou my darling.
Shake it out, shake it in, (Shake scarf with arms extended to the sides, bring arms together in front of body)
Shake it out, shake it in,
Shake it out, shake it in,
Shake to my Lou my darling.

No Child Left Inside! Extend Your Classroom Outdoors

Take your classroom outdoors! There is a huge focus on the Outdoor Classroom now, due in large part to Richard Louv’s book, “Last Child in the Woods,” which ignited a renewal of the return-to-nature movement for children. I grew up in the 1950s and 60s where we spent most of our childhood outside in natural settings, with lots of unstructured free time, and little or no adult supervision. Today many children are preoccupied with electronic devices, inside and in front of screens, eating junk food, and lacking in physical activity, let alone contact with nature. October 14-20 is “Take It Outside Week!” Head Start Body Start National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play (HSBS) created Take It Outside Week in 2009. The third week of every October marks a time to celebrate the natural world and encourage educators, families, and caregivers to make time outdoors an important part of young children’s daily lives. I support this and encourage you to visit my October 2011 post where I shared ideas and activities that you can include in your Outdoor Classroom.

My first job as an early childhood educator was that of an Outdoor Teacher at a parent co-operative preschool. Back then, in 1977, no one had even heard of a preschool teacher having a job as the “Outdoor Teacher.” Our preschool was behind a church and the classroom doors were always open to the outside playground which had a climbing structure anchored in sand and a bank of swings (three to be exact). My job, come rain or shine, was to organize and prepare the outdoor environment–taking out the wheel toys, sand toys, water tables, and setting up some outdoor learning centers, whether it be carpentry or an obstacle course.

This play yard was not in a natural setting. There was no grass nor trees to be found, only asphalt, an occasional bird or insect…and lots and lots of active children. It was probably the most popular area of the school. I discovered that my outdoor environment offered all the learning opportunities that one would typically find indoors–experiences in math, science, nature, social studies, dramatic play, art, music, language and literacy.

The outdoor program developed critical thinking, discovery, problem solving, and cooperative skills while supporting children’s continuous growth and learning–physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively. As the Outdoor Teacher for twelve years I was an observer and supporter of child-initiated play. During this time, I also took classes in child development, early childhood curriculum, music and movement, sensory motor integration, perceptual motor development, and physical activity and its connection to brain development. I eventually taught those same classes at several community colleges.

I am now traveling and sharing what I’ve experienced and learned as an Early Care and Education Teacher and Outdoor Teacher. I offer workshops and trainings on the Outdoor Classroom, doing some “Sharin‘ with Sharron” on what I have learned as an educator. On November 9 from 10:00 – 11:30 AM, I will be presenting a workshop at the 2012 NAEYC Annual Conference & Expo in Atlanta, Georgia titled, “NO CHILD LEFT INSIDE! Meeting Curriculum Standards with Concrete Outdoor Experiences.” Come join me and learn how to plan and implement outdoor activities that meet your learning outcomes and objectives even with limited outdoor space and resources.

Here’s one activity that promotes language, literacy and physical development that can literally be “rolled out” on the play yard.

ABC Walk & Toss
Materials Needed:
Alphabet Floor Mat with Markers (ABCWALK)
Alphabet Beanbags (ABCTOSS)
Classroom Activity Baskets (CATCHY)
Set Up:
Roll out the ABC Floor Mat in available space.
Put alphabet beanbags in plastic baskets.

Let’s Get Started:
Ask children to:
1. Find the letter that their name starts with on the mat and jump on it 5 times.
2. Toss the beanbag letter that their name starts with onto the matching letter on the mat.
3. Match all the alphabet beanbags to the matching letters on the mat.
4. Walk, jump or hop on the alphabet stepping stones while saying each letter.
5. Match the lowercase markers to the uppercase letters on the mat.
6. Match the lowercase markers to the lower case alphabet beanbags.
7. Sort the alphabet beanbags by color in the corresponding baskets.
8. Give each child one alphabet beanbags and ask them to find the matching letter on the mat and stand on it.

Furthermore:
1. With older children you can move on to recognizing the sounds of the letters. Say a sound of the alphabet and have the child stand on the letter represented by that sound. You can also have the child stand on each letter and indicate which sound the letter makes.
2. Using the alphabet beanbags, give one to each child and ask him/her to line up along the mat in order, following the order of the alphabet. You can also do it with the lowercase letter markers or the lowercase letters on the alphabet beanbags.

Learning Outcomes/Objectives/Standards:
• Language Development–Listening, Following Directions
• Literacy–Alphabet Knowledge–Letter recognition–Uppercase and lowercase
• Literacy–Alphabet Knowledge–Begin to recognize that letters have sounds
• Mathematics–Classification–Recognize when two things are the same
• Mathematics–Classification–Sorting beanbags by color to corresponding basket
• Physical Development–Fine & Gross Motor Skills
• Eye-hand coordination–throwing beanbag to matching letter
• Dexterity and Control–able to manipulate beanbag
• Balance and Control–able to balance when walking, jumping, etc.
• Locomotor Movements–walking, jumping, hopping

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Alphabet Floor Mat with Markers (ABCWALK)
Alphabet Bean Bags (ABCTOSS)
Classroom Activity Baskets (CATCHY)

Summer Mini-Olympics

The Summer Olympic Games will take place from July 27 to August 12, 2012 in London, England. But just don’t let the kids sit and watch, why not hold your own Mini-Olympics? Involve them in all the fun physical activity by staging a kid-friendly version on the playground or in your own backyard.

Opening Ceremonies
Provide materials for each child to make their own Olympic Flag (FLAGS). Kick-off your Mini-Olympics Day with a parade as the children march around holding their flags. Play music, such as the Olympic theme or “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Events
In setting up a developmentally appropriate Mini-Olympic Day for young children remember to provide opportunities for every child to voluntarily choose from a variety of Olympic-style events. Set up stations where children can move from one event to another at their own pace and rate. Remind the children that finishing first is not as important as having a good time. The emphasis is more on fun than on skill.

Before starting any of the events, lead the children from station to station and explain and/or demonstrate the “how-to’s” or challenges of the event at each station. To get started, divide the class or group into equal numbers according to the number of stations set up. This eliminates children standing in a long line and waiting for their turn. For example, if you have 6 stations and 24 children, you would put 4 kids are each station. With a blow of a whistle (WHIS), children begin the physical challenge of the event. When they have completed that event they move on the next one and so forth until they have completed all the stations. And, of course, they can go through them again and again!

Let The Games Begin
Target Toss (Archery): Draw a large circle on the asphalt using sidewalk chalk (SIDEWALK). Make smaller circles or place shape spots (SHSPOT) inside the large circle as targets. The players take turns tossing beanbags from a specified throwing line until they hit a target. 

Running Races (Track and Field): Set up start and finish lines about 15-30 feet apart. Challenge the racers to run, walk backwards, gallop, crab walk or creep on hands and knees to get from the start line to the finish line.

Throwing for Distance (Shot Put): Use a small sensory ball (SENBALL) or a tightly wrapped ball of aluminum foil for your makeshift shot put. Show the kids how to hold the ball near the ear and launch it forward by extending the arm. They cannot move their feet. How far can they throw the ball? 

Jumping (Equestrian Jumping): Set up two cones fifteen feet apart. Have kids “saddle up” a ball hopper (horse), hold the handle and jump to the opposite cone and back again.

Disc Toss (Discus Throw): Using a Frisbee or flying disc (FLYD), child will throw the disc (throw away from the waist with a flick of the wrist) as far as he/she can. How far did it “fly?”

Kicking (Soccer): Set up a soccer goal (GOAL) a least fifteen feet from a specified kicking line. Players stand behind the line and kick a soccer ball (SOC) into the goal.

Gymnastics (Olympic Gymnastics): Put out a tumbling mat (TMAT) and encourage children to freestyle dance with a streamer ribbon, do a trick with a hoop, and perform simple acrobatics (tumble, twirl, spin, etc.)

Canoe Race (Canoeing and Kayaking): Set up five cones for children to weave through as they ride (sitting, kneeling or prone position) their scooter board or roller board kayak or canoe.

Closing Ceremonies
It doesn’t matter if there are no medals distributed for this Summer Mini-Olympics. What’s really important is how much fun everyone had as they played together and cheered each other on. Remember, the Olympics are a celebration of friendship, unity and peace!

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Canvas Flags (FLAGS)
Whistle (WHIS)
Colorations® Washable Sidewalk Chalk (SIDEWALK)
Target Toss Game (TTBB)
Shape Spots (SHSPOT)
Colored Beanbags (CBB)
Whopper Hopper (WHOPHOP) and Mini Hopper (HOP)
Sensory Balls (SENBALL)
Brawny Tough Activity Hoops (HOOPSET)
Soccer Ball (SOC)
Soccer Goal (GOAL)
Flying Discs (FLYD) and Soft Flying Discs (FDISC)
Rainbow Dancing Wrist Bands (RNBW)
Angeles® Tumbling Mat (TMAT)
Roller Board (ROLLIT)
Colored Cones (SETC)
Start to Finish (STRTFIN)