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)

An Egg-cellent Game!

I must share with you a new “find” that I just LOVE! It encourages movement and provides a multitude of other benefits too — balance, coordination, cooperation, and fine motor skills. The item, Egg and Spoon Race (AP25028J) gives a new twist to the old classic Egg and Spoon Pass. This new version is definitely appropriate for the toddler and preschoolers but school-agers love it too. Parents and teachers will also “crack-up” when they see what happens when the egg drops from the spoon. Instead of chocolate bunnies and Easter candy, I’m planning on adding Egg and Spoon Race to all five of my grandchildren’s baskets! What fun we’ll have as we play the following game.

Egg and Spoon Race
Materials:
Egg and Spoon Race (4 plastic spoons, 4 egg bean bags, 4 re-breakable eggshells) – AP25028J
Colored Cones – SETC
Hop Around StepsHOPPA
Available indoor or outdoor space

Set Up:
1. Place cones 10-20 feet across from each other to designate “start” and “finish” lines.

2. Place Hop Around Steps two feet apart from each other between the start and finish lines.

Let’s Get Started:1. Divide the children into four groups (teams or squads) of equal numbers. Children in each team stand in a straight line or row, one person behind the other.

2. Provide the first child on each team with a spoon and egg.

3. The first child places the egg in the bowl of the spoon.

4. On the command, “Ready, Set, GO!” the race begins as the child walks in and around the Hop Around Steps to the “finish” cone on the opposite side, circles around it, and walks back to his team.

5. He gives the egg and spoon to the second member of his team who then walks holding the egg and spoon and weaving in and out of the Hop Around Steps and back to the start where he passes the egg to next member on his team.

6. The game is over when every child has had a turn carrying the egg in the spoon and the child who started the relay returns to the head of the line.

7. If the egg drops out of the spoon, the child must stop, pick up the egg bean bag and eggshell, put it back together, place it on his spoon and then continue.

Furthermore: 
 • With younger children have them just walk from the start to the finish and drop the egg into a bucket.

• With older children challenge them to travel in a different way, i.e., run, jump, walk backwards, skip.

• Toddlers can toss the egg and watch them break. The eggs actually sound like real eggs breaking when they hit the floor.

• Set out a Balance Beam (248) and have the children hold the egg and spoon as they walk across the beam.

The Floppy Flipper! Handmade Fun!

No glue, no scissors, no messy paint! Set out some simple art materials and let the children create an all-time favorite toy of unlimited play value–The Floppy Flipper!

This handmade piece of simple equipment costs pennies to make, is fun to play with and the benefits are priceless…promoting eye hand coordination, striking skills, crossing the midline, vestibular stimulation, spatial awareness, cooperation and creativity. This is the perfect gift to “give” to your child or the children in your care. More importantly, you can play with them…giving them the best gift of all…your time and participation!

A paint stick and packaging tape can be found at the local hardware store. Add a balloon or a small beach ball and let the games begin!

Materials Needed:2 White Paper Plates (thin and uncoated) per Floppy Flipper (DIXIE)
Paint Sticks (1 per Floppy Flipper)
Clear Packaging Tape
Crayons
Washable Markers
Colorations® Washable Chubbie Markers (CHUBBERS)
Colorations Washable Stamp Pads (STAMPADS)
Stampers
Stickers
Stapler (BVST) and Staples (5000)
Balloon or Beach Ball (DYOBALL)
Colorations® Permanent Markers (PERMBLK)
Let’s Get Started:1. Using a couple of pieces of clear packaging tape, tape the paint stick to the middle of one paper plate.

2. Give each child another paper plate and ask him or her to decorate it with the available art materials.

3. When the child is finished, staple the plate to the plate which you’ve taped to a paint stick.
4. Have the child write or stamp their name on the paint stick handle.

5. The Floppy Flipper is now ready to be played with!

Floppy Flipper Wimbledon:Have each child pick a balloon, blow it up (or have it blown up) and tie it. Suggest they write their name on the balloon with a permanent marker. Instead of a balloon have the child decorate their own small beach ball (available at Discount School Supply®).
Let the children explore and play with their Floppy Flippers and balloons. Ask them to find out…

• How high can they hit their balloon?
• How far can they hit the balloon?
• How many times in a row can they hit the balloon (How about five?!!)
• How long can they keep their balloon in the air?
• Can they hit their balloon, spin around, then hit it again?

As the children become more proficient, ask them to try to keep a balloon in the air by hitting it back and forth with a partner. Now they’re playing Floppy Flipper Wimbledon!

Suggest they change partners once or twice.

As a further challenge for older kids, have them attempt to keep two balloons in the air by themselves or with partners!

REMEMBER: Balloons ALWAYS require adult supervision. Always use helium quality balloons or sturdy punch ball balloons. Do not use fragile party balloons. You can cover balloons using knee hi stockings, pantyhose or any fruit mesh sacks (citrus, watermelon, cantaloupe). Should the balloon pop, the covering prevents burst balloon shards from being inhaled by children.

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:9” White Paper Plates (DIXIE)
Decorate Your Own Beach Ball (DYOBALL)
Colorations® Regular Crayons (CRS16)
Colorations® Washable Scented Markers (SNIFFY)
Colorations® Mini Dabber Dot Markers (DABDOT)
Colorations® Jumbo Washable Stamp Pad (BIGSTAMP)
Colorations® Uppercase Stamping Sticks (ABCSTK)
Colorations® Lowercase Stamping Sticks (LOWER)
Animal Stamping Sticks (ANISTIX)
Super Stamping Sticks (STICKS)
Assorted Stickers ((2088)
Stapler and Staples (BVST and 5000)
Colorations® Color Permanent Markers (PERMCLR)

Scrambled Eggs and Icebergs

Have a few minutes and don’t know “what to do next???” Here’s an “egg”-ceptionally active game for the whole group. It promotes moderate to vigorous physical activity and an opportunity to practice gross motor skills and even some creative movement. Let the “egg”-citement begin!

Materials:
Indoor or outdoor space with boundaries — Colored Cones or Hop Around Steps

Let’s Get Started:
1. Children standing or sitting as they listen and watch as the directions are given and demonstrated.

2. When children hear the command, “scrambled eggs,” they are to jog (running at a slow pace) in the play space without bumping into each other.

3. When the command “icebergs,” is given, children are to freeze (children cease all activity) in place without falling down.

4. Other commands of locomotor transport skills/traveling actions will be given, such as jumping, marching, hopping, galloping, tiptoe, etc. When children hear that command they must switch to the new movement.

5. Example of how game would flow: “scrambled eggs” (jog), “icebergs” (freeze), “jump” (blasting off with two feet and landing on two feet), “scrambled eggs” (jog), “hop” (blasting off on one foot and landing on the same foot), “icebergs” (freeze), “marching” (a precise type of walk, accompanied by lifted knees and swing arms), “icebergs” (freeze).

Furthermore:
1. Try to trick children by repeating a command twice in a row.

2. Encourage creative movement by asking the children to “fly like an airplane,” “gallop like a horse,” “move like a train,” etc.

3. Ask the children give the movement commands or let one child be the game leader and give all the commands.

Goals:
1. Physical activity: any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure.

2. Locomotor transport skills or traveling actions: body propels, projects, or moves from one location to another by jumping (with both feet), hopping (with one foot), galloping (step-hop with one foot leading forward), tiptoe (balance on balls of feet and toes with heels raised), skipping (series of step-hops done with alternate feet), among others.

3. Gross motor skills: using the large muscles of the arms, legs and trunk(to perform traveling actions).

4. Space awareness: knowing where the body can and should move in relationship to other people in the play space.

5. Shared space: all of the designated play space that can be used by everyone.

6. Cooperative play: games and activities that the participants play together rather than against one another.

7. Listening skills: ability to follow verbal directions.

Ready, Set… RUN!

It’s official: This week marked the beginning of summer! Summertime means more time for outside play, and when children go outside they naturally want to move—and not just move, but run and run! Running is a fundamental motor skill that helps children move from one place to another. Once children learn how to crawl, creep and walk, running naturally follows in the developmental order of learning locomotor skills. And when children discover that they can run, they usually can’t get enough of it.

Running’s benefits include the promotion of gross motor skills, vigorous physical activity, and the development of the components of health-related physical fitness–muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance. Here are some activities that will get you off to a running start in helping children in your classroom or home to master movement:

Run Like the Wind
Set up boundaries using ropes or the Start to Finish Lines 15’-24’ apart. Have children run from one line or boundary to another holding a crepe paper streamer, scarf or Rainbow Dancing Wrist Band. They will automatically return to the start line and ask to do it again and again!

Flying Paper Plates & Newspapers
Set up boundaries using ropes or the Start to Finish lines 15’-24’ apart. Have children place a paper plates or sheet of newsprint (9” x 12”) or newspaper (11” x 12”) on their chest and start running. As they run faster and faster they will discover that the newspaper or plate will stick to their chest… a lesson in science, too! Another option is to put a paper plates on the palm of each hand and start running to see what happens.

Run & Roll
Set up boundaries using ropes or the Start to Finish lines 15’-24’ apart. Place a tumbling mat or playmat a few feet in front of the finish line. When you say, “Get ready, get set, run,” the child at the “start line” runs to the mat and falls, rolls or tumbles to a stop. Without even directing children to the start of the running course, they will be in line just panting and waiting for another turn to “Run and Roll.”

Non-Competitive Red Rover, Red Rover
Set up boundaries using ropes or the Start to Finish lines 15’-24’ apart. Two people at the finish line hold a sheet of newspaper (~ 22” x 24”) with two hands on each corner. When you say, “Get ready, get set, run,” the child at the “start line” (with the palms of his hands touching and pointing forward) runs and bursts through the newspaper!

Tails
Set up boundaries using ropes or cones in the available space. Each child tucks a scarf or Rainbow Dancing Wrist Band ribbon into their waistband behind their back. The scarf or 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 the scarves or ribbons out of others’ waistbands and drop them on the ground. The child whose scarf or ribbon is pulled, picks up his scarf (tail), goes to “the tail repair area” (a designated spot, such as a classroom door, tree, etc.) to replace the scarf in their waistband. Once the scarf is secure in their waistband, the child returns to the game and resumes pulling “tails.” The game ends when the music stops. This group game promotes cooperative play, vigorous physical activity and offers lots of laughter!