Cool Bean Bags!

Once you put one of these super sensory bean bags in your hands, you’ll quickly discover why they are nicknamed COOLBEAN. Each bean bag is covered with soft chenille fabric nubs, making them irresistible to the touch. Grasp them, squeeze them, and listen to the crinkling sound they make. They come in 4 bright colors and are the perfect size and weight for tossing and catching. COOLBEAN definitely engages the senses—vision, hearing, touch and kinesthesia (sense of body’s movements). What also makes Excellerations® Super Sensory Beanbags “really cool” is that they are for children ages 18 months and up and are even washable!

Benefits of Using Bean Bags:

  • Younger children may find bean bags easier to handle than a ball. A bean bag is usually smaller and softer than a ball; consequently a child has less fear of being hit or hurt.
  • Because bean bags can’t roll away, they may be less frustrating for the child with poor coordination skills.
  • Catching and throwing a bean bag helps a child develop the skill of grasp and release.
  • A bean bag will help a child develop the hand strength required for handling a ball.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes:

  1. Gross motor skills: using the large muscles of the arms, legs and trunk
  2. Fine motor skills: using the small muscles of the of the body (eyes, hands, fingers) to perform specific movements such as throwing and catching
  3. Hand-eye coordination: hands and eyes working together smoothly to meet a challenge
  4. Balance: being able to hold the position of the body through the interaction of muscles working together
  5. Laterality: understanding of the differences between right and left and being able to control the two sides of the body independently and together
  6. Kinesthetic awareness: inner messages from the muscles, tendons, and joints received by the body in order to move
  7. Listening skills: ability to follow verbal directions

Here are some fun and challenging bean bag activities for young children. In next month’s post, I’ll share several games that you can play using bean bags.

Bean Bag Toss

Child tosses bean bag upward into the air and catches it before it hits the floor. Child first catches it with two hands. Child then attempts to catch the bean bag with one hand and then the other hand. The height of the toss should increase as the child’s skill improves.

Child tosses the bean bag back and forth across the body from one hand to the other. The height of the toss and the distance between hands should increase as the child’s skill improves.

Child tosses the bean bag into the air, turns around and then catches it. Challenge child to clap hands once, and catch it. Ask child to clap hands twice, then catch it.

Bean Bag Throw

Place a hoop on the floor, lean it against a wall or hang it up. Have child step back and throw a bean bag into the hoop. With each successful throw encourage the child to take another step back to make it more challenging.

Attach a target to a wall. I like to use one of the Excellerations® Pair-a-Chute. Keeping his “eye on the target,” the child throws bean bags at the different colors on the parachute.

Bean Bag Catch

Find a partner and play catch with the bean bag. Remind the child to use only his hands to catch and to keep his eyes on the bean bag. Play catch with your partner throwing underhand. Play catch with your partner throwing overhand. This time, stand close to your partner and play catch. If you catch the bean bag without dropping it, take a step back. If you drop it, take a step up. See how far apart you can get playing catch with your partner.

Using both hands, one child holds a bucket or basket. Let the other child toss bean bags to the child holding the bucket, who attempts to catch each one in the bucket.

Bean Bag Balance

Have child place bean bag on a body part—head, arm, shoulder, elbow and walk in the open space or on a designated line marked out on the floor.

Try a crab walk with the bean bag on the tummy or a creep like a cat with a bean bag on the back.

Bean Bag Jump

Have child place bean bag on the floor. Ask the child to jump forward over the bean bag. Ask them to jump backward, then sideways. You can repeat this series several times.

Have child place bean bag between their knees and jump forward like a kangaroo.

Product Recommendations:

Excellerations® Super Sensory Beanbags (COOLBEAN)

Brawny Tough Activity Hoops (HOOPSET)

Excellerations® Pair-a-Chute (PAIRUP)

Classroom Activity Baskets (CATCHY)

Sand and Water Buckets (LBUCKRED)

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The Hokey Pokey Bone Dance!

skeleton dancing  It’s that time of year to learn “All About Me and My Body” and that includes the bones in our body! Halloween is a great time to introduce bone anatomy to children. Wherever you look, there are ghosts, vampires or boney skeletons trick or treating. We all have a skeleton made up of many bones. These bones give our body structure, let us move in many ways, protect our internal organs, and more. A fun way to learn about our bones is to sing and move to the traditional song, “The Hokey Pokey,” but instead of putting the body part “in” and “out” substitute the body part with the bone name. Of course, with my early learners, I can use the generic words; for example, I could use “finger bones” or “toe bones” instead of phalanges…but, hey, if the kids are interested in learning the “big” words…go for it! A great educational tool and visual aid to use is the Foam Skeleton Floor Puzzle. Not only will the children learn about bone anatomy but it will also de-sensitize them to the scary figures at Halloween, teaching them what a skeleton really is. First sing the song including 2-3 bones and then each day add another bone. You can make it fun and easy by starting with the head and going all the way down to the phalanges of the toe bones. Always make sure to end the song with, “You put your skeleton in, you put your skeleton out; You put your skeleton in, and you shake it all about. You do the Hokey Pokey Bone Dance, and you turn yourself around. That’s what it’s all about.
skeleton map

General List of Bones of the Human Skeleton:

cranium = skull

phalanges = finger and toe bones

sternum and/or ribs = chest

humerus = long bone in arm that runs from shoulder to elbow

ulna and/or radius = large bones of the forearm

pelvic = hip bone

femur = thighbone

patella = knee bone

tibia and/or fibula = leg bones

spine = backbone

skeleton = whole body

The Hokey Pokey Bone Dance

You put your cranium in,

You put your cranium out,

You put your cranium in,

And you shake it all about.

You do the Hokey Pokey Bone Dance,

And you turn yourself around.

That’s what it’s all about!

You put your phalanges in,

You put your phalanges out,

You put your phalanges in,

And you shake it all about.

You do the Hokey Pokey Bone Dance,

And you turn yourself around.

That’s what it’s all about!

You put your sternum in,

You put your sternum out,

You put your sternum in,

And you shake it all about.

You do the Hokey Pokey Bone Dance,

And you turn yourself around.

That’s what it’s all about!

You put your pelvic bone in,

You put your pelvic bone out,

You put your pelvic bone in,

And you shake it all about.

You do the Hokey Pokey Bone Dance,

And you turn yourself around.

That’s what it’s all about!

Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:
Foam Skeleton Floor Puzzle (LIFESIZE)

Human X-Rays (SKELETON)
Our Bodies Paperback Books (OBBKS)

Outdoor Art – Fly Swatter Painting!

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Fun, messy, creative and super-sized activities can take place outdoors. As an Outdoor Preschool Teacher for 12 years, I made opportunities for art every day in my outdoor classroom. The large space, different textures and objects, and ease of cleaning up all contribute to the success of art experiences outside. If you are a follower of my blog, plan on seeing me post oodles of more art ideas for the outdoors.

Materials:

Process:

  1. Place butcher paper or painting mat on the ground or adhere to a fence with clothespins or tape
  2. Pour paint onto the plastic art trays. One color per tray.
  3. Set the trays of paint on the ground or on a nearby table
  4. Place a different shape paint swatter in each tray (with color of swatter matching color of paint)
  5. Children press paint swatter into the paint and “swat” it onto the paper. They can keep “swatting” and making prints until they run out of paint on the swatter. Then have them choose a different shape swatter and different color.

Variations:

  • Put paper on the outdoor easel instead of the ground. Children who never paint at the indoor easel, might be excited to paint with a paint swatter and “swat the flies.”
  • Squeeze a few dabs of different colored paint onto the paper and invite the children to swat the paint flies.

3thesnailstrailyoyoprints20091127Suggestions:

Of course, you can buy some inexpensive fly swatters at your local dollar store. I especially like the Fun Shapes Paint Swatters from Discount School Supply®. They are just the right size for little hands and each of the 6 styles of swatters are a different shape and color. Children can use the swatter of their choice and easily return it to its correct color paint tray.

I’m not a big believer on insisting that children wear smocks every time they want to engage in an art activity. Make smocks available for those who may want one. For some children, the idea of wearing a smock discourages them from the activity. It interferes with their freedom. Encourage parents to send their children to school in clothes that can and will get dirty.

Goals/Learning Outcomes:

Physical Development—Fine Motor Skills—Building hand-eye coordination

Physical Development—Gross Motor Skills—Using large arm movements and whole body as children reach and stretch and slap the paint on the paper

Cognitive Development—Math—Color matching and one-to-one correspondence (swatter to paint trays)

Cognitive Development—Math—Geometry—Learning about shapes

Language Development—Children talking about how the colors are changing as the paint splats mix together and commenting on the noise that the swatters make as they hit the paper

Social Development—Cooperative—Children share the shape swatters and the space they are working in

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Discount School Supply® Product Recommendations:

Brawny Tough Large Plastic Art Trays – Set of 5 (RECTRAY)

Fun Shapes Paint Swatters – Set of 24 (FLYSWAT)

Butcher Roll Paper (#5024 or #5036)

Cooperative Mural Art Material – 4′ x 10′ (LWMAT)

Colorations® Simply Washable Tempera Paint – Set of 15 (SWTALL)

Colorations® Machine Washable Toddler Smock (PTODSMOCK)

4-Way Acrylic Panel Easel (4WAPE)

Excellerations™ Get Up and Go! Dice

I am passionate about putting into teacher’s and children’s hands materials that promote physical activity and learning.  Excellerations™ Get Up and Go! Dice does just that and is a quality product from Discount School Supply®.

The Excellerations™ Get Up and Go! Dice set includes:

  • 2 dice with pockets on all sides
  • 20 different movement activity cards
  • 12 numeral cards (2 each of the numbers 1-6)
  • 12 dice dot cards (2 each of the dots numbering 1-6)
  • 12 blank cards

The two large seven-inch vinyl-covered foam dice have pockets on all six sides that hold activity and number cards.  Insert six different activity cards in each of the pockets on one die.  On the other die put the numeral cards, either showing the dots or the numeral.  Depending on the developmental skills level of the children, I use the numeral cards for numbers 1, 2, and 3 and the dot cards for numbers 4, 5, and 6.  Young children may not recognize the larger numerals, but they are usually able to count the dots or “pips.”  Did you know that the dots on dice are called “pips?”  The word “pip” commonly means a “spot” or a “speck,” and perhaps that’s why the dots on dice, as well as dominoes, are called pips.  Don’t shy away from the big word, i.e., “pips” for “dots.”  It is very common for adults to simplify their language when talking to young children.  Throwing in a new word now and then is a great opportunity to build vocabulary! If you’re going to explain what something is, you might as well use the proper word the first time. Children may not always pick up on those big words, but they certainly won’t if they don’t ever hear them.  So go ahead, use words like “identical” instead of “same” and “pips” instead of “dots.” You’ll be surprised at what the children will pick up on when you give them the chance!

kids stretching

Here is a fun favorite activity that I like to play indoors or outside.  You’ll find more ideas in the Activity Guide that comes with it.

Roll the Dice for Exercise

How to play:

  1. Sit children in a large circle.
  2. One child is chosen to roll the dice.
  3. Child with dice stands up and rolls the dice into the middle of the circle.
  4. The child identifies the activity to be performed and the number of times to perform the activity by counting the pips or stating the number shown on the die.
  5. All children in the circle stand up and perform the activity that is lead by the child who rolled the dice.  All the children are to count as they perform the movement.
  6. When finished, the child who had rolled the dice gives it to another child who continues the game by rolling the dice and leading the group in the movement activity that is shown on the movement die and counting the number of times they are to do the activity (as shown on the number die).
  7. The game ends when every child has had a chance to “Roll the Dice for Exercise.”

Suggestions & Variations:

  • If the child who rolled the die has difficulty counting, let the group count the dots or pips out loud on the number die, as the child points to them.
  • Take pictures of the children doing a favorite movement activity (i.e., jumping jacks, jogging in place, etc.) and adhere it to a blank card.  This personalizes it to the group of children in your classroom.
  • This activity is also a great one to use when children are in transition –i.e., waiting for the bus or their group’s turn, etc.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes:

  1. Physical activity: any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure
  2. Gross motor skills: using the large muscles of the arms, legs and trunk
  3. Cooperative play: games and activities that the participants play together rather than against one another
  4. Listening skills: ability to follow verbal directions
  5. Language development: speaking, communicating
  6. Mathematics: number sense of quantity and counting; one-to-one correspondence
  7. Social emotional development: taking turns; promotes children’s self-esteem and confidence

Get active, get moving, get healthy…and start rolling the Excellerations™ Get Up and Go! Dice.  Everyone will be a winner!

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)

Pet Pinecones

sharron pet pinecone 4

Yes, there are such things and the grandchildren loved making and playing with them.  Making them is easy…just find a favorite pinecone, a stick, and some string or twine and, last but not least, an able and willing Daddy to make them.  I had never heard of such make-believe pets, until Daddy Dave shared a favorite activity invented by his dad…

When I was 10 we were on a family backpacking trip with a group that included two other boys around my age.  During the hike out we were constantly throwing pinecones at each other and generally being destructive as boys of that age are wont to do.  My Dad talked us into tying pinecones to a piece of string and seeing how long a string we could keep them on while still controlling them.  He kept score of who was able to keep their pinecones from hitting the most large rocks in the trail and it kept us under control. All in all it was just a good way to channel our 10 year old boy energy into something other than hurting each other.

sharron pet pinecone 2

This is how traditions start and this is our second year of making Pet Pinecones…and it won’t be our last! Perhaps, you might want to try this with your children or the children in your care.  Get outside, explore, create, and let your imaginations run wild!

Materials:

Stick

Pinecone

Twine or string

sharron pet pinecone 1

Directions:

  1. Find a favorite stick
  2. Find a large pinecone
  3. Tie the pinecone to the stick with twine or string
  4. Name your pet pinecone– “Piney,” “Brownie,” “Mr Cone”
  5. Go for a walk or a run with your pet pinecone
  6. Have fun!

sharron pet pinecone 3

Did you know that the stick was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2008?

Stay tuned…the BEST is yet to come…sharing more stick fun in my next post!