These activities are designed to support fine motor skills, pre-literacy skills, math, and overall independence in the preschool children I teach. I have been slowly but surely introducing more independent work activities into my classroom and try to change them to fit a theme and to keep interest. Most of these skills can also be practiced in the natural routine or environment, and easily set up for home use. I keep these activities on low shelves and try to keep them set up so that all the needed materials are readily available in the same location. A big part of the works outlined below is getting the materials from the shelf, carrying them to a table, using the work appropriately and returning it to the shelf ready for the next child.
Activity 1: Heart 1:1 Correspondence
The student uses either the tongs or fingers (depending on the fine motor skills) and places one heart in each slot of the heart shaped ice cube tray.
- 1 heart shaped ice cube tray (I found a 2 pack in the dollar spot at Target)
- Small tongs
- Small plastic heart shapes (My para-educator found the ones shown, but I was looking for heart-shaped fish bowl gems, or candy hearts)
- Small bowl to hold the shapes
Activity 2: Valentine Toothpick Work Tray
The student takes the toothpick, or hearts on a stick as I have here, and sticks them into the holes of this cheese shaker. I typically do this work with toothpicks, the child puts them through the holes then takes the lid off to dump them back out. I happened to have these heart decorations that fit through the holes easily and looked pretty once created.
- Cheese shaker (I found this one at Wal-Mart, I previously tried salt/pepper shakers but the holes were too small)
- Toothpicks, or other objects that have a stick
- Tray to hold all the materials
Activity 3: Simple Dry Transfer with a Valentine’s Flare
This activity is simply a transfer from one bowl to the other. I have used real glass heart shaped bowls and little red and pink colored rocks. The students use their hands to transfer the rocks from the left to the right and then back again.
- 2 identical bowls (I found these cute heart bowls at the Target dollar spot)
- Rocks or gems to transfer
- Tray to hold materials
Activity 4: Valentine/Sticker Work
I have two different things set up for creating valentines, all located in the same area of the classroom. I have a basket full of heart foam stickers, a heart stencil and a heart hole punch in one spot. And then I have a heart-shaped muffin pan set out with various types of materials to use for decorating a valentine. All the materials are very close to each other and easy to use together. There is paper available on the valentine work tray, and more available right near the stickers. My students have been very creative in making valentines and putting them in the classroom mailbox for their friends. During large group/circle time we check the mailbox and deliver the valentines the kids have been making.
During February I always discuss friendship and giving/sharing. We also do a little mail lesson and mail out valentines or invitations to a Valentine’s Day party to our families. We walk to a nearby mailbox to send them out. This year my kids have really gotten into the giving and sharing and are having a great time making these valentines for each other.
- Basket for stickers
- Tray for stickers
- Real mailbox to incorporate the mail aspect
- Heart-shaped muffin pan (or regular muffin pan)
- Various supplies for making valentines (I have buttons, tissue paper, small cupcake liners, ribbon, glittered hearts and sequins)
- Trays for materials
Activity 5: Dry Pouring and Scooping
I have a couple of different scooping and pouring works out, but here are two. The pouring work has a small plastic creamer and a coffee cup with small pieces of dry pasta for pouring. The student pours the pasta from the creamer to the coffee cup and then back again. The scooping work has two identical bowls, one is filled with ABC pasta shapes and the other is empty. The kids use a small heart-shaped spoon to scoop the pasta from the left to the right and then they can turn the tray to do it again.
- Work tray for each work
- Small creamer (you can use glass or plastic, I found this one at the dollar store and am actually planning to replace the coffee cup with a second creamer so that the containers are the same)
- Small dry pasta or other small dry materials for pouring
- 2 identical bowls
- Small pasta or other small dry material for scooping
- Small spoon for scooping
Activity 6: Valentine’s Sensory Bin
Last, but not least I have a sensory bin set up. I have been making an honest effort to have some sort of sensory bin set up each week for the kids to play with and explore. I have a small sensory bin that is set up so that one child can work at a time. I try to keep materials in it that do not require direct supervision for most of the kids. This one has a valentine’s feel, and I got the idea from Pinterest.
Well the materials are basically what I had on hand. My paraeducator put it together…but some of the things that she used were: shovels and other scoopers, rock salt as a base, pieces of ribbon, gems, colored stones, containers for filling, pom poms… and a variety of other materials.
A couple of adaptations I have found helpful:
As I mentioned, a big focus is on the process of the work from start to finish. I encourage all of the kids to be independent, but this is hard for some with additional disabilities. I am in the process of teaching one of my kids to take his time so that he can be successful. He has a very hard time carrying the work trays due to cerebral palsy; he is frequently off balance and jerky with his movements. I have been teaching him to slow down, take one piece of the work tray at a time and to make multiple trips.
I have also found that having a small dust pan and broom available near the pouring and scooping works is helpful!! We make messes, and it is ok… but now we have additional learning experiences as we clean it back up. This is a great opportunity to work on searching skills.