Gain new skills while playing with leaves

Gain new skills while playing with leaves

Once the weather starts to cool and the autumn leaves fall to the ground, it opens up many opportunities to learn through the natural materials that have fallen. I love this time of the year as I can’t help but smile looking at the huge variety of colors. It reminds me of my childhood and the feeling of joy as I would pick up a big bunch of leaves and throw them at my siblings. Who would then reciprocate of course 🙂

As I started to build those memories with my own kids I thought this might be a useful post to explore the opportunities that lay on the ground. These activities are fun and most so simple that all you have to do is just go outside. The aim of this post is to show you how you can maximize the learning while using natural materials found during the Autumn/Fall season.

1. Explore the textures

Leaf exploration

Skills Developed Targeted Senses
Fine motor skills, visual perception and language development Tactile & Visual Senses

How to Play:

This game is simple yet very beneficial. It can also be done with babies, toddler or young kids.

As you go for a walk simply explore the various natural objects that you find across your path. They can include fallen leaves, acorns, pine cones, spiky gum balls, Osage orange tree drops, catkins and many more.

Stop, let your little one pick it up and explore with their hands. Talking about the objects features will not only help with language development but also their visual perception skills. Visual perception is your brains ability to interpret what you are seeing. This is an essential skill that will help your child’s reading and writing skills.

Not only that, but the tactile exploration helps your little one’s hands discriminate between different sensations. This is needed for hand development. And what do we use our hands for? So many things! feeding, dressing, manipulating objects such as toys, scissors, pencils etc.

Features to talk about:

  • How does it look like?
    • What are the colors?
    • What shape is it?
    • What size is it?
  • How does it feel?
    • Bumpy, fuzzy, smooth, spiky, wet, dry, soft, hard etc
    • Is it heavy or light?
  • What can you do with it?
    • Can you rip it?
    • Can you crush it?
    • What happens when you drop it?

2. Sorting Fun

Sorting

Skills Developed Targeted Senses
Visual perception and fine motor skills Visual and tactile senses

Once you have talked about all the features you can try and sort them.

  • You can sort the leaves by color, shape, size or
  • You can sort them by objects. For example: leaves in one pile, acorns in a second pile and spiky gum balls in the third.

This sorting activity will help with the development of your child’s visual perception skills. They will be learning to discriminate objects based on their differences and similarities. Visual perception skills are essential for your child’s school success. As they read and write they need to be able to figure out differences and similarities between letters and numbers.

3. Traffic Light Game

Redlight

Skills Developed Targeted Senses
 Visual perception, attention and impulse control skills Visual sense

While you are out and about collecting leaves you can play a Traffic Light Game.

How to play

Have your child collect red, orange and a green leaf. Then pretend these leaves are the colors of the traffic lights.

Red means STOP

Green means GO

Orange/Yellow means SLOW DOWN

You and your child take turns in being in charge of the traffic lights and direct to either, stop, go or slow down. For younger toddlers you can just include STOP and GO leaves.

This game is not only great for color recognition but also attention skills and impulse control. It takes a lot of effort for your little one to stop their body when they are having fun.

Occupational Therapy Tips:

For an older toddler or preschooler who is having impulse control challenges this would be a beneficial activity. You can work on this skill by extending the time that the ‘RED’ light is on and they have to stay still. Make sure that you build up this skill (time) so they can succeed in this game.

Another great idea is when the light is orange/yellow encourage your child to really try to move in slooooowwww motion. This will work on strengthening all muscles in their body as they contract their muscles as they move. Having strong muscles builds a foundation for when your body needs to hold you up so you can use your hands and legs freely.

4. Create with nature

Leaf Craft

Skills Developed Targeted Senses
 Fine motor skills, eye hand coordination, bilateral coordination,  body awareness  Tactile, visual and proprioceptive skills during play dough fun

Once you have collected your natural materials bring them inside for some crafting fun. Depending on your child’s age you can range the complexity of the task.

  1. Grab a pine cone and have your little one paint it. If you are brave and want an extra sparkle you can have your child sprinkle some glitter on it.
  2. You can create a ‘leaf man’. It’s a great way to learn about body parts. There is also a fun book ‘Leaf man’ that can be read while creating their own leaf man.
  3. Incorporate play dough
    • Stamp to see what imprints your natural materials make
    • Acorns are great for a hide-and-seek game. First, you hide the acorns. Then, you find them.

There you have it!! Simple yet very beneficial activities that can be done while going for a walk with your little one.

Let me know how if you came up with any other fun ideas.

Have fun playing!

~ Urszula

 

 

Edible Play Dough Recipe

Edible Play Dough Recipe

Heading Playdough

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • ½ cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups of boiling water
  • Food coloring

What to do

  1. Mix flour, salt, cream of tartar and oil in a large mixing bowl
  2. In another bowl add water and mix it with food coloring
  3. Add both mixtures together
  4. Stir until combined (it still might be sticky)
  5. Allow it to rest
  6. Take it out of the bowl and knead it until the stickiness is gone
  7. If after a few minutes of kneading it’s still sticky then keep adding small amounts of flour. Keep adding until you have reached perfect play dough consistency.

For ideas on how to play with play dough and a list of skills your child is working on check out the Turbo charge your kids fine motor development through play dough post.

Enjoy!

~ Urszula

Turbo charge your kids fine motor development through play dough!

Turbo charge your kids fine motor development through play dough!

Play dough!… There is something MAGICAL about it. As soon as you give it to a child they can’t help but to start to manipulate it. They can poke, squeeze, pull, chop, shred, cut, roll or squash it. It is a never ending tactile experience for all children that aids in many aspects of their development. And as soon you add other elements such as straws, rocks, sticks, dry pasta, small toys … the list of benefits and creative play possibilities continues to grow!

Play dough is an open ended toy that provides an endless opportunity of play. The great thing is that you can’t play wrong with it.

Because play dough is so amazing I can’t wait to share many of the benefits that it can provide. Play dough can help your child in the following areas:

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills refer to the ability of skillfully using your hands and fingers. Fine motor skills are used while writing, eating, playing with toys, dressing etc.

Strengthening

Play dough strengthening

What is it? Why it is important?
This refers to strengthening muscles in the hands and fingers. Large muscles in your forearm and wrist are used to help with grip strength.   Small muscles in your palm and fingers are used for the refined movements. Lack of strength might result in holding, gripping and manipulating objects in awkward ways.

Difficulties might appear in: holding a pencil, picking up small objects, cutting, manipulating utensils, dressing (zippers, buttons) etc.

Activities

Hand muscles are strengthened through the resistance provided when your child manipulates play dough. You child can strengthen their hand muscles when they:

  • Squeeze
  • Pull play dough apart or put it together
  • Roll
  • Poke
  • Squish
  • Flatten
  • Use play dough tools such as cookie cutters, extruders etc.
  • For extra resistance your child can also use clay

Finger Isolation

Finger Isolation

What is it? Why it is important?
The ability to move each finger, one at a time. It is important for things such as using a writing instrument, typing, playing a musical instrument, tying shoelaces etc.

Activities

  • Poke play dough with individual fingers
  • Make holes in pretend ‘cookies’ or ‘pizzas’ for ‘chocolate chips’ or ‘pepperoni’
  • Make small balls by breaking off small pieces of play dough and then rolling it in between the pads of the thumb and the index finger
  • Flatten small balls by squeezing them between the pads of the thumb and other fingers
  • Squash small pieces of play dough/small play dough balls that are placed on the table with your individual fingers
  • Hide small objects in the play dough by pressing them down with individual fingers

Pincer grasp

Pincer grasp

What is it? Why it is important?
This is the ability to use the thumb and the index finger to pick up small items. It is required to correctly grasp a pencil, manipulate small objects,  getting dressed (zippers, buttons), used during finger feeding and picking up small items.

Activities

  • Make small balls by breaking off small pieces of play dough and then rolling it in between the pads of the thumb and the index finger
  • Flatten small balls by squeezing them between the pads of the thumb and the index finger
  • Put in or pull out small items from the play dough

Thumb Opposition

Thumb opposition

What is it? Why it is important?
This refers to the ability to move your thumb so it can touch each fingertip of the same hand. You need this skill for any task which requires a use of the thumb. It allows you to grasp and manipulate many tools required for things like tying your shoes, brushing your teeth, turning a key or holding a pencil.

Activities

  • Use tongs to put things into the play dough
  • Push toothpicks/straws/candles into play dough
  • Place other items into play dough such as coins, nature items (leaves, sticks, seeds etc), dry pasta, beads, small toys etc
  • Play ‘Hidden Treasure’: hide small objects in the play dough and then try to pull them all out
  • Make small balls by breaking off small pieces of play dough and then rolling it in between the pads of the thumb and the index finger
  • Flatten small balls by squeezing them between the pads of the thumb and the index finger

Bilateral coordination

Bilateral coordination

What is it? Why it is important?
The ability to use both sides of the body together in a smooth and coordinated manner. Bilateral coordination includes:

  • using both sides to do the same thing e.g. pushing a rolling pin
  • using alternating movements e.g. walking or crawling
  • using different movements on each side e.g. cutting: one side holds the paper and the other side is using the scissors
It allows for the hands and feet to work well together. It is essential for many daily activities such as climbing stairs, playing sport or musical instruments, eating, dressing, cutting, writing etc.

 

Activities

  • Anytime you squeeze, push, pull and manipulate play dough with two hands
  • Roll play dough with your hands
  • Use a rolling pin or other various play dough tools
  • Cut play dough with scissors
  • Cut play dough with a toy knife
  • Use dough extruders
  • Mold play dough into anything really… people, objects, animals etc

Crossing Midline

Crossing midline

What is it? Why it is important?
This is the ability to cross over the invisible line in the middle of the body with legs, hands or eyes to the opposite side. This skill is needed for things such as reading, writing, many dressing tasks and many sports activities.

Activities

  • Anytime you encourage your child to pick or place items/play dough on either side of them
    • Sorting game: sort out treasures hidden in the play dough. They can be sorted out by colors or by item types. They are then placed into containers which are conveniently located on either right or left side of the table
    • Pick up small play dough ball located on either side of the table whilst crossing their midline
  • Have your child create a long snake. Then have them turn it into a caterpillar by pinching it from the top. Ensure that the snake is long enough so they get to cross their midline whilst pinching the snake.

Hand Eye Coordination

Hand eye coordination

What is it? Why it is important?
The ability for the eyes and the hands to work together to complete specific movements. These are necessary for activities such as dressing, writing, drawing, cutting, completing puzzles, throwing and catching a ball and playing with toys.

Activities

  • Complete any of the ‘Bilateral Coordination’ activities listed above
  • Mold shapes and letters from play dough
  • Use a variety of play dough worksheets to paste dough onto them
  • Place a dry noodle into the play dough. Then have your child place other dry pasta or cheerios over it

Calm your body and mind

Using play dough is also a calming activity for both your body and mind. The resistance in the play dough stimulates the proprioceptive sense. Proprioceptive activities are very calming and organizing. As your child manipulates play dough they stimulate the proprioceptive receptors in their hands and fingers.

So if you need your child to calm down, de-stress or get ready to do their homework, play dough is a great activity to do.

Communication Skills

As your child plays and creates with play dough you can work on their communication & language skills. Ask open ended questions and encourage discussion around what they are doing.

Social Skills

When playing play dough with one or more children it opens up many opportunities to practice social skills. There are many possibilities for discussion, playing collaboratively, problem solving and planning with others.

Creativity and imagination

Creativity

Possibilities for play dough play are limitless. Children can create anything from it. They can make pizzas, cookies, gardens, houses, aliens, monsters, animals… anything really.

You may want to provide additional materials to use with the play dough and watch their creativity and imaginations come alive.

Literacy and Numeracy development

Literacy

You can be very creative with this and practice their literacy and numeracy skills through the use of play dough. Few examples include:

  • Create letters and spell out words
  • Add and subtract pieces hidden in play dough
  • Involve your children in making the play dough. Practice their mathematical skills through measuring and mixing

ADDING TO THE SENSES

You can also add textures and scents to increase the sensory experience.

Textures can include: rice, beads, grains etc

Scents can be added through adding essential oils to it.

SUMMARY

As you see there is a wide range of benefits that your children can get from playing with play dough. Remember… The beauty of play dough is that there really is no right or wrong – it is simply all about discovery, exploration, creativity and play.

So go ahead, make some play dough and let the play begin!

Play Dough Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • ½ cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups of boiling water
  • Food coloring

What to do

  1. Mix flour, salt, cream of tartar and oil in a large mixing bowl
  2. In another bowl add water and mix it with food coloring
  3. Add both mixtures together
  4. Stir until combined (it still might be sticky)
  5. Allow it to rest
  6. Take it out of the bowl and knead it until the stickiness is gone
  7. If after a few minutes of kneading it’s still sticky then keep adding small amounts of flour. Keep adding until you have reached perfect play dough consistency.

Disclaimer: The activities in this blog are intended for sensory play. They are not a replacement for treatment of children with Sensory Processing Disorder, are not medical advice and should not be used in place of the care of a medical doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. These activities should be facilitated and supervised by an adult. All activities are to be performed at your own risk and in no event shall Sensory Lifestyle be liable for any damages.