Indoor Winter Activities: Specifically Gross Motor

This winter has proven to be particularly hard for parents everywhere while we are trying to entertain our kids during these cold months without the aid of indoor playgrounds/ activities that we’ve had in the past. Being stuck inside all day can be so hard to get those gross motor skills working! 

While I am a big supporter of outdoor play in the winter, there is still a need for good, safe, gross motor play in the home. Here are a few of the ideas that have kept us sane. 

Indoor obstacle course: I just add painters tape X’s on the ground for my kids to jump on, our kitchen bench to crawl over or under. Utilize your stairs in the obstacle course if you can! Tape papers on the walls for them to high five, stools to jump off of, and more! 

Grab some plastic cups: set up either like bowling bins OR in a pyramid and roll a ball at them. Watch the “crash!” and set them up again! Don’t worry about having to set it up over and over again, that’s a great job for your kiddos to get in on. 

Practice some tumbling: Show them how to do somersaults, cartwheels, handstands, and more. There are videos on YouTube for kids to practice as well! 

Dance party: Get up and moving with a dance party! Throw on your favorite music and get everyone moving.

Wastebasket Basketball: Crumple up some paper and shoot it into the garbage or recycling bin. You could also challenge them to search around for pieces of trash around the house to toss in. Cleaner house, fun activity, everyone wins! 

Sticky note find: this is one that is hard to describe without a picture, so I had to borrow this one from Busy Toddler’s website. Hide the sticky notes around the house and have them run around finding the sticky notes and running back to organize it where it goes! We’ve done this with colors, shapes, numbers, letters, or even just pictures! 

Treasure Hunt: Grab a clipboard and a piece of paper and draw pictures of objects around the house for your littles to find. Once they find them, they can color it in, put a checkmark over it, or if accessible, have them take a camera or phone around taking pictures of their findings! 

Paint in the bathtub: painting is typically a fine motor skill. But once it’s moved to the tub, it can become a gross motor skill! When the shower walls become your canvas, movement is inevitable, they’ll be using their arms to paint, not just their hands. Also the biggest bonus: easy cleanup! You can buy specifically bathtub paints, or I’ve found that regular washable paint does fairly well too. Use your best judgment. 

Painters tape road: lay down some painter’s tape for “roads” throughout your home for your kiddos to drive cards on them. The biggest success with this is- make them go throughout your home. This is how you’ll get them moving! Keeping the tape in one congregated area of the playroom will keep the kids there too. Have the roads weave through the bedrooms and hallways, getting them to move their cars all over! You can extend this activity by setting up houses out of blocks and creating a whole city throughout the entire house! 

To see more posts on play and early childhood ages, check out this page

There’s More To Preschool Than Learning Letters & Numbers

I’ve had a lot of conversations with friends lately about their preschool-aged kids and how the majority of preschool teachers are very focused on learning letters. They assign homework or make comments like, “Maybe work with your student on their letters at home, he seems to not be picking them up as fast as other kids.” 

WHY.

Why are we so focused on kids learning letters and reading so early? Why are we adding to the stress and pressure moms feel? Why do we feel like walking away from preschool with every single letter memorized is our end goal here? 

Let’s talk about other skills kids learn and walk away with from preschool that is even more important than letters and numbers. 

  • Social skills- working with other children in play and at learning stations. 
  • Language skills- walking away from school talking better and easier to understand. 
  • Coping skills- how to handle emotions when mom and dad leave or someone takes a toy they wanted. 
  • Responsibility with sensory bins, play dough, paint, toys, and other items. 
  • Fine motor development- working through fine motor activities such as stickers or fingerpaint so later in life, they can do things like…. Hold a pencil. 
  • Gross motor development- jumping and skipping and throwing. 
  • Gaining a love and appreciation for literature.
  • Spatial awareness. 
  • How to open snacks independently. 
  • How to prepare food.
  • How to advocate for themselves. 
  • How to communicate needs and wants. 
  • Empathy and sympathy. 

There is a list of OVER TEN things that preschool-age students walk away with that are essential to the future of their education, yet we are still focusing on learning letters and numbers. Yes, learning letters and numbers are important and we should focus on them as well! But it shouldn’t be our only spotlight. Play is a child’s work, it’s how they learn and grow. If we are giving them adequate time to play and interact with peers and adults, that’s what they need more than anything.  

Please stop adding to the stress of parents and students by shoving numbers and letters down their throats! Please celebrate all of the accomplishments your child is achieving during preschool! 

Other helpful articles: 

Other Activities To Do Instead of Explicitly Teaching Letters

What is Play-Based Learning?

Reading Before Kindergarten

Kindergarten Prep Frenzy

What I’ve Learned Teaching Preschool 

A Whole Page of Early Ed Resources

Early Childhood Resources All In One Place!

Hi friends! A lot of my posts lately have been focused on early childhood and how we can foster this education as parents and teachers. It’s been my focus simply because it’s my daily life right now. I spend the majority of my day fostering the learning of a one-year-old and a three-year-old, so naturally, it’s where my thoughts have been centered.

Because I have been throwing this content at you so much, I felt like it needed a place where it’s all corralled for you for easier searching. Lo and behold! My early childhood page!

You can find the link to this new page here!

Featured on the page are sensory bin lists, tips, and recipes. Some thoughts on raising independent kids. Really great articles on PLAY. And bonus material on emotions in kids and using Myers- Briggs and Enneagram to understand your child better.

This list and page will be ever growing as I continue to create new content in this scope of ideas, so check back later for more articles. You can find this new page on our top banner under “blog”.

What I’ve Learned Teaching Preschool

I’ve been teaching my daughter and her little neighbor friend preschool since mid-April. At first, it was very consistent and every day, but now we’ve tapered off since the world is (somewhat) opening up again and we can leave our homes again. We have been using Busy Toddler’s Playing Preschool curriculum and love it! You can read more about my review here.

Today I want to share a few little nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned from teaching on a preschool level. This age and curriculum are somewhat out of my realm, my dream teaching job would be 3rd-4th grade, but I’ve learned a lot teaching this age and learned to adapt to this different age range. 

More play. Less instruction. I knew this before, I live by the phrase “play is a child’s work.” However, sometimes when we put the label “teacher” out there, it’s easy to fall into teacher instruction mode. I found that the less I was involved and the more play that took place, the more learning that came. 

Sing. Sing all of the songs. I’m not a singer!! I know a lot of people say this, but I’m REALLY not a good singer. Guess what? They didn’t care. They just wanted songs. They craved the repetition and beat and learning a new tune. Sing the songs, and sing them loud and silly. 

Consistency is important for them at such a young age. We had our schedule that we did every day (laid out by Playing Preschool), and the days we strayed from it, left something out, or switched it up slightly, the whole lesson was hard for them. Be consistent. 

Not all kids grow up with a #teachermom and do activities like poke toothpicks in an apple, and that’s okay! Our cute neighbor boy that joins us for preschool was doing the apple poke activity. It promotes counting, spacial awareness, and fine motor skills. After he had put two or three toothpicks into the apple he looked at me and asked, “Why am I doing this?” while my daughter sat next to him happily poking her toothpicks because an activity like this is fairly normal in our household! Gave me a good laugh!

Learning letters and numbers isn’t the goal of preschool. Playing is the purpose of preschool, and throwing in the letters and numbers is just an added bonus. I was reminding myself often that just because my daughter still didn’t know that R says rrrrrr by the end of two weeks, it doesn’t mean the two weeks was a fail. We played, we sang, recited poems and painted. So much paint! The purpose of the R unit wasn’t to engrain the letter or sound into her mind, it was to expose her to a new letter, maybe recognize it, and most importantly- to play. 

I think doing this preschool program with my daughter has opened my eyes to what playing for a child truly is. I knew it was important and I knew that’s how they can learn, however, now I realize that it’s not just how they CAN learn, it IS how they learn. It is crucial! 

To you preschool teachers out there, what other tips do you have, or what else can you add to this list? 

My Review On Playing Preschool

A few months back I purchased Busy Toddler’s Playing Preschool book to do preschool with my daughter and a little neighbor friend. I wrote a little about the experience here. After a few months of working through the book, I want to write a review to help you decide if it’s the right decision for you. Before I begin, read more about what Playing Preschool entails here.

Pros: 

Lessons are easy to read and organized. Whether you’re an educator or not, there is plenty of information and resources to give you the most success possible. 

We had to take a few weeks off while I worked from home, but it was easy to pick back up again and get started. The lessons are evergreen and can be done at any time of the year. 

Most of the materials were found at home, but mostly because we’ve been doing toddler based activities for a year now. Even if you don’t have all of the materials at home, it’s a worthwhile investment because they are cheap and useful! I don’t know about you, but we go through a pack of construction paper really fast over here! 

Some weeks required more materials such as the cooking unit because we needed a lot of food, but again, nothing crazy expensive and worth the money for the outcome. I went through the supply list of every unit before we got started and made an Amazon Wishlist and shared it with our family members that often like to buy my kid’s gifts so that they would know the books and tools that would be extra useful to us right now! 

The activities do not take a lot of time to set up. I don’t think I ever spent more than two minutes gathering supplies and setting up an activity for the lessons. They are quick and practical! 

The lessons truly are playing. There are no worksheets to print out! It’s all activities to set up for your preschool to explore numbers and letters. There’s a lot of paint and a lot of play! A method I can get behind! 

Cons: 

I loved that each unit had a great book list that really worked hand in hand with each day, but we started Playing Preschool the same time quarantine began, meaning our library was closed! Without the resource of the library, it was so hard to find the specific books she recommended. I did my best to find substitutes (although her suggestions truly are the best books to use). I also tried the free trial of Vooks, but not a single book on the list was found there! You can read my Vooks review here. 

Another solution I found was to buy a few books on thirftbooks.com, they had great prices and free shipping after a certain amount spent! I couldn’t pass up an opportunity at buying new books! We also searched Kindle on Amazon for any free or cheap purchases. Those books obviously aren’t the same as holding a real book, but it did the job! 

The rest I put on my Amazon wishlist for our family members and we received many that way. I also called upon good friends and neighbors to borrow their books. With all efforts combined, I was able to get together all of our books! With access to a public library, this process would not be as difficult as it was for me, but I wanted to share my ideas for others who also may not have access to a library as well. 

The final downside is more on me than on the curriculum itself. I would feel like the entire unit was a failure if we skipped a day or even a single activity. I wanted to get everything in to make sure she understood the concepts being taught. In the introduction of Playing Preschool, Susie the creator of the curriculum explicitly says you do not have to do every activity and it does not have to all be done in one sitting. She suggestions spreading it out throughout the day or splitting it up into two sections if accomplishing everything in one sitting is too much for your preschooler. My type-A personality shone through a lot when I saw each activity as a checklist feeling like I needed to mark everything off. You do not need to do this to have success in the program. 

Overall, I truly have loved Playing Preschool and use it often with my daughter. Even if we are on a break from doing preschool, I can still pull it out and find one or two activities for her to do while I cook dinner or clean the house. It’s great exposure to letters and numbers. My 2.5-year-old has very little interest in her letters and even after a few weeks of playing preschool she can’t name a single letter or letter sound, but she’s still gaining that exposure and teaching her to have a love for learning and reading. Playing Preschool for the win! 

Have you done the Playing Preschool curriculum? Leave your pros and cons in the comments for others to see! 

Cover photo from busytoddler.com