April 28, 2017
In honor of Earth Day, our Hop & Squeak group (ages 3-5) celebrated the Earth with some fun recycling activities and crafts! What a great opportunity to incorporate a meaningful learning experience about recycling and protecting our environment into occupational therapy and speech therapy activities.
We started off the day by reading a book called “Earth Dance” during Circle Time.
This was good practice for sustaining attention and engaging kiddos’ interest in the topic. The kids worked on transitions by rotating from indoor to outdoor activities in groups of two.
One outdoor activity involved each child riding on his/her belly on a scooter board and maneuvering through an obstacle course, picking up pieces of trash or recycling along the way! At the middle and end of the course, the goal was to throw the pieces of trash into the correct bins. Two kids participated at once and raced each other, encouraging some healthy competition.
This activity facilitated core and upper body strengthening as the children had to maintain a prone (belly down) weight-bearing position on the scooter board and use their arms to propel themselves through the course. It also involved motor planning, the process of thinking about the best route for moving through the course while also identifying multiple visual targets (the trash items). Finding the items involved keeping the head in an upright position and engaged the process of visual scanning.
Another outdoor activity incorporated 4 inch wide balance beams set up in a curved pattern. The kids were prompted to pick up pieces of trash or recycling while maintaining both feet on the beam, then throw the items into the correct bin at the end. Some children raced while others chose to work together to throw the items into the bins!
This activity enabled children to practice their balance and work on improving postural control. Postural control is a term used to describe the way our central nervous system regulates sensory information from other systems in order to produce adequate motor output or muscle activity to maintain a controlled, upright posture. This includes when standing or walking. We added a challenge by having the kids reach down to pick up trash items and attempt to regain an upright posture without losing stability. They got to practice using their hands and a toy trash-grabber for an extra fine motor challenge that targeted grip strength and grasp.
Lastly, the kids did a throwing activity in which they practiced their overhand throw to toss pieces of trash or recycling into a bin. This targeted strength, range of motion, eye-hand coordination, and grading pressure, as well as taking turns.
We incorporated reasoning and problem-solving by having the children sort the items into the correct bins, providing visual cues for support. These fun and Earth-friendly activities encourage both teamwork and healthy competition, providing a sense of motivation for the kids to participate and enjoy themselves. Even better, they send a positive message and learning experience for recycling and protecting our Earth!
Inside, the children partook in some more trash sorting activities. This time the bins were divided more specifically for an added problem-solving challenge. Also inside, the kids got to engage in some fun Earth crafts, including leaf stamping and hand stamping onto a big tree mural on the wall. These crafts facilitated practice of fine motor skills, tool use, asking peers/therapists for help, and following sequenced directions.
We ended the day with a healthy “tree” snack. Pretzels as tree trunks, grapes as leaves, and chocolate pudding as mud! While snacking, the kids practiced fine motor skills by using tongs to pick up food items and set them on fun Earth-themed placemats. They also practiced sharing with each other.
Ideas for home:
- Trash Pick-Up Scavenger Hunt: Scatter various trash/recycling items around the house or yard and have your child find them! You can incorporate obstacles so your child can work on skills like balance and core strength. This activity also targets visual scanning and visual discrimination skills.
- Make kid-friendly brown and green trash/recycling containers to encourage your child to help sort. This activity will facilitate problem-solving. You can provide visual aids (pictures of proper items for each bin) and add in some fun throwing games, too, to work on grading pressure, ROM, and strength!
- When out at stores or restaurants, look for or point out recycling and trash cans.
- Talk about the different materials and how to preserve nature and take care of the earth.
- Talk to your child about the importance of recycling and appropriately throwing away trash.
- Use recycled and old materials to make crafts for friends and family! An old toilet paper roll can become a telescope, a kaleidoscope, or even an instrument!!