Ahoy Matey

Our kids pretended to be pirates the past couple weeks at PTC!

Our Hop and Squeak groups dressed up in pirate hats, bandanas, and eye patches, and sang two songs for the purposes of increasing attention and tolerance to auditory stimuli: a welcome song, to encourage social recognition, and a pirate song called “Last Day in September” to kick off our theme.

Next, they hunted for treasure in bins of colorful kinetic sand, rice, and beans, increasing tolerance to tactile input for regulation, and practiced fine motor skills to transfer treasures into “treasure chests.”

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Movement activities for the Hop and Squeak groups involved Walk the Plank (balance beam), Climb the Ladder (rope ladder), Sail the Ship (boat/lycra swings), Pin the Hat on the Pirate (taping paper hats to pirate pictures on the wall) and Launch the Cannonballs (throwing plastic balls into bins). These activities targeted balance and postural control, strength and motor planning, range of motion, following directions, and turn-taking. 1

Our pirate craft involved creating a handprinted pirate with paint and paper and sought to facilitate fine motor skills, tool use, creativity, and initiation of asking for help when needed.

Ideas for home with 3-5 year olds include:

  • Go to the beach to look for shells and play with sand! Or create a pirate-themed sensory bin at home. Fun ways to encourage tactile stimulation.
  • Dress up like a pirate to practice self-care and dressing skills.
  • Create a treasure map and build an obstacle course/fort to work on gross motor skills.
  • Treasure chest/pirate crafts for fine motor skills and sensory input.

Our Kinder groups and older children also played pirates, participating in similar movement activities with additional challenges in motor planning and sequencing, as well as activities that promoted teamwork and handwriting development.

For example, children in our Kinder groups worked together to find hidden treasures outside using treasure maps, and employed fine motor skills to place their treasures in a “treasure chest.”

Additionally, we played a game called “Captain of the Ship,” in which one pirate took a turn choosing a pirate-themed movement activity and “commanded” his fellow pirates to perform the movement. This involved movements such as Hit the Deck, Man Overboard, Tornado, Fire the Cannon, Hoist the Sail, and Walk the Plank. Movements encouraged various gross motor challenges including balance, core strength, range of motion, crossing midline, and imitation.

Inside the Adventure room, some of our little pirates practiced handwriting skills by decoding pirate messages and writing out each letter at a time to form hidden words, either on modified paper or a whiteboard.  Then they used motor planning skills to plan a route, traveling North, West, South, and East throughout the room to complete a mission based on the directions in the secret message. Challenges were modified based on the individual child, but for all participants the activity involved handwriting practice, following directions, symbolic play, motor planning, safety and spatial awareness.

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Pirate Decoding Key

Ideas for home:

  • Create a pirate “code” and encourage your child to de-code message to practice problem-solving and handwriting.
  • Create an obstacle course with your child then hide treasure for him/her to find! Encourages practice in gross, fine, and visual motor skills, motor planning, and spatial awareness.
  • Handwriting tips: practice lowercase letters first; “bump” the lines to practice proper alignment; write letters from top to bottom; practice lightening grip pressure – challenge your child to write as light as possible!

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To the Beach!

Summer is coming! In May 2017, our Hop and Squeak group spent a few weeks at “PTC Beach,” enjoying some fun in the sun with sea creatures, sand, seaweed, and all.

During Circle Time with the kids and their parents, we read a book titled “Under the Water” to boost excitement for the ocean theme. We also sang a song called “Slippery Fish,” which involved learning the sequence of a fish “food chain.” Circle Time is a great opportunity to acquaint the children to the day’s activities, improve awareness of peers and names, improve social recognition, and encourage participation and regulation within a group.

Over the few weeks we put together multiple sensory activities that particularly facilitated tactile exploration and input into this system. The kids got to make their own aquariums, adding sand, water, sponges, shells, and plastic sea creatures. We also had wet and dry texture stations, including a water table and bins of kinetic sand and regular sand, in which the goal was to find various hidden creatures, incorporating a visual challenge. The children also got to make “pet” jellyfish, using water bottles with plastic bags, water, and food dye. An awesome tool for tactile and visual input and regulation!

We involved an array of movement activities into our beach theme, including bending down to pick up sea creatures while walking across a 4-inch foam balance beam, balloon play, magnetic “fishing” in kinetic sand and throwing fish into “nets,” and an obstacle course using the scooterboard and Roller Racer to “swim” and catch sea creatures along the way. The fishing activity promoted sensorimotor development while the other activities targeted balance, postural control, strength, range of motion, and motor planning. Additionally, these activities incorporated turn-taking and waiting, imaginative play and teamwork, visual scanning, and receptive language when following directions. The kids had a blast!

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Crafting was another fun aspect of our ocean theme. The kids made fish out of paper plates and colored paper, and they each got to decorate a scale with glitter and add it to our “Rainbow Fish.” A collaborative team effort! We also created an ocean mural and hid pictures of sea creatures in plastic eggs for the kids to find and match with the creature on the mural then tape it on. All good practice of fine motor skills, tool use, creativity, and asking for assistance.

 For snack, we offered goldfish, seaweed, grapes, pretzel sticks, and strawberries. The kids had a chance to play with the food and relate it to the ocean theme. Snack time seeks to increase food repertoire & tolerance of various textures. It also provides opportunity to practice tool use, sharing with peers, verbal requests, and social interaction.

Ideas for home:

  • Sing the slippery fish song!
  • Create a fort out of cushions and pillows and “jump into the ocean”
  • Create your own obstacle course and homemade sea creatures
  • Practice “surfing” using a homemade balance board/Indo board
  • Decorate a mural with an “underwater world” theme
  • Go to the beach to look for shells and play with sand!
  • Make your own “aquarium” at home in a small plastic bin with sand, water, shells, etc.
  • Read books about the ocean
    • Rainbow Fish
    • Plunky Goes Fishing