Making Meaning out of Making Marks: Activities for Little Ones Learning to Write
Little Bee, who is about 2 and a half now, loves to colour together. But what I think she loves most about it is watching me and making meaningful marks on the page, like when I write her name, or the date, or a grocery list if it comes to me in the moment. She has interest in making letters she knows, or the starting letter of someone she loves, but she is still developing the muscles in her hand that allow her to control the marker, pen, or paintbrush.
In an effort to prevent frustration, this morning we tried something new
We have played with sand trays before using anything and everything you can imagine:
rice (white, or more fun – coloured!)
flour (with sparkles mixed in if you are brave)
small beads (keep in mind the learner you have or younger siblings that might ingest fallen bits)
or anything else you might have on hand that would be small and light enough to manipulate in a small tray or box – I would love to hear what other ideas you have!
This activity is all about making the shapes, lines, and designs that exist in later letter formation without the pressure of “correctly writing the letter”. It’s a fun, relaxing, exciting and artistic way to draw in the sand, rice, flour, salt – learning through play.
What children learn from this activity:
practice holding a brush, stick, pen for control and fine motor muscle development (used to shape the letters for handwriting)
preparation for handwriting
Moving beyond simply tracing something that exists on a page (although there is value in this too and our freebie can be used this way also – see more below), children like Little Bee have a freedom to create, develop an independence in making meaningful marks, and most importantly develop a confidence in their growing abilities in letter formation, and eventually writing.
What we did:
In using the same steps to build muscles in the hand (fine motor), and the same tactile experience that one would get putting pen to paper, we are working on early writing skills while keeping the activity playful, meaningful and entertaining.
FIRST: I printed the freebie and cut the sections of inspirational mark making. I wrote Little Bee’s name on the bottom section before laminating.
I recommend laminating because I LOVE laminating but here are a few other great reasons:
for dramatic play in which your child comes up with their own meaning for what these can be: money, mail, recipe cards – this allows them to last through the play longer – these pouches are my favourite
place them in a zip lock bag to do a similar activity as this one, but while tracing over the designs in a bag of paint, goo, or shampoo (I’ll write more about this later – it’s a really fun activity) and then use a finger to trace over the shapes and swirls.
With this freebie, you are welcome to print off as many copies as you like – for, as you will see, there are so many uses for it! ENJOY!
NEXT: Little Bee could choose a twig, pencil, marker with cap on, or paintbrush to make her marks. It doesn’t really matter what she uses, her finger works just as well too, but this is just a chance for her to hold the tool and get to know how to use it and manipulate it, while developing the muscles to hold it with control. Building the strength to hold a pencil is something that takes time and allowing her to use all sorts of different tools makes this more interesting for her and allows her to experiment with the way each works.BONUS: We turn on relaxing music that encourages Little Bee to take her time, without my suggestion to do so. This makes the moment that much softer and allows us both to get lost in the movement of the activity.
We use music and when we are trying to quiet down after a busy morning, below is a great video I often play in the background while doing a low key activity – while winding down.
We usually use a cookie sheet, which come in so many sizes for activities like this as the height of the edges is perfect to contain the flour (or whatever you might like to use) and the surface is large enough to make lots of marks. Little Bee has her own cookie tray that we use for activities so that we don’t have to worry about mixing our learning through play with our kitchen experiments – just in case. But we had been baking earlier this morning (which is why the flour was readily available) and we wanted to extend the activity afterward by adding water to make a sloppy mess of “sparkle pie”. There are incredible Montessori trays made for just this purpose, and Melissa and Doug toys come in beautiful boxes that we use for this type of play as well. But, we’ve found the cookie sheet to work just perfectly and is magnetic as well for magnet play! This post contains affiliate links which if used cost you nothing extra, but a small percentage comes back to me to support more learning!
As noted above, we also laminate the whole sheet (writing Little Bee’s name on the bottom section beforehand in a light coloured marker), and use either a dry erase marker or a Crayola washable marker to draw over the lines and wipe clean to use the same sheet over and over. Even wiping the page clean again works on the skills needed to strengthen the hand and control the muscles.
If you have someone in the house that is working on cutting skills, print out an extra copy of the freebie and cut out each section as you did for the letter formation in the sand, but this time provide scissors and have them cut along the swirling, whirling lines.
It’s important for me to encourage this exploration in my Little Bee. Splashing in a pond and watching the ripples move across the water holds a world of meaning, just as the swoosh of a paintbrush across a newly placed piece of paper does to both she and I. It could be the baby steps to a budding artist, writer, song writer or change maker, preparing to make a difference with her meaningful mark.
Do you have any activities you like to do with your little one to encourage independence and confidence for later skill development? I would love to hear about it! Comment below or reach out directly ♥
Sharing is caring - Tell a friend about Books Bees & ABCs
Earth Day is just around the corner (April 22nd, 2018) and there are so many fun and educational activities that tie into this topic that will have everyone engaged and learning!
Having the weather be just that much nicer is encouragement to take these activities outside. Little Bee and I have been playing around with play dough (recipe here) a lot as well as an interest in footprints in the snow, and now mud. What a perfect pairing! We took our play dough outside and made prints of all the nature things we have found around us that we were searching out for our scavenger hunt (free download below).
Coming in after our outdoor play, rosy cheeks and tired from walking all over the yard to collect our art supplies, we took a few minutes to sit and have a cuddle (and warm up… common summer) on the couch, when I found this video that I thought you might like to share with your little one too!
Check out this adorable little video I found that talks at a very high level about Earth Day, with a catchy little song that my Little Bee has now requested on repeat more than once.
Free Scavenger Hunt Download!
We love to play outside and spring is the perfect time of year to investigate those fallen branches from winter winds or ant hills in the making. I created this little scavenger hunt for Little Bee to get to know the language of her backyard and to burn off a little of that energy we’ve been saving for when the rain stopped. We thought you would love to share this with your own children as a great activity for outdoor play! Click the button below and enjoy (you made need to check your junk mail folder to find it)!
Amazing Earth Day Books for Kids
As always, I use books to reinforce activities with my Little Lady. This is easy addition for us as she and I both love to read independently (me with books beside any spot that I could sit still for any length of time, for her… everywhere…) but most of all together. What better gift than an addition to her ever-growing library. These are a few of the books we have picked up at the library, some that have been a part of our library for a while, and a few new additions I have ready to share with Little Bee when she wakes up on Earth Day, to make it feel extra special! In true Eric Carle style, The Tiny Seed describes the journey of little seeds with informative language that is not overwhelming for younger readers (although is a bit long so can grow with them) but still provides rich conversation for older readers. I love Eric Carle stories – so thoughtfully made. Bonus: you can check out this video below for a reading of Eric Carle’s story for free!
I’ve mentioned the National Geographic series for children before, and no better time to point it out again than for Earth Day learning. There are so many great topics that could be included here as well as levels of readers, one of my favourite aspects of this series of books, but here are two; Seed to Plant, and Caterpillar to Butterfly, that would fit beautifully into a library that provides value in learning to your child now, with bright colours and meaningful language, while acting as a great resource in later years, especially for school projects.
Curious George is a popular character at our house – we have a lot of the George books now and they differ greatly depending on when they were published. The newer series are wonderful in that they also have corresponding activities at the end for added value. We have a great one about the rainbows that is really cute and teaches about spectrum formations throughout the story as well as how to form rainbows and has additional facts, real photos, experiments, and activities at the end. Curious George Plants a Tree is an older story where George learns a lot about how to help his neighbour as well as planet Earth and is filled with those adorable little illustrations that my daughter loves so much.
A true favourite – The Lorax, which is also available in an early reader series,discusses the impact on the environment each act we take can have. Pretty impressive for Seuss, talking about these issue way before it became such a supported day on the calendar. Seuss books always engage little ones with the rhyming, tongue-twister language while teaching something important. Seuss never goes out of style. This story is also available as a movie (DVD link), or you can watch for free when you sign up for Amazon Prime and stream shows, movies, etc. with their service. Pretty cool.
These are the two on our list for this year’s celebration of Earth Day. I’m going to be giving Little Bee two new books for her library. Compost Stew is a cute A through Z book that talks about composing, at school or home. And, Earth Day: An Alphabet Book – illustrates animals familiar and new as well as other incredible aspects of nature that we may often overlook. ABC books are wonderful additions to little libraries. They offer the alphabet reinforcement, are great introductions to early readers as they become familiar with the story and can associate words they know with the letters and sounds, and are incredible reference materials as they grow. Looooooove books that grow with kids – they are great investments.
What do you have planned to celebrate Earth Day this year? Reach out with your great ideas – I would love to showcase them with our readers and subscribers! *
Sharing is caring - Tell a friend about Books Bees & ABCs
My daughter has taken on new fascination with flashlights as she braves the darkness which once made her nervous. She loves to hide things in the back of a closet and use the flashlight to “discover” whatever has been placed there. It becomes an adventure for her but more importantly she has taken it upon herself to work through her hesitation of the dark.
I spent a lot of time supporting her through this fear of the dark as we would talk through:
What we did during the day/night
How things looked during the day/night
What was the same and what was different during the day/night
This grew interest in figuring out what made it daytime and what made it night and a simple activity emerged.
What we did:
Little Bee loves to play around with our globe. She will spin the globe and watch it come to a stop. She’s familiar with a few place names that she’s heard in stories we’ve read so I will often point them out to her as well as where she lives. She knows the sea and the land and will find the little boats or compass that appear on our globe. I wish we had a globe that had blue water… and would recommend this for you but this is the one we have at her grandparent’s house so it is extra special to us.
Today we put a little flag on the globe and spun it around until the marked spot came into view again. I told her this meant one day had passed to all the people who lived in that spot and that when the globe spins all the way around again, one more day has passed.
This is a huge concept and certainly one that will come into play again and again over time but I believe in making the connection, using the language that she will encounter in other parts of her life (example: “It will take 5 days until Auntie J will be here. Remember the globe? It will spin around 5 times!”) and introducing her to concepts that might spark an interest in an area I may never have imagined.
Our globe spinning quickly turned into the two of us spinning around and around in the living room for “days and days” until we were dizzy, getting lost in the play and applying what we’ve learned in the conversation of the game.
Using the interest of the flashlight we moved to a closet that would allow the flashlight to be the main source of light and make an impact. Shining it on one side of the globe:
Little Bee could see and share that one side was dark and one side was light. What did we know about day and night? One is dark and one is light. I asked my daughter which side would be daytime/nighttime? Applying what she now knows about day/light night/dark she was easily able to answer the question. We spun the globe around for “days and days” so she could see that the light didn’t move but the globe did and our little marker was sometimes in the light and sometimes not.
We moved to the window to see that the sun was still in the sky for us, still shining down but that soon we would move around (like the globe moves) and the sun would be on boys and girls somewhere else on the globe.
There are really simple globes that you can get which would grow with your child and will be a learning resource for years – it really doesn’t have to be anything advanced to provide great value in learning.
We have a VTech globe at home (we are still visiting my parents now which is why we are using the above globe) – and it has a really great concept but I like the idea of Little Bee placing her hands right on the globe and moving it herself.
A really neat product is this one built for STEAM extension, to be paired with technology and lots of hands on activities.
It’s a really great value for what it offers and would be engaging to those littles who like to extend their learning with a tablet while exploring culture, inventions, animals, weather and more for countries across the globe.
The flashlight doesn’t need to be complicated either. Most homes have one laying around the house. We have a little one that we let my daughter play with as she likes, while keeping a different one in a constant spot in case of emergency so we don’t need to look for it if the time came to needing it quickly.
I’d love to hear about any activities you have used like this or anything you would love to know more about that Little Bee and I could research through play for you! We love sharing all our adventures through play and look forward to the next one!
Sharing is caring - Tell a friend about Books Bees & ABCs
From an early age my daughter and I would spend time at our local library. It was perfect for me as a new mother, nervous to take a small baby out in public. I could go to programs at the library to be surrounded by other moms, or sit in a corner and just watch it all happen. There were toys for my Little Bee and it was a break from the walls of my own house (which I very much needed in those early days). Now my daughter takes great pride in having her own library card, in checking out her own books, of understanding that they are hers to borrow for a little while, and then we give them back so another child can enjoy them. This morning, Little Bee and I went to the library in my parent’s town. We made plans with an amazing fellow momma I went to elementary school with; that friend who hugs your heart. It was perfection. Her daughter, another little friend and Little Bee joined the group of children sitting cross-legged on the floor for and it was time passing in the snap of a finger. Stories, songs, dancing, and even a couple of bunnies entertained us and allowed me some much needed time with a dear friend. Libraries are an amazing place and will forever be a part of our routine.
19 Reasons to Take Part in Your Local Library
Enrich a love of reading in your children
Connect with your mom friends and their kids. Social time for mom, social time for littles
Meet new people – there are more than just fellow mommas heading to the library. It’s great to connect to new people
Attend the amazing programs they offer. Hello? Free entertainment. It’s amazing!!
Sit in a quiet corner and read to your child in a new surrounding. Reading has been proven to enhance language, brain development, connection with the person reading to you, and of course love of reading – with book after book
Sit in a quiet corner while your child plays nearby. I have to say I treasure these little moments. In our house I feel obligated to be busy and tick items off the to-do list. Sitting back at the library watching my daughter play with the puppets, I actually have a moment to myself to think, or… not think
More than books. There is so much you can access from your local library. Snowshoes. Movies. Magazines. It’s incredible. You can dabble in a lot of interesting areas that would otherwise would be expensive to “test out” with a toddler who may or may not want to take part. I recently checked out a pool pass to a local pool and thank goodness I did because the first pool day, we stayed for 15 minutes and I wouldn’t have been excited about paying the drop in fee for a short pool stay.
Libraries are no longer just a quiet place. There are areas where you can find this, but children don’t need to be hushed. Snacks can be eaten (meaning stays can be extended) and best of all, roaring laughter can be heard.
Buying books is expensive and not all are a hit. Library books are free! It’s a great way to dive into a new topic or theme that saves us the price tag of a new book.
Learning about the people in your community. So many people go to the library and it’s a wonderful place to introduce your little one to the many people who make up your neighbourhood
Safe technology education. We are not a big technology house but there are often child friendly computers or tablets that increase technological literacy with educational games.
Craft projects. Mess in someone else’s house? Yes, please!
Any time can be library time. You can come and go as you like. We love to take part in organized programming but also enjoy the quieter moments when we essentially have the children’s section to ourselves
Introduce children to the Arts. Libraries often display local art or local projects which can be a first experience for your child
Online resources – you don’t have to walk into the doors of the library to get the benefit. There are so many ebooks, online games and other resources on your libraries website
Encourages you as a parent to take part in community programs that you learn about from the library and greater community
Reinvigorates your own love of reading!
Exposing your child to library programs literally opens up the world to them, expands their knowledge and sets them up for incredible success. The role that public libraries play on children’s literacy development is astounding – I will be writing more about this in an upcoming post. Do you take part in your library services? What do you love about your public library or a fantastic public service in your neighbourhood?
Sharing is caring - Tell a friend about Books Bees & ABCs
I come from a background in Educational Psychology – studying the motivation of learning – but I know without a doubt I still have so much more to learn about the mind and how it works – how we learn and how we come to find our passions, talents and creativity. I have been so blessed to have guides and teachers of all sorts but the most incredible of those profound thinkers is my two year old daughter.
What she has taught me
Children connect to their environment in a way we seem to forget how to do as adults. They are intrigued by what they find around them, such as the box of cereal, as if each time they see it, it is filled with entirely new possibility and without the worry of time management or other pressing priorities that I know I find myself thinking if a similar situation was to come my way.
Learning through play is not new, but our understanding and the value we place on play has changed over the years. It’s difficult from an educator’s perspective, having to illustrate and prove learning to parents or administration (the problem to begin with… I’ll save that for another day), that something valuable has come from zoning into play dough for 25 minutes. But we know it to be true!
What Learning through Play looks like:
the child chooses to take part and is motivated to continue
flexible and changing
becoming lost in the experience
no outcome is expected
Benefits of Learning through Play:
play can cross cultures
become a means of communication between children, parents, teachers
new skills are applied and developed
safe space for experimentation
relationship and social skill building
and so much more…
A few years ago, I attended a conference where I met Sir Ken Robinson – a high point in my training and career. Embarrassingly, when given the opportunity to speak to my guru, I clammed up and stumbled over my words. I was at a loss for sharing with the man who sparked my own passion behind learning through play that in my collection of books, his were underlined and highlighted beyond recognition, and that he put into words what my vision for education was.
I’ll let you hear for yourself, how he beautifully describes the importance of finding our passion, and letting our children learn who they are through play.
The Importance of Play to Children’s Learning and Development
I have no idea what my now two year old will do when she grows up. It’s likely she will do something that doesn’t yet exist (as noted by Sir Ken Robinson in the video above), just as I now do something I would never have imagined possible for myself. Empowering children to follow their passions will prepare them for a world of possibility. Allowing them to play their way to understanding, to test theories, to practice what they know in a safe and flexible way will inspire them to be the creators of the future, to construct a life that our adult minds can’t yet fathom. We can let them be little, creative explorers, for tomorrow has yet to be discovered. Learning through play could very well change the world for the better.
Do you see your local school systems encouraging children to learn through play? How do you feel about the way your child is invited to learn something new? I would love to hear your perspectives on learning through play!
Sharing is caring - Tell a friend about Books Bees & ABCs
I am an Educational Consultant passionate about finding and sharing great resources and activities for moms who already have enough on the go. I’m here to make life a little easier! You’ve got this, Momma!