This simple activity uses just paper ( I use the back of scrap paper to be mindful of the environment), a crayon and Lakeshore’s rubbing plates. I included a sample photo of the number plates, but the letter plates are used in exactly the same manner. Such an easy activity, and yet it builds sensory-motor skills and can be a lot of fun! Learning to control a crayon and learning to recognize numbers and letters are essential before a child learns to write. Familiar letters and numbers will be easier to write. If your child can’t identify the symbol they are copying, then they may not be learning much from a handwriting lesson.
Children with learning differences or sensory processing issues are often uninterested in simple coloring or pre-writing activities. This multi-sensory activity appeals to kids who need more input to engage in learning. Preschoolers just love the vibration and noise that they create as their crayon bumps against the raised plastic ridges. The characters used to illustrate the number on the plate are recognizable to most toddlers, such as one birthday cake and stars. I have had children insist that they must make one for each family member. Daddy just had a birthday so he gets the cake, Mommy likes dogs so she gets that one, and on and on. Remember, these are children that rarely want to pick up a crayon for any reason!!!
I take the paper off of a 2-3 inch long preschool crayon, and turn it horizontally. It is very difficult for preschoolers to grasp the standard-thickness kindergarten crayons, so please use the larger diameter preschool size. Younger preschoolers need a little help to place their thumb on one side of the crayon, and four fingertips on the other ( a quadrupod grasp turned sideways). I model the crayon stroke on my own rubbing plate until the image is revealed and they become excited to try their own. I might also physically assist them to move the crayon up and down on the paper-covered plate if needed. It is fun to add layers of colors and see what happens! Repetition gives children the chance to develop motor planning skills and strengthen their grip.
I usually cut an 8.5×11 inch page horizontally to create two paper pieces. Each one is large enough to cover a single rubbing plate. I have enough paper overlap to tape the edges to the back of the plate if needed. This is helpful for younger children that aren’t able to effectively stabilize the paper with one hand and rub their crayon over the plate with the other. As a bilateral control activity it builds awareness of the body’s midline and developing differentiation of right and left hands. It can be discouraging for a child to have the paper move while rubbing; the image blurs and can be almost unrecognizable even for an adult.
Older children will use tape to connect a series together to spell their name or the name of a pet or family member. You could make a banner with them, or come up with your own creative use for these handy plates!