Tag Archives: Melissa and Doug

Melissa And Doug Tape Activity Book Is Reusable Fun

 

I am so excited when I find a truly fun toy that builds the visual and fine motor skills that my preschool and early elementary clients need.  I am giving this book to 2 of my best friend’s grandchildren (ages 8 and 10) today.  She and her husband have them for the holiday week, and if their outdoor plans get rained out, she will be thanking me long after they have gone home. They will be entertained for hours.

This is a book that is intended for kids over 3, but until about 6, some adult assistance is probably a good idea and under 5 is necessary to prevent problems.   No child will have any idea that they are building bilateral control skills, developing coordination for cutting and handwriting, and gaining spatial-perceptual skills for reading and writing.  To them, it is all just creative fun!

The book is ring-bound and the pages are laminated.  This creates a sturdy book that resists tears and arguments.  It also means that the tape sticks easily and removes almost as quickly.  One of my clients told me last week “I just love to take the tape off!”  Narrow paper tape is a little tricky to tear with your fingers, so kids under 6 or so will need some help, and kids 6 and up will need a lesson in how to tear tape.  I measure and tear the tape for the under 5’s, and ask the 5’s to use safe scissors to cut the tape as I hold it.  Take your tape pieces and stick them to the white spaces in the picture to complete the design.  I love the idea that kids can go “logical”, for example, and put red tape on the red barn, or choose to use all the colors randomly and make a kaleidoscope barn!  I also recommend placing more tape to create silly designs.  Red tape flames coming out of the helicopter, the big spider with home-made baby tape spiders, etc.

Placing the tape correctly requires the use of both hands. Kids need to be able to grade their pressure and coordinate finger movements to release tape onto the picture accurately.  You can (and I recommend) talking with preschoolers about the line directions as “horizontal”, “diagonal”, and so on.  Knowing the words that teachers use for handwriting instruction makes learning easier.  Knowing the proper words that adults use is empowering.

Measuring whether the tape is the correct length, and if not, deciding what to do about that is a wonderful way to build pre-math and math skills.  Bring a ruler and this book with you to a family restaurant, and don’t tell kids that they are working on math skills.  I don’t know if the Montessori teachers do measuring activities, but it sure would fit into their philosophy.

For the little guys, there can never be too much tape.  Sadly, M. and D. feel differently, and only include 4 rolls of 1/4 inch tape. They don’t sell the tape separately. I guess you could buy paper tape and cut it to the correct width, but that is a pain.  I nosed around Amazon and did not see clear choices for narrow paper tape.  The books are affordable enough that you could just pick up another one, and maybe get one for each child in the house.  Perhaps they could trade tape colors so that the kid who loves red gets 2 rolls and trades off the green and yellow.

Now you can see why I am so excited about this activity book.  So much fun and creativity for a wide range of ages, and no child even suspects that they are gaining valuable skills this summer!

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Build Pre-Writing Skills With A Focus on Scribbling

The greatest criticism an older sibling can level at a young child’s drawing is to call it “scribble scrabble”.  But wait!  If you want to develop finger control for future handwriting success, then you want more scribbling and coloring!  Random strokes aren’t going to move the needle forward for a child older than 3 years of age with typical visual and motor skills.  This is the time for good tools and materials that are selected to build skills and creativity.  Before a child writes letters, coloring and scribbling with intention and focus builds hand strength, hand control, visual-perceptual skills, and more!  Here are suggestions on  how to harness the power of the scribble with young children:

  1. Pick sturdy paper.  Young children are learning to control the amount of force they use, and if the paper tears, they can become discouraged.  Cheap coloring books have thin pages and will not survive the enthusiastic strokes of younger children.  Print out pictures from the internet on your thickest paper or buy great coloring products from companies like Melissa and Doug.  Their coloring pads use wonderfully sturdy paper.  Short on cash?  Study the quality of your junk mail.  Some of my junk mail uses nice sturdy paper, so I flip it over to the other side and use it for scribbling.
  2. Some threes and fours enjoy the possibilities of a blank page, but there are young children who color more, and color longer, on a simple graphic that is meaningful to them.  Handwriting Without Tears does an especially good job with their “My Book” and their preschool workbook pages.  I also search the internet for free coloring pages that have simple drawings with strong appeal.  In therapy, I will find very simple coloring pictures that have designs that require the target strokes a child needs for writing. Develop circular strokes and small wiggle strokes with bubbles or chocolate chip cookies, and swords or kite strings drawn on a diagonal for a child that is practicing “K” or “X”.  Coloring on a simply drawn Darth Vader or Rapunzel picture is so much more fun for these children than filling in a geometric design.
  3. The shape and coloring properties of your tools matter more at this age.  Handwriting Without Tears sells their flip crayons, those tiny two-sided crayons that require a tripod grasp.  Genius. But some of my kids, even the 4 year-olds that the flip crayons are designed for, need a thicker crayon.  They have low muscle tone or another issue that affects their ability to sense what is in their hand.  They need more “square footage” to refine their grasp in this pattern.  I break the thicker crayons in two.    Crayons are waxy, and that waxy grippy-ness helps kids feel what their hands are doing.  Markers just glide, and don’t give the kids with low tone or coordination issues enough sensory information about what is happening as they color.
  4. Look beyond the crayon.  Chalk has the same grippy input as crayons, plus the sound on a chalkboard gives another sensory reinforcer to boost attention.  Don’t buy thick sidewalk chalk and expect to build pencil grasp.  It is way too wide for little fingers.  Buy thin chalk once a child doesn’t press so hard that it crumbles all the time.  One of my clients used pastels for extra grippy input and fabulous colors.  They were super short but a little thicker than flip crayons.  He graduated to Crayola’s preschool pencils and is on his way to a standard pencil.
  5. For kids whose strokes barely registered paper when they scribble, the Magna-Doodle boards with magnetic pens can reward them with a dark mark on the screen from only light touch.  Finally, a tablet stylus (my favorite is iCreate’s stylus that looks like a preschool crayon) also gives some resistance and actually builds control while trying to drag and swipe while using it.
  6. Why haven’t I mentioned pencils?  Because until a child has a decent amount of control with their strokes, I agree with HWT and don’t bring pencils into the conversation.  Pencils require a lot of control to avoid falling into a fisted grasp.  I did review Crayola’s preschool pencils last yearPreschool Pencils That Develop Hand Control (and with tips that won’t constantly break!), and I use HWT’s pencils with the older 4’s and all kindergarteners.  This year I started using the Grotto grip The Pencil Grip That Strengthens Your Child’s Fingers As They Write.with thin colored pencils for my kids that did not progress their grasp pattern with a heavy diet of play-based hand strengthening, but had all the other components of readiness to start writing.   It has worked better than I ever thought possible!
  7. Color with a child and make your comments count.  Why?  Preschoolers don’t always want to be told how to do something, but they watch everything we do and listen to everything we say.  Describe exactly how you plan to do a good job, how you match your stroke to the shape of the design that you are coloring, and how you fill in a design without going over the lines.  Be proud of your work if you want a child to value their efforts too.  Narrate what you are doing and why with lots of details, But don’t direct the child to copy you.  They might start to do that spontaneously.
  8.  Extra Bonus Round:  Use prepositions and describe shapes that kids need to know in order to follow handwriting instruction later on.  They need to find out what is right and what is left, what the top-middle-bottom of a shape means, and what triangles, rectangles,straight lines, curves and diagonals are.  HWT teaches all that in the preschool book, but if you are using these concepts with 3.5-4.5 year olds, you never know what is going to stick.  It all adds up to writing readiness.

Color With Melissa and Doug: Your Child Won’t Know He Is Getting Ready to Write!

Tear off these large sheets of sturdy paper so it lies flat for easy coloring.

Tear off these large sheets of sturdy paper so it lies flat for easy coloring.

One of my favorite toy makers (sorry, Santa!) is Melissa and Doug.  Their well-designed toys are entertaining to children and satisfy the esthetic and educational needs of parents.  But did you know that you can use their fabulous coloring pads to develop pre-writing skills in your preschooler?

Their jumbo coloring pads come in a wide range of themes.  You can buy a vehicle, princess or animal theme, or go all-out with a blue/pink combo pack that either has dinos/vehicles/sports and hearts/princesses/fairies.  I know it is not totally PC, but I have had specific requests from little clients for themes that speak to them.  You like what you like.   I used the “blue” coloring pad for my illustration since my caseload is about 75% boys, and they are usually less likely to want to color.  I have to work harder to engage the guys in fine motor play.  The animal-themed book appeals to all children.

Now….you get the best results when you color together.  How YOU color, and what you demonstrate and say about your coloring will make all the difference!  When you know what will build their skills,  coloring turns into a fun learning opportunity for a preschooler.  I use Handwriting Without Tears in my private practice.  Their preschool workbooks are designed developmentally to bring your child through the stages of pre-writing all the way to writing uppercase letters.  They have a nice coloring section, and each page has some coloring opportunities with each letter.  But some children need more practice with controlling a crayon.  Enter Melissa and Doug and you.

Preparation:  Select your sheet for maximum interest (your child’s) and target pages that have a variety of vertical, horizontal, and circular shapes.  If you know that your child loves cars and is not making a circular scribble yet, then you really want a picture of cars, a sun, or an animal sheet with lots of little animal heads to color in.  You are going to color upside down, with your paper directly above your child’s.  He can see the compelling details of your picture, and can more easily mimic your strokes.  Feel free to ad-lib.  Who says you cannot add circular clouds, vertical blades of grass, or a horizontal road?

Step 1:  Identify what stroke (vertical, horizontal, circular) your child is commonly using.  Commonly, young children exclusively use a vertical stroke.  Older child with some fine motor delays will turn her paper to fill in shapes rather than alter her crayon stroke.

Step 2:  Demonstrate a new stroke, and mention that grown-ups and older kids use their fingers in different ways to color in shapes depending on the shape they want to fill in.  Mention that kids who are learning may have to go slower to control their crayon.  You can offer to work on part of their sheet, or on yours.  You might say that you tend to use too much force when you are trying something new, so you will be making an effort to press lightly and not break the crayon.  Small people like to hear that adults make mistakes too.

Step 3:  Reward and reinforce all sincere effort.  Some cautious children are hesitant to try something new in front of you to avoid a witness to their failure, but will practice on their own.  Some kids need more help and support from an occupational therapist.  But everyone loves the Melissa and Doug pages!