Category Archives: Large Motor Skills

Growing an In-Sync Child (Giveaway!)

Growing an In-Sync Child

 Carol Kranowitz and Joye Newman had me interested before I even opened their new book, Growing an In-Sync Child.  I was already familiar with the Out-of-Sync Child books, written by Kranowitz as a toolbox for helping kids with Sensory Processing Disorder.  I had actually just picked up one of the resources to use with some of the consulting work I do when I was given a copy of this newer book.

The premise of the new book really struck me, and yet seemed so obvious.  The work that Carol and Joye had devoted more than 70 combined years to, has been life-changing  for children with SPD.  But children with SPD are not the only ones who become out-of-sync.  We all have our out-of-sync moments.  In fact, today’s pace and culture seems often to perpetuate this out-of-sync state.  As Joye and Carol question in their book, “Is it the child that is out of sync – or is it the world?”

The rough-and-tumble childhood that many of us enjoyed has been displaced in many corners by technology or litigated beyond recognition.  opportunities for movement and real life experience are often being traded for computer games and seat work in the name of academic progress.  But are we ignoring how children are naturally wired to develop, grow, and learn?

“Instant gratification may be possible when booting up a computer, but it is impossible when raising a child.  Times may change, but the time required for a child to grow and develop never will.  Human development permits no shortcuts.” (pg 5)

So Carol Kranowitz and Joye Newman applied their vast experience in the areas of education, human development, occupational therapy, and motor therapy to supply parents and caregivers with a very reader-friendly guide for giving ALL children playful opportunities to develop their bodies and minds. 

Their book explains the theory within the first fifty short but compelling pages.  It outlines the necessary components of development contributing to a state of being in-sync, falling into the three categories: sensory processing skills, perceptual motor skills, and visual processing skills.  They discuss, with great examples, how these skills that we often take for granted are developed through experience and why they are critical for any one of us just to get through the day.

Even seat work, they point out, relies upon skills gained through these playful experiences.  As they so poignantly write, it takes “years of moving to prepare the child to sit quietly at a desk.”

The bulk of the 200+ page book is devoted to playful application.  It’s an organized, user-friendly resource full of in-sync activities you can do with your child with just a few minutes and some everyday objects.  You’ll recognize some of the activities as fun games from your own childhood, but after reading the background, you’ll see them (and many other everyday activities) from a whole new perspective.

This book is a fantastic resource for parents, teachers, and caregivers and one of you will win a free copy this week!  Just hop onto Twitter and follow Carol and Joye (@InSyncChild) and me (@NotJustCute) and then leave a comment here letting us know you’re in!  I’ll select someone at random and let you know right here along with the Weekend Reads on Saturday morning.

So Get Moving!

Learn more at, www.joye&, Carol’s website, or Joye’s website

Both Joye and Carol will be appearing on The Coffee Klatch on Blog Talk Radio on Wednesday, April 20th!
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Filed under Article, Large Motor Skills, sensory activity

Eric Carle Author Study: The Grouchy Ladybug and The Very Clumsy Click Beetle

The Grouchy LadybugThe Grouchy Ladybug always catches me off-guard, because it seems to be missing the “Very”.  You know, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Lonely Firefly, The Very Busy Spider, The Very Clumsy Click Beetle, and…..The Grouchy Ladybug.  I guess he’s just a little grouchy.

Well, this ladybug, who’s feeling a little bit grouchy, lands on the same aphid-laden leaf as another ladybug, who’s not feeling the least bit grouchy.  One ladybug suggests they share, the other insists they’re all for him (I’m sure you can guess which was which).  The rest of the story follows the grouchy ladybug as he goes from one creature to the next, each bigger than the one before, trying to pick a fight.  He ends up trying to pick a fight with a whale, whose tail smacks him all the way back to that same aphid-laden leaf.  There, the polite ladybug offers again to share, and this time Mr. Grouchy realizes his life is much easier when he tries to get along. 

I can see where some might shy away from this book, as each page includes the dialogue, “Do you want to fight?”  But I think you can really turn that around and talk about how grumpy the ladybug is being, that he’s making poor choices, and that he’s having a bad day because of those choices.  I like to point out how much more cheerful the ladybugs are when they’re sharing with each other.

In addition to highlighting social skills, you can easily use this book to focus on a variety of math skills like size (with the animals in gradually increasing sizes), time, and number recognition.  You can throw in a science discussion as well, as you talk about the relationships between the aphids, the leaf, and the ladybugs.

While there are plenty of directions you could take for your activity, here are two I’ve used.

Counting by 2’s Ladybug Style

Draw a simple ladybug shape and put the same number of black dots on each side.  Make corresponding number cards.  Use the cards as a counting and matching activity, to reinforce counting by twos, or basic addition.  I like to set out the number cards, and then give the children the ladybugs and have them find the right “home” for the ladybug.  By watching how they accomplish this task, I can learn a lot about their math skills.

Number Time


I’ve also made these simple clocks to use as an extension of this story.  (Each page begins with the time, on the hour.)  I used a sturdy Chinet plate, wrote numbers (somewhat unevenly, I now notice) around the edges of the back.  Then, I drew the minute hand, pointing at the 12, and inserted a movable hour hand using a brass brad. 

You can use this quick clock to work on telling time on the hour, but I think the major skill here is simple numeral recognition.  I may give a clock to a child and ask her to show me 3 o’clock.  Or I may do the reverse, showing her the clock and asking for the time.  In either instance, the child is learning about telling time, but she’s also making critical connections between the written and spoken labels for each numeral.

The Very Clumsy Click Beetle (Eric Carle's Very Series)The Very Clumsy Click Beetle tells of a poor soul, trapped on his back, desperately trying to flip back over.  With some coaching from an elder Click Beetle, and  a lot of perseverance, the young whippersnapper finally finds his feet on the ground.

Take the opportunity to talk about patience, practice, and persistance with this story!

After reading, do some movement activities! Naturally, somersaults are at the top of the list!  (Make sure that you have the children attempt the skill one at a time to avoid collisions!)  You could also do an obstacle course with a low balance beam, tunnels for crawling, and a hula hoop as a target for one big, long jump!  Throw in some expressive movements, by challenging the children to move like spiders, butterflies, or grasshoppers.  Activities like these use large motor skills, support physical development, and truly help children make active connections to reading!

Find links to all the Eric Carle activities in this unit.

For more bug-themed ideas, check out this brainstorm! 



Filed under Building Readers, Large Motor Skills, Learning through Play and Experience, math activity

Playing in the Gutters

 Anyone who knows me well, knows I am no stranger to Home Depot.  Having married a man with a penchant for home remodeling, I have learned to navigate the aisles well, in search of the right size of screws, the critically needed electrical wire, or the aesthetically pleasing cabinet pull.  Almost without fail, I see something at “the Depot” that appeals to the preschool teacher in me (or maybe it’s the preschooler in me). 

Well, here’s one hardware store find, I think is a blast to use with kids.  These are vinyl gutters.  I can’t recall the price, but I know it was just a few dollars.  They’re the same kind used to run along the edge of your roof.  I had them cut on site at a variety of lengths- 1, 2, 3, and 4 feet.  (I don’t know if there is typically a charge to cut it, I just asked and mentioned it was for preschool.  It’s amazing what people will do for those little ones!)

Once they’re cut, children can use their own imaginations along with constructive and spatial skills to build ramps – or a series of ramps- for cars or balls right in your living room or block area.  Couches, chairs, blocks, stairs, hands, almost anything can be used to prop them up into an inclined plane!

You can set them up with cups, bins, or buckets to catch balls, marbles, or even water, as it runs along the track!  Let the children be involved in creating the track and setting out the targets.  Their gears will be turning as they hypothesize and experiment with their new ideas.

Use them in a large water table, or outside with a small pool.  Add some toy spiders and sing The Itsy Bitsy Spider, acting it out as you go!  Set them out in your sandbox for a sand slide or cement chute.  Place them in your playground and see what else the children use them for!

You could even use the gutters on a warm summer play day and have a water race!  Have a group figure out how to work together with their pieces of the gutter to get the water from point A to point B.  They can hold them at different heights as the water runs from one person’s section to another’s!  They quickly learn what a little elevation does for a ramp!  It’s a great mix of science and social skills in one as they work together toward the goal.  (You could play essentially the same game using a ball instead.)

These gutters could be used in so many ways!  Your children will likely show you some new ideas as you let them explore with them!  They really lend themselves to exploration with physics concepts like velocity, inertia, motion, acceleration, gravity….you get the idea.  As an added bonus, they store rather nicely as they stack one inside the other.  So go on.  Play in the gutters!  Tell your mom I said you could.


Filed under Blocks, Large Motor Skills, Learning through Play and Experience, science activity, supplies

Five Favorites….To Start

OK, for those of you looking for more Dr. Seuss activities, here are five favorites to start off with!  More to come!

(Does anyone else ever feel like they’re juggling this many things?)

The Cat in the Hat

After reading this timeless and iconic favorite, follow-up by playing your own version of UP, UP, UP with a Fish!  You can use balls or bean bags to represent “the fish” and toss with a partner, stepping backward after each catch.  Or you can simply add physical tasks, one on the other.  Stand on one foot.  Now hop!  Now reach one hand up like you’re holding a fish bowl.  Now fan yourself with the other hand.  Oh, no!  Everyone fall down!  Great for large motor skills!

Green Eggs and Ham

Do I have to say it?  Make some green eggs!  Just add a little green food coloring (maybe even play around with color mixing by adding blue to the yellow eggs).  Involve the little ones and build vocabulary by using good descriptors as you work.  Emphasize the change from liquid to solid as you crack, whip, cook, and serve!  I do so love green eggs and ham!  Oh, as an insider tip, when you read this book, toward the end, the characters are talking underwater.  Wiggle your finger over your lips as you read those lines to simulate underwater talking.  The kids eat it up!

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

This book is essentially a series of wacky rhymes!  One advantage to this is the fact that you can edit and shorten it as much as you need to in order to match the attention span of your audience, since you don’t really need to tie together a storyline.  Since it’s all about rhyming, follow up with a rhyming activity.  Make rhyming sandwiches, as in this activity, or use the same cards and have the children jump, clap, ring a bell, etc. when they hear a rhyming pair.

There’s a Wocket in My Pocket

This is another perfect book for rhymers!  Especially to help them focus on the sound, not the meaning since the rhyming pairs are all invented.  Play a Wocket in the Pocket game afterward.  Create a wocket by enlarging the illustration onto tagboard or simply drawing a face on a tongue depressor. It doesn’t have to be elaborate!  Have one child, the seeker, close her eyes, while someone else hides the wocket by sitting on it.  The seeker then asks a child, “Is there a wocket in your pocket?”  If the guess is wrong, that child can give a clue as to where the wocket is.  (“No, but it’s hiding by someone with pink shoes.”)  Rhyming clues are even better.  (“No, but it’s hiding near someone with pink moos.”)  Take turns being the seeker and the hiders!

The Foot Book

Even as babies, my boys loved this book!  Extend by painting with your feet!  Use the same materials you would for finger painting, but use your toes (or entire feet) instead.  Have children sit in a chair and paint on the paper on the floor, or roll out some big sheets of paper and let them run with painted feet!  Have a wash bin and towels handy!

Next up: If I Ran the Zoo, And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street, and Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?

For more Dr. Seuss activities, click here!


Filed under book activity, Building Readers, Create, Large Motor Skills, Learning through Play and Experience, Recipes - Edible, science activity

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons- Don’t Just Listen, Get Up and Move!

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons has always been one of my favorite musical works.  This program music is so beautiful and powerful, but also so descriptive, you can literally see in your mind and feel in your bones what Vivaldi is trying to describe with his music.  (And if you aren’t sure what he’s trying to describe, check out these sonnets Vivaldi wrote to correspond with his music.)  Because the music is so suggestive of movement, it’s perfect for a music and movement activity with children!

I usually start out with the children by mentioning that this music was written by a man named Antonio Vivaldi a long, long time ago, and that he wanted to write music that sounded like the different seasons.  Then I announce each season as the music begins and we move to the music, calling out new movements to go with the music.  For example, in the Spring segment, we start out marching, then as the music quiets we tiptoe, as it has quick runs we jump and talk about flowers blooming up out of the ground or birds jumping into flight.  For Summer, we usually pant and fan, or slowly walk or crawl looking for water, because the music is slow and hot.  Fall involves some hands as falling leaves, of course, and Winter is freezing and shivering, or perhaps a snowstorm, dancing with white scarves.  (Here’s a great YouTube clip of Winter.  You can find other clips online as well.)

Create the movements together, listening carefully to what you hear and considering what you and the children know about each season the music is representing.  Should you be moving quickly or slowly?  Will your body be down low or up high?  How could you show leaves falling/birds singing/sun shining?  You may even want to listen to the music without any dancing first, and talk about what you hear and the types of movements you might use before you begin the movement portion of the activity.  I’m not suggesting that everyone should be doing the same choreographed movements, but some discussion time to consider movement will make them more intentional.  I don’t usually use Vivaldi’s entire movement, but enough to keep the children involved.  I may just use the Winter movements if we’re talking about that season in particular.  If I’m doing all four seasons, I may transition by saying something like, “Oh this is just way too hot here in the summer, let’s look for someplace cooler!”

This type of music and movement activity is great for exposing children to famous works of music and increasing their understanding and appreciation of it.  More importantly, it builds in them the ability to create as they internalize the music and express it again through their unique movements.  The movements also increase muscle strength and control as well as an awareness of personal space and boundaries (something you may want to address at the beginning of this endeavor).  The activity also builds active listening skills, which are important not just to music appreciation, but to learning in general.  For more information about the importance of music activities for preschoolers read here.

For more favorite fall activities, click here!

For more wintry activities, click here!

Top photo by Kerbi.


Filed under Large Motor Skills, Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity

Stuff the Snow Clouds!

Here’s a quick activity to do as part of your music and movement time, after reading a great wintry book, or any time you just need to work some wiggles out!  You don’t even need any supplies, so it’s ready to go whenever you need it!

Have the children help you make a snowstorm by first, reaching up high, as high as they can, to fill the clouds with snow.  Reach with alternating arms and really get into the action, stuffing those clouds full of flakes!  Then, once they’re “full”, the snow begins to fall!  Wiggle your fingers and sway slowly from side to side, all the way down to your toes for a gentle snow storm.  Reach up again and repeat several times.  If a bigger storm is in the forecast, speed it up and wiggle wildly to make a blizzard!  Change up the speeds to keep it fun and to teach the concepts of “fast” and “slow”, as well as giving opportunities for children to develop motor control and impulse control.  

Have fun, and let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! 

For more wintry activities, click here!

Top graphic by Kriss Szkurlatowski.

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Filed under Large Motor Skills, Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity, Transitions

Leaf Pounding

Leaf pounding

This is one of my favorite activities!  Help your child take a leaf and place it between two strips of muslin or other white, cotton fabric.  Together, hammer the muslin with a rubber mallet.  As the mallet strikes the leaf, the chlorophyll is released from the leaf and absorbed by the fabric.  Colored leaves in the fall work also as long as they have not become too dry (though their red and purple colors come from a type of sugar in the tree instead of chlorophyll.  Check out this website  for more science information about fall leaves.) 

When I’m talking with children as they do this activity, I mention that the leaves are holding the color inside, kind of like a water balloon.  When those balloons are hit, they break and the color comes out onto the fabric. 

This experience builds science knowledge while also providing a large motor activity.  Obviously, with all the pounding, this activity can be noisy, and it requires enough room for safely swinging the mallet.  Outside is ideal!  That way, the children can also search for their leaves as they wait for a turn.

Find more about trees and leaves at the fall favorites page!

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Filed under Create, Large Motor Skills, Learning through Play and Experience, science activity