Have you ever wondered how to encourage empathy, increase fine and gross motor skills, social awareness, independent thinking, teamwork, independent play, or anything in-between within a classroom or at home? I have compiled quite an array of activities throughout my years. The majority of my activities were used and intended for a multi-age classroom. The children I’ve taught range in age between five and twelve years and include those with emotional, physical, behavioral, gifted, neurotypical, and learning disabled circumstances. The activities are therefore acceptable for a mixed range of abilities and ages. I have pondered what I have learned through many years of trial and error. My goal is to share these activities with parents and educators to enhance the lives of other children who could benefit from my ideas.
1) Musical Paper Plates: This game is an adaptation of musical chairs. Musical paper plates is especially suitable for children who present gross motor skill issues. The chance of injury is diminished as children cannot fall on a chair when children are vying for the last coveted spot. Plates are strategically spread out in a circle. When the music stops, a plate is removed. For children who present with socialization issues and struggle with the concept of being “out”, leave all paper plates in the game. Thus, no one wins or loses. An adaptation I made for letter and number recognition is to write numbers or letters on the plates and keep everyone in the game. i.e. If a child lands on the letter A etc., I differentiate my question according to each child’s ability and ask questions such as, What is the name of your letter? What sound does your letter make? Can you name a word that begins with your letter? Can you spell the word ? My goal is to provide a game here that includes all children, no matter what their ability is, at their level, and without singling children out. I make the same adaptations with numbers. If the child steps on number five, I may ask them to stomp their feet five times, give them a math problem to solve, ask what number they are standing on, and more. The options within this game are limitless. The game then continues with no one left out of the game. This game has proved to be extremely popular with the children.
2) Enhance Thinking Skills: One child sits in the middle of a circle and mimes emotions. The child who guesses the emotion goes in the middle and the game continues. This game is an awesome springboard for discussing feelings and reinforcing social awareness. An adaptation is to pick moral oriented situations out of a bowl, and having children act them out.
3) Share a Book: This is a voluntary activity that proved popular with the children. Rather than reading for the children, ask for volunteers who would like to read during circle time. This enhances reading skills, positive self efficacy, and teamwork. I adapt this activity so all children can participate no matter what their abilities or age. If a child volunteers to read to the class, but is an early or none reader, they are allowed to choose another child to assist them. I wish to emphasize that no child should ever be forced to read if they do not wish to. Forcing a child with a developmental challenge, reading issues, speech problems, etc. to participate can backfire. The child will lose self esteem, become embarrassed in front of peers, and withdraw. I still recall being an advanced reader in elementary school. I also suffered from “watery S’s.” My second grade teacher would force me to display my reading skills in-front of the class. It was humiliating and still resides in my memory today. After the fact, I recall pretending I struggled in reading so the teacher would stop choosing me. Some children will participate in the future if they are not forced and are allowed time to feel safe within the group.
4) Don’t Squish the Bug: This game can be played in a group, modified for two individuals, played one on one, or done just plain solo according to the child’s skills and social development. This game is great for increasing hand-eye coordination. The children fill balloons with jello and enjoy a game of catch, or adapted catch as mentioned above. It is suggested that this game be played outdoors. It is fun. However, when the balloon inevitably breaks – jello, jello everywhere. :-0)
I hope you enjoy my ideas. I would love feedback. If there is enough interest I will continue with weekly or bi – weekly curriculum ideas. Happy teaching and parenting.
Mari Nosal M.Ed.