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Learning At Home With Effortless Art

Learning At Home With Effortless Art

I know everyone has been scrambling to find fast and easy activities to do at home with their children as we are all navigating at home learning.  I know that we are all juggling working from home and teaching our own children, who are of multiple ages and grade levels.  It is challenging to find resources and activities that are easy to set up and that you can use materials from around your house.  Let's be real...we don't have the time or money to find the perfectly designed activities for every subject area.  And to be honest, you don't have to! 

We don't have the time to find the perfectly crafted and poised worksheet from Teachers Pay Teachers every day.  Honestly, when I was teaching, my go-to materials were dry erase boards, stickers, index cards, play dough, glue, and markers.  That's it, and that's what I'm using now for my son during this time that he is out of preschool.  Most days, I find scrap paper, glue, markers, if I'm lucky paint, and random craft supplies and create an activity.  I find LOTS of inspiration from my OT friends I follow on Instagram, I will be honest.  I end up adapting to fit the needs of what I have and what my son needs.  But mostly I take an idea and adapt, which is what I did every day as a special education teacher.  If you have basic materials around your house, you can do almost everything. 

I've posted images of some of our craft activities below from the past eight weeks with brief descriptions to help you adopt it for your home and children. 

I used an empty egg carton and let little guy have it it with some paint and cue tips.  We cut the carton apart and made caterpillars and flowers.  The cue tips were perfect for little hands to help get the paint into all the tiny crevices in the cartons.  Plus, cue tips are great for fine motor skills and developing a pincher grasp.  We got two different products from one carton and hours of fun! 

This was a recent project, and we only needed construction paper, glue, scissors, and a sheet of sturdy white paper.  We made a 3D amusement park by folding, curling, and gluing different strips of construction paper in different ways on our paper.  This is great for basis cutting and gluing practice, and all the folding and pinching is a workout for your fingers.  It's a really cool project when all completed.  My son loved being creative and thinking about how to connect and combine the different 3D shapes he had made. 

Here Crayon Kid uses Touch Dots on numbers I quickly wrote on sheets of scrap paper to help him count and add.  If it sounds like I created this activity out of nothing, I did, and it was ready in seconds.  And yes, I said scrap paper!  He peeled the stickers and placed them on each number for a little fine motor practice. 

 Sometimes you need a little sugar to get you through the day, and that's what we did with this activity!  We used Twizzlers pull and peel candy to form different letters. I called out the letter, and he made it with one more more Twizzlers.  Depending on the age of your child, you could do upper or lowercase letters, or you could have your child place the Twizzlers over top of a letter card to "trace" it.  This is great for little fingers and for using some hands-on strategies.  The best part? You can eat the materials when you are done!

This was the adorable scene I was greeted with one day when I came downstairs and saw what my husband and son had set up together.  Again, using some cardboard from our many, many Amazon boxes we have laying around, a square was cut out, a few holes were punched out, and ta-da!  A makeshift shoe was born and a perfect way for my son to practice tying shoes.  We taped it to the table for stability.  Another activity on the cheap for your kids, and reused easily again and again!

One of my son's favorite things to do at his preschool was the sensory table.  He loved it, especially when it was water play!  Well, I have a good old kitchen sink and a step stool, so that will work!  We pulled down these Bristle Blocks (remember those?) from the attic to play with, but they needed a good scrubbing first.  Water play at the Effortless Art sensory sink table commenced!  This was a good hour of time that my son was occupied in washing, playing, and creating at the sink.  Plus, he was already clean when he was done! 

There are so many more, but one of my favorite activities from our remote learning time was our nature scavenger hunt.  We searched for all kinds of items in our backyard, like sticks, flowers, acorns, leaves, etc.  Then we mixed them up together and made a nature soup!  This activity was complete with pretend taste testing and our compliments to the chef!  I loved making potions with my sister as a child and it was fun to see my son enjoy this just as much.

These were just a sampling of what I have been trying to do with my son over these past eight weeks.  Our Effortless Art Facebook page has them all, so please go check it out!  As a former elementary teacher, I admit, I have a good background of what to do and how to help, however, it is still very challenging to do this as I am working full time from home myself.  That's why I focused on the no mess no stress type activities, because that is what I could honestly handle.  I am a mother of ONE preschooler, and this was challenging for me.  I know that many of you mama's are juggling multiple children and multiple ages and stressing big time over this enormous undertaking.  I'm here to say that with some simple materials, simple ideas, your child will learn, and grow, and continue to positively develop, and you don't need Teachers Pay Teachers to do it!  

I'm thinking of you all!  I hope we can all continue to support each other during this crazy time.  Till next time,

Nancy 

Are You Ready to Relax?

Are You Ready to Relax?

     It's back to school time! Time for new supplies, new clothes, new teachers and classrooms, and high hopes for a positive new school year!  I remember always feeling a little "jittery" come back to school and a little nervous with all the unknowns that lay before me.  This is par for the course for many of our kiddos and usually these bouts of anxiety fade away within the first couple of weeks of the school year.  As a former elementary school teacher, I can attest that the teachers were just as nervous as the parents and children!

     But what about those students whose anxiety doesn't fade and who many struggle to regulate and calm themselves when they are over stimulated by their classroom environment?  As a special education teacher, I tried to have "sensory toolkits" set up in my classroom for my students to prepare for their sensory or anxiety needs.  But each child is different and they really benefit from personalized approaches.  Plus, my classroom was one environment.  What about those times when I did not see them, like the bus ride to and from school, or those tricky transitions to and from lunch and recess?  I talked to many parents who needed those same materials and tools at home and for their travels as well.  

     My students really needed a cool, hip, sensory travel pack that they could take with them, looked like a typical backpack, and still was functional for their needs.  I came across The Relax Pack when we were exhibiting at the AOTA conference in April this year, and I remember thinking, "Wow, if only I had this when I was teaching!"  The Relax Pack was created by pediactric occupational therapist, Aparna Guttery, who specializes in treating children with sensory processing differences and special needs. She designed this backpack to help support children with:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Sensory Processing Disorder
  • ADHD/ADD
  • Emotional Disturbance
  • Anxiety
  • And for ALL children in need of extra comfort

     Aparna knew the children she worked with and so many others deserved more effective and discreet tools to help support them being their best selves.  The easy accessibility of these tools are perfect for our kiddos to have on hand to help them overcome those challenging times with with success. Some of these unique patent pending features include a Hug Belt, which is a built-in neoprene compression belt for soothing deep pressure, Fidget Strips, which are interchangeable and removable sensory strips to fidget with, and D-rings to attach chewies to the RelaxPack so you will never lose them again! 

In addition, the backpack has:

  • A headphone port to play comforting music
  • A built-in protective tablet and phone sleeve
  • Mesh pockets for water bottles and to store Fidget Strips
  • Clip to hold keys
  • Built-in pouches and pockets to keep organized.

     I absolutely love this backpack and know it would have been so beneficial for my former students.  Our goal when serving students is to meet them where they are, understand their needs, and work to remove the barriers that are preventing them from succeeding.  Sensory regulation, attention, and anxiety are challenges that many students will face in one capacity or another at some point in their school experience.  RelaxPack is made to help students navigate and overcome these challenges with  "fun and function."  You can learn more about this produce and Aparna on her website, www.therelaxpack.com.  You can use code RELAX10 until October 1 for $10 off your purchase. 

Have you tried RelaxPack? Do you have other sensory tools that you love?  Comment and let us know about either below.

Till next time,

Nancy