Monday, August 30, 2010

Five Fabulous Fine Motor Skill Activities

The return of school is just one week away for most children in our area.  
(A sigh of relief is heard across the nation)
Today I put together a Fine Motor Skills Activity Box for the kids to play with.
You may be surprised to learn that there are many activities that kids can participate in that will help strengthen their fine motor skills and inevitably help them hone their printing and writing skills.
Fine motor skills won't develop over-night, but with time and practice.
Kids need to practice using the muscles in their fingers and hands in order to develop the necessary coordination required for printing and cutting.    
Like I've mentioned before, I am a huge believer in learning through play.  Here are some activities that my kids are engaging in that will help them develop their fine motor skills and pre-printing skills in preparation for school next week.

1.  Make some FrootLoop necklaces with pipe cleaners (tip alert-store pipe cleaners neatly in a paper towel roll)
2. Make a bracelet using a pipe cleaner and straws. Cut straws into 1/2 inch pieces and string them onto pipe cleaners (kids can also practice patterning with this activity)
3. Have children practice putting nuts on a bolt
4. Have kids practice squeezing clothespins with their dominate hand.
5. Have the child pick up pennies with their dominate hand only.  Counting can be incorporated into this activity.  If the child is extra ambitious they can practice using chop sticks to pick up the items in the box.

The best thing about this activity box is that it contains mostly household items that cost very little.  There really is no need to spend lots of money on expensive toys in order to teach your child simple skills.

Here is a snapshot of Sapphire transferring colored water with a medicine dropper. We borrowed this great idea from The Activity Mom  I suggest you visit her site for other great craft ideas and kids activities.

Here Sapphire practices her dexterity by transferring poms poms with tweezers.

This cool video  got Opal pumped about his finger soccer skills!  Check it out!  Opal wasn't really keen about crafting, cutting, card lacing or making jewelery therefore I had to tweak some activities to suite his interests.
He much preferred flicking marbles into a cardboard net, hammering nails, finding fossils in play dough, painting on an easel ( upright surfaces encourages a stable wrist position to develop good thumb movements) and wheel barrel walking( hold the feet of the child and have them walk on their hands)

I hope this post was helpful.  Developing pre-printing skills is an important part of building your child's self confidence as they head off to school this year.  Feel free to leave me a comment if you need any more ideas!
I would also love to hear about some other activities you think are beneficial in developing fine motor skills
Also, don't forget to enter my giveaway that is closing in less than 48 hours!!!!!!  
---------------------------------------------------------------->Refer to the R sidebar!
Cheers and hope you are enjoying this last drop of summer!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Introducing your preschooler or young child to computers

Like it or not our childrens' lives are already influenced by technology.  Personal computers are one of the main components of technology that your child may come in contact with at a young age.
Sapphire has experienced first hand how computers can contribute to learning.
Much of her school work is modified by using a computer and some assistive devices.
Computers have proven extremely beneficial to kids with certain speech, audio, and motor limitations. Kids , with special needs can use alternative input and output devices (assistive technologies) to interact with computers and do things that they normally could not accomplish independently. 

Studies suggest children 3 and 4 years of age are developmentally ready to explore computers, and most early childhood educators see the computer center as a valuable activity center for learning. Timing is crucial. Children need plenty of time to experiment and explore.  However, one can not overlook the concept that computers may benefit in the development of fundamental skilsl.
Overall, the benefits seem to outweigh the drawbacks. And, the fact is, actively involved parents can control most of the drawbacks.  Constant surveillence is very necessary, especially regarding the internet. 
That being said, I would love to share with you some of our favorite online educational resource sites.

1. and early school age
2. and early school age (check out the links to other great sites)
4. and early childhood
5. -preschool

What other educational sites do you visit with your kids?  What is your take on computers and kids?
Are they an essential tool for learning or is computer use in young children a growing concern?  Let me hear what you think about this subject!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A quick gift to cheer someone up!

The other day a good friend of mine was paddling through some rough waters. I wanted to send a little sunshine her way but a card did not seem suffice! The only thing that kept running through my head was that saying

"When life hands you lemons, make lemonade"

I had absolutely no time for shopping therefore I sorted through my cupboards and put together this little gift!
A jar full of lemonade mix.   Rather adorable don't you think?
I had previously purchased the jar from the bulk store and the lemonade mix came from my pantry.  I printed off a label from google images as well as the mix instructions.  Add a few candy lemons and the "saying" Voila,  you have the perfect "Thinking Of You" gift to give anyone, anytime for very little money!

I also filled a basket full of fresh lemons, a lemonade pitcher and several glasses.
Simple, affordable and a  perfect gift for the purpose!
Do you have any simple "Get Well", "Sending You Sunshine", "Thinking Of You" gift ideas that you would love to share?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Little kids can have big imaginations with a cardboard box!

Imagination: the ability to remember, dream, create, improvise and in the process entertain oneself anywhere and anytime. 

There's never a reason to let a good box to go to waste. The next time you see one lying around your house, put it to good use and create an amazing new toy for your child to play with. The best part is that it's virtually free and the memories will last a lifetime! Don't forget to take photos of your project so your child can always have the memories of the cardboard creation that you made together!

Here's our most recent cardboard creations.

Opal took full advantage of honing his business skills! 
This is a simple activity that encourages coin recognition and math skills.
All you need are some left over flowers, a decorated box and a pretend cash register.

This box was converted into a library. 
Sapphire pretended to be the librarian. 
I gave her a bag of books to scan and she was responsible for sorting them into alphabetical order.
We focused on sorting books by the title and then by the author.
We also discussed the difference between the author and the illustrator.

What is the most creative thing you've made out of a cardboard box?  Send me a pic of your creation and I'll post it on my blog and link back to your blog.
Hope this post inspires you to "think inside the box"!!! 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Learning To Read Can Be A Bumpy Road-Bumpy Books Makes It As Easy As ABC!

Multi-sensory teaching techniques are frequently used for students with  Learning Disabilities  (LD), however, all students can benefit from this teaching style.  The more senses you engage when teaching your child to read, the more success you'll discover! 
Studies show that only 30% of the population learn visually, therefore, it is important that caregivers and teachers use teaching methods that engage all or some of the remaining senses. 
The most effective teaching method for all children, particularly those exhibiting signs of a learning difficulty, is a multi-sensory approach. In fact, this is imperative for dyslexic students.  Multi-sensory teaching is exactly as it sounds, utilizing all the senses to relay information to students.

Sapphire is a prime example of how a child can benefit from this type of teaching approach.  Her auditory processing and speech/language skills are impaired.  It is important, therefore, she utilize all of her senses, particularly touch and movement.  Her brain responds best to tactile and kinetic memories.  The multi-sensory approach enables the child to use their personal areas of strength to help them learn. 

I was recently given the opportunity to test drive the bumpy books   teaching tool and to be honest I didn't hesitate to jump on it. 
The Bumpy Books manual is a teaching tool that helps you teach your child to read.  Phonetic awareness is the first step in learning to read. 
The book allows the child to learn using the multi-sensory approach.    The child or student is given the opportunity to feel, see, hear and say each letter in the book. 

Sapphire really benefited from the tactile portion of this book.  She enjoyed tracing the letters with her finger and feeling the bumps that are strategically placed along the path of the letter shape.   Opal really appreciated the visual content in the book.  Karen Goldberg is the fabulous illustrator responsible for the design and unique illustrations in the book.  The colors are very vibrant and the pictures associated with the letters are very engaging.  I personally enjoyed the helpful hints on each page.  For example page 11's helpful hint- To make the sound "f" you should instruct the child to push the breath out through their teeth.  This allows you to teach using the sound/symbol relationship that is necessary for reading. 

Most importantly this is a teaching manual that eliminates the stress and frustration felt by caregivers who may not "know where to begin" when teaching a child to read. 

The book was developed by Ann Edwards who is a licensed  Reading Specialist and certified member of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practioners and Educators but more importantly a MOM!  (In fact a mom of 6!!!)

Sapphire, Opal and myself give this book Five Stars!
In fact,  I plan on ordering several copies to give to my nieces and nephews who are entering Kindergarten this fall.
I would recommend this book for children ages 4-7 and for children struggling with reading and language development.

I feel the price tag of $25.00 is unbelievably reasonable considering the resources you are given when you purchase the book. 
I am encouraging all of my readers to go to their website and learn more about how you can purchase this wonderful teaching aid.   Click Here for a video description of how bumpy books can help your child learn to read and  here to see all the press coverage this great book is receiving. 

Now here is the exciting part! 

Ann Edwards has graciously given me the opportunity to give away a bumpy book to one of my "Three Jewels In My Crown" readers.

Here is the super easy way to get your hands on this unique book. 

1. Share with me- What is your child's favorite book to read?
2. Let me know what book you read last.  Maybe I'll check it out and suggest if to my fellow Book Clubbers(not sure if Book Clubbers is an actual word but it's my blog so I can use it if I want) :)

For additional entries you can leave me a separate comment letting me know that

  • you follow Three Jewels In My Crown
  • you subscribe to Three Jewels In My Crown via email
  • follow me on twitter and/or tweet about this giveaway

This contest is open to all residents of the United States and Canada.  The contest will commence Sept 1, 2010 at 11:59pm est.  Come on back here on  September 2, 2010 to find out who the lucky winner is.  The winner will be chosen via

GOOD LUCK and happy reading everyone!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Egg Carton Bulletin Board Craft

As you can tell our family loves arts and crafts.  I feel it's important to support and honor a child's creativity by displaying it for others to see. Unfortunately, it's impossible to save and display every single "masterpiece".   
Like most parents, I used to file my kids' artwork in the G&R folder late at night. (G&R-garbage and recycling)
Now, we've dedicated a "intentional display space" in our kitchen to show off selected creations of Sapphire, Opal and Pearl's.
The artwork goes up and down quite regularly (once a week we switch it up).  The artisan gets to choose which piece is worthy of the display center. (remember less is more).  
We always take a picture of the old display before we introduce new artwork.  This way, children can look back on their creations after it's reached it's final destination (G&R or possibly their artwork portfolio)

As you can see our display center is nothing special but it serves the purpose.  I could have purchased another cork board but this is much more creative and it cost next to nothing to make.
Visit here for instructions


  • 3 Egg Cartons
  • Scissors or x-acto knife
  • Masking tape
  • ribbon, yarn or string
  • Hole Punch
  • Optional: Paint, glitter and other decrotive items.
Cut the lids off the egg cartons leaving the bumpy part of the container. On one leave the flap that you use to close the egg carton with but with the other two cut that piece off.
Using masking tape, secure each carton to each othe. Make sure to leave the egg carton with the flap on the outside.
Punch two holes in the flap approximately 4" apart.
Tie a knot on one end of your ribbon, yarn or string big enough so it will not be pulled through the hole. Pull string though hole leaving the knot on the backside. Pull the end of the string through the second hole and tie a knot.  I opted to spray the egg cartons with brown paint and I added a top coat of gold glitter.  You can decorate yours how you like but I prefer to keep the focus on the artwork instead of the display center. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

I am truely a wealthy woman-Say Hello To My Most Precious Jewels!

~The true measure of wealth is how much we would be worth if we lost all our money~

Today I want to share with you the most precious items in my life!  My children!  I am very selective about discussing them in my blog and about posting pics of them online.  Today is an exception.  It is impossible to describe how much I love these precious minature people.

I am overjoyed to share these tiny pieces of me with all of you!

Sapphire currently 6 1/2 (never forget the half)

She is my social butterfly!  She can make friends with a fly on the wall!

Opal currently 4 1/2
Recently had his training wheels removed and is now building his own bike ramps

Pearl-currently 14 months 
My shy, timid, precious little girl! 
Try not to smile back at this little doll-nearly impossible!

My baby bird 80% of the time-with her mouth wide open waiting for more food!

Nothing else matters!!!!!

Hope this helps you put a face to a name when I mention Sapphire, Opal and Pearl in my blog posts!
Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Why everyone should have a memorial for the family pet!

Flora Connell 2009-2010

Swim Towards The Light Dear Friend

Dear Friends,
Flora Connell was laid to rest today
Her life was ended much too short!  Cause of death was determined to be from accidental candy sprinkle intoxication.

Funeral proceedings were as follows

Welcome……………………..………….. Mrs Crystal Connell

Life Sketch/Obituary ………Opal Connell

Musical number (Give said the little stream)…………...hummed by Sapphire Connell

Processional to graveside ………………. Led by Dorothy the Dinosaur

Poetic reading……………read by Robert Munch

Burial Ceremony………………………………………….. Grave Digger the Monster Truck

Pall bearers..............................................................Opal and Saphhire Connell

Honorary pall bearers.............................................Bailey, Pearl, Mommy and Daddy

Flora and her family thank you for all the love and support you’ve shown!!!

A poem dedicated to our beloved friend Flora

~We Only Wanted You~

They say memories are golden, well maybe that is true.
We never wanted memories, we only wanted you.
A million times we needed you, a million times we cried.
If love alone could have saved you, you never would have died.
In life we loved you dearly, in death we love you still.
In our hearts you hold a place no one could ever fill.
If tears could build a stairway and heartache make a lane,
We'd walk the path to heaven and bring you back again.
Our family chain is broken, and nothing seems the same.
But as God calls us one by one, the chain will link again.

So why did I go to all this trouble to celebrate the life and mourn the death of a fish that cost $1.99 at the pet store?  For the sake of my kids, of course! It is important never to belittle or ignore your child's relationship with a deceased pet. To say that it was "just a beta fish, and we can get a new one tomorrow" does not address the child's grief or teach the child the importance of the human-animal bond.  Loosing a pet may be your child's first exposure with death so it is important to deal with it in a dignified way.

The Funeral or Memorial Service
Allowing your child to help plan the funeral or memorial service is another way of helping them deal with the death of the pet. Some ways to honor the deceased pet include:

•Creating a slide show, photo collage or scrapbook
•Decorating a burial container, if the pet was small (bird, hamster or frog)
•Picking out the casket and headstone (if buried at a pet cemetery)
•Writing a poem
•Singing or playing a favorite song
•Drawing pictures
•Creating a special bracelet from the pet's collar or leash
•Donating unused pet food, supplies and toys to an animal shelter
•Raising funds to donate to an animal shelter in the pet's memory

How to Handle the Whys
Many times, helping children deal with the death of a pet includes answering questions about how and why the animal died. Handling these inquiries depends on many factors including religious background and the age of the child. If you and your family believe in Heaven, then your child will more than likely think that the pet that died went there. However, if you choose to tell your child otherwise, make sure your answer is done in simple terms that he or she will understand. If the pet that died had lived a long life, it's best not focus on the animal's age at the time of passing; the child may equate that to living relatives who are older and fear for their deaths.

Helping your Child Grieve the Death of a Pet
Coping and getting through the grief may involve getting a new pet.  It is important not to force a new pet upon the child.  Reassure the child that the deceased pet will always hold a special place in the family. 

You may want to purchase this book to help your kids understand what it's like to loose a pet.

Finally, give your pet an extra hug and kiss tonight.  They really are an important part of the family. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Do dirty hands signal a healthy imagination or are they a red flag for germs?

All kids are tactile learners.  They learn from physical contact with their environment as they explore the world around them.  My children are always finding exciting ways to get their hands DIRTY! 
I used to be one of those moms who was on team "Let a kid be a kid" and  "Don't worry if they eat a little dirt.  It'll strengthen their immune system"

As a health care provider, I have a small problem with this model of thinking.   As you're all well aware, most illnesses are passed through direct contact. Everyday we accumulate germs on our hands from a variety of sources, such as direct contact with people, contaminated surfaces, foods, even animals and animal waste.  The only way to rid yourself or your child of these germs is to wash the hands or use an alcohol rinse.

Awhile back I saw this video  The dirty truth about shopping carts  (must watch video to fully appreciate where I'm headed with this post) on the Today Show and I suddenly had a different perspective on purchasing one of these.                   
For example, Pearl is teething right now.  Let me explain what I mean by "teething".  This insane (but totally adorable) child throws a temper tantrum if I try to interfere with her chewing on human flesh, steal bars, the tires on the minivan (seriously, I found her hugging the back tire and chewing on it the other day).  I honestly think someone needs to invent a baby rawhide for teething babies. 
Last night at supper I handed her a cob of corn and she shredded that thing quicker than your curtains getting caught in the vaccum cleaner.  For a split second I actually contemplated letting her take the empty cob to bed with her as a form of pain relief since the pacifier wasn't cutting it anymore. 
After supper we took a trip to the store for some retail therapy.  I plopped Pearl in the shopping cart and immediately she bit down on the handle .  After a few slobbery seconds the Today Show video popped into my mind.  Yuck!!!! Gross!!   I  frantically grabbed the baby wipes and some hand sanitizer and started scrubbing the cart.

So what do you think?  Is this a form of hyper-parenting?  Do you wipe the carts before you use them or do you carry a cart cover with you?  Anyone have any novel ideas on how to protect my kids from the yucking germs found on public surfaces? I love these and carry them religiously in my diaper bag!  Would you ever purchase a disposable sleeve for your child to sneeze into or wipe their nose on?
Maybe you have a suggestion for what type of flavour would be best suited for my baby rawhide invention?  
If you have any thoughts on this subject then please drop me a line!