I recently purchased a couple of giant rolls of newsprint. One we gave away for a birthday gift (yes, I’m now ‘that Mum’ who gives out-of-the-box birthday gifts), and the other I kept for us. The first time we got it out with the pens/pencils and I have to say, that activity wasn’t really a success. My two boys are just not that interested in drawing right now. Which I am totally fine with – I know they will in their own time! They’d much rather stab the paper and rip it up like a dinosaur would (their words!).
OK, I thought, I’m down with that, let’s make it a child led activity. If you want to stab and rip the paper, let’s do it! This time round I got out some of our play dough toys and the kids’ scissors. Right… here we go…
The boys started off making lines on the paper with the dough cutters. Luckily we have two of these, so there was one each – perfect. Less squabbles! One makes a straight line, and the other a wavy line. What happens if you push harder, can you make it go through the paper? What about if you just push really lightly, what happens then? Being able to judge pressure is an important skill to have when it comes to handwriting, so this is a great readiness activity for that.
We also used these two shapes to push down on the paper. I originally got these shapes in a cake decorating kit but they’ve had much more use in the kid’s play dough toys ;). Pushing down on the shapes gave the kids great proprioceptive feedback into their shoulders, that is, the pressure they exerted was helping their hands, wrists, arms, and shoulders all figure out how to work together to do this activity. This activity also helps their shoulders develop strong stability, which is important for being able to control a pen later on in life when they get around to formal learning age.
Our carpet is pretty old and flat, so I then added a fleece blanket underneath the paper. This helped extend the activity a bit more – SUCH a bonus, hooray! We just repeated the same, seeing what difference it made having the blanket added.
My four year old then moved onto his favourite part – ripping up the paper. Using an old plastic fork he really got into it. Of course this makes a giant MESS. So we made it into a game.. .who can roll the smallest/biggest balls of newsprint? And now let’s throw them into a flexi tub together! The dump truck entered into play here and carried full loads of rolled up balls to the tub.
So what are some of the skills that we were developing in this last part of the activity? Using both sides of the body and our whole hand strength to scrunch and roll balls up, visual-perceptual skills and hand-eye coordination to aim and throw the balls, and gross motor development to crawl pushing the dump truck along the ground.
It’s good fun to follow your children’s lead and think creatively about how you can use different objects. Adapting an activity is a classic way that occupational therapists create therapy plans with clients, but it is a skill that I’ve found particularly useful as a Mum in order to help me stay sane ;).
We got our newsprint rolls from one of our favourite places to visit locally; a re-use shop called Creative Junk. You can sometimes also get them from the Playcentre Shop which is where I also got our play dough cutters.