It has been three long months since I have been able to pull together a Flannel Friday post. It feels so nice to be back!
Today I have something a little different and I can’t wait to see what you guys think. I spent some time this past month reading about pre-writing skills for preschoolers, and learning about fine motor activities and some developmental stages for scribbling, drawing, and writing.
I was studying up with the hope of brainstorming storytime activity ideas that would support the Writing part of the Every Child Ready to Read 5 practices (reading, writing, singing, talking, playing)…without actually involving writing or scribbling.
Well, I came across this fun idea book: Everyday Play: Fun Games to Develop the Fine Motor Skills Your Child Needs for School, by Christy Isbell.
She describes making a “ribbon pull” out of a coffee can.
Pulling ribbons through slits in a coffee can lid lets children practice their pincer grip, and strengthen their finger muscles, which will help them be more successful when they start holding crayons and pencils.
I wanted to do this! I wanted every kid in storytime to have their own ribbon pull, and I wanted it to be a used during a directed activity in storytime itself, and then also something to play with after storytime is over.
So here’s what I did.
First, I made a small ribbon pull out of a Crystal Light container. (Many thanks to my friend and colleague Virginia, who had a stash she was willing to share! My first thought was to use snack size Pringles’ containers, but Virginia thought small children would have an easier time holding on to the narrower Crystal Light cans. What other small containers would work for this?)
I used three different colors of ribbon, and made each ribbon a different length.
To make the ribbon pull, cut slits in the plastic lid with an Exacto knife or box cutter. Push a ribbon through the slit, and tie a knot at both ends of the ribbon. This way the ribbon won’t pull all the way through the slit easily.
When all the ribbons are threaded and knotted, pull the ribbons to the “bottom” side of the lid, and put the lid back on the container. Do not tape the lid shut! Once all the ribbons are pulled “out,” you’ll need to take the lids off in order to pull the ribbons back down, so the children can pull them up out of the container again!
I used grosgrain ribbon, because it is pretty sturdy, and also because I thought the ridges might help the kids get a grip on the ribbon.
Then I made three mice, and an owl.
The mice are the same colors as the ribbons. The body shapes are teardrops, and there are two roundish ears, one glued to the back of the mouse, and one to the front. The eyes are tiny circles of white felt with a Sharpie dot in the middle.
Make the mouse tails out of yarn or floss, so they can stick to your flannelboard. (Mine are braided floss, mostly because I didn’t want to purchase 3 balls of yarn and only use a few inches of each.)
Also, the green mouse has the shortest tail, the blue mouse has the medium size tail, and the yellow mouse has the longest tail. These match up to the lengths of the ribbons in the ribbon pull.
Why do they match? Because…now you can tell a story.
In storytime, hand out a ribbon pull to each family, and tell them to hold it but not pull on the ribbons yet.
Put the three mice on the flannelboard so that their tails are all mixed together and you can’t see how long they are.
Then tell this story. (I made it up, so it is no great shakes. It is just the bare bones of a tale, so of course you would adapt this to suit yourself!)
“Once upon a time three mice met in the middle of a forest. They had never seen each other before, and immediately started admiring each other’s soft fur and handsome tails. Before too long, however, they began to argue about whose tail was the longest. Unfortunately, the tails were so long and the mice were so small that they couldn’t see for themselves! They argued and boasted and bragged and quarreled until an owl heard their noisy voices. She flew to a branch high above the mice and called down to them: ‘Mice! Mice! From up here, I can see everything. *I* can tell you who has the longest tail. Stop arguing and stretch out your tails, one by one.’ Each mouse was certain their tail was the longest so immediately they did as the owl said. The green mouse stretched out her tail as far as she could. The owl agreed her tail was very long, but was it the longest? So the blue mouse also stretched out his tail as far as he could. The owl called down, ‘It is a little bit longer than the green mouse’s tail, but will it be the longest of all?’ Now it was time for the yellow mouse to stretch out her tail. She stretched and she stretched and when it was as long and straight as she could make it, the three mice looked up at the owl. ‘Owl, Owl, whose tail is the longest?’ And the owl called down, ‘All your tails are magnificent, but the yellow mouse’s tail is the longest of all.’
Untangle the tails on the flannelboard as you tell this story. As you stretch out each mouse’s tail, tell your kids that you need their help! When you stretch out the green tail, invite them to pull on the green ribbon in their own ribbon pull. When you stretch out the blue tail, have them pull on the blue ribbon. And as you stretch out the yellow tail, have them tug on the yellow ribbon. When all the tails are straight and the ribbons are pulled, have the grown ups help their kids decide which color ribbon is the longest. This is why they are all matched up…so that the answer on the board is the same as the answer on their ribbon pulls.
Then as you gather up the ribbon pulls before your next activity, you can tell the grownups that pulling on ribbons or string will help build a child’s fine motor skills and get them ready to be writers and readers!
Another way you could use the same ribbon pulls would be to make three felt balloons, with matching ribbon or yarn for strings. Make a bird or a butterfly out of felt, and put the balloons on the board so that the bird or butterfly is hiding behind one of them. Then tell the kids, “Oh no! A little butterfly is lost in this crowd of balloons! Can you help me find it? Let’s look behind the green balloon…pull on your green string! Pull!” When all the kids are tugging on their ribbons, then you take down the green balloon off the flannelboard and say, “Oh, good pulling, we pulled down the green balloon, but no butterfly. Let’s pull down the yellow balloon! Pull on your yellow string!” etc. until you find the butterfly.
I know this is an unwieldy idea for large storytime groups! But for smaller storytimes it might be a lot of fun to put together and play with. And I’m going to keep working on these pre-writing ideas! Maybe we can think of something that will work for large groups, too.
Whew! That was a long post! Thanks so much for sticking with it to the end. The round up this week is here at Mel’s Desk. And all sorts of Flannel Friday information can be found on the new Flannel Friday website!