Fun Van

Developmental Skills: All about Fine Motor Skills

Developmental skills…you hear us talk about them all the time during our Fun Van classes, but what are they, and why are they so important? In early childhood (birth to 5 years old) we commonly refer to 5 developmental domains, or skills: fine motor skills, gross motor skills, language and literacy skills, social/emotional skills, and cognition skills. These skills are vital in performing everyday tasks. The more developed they are, the more successful children are in engaging with the world around them.

As parents and teachers, it is our responsibility to set up environments and experiences that allow children to practice and perfect these skills, but it can sometimes feel overwhelming to do so. Over the next few weeks we are going to investigate each of these developmental domains and give a few examples of how you can help encourage these skills. If you have any questions about these domains, please ask your Fun Van educator. We are happy to help you come up with different ideas for your family.


Fine Motor Skills:

Fine motor skills involve the use of the small muscles in the hands. Think about buttoning a shirt, tying shoe laces, holding a pencil to write, or stringing beads onto a necklace; all of these activities require the precise use of our fingers in just the right combinations to accomplish the task. The more developed the muscles are the better the quality and quicker the task is accomplished. Fine motor skills are also necessary for academic tasks. Young children need help perfecting these skills. Look below for a couple of activities that help to promote fine motor skill development.

Infants:

  • Messy play with pureed food
  • Reaching and grabbing toys in front of them on bouncers or activity mats
  • Picking up and dropping toys into recycled cans
  • Rattles
  • Exploring touch and feel books
  • Picking up Cheerios and putting them in a bowl
  • Pulling scarves out of an Oball
  • Letting baby “paint” with ice cubes on construction paper

Toddlers:

  • Playdough play- this is a great opportunity to practice with scissors
  • Sorting toys from one container to another
  • Practicing with a child appropriate fork and spoon handling during meal times
  • Peeling painters tape or stickers off of paper or different surfaces
  • Building with blocks or Duplos
  • Sand, water or snow play
  • Anything arts and crafts related: gluing, cutting, coloring, threading etc.
  • Stacking cups or containers

Preschoolers:

  • Threading yarn through holes or pipe cleaners in a colander
  • Practicing with crayons, markers, colored pencils and Kwix Sticks on paper
  • Practicing cutting with scissors and paper
  • Hammering tees into Styrofoam pieces
  • Coloring with Chalk
  • Threading fruit loops on yarn
  • Playing with puzzles
  • Using kitchen tongs or clothespins to grab objects

 

 

 

 

“Fine Motor Skills.” Kid Sense Child Development, 2018, childdevelopment.com.au/areas-of-concern/fine-motor-skills/fine-motor-skills/.

Meet The Boss!

Here at Fun Van, we have a pretty incredible boss leading us, but many of you never get to see her. This week we are shinning the spotlight on the lady who helps make Fun Van happen!

Meet Pam Harrison

What is your role for the Fun Van?

Fun Van Supervisor- I write the grant, attend meetings, file paperwork, lead meetings and observations, and other boss-like things.

What other responsibilities do you have at the Apache Junction Library?

I am the Youth Services Supervisory Librarian. I also do Storytime, Preschool University and special Library events.

What was your childhood ambition?

To become a teacher, get married and have kids. I achieved two of them!

What book are you currently reading?

Murder in the Air by Hart

What’s your favorite fall or winter beverage?

Hot chocolate

What was your favorite toy as a child?

My bean bag baby. I still have her.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I used to be a karaoke hostess.

What snack is your guilty pleasure?

Potato chips and ranch dip

Why do you think the Fun Van is an important resource?

The best educators in the area travel to every nook and cranny of Pinal County to provide support and education in best parenting practices and early literacy skills for their 0-5 year olds, while the kids learn important developmental skills through play, stories, art and more. And it’s free!

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I like to kayak with my husband and hang out with my four animals.

Who are a couple of your favorite children’s authors?

Image result for judy blume books

 Judy Blume and Watty Piper          

Do you have any tips for parents who want to enhance their story time at home?

Get the kids involved. Ask them questions, make animal noises together, change your voice for the characters—anything to make the story meaningful to them and interactive as you bond with your child. The more you read to them, the better they will succeed in school!

Meet Miss A.J. Gain

All About Miss A.J.

What was your childhood ambition? I changed my mind all the time. I wanted to be a dancer, an actress on Broadway, a Marine Biologist, a horse trainer, a mom, a stunt double, the list goes on…

What book are you currently reading?  The Vaccine Friendly Plan by Paul Thomas, Strong as a Mother By Kate Rope and Missional Motherhood By Gloria Furman

What’s your favorite fall or winter beverage? I was just introduced to Almond Milk Peach Cobbler Chai made by SOZO Coffee Shop…my new love!!

What was your favorite toy as a child? I loved my Fisher-Price Dollhouse. My sister and I spent hours setting up the whole house. By the time everything was set up, we were bored and cleaned it all up to do something else.

What’s one of your funniest parenting  or teaching moments?  I was teaching in a four-year old classroom and one of my boys was super hyper. As I was standing in front of the class giving directions, he kept wiggling and rolling on the ground. Finally I said, “Alex stop wiggling, you are going to hurt someb—” Before I could finish my sentence, his shoe flew off and hit me in the mouth. It hurt terribly and I had to walk out of the classroom so I didn’t cry or yell in front of him. He apologized to me every day for the rest of the year.

What’s a fun fact about you?  I ate dinner with live zebras and white water rafted with crocodiles in the Zambezi River, all in the same day.

What snack is your guilty pleasure? Watermelon…always watermelon!

How many years have you been with the Fun Van? 3 years

What did you do before working at the Fun Van? I was a director of a  preschool and a nanny.

How did you hear about the Fun Van? I taught a toddler tumbling class with Miss Julie Reeves while I was getting my masters. She later started working at Fun Van. When she was ready to move on to another job she reached out to me and told me she thought I would be a good fit here. She sent my resume to the library director and he contacted me for an interview.

What do you enjoy most about working at Fun Van?  I love working closely with parents. One of my frustrations as a director and preschool teacher was not being able to truly get to know and help parents. Now I get to brainstorm and problem solve WITH parents. Watching parents fall in love with their kiddos and with parenting, regardless of the age or stage their child is in, is my favorite thing.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?  I spend my days hanging out with my awesome 4 month old and my amazing husband. We love to cook, hang out with other families, travel and search for Geocaches.

What advice do you have for parents?  Find a tribe. Parenting is hard and isn’t meant to be done alone. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You know your child better than anyone on this planet. If you suspect something is up, ask for help, and keep asking until you get what you need.

What’s one of your favorite books and activities for your Fun Van families?

Elephant and Piggy books by Mo Willems are hilarious read-aloud books!Image result for elephant and piggie

Miss Julie’s playdough is the best! She always comes up with fun scents to match our themes. The apple pie spice that is in our centers this month is the best!

Easy DIY Kool Aid Play Dough Recipe

 

Meet Your Educator: Felicia Smith

Let’s get to know Miss Felicia!

What was your childhood ambition? To be a teacher

What book are you currently reading? Listen, Love, Repeat By Karen Ehman

What’s your favorite fall or winter beverage? Coffee always…

What was your favorite game as a child? UNO

What’s one of your funniest parenting or teaching moments? I was doing an experiment teaching the children about distance. We used an air popcorn popper without the lid and had hot popcorn flying at the children.

What’s a fun fact about you?  When I lived in California, I used to drive 6 hours to get to the Rogue River in Oregon; just so I could camp and recharge over the weekend.

What snack is your guilty pleasure? Dark Chocolate

How many years have you been with the Fun Van? Almost 9 years

What did you do before working at the Fun Van? I taught Head Start on the ASU Polytechnic campus.

How did you hear about the Fun Van? I received a call from a recruiter who told me she had the perfect job for me.

What do you enjoy most about working at Fun Van? I love the relationships that I’ve been able to build with the families over the years.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? I enjoy reading and trying new crafts.

What advice do you have for parents? When you feel like yelling or can’t seem to find the words for the latest “mess”, take a picture. Walk away and send it to your husband/wife or close friend, vent to them. Then go back and ask how can we/you fix this?

What’s one of your favorite books and activities for your Fun Van families?

Leo The Late Bloomer By Robert Kraus is one of my favorites. We make paper bag puppets to go along with the story.

Image result for leo the late bloomer  

Photos Courtesy of HarperCollins.com and Notimeforflashcards.com

Meet Your Educator: Ryanne Pinney

                                                                      All About Miss Ryanne!

What was your childhood ambition?

I wanted to be a veterinarian until I found out they had to put animals to sleep.  I changed my dream to country western singer.

What book are you currently reading?

I am currently re-reading To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.  It is a favorite of mine and now a Netflix movie!  The movie was so good I had to read the book again.

What was your favorite toy as a child?

I had a teddy bear that I loved and went everywhere with me.  He has now been passed down to my daughter.

What’s one of your funniest parenting  or teaching moments?

The most recent funny parenting moment happened last night.  The baby was trying to stay awake and I was trying to get her to sleep.  I was starting to get frustrated because it was so late.  She suddenly started singing “Happy baby” (birthday), blowing, and then clapping.  It was so cute and random that I couldn’t help but crack up.  It calmed me down and she fell asleep about 10 minutes later.

What’s a fun fact about you?

I LOVE singing karaoke.  I have a terrible voice but that doesn’t stop me.  I know the lyrics to most songs so instead of looking at the screen, I dance and involve the crowd.  It makes up for my lack of pitch.  

How many years have you been with the Fun Van?

Three J

What did you do before working at the Fun Van? 

Before Fun Van I was a ninja. 

How Did you hear about the Fun Van?

My mom sent me the job opening email and told me to apply because the job was made for me. 

What do you enjoy most about working at Fun Van?

The thing I enjoy most about working at Fun Van is watching parents grow their relationships with their children.  I love to see parents connecting by playing and reading.  I love having parents ask how they can do something better or share when they do something great.  I also really love crafts. Especially with glitter…

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

What is free time?  Hahaha!  I love to read, watch Nexflix, go on dates with my husband.

What advice do you have for parents?

Tell and show your kids you love them every day. They won’t remember every craft, or story, or activity. They will, however, remember how you made them feel.

What’s one of your favorite books or activities for your Fun Van families?

I love the pigeon series by Mo Willems. 

 

Image result for don't let the pigeon drive the bus

 photo courtesy of Kaplanco.com

Meet Your Educator: Kat McGrue-Whitmeyer

Introducing: Miss Kat McGrue-Whitmeyer

What book are you currently reading? The Game of Life by Florence Scovel and Perfectly Yourself by Matthew Kelly

What’s your favorite fall or winter beverage? Fall: Pumpkin spice coffee, hot or cold; Winter: Peppermint Hot

What’s a fun fact about you? I snore

What snack is your guilty pleasure? Dark Chocolate covered raisins.

 

How many long have you been with the Fun Van? 3 whole weeks.

What did you do before working at the Fun Van? I worked in home visitation using the Parents as Teachers curriculum for 3.5 years. Before that I worked as a Family Support Worker for Family Preservation.

How did you hear about the Fun Van? I have known about Fun Van since 2014 while working for Easter Seals Blake Foundation. However, I learned about this current position through researching for a position where I could best use my skills in child development.

What do you enjoy most about working at Fun Van? I love how everyone has been so welcoming. Everyone works very well together and is very supportive of one another. It seems to be a positive and warm work environment.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? When I have free time, I make sure to spend time making memories with my children. I love going to comedy shows as well.

What advice do you have for parents? Parents are a child’s first teacher. Remember that it is your job to advocate for your children, especially when there is a need.

What’s one of your favorite books and activities for your Fun Van families?

My favorite book to read out loud is Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? By Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle

Check out all the ways you can use these apple free printables for apple math activities with your kids in preschool, pre-k and kindergarten. Perfect for your apples theme, Johnny Appleseed study, BTS theme or harvest theme units and lesson plans. Kids will love the hands-on learning ideas to learn numbers, counting, comparing numbers, etc. Perfect for your early childhood math centers, here are even math game ideas. #appletheme #preschoolmath #preschool

 

I love this counting activity using apple erasers in a muffin tin. It is such a simple activity, but very helpful for introducing and practicing 1-to-1 number correspondence.

 

 

Thanks to https://earlylearningideas.com/apple-math-activities/ for the idea!

What advice do you have for parents? Parents are a child’s first teacher. Remember that it is your job to advocate for your children, especially when there is a need.

Meet Your Educator: Lauri Schuneman

Introducing Miss Lauri!

How many years have you been with the Fun Van?

I am a newbie!

What was your childhood ambition?

To be an actress

What was your favorite toy as a child?

Play-dough

What’s one of your funniest parenting or teaching moments?

When my son was about 3, we were outside having dip and chips with some friends.  Just in time, I stopped my son from dipping a WORM into the French Onion Dip!!

What’s a fun fact about you?

My family had a pet alligator when we were growing up.

What did you do before working at the Fun Van? 

Third Grade teacher with Mesa Public Schools

How Did you hear about the Fun Van?

I found this best-ever job while I was surfing the website!

What do you enjoy most about working at Fun Van?

Working with the pre-school aged children

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Playing Bingo LOL!Image result for hungry caterpillar paper plate

What advice do you have for parents?

Always laugh it off!  In the long run, it really will be OK!

What’s one of your favorite books and activities for your Fun Van families?

The Hungry Caterpillar——Making a Paper Plate Caterpillar

photo from www.asuntospublicos.org

Meet Your Educator: Julie Wagner

 

Now let’s meet:  Miss Julie Wagner!

What was your favorite childhood toy?

My Bike!

How many years have you been with the Fun Van?

3 years

What did you do before working at the Fun Van? 

I was a school librarian at Cortina Elementary School.

Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving tradition?

We get up early to watch the Thanksgiving parade while making our delicious Thanksgiving meal.

How did you hear about the Fun Van?

A teacher friend told me about the job. I decided to apply even though I didn’t know what to expect from a program named, “Fun Van.” I thought I was applying for a teaching job at the library. I had no idea that I would be driving a huge truck around Pinal County.

What do you enjoy most about working at Fun Van?

I love the sweet kids we get to work with every week.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Reading, of course! I also garden, watch movies, go hiking and relax on the beach. I am the proud grandmother of 3 grandsons and one on the way! We love painting rocks that we later hide when we visit the park together.

What advice do you have for parents?

Enjoy your time with your children. It goes by really fast, even though it doesn’t feel like it in the moment.

What’s your funniest parenting moment?

 My daughter and son were 4 and 7 at the time. My husband was working out of town and there was a horrible monsoon storm. The power went out, it was pouring rain, and the doors were open. The cat brought in a gopher from outside to show us. We all started screaming. We couldn’t figure out what to do. Our solution was to stand on the couch and scream until it stopped raining. Eventually I ended up getting a broom and shooing it out.

What’s one of your favorite books and activities for your Fun Van families?

Book:  Big Frog Can’t Fit In by Mo Willems or I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty

Activity: Fly Catching Frogs- Cut out 1 large oval and 2 leg shapes out of green paper. Cut out 2 white circles and 2 smaller black circles for eyes. Glue the black circles inside of the white circles and then glue the white circles to the top of the oval to make a frog face. Attach the legs on either side of the body and allow your child to decorate the frog. Once they finish decorating the frog, cut a slit in the middle of the frog to create space for a party blower. Insert the party blower to make a tongue.

Check out one of our classes making the project here!

Do you have any last words for our readers?

My advice is to take advantage of all of the resources available to families through the library and First Things First. I wish these resources were available when I was raising my children. My other piece of advice is to visit the library and take part in the programs they offer. Libraries continue to evolve and blossom. Some libraries even have castles or trains.

 

Meet Your Educator: Ashley Crooks

Welcome to a new year at Fun Van. We wanted to take some time to introduce you to our Fun Van Educators. We will introduce a new educator for the next few weeks so that you can get to know our awesome team!

First up is: Miss Ashley Crooks

What was your favorite toy as a child?

I used to love playing with my Speak and Spell!

How many years have you been with the Fun Van? 2 Years

What did you do before working at the Fun Van? 

I taught 4th grade, 1st grade and preschool before moving to Arizona and dedicating my days to raising my daughter.

How Did you hear about the Fun Van?

My sister-in-law found the position posting on Indeed.com and said, “You should do this!” It was perfect because my husband was transitioning out of the Marines and becoming a real estate agent. I was a stay-at-home mom and wanted to support my husband while he found his                                                                                                                  footing in his new career.

What do you enjoy most about working at Fun Van?

I love when parents return to class and say they tried something we discussed in regard to their parenting and it worked. I also love watching the children learn new social emotional skills. Often times this is the first time they have the opportunity to practice these skills with other children within their age-range.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I like to travel and explore new playgrounds with my children.

What advice do you have for parents?

 Research different tools for parenting young children because what works today won’t work tomorrow. Fun Van is a great resource for parents to share ideas and discuss parenting challenges.

What’s one of your funniest parenting moments?

 My daughter was potty-training and was at the top of a slide. Unfortunately, it turned into a “water” slide!

What’s one of your favorite books and activities for your Fun Van families?

Book: Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

Cut a big paper bag with arm holes and neck holes to look like a vest. The children decorate it with collage materials to create their own paper bag outfits.

Do you have any last words for our readers?

  Come to Fun Van so we can share and laugh at our funny children and crazy parenting stories!

Masking Your Child’s Imagination

One of the best parts about playing with young children is watching them create an elaborate world out of nothing and anything all at the same time. A box becomes a spaceship, a banana becomes a telephone and a paper plate can become the mask of a superhero, animal or president. Young children create worlds inside their own minds and bring them to life through pretend play. As parents and educators, we want to help engage these creative play scenarios by providing different materials, ideas and encouragement as our children continue to pretend and play.

Masks help jump-start a child’s imagination and gives them the opportunity to become something other than themselves. They initiate story-telling, dramatic play, and engage social-emotional development. Masks are also a great way to connect children with characters in different stories. During the spring sessions at the Fun Van, our educators have each taken a different spin on creating masks. Whether it is using paper plates, toilet paper rolls, paper, or egg cartons, toddlers and preschoolers can engage in the benefits of role playing, story-telling and dramatic play with the use of common household materials.


Ideas to get you started:

Story: The Three Little Pigs   

 Pig Noses made out of egg cartons and elastic

 

 

Story: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Bear Masks out of paper plates, paint and Popsicle sticks

 

Story: Duck and Goose: Here Comes the Easter Bunny

Bunny Masks out of paper, pipe cleaners, Popsicle sticks and pom poms

 

President’s Day Masks out of paper plates, paper and cotton balls
Story: This Little President: A Presidential Premier