Why all 2-4yr olds should be Tiny Explorers!
Let me introduce you to the wonderful 2 year old Phoebe. She is a superstar member of our Tiny Explorers Craft Club and absolutely loves coming every week to do a different fun craft.
Whilst Phoebe is having fun, making a mess and generally having a great time, she is also learning vital physical and mental skills, which will develop her growing body and brain, and teach her lifelong skills.
During this session we were making a biff bat balloon game. We warmed up by playing with the balloons, then moved on to painting, colouring, sticking and threading to complete our craft. The children could choose how they wanted to decorate the biff bat, and were guided to explore new materials, have fun and generally make a mess!
With a play and drink break halfway through the session, we had a fun and busy 90 minutes!
What skills did Phoebe learn?
Gross Motor Skills
Gross motor skills are physical, whole
body movements. Large (core stabilising) muscles are used to perform gross motor functions.
Phoebe practiced using her gross motor skills throughout the session – sitting upright at the craft table, running after and catching the balloons, sitting on the floor, jumping up to bash the balloon with the biff bat and much more!
Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills involve smaller movements in the wrists, hands, fingers, feet and toes. We use fine motor skills every day; buttoning our clothes, eating with a knife and fork, cutting with scissors, using our keyboard or typing on our phones. We even use fine motor skills when we blink.
Phoebe practiced lots and lots of fine motor skills throughout the session. Holding the paint bushes, peeling the back off stickers, taking the lids off and putting them back on the pens, trying to use scissors for the first time (this is always really interesting to see how the children interpret how to use them), drawing with pens, threading pipe cleaners through punched holes.
Childrens faces are so expressive and we can often see their whole thought process reflected in their facial movements as they figure out how to try a new skill, or master a practiced skill.
Social and Self-Regulation Skills
We all have a desire to feel connected, valued, to have a sense of belonging and to feel safe.
Being human not only involves caring for your family and friends but also for our environment.
As humans we interact with others (whether we like to or not) and mastering the art of self-regulation is very important.
Self-regulation is the ability to manage and regulate one’s emotions and behaviour. Recognising one’s own feelings, recognising the feelings of others and controlling behaviour by communicating feelings and managing impulses.
Social and self-regulation skills are practised during classes in the following ways:
- Kids learn to listen to what others have to say and how they feel.
- If kids understand how others feel they are likely to feel more connected, create positive bonds and show compassion towards others.
Phoebe did an amazing job of self-regulation when her balloon burst whilst she was drawing on it. She coped really well with the disappointment and moved on to another balloon. Her mum was very impressed as she believed the balloon popping would usually have led to a very emotive response – crying etc. Phoebe had chosen to self-regulate her emotions in this situation, and dealt with the situation in a different way to usual.
Speech and Language
Our classes help teach kids how to communicate their ideas and feelings.
How do we develop these skills?
We use talking, reading and singing as part of crafting class which also helps to develop pronunciation and articulation.
Throughout the class we talked and laughed with Phoebe, asking her lots of questions such as what colours would she like to use, how does the paint feel in your fingers, would you like some more stickers etc. Phoebe chatted away to us whilst she completed the craft, was very polite and well mannered (our children are gently reminded if they forget to say please and thank you). We always listen carefully to what the children have to say – this makes them feel valued and encouraged to communicate more. They are also encouraged to talk to each other – about any subject they like!
We use our senses to interact with the world around us on a daily basis. From smelling freshly cut grass, to chatting to the delivery guy or a family member about our day. We also use our senses as a safety mechanism, for example when lightly touching the handles of a pot on the stove, we receive sensory input, identify that it is safe and then respond by picking it up.
For most adults this is a natural process, but for many younger kids sensory processing may still be underdeveloped.
The lessons provide many opportunities to develop sensory awareness.
Here are some examples of how the various senses are incorporated in class:
Kids get to experience so many different smells during a class, from shaving cream
to bubble bath and sometimes even elements of nature (flowers, sticks, grass).
Phoebe experienced the smell of the paint, the balloons and the other materials we used.
This sense works in overdrive during a creative crafting class – kids get to discover and explore all types of different materials, textures and shapes. From cardboard, to foil, to ice to gooey paper maché.
Phoebe used so many different materials, all with different textures and shapes – cardboard, packing materials, pipe cleaners, glittery stickers, foam shapes, balloons and more!
Playing music, singing and creating crafts that make some noise are all stimulation for the hearing sense.
Phoebe’s hearing was stimulated by many sounds during the craft session – the noise / chatting / laughing from the other children and adults, the sound of balloons being blown up / bashed/ popped, plus marker pens drawing on the balloons make a great noise too.
Beautiful colors and visually stimulating creative creations everywhere!
Phoebe experienced bright colours throughout the session, including painting her hands bright orange!
Okay, so better not to give this sense too much attention during a crafting class! We do however have some yummy cakes to enjoy afterwards!
Executive function is the CEO of your brain – it is in charge of
making sure you complete a task, from the stage where you have the
idea, through to planning and execution.
Executive function skills are developed at different stages of
The most important elements of executive function consist of:
- Time management
- Critical thinking
- Problem solving
Isn’t is cool to know that we help develop each and everyone of these skills during our crafting classes?
Executive function is extremely important for all aspects of life. If you have underdeveloped executive function then you may come across as disorganized and basically, you just won’t get things done.
Phoebe is still a little young for some of the executive functions but she showed amazing problem solving skills when finding a way to keep the balloon still enough to draw on, figuring out how to cut some of the materials and paying attention to detail whilst drawing.
Other cool superskills!
Crossing the Midline
The midline is an imaginary line down the centre of the body that divides the body into left and right. Crossing the midline means that a body part is able to move across to the other side (over the midline) to “work” on the other side.
Crafting classes offer the opportunity to develop this skill in many ways, for example when drawing a horizontal line across a page without switching hands in the middle or reaching for a crayon placed on the left side with your right hand.
Crossing the midline is an important superskill that needs to be developed as you use both sides of your body to put shoes and socks on, to write and cut and it also promotes communication and coordination of the reft and right sides of the brain.
Bilateral integration and coordination is the ability to coordinate both sides of the body at the same time in a controlled and organized manner. This can be seen in crafting class when you hold onto a piece of paper with one hand whilst cutting with the other.
Good bilateral integration is an indicator that both your left and right sides of your brain are communicating and coordinating well and sharing information properly.
Hand-eye coordination is the super-skill that enables our eyes to guide our hands in accurate movements. It is important for children to practise this skill as it will enable them to catch a ball, and to hit a ball with a bat, it is an important base for handwriting and eye tracking skills are important for reading.
We also need our eyes to guide our hands when we tie shoelaces and when we build towers with lego!