May-June 2008 Selected Content
Fun Ways to Help Kinesthetic Learners - Lisa Kang
Even before he was born, my son, Ben, was constantly in motion. I would sit in disbelief (and some discomfort) and watch my abdomen quiver and roll as he thrashed and flipped in utero. After he was born, I was thrilled when the doctor gave my vigorous baby a perfect Apgar score. I was less pleased an hour later when she exclaimed in annoyance, "I am so glad you are taking this one home!"
Perhaps I should have been more sympathetic. After all, Ben had managed to scream, purple-faced and enraged, throughout the cutting of the umbilical cord, the stitching, the cleaning, the eye drops, the weighing and the measuring.
Noticing my hurt expression, the labor nurse quickly put in, "Doc! He's just amazingly strong! He's going to be an Olympian someday!"
The doctor simply frowned and ducked out as soon as possible to escape the incessant noise.
It turned out that they were both right. As he grew, I was amazed by my son's coordination and stamina. I also frequently wished someone else was responsible for keeping him alive. Left alone for just two minutes, my toddler would attempt to ride the rocking horse down the stairs (having lifted it himself over the safety gate), flood the bathroom, empty the cabinets, or climb to the top of the refrigerator. To this day, I still cannot figure out how he got all the way up there.
As Ben grew to school age, I found it extremely difficult to get him to sit at all; practicing academics like letters, numbers and spelling words seemed out of the question. Clearly, I had to find some fun, active ways to work on his academics. Since he is sensory-seeking by nature, I needed to find ways he could learn through movement and tactile stimulation. Here are our favorites:
Practice writing numbers, letters, spelling words and simple arithmetic in shaving cream.
All you need is a cookie sheet and a can of shaving cream. Spray shaving cream onto the tray and let the child use his fingers to trace his numbers, letters, spelling words or math problems in the light, fluffy cream.
Finger paint with colored vanilla pudding. Prepare a box of instant vanilla pudding and add the food coloring of your choice. Pour some colored pudding onto the cookie sheet and let your child trace his letters in the pudding. Licking fingers is allowed and adds to the sensory experience. Please note: food coloring can stain clothing, so wear something old when trying this activity.
Variation 2 (dry)
Practice letter-writing in a pan of rice, birdseed or sand. For this option, a 9" x 13" baking pan works best, to keep the dry mixture contained.
To keep these activities interesting, alternate between wet and dry mediums and change colors and textures frequently.
Use scented and/or glittered homemade play dough to form 3-D letters, numbers and words.
Prepare play dough according to the sidebar instructions. Next, have the child roll out long ropes of dough. They enjoy the tactile stimulation of the play dough and the slightly rough quality of the glitter. Also, as he kneads the dough, the scent will become more apparent and enjoyable. Show the child how to form letters, numbers and words using the play-dough ropes. Many kinesthetic learners who are having trouble forming letters on paper will experience an "ah ha!" moment when the letters are rendered in 3-D form.
To practice early math concepts, have the child make counters by cutting the play dough ropes into small pieces. If he uses scissors, it will help to strengthen his hands for writing. Save some small ropes to form addition, subtraction and equal signs. The child can then use the counters and arithmetic signs to make concrete math problems, i.e., 00 + 000 = 00000.
Play sight-words tag.
On a driveway, sidewalk or patio, use chalk to write the sight words your child is learning to recognize. Draw a large circle around each word. The word/circle needs to be big enough for the child to stand on. Find a place to stand a few yards away from the circles. Call out a word and that word becomes base. Chase your child, trying to tag him before he gets to base. (Note: eventually, the words will fade from being stepped on, making it hard to find the right base. When the child fixes the problem by tracing over the words, he gets extra practice writing.)
Have the child call out the words while you run to base. This gives him reading practice, plus he usually thinks it's hilarious to see you running around, especially if you sometimes accidentally go to the wrong base and he catches you!
Young kinesthetic learners (and older ones, too), often love to swing and be loud. Practice spelling and math while they swing outside. For spelling, call out a word and have him spell it out loud in rhythm with the swinging motion (you will notice later that when he spells the words, they may sway slightly. The movement becomes a mnemonic device.) For math facts, you can call out the problem. Say "2 +2", as he swings forward. Have him try to shout out the answer before the swing gets all the way back.
This can also be done indoors with a rocking horse, or a Rainy Day Indoor Playground, which is a swing that you can install in an inside doorway.
Although academics can be challenging for the very active child, the good news is that stimulating your kinesthetic learner is easy and fun. Learning tools are all around you! For Ben, an active approach changed learning from a nightmare to a dream!
Homemade Play Dough
3 cups of flour
1 1/2 cups of salt
6 teaspoons of cream of tartar
4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
3 cups warm water
scents: cinnamon or flavor extracts
(i.e., lemon, orange, vanilla)
Mix ingredients in a large stock pot. Add oil, water and food coloring. Mix until smooth and uniform. Heat mixture on the stove with medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture forms a ball. Let dough cool. Knead on a flat surface, adding in glitter and/or scents.
© 2008, Lisa Kang