Currently, I’m between a rock and a hard place when it comes to my daughter’s interests, education, and stubbornness. She is very interested in early literacy. She wants to spell, write, and sound words out. However, fine motor skills are not her forte. So, we start off with an activity. I get creative. She gets excited. She makes a mistake. And then, she’s frustrated, unwilling to continue, and defiant. This makes approaching teaching her a challenge. I need to be empathetic, sensitive, persistent, and creative. Worksheets, regular printing exercises, and anything overly structured are sure to lose her. So, I have had to take an innovative approach. My most recent creation is a sight word sensory bin. Additionally, I cycle through these 50+ ideas to perfect printing without writing. We do a lot of fine motor skill practice when we can.
Of our early literacy activities we’ve done, the fishing sight word sensory bin has been the hugest hit. It encompasses so many fun aspects of early learning.
Fishing Sight Word Sensory Bin
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What you need:
- Shrinking plastic sheets or any number 6 plastic
- Coloured sharpies
- Hole punch
- Magnetic letters for tracing
- Paper clips
- Dried lentils, chickpeas, and/or mung beans
- A list of sight words – for younger children a list of lowercase and uppercase letters is great. For more advanced preschoolers and older children, sight words and family names work really well.
What to do:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Trace magnetic letters on number 6 plastic.
- Colour them in.
- Cut out tracings.
- Punch two holes through plastic so they are attached making one big oval hole. Be sure to remove the punched plastic or it won’t stay open once baked.
- Place letters coloured side facing up on a pan in the oven.
- Let bake (shrink) for 3 minutes. Then, remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.
- Thread a paper clip through each hole.
- Place the dried lentils, chickpeas, and/or beans into a bin with the letters. Grab a toy fishing rod or make one using a wooden or slotted spoon, a string, and a magnet.
- Grab a list of words or letters and have fun!
What they’re learning
This fishing site word sensory bin is loaded with early learning benefits. The colouring, hole punching, and cutting all require fine-motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and hand strength. All skills are needed for printing. (In the case of younger children, I recommend having an adult do the cutting and hole punching.) Furthermore, the sensory bin yields all of the benefits of sensory play.
One of the main goals of this fishing sight word sensory bin is to guide a child to promote letter and word recognition. However, backing off and letting them explore and play is highly beneficial too. For instance, after having played with the letters for a while, I let my son just play. He enjoyed the sensory bin uninterrupted for over an hour. He even added his Magformers to the mix and created some STEM play.
Adaptations for toddlers
Substitute number 6 plastic for number one plastic. The letters will only shrink down about 10% smaller than their original size. Note: the plastic will whiten. Use old cereal instead of legumes or rice to avoid choking.