Letter Recognition & Fine Motor Skills!

We are back into the swing of things and I have so many ideas to share with you! One of our new activities is PlayMais. Have you heard of it?! I first saw it at the I Teach K! convention in Las Vegas and I was hooked - first it's a ton of fun and secondly when I ordered it they shipped it to my home so I didn't have to figure out how to fit it in my suitcase!

PlayMais is a German company and the pieces are completely biodegradable AND allergy safe! Even my little guy, Sullivan, who is allergic to EVERYTHING can play with it! Because, you know, at some point, someone is going to stick a piece in their mouths! They're also big on reducing packaging waste, so when my box came it contained nothing but the PlayMais pieces and the worksheet book - no bag or anything, just a box filled to the brim with little cornstarch pieces!

The pieces are about the size of a bean and made of maize, water and food coloring. They stick together and to just about anything when they're damp. The box comes with a few pieces of felt - I get it wet and wring it out and then my students dab their pieces on it to moisten them.
 
My pack came with an activity book with sheets for each letter, numbers 0-10, about 5 pages of shapes and then some mosaic pictures. I decided to laminate my pages to make sure they held up, considering moisture is involved. I just used the paper cutter to chop the pages off the binder ring and laminated each sheet.
Then I poured about 1/8 of my box into a plastic container with a lid and introduced it to my class.
They LOVED it! Seriously, every day this week this center has been FULL! At first they chose the first letter of their names, but after that they started picking letters in their friends names or random letters and it's been great for letter recognition. When the students come to the center I have them identify which letter they want to work on - then we quickly rifle through all of the pages until we find the correct letter. I emphasized that we always start our letters at the top, so it's reinforcing correct letter formation.
My students' favorite part is getting to pick up their sheet when they're done and have the pieces defy gravity and stick to it!
We even got in some math practice because they naturally started sorting the different colors and patterning with them.
This little guy's favorite color is red so you can see he picked out a lot of red pieces :)

Not only is this great for letter recognition, it's fabulous for helping to develop those fine motor skills! The kids use a pincer grip to pick up the pieces and they have to be pretty meticulous to get the pieces into the right spot without knocking the others over. Every student who has come to this center has been successful - sometimes they can only complete the uppercase letter during their time at the center, while others can complete multiple letters, but they have all thoroughly enjoyed doing what they can.

The best thing is that at the end of center time they simply knock the PlayMais pieces off the sheet and back into the container to be reused! Although some have gotten a little smooshed (who can resist pinching a few?!) our container is going to last for ages since they're reusable! Eventually I will add the number cards to the center, and the shape cards and probably by the end of the year I will encourage 3d creation with the pieces, but for now, this is a fun way for my students to work on fine motor skills and letter recognition!

If you'd like to order directly from the company, check out the Education Box here!

I'm off to work on some Penguin Emergent readers - when they're finished I'll announce it on FB and you'll be able to grab them for 50% off for the first 24 hours! Have a great night!
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