Sandpaper Numbers

Background

Montessori Sandpaper Numbers are individual cards containing numbers in raised sandpaper. This is one of the core Montessori activities which familarises children with the look and formation of each number, and adds to their muscle memory of the numbers in preparation for writing. Maria Montessori recognised critical periods in a child’s development where tactile and senses are most sensitive, and created multi-sensory materials such as sandpaper numbers and letters. They are designed to teach symbol recognition and writing by integrating touch, sight and sound.

According to the Montessori approach, children are suited to be introduced to sandpaper writing from the age of 2.5 years to 4. When I first started my girl on the sandpaper letters, I was amazed at its effectiveness of these tactile numbers. When she looks at the numbers, traces them with her two first fingers, and says out the numbers, she receives visual, tactile and auditory input all within the same exercise. This kind of sensory input helps the child get the information into her long term memory.

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Instructions on how to use sandpaper numbers

1. (Optional) Have your child wash her hands with warm water. This helps their hands to be sensitive to touch.

2. For new beginners, show them how to feel the numbers, using a light continuous touch of the index and middle fingers of the dominant hand, and to hold the card steadily with the other hand.

3. You will first demonstrate by tracing the number with your fingers, then say out the number. Do this 3 times

4. Have your child repeat what you did. Allow time for the child to practice tracing the numbers

Tip: I like to start with numbers with straight lines first (like 1, 4, 7), followed by those with curves.

Tracing numbers on a cornflour tray.

A nice practice tool is the cornmeal tray. Choose a tray or dish with raised edges and pour in a thin layer of cornflour. As they trace out the sandpaper numbers, they can repeat the same marks with their finger in the cornflour tray. These help your child to familiarise herself with the directionality and motion of writing the numerals in a sensorial manner.

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Writing numbers on a mini-blackboard with chalk

This is probably one of the my preschooler’s favourite writing activity. After learning how to trace the sandpaper numbers, she will attempt to repeat the same writing motion on the blackboard with a chalk, which brings her a step closer to using a pencil on paper in future. Use thicker chalk if possible for their tiny hands, as it encourages better pencil grip and makes it easier for them to practice writing.

For this, I prepared a writing tray, with the sandpaper numbers on one side and the mini blackboard on the other.

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My preschooler started tracing the number 7, and repeated the writing motion on the blackboard tray. She did not get it right the first few times, but with a lot of encouragement and modeling from me, she could eventually produce writing that resembled the number closely!

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Where to get sandpaper numbers & letters:
I bought mine online from Enrighten.com locally and they deliver it to your place

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Drawing on Pebbles!

Did I tell you that my girl loves pebbles? Eversince she was a toddler, in our garden walks, she always picks up pebbles and without fail starts to meddle with them. She will sometimes stack them up and see which one will topple the stack, lay them out in a straight line, throw them onto different surfaces to hear the sounds made, or pretend to use them as ingredients to cook a meal for me. These pebbles are just the right size for their small palms to grasp, and it is round edged so it is not dangerous. Her obsession with these pebbles always had me brewing up different ideas of using these pebbles for play and explorative activities.

One of the ideas that came up is using markers to draw on the pebbles. I presented the pebbles in a basket, and some chalk markers (from Daiso). Chalk markers are water-based markers which makes the ink washable. It becomes an open-ended art activity that allows Rae to use her imagination and creativity to make marks on the pebbles. You can also use these beautifully drawn pebbles as paper weights in your office!

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Learning Points from this Art Activity

Making marks on the pebbles was an extremely engaging activity for Rae. She started choosing different coloured markers and labeled them as ‘orange’, ‘purple’,’pink’ and so on. Feeling the different shapes & sizes of the pebbles with her fingers, she also used comparative terms like “big”, “small” and adjectives like ” smooth”, “dirty” to describe the pebbles. It is so evident to me that when a child’s senses are stimulated, discovery learning takes place naturally. Drawing on concrete objects like pebbles was a different sensory experience compared to her usual activity of drawing on paper. It is a different level of mastery when making marks on three-dimensional objects like pebbles. She has to exercise tighter finger grip, and with more intense concentration to prevent the markers from slipping off the surface, and the lines from deviating. While drawing, she will probably derive simple conclusions that it is easier to draw on flat, and not curved surfaces. This can also be a pre-writing activity for children to learn mark-making.

Check out Rae’s mark-making on the pebbles.. From extreme left, she drew a snake, and the middle pebble is a bird who tries to eat up the snake! The pebble on the extreme right is the flower that is the bird’s favourite hiding place. From this little open-ended activity, I can clearly see Rae’s imagination at work, and drawing becomes her medium of expressing her ideas and creativity.

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Such open-ended activities allow your child to be free with her art expressions. Its perfectly alright for the child to draw the way she likes it, and use her markings to symbolise her ideas. Encourage her to expand her thoughts by prompting her with questions. Ask her to express and describe what she is drawing. Value her artwork and show interest in what she is drawing. Remember that the process of creating is more important than the finished product to a child.

Great Art Activity for Playdates!

For one of the playdates, I decided to let some children try this activity together! They were so engrossed in drawing on the pebbles, that I ran out of pebbles in no time! Try it out sometime, if you need a filler activity to occupy the children!

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Have fun drawing on pebbles, we did!! 🙂

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10 Great Ideas For Mark-making

Following up on our previous post on mark-making, you can try out some of these great ideas to encourage your child to do mark-making, to hone her pre-writing skills.

1. Paint on the sidewalk with water.

2. Draw shapes in the air with s stick.

3. Use a long ribbon or crepe paper strips to make dance movements

4. Put up paper on an easel and paint

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5. Write on sidewalks with a thick chalk

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6. Do finger painting on paper, with some imagination!

7. Make prints on dough

8. Make marks on sand, flour or salt on a tray.

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9. Make strokes on 3 dimensional objects like rocks, boxes or balls with paint.

10. Make art using glitter glue on paper.

Mark making- Sensory Writing Tray with Flour

Mark-Making

Mark making is an important pre-writing skill for young toddlers. Too often, parents make the mistake of giving their children writing tools too early in their development in hope that they will pick up writing as soon as possible. Children between 2 to 4 years need lots of pre-writing activities to hone their fine motor skills, finger dexterity (how well we handle small objects with our fingers) and lots of mark-making activities to prepare them amply for formal writing.

What is mark making? It is the process where children make early scribblings, often imitating the way adults write, and learn to assign meanings to the marks they make on paper, or any writing surface. For example, you often observe toddlers doodling on paper, and they are able to tell it represents (though you can’t make it out!).

Good sensory information is important for hand skills, especially for young children, as their brains take in these input and stimulate their hands for coordination and precise control. Making marks with their fingers also develops their wrist control and directionality of their writing. For the beginning stage of mark-making, it is a physical activity of engaging the concrete materials with their hands, and it progresses gradually to making more definite, precise, resembling recognizable letters when their muscle control gets more developed.

For young toddlers who are not ready to do formal writing, encourage them to do mark-making with their fingers on the sensory tray. You can use:

1. Sand or coloured sand dust

2. Flour

3. Salt

4. Dough

5. Small beans

6. Shaving cream

Rae’s Mark-Making

Here you see Rae having fun doing mark-making in her sensory tray with flour. She draws lines to show directional marks, with continuous movement of the hand. Making curves and enclosures are important pre-requisites for forming letters and numbers. She also creates dots to make symbols and representations of abstract ideas.

Here I asked her what her initial marks represents, and she exclaimed, ” A snake is moving in the grass!”. To encourage her to make more marks, I prompted her further by asking her, “is it just one snake?” She said her snake friends are coming, and she quickly represented that idea by drawing another few more lines. I then asked, “Besides snakes, who else are her friends?”. She then added another mark signifying a bird in the sky who had flown in to join her snake friends on the grass!

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Hence you can see from Rae’s example, her scribblings are her way of communicating meaning and sharing her ideas with others ( which is the purpose for writing). We can help our children develop an interest for writing by encouraging, praising and valuing their ideas expressed through mark-making!