Thursday, February 4, 2010

hey gumbaree!

As much as I would love to put together an intricate adventure circle about traveling around historic Italy to jive with our Western European block, I know my kids better than to think that would actually work for us. What would happen is that J and I would take our sensory-rich journey, and Zoo Boy, who needs the sensory activities the most, would sit and watch and complain. So, you have to go with what works for your kids!

The first key to a successful circle with Zoo Boy is to NOT call it a circle. In fact, I don't call it anything (unless he specifically asks what it is, and then I just say it's exercise, for some reason that word doesn't inspire the resistance-monster). So for the circle for this block, I just pop in a CD of Italian music and play (repeatedly) the boys' favorite tune, "Hey Gumbaree!" (It really is a silly, fun tune, all in Italian, about the noises various musical instruments make.) And we start by jumping on the bed to a couple of verses. This works on the vestibular system and gets them all warmed up.

Then we shift to tunnel-crawling for the next couple of verses. Crawling is a biggie in our house -- it helps Zoo Boy with his core strength and pencil grip (strengthening the muscles in his hands), works on important motor planning skills, and provides some good tactile and proprioceptive feedback. And is NOT something Zoo Boy will do on his own in the course of everyday play, so I have to make sure to provide opportunities to work on this.

Then we move on to climbing and crashing -- the primary reason we bought J a loft bed and put Zoo Boy's bed underneath it! Climbing works on strengthening just about every muscle (including those responsible for core strength) as well as motor planning, and crashing is the ultimate proprioceptive experience (very important in grounding the kids and helping them feel at home in their bodies). Need for proprioceptive feedback is the physiological reason behind a lot of kids' difficulties in self-regulation. (In other words, a lot of kids misbehave because they don't get enough proprioceptive, or "heavy", work in their daily lives.)

Then we slip on the boys' body socks and they do some more -- you guessed it! -- crawling. The body sock brings about better body awareness through all that tactile feedback, and provides a bit of resistance as well, making crawling a "harder" job. It's also fun, so I get more cooperation from the anti-crawling Boy.

We wrap up the physical exertion part of our circle with some moon-bounce bouncing. This is very rich in proprioception, and works on the vestibular system (you need a good sense of balance to not fall off those balls!) and core strength as well. And again, fun. Fun fun fun. And exhausting. All good things!

After a short break for a few sips of water and to catch their breath, we do a spin-and-fold sequence. On a day where we do circle it's mostly a place-holder -- it's what we do in our daily rhythm before snack. But on days that we take a walk (any day over 30 degrees which this time of year actually isn't many....) rather than do an exercise circle as above, we need the spin-and-fold to make sure we've hit on the areas of sensory integration that we need to work on daily. It also "grounds" them for the coming story work session.

Our winter spin-and-fold is a little sequence to one of our favorite winter songs, "The North Wind Doth Blow". So I sing "The North Wind doth blow and there shall be snow, and what will red Robin do then, poor thing" as the boys spin down the hall (being blown by the North Wind of course).

At the end of the hall, they begin hopping (tight, scrunchy hops) back up the hall as I sing "she'll hop to the barn to keep herself warm, and tuck her head under her wing, poor thing."

The north wind blows as I sing "The North Wind doth blow and there shall be snow, and what will the Black Bear do then, poor thing" and the kids spin back down the hall.

I sing, "He'll roll in his den, and then roll again, and curl up and sleep until spring, poor thing" as the boys roll back up the hall, curled up as tight as they can.

Once more, "The North Wind doth blow and there shall be snow, and what will the Gray Fox do then, poor thing," as the boys spin back down the hall.

"She'll crawl all around, hunting food on the ground, to keep herself fed til the spring, poor thing," as the boys crawl once more up the hall.

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