Preparing For An October/Halloween My Obstacle Course

Today I am sharing an example of what it looked like when I was preparing for an October/Halloween themed My Obstacle Course done with Andrew.

Prepping for an October/Halloween Themed My Obstacle Course

Below is a photograph of my desk while I got organized. This is how I play!! While it may seem to be just a mish-mash of things, they all went together beautifully to create a fun learning experience.

Prepping by gathering materials to see what I have.

I gathered cutouts, stickers, thematic materials and other tools that I had which would help me build skills. I’ll do my best to go from left to right describing the item and how I used it. (I will be posting the ones I haven’t published yet in the next two weeks.)

  • Yellow Geoboard with rubber bands to build fine motor skills while creating a spider.
  • Colored cups (leftover from Easter egg dying) with Halloween rings used for sorting and counting.
  • Alphabet stamps and stamp pad to build fine motor skills while spelling words to go with our theme.
  • Write on – wipe off alphabet writing book with dry-erase markers to help with letter formation.
  • Leaf cutouts to make opposite matching game.
  • Halloween stickers for patterning activity, “What Comes Next?”
  • Autumn themed number cards to play, “Make This Number.”
  • Some counting activities from www.EnchantedLearning.com (the white papers with black background).
  • Farm themed memory match game.
Note: These nine activities actually got broken up into about 13 stations since I consider things like sorting and then counting to be separate stations and I also usually separate patterning into two stations using different stickers or different patterns. I’ve had people say that they could never set up that many stations but once you look at it like this, it is not that difficult.

After this, I gather up the larger items like tunnels, carpet runner, balls, clothesline and clothespins. It only takes a little while to set up because I use the same station locations each time so I just have to scatter the activities so I have a good mix of skills and also plan to put preferred activities after activities that are more challenging. This helps to motivate him to finish so he can move on.

With some really simple materials, you can create an engaging experience with your child that will provide you with so much information about how they learn and what they know and can do while your child gets to build the skills that they are ready for at the level they need.

Engage, Encourage and Empower!

Farm Themed Station Ideas Using Items Found At Home

These are some other basic station activity ideas that I have included in a farm-themed My Obstacle Course for Andrew. The great thing about them is that I used things that I already had at home so this is another reminder to look around in your child’s stuff to see if they have toys that fit with the theme you are doing. When doing my own “treasure hunt” for this theme I found a farm puzzle, his Fisher-Price Farm set with the animals, some plastic animals we accumulated somewhere (possibly Michael’s), and some farm-themed books.

Farm Puzzle

Large Farm Puzzle

Puzzles can be done in a variety of ways, depending on what your child is ready for.

  • Put the puzzle together ahead of time and remove several pieces. When the child gets to the station, they put the pieces that have been removed into the puzzle. This helped us tremendously because Andrew would get overwhelmed at all of the pieces in front of him, not quite getting how to look for edges and corners. When he put the pieces into the puzzle, he felt as proud as if he had done the whole thing and the next time I would remove a few more pieces to challenge him a bit more.
  • Separate the edge pieces from the middle pieces. Create the frame first before strategically introducing the other pieces. With beginner type puzzles, this is not difficult to do. Just look for pieces that fit in the spaces next to the edge pieces and hand them to your child.
  • Complete puzzle in the typical fashion.

Fisher Price Farm

  • While this is meant for more pretend play, you could make it a more direct activity by having your child place the animals in their correct spaces, having them make the sounds that the animals make or match the animals with the animal name written on a card or cutout. For these, I would probably incorporate some sort of mystery pouch so that they have to reach in, choose an animal and then do the activity. Doesn’t take much to make it more intriguing! Here is a post I did a while ago on mystery pouches.

Plastic Farm Animals

  • Provide clues for the animals that you have and have your child match the animal that goes with the clue. (Ex. What kind of animal likes to roll in the mud? Pig!) I would use the same mystery strategy I mentioned above.

Farm Books

  • Books can be read as a read aloud (where the adult reads while the child listens or vice versa), read together (adult and child read together or take turns reading pages) or talk about the pictures and point out things on the pages without reading the text that is on the page. This can be as easy as saying, “Where is the barn?” or “Point to the cow.” Include some post-it notes so you can label these items (without ruining the book) to add word and picture connections.
I encourage you to go on your own treasure hunts and see what you can find. Remember that things don’t always have to be used in the way they were originally meant to be used. Get creative! Think simple! Remember to meet your child where they are and build the skills they need.

Engage, Encourage and Empower!

Help the Baby Chicks

This station activity is perfect for a farm-themed My Obstacle Course. All you need are some colored puffs (yellow works great for baby chicks) and some tweezers or ice tongs. I had some brown shredded paper that I placed into a baking pan because I thought it would help in pretending that they were still in their nest. I also had a picture of a hen from a Mailbox Teacher Magazine but you could draw your own (you would laugh if you saw what mine would look like) or simply print one from of the internet.

My Obstacle Course Station Activity: Help The Baby Chicks Get Back With Their Mom

This activity is simple. Have your child use the tweezers to get the baby chicks (one at a time) back to their mom. Since I am always looking for ways to build pretend play, I suggest adding some pretend play dialogue, such as “Oh no! The chicks are still sleeping in their nest and their mom is looking for them. Can you help them get back with their mother?”

Help the Baby Chicks

Using the tweezers or tongs helps to build hand muscles necessary for handwriting and even eating with utensils. Here is a past post that I did on tweezers.

Engage, Encourage and Empower!

Farm Themed Sticker Story

When I purchase things to use in My Obstacle Courses with Andrew, I LOVE it when I can use them for multiple activities. Here is just one example of how easy it is to create a completely different activity using something as basic as package of stickers.

I had some farm stickers, which I used for a farm themed memory match game

Farm Themed Stickers

Farm Themed Memory Match Pairs

and decided to create a fill in the blank story using them. At the time, Andrew was 4 and since he wasn’t yet speaking, I wanted to know if he knew which animals made which sounds. This gave me the perfect opportunity to find out since I could read the words, say the sounds and he could select the animal that went with it.

My Obstacle Course Station Activity: Farm Themed Sticker Story

For this station activity, I typed up some basic sentences with a space provided for a sticker to go, printed it out, set out the stickers for Andrew to choose from and that was it.

Farm Themed Sticker Story

This is what I wrote (so you can see it’s not rocket science 🙂 ):

Out in the country, there was a little red ___ (barn). There were lots of animals on the farm. There was a ___ (horse) that said “neigh!” There was a ___ (pig) that said “oink!” There was a ___ (cow) that said “moo!” There was even a ___ (scarecrow) that didn’t say anything, but scared away the birds.

Once at the station, I read the sentence and had him pick the sticker that best fit. He peeled it off of the sheet and placed it onto the paper on the line provided. This was not only reinforcing his knowledge of animals and their sounds, it was also fine motor skills of peeling and placing.

This activity can be adapted to any theme that you are doing, doesn’t take long to prepare and is a good way to build vocabulary or provide information about a certain topic/thing while keeping your child engaged in the process.

Engage, Encourage and Empower!

Autumn Themed “Make This Number”

I first did a post sharing this activity in September (Apple Themed Make This Number) and wanted to share how easy it is to update this station activity simply by using some colored index cards and thematic or seasonal stickers.

For the autumn-themed number cards, I decided to use colors that represent autumn for me – red, orange and yellow (you could use any cards or colors that you’d like), and I used some apple, pumpkin and leaf stickers. If this is too busy for you or your child, you could use just one color of index card or one kind of sticker for a set of cards (ex. a set of apple number cards, a set of pumpkin number cards and/or a set of leaf number cards).

Here is the set of cards I made:

Autumn-themed number cards 1-10

All you need to do for this activity is decide the total that you’d like your child to make, get pairs of cards that make that number, mix them up and set them out. (For a more detailed description of this station activity, check out my original post Apple Themed Make This Number.)

My Obstacle Course Station Activity: Put two cards together to make 9

Make the Number 9

Andrew counting the stickers on two cards to see if they equal 9.

Andrew putting the final two cards together to get 9.

My Obstacle Course Station Activity: Put two cards together to make 10

Make the Number 10

Number cards put together to equal 10.

Alternative Activity Idea:

These cards could be put together in pairs to build concepts like “more” and “less” through questions like, “Which has more, apples or pumpkins?” Throw in a “greater than” or “less than” sign and you can build yet another skill! See how something so basic as colored index cards and seasonal stickers can really help to build math skills in a fun, kid-appealing way? Love it!

Engage, Encourage and Empower!

Autumn Themed Vocabulary and Picture Matching

When I begin working on putting together a My Obstacle Course, I choose my theme and then as part of my preparation, I usually head to Enchanted Learning to see if they have anything I can use to build literacy or math skills. This is an example of how I used one of their thematic vocabulary sheets, altered the look of it a bit and created an engaging station activity to build vocabulary!

I began by printing off the sheet which is meant to be a “draw a line from picture to word” activity. While I love the pictures and the concept, as I mentioned above, I wanted something a bit more fun and interactive.

Autumn matching sheet (vocabulary and pictures) from EnchantedLearning.com.

I got out a leaf-shaped pad of note paper that I had gotten at Teacher Heaven…

A pad of autumn-themed note paper.

Cut out the pictures and glued them onto the sheets of notepaper. I chose to write out the words instead of cutting and gluing the ones from the original sheet but you could do that if you’d like. I laminated these with clear contact paper so they would be more sturdy and last longer, but you could also use index cards instead.

Close up of what a matching pair looks like.

When I set up the station activity for our Obstacle Course, I set out the pictures and put the words in a pile below (shown below). I did it this way because I wanted him to see the word, hear the word and be able to place the word on the picture. If you have a child who is already reading or is ready to build word reading skills, you could do it the opposite way and see if they can locate the word based on beginning sound or knowledge of how the word is spelled.

My Obstacle Course Station Activity: Match the word with the picture.

The word "pumpkin" matched with the picture of a pumpkin.

Station activity completed!

This could also be used as a Crawl and Match activity (as we did in the station shown below).

My Obstacle Course Station Activity: Crawl and Match the words with the pictures.

It might just be me, but doesn’t this version look a bit more kid-friendly and fun than just sitting down with a sheet of paper? Still building same skills (minus the “drawing the line” skill) but much more engaging.

Engage, Encourage and Empower!

Autumn Manipulatives

You have heard me mention the word “manipulatives” many times and in case you don’t know what they are, they are basically items that children can manipulate while working math problems.

Here are some manipulatives that are perfect for an autumn themed My Obstacle Course:

From our yard

From Pottery Barn

Some colorful, plastic pieces from Michael's in the shapes of acorns and leaves.

These are great to pair with math equations to help the child have a good understanding of what the exactly they are doing – what the numbers represent and what it looks like. I think this is so important in building a strong math foundation.

Example: 4+2= ? Have your child get 4 things and then 2 more before counting them altogether.

Really simple but so often neglected as people try to get children ahead by starting them on flash cards and working to know the facts by memory before there is a good understanding. This becomes quite apparent when the child cannot explain what it is they are doing or how they came up with their answer.

Uses:

  • one to one correspondence
  • addition
  • subtraction
  • multiplication
  • division
  • patterning (if you have items that would work as patterns)

These are just some fun, seasonal items to use as manipulatives and I encourage you to be on the lookout for other items that can be used. I’ve got a bunch that I will share soon that are great for a Halloween themed My Obstacle Course – stay tuned!!

Engage, Encourage and Empower!

Farm Themed Memory Match

This is a really easy way to create a thematic memory match game using stickers and index cards (or cutouts). Here is a link to an earlier memory match post I wrote. I like including this game because it helps to build concentration, encourages basic game skills like turn taking and provides a good opportunity to make connections and build vocabulary based on the stickers.

My Obstacle Course Station Activity: Thematic Memory Match

This station activity takes me only about 5 minutes to prepare and has been a favorite of Andrew’s for a while now.

Step 1: Get stickers. Some stickers come with a matching pair on one sheet (like this one) and other packs do not. For the packs that don’t have matchers on one sheet, I just use two sticker sheets and get the matching sticker that way.

Farm Themed Stickers

Step 2: Get something sturdy to place the stickers on. I like to use index cards and found these small, blank, colored cards at my teacher store. I choose one color to use per memory match game and try to choose a color that goes with the theme or season we are in. For this one, I chose to use the red ones.

Small, colored index cards (2x3) are perfect for this activity.

I've also used 4x6 index cards and cut them in half with my paper cutter.

Step 3: Place matching stickers on two separate cards to make a matching pair.

A matching pair.

Continue until you have made all of the matching pairs that you can.

Matching pairs

Step 4: Mix them up or shuffle them. Set them out in rows and it is ready!

Memory match game set up and ready to play.

We take turns turning over cards to try to find matches and continue until all matches have been found.

Matching pair found!

When I began doing this with Andrew, we only did three pairs at a time and the cards were face up so I could show him what we were looking for – “Can you find the card that looks the same?” We did it like this until he understood that we were matching and then began turning them over. Remember to think about the skills your child is ready for and modify the activity so they can build those skills without immediately getting overwhelmed by rules and details they are not ready for. That way, it will be more beneficial and fun for both of you!!

Engage, Encourage and Empower!

Pronoun Sorting Station

Pronouns were giving Andrew a hard time, so I thought I would come up with a station activity to reinforce that “he” was for boys and “she” was for girls. I love using sorting stations because they do not require intelligible speech to demonstrate understanding. They also reinforce a specific skill or concept and are not difficult to create. This is something that took me about 5 minutes to put together and was a hit with him – double bonus!!

My Obstacle Course Station Activity: Pronoun Sorting

I found these stickers at the teacher store and got them because they had lots of different kids on them.

Stickers with kids on them.

I used a package of apple-shaped cutouts because it went with the theme we were doing (you could use index cards or paper cut into card sized pieces) and placed a sticker on each cutout. I wrote out some basic directions on an index card to place at the station.

Directions written out.

This is what the station looked like when he got to it:

My Obstacle Course Station Activity: Pronoun sorting

Choose a card from the pile, flip it over and see which pronoun the child goes with.

Sticker with a girl on it sorted into the "she" pile.

Sticker with boy on it sorted into the "he" pile.

All apples sorted into their correct pronoun pile.

Alternative pronouns to use.

See how easy it is to make a station activity that reinforces some basic, yet often challenging to reinforce, skills?

Engage, Encourage and Empower!

Calendar Number Sequencing

Calendar numbers make it super easy to build math skills such as number sequencing. I like to use calendar numbers because they are thematic according to the month or season, which makes building vocabulary relevant to the month we are in easier to weave into conversation as we are working with the numbers. Because the numbers in the calendar number set go up to 31, you have a good range of numbers to work with in a variety of easy to assemble station activities.

Apple Themed Calendar Number

Using an index card, cutout, post-it note or even a piece of scrap paper to write some basic directions helps tremendously with a sequencing activity.

Basic Directions:

  • What comes next?
  • What comes before?
  • What number is missing?
  • Put these numbers in order from least to greatest.
  • Fill in the missing numbers.

My Obstacle Course Station Activity: Fill in the missing numbers

My Obstacle Course Station Activity: Fill in the missing numbers.

Missing numbers filled in.

My Obstacle Course Station Activity: What comes next?

My Obstacle Course Station Activity: What comes next?

For this activity, I begin the sequence of numbers and mix up the number choices above. This could be made more advanced by using a number pattern, such as 1, 3, 5, and have the child figure out what comes next – 7, 9, 11.

4 comes after 3. What comes next?

Numbers filled in.

My Obstacle Course Station Activity: Putting numbers in order from 1-10.

My Obstacle Course Station Activity: Put these numbers in order from 1-10.

Numbers 1-10 in order.

My Obstacle Course Station Activity: Fill in the missing numbers.

My Obstacle Course Station Activity: Fill in the missing numbers.

Numbers filled in to have numbers in order from 15-20.

Ordering and sequencing numbers skills are important for building a strong math foundation. Using something colorful that children can manipulate with almost no preparation time on your part helps make it a great station activity that children are more likely to engage in.

Engage, Encourage and Empower!