COVID-19 is giving all of us who spend time with our grandchildren an opportunity to participate in home schooling. I spend a lot of time with my 4-year-old granddaughter Angelina, and I’m continually looking for homeschooling activities that are productive and that hold her attention. The website www.teacherspayteachers.com isn’t focused on persons with autism, but it does provide links to activities and exercises that are great for Angelina.
One that is easy and inexpensive is one that I call “Wet Pom Poms.” I bought all of the required materials at Wal-Mart for just under $15 – but many households will already have some of the materials on hand.
Here’s the list:
2 small bags of multi-size, multi-color pom poms
3 plastic bowls of different sizes
3 plastic ladles and/or measuring cups of different sizes
1 plastic shoe-storage bin
The set-up is easy. Put the 3 plastic bowls into the plastic storage bin. Put the pom poms and some water into the largest bowl. Then give your grandchild the ladles/cups and watch what happens.
Angelina begins by spending time scooping pom poms back and forth from bowl to bowl. This helps develop her hand/eye coordination, manual dexterity, and concentration. Later she starts using her hands to scoop the pom poms and she discovers several things including how to squeeze the water out of them.
Eventually, I begin an interactive dialogue that can take any of several directions. For example, I may say, “Angelina, the mommy white pom pom wants to swim in the small bowl.” And my hope (usually fulfilled) is that she’ll find a large white pom pom and scoop it into the small bowl. Then I may say, “Now the baby white pom pom wants to swim with her mommy.” And she’ll find and scoop a tiny white pom pom. You get the idea.
Or I may say something like, “The yellow baby pom pom wants to be friends with the baby purple pom pom,” and I’ll watch to see whether she finds and scoops them together. And I may say something like, “Hello baby purple pom pom. Would you like to go swimming with me?” And hopefully Angelina will scoop both into the bowl that has the water and pretend to talk in the voice of one of them.
Each time I do this exercise with Angelina I think of more variations. One of my favorites is, “Oh no! There is a shark in the water! Everybody get out of the water!!!”
Again, the best two things about this activity – at least in Angelina’s case – is that it is educationally productive and it keeps her attention for longer than 3 or 4 minutes (up to 30 minutes in her case).