Thursday, September 1, 2011

Enhancing Fine Motor Skills with the Help of a Few Books about Bugs

So the day after the hurricane tropical storm was a very lounge-around kind of a day, and I sooooo desperately needed a nap.  In fact, I felt like I had a hangover except that I hadn't even gone to a fun hurricane tropical storm party! 

Here's why I was sooooo tired the day after the hurricane tropical storm, in case you were wondering:

At approximately 10:30 PM on the previous evening, a tornado warning was issued in our area.  More precisely, the emergency broadcast system interrupted our regularly scheduled programming (with that horrific beeping sound) to say that a tornado might tear the roof off of our brick townhouse. 

Oh, that's not what it said?  Well......that's what I heard. 

Not everyone was as lucky as us, though.  This is an uprooted
tree - just minutes from our house.
So, I moved baby bookworm from her room on the second floor to our hallway on the first floor.  Probably not the safest place for a roof tearing-off tornado, but we don't have a basement so it seemed like the next best thing. Daddy bookworm and I also set up camp for the remainder of the night on the first floor.  Thanks to Facebook (because updating your status is the first thing you should do in the event of an emergency, right?), I realized my other mom friends were doing the exact same thing in their very own basements (so I felt a little less crazy).  Daddy bookworm took the couch, but I insisted on "sleeping" on the floor next to baby bookworm (which might put me back into some kind crazy category again, I'm not sure).  I explained to daddy bookworm that the floor was farther away from the windows than the couch; but, in reality, I just wanted to be as close to baby bookworm as possible so I could quickly snatch her up when the roof did come off of our house, like in The Wizard of Oz.  Well, needless to say, I didn't get much sleep.  And, the roof didn't come off of our house either, in case you were wondering.  In fact, I'm pretty sure just a few sticks blew around our yard (thank goodness). 

Anyway, despite desperately needing a nap after all of the evening's excitement, or lack thereof, the next day I got SUCKED into watching 3 hours of a show called Infested! on the Animal Planet when I should have been catching up on my beauty rest while baby bookworm was catching up on hers. Infested! is a reality show about people whose homes have basically been overtaken by some kind of animal (ants, rats, bedbugs, snakes, and even raccoons - I kid you not), and it's TOTALLY addictive. 

What does any of this have to do with books and learning? 

Well, after having 3 hours of life sucked away by this show, I realized just how darn interesting these "creatures" really are, and it inspired me to have a "bug" week with baby bookworm (at least something good came out of watching reality TV, right?). 

I decided to focus on three "creatures," or bugs I guess, although only one of them was actually featured on the show (I'll save rats and snakes for when baby bookworm is a bit older).  There are TONS of books that you can read that fit into this theme, but here are ones we have read in the past and a few new ones that we discovered this week. 


Ah, spiders.  Cute and cuddly right?  At least a few books make it seem so. 

If you have a baby, check out the The Itsy Bitsy Spider.  Baby bookworm and I used to read this beloved nursery rhyme book all the time at the library.  Of course, you can do the most logical thing with this book and pair it with the song, which helps your baby associate written words and actions.  We also used to sing a few different versions of the song: The Great Big Spider, or the Jumpy Jumpy Spider (or whatever your imagination can think up).  It's really great fun.

Eric Carle's The Very Busy Spider is another good spider tale that would be suitable for toddlers.  Your child will no doubt love the colorful illustrations and enjoy all of the farm animals.  Don't forget to point out the great moral of the story too....being persistent is hard work, but it pays off in the end.   

Spiders Are Not Insects is a non-fiction book that we got from the library.  It's a not so cuddly depiction of a spider, but incredibly educational and full of fun spider facts that even I didn't know.  The photographs give you an up close and personal view (possibly closer than you may desire) of spiders.  This book is part of the "Rookie Read-About Science" series made especially for little baby bookworms, and this baby bookworm truly enjoys it.

Our theme even played into her outfit!

Cute all around....although I can't think of the last time I've seen one, and I'm not sure if baby bookworm has ever seen one to be honest, aside from in these great books.

The Grouchy Ladybug, also by Eric Carle, is a book geared toward older toddlers, preschoolers and beyond.  Not only is it a great story about a ladybug with a tough attitude, but it contains some wonderful educational lessons on bullying, telling time, and size comparison.  I think it will become one of our favorites.

Another book probably intended for a preschool or older crowd is Ladybug Girl by David Soman and Jacky Davis.  Even so, baby bookworm and I read it anyway. After a few read throughs (and being persistent like the busy spider)
 she has really grown fond of this little girl in her ladybug costume who sets out to  prove she's not too little after all.

A great non-fiction book on ladybugs that we found at our library is Ladybugs: Red, Fiery, and Bright by Mia Posada.  It's a great book for toddlers that's full of brightly colored paintings and rhyming text.  I promise you will learn more about ladybugs and their anatomy than you could ever want to know.


Everyone loves butterflies.  Caterpillars, maybe not so much. 

Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar is one of his best loved stories.  It tells of a caterpillar's life cycle in a delightfully kid-friendly and educational way.  Babies will love to look at the bright foods that the caterpillar bites through, toddlers will love learning to count, and preschoolers will enjoy a fun way to learn the days of the week.  Baby bookworm and I actually have the version of the story that came with an audio CD which has proven to be a life saver on long car rides.

The Crunching Munching Caterpillar by Sheridan Cain is another book that tells of a caterpillar's transformation into a butterfly.  It has more words than The Very Hungry Caterpillar and is less overtly educational, but a sweet story nevertheless.  In this book, the caterpillar envies his flying friends, but is in for a wonderful surprise after a long winter's nap. 
The illustrations by Jack Tickle are super cute too. 

A non-fiction favorite of baby bookworm's is Guess Who Changes by Sharon Gordon.  This book tells of the life cycle of a butterfly in a very scientific and textbook-like way.  There are no illustrations, but rather photographs detailing the caterpillar's metamorphosis into a butterfly.  There's even a glossary at the end of the book.  Baby bookworm LOVES this book and runs around the house exclaiming "guess who changes" all the time.  It a perfect real life buttery tale for toddlers.

A page from Miss Spider's ABC

In addition to all of these books, there's two bug-themed alphabet books that we enjoyed: Miss Spider's ABC book and Bugs A to Z

Miss Spider's ABC is an ABC book (which is probably obvious by the name, but I'm pointing it out anyway) in which all kinds of buggy friends are preparing for Miss Spider's surprise birthday party.  We really love the vivid illustrations and baby bookworm likes to say "shhhh"as everyone hides for the surprise birthday party at the end of the book.  Sometimes we even sing Happy Birthday to Miss Spider. 

Bugs A to Z is also as the title suggests!  A for Ants, B for Bedbugs, C for Centipede....and so forth.  Each page is also accompanied by some pretty interesting info about each bug too.

A page from bugs A to Z

Now for those of you who may think that all we do all day long is sit around reading and reading and reading, I want you to know that we don't!  We read A LOT and reading IS very important, but so is getting out and running around the park, playing with toys, doing arts and crafts, and I'll even go as far as to say watching *some* TV (although I don't recommend this for babies).  I try to do a little bit of all of these things everyday to work on various skill sets.  A lot of the time I even use books as an introduction to other projects or skills sets. 

And that's exactly what I did this week.

Using our bug books as an introduction, and to spike curiousity in baby bookworm on the topic, we then extended our bug lesson into our arts and crafts for the week.  And by the way, arts and crafts happen to be a great way to foster the development of fine motor skills

I thought our art projects were worth sharing in case you want to have a bug week of your own!  Here they are.

20-month old baby bookworm
holds the marker with
her palm

Our spider project was inspired by this blog post:

Spider project: Glue 6 Popsicle sticks on a sheet of paper like spokes on a tire.  Using a marker, draw circles connecting the Popsicle sticks to complete the web. For the spider, cut out two egg holders from the carton for the head and body. Decorate the head and body with paint, markers, or crayons.  Poke 4 holes on each side and thread pipe cleaners in each hole to look like legs.  Bend the pipe cleaners to make joints on the legs.

Our butterfly project was one that I created on my own, although I usually get lots of great craft ideas from the No Time For Flash Cards blog.  Definitely check it out if you need ideas like me! 

Butterfly project: drop globs of paint onto the center of a sheet of paper,
fold in half, press down and then open and let dry.  Once dry, cut out the painting
in the shape of wings.  Glue one flat close pin on the center for the head & body. Use pipe
cleaners for antenna, and pom poms to decorate.
 And finally, our ladybug project was inspired as well by another blog:  If you check out the link you will also find even MORE ladybug books!
Ladybug project: Use a paper plate that is turned over for the ladybug's body. With a crayon or paint, make the "face" of the ladybug black and color the body red.  Glue black pom poms on the body to create spots, and white pom poms on the face to create eyes.  It can't get any easier.

Here's a couple of other ideas on how to enhance your baby bookworm's fine motor skills:

1. Play with stickers.  What kid doesn't love stickers, right?  Both fun and educational.  The DK Ultimate Sticker Books are our favorite because they not only have up-close photographs  (i.e., stickers) that you can peel off and reuse  but they also read like a non-fiction book with a ton of fun facts.  These stickers not only enhance fine motor skills, but are actually a mini "baby geometry" lesson too because the child has to stick the animal on the appropriate silhouette. We used the BUG book this week to go along with our theme.
A page from the bug sticker book

2. Take an adventure walk.
Now, I know that sounds more like it's a gross motor skill builder (and it is to a large extent), but don't just take any old walk - I'm talking about one where you become an explorer.  You can make your very own explorer kit and collect specimens, dig under rocks with sticks, and write (or draw) your observations on a piece of paper or in a journal. It's a great active way to build fine motor skills. Baby bookworm and I are definitely going to create a kit and go on a bug hunt!  We probably won't have to go too far to find a spider web to collect either, as I am staring at a few at this very moment (does this mean I should be cleaning instead of blogging?).

The Moral:
 Don't trust the weather man
Reality TV is educational
Bugs make great pets
Books can serve as a great starting point for other skill building. 



  1. Love it! Here is another for the list, great for building empathy and good for teaching perspective for when baby bookworm gets a little older and wants to step down and squish those little ants in the sidewalk. -Marian

  2. This is a great post! Your story of the hurricane is similar to mine, (like you said!) though I didn't watch anything about bugs, so there was no payoff for me. I'm going check out a couple of the books you suggest. I also wanted to add a suggestion that we found at our library. It's called The Buggliest Bug by Carol Diggory Shields. It's clever and informative and the illustrations are great.

  3. Marian - was there a link to the book you mention? If so I didn't get it.

    Dawn - Thanks! I'll check it out. My daughter loves looking at bugs! She's not afraid of them (yet) but has suddenly developed a fear of Halloween decorations instead. kids!

    My favorite is actually the Bugs A to Z book!


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