March 2013 Smarty

It’s raining…  Rain Sticks!

Yep, the Smarty for March is making rain sticks! 

My favorite things about this project?  It is SO easy and it is age appropriate for everyone! (Who hasn’t been mesmerized by the soothing sound of a rain stick?)   Children as young as two can help make a rain stick with adult assistance and older children can make their rain sticks independently.  This would be an ideal activity for a structured play date.  Another option – if your child can follow generalized adult instruction in a classroom and/or imitate a video model –  try having him watch the Smarty video and complete the project with minimal adult guidance.  Take advantage of this excellent opportunity to generalize or practice Skills® lessons, including Adaptive Planning, Organizing Materials, Sequencing, Auditory, Visual and Working Memory, Task Persistence, Shifting Attention, and Nonsocial Problem Solving.  Don’t expect your child to follow the instructions in one viewing.  Pausing to gather materials or rewinding to catch a missed step shows excellent planning and problem-solving skills.

Like all the Smarty projects, the rain stick craft is a chance to work on fine motor skills.  If your child is working on a particular fine motor skill, try to incorporate that skill into the decoration of the rain stick.  You might also have your child practice writing her name on the rain stick.

As the video mentions, the real fun comes after your done making the stick.  As a novel, controllable, and easily removable object, the rain stick makes an excellent potential reinforcer.  It can also be used in any lesson that incorporates hearing, such as the Music and Movement which involves creating sound with instruments according to speed, duration, and pattern. The Senses lesson, which involves identifying items by a salient sensory feature, such as its sound, would also be relevant.  You can also use the rain stick to generalize concepts from the Cause and Effect lesson.  Will a rain stick have a different sound if it has different filler?  Try various fillers, (e.g.  rice, beans, pasta, etc.) and find out.

Another idea is to make pairs of rain sticks with the same filler to work on auditory matching skills for the Sound Discrimination Lesson.  Using the same method in the Smarty video, make pairs of tubes (toilet paper or paper towel) with different sounds inside (e.g., bells, coins, beans, a rain stick, mini slinkies, nothing, etc.).  Once you have a number of identical looking, but different sounding tubes, have your child match the tubes by pairing matching sounds.  With a pair of rain sticks, you can also practice replication of auditory patterns.

Incorporating new toys, like a rain stick, into teaching sessions, can make familiar lessons more exciting and motivating.  Use the rain stick in Imitation with Objects and Following Instructions.  “Shake the rain stick high!  Shake the rain stick low.  Shake the rain stick fast!  Shake the rain stick slow.”  Try working on your child’s flexibility by incorporating the rain stick into familiar songs, (e.g, “If your happy and you know it make it rain!”).  If your child is working on more complex flexibility skills, try using the rain stick in a variety of pretend play scenarios (e.g. the rain stick is…a magic wand, a pepper shaker, a rolling pin, a potion, a phone, a telescope, a bus, etc.)

There are so many ways you can incorporate a new object, like the rain stick, into your child’s teaching sessions.  Toys don’t have to be purchased from a teaching supply store to be educational and they don’t need a cartoon character’s picture to be motivating.  With a little spare time and some basic household materials, you can shake some excitement into your child’s day!