Monday, March 6, 2017

Muscle Mover Cards by Fundanoodle

We got an opportunity to try out a few products from Fundanoodle.  I had never heard of this company before, but along with the learning tools, Heidi sent me a small catalog with more about the company.

"Fundanoodle is an education readiness program designed by pediatric occupational therapists and elementary school teachers to develop and improve the motor skills needed for success in and out of the classroom."

This company is a direct sales company that has "Education Ambassadors" who host parties and share these products with others.  From what I can tell though, the Education Ambassadors, are not about making money but more about sharing their passion.  They have a love for teaching and love to share tools that really make an impact.

Another section of the catalog explains that their products are designed to combat the negative impact of touchscreen technology.
When I read that part of their goal, their products made a lot of sense.  It's too easy to put your child in front of a tablet for entertainment, but it's not as easy to grab something else for them to do, that's where these products come into play.  The first learning tool we tried was the Muscle Mover Cards.

What's included.  

This is how the set arrives.
 Open it up to see the beautiful cards.  They have great graphics, which I love.
 Lift out the cards and you see the ring and dry erase pen in the bottom.
On the lid of the box there are "how to play" and "how to win" instructions.
Then they list the benefits of this type of play, which is great.  It's always nice to know all that can be learned from play.
 This set of cards are all capital letters and are recommended for the younger age group 4 to 5.  The lower case letters are meant for kids age 5 to 6.  There is a debate among educators about whether a child should learn lower case or upper case letters first.  If you believe lower case first is best, you could of course purchase the other set.  I am going to be trying these out on my 3 year old.
Each card has a great animal graphic and a statement of a movement to make and on the backside they have the letter to trace.  I did a little digging into their methods of teaching writing and this helped me understand the green and red lines.  Green for go, which also means it's the typical place where the formation of most letters start.  Red means stop, which is the typical place where letters end.  I personally think this concept is brilliant and so simple.
 The cards are nice and thick, very durable.

 Muscle Mover Cards in Action

I did not read the instructions on how to play the game that was on the box, I was just too excited to give them to Adam to see what he would do with them.  Adam is 3 and this is how we explored the cards.  I first flipped to letter A, the writing side and laid it on the table while it was still attached to the ring.  It did not lay flat so I quickly took it off the ring and laid it right on the table.  I told Adam to start at the green line and follow the grey line all the way down to the red.  He really wanted to follow the green line first and then the grey.  All writing practice is good, so I wasn't bothered.
He did a great job the very first time.  Better than he had followed a line on previous paper and pencil writing opportunities.  I showed him the other, super exciting part, of his special new pen - the eraser.  He got right to work wiping it clean so he could do it again.
After he got some pen on the table I decided to put the letter card on a tray.  It would easily wipe off the table, but I thought this might contain his exuberant writing.
 Here he is at his second attempt.  The first time he tried to follow the line his mark was a bit squiggly.  This one was perfectly straight.
 He also admired his work.
 I coached him to do the other big line and then the little one in the middle.
Now you may think that I chose A because it was the first letter in the alphabet, but it was actually because his name starts with A.  I think it's best for little ones to learn "their" letter first.  But since he mastered that pretty quickly we moved onto B, because it has curvy lines.  Look at him go!
 Next I pulled out C but first I sang "A,B long pause".  He finished the song for me.
 He sat there, writing and erasing for 15 minutes.

 Even with distractions like big brothers and friends in the background.  Adam is only 3 but he has a great pencil grasp.  If you have a younger one that doesn't quite have this skill down, Heidi, the Fundanoodle Education Ambassador recommended forming the letters with play-doh or wiki sticks.  Both are great options.  But they could also simply trace with the tip of their finger.
 I think Adam would say, he enjoyed it.
We haven't even used the movement recommendation on the front of these cards and we already had a tons of fun.

How to use this tool.

Every home with young children needs flashcards of some sort, with all the letters of the alphabet.  Yes you can pick up a set at Dollar Tree.  But the durability of these Muscle Mover Cards, the writing opportunity and the movement recommendations make these cards have a lot more versatility.  These cards would quickly give you ideas on how to spend quality time with your children while they also build fine and gross motor skills.  And I know I said it once before, the graphics are very cute.

As most of you know, we LOVE our Mother Goose Time curriculum, which is an all inclusive ,preschool and beyond, themed curriculum.  Each month with Mother Goose Time we focus on three letters.  We learn their sounds and have the opportunity to practice writing those letters in the My Little Journal.  This set, would go along very nicely with MGT.  Since you get only three alphabet cards each month, collecting all letters by the end of the year, this would be a great way to have the complete alphabet in cards as a part of you classroom all year long.  But it could also coordinate well with the MGT lessons because you could pull out the three letters you are focusing on each month and have a writing station.  You could use those three actions during all your transition times, etc.

As part of your classroom these Muscle Mover Cards would offer another way of learning handwriting.  Every child learns differently, and if the green means go and red means stop concept clicks with your child there are other products from this company with more writing opportunities.

Pros and Cons

I love the green means go, red means stop way of teaching.  My older boys have really struggled remembering to start letters at the top when writing.  Introducing this early would have been very helpful, but I was still learning as an educator.  Now that I know this is a hard habit to break, I find it all the more valuable to start off right.  Not only that, but from what I have seen of the other writing tools, for older children, they have them practice writing the letters within a square, which was something I loved about Handwriting Without Tears.  

This card set, is not a complete writing curriculum.  It's not going to step by step walk you through how to teach handwriting.  But it's a great tool to have and something else to put in front of your children beside a screen.  

I am a little bummed that when the ring is put through the cards, it will no longer fit inside it's box.  
The flip side of that is that it won't be tucked away and forgotten about.  It could be hung on a hook and visible for your children to grab when they are ready for fun. 

I am also a bit disappointed that you can't leave the cards on the ring when writing.  It didn't take long to get the cards on and off the ring, but it's just another step, when we are often running short on time.  I really can't imagine a better way of storing them though.  If they were in a box they could easily be dumped out and all mixed up.  On the ring, they can easily be grabbed and taken on the go.  You could also easily have your child finger trace or form the letters with wiki sticks while the cards were still on the ring.   
All in all the Muscle Mover Cards are a great little product with lots of versatility that is Adam approved.  To top it all off, they are only $17.99.  So find an Education Ambassador today at Fundanoodle and get your home or your school a set.  

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