All of my toys are named Bob. Mostly because I can never think of creative names. I have mermaids, ducks, cars, and sandwiches all named Bob. My favorite has to be Trash Can Bob. He encourages fine motor skills, keep kids entertained while waiting, and motivates frightened athletes. Bob is pretty awesome. He is velcro intensive, so he can transform from monster to fairy to superhero to mustache man. Let's be honest though- he usually sports his mustache.
Bringing Bob to Life
The small swing top trash cans work best. 1.5 gallons seems to be a standard size. You can usually find these in Target. Dollar Tree also has a smaller version in several colors right now. I really like this one because it's just the right size and the swinger doesn't fall off as often.
I attach Velcro in several spots for his eyes, arms, horns, wings, mustache, ears, etc. I place soft Velcro on the trashcan itself so that I can use appendages from Build-a-Puppets. I attach the hook Velcro to a variety of googly eyes, animal ears, butterfly wings and mustaches to give the man some personality.
The eyes can make the swing lid off balance, so I duct taped a piece of foam to the inside back of the lid.
There are also a lot of cute ideas if you search "muncher" + "trash" on pinterest.
I have tried all sorts of tactics to make velcro hold up in the pool. The adhesive on standard velcro is a no go. If you allow the proper setting time you can use plumbers pvc glue with standard velcro. I have used Christie's.
I've also used industrial strength extreme velcro. It's totally EXTREME brah, and it doesn't have the messy blue goop that you get from the pvc glue. Purple Bob's eyes did fall off after 10 days of pool use with this Velcro...
Progress Tracking- Pool
I set aside 5-10 pieces of food in a bowl for Bob. We feed him one piece after each turn (2 if I see a lot of focus and effort in the turn) and then when his bowl is empty it's time for a game.
Fine Motor in the Pool- Youngins
Sometimes Bob is hungry enough to eat a bus. I'll lay out small transportation manipulatives and matchbox cars next to Bob at the edge of the pool. These sink so I don't bother throwing them. 1 swimming turn = feed Bob 1 car.
I set out a variety of "picker uppers" so that we can pretend we are cranes lifting the cars or they are covered in radioactive goop and we can't touch them. I happen to have quite a few truck obsessed swimmers right now, but you can use any small objects.
Fine Motor in the Pool- Too Big for Their Britches
For older kids who can easily swim to the bottom we take it up a notch by using tongs or chopsticks. We spread out a bunch of small toys on the bottom of the pool and kids need to dive down and bring them up to Bob without using their fingers. I tried it myself with chopsticks and it's pretty hard!
This can be used as a fun reward or to encourage lengthening breath control without bringing attention to it. If some kids know that you want them to stay under for longer they will push their limits and hold their breath for too long. This is why you won't see "underwater contests" in swim lessons anymore.
Motivating More Wall Time
Some young climbers need a lot of coaxing to increase time on the wall. I like to turn Bob into a monster and place monster food (pom poms, or whatever you have on hand) in climbing holds at various heights. It helps to have a few "gimmees" that can be grabbed from floor level as well as some higher food that may take a few tries to reach. I place Bob on the gym mat and kids get a small break between climbs as they feed him. To incorporate fine motor or increase rest time you can use tongs or tweezers to feed Bob.
Progress Tracking- Climb
You can also use Bob for progress tracking as in swimming above. Lay out 5-10 pieces of food and students must complete a climb or demonstrate a specific skill for each piece. When Bob's bowl is empty they've earned a reward!
Grab Bag Skills
For older students you can place small foam shapes or plastic discs in holds throughout the gym. I also like to use the rubber duckies from myprevious post for this. Bob loves roast duck.
Each token lists a skill or drill that they must complete before feeding it to Bob. Tasks could include things like: 5 burpees, 3 consecutive dynamic moves, traverse using only crimps, climb a V0 with 1 hand, etc. You can also include some goofy skills like: create a victory dance on the finish hold, or name a type of food every time you touch a hold.
If I have a class of "new readers" who are just on the cusp of literacy I'll usually go around and read some of the discs as they are collected and act like it's part of the game. It can be embarrassing for a student to ask for help reading his disc. Whenever possible I also draw a picture.
Yoga & Fitness Games
Bob Eats His Feelings
After discussing different emotions and how to recognize them in ourselves/others it's time to get up and move again. I scatter the emotions all over the room and the class has to hop/skip/jump to grab an emotion and balance it on their head while delivering it to Bob. I've used laminated pictures with different emotions drawn on as well as emotional bean bags.
We start with a pop quiz where I hold up an item (play food, dollhouse pieces, small toys) and the kids create a yoga pose to depict the object. Students chose half moon for "banana" and child's pose for "strawberry". We scatter the objects all over the room and students hold each pose for 2 slow breaths before feeding it to Bob. You could also use laminated pictures of the poses you are learning that day.
During ourFrozen Jelly Olaf was definitely my favorite. We played lots of snowman games and threw a million snowballs. Kids really like to chuck things!
This activity didn't go where I had intended but it was really easy to make and the kids loved it! I used 5mm foam sheets because they float a little better and last longer than the thinner foam.
Potato Head Snowmen
This was my original idea and the kids liked it but it wasn't a huge hit. We put all of the foam pieces on a floating mat in the pool and took turns swimming to retrieve the pieces.
In addition to the traditional snowman attire I made some clothes and crazy hair/arms so that the kids could create a crazy snowman.
To keep students on track, we usually track our progress visually and work towards a reward. "If you work really hard for 5 turns you can choose a game to play". Thanks to Tammy at Swimming with Autism I've been using a peg system. After completing a turn, the swimmer moves a peg from the cup to the peg board.
For the winter variation I set aside the traditional snowman pieces and propped a large mat up on the pool deck. After each turn we added a piece to our snowman (2 eyes, 3 buttons counted as one piece each). When he was complete it was time for a game!
When I was prepping my "Winter Wonderland" toy box I just grabbed all of the white and blue toys that I could find. I threw in some blue foam golf balls without a game in mind, but they turned out to be the crowd favorite. I drew a target on the belly of the snowman and propped him up on the edge of the pool. We threw the golf balls into the pool and after swimming to retrieve a "snowball" we threw it at the snowman. I had the snowman set up right next to the platform to keep the rest of the class occupied while waiting for their turn.
Do You Want to Build a Snowman?
We practiced growing our snowmen by starting off in a small ball and slowly rising into forward fold, halfway lift, chair, and mountain. After we were fully grown we jumped up and tucked back into a ball. The kids thought that the fast tuck was really funny. We listened to the oh so popular song from Frozen and "grew" during every chorus.
After learning the snowman sequence we had a pop quiz. I drew some very impressive stick figures on white foam circles and placed them face down around the room. The kids had to hop, skip or jump to a piece and copy the pose for 3 breaths. They also tried to balance the piece on their head and carry it slowly across the room, but this had less success :).
Hands Free Stemming
After learning about dihedrals, students climb to find a good spot for hands free stemming. They each carry an arsenal of snowballs in a bucket attached to their waist. Climbers play with effective/energy saving body positions to bombard the snowman (taped to the wall) from their perch.
The buckets work well for top rope and auto-belay, but could pose a problem while bouldering. I've been thinking about using wide mouthed chalk bags as a soft & safer alternative.
A lot of young climbers (2-4 yrs) need some motivation to stay on the wall :). You can hide the snowballs in jug holds throughout the gym and have kids climb to retrieve the balls. After performing a practice fall, they can hop/gallop/skip across the room to throw the snowballs at the snowman
Build a Snowman-Earn a Reward
Similar to the snowman reward system used in swimming. For a group lesson you will need one full snowman per student. After completing a climb, they add one piece to their snowman. When all of the snowmen are built the class gets to play a game.
Rebecca & Sarah have been working with children for over a decade. You can find a compilation of ideas for the classroom, home, and athletic fields here.