05/24/2016

Fundanoodle’s I Can Build Letters! Magnets: Interactive AND Inclusive Learning for All Children

img_2294 I Can Build Letters! magnets are a great way for Little Learners to practice letter formation while building fine motor skills. Available in uppercase and lowercase, children use the color chart to see what colors make a letter. After finding the colors, children manipulate the heavy-duty pieces on a magnet surface to build the letters. For example, to build an Uppercase A, the guide tells the child to find two orange pieces and one pink. The magnets are super strong requiring children to really work to move the pieces. And, once they have built the letter, the magnets keep the pieces in place so a child can trace around the pieces to practice writing. This is a great exercise for fine motor skill and hand strength development. We encourage using all types of magnetic surfaces including those that allow a child to work standing up (like file cabinets and magnetic easels). As your child grows, you can start using the magnets as a reading foundation tool by building sight words. And of course they are always fun for making shapes and other designs!cat My Pre-K Little Learner calls these her "letter puzzles" and chooses this activity for quiet time. As a non-reader, she can still recognize numbers and colors to determine what pieces to find for each letter. I Can Build Letters! magnets are a phenomenal tool for building confident, independent Little Learners!
Fundanoodle's mission is to eliminate educational obstacles for all children.
We asked Becky Dees, Co-Founder and Partner of Connections for Autism, to provide feedback about how Fundnaoodle's I Can Build Letters! magnets can be effectively used for young learners with autism spectrum disorder.   Guest Blogger Becky Dees, Connections for Autism I Can Build Letters! magnets are a great way to introduce letter building in a fun, interactive way. Students with autism can further benefit by adding some visual supports to this letter building activity. The Fundanoodle Alphabet Uppercase letter guides that we created at Connections for Autism bring visual clarity by providing a model for building letters. The guides can be placed on top of the magnetic board, or for learners with motor challenges, the letters can be built on a non-magnetic surface as well. Simply place the guide on your surface and students can match the magnets to the corresponding guides. Use the full color guides for students to match the magnets using 1:1 correspondence. Use the outline guides (in color or black-and-white) for students requiring less concrete support.Letter Guides Students with autism often benefit from additional organization within tasks as well. We recommend organizing the materials (letter guides, magnets, work surface) so the students can clearly see how many letters they will build and where the materials will go when they are finished. Get creative with your organization to meet the needs of your learners.
04/22/2016

Fundanoodle: Great Products for Children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder)

img_1816As an autism specialist and co-founder of Connections for Autism, LLC, I was so excited to learn about the products that Fundanoodle has to offer for young learners, including those on the autism spectrum. Children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) often have difficulties with fine motor skills, and Fundanoodle addresses such needs with multi-sensory and highly engaging materials. One of my favorite Fundanoodle products is the “I Can Pound” set. Children push pegs into corresponding circles on a template that is laid on a large foam activity block. Not only does pushing the pegs into the foam block develop pincer grasp skills in a fun way, but it’s also great for 1:1 correspondence practice.img_1594 Then, the fun really begins! Children use a small plastic hammer to pound the pegs into the block. Using the hammer gives children an opportunity to work on hand-strength and grip. The opportunity to pound the pegs also gives children with sensory needs a great amount of sensory input. IMG_6703The “I Can Pound” set comes with both pictures as well as letters and numbers pages. The letter and number pages provide a kinetic way to work on recognition and formation.    
Welcome guest author Helen Fuller, Co-Founder and Partner of Connections for Autism, LLC
04/07/2016

How Izzy Taught Me You Didn’t Need a Pencil to Learn How to Write

In honor of Autism Acceptance Month, we are reprinting some of our favorite blogs about how Fundanoodle supports learning for children on the spectrum. The blog below was originally published in November of 2014.   This month, Fundanoodle received a great shout out from Autism Asperger’s Digest. The magazine’s reviewers specifically highlighted our “I Can Pound!” activity kit, our “I Can Cut!” activity book and our “I Can Build Letters!” magnets for their ability to develop a number of motor-sensory and visual skills for children on the spectrum.AA Digest Page 2 I’m thrilled with the recognition, but I didn’t need to hear it from a national magazine. In the summer of 2013, Izzy taught me all I needed to know about how Fundanoodle allows children to learn how to write without ever picking up a pencil. We were busily recruiting for our first “Play the ‘Write’ Way!” camp in Charlotte, NC, in spring of 2013. I received a call from a Mama who wanted to register her child for our camp. Her daughter, Izzy, was a high functioning Autistic child who would go to mainstream kindergarten in the fall. But, the Mama needed us to help her daughter who had “seriously put on the breaks” with handwriting with her OT (occupational therapist). I assured the Mama that we would give her daughter one-on-one instruction and that our products would benefit her. I personally got to spend the first two days of camp with Izzy. Sweet, loveable Izzy who had no desire to hold a pencil and write her letters. So, we went off on our own to explore the hands-on world of Fundanoodle. Izzy’s favorite things were hearing Max the Monkey give letter and number writing instructions on our iPad app and acting out the awesome animal movements of the Muscle Mover Cards. So we quickly fell into a pattern of listening to the iPad to know which way the letter would “zip, zoom or buzz” and then practiced the letteimg_2294r on the screen using a stylus. We’d use play dough to roll out long lines and then shape the letters on the Muscle Mover Cards. We’d flip over the card to see if we were to “Stomp Like An Elephant” or “Stretch Like A Giraffe.” Izzy loved these cards so much that they became an easy way to get her to practice writing letters with a dry erase pen. “Nope sweetie. We can’t flip the card and ’gallop like a unicorn’ until you show me how to write that letter.” When Izzy got bored or distracted, we’d hop over to the work stations and use the pounding kit to pound out a letter or the magnets to build a letter. But, every day we would give Izzy homework to practice her letters in her book. And every night she practiced, with the pencil in her hand. We were thrilled that our new program was able to give Izzy’s mom and occupational therapist a renewed hope that our sweet girl would rock Kindergarten. But, my big reward came in spring of 2014 when I was working the Fundanoodle booth at the Autism Society of NC Conference. Izzy’s mom came to find me to tell me how well her sweet daughter was doing in kindergarten. How, since our camps, Izzy would practicuppercase_cardse her writing mumbling her “zips, zooms and buzzes” key stroke instructions. How her OT would use the letter building magnets or pounding kit or muscle mover cards on a regular basis to incent her to practice. But, when Izzy’s Mama told me about going to Parent’s Night and seeing that Izzy had a writing journal just like every other child in the classroom, my heart burst with the pride that I saw on her Mama’s face. But that pride was quickly eclipsed with humor by the reminder that Fundanoodle helped Izzy learn a very practical skill set as well. Her Mama proceeded to tell me how Izzy’s little brother was getting on her last nerve last week. So, instead of getting mad, she went to her room and wrote out a sign “No Boys Allowed” and put it on her door. That, my friend, is a huge step for Izzy – being able to see how she can use her words to explain her emotions or tell someone else what not to do to her. What does this mean for you, Mama? It means that every child learns differently and you want to provide as many hands-on, non-tech opportunities as possible for your pre-schooler to thrive!
  • Give him a can of shaving cream in the bath tub and tell him to spray the wall. Then get him to trace the letters of his name.Fundanoodle
  • Play an age-appropriate version of the ABC game in the car, looking for the letter’s of your child’s name (as well as his siblings).
  • Give your 5 year-old kitchen duties that involve scooping, working tongs or pounding out meat (with your supervision).
  • Turn off the screen. Pre-schoolers really don’t need to swipe or click or stare at a screen. Their bodies are craving hands on learning. So pull out the Legos and crayons and wiki sticks and play dough and more!
  • Check out Fundanoodle for great hands-on learning exercises (sorry – I had to throw it in).
#writenotswipe, April
Want to start a business by sharing our award-winning early education products in your community? Become a Fundanoodle Ambassador today! Learn more at www.fundanoodle.com/ambassador. 
02/27/2016

Passionate Perseverance

15 states. 1530 Ambassadors. 1 month.

In just a few short weeks, Fundanoodle has recruited 30 savvy individuals to join our new Ambassador direct sell channel. Their excitement in our closed Facebook group is contagious. I love the way everyone is already sharing ideas and helping each other. Women supporting women rocks  . . . .well that's a post for another day (as is using Facebook for inspiring and supportive interaction, but I digress). What do these mompreneurs look like?   -A speech pathologist who is getting ready to have her first baby. -A former elementary school teacher, turned Preschool Director with four young children. -A full-time working mom with two young children. -A home school mom with an active blog. -An pediatric Occupational Therapist who works in the public school system. -A stay-at-home mom who knows the value of hands-on learning due to her child's developmental delays. And, quite interestingly, the overwhelming majority of these women have never sold products via a direct sell channel. I've heard a lot of "I've always looked at direct selling but never found anything that I could get passionate about." It's early and there is still a long way to go to overcome the additional investment required to pivot a business model away from mass retail to direct sales. But, we've passed the first test. I hope one day that I won't be wearing as many hats (marketer, sales person, warehouse manager, product developer, bookkeeper etc) so I can write down all I've learned in the last two years (you can read more about my journey with Fundanoodle here). But in case that never happens, here's what matters the most to me as I continue to make this dream a reality: 1) Passion - I've been passionate about this product line since the day I took it over. My passion is fueled by the outstanding results that are shared with me daily via social media from parents and teachers. When Little Learners improve and grow by using our products, their parents and teachers become passionate brand advocates. Now I'm allowing those same people to build a business they are passionate about with a mission that they are passionate about and products they are passionate about. Get it? Passion is the story. It's the fire that keeps you going. It's the gut instinct you get when you know your on to something great - even when it doesn't look like it.   2) Perseverance - Perseverance is defined as "steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success." Yep. This has been the hardest two years of my life (personally and professionally), but the passion I felt (and others demonstrated) for the product line and our mission gave me the focus and strength to roll my sleeves up and do the hard work. Because there is nothing glamorous about schlepping boxes, late nights, stress, fear, "picking & packing & shipping" - you get the idea. But no one else is going to do the hard work to make your dreams come true. One day at a time. One to-do list at a time. One project at a time. No matter how hard it is or how bleak the future may look at any given moment. And because for a long time it looked real bleak so I need one more thing . . .   3) Faith - Maude Royden said "When you have nothing left but God, then for the first time you become aware that God is enough." It would be a stretch to call the last two years "joyous." My mom got cancer and died. I started a new business and then completely pivoted the business model and started all over again. My family gutted and remodeled our home. Finances got/get tight. Stress levels got/get super high. Fear was/is constant. But I am truly overjoyed that these trials pushed me closer to my Father, improved my relationship with Christ and fueled my faith to be stronger than ever. Thankfully I know that no matter what it may feel like, I am not walking this path alone. About Fundanoodle: 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. We are committed to providing intuitive, engaging products that dismantle educational obstacles for all children and foster an environment of independent, proactive, interpersonal learning. About April Whitlock:  April B. Whitlock is the CEO and majority owner of Fundanoodle. After managing the brand for two years at Carolina Pad, she acquired the product line and spun the company off as her own. She has a passion for early education and a desire to develop products that will give parents, teachers and caregivers the tools needed to inspire a life-long love of learning. April is a graduate of Duke University and began her career with Grey Advertising in Chicago. She caught the entrepreneurial bug and returned home to Charlotte as the 32nd employee and 7 year veteran of LendingTree.com. In 2006, she launched the Charlotte office of Mom Corps, a start-up focusing on career and professional development. Two years later, April was recruited by Carolina Pad to develop and launch the Studio C brand and the company’s first ever consumer marketing campaign. April took over the management of the Fundanoodle product line in 2011. In 2013, she successfully raised capital to establish Fundanoodle as an independent company. She has spent two-years developing and testing a consumer focused business model which resulted in the Fundanoodle Ambassador Pilot Program launch in 2015. April is committed to developing a business model that will empower others who are passionate about early education. April resides in the historic Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband, her three daughters and their sweet dog Dixie. She is an active volunteer at her church, her children’s school and with local non-profits that support education and youth.   This post was originally posted by April B. Whitlock on LinkedIn
02/22/2016

Muscle Mover Mania

Get your Little Learners moving this Monday with one of Fundanoodle's award-winning Muscle Mover Cards! Children act out thePlayingTheWriteWay_flyer movement prompt from the cards to get the wiggles out. The movement activities are designed by pediatric Occupational Therapists and focus on gross motor, fine motor and auditory skills development. The fun continues by when the card is flipped to practice letter formation. Your Little Learner can shape the letter on the heavy-duty card with Wiki Stix or Play-Dough, or practice tracing with the included dry-erase marker. Make sure to continue the blended learning by encourage the child to say the stroke movement out loud when they practice forming the letter. Here are a few ways to use the Muscle Mover Cards in your daily activities:
  1. Just learning letters? Spread out the cards across the room and have your Little Learner hop, skip or jump to a letter you call out. Once the find the right letter, they get to act out the animal movement.
  2. Mix up the cards on the included "O" ring and give them to your Little Learner in the car. You can call out letters while they flip through to find the right one. You can even time them to make it a fun game!
  3. Put all the Muscle Mover Cards in a basket and have your Little Learner pull out the letters in their name (or any other word you are practicing) and lay them out on the table for a visual reading cue. Then practice each letter with the dry erase pen
How do you use the Muscle Movers?   T_Tiger T_TigerBack