- Cut an apple in half
- Create a heart shape by cutting a triangle out of the top and then cutting the bottom to form a point. You can round out any angles if you wish.
- I cut a triangle chunk from both sides of the apple to form a wedge that the kids can grasp on to.
The swimming pool works wonders for kids! It builds muscles. It develops coordination. But best of all it’s a great way for kids to expel extra energy. The very nature of water is calming, so an afternoon in the swimming pool can be such a calming and organizing activity for our kids’ little bodies.
In addition to all these awesome benefits, the swimming pool is a fabulous place to encourage a multitude of developmental skills. Here are my favorite swimming pool games:
- What is it? This is a classic pool game. Whoever is “it” closes their eyes and attempts to tag another child by calling “Marco,” to which the other children reply “Polo.” Whoever is tagged becomes “it.”
- Why is it good? Without the ability to rely on the sense of sight, this game is great for developing auditory and tactile processing skills, specifically the ability to locate the direction of a sound, the ability to sense and feel movement in the water, and the ability to recognize when they touch, even graze, another child. It is also great for developing body and spatial awareness, as the child must have an awareness of the distance and direction of their own body to the sound or movement they feel.
- What is it? The child who is “it” stands on the side of the pool and calls out a category, such as “farm animals.” Each child chooses an item or thing that fits into that category, such horse, pig, cow, etc. “It” begins to list items in the category. When the child’s item is chosen, he or she jumps or gets in the pool (quietly) and attempts to swim to the opposite side. When “it” thinks someone has gotten into the pool, he jumps in to try to tag the child, who will then becomes the next “it.”
- Why is it good? This game is great for building cognitive skills, specifically the ability to create ideas, form categories, and list items. It also works on the child’s ability to multitask and split their attention, as they not only have to think of and call out items that belong in their category but they have to listen for and detect the movements of the other children.
- What is it? There are so many different types of races you can do in the pool. Two of my favorite are beach ball races and ball races. In a beach ball race, the kids start on the same side of the pool. After someone says “go,” they each make their way to the other side while pushing the beach ball with their noses. In a ping pong race, the kids do the same thing except they must move the balls by blowing them to the other side. Both of these race can be played in the shallow end or in the deep end for more experienced swimmers.
- Why is it good? Swimming alone is great for strengthening the muscles in the core, arms, and legs, as well as building motor and bilateral coordination skills. Even if the child is walking or attempting to run from one side to the other, the resistance of the water is great for strength and endurance.
4. Ring Toss:
- What is it? Ring toss is a pretty basic game but it’s great for eye-hand coordination. You can make your own rings by cutting circles out of cheap, disposable plastic plates and can simply use an innertube float as a target. For extra fun, create a large ring from a noodle by taping the two ends of the noodle together. Use each other as targets to see if you can toss the noodle around the other person.
- Why is it good? Great for eye-hand coordination skills!!!
5. Scavenger Hunt:
- What is it? Throw various things down to the bottom of the pool, such as a penny, a rock, a marble. Then either call out the object or give the child a clue, such as “find the object that is flat,” or “where’s the object that you would find outside.”
- Why is it good? Great for problem-solving skills and cognitive reasoning. Also great for eye-hand coordination and development of gross motor skills in order to dive down and retrieve the objects. For little ones, you can choose objects that float. Exploring which items sink and which ones float is also a great developmental activity.
6. Obstacle courses:
- What is it? Well it’s pure fun, that’s what it is! I love obstacle courses. Create an obstacle course for your child or have your child create one themselves by placing innertubes, floats, and toys around the pool. Then have them follow the directions to navigate through the obstacles, such as go under the float, around the toy boat, and through the innertube.
- Why is it good? Great for creativity when your child creates the course. It’s also wonderful for motor planning skills, sequencing skills, coordination, and memory, as your child remembers and follows 2,3,or 4 step directions. And it’s very effective for learning spatial directions, such as up, down, around, under, over, and through, which will eventually translate to pencil-paper skills.
Keep cool and be sure to fill your summer with lots of swimming pool fun!!!
Summer is here!!! And so is the heat. Nothing is better for a hot summer day than a fun summer snack. The kiddies love them but let’s face it, even us adults enjoy a refreshing snack from time to time.
Making summer snacks can also be a wonderful way to spend time with your kids. Cooking and preparing food is an important part of childhood, as your child begins to learn how to follow directions and do things for themselves. It can also be a great way to build developmental skills, such as eye-hand coordination, tool use, sequencing skills, and fine motor manipulation.
These are my favorite summer snacks so far:
What are your kids’ favorite summer treats?
Finger painting is an important part of childhood. Kids love to explore with the various textures, which typically results in more paint being on the kids than on the paper. But as you are washing all that paint off their little bodies, remember that there is a developmental significance behind their play. Exploring with tactile textures, such as finger paint, is important for the development of the tactile system. It is also a natural way for your child to develop their fine motor skills.
Clara came home from camp with the cutest princess crown. It was not only adorable but it was great to see that she is engaging in such wonderful developmental activities. These also make perfect prince crowns!Here how to make one of your own:
- Get a paper plate.
- Have your little one finger paint it how ever they would like.
- Use the tip of the scissors to make a hole in the center of the plate and then make cuts toward the edge of the plate to create triangles, stopping about 1 1/2 inches from the edge.
- Push the triangles up to finish your crown.
Clara loves her crown! It’s so fun to see her running around the house pretending to be a little princess!
I recently published a post with ideas for engaging your older child in tummy time. Continuing tummy time after your child is able to sit, stand, and walk and even into their preschool and elementary years is important because it helps to maintain and improve their core and upper body strength. It also helps to improve their proximal stability, which they need for handwriting and fine motor control. In addition to tummy time activities, there are several ways to engage your child in play that involves weight-bearing into the upper extremities. Weight-bearing requires the child to support their body weight and activate the muscles in their core and extremities, building strength and endurance and helping to compensate for low muscle tone. Try these activities to encourage weight-bearing at home:
- Obstacle courses requiring your child to crawl over, under, and around obstacles
- Crab soccer
- Simon Says incorporating weight-bearing positions, such as “Simon Says bear walk,” “Simon Says army crawl,” or “Simon Says do downward dog”
- Animal Walk Relay Races, getting down on all fours to imitate their favorite animals
- Wheelbarrow Walk Races – you hold their feet while they walk on their hands
- Ball Exercises – Have your child lie on their stomachs on an exercise ball, you hold their feet and push them forward and have them use their hands to push themselves back. You can also do modified push ups with the ball positioned at their hips or knees for additional support. Or have your child complete a puzzle or play a game while lying face down with the ball at their hips or thighs and placing their hands on the floor to support themselves.
- Follow the Leader incorporating animal walks
- Adapted Bowling – Instead of throwing a ball to knock down the pins, have your child imitate various animals walks to knock them down!
- Animal Tag
As your child becomes stronger you will not only notice a difference in their stamina and gross motor skills but you may also notice a difference in the legibility of their handwriting, the accuracy of their fine motor movements, and an improvement in their posture and tolerance for sitting at the table.
*Try these ideas for animal walks:
1. Bear Walk: Have your little one walk on his hands and feet, while keeping the legs straight
2. Lizard Crawl: Keep your tummy on the ground and pull yourself forward with your arms and legs (as in the army crawl).
3. Crab Walk: Remember to keep that bottom off of the ground!
4. Donkey Walk – Place the hands on the ground and then kick both feet out into the air, alternate between walking forward on your hands and feet and kicking your feet up in the air.
5. Duck Walk: Walk forward while squatting down on the floor
6. Inchworm Walk: Keep your legs straight and place your hands on the floor. Move your hands forward and then walk your feet to your hands, and repeat.
7. Seal Walk – Have your child lie on his stomach and then push his chest off the ground by extending the arms. Walk the arms forward and drag both legs behind.
8. Inured Dog Walk – Place the hands on the floor with the legs extended. Lift one leg behind in the air. Move the hands forward and then hop forward on the one foot. (This one may be too hard for the younger kids.)
What other ideas can you share?
As an occupational therapist, I often provide fidgets for children to use at home or in the classroom. These fidgets act as tools to help these kids complete their homework, sit in circle time, or focus on a lecture.
Every person is different in regards to the amount of sensory input he or she needs to stay alert and remain organized. Many children are able to self-regulate without need for additional tools, allowing them to independently maintain an appropriate level of arousal while working at the table or while playing outside with friends. However, there are also many children who have a difficult time independently creating and maintaining a level of arousal that is appropriate to a given situation. For these children, the amount of sensory input provided while sitting at the table or while sitting in circle time may not be enough to keep them engaged and focused. As a result, they may demonstrate a low level of arousal, causing them to daydream or appear fatigued, or they may demonstrate a higher level of arousal, causing them to excessively move their bodies or touch others.
Fidgets can act as tools to provide these children with the additional sensory input they need to improve their arousal level or to satisfy their need for more sensory stimulation. There are various types and ways to use fidgets including:
- Fidgets that children can manipulate in their hands, such as stress balls, koosh balls, and squishy balls
- Fidgets that attach to the end of pencils
- Fidgets that can be attached to the inside of the desk
- Fidgets that can be worn
- Fidgets that can be manipulated with the lower extremities, such as a theraband attached to the legs of the desk that the child can push or kick against.
(Click on the links to see examples of each type of fidget)
Sometimes a child just needs a little extra input to make it through that last part of circle time or focus for the duration of a lecture. Talk to your child’s teacher about using fidgets in the classroom if your child is having difficulty in these areas!
*Keep in mind that fidgets may not be appropriate for all children. They may not be a good option for your child if they are unable to use them appropriately. However, also keep in mind that if your child is unable to successfully use one type of fidget, they may be successful with a different type of fidget, for instance, if a hand fidget is not working, try a lower extremity or pencil fidget.*
Don’t forget Father’s Day is June 16th this year! In my usual fashion, here are my favorite handprint and footprint ideas to create that perfect homemade Father’s Day gift:
Which is your favorite?
Looking at everyone’s pictures of their Memorial Day beach vacations is really making me look forward to heading to the beach myself. Who doesn’t love the beach? Sun, swimming, and relaxing (well, relaxing more than I would at home). The kids play hard and tire themselves out – who doesn’t love that? And the yelling and screaming actually doesn’t sound nearly as loud (or grade on my nerves nearly as much) out in the open ocean air.
During my time as an OT, I have heard several parents say that their lives would be easier if they lived at the beach, as they have noticed that their children’s attention, energy levels, and self-regulation seems to be much better. Do you every wonder why that may be?
Along with fun in the sun comes countless sensory experiences that are beneficial to regulating your child’s nervous system. Ever heard of heavy work? Heavy works consists of moving your body against resistance, whether it be the resistance of your own body weight or of another object. Pushing, pulling, lifting, and carrying are among the various ways kids can participate in heavy work. During these activities, the proprioceptors that live within your joints are activated. These proprioceptors, in turn, send calming and organizing messages to your brain and body, which help to improve coping skills, focus, and self-control.
A typical day at the beach includes digging, carrying, shoveling, and swimming, all of which are great heavy work. Next time you are at the beach, encourage these activities to optimize your child’s heavy work experiences:
- Building sandcastles – Digging and carrying bucketfuls of sand
- Making a kiddie pool – Shoveling out sand and carrying over pails of water
- Burying – Bury another person in the sand. The person being buried will also receive nice deep pressure input, which is calming and organizing.
- Swimming – Moving against the resistance of the water
- Walking or running in the waves – Again, ocean water provides great resistance!
- Walking on the beach – Even beach sand provides great resistance!
- Digging for crabs – More digging!
- Boogie Boarding – Holding on to and carrying that boogie board in the ocean can be serious heavy work!
Think about your typical day on the beach, what other heavy work activities can you think of?
I recently posted on the importance of tummy time for newborns and infants. Tummy time works to develop head and trunk control, strengthen arms and shoulders, develop weight shifting and reaching skills, develop ocular motor and visual perceptual skills, and promote bilateral coordination skills.
But did you know that continuing tummy time through the toddler, elementary, and middle school years is also very beneficial for your child? As your child grows and develops, tummy time can take many forms, including various yoga moves and animal walks. Regardless of its form, continuing to engage your child in tummy time activities helps to:
- Develop shoulder strength and stability, which improves the proximal stability your child needs for development of handwriting, cutting, and other fine motor skills.
- Improve upper body and core strength as needed for gross motor and play skills.
- Promote bilateral coordination skills as needed for efficient use of two hands together.
- Improve visual perceptual and ocular motor skills as needed for eye-hand coordination and academic success.
- Provide calming deep pressure sensory input to help to regulate and organize the nervous system.
One of the most basic ways to engage your older child in tummy time is by encouraging them to lie on their stomachs and prop themselves up on their elbows. This position provides great input into the shoulders to improve proximal stability, encourages use of the extensor muscles which are needed for a good seated posture, and provides nice deep pressure input to help improve your child’s attention and regulation skills.
Your child can assume this position while playing board games, drawing a picture, or even watching a television show. They can also assume this position when working on their homework, which may help them focus and stay on task.
This is only one of many ways to encourage tummy time in older children. Can you think of others?
Once again, it is almost the end of the school year. This post from last year gives suggestions on how to help your kids make one last push before summer begins.
Dealing with end of the year burnout can be a frustrating time for teachers, parents, and children. By the time May comes around, dreams of pools, summer vacations, and play dates dance in our little one’s heads, which can make for very stir-crazy kids. Here are a few tips to help keep our kids going for the last few weeks of school.
- Try to get your kids moving before school. Even if it is only for 5-10 minutes, allowing your children to move their bodies before school will help to increase their focus, create a better level of arousal, and get their bodies and brains ready for sitting still, learning, and getting through those end of year tests. Have him or her bear walk (walking on hands and feet) or crab walk to the bathroom, kitchen, or front door or having them push a weighed laundry basket during every transition. Jumping jacks, frog jumps, marching, rolling, and pushing or carrying heavier objects are a few ways to get good sensory input in the morning.
- Prepare a sensory-smart breakfast. Resistive sucking is great for organizing the body, improving self-regulation, and fostering ability to focus and attend. Place a straw in your child’s yogurt or applesauce instead of giving him a spoon. Smoothies are also a great breakfast food that provides wonderful early morning sensory input. If you are okay with allowing your child to chew gum, give him or her a piece to chew on the way to school and then spit it out before getting out of the car (really resistive gum such as double bubble provides more sensory input).
- Teach your child sensory exercises to perform at school as needed. If they find themselves getting in trouble with the teacher, having difficulty sitting still, or struggling with focusing on their work, there are several discreet exercises that can help get them through the day. Chair push-ups, shoulder scrunches, chair squeezes, pushing hands together, hooking fingers and pulling hands apart, and giving yourself a hug are a few exercises than can be helpful.
- Pack a sensory smart lunch. Crunchy foods help to increase your level of arousal and can help get your little one get through the afternoon slump. Healthy crunchy foods include veggie sticks, carrots, celery, apples, and pretzels. Chewy foods can be very organizing and regulating to the nervous system and can help kids stay focused through the afternoon. For those kids that are craving movement and additional sensory input, chewy foods can help give their bodies good sensory stimulation without participating in movement and touch than can be disruptive. Great chewy foods for lunch include fruit leather, bagels, raisins, dried fruit, beef jerky, and granola bars.
- If your child has homework or studying to be done, give them a chance to move their bodies and get out that extra energy before sitting down to complete their work. Try to allow your child at least 30 minutes to play after school. Encourage her to engage in activities that get her body moving, such as riding a bike, playing on the play set, running and jumping, pushing a wagon, playing tug-of-war, and participating in relay races that incorporate animal walks, jumping, or crawling. Other activities that provide good sensory input include drawing with sidewalk chalk, manipulating play dough or clay, playing in water tables or other sensory tables, and digging in the dirt. Limit screened activities, such as television, video games, and computers right after school.
- Prepare a sensory-smart snack. Get out those chewy foods and your straw in the afternoon to help your child re-regulate after school.
- If your child is having a hard time sitting at the table during homework. Give them movement breaks as needed, such as breaks to wheelbarrow walk, bear walk, or crab walk across the room, perform wall push-ups, or perform frog jumps. Your child may also be able to better focus if sitting on an exercise ball or lying on their stomach propping up on their elbows.
The end of the year is in sight. Only a few more weeks until your child will have the summer break about which they have been daydreaming. In the meantime, however, use these strategies to help decrease their (and your frustration) and help them stay focused!