101 Ways to Play (#72): Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt

With all these rainy day, we have been in huge need of an activity to get out some of our extra energy.  Clara’s body has been on high alert, which is challenging for her, as well as for the rest of us!

The Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt game we created was perfect for getting her body moving and for providing her with some heavy work at the same time.  If you aren’t familiar with heavy work, heavy work activities involve moving your body against resistance.  It is beneficial to kids and adults alike because it is organizing and calming to the nervous system, helping to improve emotional regulation, attention, and self-control.  It is also great because it helps to strengthen the core muscles, which are needed for postural control, gross motor coordination, and fine motor development.  This made the activity more perfect for us because we have been working on strengthening Clara’s core in order to improve her grasping skills.

In our scavenger hunt heavy work, we used the resistance of Clara’s own body weight through the use of animal walks.

All you need is some paper and a pen and a few plastic Easter eggs.  I drew different animals on each piece of paper and stuck one inside each egg.  Then I hide the eggs for Clara to find.  After she found each egg, she opened it up to see which animal she had to imitate while searching for the next egg and placing it in her basket.  For the last egg, she imitated that animal as she went to her basket to place the last egg inside.

Since Clara is younger, I drew the animals on the paper.  For older kids learning to read, you may choose to simply write the name of the animal.  And for even older kids, you could provide clues to have your child guess which animal they are to imitate.  For example, this animal is a reptile, slithers, and may be poisonous.

This was a simple activity but was well-loved.  Clara asked to play it over and over again!  Success!

Teaching Handwriting with Tran-Quill Pencil: A Review and Giveaway

Helping children develop handwriting skills is a big part of being a pediatric occupational therapist.  As a sensory integration therapist, I love to utilize sensory elements into handwriting training.  Various techniques I have integrated into my practice include:

  • Manipulating the sensory stimulation in the environment, such as lights and sounds, to help the child focus and attend.
  • Positioning the child on a ball, a wedge, or a move ‘n sit to activate the core muscles, help the child sustain attention, and increase arousal level.
  • Introducing different writing surfaces, such as a horizontal or vertical surface or an incline in order to change the child’s sensory feedback and improve the positioning of the arm and hand.
  • Exploring with various paper to increase resistance, encourage improved pencil pressure, and give more feedback concerning baseline or spacing.
  • Utilizing various writing utensils, including utensils of various size, weight, and shape to encourage development of pencil grasp, provide additional sensory feedback, and promote muscle and fine motor development.

Considering how much time I spend working with children on their writing skills, I absolutely love having the opportunity to try new products.  So I was nothing less than thrilled when I was given the opportunity to review a new vibrating pencil.  I have utilized squiggle pens into my practice in the past; however, I did not like how the type and intensity of vibration resulted in uncontrolled and sloppy strokes.

Vibration is a useful sensory tool in handwriting training for a number of reasons:

  • Increases the child’s awareness of hand positioning and movements, which helps to develop grasp and formation of strokes
  • Increases arousal level and helps to improve focus
  • Stimulates intrinsic hand muscles for development of fine motor skills
  • Encourages appropriate grip strength and improved pencil pressure

The Tran-Quill Pencil from ARK Therapeutic Services, Inc provides the child with a smooth vibration that does not affect the quality of their writing.  I also love the weight and texture of the utensil, which provides additional sensory stimulation and feedback.  The pencil comes in a plastic option, with 4 different colors, or a metal option.  It also includes 6 pencils, 1 pencil sharpener, 3 Bite-n-Chew Tips, and a handy Carry Case.  The Bite-n-Chew Tips are chewable erasers, which are fabulous for those children that seek or need additional oral input.

My 3 year old daughter loved trying out the Tran-Quill pencil.  She loved the feedback of the vibration.My 11 month old son, on the other hand, LOVED the chewable erasers, which also doubled as a teething toy!

Give it a try for yourself by entering to win a Tran-Quill Pencil of your own.  To enter, leave a comment specifying which color you would want (royal blue, light blue, lavender, or magenta) – be sure to also leave a correct email address.  Good luck!  Winner will be chosen Friday March 28th, 2014. (Winner must live in the U.S.).

St. Patrick’s Day Treats

Creating a fun little snack is a great way to make a holiday special.  Try out a few of these St. Patrick’s Day snacks for your kiddos on March 17th.  Click on the link for additional instructions.

Veggie and Fruit RainbowSt. Patrick’s Day BuffetShamrock TreatsPepper Rainbows and DipShamrock PretzelsShamrock Veggies St Patty Fruit Kabobs

Do you have a favorite St. Patty’s Day treat?

Unique Easter Egg Decorating Ideas

Easter is almost here!  Which is really hard for me to believe since my little one turns 1 right around Easter.  I have always loved the tradition of decorating Easter eggs and going on Easter egg hunts.  This year, with my oldest being a little, well older, I am looking forward to trying out some new Easter egg dying ideas with her.

Here are just a few ideas I have found:

Glue Dots and Glitter

Egg Faces

Egg Pets

Button Eggs

Rubber Band Eggs

Marbleized Eggs

Tissue Paper Eggs

I can’t decide which one is my favorite!  How do you personalize your Easter egg designs?

Have you let your child teach you something today?

We spend so much of our day teaching our kids.  Showing them how to do new things, teaching them better, easier ways to complete tasks, reminding them things they have forgotten.  But how many times do we give them the opportunity to teach or show us something new?

Letting our kids show us how to do things is a remarkable learning experience.  Just think of all the things your child learns and experiences when they get the chance to be the teacher:

  • They develop confidence and a sense of accomplishment
  • They work on leadership skills
  • They develop frustration tolerate and emotional regulation
  • They learn how to express themselves effectively
  • They learn alternative means of communications, such as visual demonstration
  • They develop creativity and ideation skills
  • They work on problem-solving skills
  • They explore their independence and develop a sense of self
  • They learn how to evaluate their own effectiveness
  • They learn how to change their approach and come up with alternative ideas and solutions
  • And they learn to appreciate and work with different learning styles and personalities

All of these skills help children learn how to work with others, how to lead a group, how to problem solve dilemmas and come up with solutions, how to adapt their communication style as needed, and how to create unique and original ideas…all the skills we want our kids to develop.

There are so many ways you can let your child teach you.  Ask them to show you something they learned at school or during an extracurricular activity, give them several objects and let them create an obstacle course for you to follow, have them create a dance routine for you to copy, or give them props to use to create a new game or activity.

So next time you are teaching your child something new, offer them the opportunity to teach you something too.  I bet you’d be surprised at how much they know!

Fun Ways to Entertain your Kids in the Snow

 

Who else has a ton of snow in their yard right now? We have officially been snowed in for 2 days.  Like most kids, mine were excited to go out and play as soon as they saw the snow begin to fall.  But also like most kids, they became bored with it quickly.  So in an attempt to keep them entertained longer, here are a few games and activities we came up with (and found on the internet as well).

  • Snow Painting – Fill spray bottles with food coloring and water and create fun pictures in your backyard.
  • Play Tic-Tac-Toe – Draw out a Tic-Tac-Toe board in the snow, use sticks, bark, rocks, pinecones, etc as your game pieces.
  • Make a Buffet – Use kitchen pans to make cakes, casseroles, etc.
  • Play Toss – Draw a target in the snow with a stick or with your squirt bottle of water and food coloring.  See who can throw the most snowballs in the target.
  • Pin the Snowman – Give the children cookies, grapes, etc and have them try to get the mouth, eyes, and buttons on their snowman in the correct place while blindfolded.
  • Make a Maze – Walk out a maze for your child to follow.
  • Scavenger Hunt – Hide objects in the snow for your kids to find.  If you are being extra creative, write out some hints and directions for them to follow.
  • Snowball Fight – Nothing beats an old-fashioned snowball fight.
  • Snow Cream – Collect falling snow in a clean bucket, add 1 cup milk, 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla for every 4-6 cups of snow.

Want more ideas? Check out these links:

parents.com

powertochange.com

What other snow games do your kids enjoy?

101 Ways to Play (#71): Kid’s Yoga

Yoga is a great activity for all ages.  It develops core control and proximal stability, encourages upper body development, fosters flexibility and distal control, and improves attention, frustration tolerance and overall emotional regulation.  I have recently begun to incorporate yoga into my weekly routine, along with meditation, and, while I have a LONG way to go before I consider myself a true yogi, I have almost immediately noticed a change in my physical and mental well-being.

There are a variety of ways to also incorporate yoga into your child’s life.  Just as it is for adults, yoga is a great way to develop children’s bodies and minds.  It can help build the upper body strength and control that they need for fine motor development, the patience and attention that they need for school and social success, and the physical coordination that they need for play.

There are several OTs and PTs that incorporate yoga into their practice and often teach pediatric yoga classes for the public.  Be sure to check out what resources are local for you.

You can also encourage your child to participate in yoga at home (and why not do it with them?).  Some at home resources include:

BalancedBody Yoga Therapy – Videos lead by Chrys Kub (who I personally know is a fantastic yoga teacher and physical therapist!)

Namaste Kids

Kids Yoga Stories

lovetoknow yoga

Know any other resources on yoga for kids?  Share them with us!

101 Ways to Play (#70): I’m the Map, I’m the Map!

Learning to read and follow a map builds spatial awareness, directionality, representational skills, among other visual processing skills.  These skills are important for reading, writing, and academic success in several subjects, including math.  But reading a map is also an important life skill.  Even though phone navigators and GPS systems have significantly reduce the need for anyone to decipher a map for themselves, I believe it’s important that we teach our kids that we can’t always rely on technology.

There are several ways you can create fun map activities for the kids.  Create a treasure map by drawing a picture of various rooms in your house and seeing if your child can follow the map to find the hidden prizes.  For smaller children, map out one room only or create a small obstacle course and have them use a map to go through it.  Older kids can create the obstacle course themselves and then make their own map for you to follow.  You could also create a snack map by hiding various parts of the snack (in Tupperware containers of course) and creating a map for your children to use to find them.

Change it up by creating maps of the inside of your house and of your yard.  You can create a map of the neighborhood or of the park for even more treasure hunt fun.

Also, next time you are at the zoo or a museum, grab a map and see if your kids can use the map to take you to various exhibits and areas.

How creative can you get with your mapping fun?

Help! I’m stuck in a time warp – Dealing with the fleeting days and endless hours of motherhood

I haven’t posted in about a week, which is totally not like me, but unfortunately, I’ve been stuck in a time warp!  I’m sitting here trying to figure out what I have done in the last week.  Trust me, I haven’t sat down in 7 days but I have absolutely NOTHING to show for it……no blog posts, no clean bathrooms, no organized closets, NOTHING.  Well nothing I can physically see or touch anyway.

I KNOW all you moms know what I’m talking about.  How is it that we can work ALL day but then our house and our lives look exactly the same way at the end of the day.  Sometime, it takes absolutely all my energy to do the everyday things around the house….bathe and dress children, make breakfast and lunches, prepare dinner, clean up toys, wipe bottoms, change diapers, etc, etc, etc.  HOW in the WORLD am I suppose to have time to do things like clean the bathroom, do the laundry, dust the furniture, or mop the floor (yeah, that’s a total joke, my floors haven’t been mopped in over 3 years)!

I do sincerely believe in the saying “messy house, happy kids.” But I’m not gonna lie, I haven’t done anything special or made any memories with my kids in the last week either.  In fact, we haven’t even left the house (partly because they both have little colds).

I haven’t been living this week, I’ve just been surviving.  Some weeks are better than others.  Some of our weeks are filled with fun outings, dance parties in the living room, trips to the playground, holiday-themed crafts…..And then some weeks, we just survive!  – and by survive, I mean just barely.

I honestly don’t know what has happened to the last week.  The days have flown by but have been PAINFULLY slow at the same time.  I, as I’m sure many moms do, tend to consider myself a failure during these types of weeks.  What have I done to better my children? To help them grow? Well…maybe nothing, but they’ve been fed, changed, and cleaned….and for this week, that’s just gonna have to do!

Update – Nighttime Strategies to Keep your Kid in Bed!

A few weeks ago, I posted about our new nighttime strategy to help keep Clara in her bed using visual cues and reinforcements (if you missed it, check it out here).  We immediately noticed an improvement with the amount of times she was getting out of her bed.  The problem was that she had no way of knowing when it was okay for her to get up (other than us telling her it wasn’t).  We tried the strategy of “you have to wait until we come get you.” But we weren’t having much (or any) success with that.

I have heard from a lot of friends and readers that a clock system can be very helpful.  I know you can purchase those clocks that light up or change colors when it is okay for the child to get out of bed.  But I’m gonna be honest, we live on a budget and I never could find one for what I wanted to spend – especially since I didn’t know for sure if it was going to work.

I have also heard that a digital clock works well because you can tell the child that they cannot get up until they see a 6 or 7 (or whatever hour you choose) in the front.  For small kids who are not able to identify their numbers, you will want to have a picture or drawing of the number so that they can match it to the clock.  But we didn’t have a digital clock either.

So I decided to get creative instead.  I took an old alarm clock and painted an area of the clock.  Since we are okay if Clara gets up anytime after 6am (since she falls asleep between 6pm and 7pm), I colored in the space between the 6 and 7.  I knew it would be a rare occasion that she would wake up after 7, so as long as I had the 6 o’clock hour covered we would be okay.It didn’t take long at all for Clara to understand and to be able to consistently identify the little hand and the big hand of the clock.  We changed the time and gave her plenty of opportunities to practice.  Then we taught her that as long as the little hand was behind the yellow, she was allowed to get out of bed and come into our room.  We also let her practice by changing the time and having her identify when it was and was not okay for her to get up.Clara had success on the first morning with this technique!  We have been successful for several mornings in the row now (fingers crossed and knock on wood)!  So we are pretty optimistic – and much more rested!