Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Learning the ABCs Has Never Been SO Much Fun!

There are few things that make me happier than finding a great app to use at work.  It's such a great feeling to introduce a new game to the kids that will not only be fun for them but will motivate them to learn.  A big bonus....being able to use said apps to encourage my own child to want to learn.  I recently stumbled upon Face iMake ABC and now wonder just how I made it through the last year without it.  This amazing app is just one of many (I can't wait to test out all the others!) by iMagine Machine.  This company is dedicated to making motivating products that will encourage children to learn, imagine and most importantly, have fun while doing all of that.

I am not quite sure where to begin with this app.  Since I work with many preschoolers (and live with one as well), I am always looking for apps that will help work on learning the alphabet....learning, writing it and giving the letter some meaning so the kids will be encouraged to remember the letters.  Face iMake ABC does that and does it really well.  The point of the app is quite simple but crazy motivating.  You are learning your letters with a hands on approach.  For example, the letter E pops up, you touch the letter and a picture comes up.  They introduce the letter and the picture and then all the objects move to the bottom of the screen and you have to put them back in the right place.  It seems simple and possibly boring, but I assure you it is not.  Your kids will be kept entertained for hours on end.

I have already used this with many of my children at the gym I work at and many of them have asked to do it over and over again.  Since so many of my children have decreased upper extremity strength, I like to have them work on this while lying prone on a net swing.  Since this game is so much fun and super motivating, I can get them to lay in this challenging position for much longer periods of time.  For some of my older children, I have them use this app as a part of a multi-sensory approach to learning how to write letters.  I will have them first pick a letter out on this app and complete putting the pieces back together.  After that, I may use the LetterSchool app to practice writing the letters with their fingers.  After they are done with that, I have them practice writing on a piece of paper.  I find that this multi-sensory approach helps some of my kids learn the letters quicker.

In addition to what I have already mentioned above, this app works on so many other skills that are important for the development of the kids I work with.  Here are just a few more of the many skills that can be focused on when using this app:

Improve Visual Motor/Perceptual Skills:  if you have a child who needs to work on learning their letters and their visual motor and perceptual skills, this is a perfect app for you.  You can work on matching skills by dragging the pieces into the correct places.  This is also great for working on spatial skills.

Improve Graphomotor Skills:  if you have a child who needs to work on improving their grasp on a writing instrument, use a stylus when playing this app.  I suggest this one by iCreate.  It looks like a child sized crayon and my kids really love it.

Improve Letter Recognition:  this app is a fun and motivating way to work on learning the letters of the alphabet.  The music is calming and it helps keep the kids focused.  I have noticed that some of the educational apps I have used have loud and fast music which often revs up my easily excitable kids.

Improve Attention/Focus:  even though this is a fun app, it still requires you to have good attention and focusing skills.  This also requires good memory skills because there are times when you drag some of the shapes into place when you can no longer see where other objects go into.  I have found this to be the most challenging aspect of the app and one of the things I really like about it.  It really requires one to focus and pay attention to the details of the pictures.

Improve Social Skills:  you can always do this in pairs or small groups in order to encourage team work and cooperative skills.  The children may have to work together and take turns putting the object back together.  You can also work on having a child ask for help or teach a child how to give a friend advice in a friendly manner.

There are so many wonderful things about the Face iMake ABC app and know that you and your little ones will have a great time playing this together.  One of the things I like most about this app is that I actually enjoy playing it with the kids.  We can have fun together and I think that is a really important part of teaching and learning.  If a child can see that we are having fun as well, they are more motivated to work harder and work through the challenge of it.

I would love to hear from you all about what you think about this app.  What is your favorite letter and image?  What do your kids think about it?  Are there any other OT skills that you can think of that we can focus on when playing this with the kids?  Please feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions.  I love hearing from each and everyone of you and have learned so much from you through this blog.  I am just a click away and look forward to hearing from you.

Have fun learning your ABCs!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fishing Around is Fun!

I think all us therapists are familiar with the magnetic fishing puzzle by Melissa and Doug.  I must use mine nearly 1000 times a year at the gym and it never gets old.  One of the best parts about this puzzle is that the kids love it and don't realize how many occupational therapy goals can be worked on using this puzzle.  

Today, I was at my favorite toy store in Park Slope, Norman & Jules, looking for some birthday presents.  While I was completely successful in finding great presents, I was also successful (like I am every time I enter the store) finding a really cool toy for work.  This is not uncommon when I go into this store.  

Amongst the many fabulous toys at Norman & Jules right now I spotted a really cute fishing set.  Both Quinn and I fell in love with this toy and our little friend Liv did too.  The wooden fishing rod by Pure Play Kids is a simple but amazingly crafted toy.  It's the perfect size for preschooler and young school age children's hands.  While the set comes with 5 different colored, fish, the magnet is strong enough to pick up any metal objects.  I can't wait to experiment at the gym and have the kids pick up different objects so we can work on improving fine motor and grasping skills.  I will use small objects so we can work on encouraging a fine pincer grasp.  Earlier in the post, I spoke about the magnetic puzzles.  I plan on using the Wooden Fishing Rod set by Pure Play to have the kids pick up the puzzle pieces instead of using the fishing pole that comes with the game to add more of a challenge and work on improving a child's frustration tolerance since it takes longer to wind the fishing pole up.   

In addition to what I already talked about, the Wooden Fishing Rod toy will work on the following occupational therapy goals:

Improve Bilateral Coordination Skills-the best thing about the fishing game is how you can work on improving bilateral coordination skills when using it.  One hand holds the fishing pole and the other hand is used to wind the string back up and then remove the fish from the pole. 
Improve Visual Perceptual Skills-when playing with the fishing pole set, you can have the child you are working with follow a pattern when catching the fish (tell them to get the fish in a certain order).  You can also have them work on matching colors by setting out different color paper and 
Improve Modulation and Regulation Skills-I love this activity because it is a great way to work on improving modulation skills.  The children have to not rush or go too fast when picking the fish up or winding the fishing pole up or the fish will fall off the magnet.  
Improve Attention and Focus-you can work on improving attention and focus by slowly increasing the number of fish or objects that you have a child pick up during the activity.  Start off with just a couple of fish or a couple of objects and as they get better with the fishing pole and winding it up, increase the number.  You can ask them to follow a certain pattern and pick up the fish in a particular order to work on focus.  
Increase Balance Skills-I like to challenge the kids by having them use the fishing pole while standing on a balance board or a slow moving square/platform swing.  For those who are anxious about doing it this way, I make it a game by saying that they are standing on a boat and need to catch the fish.  Standing on the board or the swing while engaged in this activity is a great way to work on increasing trunk control and strength.  
Improve Social Skills-as with most games, I think it is important to figure out a way to use them socially.  This fishing game is perfect for that.  You can work on children taking turns catching the fish in order to work on turn taking.  If you have more than one set of fishing poles, you can assign each child certain colors and have them work together to catch all the fish.  

If you happen to find yourself in Brooklyn, I highly recommend you check out Norman & Jules.  The owners of the store, Avi and Courtney, are the parents of 2 year old Charley who was a preemie and are committed to filling their store with top quality products.  Not just top quality products, but ones that will stimulate development, motivate imagination and ensure hours of fun for not only your child, but you as well.  I have found so many wonderful wooden toys and games here that I use at home and at the gym that have become the favorites of many.  I guarantee that you will have a hard time walking out the door without a bagful of their magical toys!  The icing on the cake...a portion of all sales go to The March of Dimes so you don't have to feel so guilty spending all that money!

I look forward to hearing from you and finding out if you have any other ideas on how to use this toy in the therapeutic setting.  I am only a click away and love hearing from my readers.  I have gotten so much good advice from my readers on how to adapt the toys and games that I have written about.

Happy Fishing!