Saturday, November 9, 2013

Three Cheers for Lazoo!

When I first began this blog, I wrote about my favorite coloring books.  Included in that were a series of  activity books by Lazoo.  They were a staple in my therapy closet then and still are now.  So how excited was I when I discovered they now had a series of apps for the iPad?  So far there are 4 of them and 3 of them are free which is always a bonus.

I just downloaded these but already am in love with them.  More importantly, my 3 1/2 year old daughter loves them.  They all keep her attention and engaged (which isn't so easy since she is a kid that likes to be on the go ALL THE TIME).  I can't wait to test them out with my kids at work next week.

I'm going to attempt to briefly review each of them here.

Lazoo Zoo

It's snack time at the zoo and all these animals are hungry and wanting to be fed!  There are 11 different animals to feed and fun things happen to them depending on what you feed them.  For example, the giraffes spots will change depending on what you feed him or the ape whose hairstyle changes when you have fed him too much.  For my speech therapist friends, there are lots of opportunities here to work on expanding language with kids and work on story telling.

Magic Stickers
I have the activity book of this and LOVE it!  I love the book version of this because you can work on fine motor skills and creative skills at the same time.  Makes kids think outside of the box and can really encourage a lot of language from them at the same time.  For me the problem always has been that once you complete the page, that's it.  So the fact that there is an app for this makes me so happy.  There are 8 different backgrounds that you can decorate with over 50 stickers to choose from.  There are suggested stickers for each background but you can use whichever one you want to.  You can decorate a piece of broccoli or a loaf of bread any way you want and then you can make it come to life.  Bonus feature to this can create your own stickers!

Let's Color
What's better than have a coloring book where the pages come to life?  I can't think of anything much better!  The app comes with 18 different pages and there are additional ones you can purchase.  
For many of the younger kids I work with, they struggle with figuring out where to start a picture.  Sometimes I will give them ideas based on their interests but this can still be difficult for them.  I like that the picture gives you a starting point to jump off from.  And there are no wrongs here which is always important.  For example, there is a picture of a little boy playing a trumpet and the app reads "What COULD come out of a trumpet?".  The child can choose from different colors and "writing instruments" and go crazy.  For some of my more unorganized kids, I may have them talk me through what they are thinking about drawing, how they will draw it, etc. in order to get them more organized and focused on their drawing.  Once the child is happy with their picture, they press go and their picture comes to life.  One of the things I like about this app is that once the picture is done, you have the option of saving it and emailing it to the child's parents.  Great way for a parent to know what they were doing in therapy but also a great way for children who may have language issues to talk about their picture and tell a story.

This activity book by Lazoo is still one of my favorites.  The concept is so simple but can foster such creative thinking, especially in many of the kids I work with who struggle with that important piece of being a kid.  There are 8 pictures with scenes that you need to complete by adding a squiggly line to bring them to life.  For example, there is a page with a bunny asking you to draw squiggly clouds so it can rain and water her flowers.  You can begin by tracing the clouds already shown and then the kids can make their own.  They can use whatever color they want and whichever tool they want (chalk, crayon or a ketchup bottle to name a few!).  There is a picture with a bunch of cars and you have to draw the exhaust coming out of the pipes.  Once you are satisfied with your picture, hit play and watch your picture come to life.  The squiggly rain clouds start raining and the flowers start to bloom.  The cars race back and forth on the screen.

I can't really choose my favorite app because each one offers something so unique and different from the others.  What I do know is that each one is motivating and encourages creativity and imagination skills.  For many of the kids I work with, this is something difficult to bring into our therapy sessions so it is always nice to find something that can do that in a motivating and fun way.  I also like each of the apps make a child think outside of the box.  They make them look at the pictures and see something different than what it is.  For example, they tell you to look at a head of broccoli and imagine as a tree and fill it up with birds, flowers, etc..  I am sure many of you can relate to this:  many of the kids I work with are creatures of habit, routine and can be too literal at times.  It is so difficult for them to have a different perspective about things and this is a fun way for them to begin to look at things a little differently.

These apps can also work on the following occupational therapy goals:
Improve Eye-Hand Coordination-fun way to work in improving eye-hand coordination for those little ones who struggle with this skill.  In the Lazoo Zoo app, there is a series of foods for a child to choose from and they have to pick that out and then drag it to the animal.  They need to make sure they are putting the food in the right place or else it won't do what it is supposed to.
Improve Visual Motor/Perceptual Skills-these apps are chock full of ways to work on improving visual motor and visual perceptual skills.  A child must visually scan the screen in order to pick out the stickers/writing tools/colors.  They must visually track when dragging the stickers over to the animals in the Zoo app.  They need to maintain their visual focus on the objects they are coloring in and you can require that they need to remain in the lines or they will have to try it again.  You can work on tracing skills by having them trace some of the images already on the screen.  I am sure there are many, many more that I am leaving out but I think you get the picture.
Improves Graphomotor Skills-each of the apps can focus on improving handwriting, drawing and other graphomotor skills.  You can require children to include certain shapes and lines in their pictures before they are allowed to do free drawing.  For your older kids, you can ask them to write some letters in the picture as well.
Improve Fine Motor Skills-I plan on having my kids do this at times with the iCreate crayon stylus to work on improving their fine motor and grasping skills at the same time.  For my younger kids, who avoid handwriting activities, I can get them to do so much of the same stuff on the iPad but with much less complaining.  The rule for them though is that if they don't use the stylus, they don't get to play the iPad.  For those kids who have difficulty with isolating fingers for fine motor work, the rule can be that they are only allowed to use their pointer finger to drag stickers over, draw lines or color in the pictures.  This sounds easy, but I can't even begin to count the number of times I have to remind kids to only use their pointer finger when using the iPad!
Improve Attention and Focus Skills-each of these apps require a different kind of attention and focus.  It may be important to set boundaries and guidelines with the child you are working with prior to them beginning.  For example, I can envision many of my kids just wanting to draw one line here or there and then making it come to life.  Or they may get bored with what they are doing and ask to move onto another page.  Sometimes what works best for me with any handwriting or drawing app is to say that they need to spend a specific number of time on their drawing before doing something different.  I also like to require that they use a certain number of colors and shapes (this clearly depends on the child's individual goals).  I like to see how long they can do things independently but if I see their attention starting to go, I will try and guide them in order to complete it entirely.  Not only is it important for a child to follow through on what they start, it is a real confidence and self-esteem booster.
Improve Bilateral Coordination-when my kids use the iPad, I make sure that I can always see two hands.  One hand has to be on the iPad doing the work and the other must be holding the iPad in order to keep it from moving around.  Way too often, I see the kids using the iPad zoning out with one hand just hanging down doing nothing.  These are often the kids who need to be reminded to keep both hands up on the desk when participating in handwriting or drawing activities.
Increase Upper Extremity Strength-I can't wait to test this out with my kids on the net swing!  So many of my kids complain after just seconds of lying prone on the net swing.  However, when I place the iPad in front of them, the complaining decreases significantly.  These apps are motivating enough that I believe it will keep the kid's attention and they won't even realize they are getting tired on the swing.
Improve Social Skills-while these apps are great to do 1:1, they can also be used in small groups.  I find that kids tend to take suggestions and ideas better from their peers at times.  Or that they are more willing to try something new and different if they see a friend doing it.  Other social skills that can be addressed are turn taking, improving frustration tolerance (a friend may want to put a different sticker on that broccoli tree and you need to let it happen) and flexibility (a child may have an idea of what the final picture should like but they have to be flexibly and allow their friends to add whatever they want to the picture).

I hope that you all enjoy these apps as much as I am already.  I can see them becoming a presence in so many of my therapy sessions.  I would love to hear what you think about these apps and how the kids you work with are liking them.  I am always a click away and love getting feedback and suggestions from you all.

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