Tuesday, February 11, 2014

All You Need Is Love

As a child, Valentine's Day was just like any other day.  As a family, we didn't do much to celebrate the day.  We would make homemade cards to give all our classmates, but my sisters and I weren't one of the girls that got called down to the office to have flowers delivered to us from our dad.  Now that I work with children (and have one of my own), I try and do some fun things related to the holiday with the kids I work with during our sessions.  

Looking for some cute activities to be used both at home and during your sessions?  Here are a handful of ideas for your little loves.

1.  Sweethearts Sorting-using a pair of Zoo Stick chopsticks, empty a box of candy Sweethearts and have a child sort them by color.  This works on improving grasp strength, visual motor and visual perceptual skills.  Depending on a child's skill level, you may limit the number of colors to increase the chances of success.  For those children who are able to read, you can have them sort by the phrases written on each heart.  

2.  Valentine's Day Yarn Hearts-I don't know about you, but I don't ever know what to do with those wire hangers I get from the dry cleaners.  Here is a simple idea that will make a perfect gift for a loved one.  You will need yarn (of any color) and a wire hanger.  Take the wire hanger and bend it into a heart.  Begin wrapping the yarn around the heart.  You may need to wrap around a couple of times in each place in order for the yarn to stay in place.  This is great for working on visual motor and bilateral coordination skills.  

3.  I Love You To Pieces Heart-I made this card with my daughter a couple of years ago and it was simple, fun and made those she loved feel very happy.  This is a great activity because it can be graded depending on a child's skill level.  For a young preschooler, give them strips of colored paper and have them tear them into small pieces.  For older preschoolers and school age children, draw lines on colored paper, and have them cut out the strips and then tear the strips into pieces.  Once they have all their small pieces, they can glue them onto a heart.  This project is great for working on a variety of occupational therapy goals, including bilateral coordination (tearing paper) and improving cutting skills.

4.  Cereal Hearts-using Cheerios (if you want to be more healthy) or Fruit Loops and a pipe cleaner, you can make a cute heart for someone you love.  A fun way to work improving grasping, beading and bilateral coordination skills.  Depending on the skill level of your child and what cereal you use, you can change what you want from each child.  If you have a younger child who is working on improving fine motor skills, you can keep it simple; put all the cereal in a bowl and have them place them on a pipecleaner.  If you are working with an older child, use a set of Zoo Sticks and have them take out a certain number of cereal.  Want to throw in an extra challenge, using Fruit Loops you can have a child follow a pattern as they place them on the pipe cleaner.

5.  Paint Chip Bookmarks-I have seen so many great projects with those paint chip samples that you find in the paint section of hardware stores.  I have used them to practice cutting and color recognition in the past.  If you grab a bunch of the pink samples (which I plan on doing tomorrow), you can make some really cute bookmarks.  In addition to the paint chips, you will need a heart hole puncher and some pink ribbon.  Have the children punch a single heart on each color/rectangle and one in the middle of the top rectangle.  Help them string the ribbon through the top hole.  Great for working on increasing grasp strength, bilateral coordination skills and color recognition (you can do this with any color paint chip sample).

Here are just a handful of ideas that will not only end up being cute, they are easy and require very little supplies or setup.  While I have tried some of these, I look forward to testing out the new ideas with my kids at work and with my daughter at home.  Who out there has some great Valentine's Day craft ideas that they have had great success with that they can share with me and my readers?  Would love to have a bunch of ideas to choose from in the next few days.  I am always a click away and love hearing from you all.  Share the love with us please!

May you all have a love-filled Valentine's Day with those you love!

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Doctor's In The House

For those of you who follow my blog, you will know that finding a new app to use at work brings me a tremendous amount of joy.  I have begun using my iPad more and more at work because I find it to be a truly motivating thing for the kids I work with.  I can get them to do things and work on skills that they might otherwise resist if it wasn't coming to them in the digital way.  A while back, I blogged about Pepi Tree by Pepi Play.   Pepi Play is a Lithuanian based company that develops apps for children.  I have all three and they are each amazing and unique and kids have a great time playing with them.  This company's philosophy is simple: they believe a good app should teach a child something but it doesn't necessarily have to be educational in form.  Having fun is the most important thing to them and they are doing a great job accomplishing this will all three of their apps.

Recently, I discovered Pepi Doctor.  Like their other apps, it is highly engaging and keeps my kids at work entertained for long periods of time.  Actually, this app has been been great for my almost 4 years old daughter who has recently started to be a little more fearful of going to the doctor.  Pepi Doctor is a medicine-themed role play app where children get to take on the role of doctor.  There job is to help cure patients Amber, Eva and Milo of a variety of diseases and ailments.  Some of their doctor responsibilities include helping cure them of a cold, fix an aching tooth or put back together some broken bones.  Within in each patient, there are 5 sub-games so kids are kept busy for a long time.  Take a look at this video to get an idea of what you are getting.   Pepi Doctor is perfect for preschoolers but I think that young school age children will also enjoy and benefit from it.  

My daughter is loving this game and I am really enjoying playing it with her and the kids I see at work. For Quinn, it has been a good way to talk about being a doctor and begin to decrease her fears associated with going to the doctor.  For my kids at work, I think my favorite aspect of the game is how many visual motor and visual perceptual skills can be addressed.  I find that my kids tire easily of puzzles and need variety when working on visual skills.  There are so many visual motor/perceptual activities and the kids are having fun while doing them.  For example, a child can work on visual tracking when pulling the thorns out of their patients hand and throwing it into the garbage can.  They can work on visual perceptual skills by fixing their patients broken bones by putting them together properly (mini puzzles). These are just a couple of many, many examples.  

In addition to what I have already mentioned above,  Pepi Doctor can also address the following occupational therapy goals:
Improve Fine Motor Skills-when my kids are playing this, I force them to use their pointer finger in order to work on improving hand strength and finger isolation.  This sounds so simple, but so many of the children I work with who have a poor grasp (both for picking up small objects and on writing instruments) have great difficulty with this.  There are many opportunities to work on this with this game like when you have to pull the thorns out of their hand and when placing bandaids on them.  
Improve Grasping Skills-as I mention often when talking about apps, I try and encourage my kids to use a stylus when they can.  Sometimes the kids I work with are resistant to work on proper grasping skills but using the iPad and finding different ways to work on this skill helps.  Here is a link to the stylus I recommend for the kids I work with.  The crayon is the perfect size for their little hands.  
Improve Upper Extremity Strength-I like to have my kids use the Ipad while lying on their belly either in the net swing, in a barrel or while lying over a bolster.  I can typically get them to spend more time in this challenging position for much longer if they are engaged in something as highly motivating as  Pepi Doctor.  Not only does this work on increasing upper extremity strength, it will work on increasing neck strength/control.  
Improve Attentional Skills-for my younger kids, I work on increasing their attention to tasks by getting them to focus on particular activities within the game.  For example, while they are trying to help their patients get rid of a tooth ache, they need to brush/clean their teeth.  Instead of brushing the whole mouth at once, I have them do one tooth at a time; they are not allowed to move onto the next tooth until the other is completely clean.  This can be hard and for my children who have modulation and regulation difficulties, they need a lot of reminders from me to stick to one tooth at a time.  
Improve Social Skills-this is a great game to play in small groups or dyads.  They have to work on taking turns and being flexible with friends choices.  For example, when choosing which patient to treat, someone may not get their first choice and they will have to be flexible and play the game in spite of that.  It's also a great game to help expand social conversation between children since going to the doctor is something that all children do.  

I hope that you and your kids have as much fun with Pepi Doctor as I am both at home and at work.  Do any of you have any other great new apps you want to share with us?  I know that I am always looking for new ones that will not only work on occupational therapy goals, but keep kids engaged and excited to learn.  I am always a click away and love hearing from you all.