Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Foiled Again!

Every once in a while I stumble upon an arts and craft project and I feel like I have hit the jackpot.  I first felt that way when I discovered the Orb Factory Sticky Mosaics.  To this day, I still buy tons of these sets each year to do with my kids and they never get bored of it.  Actually, I have 12 kids on my caseload working on different pictures as we speak.  So when I was searching through the craft aisle at West Side Kids on the UWS the other day, I was thrilled to find the Foil Art Sticker Kits by at Peaceable Kingdom.

I am a big fan of craft projects that take more than one or two sessions to work on.  I find that it makes it more exciting and rewarding for the children that I work with to spread projects out over a few sessions.  I love seeing the pride on their faces when they finish something that they worked on for so long and try and make it a really big deal when they get to proudly show off their work to their parents or caregivers.  It's a really great thing to watch them run out of the room and share their work and tell everyone how they did it.  Sometimes, I will talk to my kids about the process and how hard it was when we started the project and how it got easier.  This is a great opportunity to build a child's self-esteem and confidence.

Foil Art Sticker Kits by at Peaceable Kingdom are a fun and motivating project for any child.  So far, I have found that they work better for my older preschool kids or my school-age kids because it requires a decent amount of patience, and more importantly, focus.  It also requires a certain amount of hand strength in order to complete the project which means an older child will have more success completing it independently.  These projects are a great way to work on a variety of fine motor skills, including increasing hand strength and manipulation skills.  For kids who avoid those kinds of activities, this is a great way to hide that work and end up with a really cool project to take home at the end.  Another nice thing about the Foil Art Sticker Kits is that the options are not too overwhelming.  Each set comes with 4 different colors to choose from which I find to be helpful in organizing ones work and attention.  When there are too many colors to choose from, I notice that some of my kids become more distracted and end up jumping from one color to another rather quickly.

In addition to what has already been mentioned above, Foil Art Sticker Kits by at Peaceable Kingdom can work on the following skills:

Improve Bilateral Coordination Skills-looking for a simple but fun activity to promote using two hands?  This is perfect.  It will be nearly impossible to make your picture without using two hands.  First, you have to hold the sheet/picture with one hand while you peel the stickers off with the other hand.  Once you have the sticker off the picture, you have to hold the picture still with one hand while you rub the foil onto the sticker using a finger from your other hand.  Sounds simple but I can't tell you how difficult this can be for some children.
Improve Modulation/Regulations Skills-I have done these with a few kids at work and at home with my own 4 year old and have learned that the whole "slow and steady" motto really helps.  When a child tries and rub the foil really fast, it moves around too much and won't stick well.  They will have to redo their work which can be quite frustrating.  The nice thing about making this a long-term project is that after a session or two, I can see the kids slowing down and being more attentive to what they are doing and how quickly they are doing it.  As I say to my kids.....they don't have to be perfect but they must try their best to do their best.  For some of my kids, just being able to slow down is their best and that is a huge thing.
Improve Grasping Skills-a child is required to pull the sticker off before they place the colored foil on top of the picture which will work on developing a fine pincer grasp.  Additionally, a child has to use a fine pincer grasp to pull the top of the sticker off so they can place the foil on top.  For some of my kids, this is quite challenging and requires some encouragement and assistance from me to make sure to take only one sticker off at a time.
Improve Organizational Skills-for my older children who may be working on improving organizing their work and improving executive functioning skills, I have them think about what color they want each section to be prior to completing the activity.  After they have figured out what color will go where, they then have to complete all of the same color at one time.

Peaceable Kingdom is a great company and I love that they make so many great products that I can feel good about supporting and recommending to others.  First of all, they have an amazing mission:
Make good, do good, be good!
They use sustainable materials in their products whenever they can using recycled papers and soy-based inks.  They work with independent illustrators, giving people the chance to make their mark on this awesome world we live in.  Most importantly, they believe in creating products that help you connect to the kids in your life and for kids to connect to other kids.  Awesome, right?  Plus, they have awesome customer service.  If you lose a piece to one of their games, they will replace it for you at no cost.  Lastly, they are big into giving back to their people through a "Donation a Day" program.  I don't know about you, but I would like to see more companies out there like this and I will do what I can to support and promote them.

I found my Foil Art Sticker Kits at West Side Kids, an amazing toy store on the upper west side of Manhattan.  Be sure to check out your local toy stores to see if they carry these kits (or any of the fantastic products by Peaceable Kingdom).  I am a huge supporter supporting our local businesses whenever possible and hope that my readers do the same.  If you don't see these products in your local toy stores you can always find them on their website by clicking here.

I am always looking for new craft projects that will motivate my kids at work.  Ones that will work on improving their fine motor and attentional skills are awesome especially if they will help on building self-esteem and confidence.  Do you have other great projects like the Foil Art Sticker Kits or the Orb Factory Sticky Mosaics that you would recommend to me and my readers.  I am always looking for something new to add to my OT closet and love hearing from you all.  I am always a click away so please be sure to send me your favorites!  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Pinch Me! These Princesses are Perfect!

One of the benefits of having my own child is discovering all the new toys out there and getting to use them first hand.  I happen to have a kid who is obsessed with princesses.  I have learned from personal experience that even if you don't push the princess thing on your little girl, it still happens somehow.  Not that I am complaining.  I love playing with Quinn and all her princesses and watching her girly girl personality grow bigger with each passing day.

A few months ago, Quinn and I were hanging out with good friends and she discovered Caraline's princess dolls.  Princess dolls that we somehow didn't have or know anything about.  Somehow we have gone through her short life without having knowing anything about the MagiClip dolls by Mattel.  They are indeed magical.  Especially if you are a 4 year old girl (or the mother of a 4 year old girl and an occupational therapist).  Fast forward a couple of weeks and Quinn gets these magical dolls for her birthday and they may or may not have been her favorite toy.  And she may or may not have played with them for hours.  The truth is is that the more I played with them with her, the more I realized just how awesome these simple toys are.  The best part is that there are so many occupational therapy goals that can be worked on when playing with the MagiClip Dolls.  I am now using them during my sessions with many of my kids as are the physical therapists I work with!  I like to place the kids on a large therapy ball and work on core strengthening by having them lie back and reach for one doll and a dress.  It's a great way to get some of the kids who avoid the more physical work to be motivated to participate in the task.

The MagiClip Dolls are so simple yet so much fun.  They are a huge hit with any princess lover of any age.  My older nieces love these dolls as much as Quinn does!  Each doll has a dress (or two depending on which set you get) that is removed and put back on by pinching the bottom of the dress.  It is kind of like a clothes pin in the way it opens/closes.  The doll slips out and can easily be switched into one of the other princesses dresses.  Take a look at the pictures to the sides to see how they work.

There are several occupational therapy goals that can be worked on when playing with the MagiClip Dolls.  Here are just a few:
Improve Bilateral Coordination Skills-these highly motivating toys are great for working on improving bilateral coordination skills.  In order for these to work, a child is required to use two hands.  They must hold the doll with one hand and pinch the bottom of the dresses with their other in order to remove the dresses and then to put them on again.
Improve Hand Strength/Grasping Skills-these dolls are great for working on improving both hand strength and grasping skills.  I make sure that my kids use their "pinchers" when opening the dresses to pull the dolls out.  Many of my kids try and use their whole hold to open them, but if necessary, I will do hand over hand modeling to get them to use three fingers only. For the typically developing child, the opening/pinching of the dresses isn't too difficult but for those children who low muscle tone or decreased strength in their hands, it can be a challenge and can really work on improving their grasp strength.  
Improve Organizational/Attentional/Problem Solving Skills-I love that a child really has to focus and maintain their attention on the dolls when they are putting the dresses on the doll.  There is a definite front and back and the doll won't slip into the dress if it is on backwards.  For some of the dolls like Rapunzel or Aurora, a child has to have patience and pay attention that the dress goes under their long hair.  Some of the kids I work with get very frustrated with this and need encouragement to focus and keep at it until it is on all the way.  Once I get them to slow down and focus, they are able to problem solve to figure out the best way to get the dress on the doll.
Improve Visual Perceptual/Matching Skills-at home, my daughter can play with these dolls and dresses for hours and hours.  She loves putting different dresses on the dolls and then setting them for a ball or a party.  For my kids at work, I like to let them play around but also try and make these as therapeutic as possible.  For the starter set (7 princesses each with their own dress), each princess has shoes/undergarments (I call it a bathing suit) that matches the color of the dress that they are supposed to wear.  I work on improving matching skills and color recognition by encouraging the children to find the right doll to go with the right dress.  This sounds easy but can be complicated for some children.

I don't have many complaints about the MagiClip Dolls.  My only major complaint is that there just isn't enough of a variety of them and that they are getting harder and harder to find these days!  I love me some princesses but would love to see some of the other characters be represented with this toy.  How about some characters for my "I am a boy and don't play with princesses" kids on my caseload????  I would love to see some of the other Disney characters represented as well.  One of the other things I really like about these dolls, especially compared to other princess doll sets, is that the sets just come with a doll and dress.  There aren't a million little accessories to go along with them and potentially lose.

Every once in a while, I have been able to find these magical dolls at some of my local toy stores but they are hard to find. I have been able to buy big sets here on and seen some of the individual sets during my Target runs.  Keep your eyes open at your local toy stores to see if you can find them there.  It's no secret that whenever I can, I like to support my local small businesses.  Recently, I have been able to buy some of the dolls at Little Things Toy Store in Park Slope and at Toy and Stationary World on 72nd (between Broadway and Columbus) on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Are there any toys like this that any of you have used with your kids at home or at work that you can share with me and my readers?  I would love to hear from you and am just a click away!

Have a Happy Friday you princess loving people!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Who Needs The Beach?

After this long, long winter, I've been dreaming of summer, the beach and playing with my girl in the sand.  I can spend hours playing in the sand with her, building sand castles and digging for treasures.  She tells such tales while playing at the beach and it makes me so happy.  So, when I heard about WABA Fun Kinetic Sand, I had to give it a try.  I had seen small samples when I was at the NYC Toy Fair in February and have been on the lookout ever since.  Thanks to my good friends at Norman and Jules, I now have a place to get it whenever I need it.  That is only if they can keep it on the shelves long enough for me to snag more!  According to them, it is flying off the shelves quicker than they know what to do.  I think that that alone tells you how great this stuff is.

WABA Fun Kinetic Sand is a perfect occupational therapy tool and I highly recommend it to all therapists out there!  You should buy extra though because you are going to want one for home and work...advice from the girl who hasn't been able to leave hers at work yet!  Quinn and I have spent hours playing with ours and have come up with many different ways to play with it.  I have used other kinds of "sand", but this is by far the best out there.  First of all, you get a lot of it in the package for about $16.  There are other brands out there that sell far less for far more and it isn't as good quality.  Secondly, I have used a couple of brands that have an odd smell to them.  So for kids who have sensory issues and may be tactile defensive, having something that might smell strange to them is bad news.  I was so happy to have found the perfect "sand"!

One of the things I like most about Kinetic Sand is that while it is fun to play with and easy to make a mess with, the cleanup is easy.  I know that I have a hard time playing with certain sensory materials because it takes so long to clean up and it gets EVERYWHERE.  When I am at work, I like to use things that are easy to take out and put back away.  Things that won't get all over the sensory equipment or require me to spend valuable therapy time cleaning up the mess.  Not with Kinetic Sand; even if it gets all over the place, it can be cleaned up quickly (with a broom or a vacuum).

While Kinetic Sand has many therapeutic benefits, I love finding something new and exciting to use to work on increasing grasp strength.  I have used playdough for years and that's always fun for the kids, but I have found that they changed the recipe in the last few years and it is way too soft and not that great for strengthening purposes.  Plus, it can make such a mess and a real pain in the neck to get it out of carpeting.  Another great thing about this sand is that it is ideal for all ages.  My 4 year old loves it but so do my older school-age children.  It's also a great tool to recommend for parents to get at home to work on strengthening activities.  I am very careful about what I suggest for home use because I don't want parents to turn into therapists; it's important that whatever I recommend to parents that it is fun for the whole family and doesn't seem like they are in a therapy session.  My daughter likes taking her PlayMobil fairies and trees and building a place for them to play.  It's great to be able to take something that has so much therapeutic value and use it with everyday toys to make it seem much more like play.

Some of the other occupational therapy skills that can be worked on are:
Improving Tactile Defensiveness-it's difficult to find a good material to work on improving tactile defensive behaviors.  I have found that many of the materials I have worked with at work get stuck all over the kid's hands which causes them to to get anxious.  Or sometimes it doesn't stick together well and they get frustrated.  Kinetic Sand has a super soft feeling as it flows through your fingers but at the same time, it can easily stick together and make some great shapes with little effort.
Improving Bilateral Coordination Skills-a good way to work on encouraging the use of two hands at a time would be to provide children with tools to dig with, shovel into containers, etc..  They need to hold the tools with one hand and fill up a cup with the other one.
Improve Grasping Skills-if you want to work on improving grasping skills, hide some small objects in here and have the kids pull them out.  You can make a birthday cake and have the kids put small pegs in for birthday candles.  You can hide different size and shaped shells in it, have them dig through and use Zoo Sticks to get them out of the sand to work on increasing grasp strength.  My daughter is obsessed with unicorns these days and a friend gave us these food picks.  We had been struggling to figure out the best way to use them and then Quinn decided on this.  Putting them in and then pulling them out are a great way to work on improving fine motor grasping skills.
Improve Creative Skills/Language Skills-if you have a child who has a hard time thinking outside of their box and likes to do things the same way all the time, you can use this and try and come up with some play scenarios.  You can create something together with the child you are working with and then have them tell stories about what they made.  If you have a child who gets speech and language therapy, consult with their therapist and ask what their goals are and how you can incorporate it into the work you are doing with the child.  There is nothing better than being able to work on multiple skills at a time during any given session.
Improve Social Skills-I can't wait to try this with my social skills group!  Playing with Kinetic Sand can be a great way to get kids talking and improving conversational skills.  Get a couple of packages of Kinetic Sand and place it in tupperware or sensory table big enough for a few children to gather around.  Provide them with different sand tools that require them to share with one another.  For kids who need a bit more support or structure, give them something they need to build together, such as a sand castle or a sand animal.  They can only build one and must do it together instead of building separate ones.  This can be much more difficult than it sounds for children who have language and social difficulties.  As I mentioned above, you can also take characters and have the children use them with the Kinetic Sand to work on improving language skills.

As I already mentioned, I got my Kinetic Sand at Norman and Jules in Park Slope.  If you are making a special trip to get some, be sure to give them a call first to see that they have it.  When I was in there last, they said that they really couldn't keep it in the store!  You can also order directly from the WABA fun website here.  Check out your local toy stores and see if they carry it.  However, keep in mind that there are a bunch of different versions of moveable sand and be sure to get the WABA Fun Kinetic Sand.

Do you have any other awesome sensory materials you use and can suggest to me and my readers?  I know there are a ton out there but would much rather use something that has been kid and therapist approved!  Until I started using the Kinetic Sand, I forgot just how much therapeutic value there was to manipulative materials!  I love hearing from you all and am always a click away so please send me your suggestions!

So, until you can make it to the beach to play with the real deal, enjoy your WABA Fun Kinetic Sand!