Monday, June 27, 2016

Just The Two of Us!

One of my favorite things to do is color.  Now this shouldn't come as a surprise since I blog about coloring books all the time.  But most of those posts focus on books that are appropriate for children.  While I love to color by myself to help calm down after a long day or when I am feeling particularly overwhelmed by some kind of life event, I have found that it is also an activity that my daughter and I can enjoy together.  The good news is that my 6 year old daughter has inherited my love for coloring and it's one of the things that we love to do together.  For a while, we would color side by side sharing our special pens, markers and pencils.  She would color in her princess or unicorn books while I tackled the more complex ones like Secret Garden by Johanna Basford.  As Quinn has become older, she wants to do exactly what I am doing but they are often too difficult for her, causing her to become easily frustrated and wanting to give up.  So what was once a fun and bonding experience for us began to turn into a more stressful activity than I was willing to make it.  

So, imagine my excitement when I discovered a whole set of coloring and activity books that encourage kids and their adults to color, draw and create side-by-side!  Not only that, there are a handful of books out there that allow kids to do the same thing!  Below, you will find the ones that I have tested out and fallen in love with.  

Draw With Me, Dad!  Draw, Color and Connect With Your Child-I happen to be married to a guy who loves to draw and create with our daughter.  I will do the coloring but have failed when it comes to being more creative with her.  What I love about this book is that there are these great pictures and illustrations that you need to complete together.  Since my husband is super creative, he often has an easier time coming up with big ideas than our daughter.  What I have noticed is that that tends to stress Quinn out (although this is improving and she is becoming much more creative.  Over a span of two pages, there is a scene that a dad and kid can complete together.   They give you suggestions on what you could add to your pictures if needed but you can be as creative and imaginative as you want.  

Color With Mom-there is finally a coloring book out there that is perfect for moms and their kids to work on together.  You can sit next to each other or across from each other and each color in your own page.  The pictures have a similar theme but one page is a little more complex while the other one is a bit simpler so your child can have success.  After you both complete the picture, you can display them side by side (some may even choose to frame them) for everyone to see

Color With Me: A Coloring Book to Share-from the same people who created Color With Mom.  Color With Me is intended for friends to do together.  Each spread has two different pictures with a similar theme that can be done side-by-side.  Kids are encouraged to not only color the pictures in but to also add details to the images.  

A Coloring Book for Two-Best Friends Forever-Color Together-I'm sure I am not the only one who has watched their kids on a playdate trying to negotiate what picture each of the kids will color.  What sets this book apart from others is that kids don't have to choose one because there are two identical pictures side-by-side.  Each can do the same picture just the way they want to.  

There are so many occupational therapy benefits to coloring including: 
*improving bilateral coordination skills
*improves fine motor coordination and graphomotor skills
*improves self-regulation, modulation, focus/attention and other executive functioning skills
*improves self-esteem and confidence.  When a child completes a picture and is able to show it off or display it for others to see, they end up feeling much more confident in themselves and will be much more willing to try more challenging graphomotor activities in the future

Additionally, these side-by-side activity books are a great way to encourage social and language skills in children.  The social benefits of coloring with a friend are learning things such as sharing materials, waiting your turn if the materials you want are in use and improving social conversation.  Encourage children to talk about what they are coloring or have them work together to add details to their pictures.  While you are coloring with your children, you should be talking to them about what they are doing or what is happening in the pictures.  For older kids, you can encourage them to write a sentence or two about the picture in order to work on improving handwriting skills at the same time.

One of the other great benefits of coloring with your children, especially if you have a child who is a perfectionist like mine, is for them to see that you have to patient and focus on your work.  I have found that my daughter has become more creative and less concerned about things being perfect since she has started coloring and drawing with us more.  Things used to have to be by the book and being silly made her feel anxious.  She is now the one who is initiating the additions of silly things to some of the pictures these days and she is having more fun in general.

Now that summer is officially here, parents may be looking for something to do with their kids at the end of a long day.  These coloring and drawing books are a perfect way to wind down with your kids.  If you have any questions or want some more suggestions, please don't hesitate asking.  I'm just a click away and love hearing from you all!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

It's Okay To Be Bored

It's been a while since I last posted.  Between a really magical family vacation and the end of the year school madness, I have found myself longing for summer to get here.  While I am looking forward to a lighter work schedule, my 6 year old daughter is excited for sleeping in and not having to go to school for a couple of months.

One thing I want to do this summer is follow through on a limited screen time policy with my daughter.  When the school year began, I was pretty strict about it and she had to earn being able to watch television or play with the iPad.  As the year went on, my schedule became so crazy that it became easier to get what I had to get done at night if I just let her have screen time.  For me, the summer is going to be about trying new things and being outside.  More importantly, I want her to learn what to do when she gets bored.  Kids these days don't know how to be bored....they feel like they need to be entertained constantly.   And parents who work a lot often feel badly about not spending enough time with their children and then overcompensate by never letting kids feel bored.

Boredom is a critical part of child development.  When a child is bored, it encourages them to become more creative and engage in imaginative play.  It also helps them to develop problem solving skills and become more independent throughout their day.  As parents, we sometimes feel that we need to constantly entertain our kids and provide them with as much stimulation as possible.  As a therapist, I tell parents how important it is to provide some unstructured down-time into their child's lives.  This is especially important for the kids I work with who have incredibly busy school and therapy schedules.  Being bored and not having something to do will help their development in ways that direct 1:1 attention will.  It will also help prepare them for those moments as they get older and will be required to do much of their homework and school work independently.

What can we do to help our kids defeat boredom?  While I am sure there are a million different ways to do this (and hope that this post will trigger some ideas from all of you!), I have come up with a plan for my daughter this summer.  And by plan, I mean I have a few ideas I will share that I will be using this summer to help her defeat boredom.

1.  Block off a certain part of each day where she has to play by herself.  This means no iPad, no television and no other electronic devices to keep her entertained.  Together, we will come up with activities that she can do when she feels bored and I (or any other adult caregiver) am busy with other things.  We will look around our apartment and see what she has that she can play with and keep herself entertained without another person.

2.  My daughter loves art.  She loves drawing, painting, cutting, gluing or any other thing that allows her to feel like an artist.  While we have a nice collection of art supplies, I am going to make sure that all her favorite markers work and that she has a fresh supply of glue, tape, etc..  I am also going to find something new and special to throw in her art box each week for her to discover and play with.  Each week, I will take pictures of her art projects and at the end of the summer, we will make a photo book so she can remember all the fun and creative things she did during her summer.

3.  I am still researching but one thing I want to do is find a really cool and motivating project for my daughter to work on throughout the summer.  At first I was thinking of getting her a really big Lego set, but she's still a little too young to be able to complete those big sets by herself.  One of my ideas is to pick up one of those giant coloring pages/posters that can be spread out on the floor and when she is feeling bored, she can spend some time working on it.  The best part is is that when you want to, it can be a good family or friend project.  My favorite is this What a Colorful World one by Pirasta since my daughter has become obsessed with learning as much as she can about the world we live in.

4.  Since my daughter loves her special mom and dad play time, I will be sure to reward her with something special each week this summer.  Whether it being a trip to the beach, exploring new parts of New York City or just a special meal together, it will be something that she has to look forward to at the end of each week.  I know that this will be a huge motivator for her and I am excited to be able to plan some really fun weekly excursions.

I am clearly not an expert in this, but am hoping that this summer will teach both me and my daughter about how to handle being bored.  While I think it is incredibly important for her to learn how to problem solve and figure out what she can do to overcome boredom, I want to actively work on not getting frustrated with her when she repeatedly tells me she is bored.  I imagine there will be some resistance, but I do believe that being bored and teaching her how to be able to make choices to defeat being bored will help her become even more creative and independent than she is now.

Any of you readers have any specific thoughts/ideas about how to beat the boredom blues?  I would love to be able to add to my summer plan.  I am always a click away and love hearing from you all.