Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spring Into Action!

Here on the east coast, there are little glimmers of hope that Spring is actually on its way.  Between the rainy days, there is warmer weather, flowers blooming and the sun is staying out much later at night.  I am a big fan of seasons, even winter and the cold, and am always excited for a new season to begin.  With each season brings new adventures.  What I love about spring is that it allows more outdoor play and, at least in my case with my daughter, less screen time.  For many of the kids I work with, the change from winter to spring helps with so many things.  First of all, outdoor time means more running around in the playground, climbing, jumping, scooting, bike riding, etc..  All of this movement always leads to improved sensory processing, attention and focus and overall organizational skills in children.  Additionally, kids show improved strength and endurance from being outside and moving around more often.

Recently, I was asked to write a blog for Friendship Circle on Outdoor Toys.  The focus was on toys, games and other products that helped with the development of body strength, motor planning executive functioning and encouraged social skills.  It's amazing how many great products there are out there that can be easily adapted to meet the needs and skill set of individual kids.  As always, I try and find products that parents can find in local toy stores without having to shop in special needs catalogues.  Be sure to check my Outdoor Toys post to learn all about them.

In addition to the toys I talked about in my post for Friendship Circle, there are a lot of great activities that you can do with kids.  Using some of the products I discussed, you can make outdoor play more meaningful while hiding the fact that it is actually working towards therapeutic goals.


1.  Go On a Picnic-my daughter loves our impromptu picnics in the park when the weather allows.  You can make this a therapeutic activity by making a list and having your child help pack the basket you are taking to them park.  This can help with executive functioning skills such as planning, and organization.  Have your kids go around and take sandwich orders on a pad from family and friends and then they can help with making sandwiches and packing up snacks which helps with fine motor and visual motor/perceptual skills.  Be sure to bring some fun activities to do with your kids during your picnic.  Pack some bubbles, stomp rockets or other kinds of outdoor games that you can do as a family.

2.  Gardening-if you are able to, find a patch of space to plant some flowers or easy to care for vegetables with your children.  There are so many skills that can be worked on through gardening and at the end there is an end product that will make your child feel so proud of.  First of all, gardening helps with improving fine motor and bilateral coordination skills (shoveling out dirt, placing seeds in the ground, covering the seeds with dirt, etc.).  It is also great for teaching kids responsibility as they have to be sure that they care for their garden each day by watering it, picking out weeds, etc..
**FYI....some fast growing plants (for our not always patient little ones) are:
-Sunflowers
-Morning Glory
-Sweet Pea
-Carrots
-Green Beans
-Lettuce

3.  Chalk Drawing-one of my favorite activities to suggest to families during the warmer months is chalk drawing.  Whether you have a giant driveway or a patch of sidewalk in front of your apartment, this is a great family activity to work on improving fine motor, graphomotor and executive functioning skills.  It is also great for encouraging creativity and social skills as well.  One of my favorite spring/summer traditions in my family is to hang out outside our apartment after a day of school and work and draw chalk creations.  We will all take turns adding things to a picture and then we tell a story about it when it is complete.  As my daughter has gotten older, we have also made fun of learning how to write letters and now words outside.  It definitely makes it feel more like play than work.

4.  Scavenger Hunt-kids love a good scavenger hunt and I love that this activity can encourage social skills, teamwork and cooperative play for kids.  Depending on the age of the children, you can make this as simple or as complicated as they can handle.  For example, if you want them to find a flower you can tell younger kids to simply find a flower or make it more challenging for older kids by having them find a certain color flower.  If the space you are having the scavenger hunt allows, try and add some gross motor challenges to help work on building strength, endurance and motor planning.  For example, have them climb ladders on a swingset or lift garage doors to find things hidden.


5.  Outdoor Obstacle Course-if your space allows, have your kids come create an outdoor obstacle course using different outdoor toys.  Some things to include:  stomp rockets, scooters, draw chalk targets for them to jump into, shoot a basketball into the hoop, hula hoop x amount of times.  There are so many options and kids don't realize that they are actually working towards meeting some of their therapy goals.  Obstacle courses are great for working on improving motor planning, organizational and sequencing skills, increasing endurance and overall body strength.  Be sure to let your child help you come up with the obstacle course if they are able to.  For older kids, you can make this more challenging by timing them and having them try and beat their personal records.

Do you have some fun outdoor activities that you are your family enjoy during the nicer weather?  I would love to hear about family traditions or activities that you suggest to the families that you work with.  As always, I am always a click away and love hearing from you all.

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