Friday, September 13, 2013

Just Scratching the Surface

In general, I have been a big fan of scratch art for as long as I can remember.  I have memories of making my own scratch paper as a child in art class using crayons and a special kind of black paint.  It was magical scratching away the black paint and see what was underneath.  So when I discovered Scratch Art I was psyched.  Over the years, the products have evolved from drawing pages to stickers, fashion books, and key chains (to name a a few).  It makes me happy that Melissa and Doug continue to develop great products that I am happy to suggest to my families.

I have always had some form of Scratch Art in my closet at work but didn't use it as much as I had wanted because it tended to be too challenging for many of my kids, especially the ones that required a lot of imagination and creativity.  Recently, when looking through the Scratch Magic Art products at a local toy store, I discovered the Safari Animals Mosaic book.  I immediately purchased it and began using it with my kids, both younger and older.  I was happy to see that kids of all ages and abilities were successful in the activity and motivated to keep working on it until they completed it.

What sets this book apart from their others is that many of them will give a template but then you have to use your imagination to fill them in.  For example, the fashion design one will provide you with the outline of a dress or a shirt and then you have to figure out how to design it.  While this can be fun for a child where creativity comes naturally and easily, it can be stressful for children who lack that skill and they may lose the motivation to complete the activity.  The Safari Animals Mosaic book provides you with clear instructions to scratch all shapes that have a dot on them.  For so many of the kids I work with, something as simple as that helps them as it is clear what is expected of them.  They don't need to worry that what they are doing is right or wrong (even though when my kids do the other types of scratch art I am constantly telling them there is no such thing as right or wrong when it comes to imagination) and just focus on scratching out the correct shapes.

Here are a few more occupational therapy goals that can be addressed when using the Safari Animals Mosaic book:
Look at this amazing tripod grasp being used
by my little friend.  
Improve Grasping Skills-I am not sure if you guys have similar experiences, but I find that my kids tire of handwriting activities to improve their pencil grasp skills.  Or maybe you have kids who are able to write their letters and all that fantastic stuff but they need to work on endurance and using the proper amount of pressure on a writing instrument.  If that is the case, this is a perfect activity for that child.  I work with a 7 year old girl who knows how to make her letters and is able to write beautifully but slowly because she uses too much pressure on the writing instrument.  She was getting bored with the handwriting activities we were doing during our sessions.  I introduced the Scratch Art Mosaic Color Reveal Book to her a few weeks ago and she flipped!  I was able to motivate her to use a proper grasp when holding the wooden stylus and she was able to realize on her own that when she scratched too hard, her hands would tire and she wouldn't get as much done.  Without much prompting from me, I could see her begin to use the proper amount of pressure and was able to complete the whole picture in one session (she was very motivated to be able to keep it and show her mom who was coming home later).
**I find that the wooden stylus can be too thin for some of my kids and am trying to figure out a way to improvise....any thoughts??**
Improve Visual Motor Skills-if you have a child who needs to work on their visual motor skills, this is a great activity.  This requires a child to visually scan their work for where they have to scratch.  It requires them to remain in the boundaries of each shape.
Improve Modulation/Regulation-the fact that their are lines and boundaries requires the children to control how fast and where they are coloring.  Often times, the kids are observed to scratch all over the place as fast as they can.  For this activity, I do not allow that.  I want them to learn how to slow down and focus on the details.  It is important that they learn how to color one thing in at a time and to complete it before moving onto the next area.  If they can do it with this activity, then they should be able to generalize that skill to coloring books or other coloring activities.
Improve Focus and Attention-What I love about this particular Scratch Magic product is that it requires you to focus on what you are coloring.  For my older kids, I am definitely harder on them about scratching away the whole surface and trying their  hardest to remain in the lines.  I may tell them they can't move onto the next shape until there is almost no black left on the one they are working on.  I want them to really focus on completing something instead of rushing through the activity.   For my younger kids, I may encourage it but not as much as the older kids.  A sign of attention and focus improving is how long they will stick with the activity before asking to stop.  For many of my kids, this ends up being a multi-session project.  I like to keep track of how many shapes they fill out from session to session and share with the kids how they are able to color more in each time.

There are just a few of the many goals that can be addressed using Scratch Art Safari Mosaic and other Scratch Magic products.  Do you have other goals that you have worked on that you want to share with us?

I'm not sure about all of you, but when I start the school year, I like to have new items for my kids.  I find that my returning kids definitely have their favorites and will ask for certain activities, but love the idea of finding out what is new in my closet or work bag.  The Scratch Art Safari Mosaic is a perfect addition to your toy chest if you are looking for something new and motivating for your kids.  It's also a great book to recommend to families who want to follow through on what you are working on during therapy without the kids feeling like they are never getting a break.  A child can be doing this at home with mom and dad or with his/her siblings and working on developing a proper grasp, building grasp strength and working on improving his/her endurance for graphomotor activities.

Have any of you found any other products like this that would be good for me to look into?  There are so many great Scratch Art sets out there and I am sure that I'm missing something great that could be used with my kids.  I love hearing from you guys and am always a click away.

Remember to check out local toy stores to see if they carry Scratch Art Safari Mosaic and other Scratch Magic products.  I know in my neighborhood, I can find tons of different books and sets.  Small businesses count on our business and I always feel better when I purchase from them.

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