Friday, October 23, 2015

The Monster Mash!

Halloween is just around the corner and it's really beginning to feel a lot like it in the air.  All around New York City, decorations are up (I'm ignoring the fact that Christmas decorations are also popping up everywhere as well), kids are talking about trick-or-treating and their costumes and I'm going a little crazy with arts and crafts projects with my kids at work.  However, some of the kids I work with aren't into crafts but still want to get into the Halloween Spirit.

For those of you who read my blog, you will know that I am a big fan of using the iPad during my sessions.  When used in conjunction  with other therapeutic activities, it can be a highly motivating and educational tool.

Go Away, Big Green Monster-I've been a big fan of the Ed Emberley book of the same title for years.  I love the way the kids can interact with the story and how it helps some of the younger kids I work with learn about body parts.  The app brings the book to life and allows the kids to add and remove all the parts of the monster. Once he is put together, they can poke at him and see how this scary looking monster is nothing to be scared about.  I like that the kids can choose to read along with either a 4-year old narrator or hear the book be read by Ed Emberley himself. 
I like that you can add a hands on activity once you have finished playing with this app.  You can have all the pieces cut out of construction paper so you can have the kids make their very own Big Green Monster.  If you are working on teaching kids how to draw people, this can be a fun activity to reinforce where all the parts of the face go.
Sago, Sago Mini Monsters-Sago Sago has been a long time favorite of mine and children love all of the apps that they create. Each of these great apps are colorful and engaging and stimulate language, fine motor and visual motor/perceptual skills.  In Sago Min Monsters, children are able to create their own colorful monsters.  They can add details to make their monster their very own.  When they are all done creating them, they can interact with the monsters with pain, food and decorations. Kids think it's hilarious that they can feed the monsters and if they don't like the food, they will spit it out at them.  They can have them play with toys and instruments.  All of the interactive components make this a great app for working on following directions and language development.
You can add a fine-motor/craft component to this by cutting out similar monster parts and having the kids create a paper monster that they get to take home.
Labo Halloween Car-the kids I work with love the racing games so when I saw the Halloween Car app by Labo Lado, I had to have it.  I've used it with a few of the kids I work with and they really are loving it.  They get to choose from 12 different cars, several of them being Halloween themed (think bat, pumpkin and ghost).  They get to color it any way they want, add wheels and then add details and a character to make their car their very own.  Once they have completed designing it, they get to take it on a ride through different spooky racing routes.  
This app is great for working on improving graphomotor skills, encouraging creativity and visual motor/perceptual skills.  Also great for working on executive functioning skills, such as focus and attention and organizational skills.   
Stella and Sam Halloween Band-I've been a longtime fan of all things Stella and Sam by Zinc Roe Design since they are so interactive and work on so many occupational therapy goals.  If you haven't checked out their other apps, do yourself a favor and do it!  In this Halloween themed app, you get to join Stella and Sam in their band!  There are 6 different instruments to play.  You can change the sounds by moving the band members side to side or up and down.  If you look carefully, you will see bats, spiders and other characters floating around that you can interact with.  Great for preschoolers or young school-age children.  You can work on color recognition by having the kids hit the different colors when you ask them to.  As they get more familiar and comfortable with their colors, you can make this more complex by having them follow sequences.  For some kids, you might want to make them remember the order just by telling them and for others you may want to put out a visual for them to follow.  Kids will creating their own music while learning at the same time.  
Spooky Letters-I have a ton of great handwriting apps, but thought it would be fun to spice things up with this Halloween themed writing app by MadeByEducators.  In this app, children can practice writing upper and lower case letters, cursive letters, shapes/pictures and words.  What I really love about this particular handwriting app is that there is a big focus on phonics.  After practicing writing each letter, the kids then have to put letters in order for a word that starts with that letter or put together a simple puzzle that reveals what monster is hiding in the box.  For example, after you write the letter "K", a jumbled up word (key) comes up and they have to put them in order.  During the whole thing, the kids are hearing the letters being sounded out which is great for those who are struggling with learning how to read.
**one thing I noticed is that some of the letters that we typically start at the top (M and N for example), actually start at the bottom.  Could be confusing for some kids but there are a lot more positive things about this app that make it a good one to add to your handwriting app choices.

If you are concerned about using an iPad during therapy, keep in mind that there are a ton of ways to make it more therapeutic.  I also can't Here are a few examples of things you can do to make using the iPad more meaningful, whether it be at home or during your therapy sessions:
*use a stylus-many of the apps can be done using a stylus.  So even though the kids are absorbed in the app, they are working on developing a proper grasp.
*many of the kids I work with need to work on increasing their overall body strength, particularly upper body and neck/head.  Have them go on the net swing and play the apps.  
*if you work with groups of kids, almost any of these apps can be good for a small group setting.  They will have to compromise about colors for their cars, what to feed the monster, take turns playing instruments, etc.. There are a lot of great social opportunities available when using the iPad in a therapeutic setting. 

I would love to hear if any of you have some great Halloween or fall-themed apps that I should check out.  I like to take advantage of holidays and mix things up during my sessions.  Between the great arts and crafts activities, baking activities and the iPad apps, I have been rejuvenated the last couple of weeks during my sessions.  The kids are also having a great time and excited for new things at the gym.  So if you have any fun things to suggest to me or my readers, please share them!  I am always a click away and love hearing from you all!

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