Friday, November 13, 2015

Thinking Inside and Outside The Lines

This may be my favorite section of my whole guide because one of my favorite things to do is color.
 I can spend hours coloring and my daughter has found a love of this as well.  We will sit side by side sharing our pens, markers and crayons talking about what we are coloring and helping each other out every once in a while.

Did you know that coloring is not only great for kids but has been found to have many benefits for adults as well?  This article from Huffington Post last year talks about how coloring can decrease stress in adults which makes it a great thing for parents and kids to do together. Not only is it fun, it's a great way to bond and talk about things.  Coloring is a fabulous way to work on improving visual motor and visual perceptual skills in a non-stressful way.  When you are coloring with your child, you shouldn't tell them what to do (for example, what colors to use) or make them stay in the lines.  When there are specific instructions, have them read them to you and make sure they understand what is being asked of them.  Encourage independence, success, creativity and imagination as much as you can.

There are SO many great coloring and activity books out there right now.  So many that it can make it really difficult to choose sometimes.  There are also tons of different tools out there for coloring.  Some people like to color/draw with crayons and pencils, while others would much rather color with markers.  There is no right or's whatever works best for you.  I have shared some of my picks below.  Ones that have been kid tested and therapist approved!

Usborne The Big Book of Things to Find and Colour- another great activity book by Usborne. This one is packed with tons of fun pictures.  Each page has directions for things to find and color in. For example, there is a page filled with fairies and you have to find all the ones holding wands and color them in a certain color, find the one with wings and color them in, etc. This highly motivating activity book works on improving visual motor and visual scanning skills, focus and attention, grasping skills and planning and organizational skills.
The Super Book For Superheroes-this activity book is the perfect gift for your superhero loving artist.  It is filled with ideas, drawing, coloring and activities that encourage kids to be creative and use their imagination.  Kids will learn how to draw villains, create superheroes, secret hideouts, costumes and gadgets they will need to save the world!  For older children, you can have them write out their thoughts and write stories so you can work on improving handwriting skills at the same time.  Kids will have fun working on improving graphomotor, visual motor and perceptual skills, storytelling, focus, attention and organizational skills.

Happy Snacks Color-In'Book-my daughter is really into Shopkins right now so when I saw this adorable coloring book, I had to get it.  The pictures are so cute and engaging.  I love how while we are coloring, we are talking about what we see and whether we like that food or not.  My little girl is a bit of a "by the books" kinda kid, so I've used this book as a way to encourage her to think outside of the box and be more creative.  There is no reason the mushrooms on the pizza can't be purple or the marshmallows in the hot chocolate can't be green.  At the same time, we are working on improving visual motor/perceptual skills, eye-hand coordination, focus and attention and improving her grasping skills.  Once your picture is complete, they are easy to tear out and display for others to see!
The Usbourne Book of Drawing, Doodling and Colouring-I am a huge fan of almost every single Usbourne book I have every purchased.  They are colorful, engaging and educational.  This particular book is a favorite of mine because it combines the best part of many of their books into one big collection.  This book allows a child to color and create things.  It allows them to work on improving their drawing skills.  It gives them step by step instructions in a very easy to follow visual friendly manner that allows kids who feel like they aren't artists be really good artists!  There are pictures to fill in and make your own and give you instructions to follow in order to complete pictures.  Great for working on improving fine motor skills, such as improving grasping patterns, improving visual motor/perceptual skills, eye-hand coordination and executive functioning skills.
The Dollhouse Book-I am madly in love with this activity book by Rock and Pebble that I just found when at my local toy store, Norman and Jules.  The Dollhouse Book is a drawing book shaped like a half of a house.  When you open it, you will find 30 blank pages that can be turned into your child's dream dollhouse. Through drawing, coloring, painting or using stickers, kids can make 15 different rooms.  This is great for working on improving imagination and creativity skills as kids are encouraged to make each room different.  For kids who have a hard time with coming up with ideas, you can spend some time looking at pictures of different rooms of houses and have them talk about what they will draw.  This book is great for working on improving fine motor and grasping skills, improving visual motor and perceptual skills and executive functioning skills, such as focus, attention and organization.
Once Upon A Doodle-in this activity book, kids get to create and complete fairy tale pictures. What I
like most about this book is that while there is a lot of room to be as creative and imaginative as you want, there are certain rules that need to be followed to complete the pictures.  For example, there is a page with a bunch of horses in a field.  Your child's job is to turn all those horses into magical unicorns.  Whether it be turning those horses into unicorns or drawing a long, stringy beard on Rumplestiltskin, kids will have fun coloring and drawing while working on improving fine motor, visual motor and perceptual skills, focus/attention and organizational skills.  It's fun to introduce kids to new fairy tales and work on building storytelling skills by having them tell you what's happening in the pictures they have completed.
Usbourne Sticker Books-my daughter is obsessed with these sticker books and can be entertained by them for hours on end.  There are several to choose from and you can often find them in most book stores.  I love them because they are great for working on developing fine motor skills, bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination and visual motor and perceptual skills.  Also great for working on expanding language skills.  There are a lot of different sticker books (sports, princesses, castles and doll houses to name a few) to choose from so you will be sure to find one that is just right for your child.
Doodle Lit:  Coloring on the Classics-from the creators of the amazing BabyLit board books comes this fabulous and beautiful activity book.  Doodle Lit introduces kids to classic literature such as Pride & Prejudice, Romeo & Juliet, Alice in Wonderland and many, many more.  The book is chock-full of activities, including decorating the teapot for Alice's tea party and Jane Austen paper dolls.  There's so much more than just coloring in this book and can be a great book for your older children.  While learning about classic characters in literature, children are working on improving imagination and creativity skills, eye-hand coordination, visual motor and visual perceptual skills and improving fine-motor and grasping skills.
Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book-this beautiful and interactive coloring book, illustrated by Johanna Basford, is something that you will want to do with your children.  I have spent countless hours working on this book (and others from Johanna Basford) with my daughter by my side.  It's more than just a coloring book...adorable garden creatures are hidden throughout the pages, making it great for working on improving visual perceptual skills.  Additionally, it's great for working on building speech and language skills as you and your child talk about what you see on each page.
Scented Gel Pens-I am a total sucker for good coloring tools and these happen to be my favorite right now.  More importantly, my little girl (who ironically has a terrible pencil grip) loves them!  This particular set is great because the pens are smaller and encourage a more appropriate grip.  Even if you have decreased grasp strength, you can use these and be successful because they are smooth and easy to use.  An added bonus is that they smell really good so kids get excited to use them.
Chalkola Markers-I was lucky enough for this product to have found me before I published this years gift guide.  I've been searching for something like these for a while and they happened to drop in my lap.  For many of the kids I work with, I suggest that parents find a wall in their house that they can put up some chalkboard or white erase paper on a free wall to work on graphomotor skills.  However, finding the write writing instruments to use on these surfaces has been tricky.  Dry erase markers are great but for so many of the kids I work with, they drag their hand along their work and erase their work before finishing.  These chalk markers are great because they go on as smoothly as they come off.  When I took them out at my gym recently and had the kids write on our mirror, they were so excited.  I had one little boy (who has always been resistant to handwriting activities) ask to write his name four different time in as many colors.  The nice thing about these chalk markers is that once they are started, they are easy to use so if you have a kid with decreased grasp strength, they can still be successful.  I happened to work on a large wall mirror with my friends which is great for building up upper extremity strength and shoulder stability.  When working in this upright position, kids are also more likely to prop their wrists up correctly which puts them in a more appropriate grasping pattern.  Besides practicing shapes, letters and numbers, you can play games like Tic-Tac-Toe, Hangman or the dot game.
Crayola Pip Squeaks-all of the Pip Squeak line is pretty awesome but the markers are a staple in my gym and I recommend them to all parents.  There are two different kids of Pipsqueak markers....regular and skinnies.  I love them both and tell parents to try both to see what their child
does better with.  One of the things I work on the most with the kids I work with is getting them to hold a writing instrument in a correct way.  One thing I have learned is that the smaller the writing instrument, the more likely a child is to hold it correctly.  Some people ask why I recommend markers over crayons or colored pencils and the answer is simple:  if you have a child with decreased grasp strength, they will fine more success when using markers over any other writing instrument because the amount of pressure they need to use on markers is not as much as crayons or pencils.
Crayons and Pencils-it's hard to know which crayons and colored pencils are the best.  It's really a personal preference and you may choose different coloring tools for different activities.
As an occupational therapist, I tend to use ones that are in the shape of a triangle because they help to Crayola's My First Crayons are a great and affordable option for your little artists and can be found in most drug stores, local toy stores and big box stores like Target.  A little tip...the smaller the crayon is, the more likely a child is to hold it in a more appropriate grasp.  For older children, P'Kolino carries amazing products.  My personal favorite is the Hexagon Shaped Colored Pencils.  Unlike most colored pencils, these are 100% color so you can use the whole pencil and there is no pencil sharpener required (honestly, where is a pencil sharpener when you really need it??).  Another nice thing about these colored pencils is that they are pretty durable and don't break easily, which is a nice feature for those kids who tend to use too much pressure when engaged in graphomotor tasks.
promote a tripod like grasp.

I could go on and give you all dozens of more options, but if you are anything like me, the more choices I find myself presented with, the more confused I get.  Do any of you have a fabulous coloring or activity book that you love?  I would love to tell Santa about them for my daughter if you have any we shouldn't love without!  I am always a click away and I love hearing from you with your ideas and suggestions.

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