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.
**FYI....some fast growing plants (for our not always patient little ones) are:
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.
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.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Monday, March 20, 2017
When kids are younger, I find it is easier to get them to do their strengthening work during our therapy sessions. Oftentimes, you can hide the fact that they are actually "working" by making it seem like it is a game and not exercise. For example, Discovery Putty by Fun and Function is one of my kids favorite things to do during my sessions. Finding the various objects hidden in the putty is still a game for them and they are so excited to see what they find next. As kids get older, something like this becomes "boring" and they need more to get them motivated to do their strengthening exercises.
Some of you may wonder why this is important, right? Kids who have decreased grasp strength tend to be those kids who complain that their hands get tired when writing for a long time. They may have a hard time getting all their work done in the classroom because they require breaks to rest their hands. These are the kids who may have an immature grip on their writing instrument. These are also the kids that may have a hard time with activities of daily living such as manipulating buttons, snaps, etc. or being able to tie their shoes independently.
Below, I share a handful of my favorite games and toys that could help work on building grasp strength and manipulation skills in some of your older kiddos.
Finger Hockey Mini Set-this is a great way to work all those muscles in the hand. The best part, kids don't even realize that they are "working". This mini hockey set comes with a playing mat, 2 finger goalie pads, a net, 2 hockey sticks and a puck. This fun game is great for working on increasing grasp strength and manipulation skills. Also great for working on improving visual skills such as visual attention, tracking and hand-eye coordination. It's a great social activity for siblings and/or friends. If your kid isn't so into hockey, check out the Desktop Croquet Mini Kit or Desktop Basketball Kit. These are so reasonably priced (all under $10 each) that you could grab the whole collection!
Legos-I can speak from personal experience with my 7 year old daughter how Legos have been incredibly helpful for developing fine motor and grasping skills. She recently became obsessed with them and will spend hours a week putting together these elaborate sets. Since then, I have seen that her grip on a writing instrument is now appropriate (yay!!) and she can write, color and draw for much longer. In addition to working on improving grasp strength and manipulation skills, building with Legos is great for working on visual motor and perceptual skills and executive functioning skills such as motor planning, organizational skills, focus and attention. It can also encourage creativity when you let your kid build whatever they want to with a bunch of pieces. If your kid is up for a real challenge, check out the Nanoblock sets. Same concept as Legos but much tinier and more challenging to manipulate.
Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty, Mixed By Me Thinking Putty Kit-I have been and recommending Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty to my families for years. Hide little objects in the putty, have kids find them and you have an easy strengthening activity. However, this is something that my younger kids love and the older kids find to be a bit more boring. The Mixed by Me Kit is great for older kids, especially those who are into the whole DIY science experiment fad that seems to be all the rage right now. Each kit comes with five tins of clear putty, three concentrated color putties, three special effect putties and a guide that will help your kid make their very own Thinking Putty colors. This is a great activity for working on improving grasp strength and manipulation skills. It is also great for working on executive functioning skills such as planning, organization, focus and attentional skills. It will also build confidence and self-esteem and can help improve social skills if you have them do this while working with a friend or a sibling.
Brynk-in this fun stacking game, kids can work on improving fine motor, grasping and manipulation skills. One by one, kids take turns sliding any of the pieces onto the base of the game or attaching them to other game pieces. The pieces are different shapes, sizes, etc. meaning that they have to look carefully making sure that the piece they choose won't make the structure topple over. They have to make sure that they really pay attention to where they place their pieces to keep the structure from falling over. If you have kids who need to work on improving social skills, this game could be a fun way to work on that. Kids can play against each other or they can work in teams. Be sure to discuss the rules of the game as a group and establish expectations on being a good winner/loser.
Paint by Sticker-if you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know how much I love the Sticky Mosaics by Orb Factory. While even my bigger kids enjoy doing these, they do find them to get babyish and not challenging enough after a certain age. So when I discovered the Paint by Sticker book by Workman Publishing, I got really excited. This books is a collection of 12 black and white pictures (animals, flowers, landscapes, etc.) that come to life by adding stickers. The stickers are a variety of shapes and each one matches up with a number. colorful paintings that gets to design my matching stickers to numbers. These are great for working on the development of fine motor and manipulation skills, improves hand-eye coordination, visual scanning and visual motor skills. In addition, it is a great activity to work on improving executive functioning skills such as focus, attention, organization and planning. Once completed, you can frame the picture which will help in boosting confidence and self-esteem.
Klutz Cootie Catcher Book-I remember spending hours making these with my friends growing up! We used to call them fortune tellers but this book by Klutz refers to them as cootie catchers. It is a simple origami kind of activity that has different colors, numbers, questions, and fun message at the end. This book comes with 22 preprinted punch out and fold cootie catchers all with different themes/messages/etc.. These are great for working on improving fine motor skills such as grasping, manipulation and grasp strength. It's also great for improving visual motor and perceptual skills. Additionally, this is a fun way to encourage social skills in kids who may be experiencing challenges in this area.
Pirasta Coloring Posters-I absolutely love these giant coloring pages by Pirasta. Not only are they great for working on improving coloring and hand-eye coordination, if you hang it up on a wall in your house, it is a great way to work on improving upper body and wrist strength/control. My nieces got one for Christmas one year and it is still hanging on their wall and people still finding objects to color in on the poster. I make sure that there is a really good variety of pencils, gel pens, markers, etc for the kids to choose from such as these Super Duper Scented Gel Pens or these Triangular Colored Pencils (triangle-shaped pencils help to encourage a tripod grasp when holding them) by Ooly.
Finding fun ways to work with older kids, especially ones that they won't mind doing at home, can be challenging but as you can see, there are a lot of great options out there. Do you have any toys or games that you use with your older kids that have been a big hit? I love hearing about new products and I know that the parents of the kids I work with appreciate it as well. As long as we can keep things fun for those hard to please older kids, they won't mind doing "homework" in between sessions. I look forward to hearing from you with your suggestions. I am always a click away!