Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Help with pencil grip

 So the goal is to get children to hold their writing tools in a mature, tripod grasp- or something near that.  Some kids have real difficulty achieving this functional grasp, so we use adaptations to promote a better grasp.  Here is one of my favorites.  It is called a Handi Writer.  It angles the pencil so that children can hold the pencil without using a fist.  The child uses his pinky and ring finger to hold the dolphin against his/her palm to keep these two fingers from being used to hold the pencil.  The goal is to use this tool consistently for a few months (or less, if able) to get the child into the habit of holding a pencil/crayon like this,) and then start slowly transitioning to not using it.  Most children, by then, have developed a better writing grasp.  Another adaptation is to have your child use pencil grips to position their fingers correctly on the pencil.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hiding Veggies

Well, had an interesting conversation the other day which prompted this post.  What about those picky kids that don't eat a lot of foods?  What's a problem and what's just being picky?

Here's some red flags:

  • your child avoids all foods of a certain texture or temperature
  • your child completely cuts out a food group, i.e. no veggies
  • your child is not eating enough calories to support his growth
  • your child does not sit for meals, and continually wants to graze throughout the day
Any of the above warrants a conversation with a pediatrician and a potential referral to an OT, speech therapist, or feeding clinic.  There are many ways to approach feeding with a child who is resistant to trying new foods, even gagging on them.  A multisensory approach paired with a behavioral strategies is best.  To ignore one or the other is setting the child up for frustration.  A consult with the medical community is always recommended to ensure feeding is a safe activity.

Here's some ideas to get you rolling, whether your child has significant feeding issues or whether you think he's just being picky:
  • try making your own pizza or spaghetti sauce, you can hide lots of red or orange veggies and fruits pureed into it
  • try having a 'dipping' snack using a preferred cracker or pretzel, dip into a variety of tastes, including pudding, yogurt, dressings, even pickle juice or salsa!
  • try using a ratio like three bites of a preferred food to one bite of a non-preferred
  • make sure that at each meal, at least one preferred is on the table
  • try and make snacks and mealtimes consistent so that the child doesn't graze all day, if he does, he may never feel truly hungry
  • be patient, kids may take 10 to 15 presentations of a new food before they try it
  • try a multisensory approach, play with your food
  • challenge the child sequentially, working a new food towards the mouth, he may need to touch it with his hands, touch it to his cheeks, touch lips (give it a kiss), touch tongue, be allowed to hold it in his mouth, then spit it out, etc. working up to eating it
  • let you child have his own fun utensils, have him help set the table and prepare the food

What's worked for you?  Have specific questions?  Please comment!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Here's another fun way to use an exercise ball.  Have your kids play catch, or volley, with it.  Have them throw it so they hit,or catch, above their heads to work on upper extremity strengthening and stability.  This is good for eye-hand coordination, and works on visual motor skills.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Calming Activities for Preschool

Calming Activities for Preschool
Prior to or upon arrival to school
  • Walk to school if that is an option, carry a heavy backpack or pull a wagon, push a stroller with heavy objects or another person in it.  
  • Use a scooter, scooter board, roller skates or a bike to get to school
  • Open (heavy) doors independently 
  • Various animal walks incorporating crawling, jumping, arm movements, etc.

Circle Time or seated tasks
  • Hold squeeze toys, silky fabrics, vibrating toy, small amount of playdough
  • Sit on a ball, rocking chair, bean bag, or almost fully deflated beach ball on a chair
  • Do chair push ups while sitting (place palms on seat of chair and push body upward) 
  • Hold objects with weight (books, cans) in lap
  • Tape a circle on the floor or use a carpet square where child is to sit
  • Allow child to lie on stomach on floor 
  • Have child slide or carry chair to circle area
  • Incorporate animal walks (frog, bear, crab, snake etc.) to provide movement to seated tasks
  • Incorporate reward system (small piece of gummy or crunchy candy, stickers, stamp to hand, high five, verbal praise) intermittently for appropriate behavior.  Be sure to simply explain appropriate/inappropriate behavior

Heavy work throughout the day (center time/guided free play)
  • Playdough, dough, putty (rolling pin, flatten, pull apart, knead, push together, push pegs/coins into it, hammer)
  • Dry noodles, rice, beans, birdseed, sand, water (pour, touch, mix)
  • Mop, sweep, vacuum
  • Use hole punch 
  • Finger-paint, shaving creme
  • Tweezers
  • Blow toys (straws, instruments, cotton balls)
  • Vibrating pens, drawing on textured surface (sandpaper, bubble wrap, Lego table)
  • Standing at an easel for painting, drawing, cutting
  • Resistive manipulatives (pop beads, Legos, foam puzzles)
  • Wear heavy backpack during this time (be sure to remove prior to gross motor play)
  • Laundry play (fold, iron, carry laundry basket, slide another child sitting in the basket)
    instruments (marching, banging, blowing)
  • Obstacle course
  • Make a quiet area with pillows, beanbag, tent or small child pool with balls in it (ball pit), low light, calming music, books, squeeze toys or vibration, silky fabrics for self calming
  • Row your boat (stand or sit holding another’s hands, rock back and forth)

Heavy work for outside/gym
  • Bikes, scooters, scooter board (pull another child as they are on their stomach or have child hold rope as they are pulled on their stomach on scooter board), roller-skates
  • Swinging, monkey bars, playground equipment, tug of war
  • Shovel snow, rake leaves
  • Spray bottles, chalk, blow bubbles, paint walls/ground with paintbrush and water
  • Obstacle course (jump, roll, run, crawl, etc.)
  • Wagon pull and wagon rides
  • Catch, kick, throw, t-ball
  • Fly a kite
  • Sand and water play

Snack/Meal Time
  • Have the child be a snack helper to pass out cups, plates, etc.
  • Wipe off the tables using large motions
  • Carry heavy cans of juice, pitchers
  • Chair push-ups
  • Crunchy or gummy candy, Twizzlers, milkshakes through a straw
  • Stack chairs at the end of meal times

  • Quiet music, white noise, low lights
  • Rocking, vibration, deep massage
  • Heavy blanket on legs, wrap in blanket or youth sleeping bag
  • Lie in hammock or beanbag
  • Hold silky fabric, Taggie blanket, etc.
  • Token rewards (stickers, verbal praise) for staying in bed, on mat
  • Page through books

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What to DO with all those leftover candy hearts?

Got a lot of conversation hearts left over?  Try these simple games that target fine motor skills:

  • Use tongs (children's chopsticks that are connected at the top are great) to sort them out by color
  • Sort them out by message for older children
  • Place them face down on the table and use thumb and forefinger only to turn them over
  • Place one face down in your child's palm and have him turn it over using his fingers only, no other hand allowed!

For a challenging oral motor strengthening activity, try playing with the hearts with straws.  Who can blow one across the masking tape line on the table?  Who can pick one up with their straw? (Hint, you can make the last one easier by cutting the straw shorter.)  Paper straws are safer than the plastic for little kids or kids who tend to have a very strong bite...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Electronic scavenger hunt

Now days most kids have, or have access to, some type of electronic device such as an ipod or ipad, or iphone.  If you look around anywhere there are teens/preteens gathered, you will see the kids on their devices.  So, let's use these devices for fun and to work on visual perceptual skills and visual discrimination skills.  To play this game, you need more than 1 child.  If there are many kids playing, make teams.  Have one team/kid take a picture of something either inside or outside your house/school.  Then they either send it to the other team or the other team uses the device the picture was taken on and goes in search of the subject of the picture.  The older the children playing, the more difficult they can make it  by taking parts of items, or just a design on a piece of furniture/picture/decoration. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Fun with cardboard boxes

Need something fun to do indoors and have a rather large box around?  Have fun making it into a car, plane, rocket, or bird nest!  Include kids in the planning, designing, and decorating for fun therapeutic time well spent.  They can draw out their ideas on paper before doing it on the box, painting and drawing on vertical surfaces helps improve writing grasp, and it's a fun plaything for a good while!
Or try making your favorite superhero...

Friday, February 8, 2013

Valentines craft

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, so have your kids make a cute Valentine's Day craft.  Have the older kids draw and cut out their own hearts (the wings are a heart cut into 2).  They can also do the writing. All you need for this craft is a paper plate and some red and pink paper.  You can either use eyes or draw the eyes.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sit Fit Disc

One thing we use at some of our schools to help children sit during floor instruction is a sit fit, or core, disc.  Much like the fitness ball we talked about in an earlier post ("Fidgety Kids"), the disc challenges the balance of the child while sitting.  This provides the input some children need to focus during this time.  Typically, we sit the child in the center of the disc and don't have the disc pumped up too full.  Don't let the child lean on anything. The child can either sit cross-legged or long-legged. 

Another great idea for these discs:  Have your kids sit on them when watching tv or playing video games.  This will work their core.  We know that core strength is important for good sitting while performing table top activities such as writing and cutting,  so work that core!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Fishing for Snack

Try this quick and fun way to work on dexterity and eye hand coordination!  Give the child a spoonful of peanut butter in a dixie cup and a small blue plate with goldfish crackers.  Have him pull a small pretzel stick from a large cup using his pincer grasp and scoop a little peanut butter onto it, that's his bait.  Then press onto the fish crackers to 'catch' his snack!

Or try this for motivation.... use half a raisin or fruit snack and stick it at the end of a pathway or maze.