Sunday, January 16, 2022

Make your own DIY shape sorter toy!

In this post, I am going to explain how to make a DIY shape sorter toy! You probably have the necessary materials right in your home! A shape sorter is a fun activity that helps to improve visual perception skills, spatial awareness, eye-hand coordination, and fine motor skills. When a child plays with a shape sorter, they engage their problem-solving skills and learn about colors, and shapes.


Needed:
- Shoe Box Scissors
- Pencil, crayons, or marker
- Colorful 3-D shapes or wooden blocks
- Contact paper- Stickers

Directions:
Cover the box and lid with contact paper. Secure the edges of the contact paper in place with tape if needed. Place each shape on the lid of the box, and trace the outline of each shape. Use the scissors or a craft knife to cut out the shapes. Press each shape through corresponding hole to make sure they all fit. Have the child help decorate the box using crayons, markers, and/or stickers, and it’s time to play! Have fun!!!
 

This project was completed by a Master of Occupational Therapy student at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center and posted with permission.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Mindfulness for Children: An Excellent Resource!!!

Smell the Flower… Blow Out the Candle is a delightful guide to mindfulness for children! This book will help children pay attention to their bodies, understand their feelings, and make good choices. Every child can use the strategies covered in this book to calm themselves, boost their mood, and improve their focus, and the charming illustrations will definitely keep the children engaged! An added bonus is that it includes social emotional activities for children that can be used by parents at home as well as teachers in the classroom. 

 

As a pediatric occupational therapist with over 30 years of experience, I truly believe that teaching children mindfulness teaches them how to deal with stress, practice empathy, and live with peace and gratitude. This child-friendly introduction to mindfulness will help every child build a greater awareness of their body and emotions. It is a must have for parents, educators, and therapists!

Thursday, December 9, 2021

More Motor Planning Activities for Kids!

In my last post, I shared about motor planning, which is the ability to plan, organize, sequence, and carry out actions. Below you will find some more kid-friendly motor planning activities!

 

Kick Ball: You and your child get in a crab walking position facing each other with a balloon in the middle. Kick the balloon up in the air with one foot and take turns trying to keep the ball in the air by kicking it.

 

Bean Bag Toss: Tape different shapes on the floor and give the child several beanbags. Tell the child to toss a bag on the square first, then on the circle, then on the triangle. If you have various colors, say “toss the blue bag inside the green square, etc.”  Increase the complexity of the directions as needed.

 

Cereal Stacking: Stick a toothpick into a piece of foam or a small ball of clay/putty and have child place fruit loops or cheerios on the toothpick using the tongs. If they squeeze to hard, they’ll crush the cereal, so this is great for increasing control and dexterity.

 

Sticky Note Targets: Write letters or draw shapes on yellow sticky notes and stick them to the wall. Give the child a small ball (ping pong or Nerf ball and have them throw it at the target “letter or shape” that you call out.

 

Net Toss: Get a net (butterfly) from the dollar store and have the child catch a nerf ball with the net when you throw it to different sides of his body.


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

5 Fun Motor Planning Activities for Kids!

Motor planning is the ability to plan, organize, sequence, and carry out actions, and it is involved in most every task we complete! Motor planning is sometimes called praxis, and when someone has difficulty with motor planning, it is called dyspraxia. Below you will find 5 fun kid-friendly motor planning activities!

 
Photo Credit: Virginia State Parks Staff
 
Wheelbarrow Walking: Wheelbarrow walk the child to a spot and have two bowls (i.e. one yellow, one blue) there.  Instruct the child place the yellow items in the yellow bowl and blue items in the blue bowl.  Wheelbarrow walk to a 2nd designated area where you’ve taped a small circle, square, and triangle on the floor. Give instructions: “Touch the square then the circle.” Increase the complexity: “Trace the circle with your finger then touch the triangle.” Take a break. Child may need to rest between activities.

Sidewalk Chalk Fun: Write numbers and letters on the sidewalk. Give the child a playground sized ball and tell him to “bounce the ball on the 5 then on the B.” Increase the complexity of the directions as needed.

Sidewalk chalk or tape out something similar to a hopscotch pattern.  Fill each square with a color/shape/letter, then give the child various instructions. “Hop with one foot on to the square with the letter C, then hop on both feet to the square with the number 4.” Increase the complexity of the directions as needed.

Balloon Game: Suspend a balloon from the ceiling or a door frame using a long piece of string. Have the child hit the ball while saying or singing the A-B-C’s or while counting. For example, A- hit the balloon, B- hit the balloon, etc. You can also make this more difficult by removing the string, and having him keep the balloon in the air as long as possible by hitting it while saying the A-B-C’s. Can she get all the way through the alphabet and keep the balloon in the air? This is also a fun activity for practicing spelling words!

Suspended balloon: Call out instructions and have the child follow them: “hit the balloon with your elbow! Hit it with your nose, etc.”

Bubble Fun: Have the child hop on one foot in place while you blow bubbles in her direction. Have them “clap” the bubbles to pop them while hopping.

Monday, November 8, 2021

What is Auditory Defensiveness?

 

When a child is over-sensitivity to sounds in the environment, this is called auditory defensiveness. Children with auditory defensiveness may present with some or all of the following symptoms:



* Seems unsettled or distressed in loud environments
* Frequently cover their ears to sounds that other children tolerate
* Bothered by noises made by things like the vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, etc.
* Avoid activities that have loud environments such as parties, ballgames, and movies.
* Possible language difficulties

The following strategies may help children with auditory processing issues. 



* Modify the environment (such as in a school) by considering the acoustics in the classroom. Changing seating arrangements may be beneficial and limiting extraneous noise from the hallway by closing the door or windows is also helpful. It may be necessary to cover the loud speaker with material to tone down the volume.
* Having rugs or carpet on the floor will decrease echo and extraneous noises.
* When possible, children should be forewarned about bells, announcements, fire drills, etc.
* Have the child wear headphones or earmuffs that that cover the entire ear to filter out extraneous background noises.
* Play calming music such as Mozart in the headphones or as background music.
* If concentration is an issue, the child should chew gum, suck on sour candies, and/or eat fruit roll ups, or crunchy snacks.

Photo Credit: Gemma Ryles

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Sensory Activities to Carry Out at Home!

When a child gets the sensory input that their body needs throughout the day, it helps them stay calm and focus. Typically, I recommend that a child carry out two to three of the sensory activities included in this home program approximately every two hours throughout the day. Please consult with your child's occupational therapist for recommendations that are appropriate for your child's sensory needs.


Photo Credit: StockPhotoFreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Home Exercises to Improve Hand Skills

 I am often asked to provide exercises or activities that children can carry out in the home setting to improve hand skills, so I thought I would share some of the tasks that I usually recommend. Please keep in mind that these may need to be adapted to meet the skill level of the child. Also, it is important to make the activities enticing and fun. You can incorporate them into games or time the child completing them so that they can try and improve their time on the next attempt!

Click on the worksheet below for a PDF copy of the worksheet!