Sensory Processing Disorder and Fall Activities: Strategies to Promote Success at Apple Orchards and Pumpkin Patches

Fall is the perfect time of the year for children to explore apple orchards and pumpkin patches. These outdoor activities expose children to various sensory experiences. Children with Sensoryblog-sensory processing disorder-fall-activities-main-landscape Processing Disorder (SPD) may have a difficult time appropriately responding to the sensory input that they are exposed to at these community events.

Below are several strategies to help prepare for and promote a successful experience at apple orchards and pumpkin patches with a child with Sensory Processing Disorder:


Prior to leaving for the orchard or pumpkin patch, prepare your child for what he or she is about to experience (especially if it is the first trip to these fall sites). Have your child look at pictures or books related to these fall activities. Share with them the activities that they will partake in, so they know what to expect (e.g. hay ride, mazes, drinking cider). Discuss safety and the importance of staying together (e.g. holding hands).

What to Bring

Pack the essentials:

  • Clothing for various weather changes
  • Sunglasses/hat for children who are sensitive to bright sunlight
  • Preferred and comforting food/drinks
    • Crunchy/chewy foods and drinks that involve sucking thicker liquids through a straw can help regulate the body
  • Familiar or soothing item from home to help calm your child down or a fidget to help keep hands to self (e.g. blanket, toy)

Hula-Hoop Space/Retreat Spot

Some children have a hard time being in close proximity to other people and objects. To help them avoid feeling overwhelmed by this experience in the orchard and pumpkin patch, encourage your child to create a ‘hula-hoop space’ with his or her arms arched in front of the belly and fingertips touching. This will help your child visually see and physically feel how much space should be between him or her and other people/objects. As a family, determine a ‘retreat spot’ at the orchard or patch that you and your children can retreat to help re-organize the body and take a break.

Regulating Heavy Work

Your child may seek out a lot of movement and take climbing risks. Heavy work activities can help organize and regulate the body. At an apple orchard or pumpkin patch you can encourage the following heavy work activities. Be sure to appropriately modify the weight your child pulls/carries/pushes based on his or her age and size:

  • Pull a wagon
  • Push pumpkins
  • Carry a sack of apples

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!


Kindergarten Firsts: Fire Drills, Lock Down Drills and Tornado Drills

It’s that time of year: backpacks are filled with new crayons and pencils, new shoes and outfits have been selected and are ready to go. Along with back to school clothes and medical check-ups, Blog-Kindergarten-Firsts-Main-Landscapethere is another important detail to remember to address with your kindergartner, talking about fire drills, lock-down drills, and tornado drills.

For some children, the idea of fire trucks arriving at school is thrilling and having a break from their classroom to walk outside is a welcomed break. For other children, particularly children with sensitivity to loud noises or changes in routine, fire drills, lock-downs and tornado drills can trigger uncomfortable feelings and even panic. Unfortunately, safety drills are a part of life, but the good news is, there are steps you can take to help your child be prepared for them.

The first step in preparing your child for safety drills is to have a conversation, or several conversations, about them. Approach your child at a time of day when he/she is calm and broach the topic. You can introduce the topic by talking about how excited you are for your child to begin school, reminding him/her of the fun of meeting his/her teacher and seeing his classroom. Next, talk about a variety of things he/she will learn about, like animals, letters and numbers. Then, mention that you want to tell him/her about something that teachers and students learn about and practice so that they are prepared in all situations. Explain that drills are routines that teach them steps to do to keep them safe in case of a fire at school or an unsafe person, or unsafe weather.

You will want to keep the language you use very simple and non-threatening. Emphasize that schools are very safe places and that these routines are practiced because “practice makes perfect;” and that practicing the drills will help them remember the instructions that will keep them safe and keep them calm. If your child has sensitivity to loud noises or changes in routine, you will want to alert your child’s teacher before school begins.

Finally, remember to use calm and reassuring words as you discuss the drills, reinforcing the idea that teachers and staff are trained and that schools are strong and sturdy. If you feel your child may need additional support or reassurance, notify your school principal and your child’s teacher. Remember that North Shore Pediatric Therapy’s services provide counseling and can address persistent worries or other concerns.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Social Work

5 Reasons Free-Time is a Good Thing

Free-time is a good thing. Parents spend a lot of time encouraging their children to participate in recreational activities during the school year. There is nothing wrong with having your child participate in different activities and helping them to figure out what they are passionate about; however, over-scheduling your child with too many activities can often lead to increased stress in children and their parents. It is important for parents to be cautious about how much they are scheduling their children and to encourage more free time.

Here are 5 reasons why it is important not to over-schedule your child:KidsFreeTimeFall

  1. Over-scheduling can create increased stress and anxiety for both parents and children. Over the last several years there has been an increase in anxiety related disorders due to the stressors involved with over-scheduling.
  2. It creates less time for children to complete their homework and can cause them to have less sleep at night due to staying up later to complete their homework.
  3. It decreases the amount of quality time a children can spend with their family.
  4. Over-scheduling can cause a child to have less time for free-time and with you. Quality time doing imaginative play with your child is important in order to encourage creativity and to help develop independence in children.
  5. It can also cause children to have difficulty maintaining with peers due to not having enough free time to spend with them and to build their relationships.

 Is over-scheduling or homework creating stress? Read here for 8 Tips to Ease Homework Time Stress.

cooking with kids-spooky halloween treats

Cooking With Kids: Spooky Treats

Back in elementary school, the music teacher, Mr. House, had us sing songs during the various holidays. Every year around the end of October, we would sing a song that spelled out Halloween…and quickly it became one of my favorite holidays due to this “catchy” song!

Another fun part to Halloween are the parties that I went to as a child where the host served Halloween-themed snacks/desserts…what child does not enjoy eating something fun?

Here are some spooky Halloween recipes for you and your family to create:

Boo-nana Chocolate Pudding Cups


  • 2 tablespoons Peter Pan® Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1 pkg (13 oz each) Snack Pack® Chocolate Pudding cooking with kids-spooky halloween treats
  • 2 small bananas, peeled, cut in half
  • 12 milk chocolate morsels


  1. Stir 1/2 tablespoon peanut butter into each pudding cup
  2. Decorate each banana half with 3 chocolate morsels for ‘ghost’ eyes and mouth
  3. Insert a decorated banana half in each pudding cup.
  4. Serve immediately

Witchy Cookies


  • 1 (18 oz.) roll refrigerated sugar-cookie dough
  • Green food coloring
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tube brown icing 20 mini green M&M’s


  1. Divide dough in half.
  2. One half–Color one half with green food coloring, knead until desired shade
  3. Place in plastic wrap and roll into a 2-inch cylinder
  4. Freeze until cold, about 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Knead other half with cocoa, flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill thoroughly
  6. Unwrap green dough and slice into 1/8 -inch-thick rounds.
  7. Space well apart on 2 cookie sheets
  8. Roll chocolate dough between plastic wrap to 1/8 -inch thickness
  9. Using a knife, cut triangles for hats (freeze for a few minutes if dough is too soft)
  10. Take chocolate scraps and cut thin lines to make hair; place strands on sides of each green face
  11. Put a triangle on top for hat
  12. Freeze until very chilled, 15 minutes.
  13. Baking: Preheat oven to 350°F.
  14. Bake cookies right out of freezer, rotating sheets halfway through baking, until done, about 10 minutes
  15. Cool on sheets
  16. Pipe on brown icing eyes. Dab on an icing dot and stick M & M to it for a nose

Creepy Eyeball Cupcakes


  • 1 box cupcake mix (can be any flavor
  • 1 container “white” frosting
  • Cupcake baking cups
  • Red decorating gel
  • Brown M & Ms
  • toothpicks


  1. Bake the cupcakes according to directions and allow to cool completely.
  2. Frost the cupcakes and top each one with 1 M&M.
  3. Draw red lines out from around the candy piece. Use a toothpick to pull the red gel out around the sides to make smaller veins.

Pumpkin Rice Krispy Treats


  • Rice Krispies cereal
  • 1 Bag of Marshmallows
  • Butter
  • Red & yellow food coloring
  • 18-20 tootsie rolls (unwrapped)
  • Frosting for leaves is: powdered sugar, green food coloring, and a little water
  • (Optional) Chocolate cookies crushed for bed of “dirt”


  • Follow the recipe on the back of the cereal box
  • When marshmallows are mostly melted, add red and yellow food coloring to create the orange color
  • Once you have the mixture, rub some butter on the palms of your hands and roll the mixture quickly into balls
  • Place a tootsie roll in the center of each pumpkin and draw a leaf with the homemade frosting

Click here for 5 fun Halloween themed language activities!

amazing after school snacks

Amazing After School Snacks




After a long day at school, children will certainly be hungry for a snack! Here are some recipes to try. They are simple and do not require a lot of time; your children can even help!

Red, White, and Blue Sandwich


  • 2 large whole wheat pita
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 6 tablespoons whipped cream cheese


  1. Cut the pita in half or into quarters
  2. Spread a layer of cream cheese
  3. Add strawberries and blueberries
  4. Enjoy!

Chocolate Granola Apple Wedges (perfect since we are in “apple picking season”!)


  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup low-fat granola without raisins
  • 1-2 medium apples (some favorite kinds are: Honeycrisp, Fuji, Gala, & Braeburn)
  • Shallow dish or bowl
  • Microwave safe bowl


  1. Cut apple into wedges
  2. Place chocolate chips in microwave safe bowl—microwave for 15 seconds, stir chocolate…repeat until chips are melted
  3. Pour granola into shallow dish/bowl
  4. Dip the apple wedge in chocolate, let excess drip back into bowl
  5. Dip the chocolate wedge in the granola
  6. Refrigerate for about 5 minutes and enjoy!

Homemade Fruity Roll-Ups


  • 1 (3 oz.) pkg. INSTANT Jello—choose your favorite flavor!
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows (or 12 large marshmallows)
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 8” or 9” square pan
  • Whisk
  • Large microwave safe bowl
  • Dental floss


  1. Boil water in microwave (about 1 minute)
  2. Add gelatin and stir well
  3. Place back in microwave for 1 minute and stir again
  4. Add marshmallows and microwave for about 45 seconds (marshmallows should be puffed and slightly melted)
  5. Whisk together the melted marshmallows and gelatin (a creamy layer will float on the top)
  6. Lightly spray the square pan with cooking spray—make sure it is spread well!
  7. Pour mixture into pan and refrigerate for about 45 min until set and firm
  8. Loosen edges with a knife
  9. Start with one end and roll entire square up tightly
  10. Use dental floss to cut into slices (seam side down)
  11. Enjoy!

Tortilla Pizzas


  • Small corn or wheat tortillas
  • Salsa
  • Shredded cheese (cheddar and mozzarella are favorites!)
  • Foil


  1. Place foil on tray
  2. Cover tortilla with salsa
  3. Sprinkle cheese on top
  4. Cook in either a toaster oven or conventional oven until cheese melts
  5. You can try other variations by adding refried beans, chicken, beef, veggies.

Cheesy Cracker Sticks


  1. 1 ½ cups (about 4 oz.) grated cheddar cheese
  2. 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
  3. 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  5. Dash of pepper
  6. 1 Tbsp milk
  7. Cutting board
  8. Rolling pin (optional)
  9. Pizza cutter
  10. Mini cookie cutters (optional)
  11. Large cookie sheet
  12. Foil


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine cheese, butter, flour, salt, and pepper—use your hands to mix so the mixture looks like dime-size crumbs
  3. Add milk and again use your hands to form the dough into a ball
  4. Lightly flour a cutting board and roll out the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness
  5. Use the pizza cutter to cut the dough into “sticks” use cookie cutters to form shapes. Place on a foil-lined cookie sheet
  6. Bake the sticks/shapes for 10-12 minutes (or until edges are turning brown)
  7. Remove from oven and let cool
  8. Enjoy warm or at room temperature!
fabulous fall crafts for families

Fabulous Fall Crafts for the Family




The shorter days and cooler nights mean fall is here!  Get into the spirit of the season with these fun fall crafts.

Fabulous Fall Crafts for the Family:

Autumn Wreath—TP (toilet paper) Style


  • Wire coat hanger
  • 14 to 16 toilet paper rolls
  • Construction paper red, orange and/or yellow (fall colors)
  • Optional: Neutral color paint like brown, yellow, or black
  • String
  • Glue or tape
  • Scissors


  1. Take each toilet paper roll and cut a slit HALFWAY through.
  2. Optional Step: If you decide to paint the rolls, do this after you cut a slit and let them dry.
  3. Bend the coat hanger to form a circle. The diameter of the completed wreath is about 15 inches.
  4. Using the slits cut halfway through the rolls, slide each of your toilet paper rolls onto the hanger to form a big circle of toilet paper rolls.
  5. Tape the toilet paper rolls together on the inside of the circle together.
  6. Cut out many, many leaf shapes from the construction paper.
  7. Optional step: children can also do “leaf rubbings” to make leaves.  To do a leaf rubbing:
  • Collect leaves from outside and place them bumpy side up on a flat surface.
  • Put a piece of white paper on top of leaves
  • Unwrap some crayons and rub over the leaf to make your rubbing.
  • Cut those rubbings out

To finish, glue the cut out leaves onto the toilet paper roll.  Tie a string at the top of the wire hanger and hang up!

Autumn Vase with flowers


  • Juice jar (750 ml)
  • Paper mache paste (1 part flour to 5 parts water… boil about 3 minutes and let cool)
  • Strips of white paper
  • Paint or markers to decorate
  • Tissue paper (fall colors: orange, red, yellow, brown AND white for center of flower)
  • Drinking straws
  • Cotton balls
  • Scissors
  • Scotch tape
  • Glue


For the vase:

  1. Paper mache the jar by dipping white strips of paper into paste. Use 3 layers to cover jar.
  2. Let jar dry for a full day
  3. Decorate the jar with paint or markers.

For the flower:

  1. Cut a square of tissue paper about 2″ by 2″.
  2. Place a ¼ of a cotton ball in the center of tissue square.
  3. Connect the cotton filled tissue paper to the end of the straw and wrap a piece of scotch tape around it to hold in place.
  4. Cut out petals from the colored tissue paper. Place 4 or 5 petals around the cotton filled tissue paper by either taping or gluing.
  5. Add at 3-4 rows of petals by layering them on top of each other until you have a nice full flower.

Marbled Salt Dough Leaves


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • Yarn/string
  • Leaf cookie cutter or template to cut shape out of dough
  • Mod podge (optional)
  • Rolling pin
  • Powdered Tempera paint (fall colors)
  • Drinking straw
  • Cookie sheet

To Make Dough: (you may want to double the recipe if there is more than one child)

  1. Combine your dry ingredients of flour and salt.
  2. Slowly add water, mixing until you have a dough-like consistency.
  3. Divide the dough into 3-4 even clumps
  4. Add powdered tempera paint (a few teaspoons until desired shade of color is reached) to each clump.

To Create Leaves:

  • Roll out colored clumps so they are about a ½ inch thick
  • Use cookie cutters or cut out your own leaf shape from the dough
  • Use a drinking straw to poke a hole in each leaf
  • Bake for about an hour at 200 degrees…remove from oven if they are turning brown!
  • Continue to let the leaves dry overnight
  • Optional: use Mod Podge to paint over leaves for a glossy finish!
  • Attach string to the hole and hang!

Arts and crafts are more than just fun.  Read here for 5 developmental benefits of arts and crafts!