Tips to Help Stay Cool over Summer

For most kids, summer means no school, staying up late, playing outside for hours, and going to the pool. It is essential to stay cool during these activities.

To help your kids and family stay cool over the summer, try these ten helpful strategies:

Children in the shade during summertime

  1. Clothing: Dress in light colors. Also, cotton fabrics can help you keep cooler, as well as clothing that fits more loosely.
  2. Hats: If you are wearing a hat, you can put cold water in it throughout the day and put it back on your head to help you stay cool.
  3. Beverages: Drink lots of cold water and be sure to stay hydrated. You can also drink sports drinks that have electrolytes in them. However, it is helpful to water down these drinks since they tend to contain a lot of sugar. Freezing water bottles and bringing them with you when you’re going to the beach or park ensures that you’ll have something cold to drink for hours. In addition, be sure to avoid caffeinated drinks. They can make you more thirsty and leave you dehydrated.
  4. Foods: During the summer, try to eat lighter and cooler foods. Many people do not feel hungry due to the heat; however, an empty stomach can lead to lightheadedness, especially in the heat. Munching on smaller snacks/meals throughout the day, like vegetables and fruits, can help cool you down.
  5. Time of the Day: If possible, try to plan activities during cooler times of the day, such as early morning or early evening hours.
  6. Common Sense: If it is just too hot outside, choose indoor activities, such as arts and crafts or board games. You can also plan to go to a museum or see a movie.
  7. Spray Bottles: Before going out to play, be sure to bring a spray bottle filled with cold water.  Spraying yourself can help refresh and cool you down.
  8. Fans: If you’re outside on a hot day, use a portable fan to help you stay cool. You could also attach it to your child’s stroller to keep him or her cool as well.
  9. Water: Outside water play is a great way to stay cool on a hot day. You can go to the pool, run through the sprinkler, or even have water balloon tosses.
  10. Seek Shade: When you are outdoors, make sure that there is shade nearby. Using shade from trees or bringing umbrellas or tents will provide relief from the sun.

Remember – when playing outside, stay smart and keep these tips in mind to help stay safe. Listen to what your body is telling you and keep cool. And finally, be sure to wear your sunscreen!

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Speech and Language Apps From Duck Duck Moose

If you have read my last few blogs, you will probably know that I love finding new apps to use in my speech therapy sessions. I am also cognizant of which apps my families could use at home to reinforce the skills I work with their children on. The descriptions below will give you a good idea of what each app entails. Items listed under “Use this app to work on” relate to speech and language skills that I found I could target with the specific app. If you have any more ideas, please be sure to leave a comment so that we can continue to learn together!

Enjoy exploring the following apps:

Parents with a child holding an iPad

Draw and Tell HD – $1.99

Description: This is by far the coolest drawing app I’ve seen for children of all ages! Children can choose between making their own picture or coloring one of 18 pictures stored within the app. If your child opts to create their own drawing, they start off by selecting the paper they want to use, with all sorts of colors and patterns to choose from. Once they get to the main drawing page, they can either draw (using colored pencils, crayons, paints, and patterned markers) or put fun stickers on the page. There are TONS to choose from. For example, pick the cute yellow puffer fish or the purple garbage truck. Then put a fancy black top hat on the puffer fish and feed him a delicious cupcake!

Other fun features include stencils, a record button, and an undo button.

Use this app to work on:

  • Answering and asking wh- and yes/no questions
  • Formulating sentences
  • Story construction – Have your child make up a story about their picture, including important story elements such as characters, setting, events and problems/solutions.
  • Articulation
  • Improving vocabulary –both receptive and expressive
    • I.e., Letters, numbers, food, animals, clothing/accessories, transportation
  • Following directions with spatial or sequential concepts

Peek a Zoo – $0.99

Description: This is a great interactive app for the little ones, between 2 and 5 years old. In this app, children are asked a question (the question is read out loud and is written on the screen), and the child is asked to identify the animal that answers the question. For example, “Which animal is sleeping?” This app incorporates vocabulary such as animals, emotions, actions, descriptive adjectives, and clothing.

Use this app to work on:

  • Improving receptive vocabulary
  • Answering who questions
  • Identifying colors
  • Producing animal sounds

Musical Me! – $0.99

Description:  This is a wonderful musical app. It teaches children all about rhythm, pitch, notes and creating music. In the first activity, there are 2 animals and a monster that dance and move when touched. In the next activity, the child is asked to tap out the rhythm to different songs by touching the birds as they fly by. There are 3 different levels within this particular activity. The next activity is a memory task. The child hears a pattern and sees 3-5 planets, depending on the level (again, there are 3 levels). When a note is played, the corresponding planet gets a bit bigger. After the pattern is played, the child has to touch the planets corresponding to the notes in the right order. As we continue onto the next activity, the child gets to create his/her own music by moving the notes up and down on the scale. After he/she makes a song, they can choose to play it back to them. Animals move around on the page and do silly things when they’re touched! The last activity has a variety of instruments to choose from and when touched, they make their sound. You can tap them to play along with the song!Use this app to work on:

  • Following directions and auditory processing
  • Recall of information
  • I will most likely use this app as reinforcement or as break activity as it does not relate directly to speech and language.

Word Wagon HD – $1.99

Description: This app has 4 different levels: letters, phonics, spelling I, and spelling II. The words that are targeted in this app come from the following categories: animals, around the house, numbers, colors, food, vehicles, and Mozz and Coco. It should be noted that some of these words are Dolch sight words. You can choose which category of words to work on or click “all” to get a random assortment!

As reinforcement, children earn stars and stickers. The stars form different constellations that turn into animals! The stickers can be moved around and make sounds when you touch them.

Level Breakdowns:

Letters: Children have to match uppercase letters to form a word which reinforces learning letter names.

Phonics: Once the child matches the letters, they hear the sounds each letter makes.

Spelling: Children spell words up to 4 letters.

Spelling II: Children spell words up to 6 letters.

Use this app to work on:

  • Letter recognition – uppercase only
  • Spelling – 3 to 6 letter words
  • Phonemic awareness skills – while this app does not target rhyming, manipulation of phonemes (i.e. sounds) or other reading readiness skills, you can take the phonics level a step further and work on these!

Old MacDonald HD – $1.99

Description:  This app takes a children’s song and nursery rhyme to a whole new level!! It is a very interactive and engaging book. I think it’s called a book because you have to “turn the page” to get to the next animal or vehicle. The song is always playing in the background. There is only one word per page, which labels the target object (i.e. “dog”). There are 12 pages in the book. Animals and sounds included are: chicken, dog, cat, pigeon, cow, sheep, duck, frog, bear, and pig. Vehicles included are: a tractor and a bulldozer. The best part of this book is that the objects on the pages are all animated. They all do different things when touched. For example, when you click the barn doors, the doors open and ducks come out!     

In the settings, you can choose from different languages or instruments to play while the app is being used. The child can even record himself/herself!

Use this app to work on:

  • Producing animal sounds
  • Labeling animal names
  • Action vocabulary
  • Singing and joint attention 

Be sure to check out other apps by Duck Duck Moose!! Don’t forget to leave comments if you find other useful ways to use the apps! Thanks for reading!

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Fine Motor and Gross Motor Activities to do with Sidewalk Chalk this Summer

Summer is the perfect time to get outside with your child to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. Summer also offers the chance for your child to unwind a bit, and take a break from all the demands placed on him at school. However, it is still important to keep your child active and engaged throughout the summer months, so that he stays in somewhat of a consistent routine and keeps his mind fresh and in tip-top-shape for the upcoming school year. Here are some fun and simple ways to incorporate fine motor and gross motor activities into your everyday summer routine using an already preferred activity, sidewalk chalk,

Here are a variety of options to explore with chalk:

  • Hopscotch: Create a hopscotch board out of chalk (typically alternating 1 square, 2 squares). This activity addresses fine motor and visual motor skills to draw the squares and write numbers inside of the squares. It also addresses trunk control, balance, and motor planning to complete single-leg hops and two-footed hops into each of the squares. You could also challenge your child to complete animal walks inside the hopscotch board instead (e.g. crab walks, bunny hops, frog jumps).
  • Tic tac toe: Have your child draw a tic tac toe gameboard on the sidewalk or driveway. Little girl playing sidewalk chalk gameThis activity addresses fine motor and visual motor skills to draw horizontal and vertical lines, turn-taking, problem solving and sportsmanship.
  • Hangman: Take turns coming up with a “secret” word for the other player to guess, and create a hangman board. This activity addresses fine motor and visual motor skills needed for handwriting, as your child has to write out the letters which appear either in the “secret” word, or get placed into the word bank. It also addresses executive functioning skills as your child has to memorize which “secret” word he chose, and has to remember how to spell the word correctly, and which order the letters go in.
  • Road: Help your child to draw a pretend road which he can then either ride his bike through or drive his toy cars through. This activity addresses fine motor and visual motor skills required for drawing (e.g. have your child create road signs as well). And if using the road for bike riding, this activity addresses motor planning to get through the road without crashing into the chalk lines, and balance and trunk control to navigate the bike. If using toy cars, this activity can focus more on imagination and possibly social skills, if your child is playing with peers.
  • Baseball diamond: Create a baseball field out of chalk (e.g. home plate, pitcher’s mound, and the bases). This activity addresses fine motor and visual motor skills to draw the diamond and circles or diamonds for the bases, and potentially letters/numbers for a team name and scoreboard. It also addresses ball skills, bilateral skills, and hand-eye coordination to play the actual game of baseball, along with sportsmanship and turn taking.
  • Four square: Draw a four square game board, which includes one large square divided into four equal squares (one for each player). This activity addresses fine motor and visual motor skills to draw the squares, and write the letters inside the boxes. It also includes ball skills, such as dribbling and bounce passing, in order to keep the ball out of your own square. Similarly, this game addresses sportsmanship and turn taking.

Note: Try making your own sidewalk chalk using 2 tablespoons of temper paint, ½ cup of water, and 3 tablespoons plaster of Paris. Directions: In a five-ounce paper cup, mix 2 tablespoons temper paint with one-half cup water. Add three tablespoons of plaster of Paris and stir until you have a creamy consistency. Once hardened (several hours), peel off the paper cup to produce a giant piece of sidewalk chalk.

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Helping Your Middle Schooler Become More Inclusive

Middle school can be a tough time for children (and parents!) as they transition to adolescence and navigate changes in a variety of areas. One of the biggest challenges in middle school is the social aspect as it often marks a shift toward focus on popularity and cliques, to determine who is “in” and who is “out.” These pressures can create anxiety, confusion, and stress in students, especially if left unspoken. Below are 7 tips to help your middle schooler healthily navigate social changes and become more inclusive.

7 Tips To Help Your Child Become Socially Inclusive:

  1. Learn about your middle schooler’s friendships. Your child is likely to meet new students from other elementary schools, and this can create shifts in friendships. clique teenagersAsk gentle questions, such as “Who did you eat lunch with today?” or “Who would you like to invite over this weekend?” to learn who your child’s friends are. Because friends have an influence in the ideas, activities, and pressures you child may face, knowing who your child is friends with is important.
  2. Become a safe person your middle schooler can confide in about social issues. Fully listening, empathizing, and reflecting what your child confides in you about friendships can help her to see you as a go-to person. Be mindful not to problem solve and criticize right away, as the most important step is that your child feels completely heard and accepted. (Ex. Instead of “Why would your friend do that?! Don’t hang out with her,” try “So I hear you saying that your friend made up a rumor about a classmate. How did you feel about that?”
  3. Help your child problem solve. If your middle schooler confides in you about a friendship issue, empower her by guiding her to problem solve. Ask open ended questions, such as “What do you think is something you can do the next time that happens?”
  4. Help your child think critically. There may be times when your middle schooler talks to you about her classmates that leads you to believe that she is being exclusive. Instead of placing blame or using criticism, ask your child open ended questions to guide her to think critically. Asking questions, such as “Why do you think your friend said that to your classmate? How do you think your classmate felt?”, “How do you feel about that?”, and “What do you think a good friend is?” can help your child think critically without feeling judged.
  5. Emphasize the importance of inclusivity. Take the opportunity to teach your middle schooler about why it is important to be inclusive. Give examples, such as “Spending time with people who are different from you can help you learn new things” or “It is important to make sure everyone feels safe and welcome at school,” and ask for her own examples.
  6. Teach by doing. Encourage your middle schooler to invite a new friend or a classmate who does not have appear to have as many friends over for a play date.
  7. Model the importance of inclusivity. Show your middle schooler that you think it is important to be inclusive by inviting a new co-worker or parent for coffee or lunch. Your modeling of inclusivity can help your child understand and believe in its importance.

What have you tried to help your middle schooler navigate social challenges and become more inclusive? Please share with us!

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Birthday Party Anxiety

It’s surprising to some, how a birthday party invitation can be anxiety provoking for a child. For some, it evokes strong social anxiety if they don’t have friends, don’t know how to make friends, perceive that they are not liked by other children and fear embarrassment.birthday party anxiety

Some children are right on track with social development but still, show panic-like responses when they are faced with a party invite. For most of the children I’ve worked with on this issue, the “fear of the unknown” is a major player. The environment, activities and mixed group of children attending could all be unknown factors. It’s normal for your child to be overwhelmed by this, and not even understand why. Either way, do your best to listen to and validate their feelings. Then commit to attending those parties with some anxiety reducing strategies under way.

Tips for Reducing Anxiety Around Birthday Parties:

  • Most importantly, send your child to the party! Avoiding the party is more likely to increase the fear and decrease their chances of going to the next one.
  • Help your child identify at least one person they will know, a “safe” buddy (child or adult)
  • Role play ways they can meet and greet new children
  • Have them carry your phone number in your pocket, and if they still feel afraid during the party they should call to “check in”
  • For intense resistance, tell your child that the only must is that they get in the door. Once they check out the scene (and see all the fun!) they can make an agreement on how long to stay

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