Holiday Toy-Gifting Guide to Promote Gross Motor Skills

It’s the holiday season yet again. In this time of family, friends, foods, and traditions, many little minds are thinking about new toys.   This is the perfect opportunity for parents and family members to stock up on games and toys to facilitate their children’s development.  While some older children might have wish-lists to be fulfilled, there are plenty of toys outside of the latest trend that will help promote growth in children of all ages. As any therapist knows, a toy can be a powerful tool to promote developmental gains, particularly in children who are a little behind their peers.  Below are some toys that help kids strengthen their big muscle groups and attain gross motor skills, without making play seem like work.

Learning Tables

A learning table is a great investment if you have an infant. It will grow alongside your baby and help her attain valuable gross motor skills such as body control in tummy time, cross-body reaching, independent sitting, cruising, standing, and weight-shifting, all while promoting her upper body and cognitive growth.  Early learners can keep busy with the lights, sounds, and activities; the height of the tables adjusts so that babies from 6 to 36 months can play in various positions. Babies will be challenged throughout each step of their development and learn about cause and effect. Read more

Make Your Holiday Recipes Healthy for Hanukkah and Christmas

Potato latkes are a popular food prepared during Hanukkah. This dish combines two typically unhealthy foods- a white starch (potatoes) and oil for frying. To put a healthy spin on your latkes this year, try this recipe, which includes the healthiest oil options and extra vitamins and minerals.

Potato Latkes

Ingredients:
  • 4-5 cups of boiled and grated potatoes (4-6 large potatoes). Choose organic potatoes and do not peel the skin.
  • 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil, walnut oil, or canola oil, with additional 1-2 tablespoons added as needed when the pan dries out.
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs Read more

Toys to Promote Fine Motor Skills in Children of All Ages

Whether you are shopping for a baby, a preschooler, or a pre-teen this season, there are an array of toys to work on kids’ dexterity, upper extremity coordination, and fine motor development.  Certain activities that your children take part in during the day may be working their hand-eye coordination and visual-motor skills without you even realizing it.

Between puzzles, arts and crafts, and board games, below are some recommendations for things to look for when shopping for your growing explorer.

Games that promote fine motor skills:

Puzzles/Board Games:

Puzzles are a great way to promote cognitive enhancement and fine motor development during each stage of a child’s growth. For younger kids, puzzles don’t just come with larger pieces. There are many puzzles with handles or pegs on each piece so they can work on pinch, grasp, or grip.  Some classic toys for babies, such as ring stacking and shape sorting games, are great for learning how pieces fit together and for working on visual-motor integration and visual perceptual skills. Though it might not look like a typical puzzle, Mr. Potato Head is also a game that encourages fine motor skills. Read more

How to Prep for Holiday Parties for Children with Special Needs

The holidays are officially in full swing and I don’t know about you, but I’m overwhelmed! Cooking, cleaning, buying gifts, wrapping gifts, organizing outings, decorating, working, and spending time with friends and family – WOW! There’s so much to do and so many people to see. For many of us, going to parties and seeing friends and family are the highlights of our holiday season (egg nog, anyone?).  But, for some kids, it can be terrifying. Routines are altered and parties are loud, busy, and filled with sights, sounds, and smells that can overwhelm your child.

Here are 5 tips to prepare your child for your upcoming holiday parties and outings:

1.    Give your child plenty of prep time before the party.
Use visuals such as a calendar to count down the days to the event. Talk to him about where he is going to be, what and who he’s going to see, and how it’s going to look, sound, and smell. Read more

5 Fun Ways to Build Your Child’s Vocabulary During the Holidays

During the holidays, children are off of school, families are spending time together, the weather is changing, and everyone is eating delicious food! Parents can use this time off as the perfect time to do vocabulary building activities.

5 Fun Vocabulary Building Activities:

  1. Make Lists: Creating a list of items can help increase your child’s vocabulary. If you create lists with your child of grocery items, gifts needed, or even locations, it can help to promote language development and thought organization. Children can begin to associate new words (e.g., stuffing, cranberries, gravy) with the holidays and may be more likely to use these words appropriately.
  2. Words in Context: Targeting and explaining new winter words in context can help to improve your child’s vocabulary. Saying things like, “look at the snowman,” “the icicle is hanging from the tree,” or “look at those children sledding,” will reinforce the new words and encourage usage. When children use new words appropriately praise them, and if necessary model a different use.
  3.  Read Aloud: Reading aloud to your child is extremely beneficial for vocabulary building.  When reading stories, emphasizing and reinforcing new words will enhance vocabulary skills, and asking questions while reading encourages understanding (e.g., what did the Polar Bear see?). If age appropriate, ask your child to retell the story (or part of the story). This will allow him or her to use new vocabulary words in context.
  4. Stress: Exaggerating words or concepts can help children identify information that may be new or unknown. By putting stress on new vocabulary words, children will learn appropriate times to use these important new words. When emphasizing, try changing volume (louder/softer) or even try singing to make word learning more fun!
  5. Get Crafty: Making decorations for your house around the holidays can be a great way to target vocabulary. Your children practice new words with a practical application by making turkey decorations, carving pumpkins, coloring a menorah, making ornaments, or even popsicle picture frames. Hanging and displaying your child’s artwork will not only give them a sense of accomplishment, but will also reinforce new vocabulary words!

Happy Holidays!

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10 Simple Ways to Show Gratitude

It’s been proven that the act of showing gratitude can lead to a happier, more fulfilling life.  The power of showing thanks lies in changing your internal focus from one of negativity (where you focus on the things you DON’T have) to one of positivity (where you focus on the things you DO have).  However, expressing appreciation for the things in your life is often easier said than done, especially on a bad day.  Read on for 10 simple ways to incorporate more gratitude into your day-to-day life.

10 Simple Ways to Be Thankful:

  1. Keep a journal.  At the end of the day, record five things for which you’re grateful in your journal.  Take time to look back periodically at what you’ve written to note the recurring themes. Read more

Thanksgiving Tongue Twisters

Thanksgiving is nearly here! With the hectic holiday schedule, here are some festive tongue twisters to try with your kids!

Thanksgiving Tongue Twisters:

•    Tom Turkey is terribly timid for tomorrow’s get-together!
•    Fall is for football, feasting, family and friends.
•    Hairy Harry hurried home to heap helpings of honey ham on his plate.
•    Chef Shannon said she shouldn’t share the shake.
•    It thrills Thin Theo to think about the Thanksgiving gathering on Thursday!
•    Gobbling Gill grabbed the gravy from Greedy Gus!
•    Peter Pilgrim passed the platter of pumpkin pie.

Can you say them 5x fast?

Check out our Speech and Language Milestone Infographic!

Holiday Cooking for Speech and Language Development

Ready or not, the holidays are right around the corner! This means family, fun, vacations, and a lot of free time. And let’s face it; you’ll most likely have a lot of cooking to do. So, why not have your kids help you, while you help them by making cooking into a fun speech and language activity!

Recipes are a great way to target a variety of speech and language goals in a fun, unstructured way. There is a lot of planning and processing needed to execute a perfect recipe and let’s face it, even the adults don’t always get it right – I know I’ve made a mistake or two! (Why is that cup of flour still sitting on the counter when my cookies are already in the oven?)

Here’s a list of speech and language activities you can tackle with some fun, kid-friendly Thanksgiving desserts from food.com:

  • Sequencing: Read through the recipe and have your child identify what step is first or last. You can incorporate concepts such as before, after, and next. For example, “What comes after the eggs?” You can also have your child repeat the directions in order – if it’s not too complicated! Feel free to use a visual with this task, draw a simple pictures (i.e. a mixing bowl, spoon, cookie sheet) to support each step. Read more

Top Ten Family Friendly Runs in Chicago this 2013 Holiday Season

It’s the holiday season, and the kids will have plenty of time off. Wondering what you can get the kids involved in other than video games and holiday snacking? Surprisingly, Chicagoland has quite a few family-friendly races/walks that will get you and your family moving and off the couch. These fun runs will certainly warm up little bodies and little hearts in the chilly upcoming months.

1. Girls on the Run 5k – November 16th

Girls on the Run-Chicago (GOTRC) is a non-profit organization that teaches girls 8-13 year old important life skills through running activities to encourage positive emotional, social, and physical development.  This annual 5k is not just a run, but a morning full of fun activities, open to the public. If you have a child who can benefit from some encouragement and more involvement in physical activities to build their confidence, or if you want to introduce your child to the fun side of exercise, this is a great event for the whole family.  The runners are not timed, and everyone who crosses the finish line is a winner. Your little runner will get cheers from the crowd throughout the whole race. There will also be face painting and tiara decorating, in addition to a great post-run festival that features food, games and sponsor giveaways! Read more

Halloween Candy: Gluten Free, Peanut Free, and What to Do with All of It

Halloween is just a few days away. If you have a child with diet restrictions, or if you need to send candy to school, it can be a little overwhelming figuring out which candies are ok to have. To be safe, it is a good idea to send peanut free candies to school since chances are, there is a child who has a peanut allergy in the classroom. For kids with Celiac disease, or for those who require a gluten free diet, see the list below for candy they can have. The starred candies are those that are both gluten free and peanut free.

Peanut Free Candy:

  • Twizzlers
  • Smarties*
  • Tootsie Pops*
  • Dum Dum Pops
  • Junior Mints*
  • Dots*
  • Whoppers
  • Skittles
  • Mike and Ike Originals*
  • Starburst

Gluten Free Candy:

  • York Peppermint Patties
  • Heath Bars
  • Tootsie Rolls
  • Tootsie Pops*
  • Dots*
  • Junior Mints*
  • Charleston Chew
  • Caramel Apple Pops
  • Charms Blow Pops
  • Mike and Ike Originals*(along with several other Mike and Ike flavors- see website below)
  • Neccos Read more