Terrific Toys for Speech and Language Development

Below is our list of the top 10 toys for promoting speech and language development in preschoolers. Parents can help their preschoolers through play by describing and labeling items (e.g., “the brown horse”), modeling (e.g., “my turn”), expanding utterances (e.g., “oh, you want MORE blocks?”), and asking questions during play (e.g., “do you want the red truck or the blue truck?).

Toy

Function

Animals/farm
  • Vocabulary building (e.g., animal names, animal sounds)
  • Requesting (e.g., “I want the dog”)
  • Location concepts (e.g., “the cat is UNDER the tree”)
  • Following directions (e.g., “put the cow next to the pig”)
  • Functional play
Balls
  • Turn taking (e.g., “my turn, your turn”)
  • Requesting (e.g., “can I have the ball?”)
  • Vocabulary building (e.g., throw, roll, bounce, kick, catch, toss, pass)
Blocks
  • Vocabulary building (e.g., “up,” “fall down,”)
  • Location concepts (e.g., on top, next to)
  • Turn taking
  • Requesting (e.g., “I want more blocks”)
Books
  • Asking/answering “wh”-questions (e.g., “what did brown bear see?”)
  • Vocabulary building (labeling items)
  • Requesting (e.g., “turn the page”)
  • Sequencing
Bubbles
  • Requesting (e.g., “I want bubbles,” “more bubbles”)
  • Vocabulary building (e.g., “pop bubbles,” “blow bubbles”)
  • Oral motor development
Cars/trucks/trains/bus
  • Vocabulary building (e.g., labeling toy items, increased use of verbs, fast/slow concepts, environmental sounds)
  • Requesting (e.g., “more cars”)
  • Turn taking (e.g., “my truck”)
  • Location concepts (e.g., “car is ON the track”)
Mr. Potato Head/doll
  • Vocabulary building (e.g., body part labeling, labeling clothes, learning colors)
  • Requesting (e.g., “can I have the hat?” or “I need help”)
  • Functional play
“Pop up Pal” (cause/effect toys)
  • Requesting (e.g., “I need help”)
  • Learning if this happens, then that happens (e.g., “press the button, to open the door”)
  • Direction following
Play food
  • Vocabulary building (e.g., naming food items, colors)
  • Requesting (e.g., “I want more”)
  • Direction following (e.g., “put the banana on the blue plate”)
  • Functional play
Puzzles
  • Requesting (e.g., “more,” “help please”) to earn more pieces
  • Vocabulary building (e.g., shapes, letters, animal names) depending on puzzle
  • Functional play

Read here for helpful apps for speech and language development.

The Scoop on Ice Cream and Nutrition for Kids

When you think of summers as a kid, at least one memory probably includes licking a delicious, melting ice cream cone. ice creamIce cream is a popular summer treat for families, but some parents worry it doesn’t fit into a healthy diet plan.  Parents need not worry, though.  Ice cream can be included as a summer treat if you follow the guidelines below.

How can you preserve the ice cream ritual while keeping nutrition in mind?

  • Balance: The phrase “everything in moderation” is especially applicable to nutrition. Ice cream should be an occasional treat as opposed to a nightly routine. Refrain from keeping huge tubs of ice cream in the house, and instead buy small containers that can be divided among family members in proper portion sizes.
  • Portion size: The serving size for most ice cream is ½ a cup. If you imagine a baseball is about 1 cup, then half a baseball is about the amount of ice cream that  should be in a serving. One serving of regular ice cream can have 250 calories or more in it. Eating an extra 250 calories per day will result in a half a pound a week weight gain. This is two pounds per month or six pounds over the whole summer. Read more

Creative Ways to Teach the Meaning of Independence Day to Children

Teach your children the meaning behind Independence Day and instill pride to be an American through these fun red, independence day white and blue activities. Through creating these crafts, you can talk with your child about Independence Day and why it is such an important holiday.

Meaningful Independence Day Crafts:

Trace Pictures of Famous Americans: Find pictures of Americans who have played an important role in our history and in the independence of America such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and others. You can use any picture from a book or print from the internet for this activity. For tracing, simply place tracing paper over the picture, and trace the outline of the person’s face. Include as much detail as you want.  Talk with your child about the person and their role in the founding of our country. Read more

Top 10 Gifts Moms Want For Mothers Day

What does mom want for mothers day?  Listen up Dads, because we have compiled the top 10 gifts moms have opened up to us about mothers daywanting for Mother’s Day!

  1. For my kids to behave
  2. To sleep in
  3. Breakfast in Bed
  4. A new diamond
  5. A new puppy
  6. A free day to do what I want while my husband or sitter watches the kids
  7. To BBQ with my parents and inlaws
  8. To BBQ without my inlaws
  9. To be gifted with nice clothing
  10. Date night with the hubby

Mothers Day is full of rushing, eating, laughing and hugging.   Make sure your family knows your expectations for this day.  Expectations are very important and can make or break your day.  Enjoy this wonderful day for you Chicago Moms and Moms all over!

Plan Ahead this Easter and Passover For Your Special Needs Child

Easter and Passover are special times during the year in which friends and families get together for a form of celebration. For many easter and passover families, these are happy times in which the event is eagerly anticipated; however, for families with children who have special needs, this can serve as a time of increased stress and potentially fear. These parents often worry about how their children will behave and react to these situations.

Below are some helpful tips that parents may utilize to make the special occasion as stress-free as possible:

  • Let the host know in advance what to expect and what behaviors the child may display. If the host has children, provide information in a kid-friendly manner so that they will be prepared.
  • Prepare your child by creating a social story or script in which the day’s events are planned and sorted out. Utilize visual schedules to help reinforce the child about what the day will look like.
  • Pick battles. Many children with sensory needs will refuse to wear a suit or dress. Plan ahead basics, such as clothing.
  • Set a time limit to the visit. If you know your child is unable to handle social situations or environments in which there is a high amount of action for more than an hour, plan on leaving within an hour of arriving. If you, as a parent, want to stay longer, anticipate this and have a babysitter or caregiver prepared to pick up the child.

Family get-togethers and religious celebrations do not necessarily need to be a fearful or anxiety-provoking event. Remember, you know your child best. If you believe that the situation may be problematic, it most likely will. Anticipate this and create strategies to ensure success for more enjoyable events

Happy Easter and Happy Passover!

February Fun with Young Valentines

Cooking up Books with Blossom ~ a monthly series from Chef Blossom’s own heart cookingkitchen!

Valentines Books To Read:

Book: Pinkalicious
by Victoria Kann & Elizabeth Kann

Age: 5-8

Pinkalicious loves anything pink, especially pink cupcakes. One day, when over-eating these tempting delicacies, Pinkalicious discovers not everything in life turns up pink in the end. Enjoy the problem/solution trail of this delightful story, then bake up a batch of cupcakes (pink, of course) and decorate with sprinkles of pink or red in honor of our young protagonist.

Book: Where does Love Come From?
by Accord Publishing Illustrated by Milena Kirkov

Age: Preschool

Does love grow on trees? Wash up from the ocean? Discover love’s true home with the help of this whimsical, “see-through” picture book. Follow it up by baking heart- shaped pretzels with your favorite valentine.

Cooking Instructions:

Heart Shaped Soft Pretzels: Set oven to 400degrees
vegetable oil 2 cups flour
1pkg. yeast ½ tsp table salt
¾ cup warm water 1 egg
1Tbl sugar course salt

Cover cookie sheet with foil and coat lightly with vegetable oil. Sprinkle package of yeast onto warm water. Add sugar and stir. Let stand until mixture foams. Put flour and salt into a bowl. Add yeast mixture and stir until dough clumps together. Sprinkle flour onto countertop and knead dough until smooth. Roll pieces of dough into “ropes”, then shape into hearts on cookie sheet. Beat an egg with a fork and brush each pretzel. Sprinkle on the coarse salt and bake 15 minutes or till light brown. Cool, then munch together with love.

The following smoothies may also be used with either story above:

Strawberry Delight Smoothies:
1 banana 1 cup plain or strawberry yogurt
1 cup strawberries, washed and hulled ½ cup orange juice

Cut banana into pieces and put them into blender. Add strawberries, yogurt and orange juice. Blend until smooth. May garnish with whipped topping and strawberries, if desired.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Blossom, and all at NSPT!

New Years Resolutions: A Chance for Kids to Make Goals and See Their Achievements

We frequently set goals for ourselves; parents set their sights on goals for their children and therapists identify skill areas to build upon girl setting goals for the children they work with. There is a reason why we make a new years resolution with each year that passes- it is motivating to set your sights on something new. Goal setting can be fun; encourage kids to join in!
Make goals less of an obligation and more of a motivation by encouraging children to speak for themselves. You will be surprised with what they come up with. As children are not usually asked to set goals themselves (and in fact it is quite an abstract question at that), below is a framework for discussing goal-setting with children.

How To Goal Set With Children:

  • Present goal setting as a form of “wish list” for children. These wishes can be as big as they would like them to be, such as what a child wants to be when they grow up, getting a pet that they have been desperately asking for or earning more of an allowance each week. This makes a goal tangible and relevant to every child.
  • Get more specific by organizing these wishes into certain areas of life. Examples are listed below:
    • Personal- practice piano 30 minutes per day.
    • Social- limit phone calls to 30 minutes on school nights.
    • Family- plan a family activity at least every two weeks.
    • Academic- clean out my backpack before bed every night.
    • Physical – learn to pass the ball to teammates during soccer practice.
  • Set short-term goals that are to be attained before reaching larger, more long-term goals. Short-term goals should be a part of an action plan (a specific description of what a child must do to get to the ultimate goal).
    • For example, before a pet joins the family, a child must show responsibility by independently making their bed and sorting their laundry.
    • Make these goals measurable so that a child knows “when” and “how” this goal is achieved.
    • Mark progress! If a child remembered to do laundry 3 days out of the 5 days, this is a HUGE improvement from before the child started doing laundry- celebrate it.
      • Think of how exciting that trip to the scale was when you’ve lost your first few pounds- it keeps you going. Help your child keep going by celebrating baby steps.
      • Charts, stickers, announcements via white-board or at the dinner table serve to encourage children and keep them on track.

Including a child in setting their own goals can lead to greater outcomes through increased motivation and personal investment in each goal. It empowers kids and changes the conversation from “you have to do” to “what do you want to do? How can you make it happen?” Keep in mind that goals can be individual or family-wide. Take advantage of this New Year to start healthy and fun habits at home by setting goals that require the whole family to work together.

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Let the Games Begin: How to Help Your Child to use Games in a Different Way

As I mentioned before in my previous blog, it is important for parents to consider traditional board games as well as hands-on toys forlegos this holiday season. While new technology is impressive, traditional board games and hands-on toys continue to be an ideal way for children to work on a variety of skills allow them to explore their environment and pursue their own personal interests. One common struggle that parents may encounter is that their children may become ‘bored’ with their toys after a short period of time, therefore, this proves to be a perfect time to help your children think of alternative ways to play a game.

Below are a few suggestions as to how to break down a game and address different skills:

  • Easel: While an easel is a great place for your child to draw pictures and paint, it can also be used for practicing your child’s spelling words, playing Tic-Tac-Toe, Pictionary or Hangman and for creating a visual schedule. Similarly, have your child use  clothes
    pins or clips to hang his or her paper onto the easel to address their hand strength, pincer grasp and upper body strength. These skills will benefit their handwriting and other fine motor tasks.
  • LEGOs: It is often that children will have plenty of ideas of what they would like to create using their LEGOs, whether it be pirate ships, castles or spaceships. In addition, parents can challenge their child’s visual skills by building a structure and then asking the child to copy that identical structure using the exact same colors and placement of the LEGOs. This activity will help your child improve upon copying complex designs as well as tracking skills(to move his eyes left to right and up and down). Tracking skills ultimately help your child improve his or her visual skills for reading and handwriting (as both activities happen left to right).
  • Puzzles: It can be difficult for children to want to sit down and work on completing a puzzle as puzzles can be challenging and they often require patience and attention to detail. With that being said, try mixing it up a little bit for your child by creating a scavenger hunt with the puzzles pieces. One person is the ‘hider’ who hides the puzzle pieces and then can provide “hot/cold” verbal cues to help the ‘finder’ locate all of the missing pieces. Similarly, the ‘hider’ could create a Treasure Map in order to help the ‘finder’ locate the missing puzzle pieces or the ‘treasure’. Creating a Treasure Map enhances creativity, problem solving, planning and executing skills (completing a task start to finish). Similarly, it helps to improve fine motor and visual motor skills to create the map. Overall, a puzzle helps to address your child’s visual motor skills, problem solving skills and the skill of being able to politely request help when needed.

As you can see, many of your child’s games and toys can be used in a variety of ways and not only what is printed in the instruction manual. Similarly, there are various strategies to use in order to improve your child’s fine motor, gross motor, attention and motor planning skills with a fun and simple family game night. Please contact your child’s occupational therapist for more individualized ideas for your particular child. Let the games begin!

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Physical Activities to Get your Child Moving | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric physical therapist will explain creative ways to help your child get up and get active!

In this video you will learn:

  • What indoor games are best for encouraging physical activity with your child
  • What outdoor activities increase muscular activity
  • What gaming system is best for enhancing your child’s activity

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now you’re host, here’s
Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host Robyn
Ackerman, and today I’m standing here with Leida Van Oss, a
pediatric physical therapist. Leida, can you tell us some
physical activities that we can use to get our children
moving?

Leida: Sure. When you want to get your kid moving and active, it’s
really important that it’s something that’s fun to them. So
if they’re really interested in doing board games, there
are a couple different board games you can do, such as
Hullabaloo or I Can Do That by Cat in the Hat or Twister.
If they like to go outdoors, then do something like a
sport, like swimming or soccer, or if there’s snow on the
ground, you can build forts or go sledding. But it’s really
important to pick something that they’re going to be
interested in so that they get really active.

If they really like video games, there are a lot of good active video
games you can do, especially with the new system, the
Kinect. Things like Just Dance or Dance, Dance Revolution
are all really good games that incorporate the video game
aspect with being really active.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much for those tips, and thank
you to our viewers, and remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of
mind to your family with the best in educational
programming. To subscribe to our broadcast, read our blogs,
or learn more, visit our website at LearnMore.me. That’s
LearnMore.me.

Activity Analysis of Cookie Baking

While on winter vacation, there are so many wonderful activities that your children are already participating in that benefit their fine kids baking cookiesmotor and gross motor skills; however,you are not always aware of it. This is why it is important to take a look at the activity analysis,in order to break down the skills and components that your child is gaining from a particular activity, such as cookie baking.

The fine and gross motor skills used for cookie baking:

Purpose: To bake something yummy for your friends and family.

Supplies needed: Recipe card, ingredients, cookware (e.g. bowls, spatulas, measuring cups) and oven.

Skills involved:

  • Bilateral skills (e.g. to hold the measuring cup in one hand and pour the milk with the other hand, to stabilize the bowl with one hand and stir the spoon with the other hand)
  • Visual motor skills (e.g. to read the recipe card)
  • Upper body strength (e.g. to stir the ingredients together to form ball of dough)
  • Following directions
  •  Safety awareness (e.g. wearing oven mitts to put the cookie sheet in the oven)
  • Body awareness (e.g. to be mindful of ingredients around you- so that you don’t spill or bump into someone)
  • Fine motor skills (e.g. rolling dough into small balls and/or manipulating cookie cutters, tying a bow on an apron such as shoe tying)
  • Problem solving (e.g. if you forgot an ingredient or complete a step in the wrong order)
  • Taking turns (e.g. if it is a family activity- who is going to go first? Who gets to pour which ingredients into the bowl?)

As you see above, fun and simple everyday activities can help to address a wide variety of skills without having to think twice about it. When you’re doing these activities at home with your child, try to be attentive to tasks/skills that are the easiest for your child and those that are more difficult for your child. By categorizing these tasks, you will be able to work on these skills in a variety of contexts. As always, please feel free to contact your child’s occupational therapist if you have any questions on activity analysis or breaking down an age-appropriate task. Let the baking begin!

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