Holiday Gifts Promote Smiles and Skills!

Holiday gift giving can elevate much more than your child’s spirit. In fact, you can use the holidays as an opportunity to stock up on toys and games that will facilitate your child’s development. A bean bag chair isn’t just cozy and fun; it also provides deep pressure during movie night or bedtime reading. Beads provide not only a creative craft project but a chance to promote fine motor skills. Clearly, these examples and more-such as Wii Fit, which fosters gross motor development-indicate items that may already be on your child’s holiday wish list!

Sensory Games For Childrenplaydoh

 Gross Motor Games For Children

  • Scooter board
  • Therapy ball (or peanut ball)
  • Hippity Hop
  • Big foot stilts or pogo stick
  • Balls or sports equipment
  • Lacrosse sticks
  • Zoom ball
  • Mini trampoline
  • Twister
  • Bosu ball
  • Balance beam or balance board
  • Wii Fit

Fine Motor Toys For Children

  • Wikki Stix
  • Squiggle Wiggle Writer
  • Coloring and activity books
  • Slant board for writing
  • Beads (pop beads, jewelry beads)
  • Games with small pieces (Mancala, dice games, clothespins, pegs, Lite Brite)
  • Tricky Fingers game
  • Friendship bracelet kit
  • Weaving loom
  • Dressing boards
  • Lacing games

Visual Motor/Visual Perceptual Toys For Children

  • Mazes, dot-to-dot, and hidden pictures books
  • “I Spy” games
  • Pictureka
  • Speedy Match
  • Blocks Rock
  • Tangoes
  • Jump-a-peg or Hoppers
  • Thataway!
  • Space Faces
  • Set or Blink
  • Kanoodle-Lonpos
  • Rush Hour Jr.
  • Simon
  • Drill and Design
  • Hyperslide

 

Top 5 ways to Prepare your Child with SPD for a Birthday Party

For many children, the best part of a birthday party is running around playing with lots of friends and family, eating birthday cake, popping balloons,  tearing apart wrapping paper, and wearing party hats! However, for children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), all of these events may be extremely overwhelming and hard to take in. Below are some tips to try and make the party scene more enjoyable for everyone:

 5 Tips To Prepare Your Child’s Sensory System For A Party

1. Practice practice practice: Practice birthday party activities that may be over-stimulating for your child when at home, in a safe environment. This will best prepare them for what songs and games may be part of the actual birthday party (e.g. practice blowing up/playing with balloons; practice birthday party childrensinging “happy birthday” with the family; practice playing with party favors/horns/noise makers).

2. Talk: Talk with your child about where the party will be held (e.g. home; restaurant; community venue) and what she will be doing. When a child is well prepared about anything that will or might happen, she will feel more in control and aware of what is going to happen, and hopefully more excited to participate with their peers

3. Take a Break: Talk with your child about ways to “take a break” if he begins to feel overwhelmed (e.g. go get a drink of water, step outside with an adult for a breath of fresh air, chew a piece of gum, use the restroom, do frog jumps in an open hallway).

4. Comfort item: Help your child to choose a comfort item to bring along; if it’s small enough, he can even keep it right in his pocket (e.g. small stuffed animal/blanket; a small toy, such as a car; a squeeze toy, such as a stress ball or a balloon filled with beans/rice/sand).

5. Get involved: Allow your child to help you choose the birthday gift and/or help to wrap the gift, so that he or she feels involved and excited about the birthday process, and can help to choose a gift they feel the birthday girl/boy would like!

 

Kids playing Football

5 Heavy Work Activities For Your Child

Holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas can be overwhelming for adults and children alike, especially children with sensory processing  disorders (SPD). Holidays entail being around a lot of family and friends, eating lots of different foods, and oftentimes getting off of a “typical” daily routine. Here are some great heavy work activities to help your child feel more regulated:

5 Activities For Children To Regulate Themselves:

1. Raking leaves: Have your child help you rake leaves in the yard or at a park nearby; once they create a sufficient pile of leaves, have your child take a big jump into the leaves to give them lots of proprioceptive input. Change up this activity a little bit by having your child log roll through the pile of leaves to provide them withKids playing Football vestibular input and helps to work on their motor planning skills.

2. Pulling wagon/stroller: After a long day full of eating and socializing, take your child outside for some fresh air by going for a walk around the neighborhood. Have your child push/pull a younger sibling in a wagon or a stroller to provide them with heavy work, and help improve trunk control and upper body strength. If there is not a younger sibling to push/pull, feel free to place household items into a wagon instead to increase the load (e.g. lots of blankets, dumbbells, balls etc).

3. Stirring recipes: Involve your child in preparing your  feast by allowing them to stir the batter and/or roll out the dough for your favorite recipes (e.g. pie crust, potatoes, stuffing, cookies etc.) Stirring resistive batter provides your child with heavy work, and also helps to work on hand and upper body strength, motor planning, and following directions.

4. Building a scarecrow: Bring out your family’s creative side by building a scarecrow together. Have your child create a cardboard scarecrow for an inside project, decorating it with glitter and puffballs. Cardboard provides a resistive material for your child to cut through, making it more of a challenge, and helping to work on hand and upper body strength. A life-size scarecrow can also be made by using old clothes stuffed with straw or crumpled newspaper for an outside project. Stuffing old clothing works on motor planning, heavy work, and fasteners depending on the clothing used (e.g. buttons, ties, and zippers).

5. Football: Fall is the perfect time of year to get outside and work on ball skills and hand-eye coordination by tossing a football around. Teaching your child the rules of football and the goals of the game help to work on following directions and being okay with winning/losing. Add resistance by having your child wear wrist or ankle weights or carry a filled backpack (e.g. folded blanket, books, stuffed animals etc). Add an extra challenge by incorporating various ways to get across the football field, such as: single-leg hops, frog jumps, skipping, and galloping; this will help your child work on motor planning, body awareness, and trunk control.

 

Chicago Family-Friendly Destinations

Winter is right around the corner, and with the cooler weather keeping us indoors, parents are always looking for new destinations to take their

bubbles academy

Bubbles Academy

children. Try some of these “hot spots” around Chicago to keep your child active and engaged during the snowy months ahead:

1. Little Beans Café: An indoor playground and café for parents and kids of all ages to relax, be creative, interact, and have a snack or two! A variety of classes are offered throughout the week as well, including kids yoga!

2. Gymboree Play and Music: Children are able to play and explore with a variety of equipment; and participate in classes such as music, art, sports, and school skills to work on a variety of areas of fine and gross motor development.

3. Bubbles Academy: An open play space for families to run, jump, and climb; including a meadow room, an ocean room, a mountain room, and a tree house! Classes include yoga, cooking classes, and creative movement!

4. Family grounds : A café for all ages, in which the main café and kids playspace are separated to accommodate everyone’s needs. The playspace includes different areas such as a performance stage, arts and crafts, and a trains and cars.

5. Sweet and Sassy: A great place to host a birthday party or to get your child’s hair cut (boys and girls). Other activities include manicures and pedicures and lots of glittery make-up.

6. Pump it Up: Another awesome location for a birthday party or field trip destination, known as “the inflatable party zone”, which is filled with bounce houses, slides, and obstacle courses.

7. Kid’s Table: A place for children, parents, and families of all shapes and sizes to learn about healthy foods. Enjoy classes or the retail store, and begin cooking together at home. Classes include a variety of themes, such as “Kids nite out” and “family class”.

 Please feel free to leave your family fun place suggestions in the comments form below!

If You Would Like To Receive Our Blogs In Your Email: Please Sign-Up Here!

5 Ways to Get Moving with Your Kids

Why not get moving with your kid instead of sitting around watching tv?

Why not get moving with your kid instead of going to a movie?

Why not get moving with your kid instead of baking a cake?

Why not get moving with your kid instead of playing on social media sites and tweeting?

Listen, watching t.v. can be fun, movies can be enriching, baking can be bonding, and tweeting can be exhilarating, but, it is so important to move and it puts everyone in a good mood. Here are five ideas to get you boogying with the boys or get flipping with the females!

 5 Ways To Get Up and Moving With Your Child:

1) Make an obstacle course. Winter? Make it inside. Use pillows, exercise equipment in the house, tables can be tunnels, brooms for jumping over, step stools to do step ups, etc. Think out of the box! Summer? Go outside and have fun with big rocks, bikes, jump ropes, etc. as part of the most fun obstacle course you have ever seen!family swimming

2) Turn up the music and dance! Winter? Dance Dance Revolution OR just boogie to the beat at home! Summer? Bring the music outside to the backyard and have fun!

3) Choose to swim in a pool durin downtime. Winter? Go to the YMCA, Lifetime Fitness, or if someone has an indoor pool in their building, ask to borrow it. Take a daytime room in a nearby hotel! Summer? try different pools and even hire a high school or college swim coach to get everyone doing laps! Have your own pool? Turn on some music and a timer and swim for exercise and fun!

4) Bike! Winter? Did you know you can buy a bike stand for your bike and bike as if you were outside all winter or on a rainy day? Summer? Get outside! Get lost a little and find your way back! Try different destinations each time!

5) Get back to your youth. Play a game of tag, freeze dance, red rover, simon says, mommy please, and other wonderful games that require you to move your body!

Your endorphins will be running wild! It will make your family so much happier!

If You Would Like To Receive Our Blogs In Your Email: Please Sign-Up Here!

Halloween For Dog Families

Guest Blog From Bark Busters!

Halloween brings a fun time for most of us, but for some of our much-loved four-legged family members, Halloween can be a nightmare. Dog owners  may not be able to control external surroundings, but they can care for their dog’s safety and well-being by observing the following tips from Bark Busters Home Dog Training, the world’s largest dog training company:Dog Training Chilcago

Don’t leave your dog outside. Even if you have a fenced yard, bring your dog inside where it is safe. Your dog may be used to strangers, but so many little ghouls and goblins running about may be too much. Remember also that it is a natural instinct for dogs to protect the family from strangers, and on Halloween there will be no shortage of strangers.

Keep your dog restrained. If your dog is timid or scared, or if he tends to love people a little too much, it is best to put him in a separate room away from the front door to limit his excitability, aggression, and chance of running outside and becoming lost.

Reassure your dog. The best thing you can do for your dog when he is feeling unsettled by Halloween activities is to act as you normally would around your dog. By over-reassuring your dog or giving him an unusual amount of attention, you inadvertently can communicate to him that there must be something to worry about.

Have your dog get used to costumes. Your dog may see his family members as strangers once they don their Halloween costumes. Before the kids put them on, allow your dog to scent the costumes and keep masks off while your dog is around.

Check your dog’s ID tag. Be sure identification tags are secure on your dog’s collar-just in case.

Keep candy away from your dog. Many candies-especially chocolate-are toxic to dogs, resulting from a mild upset tummy to vomiting and diarrhea, or even death. If you want to keep your dog safe, make certain that sweets, including their wrappers, are kept well away from your dog.

Protect dogs from candles and pumpkins. Excited or agitated dogs can easily knock over a lit candle or pumpkin. Be sure those items are away from your dog’s reach, or consider a battery-powered candle that does not burn.

Think twice about dressing your dog in a costume. While some dogs might enjoy being dressed up, many don’t. Experiment first to see if your dog likes being in a costume. If he shows any resistance, don’t do it.

Be prepared. If you take your dog with you while trick-or-treating, be prepared at all times. Do not let your dog approach the door of a house, and stay clear of possible witches or goblins that may pop out. Neither children nor adults in costumes should approach a dog without the owner’s consent.

Have fun but think of your dog’s safety.

Finally, if you want your dog to be included in Halloween festivities, think about his safety as much as you would the safety of a small child.

If You Would Like To Receive Our Blogs In Your Email: Please Sign-Up Here!

Marlene Marks  is a dog behavioral therapist and trainer with Bark Busters, the world’s largest dog training company. For more details, call 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or visit www.BarkBusters.com to find a dog trainer in your area. 

Helping Your Child Deal with Losing A Game

One of the most common challenges I see when working with kids, is difficulty with losing.  Many rounds of Candlyland have ended in tears and scattered game pieces.  For kids, losing can feel unexpected and extremely frustrating.  However, it’s important to learn to handle losing (and winning) in order to successfully navigate friendships.  So how can we help children learn to lose (and win) well from early on?  If you’ve ever found yourself wiping tears after a game, or rigging Candyland to avoid your child’s loss, then read on.  Here are 10 strategies to help your child better navigate winning and losing.

10 Ways To Help Your Child Handle With Losing:

  1. Prepare ahead-of time.  It can feel frustrating and unexpected for kids to lose a game.  Prepare your child ahead of time by introducing concepts of winning and losing, as well as how to respond.  For example: sore loser in a game“Sometimes we win, and sometimes our friends win.  It’s okay when our friends win!  Games are just for fun!”
  2. Redefine winningTalk to your child about what matters most.  Even though it’s fun to win, what matters most is sportsmanship, playing by the rules and being a good friend.  By prioritizing sportsmanship over winning, you can help your child feel accomplished for playing the game well, even if they didn’t win.
  3. Praise what is going well.  If we want our kids to value sportsmanship, then give them positive praise and affirmation for good behaviors.  Talk about what is going well during or after a game.  Use clear and descriptive feedback (e.g. “Wow! You said ‘congratulations!’ That was such a friendly thing to say to your friend.”) .
  4. Learn to win gracefullyRehearse appropriate phrases to use when your child wins.  For example, “Good game! That was so fun to play together!”.  Give your child clear feedback about how their words might make others feel.  For example: “Uh oh, I think your friend felt sad when you said ‘I won and you lost!’ What’s something friendly you could say instead?”
  5. Learn to lose gracefully.  Rehearse appropriate phrases to use when your child loses.  For example, “Congratulations!” or “Great game!”.  Give your child clear feedback about how their responses might make their friends feel.  For example, “Uh oh, when you ran away, your friends felt sad. It’s not fun to play when you run away from the game.”
  6. Talk about itIf you notice your child is beginning to escalate, reintroduce some of the concepts you discussed earlier (e.g. “Sometimes we win, and sometimes our friends win. It’s okay when our friends win. Games are just for fun!”).  Use a calm and positive tone to show your child that everything is okay.   If needed, take some time out to regroup and calm down.
  7. Practice, practice, practice. The best way to learn is by doing, so practice playing games with your child.  You might start by playing a game one-on-one, and rehearsing appropriate phrases to say to others (e.g. “Good try!” or “Great job!”).  Start with a simple game that’s not overly complicated, so your child can focus more on sportsmanship and less on game strategy.  Next, you might practice games during a play-date with a few friends.
  8. Set a good example. Children learn by watching and imitating, so set the tone by modeling good sportsmanship.  This isn’t just limited to playing board-games, but also includes how you respond to other moments throughout your day (e.g. handling traffic, when your favorite team looses, etc.).
  9. Encourage self-reflecting.  Encourage your child to think about their behavior after a game.  What went well?  What can we work on next time?  Incorporate lots positive feedback for things that were successful (“Wow, I like the way you let your friend go first!”), as well as constructive ideas for what to do better next time.
  10. Finally, try again. Learning takes time and practice.  If your child has a bad day, or a game ends in a meltdown, don’t be afraid to try again the next time you play together.  Your child may try to avoid a particular game that they’ve previously lost.  Use a positive tone, and encouragement them to try again.

Language Fun with Halloween

Halloween is a super fun holiday! There are so many great ways to use Halloween to build your child’s language skills. Here are a few ideas:

“Categories and Sorting” to Boost Language

After your child goes trick or treating, have them sort their candy into different categories. They could sort candy by type (chocolate vs. gummies), size, shape, color or taste.Boy in Costume Sorting Candy

“Describing” To Boost Language

Picking out the perfect Halloween costume is always fun! When talking about costumes, have your child describe what it is that they’d like to be this year. Have them talk about costume colors, accessories, emotions/feelings associated with the character, etc. Or when you’re at the store, play a guessing game. “Guess who I am thinking about…I wear a pointy hat, fly on a broomstick and can be a little scary!”

“Following Directions” To Boost Language

There are lots and lots of Halloween art projects and craft ideas. Take any project and turn it into a following directions activity. Depending on what level your child is at, you can have him/her follow 1 or 2 step directions. It could be as simple as a drawing activity. Start with a haunted house picture. Tell your child, “draw a pumpkin next to the door” or “Put a scary ghost in one of the top windows.”

Vocabulary

Halloween is a great time to work on different vocabulary words. You can work on synonyms or antonyms, definitions, grammar or even salient features. For example, take the word “spooky.”

You can ask the following questions:

  • What does spooky mean?
  • What is the opposite of spooky? What is another word for spooky?
  • Tell me something that is spooky – once they give you an object, have them tell you more about the object. For example, let’s say they say “witch.”   Then have him/her tell you what a witch has, where you find a witch, what does a witch do, etc (these are all salient features).

Reading Comprehension

There are many thematic books for Halloween. Find a book that is appropriate for your child’s reading level and work on reading comprehension skills. Ask wh- questions (i.e. who, what, where, why, why) while reading the book. You can ask text-based questions (questions that stem directly from what you read) or critical thinking questions (questions that will stimulate your child’s thought process). For example, if you’re reading about a scary character, you could ask “What makes you scared?” or “What do you do when you’re scared?”

For a list of great Halloween Books, click here.  You can read summaries and even take a look at the first few pages of the books.

If You Would Like To Receive Our Blogs In Your Email: Please Sign-Up Here!

Building Your Child’s Speech & Language Skills During Halloween

As a speech-language pathologist, I love holidays for the language-rich opportunities they provide.  For starters, my kids reliably arrive to therapy sessions bursting with things to talk about, from Halloween costumes to anticipated candy.  And research supports that children learn best when they’re motivated and excited.  By incorporating speech-language goals into holiday activities, you can encourage your child’s development in a fun and engaging context.  Enjoy these 5 fun ways to build speech and language skills during Halloween fun.

5 Halloween Activities to Practice Speech & Language

1. Read a book about Halloween.  Choose an age-appropriate book with fun pictures.  By reading a book about Halloween ahead of time, you can introduce your child to vocabulary and activities they might experience at Halloween.  This activity targets: mother reading to children in the fall timevocabulary development, literacy, and comprehension.
2. Create a book or timeline about your Halloween plans.  For many children, Halloween festivities can be overwhelming.  Prepare them ahead of time by creating a book about what you will do during Halloween.
Include places you will go, things you will see, and people you will be with.  You might even include appropriate phrases your child will use at Halloween (e.g. “Trick-or-Treat” or “I like your costume!”).  This activity targets: vocabulary, sequencing, literacy, narrative language, social skills.
3. Create a fun Halloween snack.  There are lots of fun and creative ideas on the internet (example: mumified pizzas).  Write out the steps needed to make the snack, and help your child brainstorm things you will need.  Afterwards, encourage your child to share their snack with others and describe how they made it.  This activity targets: executive function, sequencing, vocabulary, expressive language, social skills.
4. Create a Halloween craft.  Crafts are a great way to work on sequencing, vocabulary, and following directions.  The internet has endless ideas for creative kid-friendly crafts.  A few of my favorites are Enchanted Learning and DLTK Kids.  Encourage your child to share their craft with others and explain how they made it.  This activity targets: sequencing, vocabulary, following directions, expressive language.
5. Make a Halloween scrapbook to remember the day.  Take digital pictures throughout the Halloween festivities.  Afterwards, print each picture out and glue them into a construction paper book.  Help your child describe what happened in each picture (Who is in this picture?  What is mommy doing?  Where are we going?, etc).  Encourage your child to share their Halloween scrapbook with family and friends.  This activity targets: answering questions, literacy, expressive language, social skills.

5 FUN FINE MOTOR ACTIVITIES FOR HALLOWEEN

The weather is getting chilly again, and Halloween is almost here! Here are some great ideas for indoor fun that will help children develop their fine motor strength and coordination skills.

5 Fun Fine Motor Activities For Halloween:

Tissue Paper Pumpkin:

Supplies: construction paper, markers, tissue paper, gluegirl carving a pumpkin

*Draw a pumpkin on construction paper. Tear small pieces of tissue paper, and using one hand, scrunch up the pieces with your thumb, index and middle fingers. Dip the tissue paper into glue and place it on the construction paper to fill in the pumpkin.

Haunted House:

Supplies: popsicle sticks, glue or superglue (use with supervision), construction paper, paint

Use construction paper as a base for the popsicle stick house, as the glue may get messy on a table. *Make a floor out of popsicle sticks and secure it with glue to the construction paper. Glue popsicle sticks together to make the walls and the roof. To make a slanted roof, secure the roof to the walls on a diagonal. Once the glue on the house is dry, you can paint it black and paint on ghosts and goblins.

Ghosts:

Supplies: kleenex or paper towel (to make a bigger ghost), cotton balls, thread, marker

*Place a few cotton balls in the center of the kleenex or paper towel for the head of the ghost. Next, fold the napkin in to wrap it around the cotton ball, and secure the head by tying a thread around it while letting the rest of the napkin flow.

To hang it up, pull a threaded needle through the top of the ghost’s head. Make sure the thread is long enough to hang to hang on something, and loop it through to make a knot.

Pumpkin Carving:

Supplies: pumpkin, marker, pumpkin carver (it is easier and safer to use than a knife, and you can buy one at walmart, stencils (optional)

*Draw a face on the pumpkin with stencils or free-hand, and carve away! This is a great activity to develop motor control and strength.

Halloween Necklace:

Supplies: Halloween colored beads of all shapes and sizes, beading wire or thread

*Make a knot on one of the thread, and start stringing the beads! Using small beads is great for fine motor control and precision. For additional coordination and fine motor muscle development, instruct your child to hold 3-5 beads in the palm of their hand, and as they need the next bead, have them use their thumb, index and middle finger to get the bead out of their palm. Make sure their palm is facing up so that they cannot compensate and use gravity to help them get the beads!