the development of play

From Stacking Blocks to Tea Parties: The Development of Play

At each stage of our lives we have certain responsibilities; as adults we work, as highschoolers we went to school, as kids we played. Playing is a fundamental skill for children, and often acts as an avenue for other skills to develop. While playing, kids explore the world; they learn how things work, they arethe development of play exposed to new vocabulary and they learn to interact with other kids.

Play mirrors language development. As a child ages, their language skills develop, progressing from one word utterances to 3 – 4 word phrases and ultimately reaching conversational level skills. Along with this improvement and development of language abilities, a child’s play skills will also progress through a developmental hierarchy. Therefore, just as there are developmental steps with language development, there are certain play milestones that a child will progress through.

Use the table below as a reference to determine appropriate play skills for your own child for his or her age.

The Development of Play:

Age Play Skills
0-6 Months – Demonstrates reaching and banging behaviors for toys- Starts to momentarily look at items and smile in a mirror

– Rattles and Tummy Time mats are very popular at this age

6-12 Months – Begins to participate in adult-led routine games(e.g., Peek-a-boo).

Functional play skills are emerging at this age (i.e., playing with a toy as it is meant to be used). Examples of functional play are pushing a car or stirring with a spoon.

– Demonstrates smiling and laughing during games

 

12-18 Months – Consistently demonstrates functional use of toys- Emerging symbolic play skills were be observed at this age (i.e., the use of an object to represent something else). For example, pretending a banana is a telephone or pretending to brush a doll’s hair with an imaginary brush

– A child will also ask for help from a caregiver or adult if his or her toy is not working

 

18-24 Months – Pretend/symbolic play will become more advanced with the use of multiple toys in one play situation (e.g., playing kitchen or house)- There is much more manipulation of toys at this age – grouping of like items and assembling a complex situation

– Children will also become more independent in putting toys away or repairing broken pieces

 

24-30 Months – At this age children will begin to demonstrate parallel play. In other words, children will engage in the same play activity with the absence of interacting with each other- Although at this age, children are not yet interacting together directly, they will begin to verbalize more around children as well as share toys with other peers

 

30-36 Months – Children at this age are becoming expert playmates – long play sequences will be carried out. Typically, children will begin by playing out familiar routines, such as a parent’s dinner routine. As children age, new endings to play sequences will emerge- Dolls or other play animals may become active participants in a play sequence.

 

Rossetti, L. (2006). The Rossetti Infant-Toddler Language Scale. Linguisystems, Inc.

Encourage your child to explore and interact with new toys. Try sabotaging a play sequence (e.g., putting a block on your head rather than on the floor) to add extra fun or laughs to an afternoon. While playing with your child, also encourage and add language to the situation. You can do this by asking the child, “What should the horse do next?” or even just narrating what you are doing, e.g., “First I’m going to stir my pot, then…”.

Playing is meant to be fun and enjoyable for parents and their kids. Enjoy the warm weather, encourage language and play development and go outside to play!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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 today!

snowy day

5 Great Ideas For Snowy Day Fun

Let it Snow! Let it snow! Let it Snow!

Here are 5 great ideas for snowy day fun:

  1. Build an igloo or snow castle. Most kids have built a typical snow fort before, but not many have attempted snowy day funan awesome igloo! Start by bringing out some empty boxes (cheap plastic shoe boxes work best.) Pack the boxes with snow, and then flip them upside down to create bricks. Form a circle of bricks and start stacking with an overlap. Don’t forget to leave a door! Or if your kids prefer something a bit more palatial, try digging out some of those old beach toys. Buckets and castle molds work great in snow too!

*Advanced tip: To make an even more amazing igloo fill some plastic containers with water dyed your favorite colors using food coloring. Leave the containers overnight to freeze. Now you have amazing colored bricks to use as “stained glass.” Or you can go crazy and build your whole igloo out of colored bricks, but I recommend you skip to #2 instead.

  1. Snow Art: Fill a spray bottle with water and dye it with some food coloring. Kids can spray it on the snow for instant art (or to decorate their new igloos!). **Food coloring will stain clothing so be careful!
  1. Feed the Birds: Have kids gather pine cones, and when you need a break inside the house you can work on some treats for our feathered friends. Here are two easy ideas:
    1. For older kids, use a needle and thread to create a long garland of popcorn and/or cranberries.Tie a loop of ribbon or string to the top of a pinecone.
    2. Cover the pinecone in peanut butter (get in all those nooks and crannies!) and have kids roll the pinecones in birdseed.

*When you’re all ready to go back out, use your new creations to decorate trees or bushes in your yard.

  1. Tic-Tac-Snow: Draw a giant tic-tac-toe in the snow and uses sticks (x’s) and pinecones (O’s) to play. (or play hopscotch! It’s much more challenging in the snow.)
  2. Batting range: Have kids practice swinging at snowballs for some explosive fun.

Enjoy the snow while it lasts!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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 today!

holiday gifts: toys to promote age appropriate developmental skills

Holiday Gifts: Toys to Promote Age-Appropriate Developmental Skills

As the holiday season approaches us, so starts the mad dash to buy everyone’s wish-list toys. Toy stores will provide you with a plethora of options from electronic gadgets to doll sets. But remember, toys can also help to improve skills, confidence and overall development! Before you go running to the stores, let’s stop and examine the toys that promote developmental skills from an occupational therapy perspective.

4 Toys for Fine Motor Development:holiday gifts: toys to promote age appropriate developmental skills

  1. Automoblox – Suitable for children 2+ years, Automoblox allow your child to explore their creative side! The interchangeable wheels, rims, tops, and bumpers promote manipulation skills.
  2. Tinker Toys – For ages 3+, this building set offers hundreds of options for creation as your child uses not only their fine motor skills, but their visual motor skills as well!
  3. Pop Beads – Pop them in and pop them out! These beads promote fine motor precision as your child becomes a jewelry designer. In addition, the resistive aspect of the Pop Beads improves fine motor strength.
  4. Spirograph – Your childhood comes back to life as you watch your child create beautiful circular patterns. As popular as ever, the Spirograph’s interlocking gears promote fine motor precision and control. Suitable for ages 5+.

4 Toys for Gross Motor Development:

  1. Rody Inflatable Hopping Horse– For children ages 3-5, this updated hippity-hop encourages posture and balance.
  2. Cat in the Hat I Can Do That Game– Can you tip toe around the Trick-a-ma-stick while balancing a cake on your head? I bet you can! This silly multi-player game encourages gross motor development through various animal walks and balancing activities. Great for ages 4-8.
  3. ALEX toys, Monkey Balance Board – This adorable board is great to practice balance skills, weight-shifting and leg strength. The durable wood is great for indoors and out, so this board will last you well into the next winter season! Great for little feet ages 3+.
  4. Skip-It – This 90’s game is still skipping strong! The Skip-It encourages gross motor coordination, balance, and encourages a child to separate the sides of their body, increasing body awareness skills.

4 Toys for Sensory Play Development:

  1. Lakeshore Scented Dough– Can your child tell the difference between the cherry and the grape? This dough encourages olfactory development as your child kneads, pinches and sculpts the dough into shapes and characters.
  2. Wonderworld Sensory Blocks– These little blocks, designed for children ages 18 months and older, encourage visual, auditory and tactile discrimination skills.
  3. Touchy Feely– A Marbles the Brain Store game, it encourages tactile discrimination for texture, shape, and temperatures.
  4. Melissa and Doug Deluxe Band Set – A mom-approved band for your child to star in! A great way for your child to control the amount of auditory stimulation in their environment and be exposed to various sounds!

4 toys for Executive Functioning Skill Development:

  1. Sequence for Kids– A family-friendly game for ages 3-6, this game is great for attention, problem solving, and as the title suggests, Sequencing skills! The best part, if you love it, you can buy the adult version as well!
  2. Busy Town Eye Found It – Richard Scarry’s beloved children’s book comes to life in an eye-spy inspired game. Race through Busy Town looking for hidden pictures promoting attention, cooperation and visual motor skills! Great for a group of kids ages 3+.
  3. Rush Hour – Help the red car get out of a traffic jam! For your older child (ages 8+), this game promotes problem-solving skills, sequencing, attention and organization.
  4. Simon Swipe– Follow the color pattern and focus on strengthening your attention, sequencing and memory skills! This game is great for solo play or to play with a friend! (ages 8+)

 

These are toys your kids will enjoy now, and they build skills that will last a lifetime! Happy holiday shopping from North Shore Pediatric Therapy!


Crossing the Midline

MORE Activities for Crossing the Midline

As discussed in last week’s post, crossing the midline is an essential skill that affects a person’s efficiency in many of life’s everyday tasks. By engaging your child in activities that promote this skill, you are helping her to create pathways in her developing brain that can benefit her motor abilities, learning capacity, and behavior.

10 Activities to Promote Crossing the Midline:Crossing the Midline

  1. Dance! Get your child moving to a rhythm with her entire body and you will promote coordination and crossing over midline with big body movements.
  2. Play Twister.
  3. Do karaoke or grapevine walks.
  4. Engage in bimanual activities such as stringing beads, playing Pick Up Sticks, cutting with scissors, creating crafts or other projects with stamps, stickers, glue, etc.
  5. Play clapping games such as pat-a-cake or row, row, row your boat.
  6. Create a secret handshake that involves tapping feet, knees, or elbows to that of the other person.
  7. Involve him in baking! Let him stir the ingredients into a big bowl that he will have to help stabilize with one hand in front of his body, while the other makes big circular motions with the spoon.
  8. Engage him in a sorting game and encourage him to complete rounds of sorting using only one hand at a time.
  9. Play Simon Says. You could even take this up a notch and specify right or left side.
  10. Help with chores! Have her help you wipe off tables, mirrors, dishes, etc.

General recommendations to encourage crossing the midline:

  1. Always encourage children to complete self-care tasks such as dressing, eating, and bathing to the fullest extent they are capable. So many of these everyday tasks require us to spontaneously and purposefully use both hands together and to move one hand to the other side of the body.
  2. Before hand dominance is established, always present utensils (spoons, markers, etc.) at the child’s midline. Encourage the child to complete the task with whichever hand he initiates use of that utensil. Be sure he uses the other hand as the “helper” to stabilize the bowl or paper.
  3. Discourage w-sitting! W-sitting (where a child sits with his knees bent and feet out to either side of his body so that his legs form a “W” shape) has many negative implications. One of these is that the child is unable to cross midline as easily. When engaging in an activity on the floor, help your child sit “criss cross” instead.
  4. When completing work at a table, encourage your child to keep herself in the center of her work rather than scooting herself (or what she’s working on) to the left or right.
  5. Make it fun! Working on the development of midline crossing does not need to be a tedious exercise. As you engage in the fun activities listed here, you will begin to see how easy it is to adapt games and other tasks with this skill in mind. Don’t be afraid to get creative and let us know what you come up with!

Click here for a refresher on the 1st article to promote crossing the midline.

Preschool Playdate

Let’s Play! 5 Tips for a Successful Preschool Playdate

Are you considering planning a preschool playdate for your son or daughter?  That’s great!  Peer-to-peer play helps aid children in the development of their social-emotional abilities.  They learn things like problem solving, how to communicate their ideas, and how to overcome social obstacles.

5 Tips for a Successful Preschool Playdate:Preschool Playdate

Observe closely but don’t hover– Many parents have trouble deciding how involved they should be in their children’s interactions with peers.  The answer?  It depends!  The younger your children are, the more you’ll need to participate.  Children three and four years old may not need you to participate as actively, but they still need you close by.  Observe how the children play with each other.  Who takes the lead?  How do they handle disagreements?  Does anything surprise you about their play?  Remember, children behave differently depending on whom they think is watching.  So observe closely, but don’t hover.

Set expectations- Let both children know what is expected during play.  These expectations may be different depending on where in the house they play, or if they’re spending time outside vs. inside.  Keep expectations to a minimum (2 or 3 at a time).  To ensure that the kids understand, have them repeat the expectations back to you.  Then, when an issue arises you can remind them of the expectations that have been set.

Give plenty of warning before the end of the playdate- Transitions can be tough for little ones.  Let your kids know about 20 minutes prior to the end that in 10 minutes it will be clean-up time.  If you know your child has particular difficulty transitioning from social time or his favorite activity, give him more warning.

Help the children build problem-solving skills, don’t solve the problem for them – If the children playing aren’t agreeing on which toy to play with, rather than saying, “Ok, play with this toy for X amount of minutes and then play with that toy”, say something like “So you want to play with the trucks, but you want to build with blocks.  What should we do about this?”  By putting the dilemma into words, you help them recognize that there is a conflict, and that conflicts have resolutions.  If you put the question back on them and they are unable to figure something out, or if you notice emotions rising, only then should you provide a solution.

Communicate with the other child’s caregiver- If your child is going to another person’s house, let the other parent know what your child needs to be most successful when playing with others.  For example, if your child is quick to get frustrated, let the other parent know what helps your little one calm down.  Food is often involved in preschool playdates, so be sure to inform the other parent of any food restrictions or allergies.  If you’re hosting the playdate, ask the other caregiver about her child.  You may even want to invite the other parent in for coffee while the kids play.

Click here for activities to promote reading at your preschool playdates.

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.

Easy Activities to Help with Cabin Fever

While winter has over-extended its stay, but your kids do not need to go “stir crazy”!  Here are some easy activities that can be done with ages 3 years and older. The best news is that most of the supplies can be found in your home or can be purchased for a very cheap price!

Kool-Aid Playdough

Ingredients:
• 1 1/4 cup flour
• 1/4 cup salt
• 1 pkg unsweetened Kool-aid packet
• 1 cup boiling water
• 1 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil

Directions:
Step 1:  In a bowl, mix flour, salt, and kool-aid
Step 2: Stir in water (ADULTS should do this step!)
Step 3: Stir in oil
Step 4: Mix with a spoon and let it cool for a couple minutes
Step 5:  Knead with hands for about 5 minutes (you may need to sprinkle a little more flour if mixture is sticking to hands)

The playdough will take on the color of the flavor you chose and will smell like it too!  It can be stored  in a plastic baggy for months.

Popsicle Stick Craft Ideas

These sticks are sold in large boxes so you are able to make multiple items…the finished product also makes for great gifts!
Here are some ideas of what can be created:

• Picture frame
• Jewelry box
• Pencil holder
• Keepsake box
• Bird house

Ingredients:

  • Box of popsicle sticks (there are two sizes, thinner and thicker sticks)
  • Glue (Elmer’s glue can be used, but a tacky glue is recommended)
  • Misc. decorations: crayon, marker, paint, glitter, felt, cardboard, construction paper, etc.

Directions:

Step 1: Decorate sticks with misc. supplies.  If using paint or glitter, let sticks dry.
Step 2: Use a dime-size of glue on each end of the sticks when building your creation.
Step 3: Let the creations dry over night.     

Building Beans

Ingredients:

  • Large dried beans
  • Bowl of water
  • Strainer
  • Wooden toothpicks

 Directions

Step 1: Soak the beans overnight in the bowl of water.
Step 2: Strain the water off the beans.
Step 3: Stick a toothpick in one bean.
Step 4: Continue sticking beans and toothpicks together to make a structure.
Step 5: When finished, let the bean structure dry overnight.

Here are some other items that you can try:

  • Build a structure with marshmallows and toothpicks
  • Build a structure with soaked dry peas and toothpicks
  • Build a structure with fresh peas and toothpicks

Sun-catchers

Ingredients:

  • White Glue
  • Food coloring
  • Toothpicks
  • Plastic lids (Lids from tubs of yogurt, hummus, sour cream etc.)
  • Hole Punch
  • String

Directions:

Step One: Pour a generous amount of glue into one of your plastic lids and swish it around to cover the entire inner surface.

Step Two: Put one or two drops of each color of food coloring around the glue.

Step Three: Take a toothpick to swirl the colors around in the glue. Stop swirling before the colors get too combined or the final result will be muddy and brown. This is an exercise in restraint!

Step Four: Let dry. As the colors settle they will continue to expand and create a tie-dye effect. Depending on how much glue you used, the sun-catcher will take one to three days to fully dry. You will know it’s ready when the edges start to peel off the lid.

Step Five: When fully dry, peel the sun-catcher off the lid, punch a hole through the top, add a string, and hang in a sunny spot.


 

Turn a Bully Into an Ally

What is one seemingly positive characteristic of a bully?

Great leadership skills. They can gather a group of followers and move in a pack to accomplish a lot.  Most bullies use this skill for negative outcomes, but think of what good could be accomplished if we taught bullies to use this strength for good?

We need to teach bullies that great leaders have certain qualities.  Bullies can be taught that they are great leaders, and great leaders use their leadership skills for good.   The bully can be taught this by the assignment of positive leadership tasks.  For example, assign the bully to a time of day to make sure each and every kid is taken care of.  At lunch, the bully ensures each child has food and is not eating alone. If she is, charge the bully with finding a solution.  At PE, have the bully ensure each girl is picked first on a team at least once and gets to be team captain at least once.

Once the bully feels the power of leading for good, she may just become one of the best leaders and members of the class.  Make strong powered kids into true positive leaders and see more leaders and team players blossom!

For more on handling bullies, read Mean Girls and bullying Boys: How Parents Can Help, and How to Include Bullying In Your Child’s IEP.

3 Tips for Knowing When to Intervene in Your Child’s Relationships

Does your job description of mom also involve the role of a referee? Knowing when to step in to your child’s conflicts is key to keep you calm and teach effective negotiation skills to your child. Picking your battles to intervene will improve your stance as an objective outlet and foster independence and direct communication for your children.

3 Tips for Intervening in Your Child’s Relationships:

1. Stay out of it.

If your child and a sibling are in a constant argument over everything, whether it be deciding what games to play, where they sit at the kitchen table, or who gets the best spot on the couch, don’t involve yourself in all situations. If you have prior knowledge that your children are frequently at odds, prevent any future upsets by setting clear expectations at the beginning of the day or the beginning of the week to prevent any conflictual situations.  For example, creating a chart or system to prescribe turn taking may prove helpful. Setting up specific days for dinner table placement or free reign of the main couch and TV may prevent future arguments. If arguing does arise, keep calm and let them work it out.

2. Be strategic about stepping in.

Place your involvement in a series of steps each child can take if other compromise, negotiation, and communication skills fail.

For example, first set up with your child the ability to compromise and negotiate (If Claire isn’t honoring Sophie’s day for the prime couch seat, encourage her to communicate her thoughts and needs in a calm tone). If this doesn’t get Claire up, Sophie can then compromise and see if her and Sophie can switch days. If nothing works, then Sophie can get mom’s attention to enforce the schedule. Having the schedule already set up takes the emotionality and subjective nature out of the argument and mom can then reinforce what was already agreed upon.

3. Don’t let it get violent.

Another time when it would be helpful for the parent to intervene in sibling relationships is if violence and physicality ensues. Create a zero tolerance policy for hitting, kicking, and other acts of behavioral outbursts that negatively impact others so as to reduce these types of reactions to non-preferable outcomes. If these behaviors should occur, creating an objective stance towards consequences reduces any emotional reactions you may have and aligns with the overall family expectations regarding this type of conflict. Intervening reinforces that this mode of communicating and behavior is not acceptable and standard responses ensue.

When to intervene with friends:

When it comes to inflexible thinking and stress between a child and their friend, when should you intervene with wise solutions to problems, separation, and termination of plans? Keep an ear out for arguing, inflexible thinking, and any stress or tension but don’t move a muscle. Intervene when your child involves you. This allows your child and their peer to work through their stressor and communicate their own thoughts and feelings accordingly. What would they do if they were not in your presence?  We need to help encourage autonomous problem solving/conflict resolution skills.

Pre-arranging with your child their boundaries and what they think they can and can’t handle during a playdate will outline effective strategies they can utilize and when your involvement may be necessary. This will take some of the guess work as to when you should intervene as your child will be aware of when it is necessary to include you. Processing appropriate conflict resolution and problem solving skills prior to a playdate will arm your child with coping mechanism to prevent or troubleshoot challenges if they should arise.

Read here for 3 strategies to communicate with your kids without yelling.

Health Benefits of Hockey for Kids

Many parents often ask me about the best sport to enroll their children in during the winter time. Hockeythe health benefits of hockey always comes high on my list of recommendations. Children as young as 5 years old can participate and benefit from this total body work out.

Health Benefits of Hockey:

Endurance

Hockey is a high-intensity sport that has many cardiovascular benefits. Between bouts of running, skating, and bouts of rests, kids are participating in interval training without even realizing it. High-intensity interval training has been known to boost aerobic capacity, energy levels, and metabolism. Read more