Holiday Tongue Twisters

Christmas is almost here! With the hectic holiday schedule, here are some festive tongue twisters to try with your kids!Holiday Tongue Twisters

 Christmas Tongue Twisters:

  • Santa stacked six singing snowmen in his sleigh.
  • Mrs. Claus counted carolers on Christmas.
  • Don’t drop the dreidel down, Danny!
  • Tiny Tim trimmed the tall tree with tinsel.
  • The thermometer thawed to thirty degrees on Thursday!
  • Comet caught a cold on Christmas!
  • Harry hung holly on the hearth for the holidays.
  • Rudolph ran around wearing a red ribbon.
Can you say them 5x fast?  Merry Christmas from North Shore Pediatric Therapy!

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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

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

Family-Friendly Children’s Gross Motor Activities for Fall

Late-autumn is upon us, however, the cooler weather doesn’t mean your children are out of fun things to do outdoors. Gross motor skills are important for kids to improve upon, no matter their age or activity level.  These skills require engagement of the child’s big muscle groups to improve balance, coordination, and posture. In pre-school age kids, working on gross motor skills builds body awareness, helps them keep up with peers and perform better in school, and motivates them to engage more with others.   Below are some simple activities you can do with your children this season that will give them the opportunity to build their muscles and confidence-minimal equipment needed.

Dance

By dance, I don’t mean reviving your ball-room dancing days or enrolling the kids in ballet (though both are great routes to take).  What I mean is simple…be silly with your kids. Put on their favorite song and make up the moves as you go. There is a reason songs such as Hokey Pokey stayed so popular with toddlers and teachers for so long: they make it fun for kids to learn how their limbs work and how to engage their trunk. Tapping their feet to the beat works on coordination, shifting their weight works on their balance, and wiggling their hips works on their obliques and other parts of their core muscle groups.  Teach your child to skip around the room and she will learn to synchronize her opposite sides and build on her total body coordination. Learning to dance with a partner and imitating big movements will help your child tune into working with others, following directions, and use your child’s large muscles in a not so tiring way. Read more

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.

Social Thinking: Improving Social Skills to Enhance Socio-Emotional Health

What is social thinking?

Social thinking is what we do when we interact with people. For successful social interactions, it is important that the individual take in and process information embedded in both verbal and non-verbal cues and process how to effectively respond based on the context and topic of presented material. Joint attention, knowledge of expectations regarding behavior, and mental flexibility are all key components for appropriate social relationships.

What happens when social skills are impaired?

When a child has difficulty with focus, understanding the context of the environment around them, and lacks knowledge of how their behaviors make others feel, social thinking may be impaired. Social skills deficits can have profound effects on your child’s academic performance, feelings about self, ability to connect with others, and ability to achieve desired wants and needs. Read more

8 Great Apps for Kids with Autism

Parents often ask me if I have suggestions for applications to download on their iPads, iPhones or other devices for their children.  I do!  I have TONS of apps that I use in my work with children with Autism daily.

My 8 favorite apps to use with kids diagnosed with Autism for iPhone/iPad users are the following:

  1. 123 Token Me– This app is a visual token board that can be used for one child (free version) or unlimited children and unlimited behaviors ($9.99).  This app gives you the versatility to choose background color, various token choices, and graphs and visually displays data for you. This is the most motivating token board I have used with my kids because it is interactive.  Also, one of the token options shows a picture of the child, which they all love!
  2. First Then Visual Schedule HD– This app is 2 applications put into one; it is both a visual schedule and a choice board.  It allows you to show the child “first ___, then ____.” with the ability to make choices from a visual field.  It also allows you to make more complex, multiple-step, visual schedules.  It is a bit on the pricey side at $14.99 but totally worth it if your child struggles to make choices verbally or would benefit from a visual schedule.  It is much easier to carry around than a paper schedule or choice board, because you can update it on the fly using the camera function or Google images.
  3. Duck Duck Moose, Inc.- (includes Wheels on the Bus, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Old MacDonald and many more).  All of the Duck Duck Moose apps are a big hit with all the kiddos I work with as they are interactive, the characters move, jump and dance, and they all play familiar kid’s songs.  The apps range in price from free versions up to $3.99 each. Read more

Is My Child Ready for Preschool?

If your child is approaching the preschool years, you may start to wonder if she is ready to begin a preschool program. Many thoughts and concerns may be circling through your mind when contemplating this idea. Rest assured that these concerns are normal. Answer the following questions to help you determine whether your young child is ready for a preschool program.

Questions to Determine Preschool Readiness for Your Child:

  • Is she toilet trained? It is important to consider toilet training when thinking about your child’s readiness to start preschool. Being toilet trained can make the transition to preschool easier and less stressful. Most children in preschool classes are toilet trained and will not be in diapers. This may cause some stress for a child who has not met this milestone. It’s also critical to know that there are some schools with toilet training requirements, so make sure that you have read the information on this topic if you are considering preschool. Read more

Help Your Child Learn to Sequence

Whether we know it or not, we are constantly sequencing throughout the day. As we tie our shoes, we sequence the steps. When we complete a project, we plan the order tasks will be accomplished. As we talk with friends, we organize our thoughts and ideas into a logical order. For some children, however, sequencing can be challenging. 

You might notice your child having difficulty verbally expressing herself. Her ideas might appear fragmented or disconnected. She may leave out important information while including irrelevant details. Or you might notice your child forgetting important steps when completing daily tasks, such as going to the bathroom. She might forget to close the door or flush the toilet. If you find this is a problem for your child, fear not. There are many ways to practice sequencing with your child.

5 fun activities to help your child develop sequence skills at home:

  1. Retell a favorite storybook. Read a book with your child. Afterwards, retell the story together while thinking about three important things that happened. This may be challenging for your child, so simplify it by using pictures as you retell the story. Photocopy pictures from the book (choose just a few important pages as opposed to every page), and have your child tape pictures on the wall in the correct order.
  2. Plan a fun recipe. Plan out the steps you will need to complete the recipe. Based on your child’s age and level, you might write the steps out or draw pictures of each step. After you’ve completed the steps to make the recipe, encourage your child to share it with others. Have her describe how she made it.
  3. Make a scrapbook from a family outing. Plan a fun outing and take pictures throughout the day. Afterwards, have your child put the pictures in the correct order (limit it to 3-5 pictures, depending on your child’s level). Glue each picture in a construction paper book and help your child write a sentence to go with each picture (first…then…etc.). Encourage your child to share her book with others and tell them about her fun day.
  4. Have your child be the “teacher” while you play a game. Choose a favorite board game, and pretend you forgot the rules. Encourage your child to be the “teacher” and tell others how to play. Guide her language by writing or drawing pictures of each step while she explains the rules.
  5. Talk about various sequence concepts. Concepts might include first, then, second, last, before, or after. Line up your child’s stuffed animals and encourage your child to find the animal who is “first.” Or you play “Simon Says” while encouraging your child to follow directions in the correct order (“Simon says first___, then___”).

Most importantly, have fun! The best kind of learning is often when your child doesn’t know she’s learning at all. By choosing fun activities, you can enjoy time with your child while still helping her learn and grow.

Do you want to learn more about sequencing?  Click here to learn about the difference between sequencing and memory.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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The Benefits of Ride-On Toys

Today our guest blogger, Full Throttle Toys, Inc. owner Matt Westfallen, gives us the 411 on benefits of ride-on toys.

Around Chicagoland, summer is in full swing. Along with the extra hours of summer fun and sun comes the worry thatfull throttle our kids are losing the skills they acquired during the school year. Worksheets and flash cards will help, but there is another fun way to help kids with some of the “intangibles” of learning.

When used safely and properly, battery operated, ride-on toys have been proven to provide children with opportunities to practice many early learning skills that are rarely taught in school yet are vital for balanced growth.

Skills that Can Be Developed by Using Ride-On Toys:

  • Gross and Fine Motor Skills: Battery-operated, ride-on toys provide many ways to develop gross and fine motor skills. By operating the vehicle on various types of terrain, opening and closing doors or manipulating the dashboard, children will be using both fine motor skills and gross motor skills.
  • Exercise and Exploration: While playing with a ride-on vehicle toy, not only will children be burning calories, they’ll be outside exploring their world.
  • Sense of Balance: While operating ride-on toys, children will also develop an improved sense of balance. Children who have played with ride-on toys find it easier as they grow older to ride bikes, and to use roller blades and roller skates, because they have learned to distribute their weight while operating vehicles on various surfaces.
  • Spatial Play: It is also important to note that spatial play is stimulated when your children are out exploring the outdoors in a ride-on vehicle. This type of play will improve observation skills and stimulate their imaginations. Read more