5 Everyday Items to Re-Use for Fine Motor Exercise

During the summer, it is important to keep working out your little one’s fingers.  There are plenty of items around your fine motorhouse that you can use to exercise your child’s fine motor muscles.  Below are 5 items that you may have laying around that can be re-purposed into a “digital” gym.

5 items to re-purpose for fine motor exercise:

  1. Take-Out Boxes-Yes, I said take-out boxes.  The aluminum “press-and-close” variety offers a great chance to work your child’s tip pinch (pointer finger and thumb), 3-point pad pinch (pointer finger, middle finger, and thumb), and lateral pinch (“key grip”) muscles. Use these containers to store beads, coins, or other small objects to create a fun musical instrument too!
  2. Clothespins-Have your child use clothespins to transfer small objects from one container to another, to move game pieces, or to hold a blanket-fort together.  Have your child squeeze the clothespin with different finger combinations (listed above) to “up” the challenge.
  3. Balloons-Your child can grip the two ends of a balloon with different fingers as he or she stretches out the balloon.  In addition, pulling a balloon over a faucet to fill water balloons takes a considerable amount of fine motor control, strength, and endurance.
  4.  Spray Bottles-Fill a spray bottle with water, and have your child water plants.  For fun outside, you can also have a “water bottle” fight, or add food coloring to the spray bottle to “paint” a large sheet of paper.
  5. Paper-Have your child fold a sheet of paper to make a paper fan, a paper airplane, a paper hat, or a fun origami animal.  Folding paper requires a lot of fine motor precision and control, as well as visual-motor integration.  In addition, folding paper will help to strengthen your child’s tip-pinch strength and will help build fine motor endurance. Read more

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

How to Handle Fireworks and Your Child’s Sensitivity to Noise

By the time the 4th of July rolls around, summer is in full swing!  Kids spend their days at camp; families spend more timefireworks relaxing, and everyone enjoys spending time outside in the sun. The 4th of July is a fun time to gather friends and family and celebrate with food, games and (of course) fireworks!

While these July 4th traditions bring excitement for many children, there are kids with hypersensitivities who do not look forward to the noisy day. Below are 5 strategies that can help your sensitive child enjoy the day as well.

5 Ways to Help Your Child with Hypersensitivities Enjoy the 4th of July:

  1. Prepare your child for the day by providing them with explanations of where you are going, what you will do there, and what they will hear. This will help them to understand what to expect from the day without being fearful. You can also prepare them for the noise by having a family music night where everyone bangs on pots and pans around the house!
  2. Watch a video, either online or on television, that has fireworks in it.
  3. Bring cotton balls or ear plugs to the fireworks event to help decrease the intensity of the sound.
  4. Ask friends who lives near a local fireworks show if you can watch from their home. Being indoors will also decrease the intensity of the sound.
  5. If your child still won’t have an enjoyable time during fireworks with the above strategies, consider having a babysitter stay home with your kids. She can plan fun holiday games and crafts to celebrate at home.

Have a safe and wonderful 4th of July!

For more ideas on helping your child, click here to read about activities to address your child’s tactile hypersensitivities.
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Navigating the Playground with a 2-Year-Old

Summer is a great time to explore the playground with your child. Playgrounds provide a fun and exciting playground with toddlerenvironment that gets your child outside and active. Children of all ages can enjoy a playground in many different ways.

Read on for specific tips to navigating the playground with a two-year-old:

  • Choose the right time of day to play.  Pick a time of day when peers of a similar age will be at the park. Older kids play differently, and it’s best to have your little one playing with children his own age.
  • Climb the stairs and uneven surfaces. A two-year-old is expected to be able to climb stairs independently and walk over uneven surfaces without losing balance. The park is a great place to practice these skills. If your toddler is a little unsteady on the wobbly bridge, hold their hand to increase confidence.
  • Go down the slide. Depending on your toddler’s confidence and the size of the slide, you can either hold them on the way down, or let them slide down by themselves. Many parks have smaller slides that are good for beginners.
  • Play in the sand. This will help to develop your toddler’s fine motor skills and tactile sensory processing. If you can, try and build a castle or mountain to help develop spatial skills.
  • Ride the spring-animals (the kind you sit on that wobble). This will help improve your child’s balance and strength while having fun!

Parks are a great environment to encourage your kids to get outside and play. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, playgrounds help to foster social skills, build friendships, and support a healthy lifestyle.

Develop Executive Functioning Skills This Summer

Does your pre-teen have difficulty staying on task? Does he become overwhelmed when presented with a long-term project? Does he have a hard time controlling his emotions and behaviors? Is it a constant struggle for him to clean up his room? If so, your child may have difficulty with executive functioning. Executive functioning skills are the executive functionsfundamental brain-based skills required to execute tasks: getting organized, planning, initiating work, staying on task, controlling impulses, and regulating emotions.  These skills provide the foundation that all children need to negotiate the academic, home, and social demands of childhood.

Summertime is a great break from busy schedules overrun by homework, projects, and extracurricular activities, but the decreased structure can cause a child with executive functioning difficulties to lose the skills they have gained during the school year. Research has shown that practice is crucial in the development of executive functioning skills; kids who practice executive skills are not only learning self-management, but also developing the connections in the brain that will support the development of executive skills in later adolescence and adulthood!  Read on for ways to keep your child’s executive functioning skills sharp over summer break.

Tips for developing executive functioning skills all summer:

  • Praise: If you know your child is particularly good at a certain skill (e.g. task initiation), communicate that to your child and encourage him to use it to complete summer tasks.  For example say, “I really like how you got started on your chores before lunch.” This will encourage the maintenance of the particular skill your child has mastered.
  • Calendars: Summer schedules can be vastly different from the rest of the year, so to prevent difficulties with handling the change in schedule, use a calendar.   Calendars are a great visual tool to help a child with time management, planning and prioritizing. It allows him to plan ahead and know what is expected and when.
  • Accountability: Whether your child is participating in sports, dance, or going to camp, have your child be responsible (or partially responsible, depending on age and capability) for his equipment or supplies.  This can help him to maintain his organizational and working memory skills.
  • Summer Cleaning: If your child has difficulty with task initiation and organization in his room, take the time over the summer to organize a different space together (garage, spare closet) so you can problem solve together how to start, what to do, and how to be efficient. This allows your child to practice this daunting task with some guidance from you.   He can then carry this skill over to improve his personal space. You may even find old bins or containers your child can use for his room!
  • Summertime Incentives: Rewards make the effort of learning a skill and the effort of performing a task worthwhile. In the summer, there are a lot of fun activities and more time to do them! Take advantage of this and use these fun activities (extra time on the computer, extra time at the pool, going to a friend’s house) as rewards for the tasks you want your child to complete.

Instead of allowing your child to forget the gains he made in executive functioning skills at school, use the summer to make gains and have fun!  For more help with executive functioning, click below to download your free executive functioning checklist.

 

The Importance of Swimming Skills

Swimming was always one of my favorite activities as a child, which is why so many of my childhood memories from mysummer swimming chicago summers off of school take place at the neighborhood pool or at one of Chicago’s beautiful beaches. Aside from the fact that spending a day at the pool is a fun way to pass the hot days of summer, swimming has many other benefits for your child’s development. Below is a list of the top reasons why learning to swim is so important for your child.

Reasons Swimming Skills are Critical for your Child:

  • Strengthening: Negotiating the water requires your child to use all of her muscles. From her core to her arms and legs, your kid will become stronger while playing against the resistance provided by the water.
  • Coordination: Swimming requires a lot of coordination! While each swimming stroke is different, they all require simultaneous movement from your child’s arms and legs in different directions. As your child learns how to swim using a variety of swimming strokes, she is learning how to coordinate multiple movements from multiple body parts at the same time.
  • Sensory input: Swimming is a great way to get a lot of sensory input. The water itself provides deep pressure input to the whole body. The constant sensation of the water can help to decrease tactile sensitivity that your child may experience out of the water. The water also provides proprioceptive input to the body, which can help your child’s body awareness and the body’s position in space. Lastly, the changing position of your child’s head that is required with swimming provides vestibular input, which will help your child strengthen that sensory input both in and out of the water.
  • Safety: Being able to negotiate the water safely is an extremely important skill for your child to learn. While you can never predict what situation your child may encounter in the water, being able to swim, as well as being able to tread water, is the best way for your child to be prepared in challenging and potentially unsafe  water situations. However, it should be emphasized that no matter how strong of a swimmer your child is, all swimming and play activities around the water should be supervised by an adult.

Happy swimming this summer!

Summer Training for Fall Gaining

As summer begins, summer plans take shape.  Hopefully these plans involve lots of fun and sunshine.  Summer should be an enjoyable and exciting time for all children and their families, but it is important to remember to also focus on children’s growth and development.  Sometimes during the break from school, skills gained in an educational or summer therapytherapeutic setting can be lost.  It is important to remember that summer is a great time to keep working on skill development, therapeutic goals, and preparing each child for the challenges of the upcoming school year.

Research continues to show that consistent and high intensity therapy (two or three times per week) results in faster and better functional outcomes for daily skills.  With a more relaxed schedule, summer is a perfect time to increase therapy intensity and have fun building the skills children will need for the new school year.

Specific areas of focus in the summer to prepare for school:

North Shore Pediatric Therapy wants to help your child gain the confidence and independence to conquer all age appropriate tasks! Summer spots are limited. Call us at 877-486-4140 and let us know how we can best support you and your child!

Tips to Integrate Children with Autism into Day Camp

Camp should be a fun summer experience that all kids can enjoy.  Sending your child to summer camp with new peopleautism and a new routine can be a scary thought for most kids.  The difficulty of this transition is much more pronounced for kids with autism.  There are ways to make this transition easier on kids with autism, so they don’t miss out on this fun, childhood experience.

Tips to transition to a camp setting for kids with autism:

  • Meet the counselors, staff and new teachers before the program begins.
  • Let the counselors, staff and new teachers know to what your child best responds, for example, first/then sentences, praise, or certain words.
  • Explain any “triggers” that may cause your child with autism to have a tantrum.
  • Take a tour of the facilities with your child before you send him for his first day.
  • Show your child a schedule of what his day will look like at camp so he is not surprised.
  • Read your child a social story about camp, following directions, and making friends. Read more

3 Outdoor Activities to Promote Speech & Language Development

Summer is finally here!  Take advantage of this time of year, and enjoy the time outdoors with your child with these 3 speech and languageeasy activities to promote speech and language skills outside.  Remember, learning and development don’t always happen at the table.  In fact, learning and development are often best accomplished in the context of engaging play and multi-sensory activities.  So take the learning outdoors and enjoy spending time with your child in the summer sun!

Outdoor Speech and Language Activities:

  1. Plan a nature scavenger hunt.  Write 10 clues on a brown paper bag (or present the clues verbally if your child is not yet reading), and encourage your child to find each of the 10 items.  For example, a clue might be “I am green, and I grow in the ground” or “I am all different colors, and I smell very good.”  If you live in the city and have limited access to nature items, use a digital camera to capture items on the list.  This activity promotes reading, listening, categorization, and memory. Read more