How to Set Achievable Goals for the New Year

Want to set a New Year’s Resolution that not only sounds good, but is feasible to achieve too? Goal setting is a national past time during this time of year as we reflect on what we have accomplished and what changes we can continue to make as we evolve into the person we strive to be.

The first step to success is to be realistic in terms of size and scope of the goal. No one is saying NOT to shoot for the stars and become bikini ready…just opt for bikini ready for 4th of July and not Spring Break. Setting realistic time frames will prevent a defeated attitude since you are not setting yourself up to fail.

Along with this, you need to identify realistic short-term goals that will help you to master smaller steps on your way to your larger goal. Short-term goals help to modify the long-term goal and reduce overwhelming feelings and increase accountability. For example, if you’re child wants to make a resolution to become more organized, don’t assume that by the time winter break is over they’ll be a wiz.

Create manageable short-term goals to help reach a long-term goal.  For example:

Long term goal: Become more organized Read more

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

How to Make Building a Snowman into a Speech and Language Activity

Winter 2013-2014 has arrived and it has not been afraid to show us who’s boss this year. Snow, wind, ice, and frigid temps have alreadyhow to make building a snowman a speech and language activity graced us with their presence and getting outside is not always enjoyable. While some of us are not exactly fond of the snow, the kids love it! Building a snowman is a great way to enjoy the snow with them while targeting some speech and language goals such as sequencing, categorizing, and basic concepts.

Sequencing

Before going out into the arctic tundra that is Chicago, you can print off this worksheet to talk through, or sequence, the steps of building a snowman.

  • Cut out the pictures and put them in the correct sequence in front of your child. Have him verbalize a sentence or two about the pictures. For example, “First, you roll a big snowball.” You can also give your child verbal models for extra support as needed. Read more

Important Communication Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

With Thanksgiving under our belts, holiday season 2013 is well under way. As we begin to pack for adventures across the country or plan for the arrival of house guests, it is crucial to recognize your expectations for the holidays and identify helpful communication strategies to make time with family the ideal picture of perfection.  Read on for communication tips to enjoy the holidays more fully and and to enhance family relations.

Communication Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season:

1. Recognize your expectations.

We all have our ideas of the most picture-perfect holiday: imagine kids playing nicely by the fire place while mom, dad, and in-laws sip hot chocolate and bask in the peace and serenity present in the household. It is not to say that this can’t happen, but it is important to recognize that this may only be YOUR expectation. Honing in on what you want and asking your in-laws prior to their visit about what THEY want will be critical in feeling satisfied with your holiday. Read more

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

Chicago Holiday Family Activity Guide

Let’s face it, we live in a great city. Chicago is awesome. There are so many things to do, places to go, and people to see, especially around the holiday season! With winter break approaching, your kids might start to get stir crazy. Here is a list of 8 fun activities and events to enjoy with your family in Chicago this holiday season.

Chicago Holiday Family Activities:

1. Free Museum Days
December and Year Round
The holidays are a great time to visit Chicago cultural institutions like the Museum of Science and Industry or The Adler Planetarium.
2. Build Your Own Gingerbread House – Art Institute of Chicago
Saturday, December 15, 11:00 am
The museum provides gingerbread kits, frosting and decorating candy for families to create their own gingerbread house.$50-$60 per family of 4.
3. ZooLights – Lincoln Park Zoo
Now through January 5th
Two million lights adorn the grounds of beautiful Lincoln Park zoo. Activities include ice skating rink, ice-carving demonstrations, kids craft activities and photos with Santa.
4. Winter Wonderfest – Navy Pier
Now through January 12th
Rides, slides, skating, snow bouncer – all indoors! You can also meet Santa, visit the Candy Cane Lighthouse, visit the giant decorated tree, and much, much more! Read more

5 Fun Ways to Build Your Child’s Vocabulary During the Holidays

During the holidays, children are off of school, families are spending time together, the weather is changing, and everyone is eating delicious food! Parents can use this time off as the perfect time to do vocabulary building activities.

5 Fun Vocabulary Building Activities:

  1. Make Lists: Creating a list of items can help increase your child’s vocabulary. If you create lists with your child of grocery items, gifts needed, or even locations, it can help to promote language development and thought organization. Children can begin to associate new words (e.g., stuffing, cranberries, gravy) with the holidays and may be more likely to use these words appropriately.
  2. Words in Context: Targeting and explaining new winter words in context can help to improve your child’s vocabulary. Saying things like, “look at the snowman,” “the icicle is hanging from the tree,” or “look at those children sledding,” will reinforce the new words and encourage usage. When children use new words appropriately praise them, and if necessary model a different use.
  3.  Read Aloud: Reading aloud to your child is extremely beneficial for vocabulary building.  When reading stories, emphasizing and reinforcing new words will enhance vocabulary skills, and asking questions while reading encourages understanding (e.g., what did the Polar Bear see?). If age appropriate, ask your child to retell the story (or part of the story). This will allow him or her to use new vocabulary words in context.
  4. Stress: Exaggerating words or concepts can help children identify information that may be new or unknown. By putting stress on new vocabulary words, children will learn appropriate times to use these important new words. When emphasizing, try changing volume (louder/softer) or even try singing to make word learning more fun!
  5. Get Crafty: Making decorations for your house around the holidays can be a great way to target vocabulary. Your children practice new words with a practical application by making turkey decorations, carving pumpkins, coloring a menorah, making ornaments, or even popsicle picture frames. Hanging and displaying your child’s artwork will not only give them a sense of accomplishment, but will also reinforce new vocabulary words!

Happy Holidays!

Click here to view a copy of our Speech and Language Milestones Infographic!

Steps to Prevent Injury in Youth Sports

Winter is upon us and with it comes a new sports season. As your children prepare for the start of a new season, help ensure  them a season without injury. According to Campbell 2006, “Children need proper physiologic conditioning, strength and flexibility to participate safely in an organized or recreational athletic endeavor” (p 519)[1]. So what does this mean for your children when they’re playing sports?  Read on for tips to keep them injury free.

Tips to Prevent Injury during Kid’s Sports:

  • Proper Warm-Up: Ensure that your child warms up their muscles with a light jog prior to stretching. This ensures that they can get a good stretch, preventing  muscle strains and pulls. Read more

Top Ten Family Friendly Runs in Chicago this 2013 Holiday Season

It’s the holiday season, and the kids will have plenty of time off. Wondering what you can get the kids involved in other than video games and holiday snacking? Surprisingly, Chicagoland has quite a few family-friendly races/walks that will get you and your family moving and off the couch. These fun runs will certainly warm up little bodies and little hearts in the chilly upcoming months.

1. Girls on the Run 5k – November 16th

Girls on the Run-Chicago (GOTRC) is a non-profit organization that teaches girls 8-13 year old important life skills through running activities to encourage positive emotional, social, and physical development.  This annual 5k is not just a run, but a morning full of fun activities, open to the public. If you have a child who can benefit from some encouragement and more involvement in physical activities to build their confidence, or if you want to introduce your child to the fun side of exercise, this is a great event for the whole family.  The runners are not timed, and everyone who crosses the finish line is a winner. Your little runner will get cheers from the crowd throughout the whole race. There will also be face painting and tiara decorating, in addition to a great post-run festival that features food, games and sponsor giveaways! Read more

Encourage Your Child to Try Different Swimming Techniques

Though the Chicago winter months bring cold, snow and gloomy days, swimming continues to be a great activity for the family, albeit girl in poolindoors. Swimming offers many benefits for children, including enhancing sensory processing, strength, endurance and coordination. A common concern among families with whom I work with is that their child does not like dipping their face in the water, which impacts the child’s swimming experience.

These strategies aim to assist parents that are working with their child to feel comfortable with dipping their face in the water during bath time, as practice for the swimming pool:

  1. Play “Simon Says” by indicating different body parts that should dip into the water. For example, “Simon says put your nose in the water” or “Simon says put your ear in the water.”
  2. Blow bubbles in the water using a straw. When your child feels comfortable with this, remove the straw and have them blow bubbles with their lips touching the water.
  3. Soak a washcloth in water and have your child wring it out over various parts of their body (hand, ear, mouth, etc). Allow your child to wring out the washcloth over your body as well.

Try playing these bath time games for several weeks and slowly introduce placing their whole face into the water. These activities will help your child feel more comfortable with putting their face in the water, one body part at a time.