Winter Holiday Activities for Children With or Without Sensory Processing Disorder

Play is the occupation of children. Through the action of playing, children are able to develop themselves as well as explore the worldChildren building a snowman around them. Sensory integration is a process that automatically occurs in most individuals, such as when everything we see, hear and feel makes sense to us. Some individuals have a difficult time in processing sensory information. Sensory integration provides the groundwork for developing better physical, academic and social skills. Four aspects of sensory integration as well as activities to enhance them are listed below:

The touch sense involves the tactile system. It is defined as a sensation that is derived from stimulation to the skin. Through this system, we learn about various textures, shapes and sizes. We are able to differentiate between soft and rough, sharp and dull and small and big sensations. The sense of touch offers feedback, allowing us to utilize a pencil, button a shirt or even zip a jacket.

Holiday activities that are able to aid the tactile system:

  • Finger paint with Christmas/holiday colors
  • Create gingerbread men ornaments or cookies
  • Snow play
  • Snow angels on the carpet
  • Decorate the Christmas tree
  • Play with Christmas/holiday-colored play dough

The gravity and movement sense involves the vestibular system. It is defined as a sensation that is derived from stimulation to the vestibular mechanism found in the inner ear that occurs through both movement and position of the head. This system contributes to posture and the maintenance of a stable visual field. When we close our eyes while riding on a roller coaster, we are aware that we are moving as well as the position of our body.

Holiday activities that help better develop the vestibular system:

  • Ice skating
  • Sleigh rides
  • Sledding
  • Passing snow balls overhead or through legs
  • Lying on the couch with head upside down
  • Watching a holiday-themed movie
  • Toy soldier marching.

The body position sense involves the proprioceptive system. It is defined as a sensation that is derived from movement, muscle and joint perception. We are aware of what items we are holding in our hands with our vision obstructed. Children must be aware of how far to flex and extend their upper and lower limbs so that they are able to climb the playground or to hold a utensil.

Holiday activities that are able to enhance the proprioceptive system:

  • Making a snowman
  • Making snow angels in the snow
  • Digging snow tunnels
  • Rolling out cookie dough
  • Shaking a heavy snow globe.

Many of the activities that help establish the tactile, vestibular and proprioceptive systems will also aid in the development of motor skills. This process is called praxis. It is the ability of the brain to conceive of, organize and carry out a sequence of unfamiliar actions. When we were initially taugt how to climb a ladder or ride a bike, we had to think about how to determine our movements.

Holiday activities that help improve praxis:

  • Constructional toys, such as holiday-themed Legos or making a gingerbread house
  • Making winter holiday cooking recipes
  • Coloring and cutting shapes for a winter holiday picture
  • Creating an obstacle course in the snow to crawl under, over, through, etc.


Finding a Gift that Has Therapeutic Value

When buying presents for kids these days, it may be difficult to find a toy or game in which the value will last longer than the amount ofscience project time it takes to unwrap it. It can also be challenging to find a gift that will remain valuable throughout any of the “fads” and “trends.” With that said, below are some gift ideas that are sure to please your kids, keep them engaged as well as have added therapeutic value:

Board Games With A Therapeutic Value:

  • Hulabaloo is a game that incorporates auditory processing, visual scanning, following directions, gross motor skills and motor planning. It’s great for pre-school and early elementary-aged children and can be played with one child or a group.
  • Cat and the Hat-I Can Do That is a game that incorporates sequencing skills, following directions, gross motor skills and motor planning. This game can be played with children of all ages as it offers motor challenges that involve props.

Art Supplies With A Therapeutic Value:

  • Color by number activities are excellent for children that need to modify their fine motor skills, visual motor and executive functioning skills (planning, initiation, attention and organizing). This is a way to provide more structure to a coloring task as well as adding expectations.
  • Craft projects, such as beading kits, painting and pre-made wooden structures (mailbox, picture frames, tool boxes, etc). These can promote executive functioning skills, such as following written directions, planning, initiation, sequencing, and organization as well as fine motor skills. These activities can also be modified to incorporate sensory experiences.
  • Lite Brite is an activity that promotes fine motor skill development as well as attention, sequencing and organization. This activity may also be motivating as children are able to witness the progression of the design as it takes shape. This will allow for longer engagement in the activity.
  • Science Experiments/Kits are great gifts for children of all ages as they cover so various therapeutic areas. Activity kits, such a building a volcano, require many executive functioning skills and they often incorporate sensory components and fine motor skills that are both intriguing as well as interesting to many children.

Puzzles and Puzzle books With A Therapeutic Value:

  • Jigsaw puzzles are a great way to incorporate fine motor, visual motor and visual perceptual skills into a fun activity for children of any age. For older children, puzzles with 3-D images can increase the difficulty.
  • Word Searches and other similar puzzles in a puzzle book require many executive functioning skills, including problem-solving, sequencing and organization of thoughts and information. Many of these puzzles also incorporate visual skills, such as visual scanning. These books can be found for children as young as kindergarten through adulthood.

These are just a few gift ideas for children that may offer therapeutic value as well as the “fun factor.” When considering a gift for a specific child, think about their interests, but also keep in mind of the activities or experiences that they generally avoid as these are often the most challenging for them and the activities they need to pay attention to most. By selecting a game that incorporates challenging experiences as well as skills, you will be buying a gift that both the child and parents will enjoy.


The Benefits of Fort Building

When it is chilly outside or on a rainy spring day it can be easy to run out of indoor play ideas for your children. A great activity which is often forgotten is fort building. This activity helps to facilitate development of many important skills for building a fort

 Benefits of Indoor Fort Building for Kids

  • Planning: deciding the materials to use and a plan for how to build the fort
  • Problem solving skills are required to build the fort and fix it if it falls apart
  • Teamwork if made with siblings or friends
  • Facilitates creative and imaginary play
  • Small spaces can facilitate a calming/regulating effect for some children
  • Improve core and upper extremity strength: create an obstacle course through the fort or play a game/read stories while laying on their stomach inside the fort

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Winter Activities To Help Your Child With Gross Motor Coordination

Do Winter Blues have your Child down? Are they tired of being trapped in doors to escape the cold outside? Do they miss playing outside as they did in the days of summer?

Good news! Below are ideas of how to beat the winter blues by engaging in heavy work activities in the snow!child carrying sled

Heavy work activities provide children with proprioceptive and vestibular sensory input, while also increasing attention , focus, postural stability and gross motor coordination.

Heavy work in preparation for the snow:

  1. Have your child gather coats, scarves, and gloves into a basket for the entire family. They can then “deliver” the items to each family member by pulling the basket around the house.
  2. Ask your child, to help carry out any equipment; sleds, shovels, etc.

Heavy work activities in the snow:

  1. Build a snow man! Start with a small ball of snow and roll it around to make it bigger. Help your child lift the giant snow balls to build the snowman.
  2. Make snow angels. Lay on the ground with arms and legs extended, while moving them into your body and away over and over. Stand up and admire your angel!
  3. Draw in the snow using arms and legs. Practice letters, numbers, shapes, or even play a game of tic-tac-toe.
  4. Shovel the side walks together.
  5. Log roll races. Lay on the ground with legs straight and arms reaching straight over your head and roll!
  6. Sledding down a hill or pulling each other on a sled
  7. Build a snow fort. Using snow, build a fort using shovels, buckets, etc.
  8. Snow ball fight. Gather and make snowballs, then have playful snowball fight with entire family

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Moving the Fun Indoors: Encouraging Your Child’s Speech & Language Skills During Winter Weather

Along with this new year came a fresh coat of snow, marking the start of another Chicago winter. It’s official: the time has come to move play indoors (except for an occasional snowman!) and find creative ways to keep our kids entertained and busy inside the house. But don’t stress, the fun is certainly not over! Enjoy these 10 activities to encourage your child’s speech and language development while playing indoors.

10 indoor activities to encourage speech and language skills:

1. Play a board game. Board games are loaded with language-rich opportunities, from learning to take-turns, to matching, counting, listening, labeling, describing, and family playing board gameanswering questions. For specific game ideas, visit retail or manufacturer websites which often list games by age level.

2. Make an obstacle course. Turn your couch cushions into a tunnel, and pillows into a bridge to create various obstacles for your child to pass through. Give your child verbal directions to complete the obstacle course (e.g. first crawl under the table like a crab, then slither through the tunnel like a snake, and last hop onto the pillow like a rabbit!).

3. Read a book. Encourage your child’s interest in reading, by planning a weekly trip to the library. Let your child participate in choosing new books to read each week. For more information about reading to your child, visit this previous blog: Encouraging Language Development While Reading To Your Child.

4. Make an edible craft. Crafts are filled with opportunities to listen to and use language, from following directions, to describing each step, to sharing the finished product with loved ones. For edible craft ideas, visit this post: 5 Favorite Edible Crafts for Kids and How to Encourage Language During Snack Time.

5. Plan a play-date. Peer-interactions provide countless opportunities for your child to develop social skills such as turn-taking, sharing, pretend play, negotiating, and problem solving. For more ideas about planning a play-date, visit the blog: Building Social Skills Through Play Dates.

6. Choose a new craft. Crafts are a fun and motivating context to practice language skills, from learning new vocabulary, to following directions, sequencing steps, and using language to describe. The internet has many creative and free craft ideas that can easily be made at home! A few favorites include: and

7. Create a scavenger hunt. Scavenger hunts are filled with both learning opportunities and fun. Give your child clues about objects to hunt for and where they might be hidden (e.g. it’s something cold and sweet, it lives in a room where we eat food). You might even let your child be “the teacher” and give you clues.

8. Play Simon Says. There’s good reason this game has been around for so long: it’s simple, silly, and fun. Simon says provides opportunities to listen to spoken language and follow directions.

9. Make believe. Don’t underestimate the value in simply engaging your child in pretend-play activities. Pull a few toys off the shelves, and have fun pretending. Whether pretend foods, dress up clothes, or a doll house, make-believe play encourages the development of symbolism, representational thought, ideation, creativity, language use, and cooperation.

10. Build a fort. Brainstorm together things you might need (e.g. a chair, blankets, a jump rope, pillow, etc.) to make a fort. Problem-solve how you will build it, and where it should go. This activity is not only fun, but it provides opportunities to follow directions, problem solve, sequence, and describe.

Input from our readers:

Last but not least, what are your favorite winter activities? Please leave a comment below with your family’s favorite ways to enjoy time indoors during the winter months… we’d love to hear from you!


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5 Developmental Benefits of Arts and Crafts

Kids love doing a variety of arts and crafts as an outlet to be creative and have some fun! Little do they know that it is so good for their development as well! Arts and Crafts Blog

5 Benefits of Arts and Crafts:

  1. Bilateral Coordination – Crafts such as coloring, drawing, cutting, all require your child to use both of their hands together. This skill is important in other areas including writing, tying shoes, typing and much more!
  2. Fine Motor Coordination – In order to draw shapes, cut patterns, and write, your child is required to use their fine motor coordination. These skills similarly translate to other areas of their lives including dressing and eating.
  3. Self Regulation – Crafts that require drying require waiting! This is a great lesson for your child to demonstrate self control and patience. Also, things might not go exactly as we hoped! Crafts are a great way to promote flexibility in your child. There is no right or wrong way in exploring one’s own creativity!
  4. Self-esteem Booster – Although we want to challenge our kids, it is also important to initially choose arts and crafts that are at your child’s skill level. Completing the crafts successfully will give them a great sense of accomplishment and pride. As you and your child begin to explore more crafts, you can add in more and more challenges.
  5. Bonding and Fun – Your kids will love spending time with you and creating something together!

Great craft ideas to do with your kids this winter season:

Snow Flakes

  • Start with tracing a circle on your favorite color construction paper
  • Cut out the circle
  • Fold the circle in half 3 times
  • Draw shapes from the edges with a pencil
  • Use scissors to cut along the designs
  • Carefully open your circle
Cotton Ball Snowman
  • Use glue to make three circles for the outline of your snow man. Fill in each circle with glue completely
  • Stick cotton balls in the glue circles to form your snowman
  • You can make this more of a challenge by using chopsticks, small tongs, or tweezers to pick up and place the cotton balls
  • Be creative and give your snow man a face and accessories (gloves, hat, etc.)
  • Colored glue
  • Googly eyes
  • Pipe cleaner
  • Felt

Cards for Friends and Family

  • Fold a piece of construction paper in half and decorate
  • Write your message in pencil and have your child trace
  • Attach a picture of your child
  • Use holiday inspired stencils and have your child trace onto the card
  • Use a variety of materials; markers, paint, colored glue, glitter, beads, scrap paper, magazines, buttons, and much much more!

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!


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


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!

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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!

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