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Executive Functioning Activities At Home

Many kids have difficulty mastering skills such as problem-solving, organization, sequencing, initiation, memory, attention, and breaking downgirl with homework books tasks.  These skills (and many more) fall under the category of executive functioning.  As children get older and begin middle school, these skills are expected to advance quickly.  It is usually in about 5th grade where teachers and parents start to notice their child may be having more difficulty than her peers in executive functioning skills. Academic specialists, occupational therapists, and neuropsychologists are just a few of the professionals who address challenges in these areas, but there are also a variety of activities that can be done at home that are both fun and target the development of certain executive functioning skills.

Here is a list of activities that build certain aspects of executive functioning and are fairly easy to orchestrate in the home:

  • Using Playdoh, blocks, or Tinkertoys, build a figurine and have your child build an exact replica in size and color.  This works on multiple skills, including initiation, breaking down tasks, sequencing, organization, and attention.  If you are unable to build an example, or if you have an older child who enjoys playing independently, there are often pictures of structures to build that come along with block sets or images online that can be printed.
  • Have your child go through a magazine and make a list of all the toys/items wanted. Then, have her organize the list in some sort of order (most wanted at the top, alphabetical, price, etc.).  For older kids, you could also have them write a description of the item, cut the pictures out, and type up a list with descriptions and pasted pictures, or even plan a presentation.
  • There are many board games that target executive functioning skill development.  A few of the games used in the therapeutic setting that would be easy and fun options for home use include: Rush Hour (a problem-solving and sequencing game involving getting a specific car out of a traffic jam when the other vehicles can only move in straight lines), Mastermind (trying to determine what the secret code is by process of elimination), and Connect 4 Stackers (a game of attention, organization, and planning to be the first to get four in a row, like the original, but this game involves different dimensions).
  • There are many resources that can be printed from the internet. Logic puzzles come in many different levels of difficulty and involve taking given clues, making inferences from those clues, and eventually solving some sort of problem through the use of the clues. There are often charts that accompany these puzzles and require attention, organization, sequencing and problem-solving.
  • Have your child choose a recipe from a magazine. After verifying that it is a realistic recipe that can be made in your home, have her write a grocery list containing everything needed to prepare that dish, create a list of the necessary cooking supplies, and for older children, have them look up the price of each item at the store and create an estimated budget. If possible, let them be part of the entire process, and take them with you to the grocery store. Again, with older children, you could even put them in charge of pushing the cart and finding the items in the store. For older kids, they may also act as the “head chef” and be responsible for completing most of the cooking. For younger kids, if there are safety concerns, assign specific tasks as their job in the cooking process.

One of the most important aspects of doing therapeutic activities at home is that your child is having fun. These are just a few of the many activities that can be done at home to develop executive functioning skills and are also engaging and enjoyable for school age kids.




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Top 5 Reasons Why Your Child Should Practice Mazes at Home

Mazes are a huge hit with therapists and children alike!  While mazes are lots of fun and provide a sufficient challenge for children, they also help therapists to address a variety of skills within your child’s therapy session.  Mazes can be taped to a wall at your child’s eye-level so that he can work on a vertical surface.  This mimics a chalkboard or an easel board and promotes wrist extension and copying from a board (like in a classroom).

Mouse and cheese maze

Below are several reasons to practice mazes with your child at home:

  • Problem solving:  Mazes help your child to work on his executive functioning skills, such as planning and brainstorming various strategies (e.g. starting from the beginning of the maze or working backwards from the end of maze).
  • Fine motor control:  Mazes require your child to control his pencil through the maze without hitting the black lines. This means that he must take his time rather than rushing, in order to have greater success.  Progress can be observed as your child bumps into the black lines less and less as he gains greater control of his writing utensil.  Children use fine motor control in order to produce correct letter formation and legible handwriting.
  • Visual motor:  Mazes require your child to use his eyes to scan the worksheet in order to find possible solutions.  Scanning is a great skill used for reading and writing, as it is important to scan from the left side of the paper to the right side.
  • Grading of an activity:  Mazes can be broken down into different steps.  For instance, first have your child start by moving his finger, next a pencil, then a marker through the maze.  This helps your child to solve the same maze three times consecutively, which allows the skill to sink-in better.
  • Confidence:  Mazes are perfect fine motor activities to help boost your child’s confidence.  Have your child begin with a simple maze to provide immediate success, and then have him work towards completing mazes of increased difficulty.

Fine motor and visual motor skills can be practiced in a wide variety of ways, including mazes.  Mazes are a great way to work on handwriting without just writing letters and words. There are many websites that offer free printable maze worksheets for a variety of age levels and themes.  An internet search such as, “simple mazes for 4-year-olds,” will produce a variety of mazes and printable activities that are perfect for practicing these important skills at home!

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How to Determine if a Child Has Executive Functioning Difficulties | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric neuropsychologist explains ways to tell if a child struggles with executive functioning.  Click here to download a FREE checklist on Executive Functioning Signs by age!

In this video you will learn:

  • What factors the child struggles with daily
  • How executive functioning issues start at home
  • What a child needs help with when they suffer from executive functioning

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now, your host, here’s
Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman, and today I’m sitting here with Dr. Greg Stasi, a Pediatric
Neuropsychologist. Doctor, can you give us some tips on how to identify if
a child needs help with executive functioning?

Dr. Greg: Of course. When we talk about executive functioning, we’re
talking about a child who struggles with organization, initiation on tasks,
problem solving, cognitive flexibility. This is a child where the morning
routine is going to be extremely difficult. They can’t follow through on
tasks. The parent has to follow through constantly to get them out the door
in the morning. It’s a child who starts projects at the last minute,
Sunday evening, when a project is due Monday morning. If we’re seeing the
child not be able to develop strategies on how to complete homework
assignments and if the child gets frustrated easily, those are all symptoms
and characteristics of what we’d expect in a child with an executive
functioning issue.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much, and thank you to our viewers.
And remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind
to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to
our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at
learnmore.me. That’s learnmore.me.

Differences and Similarities Between Occupational and Physical Therapy | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric occupational therapist explains ways to distinguish between occupational and physical therapy and how they are similar.

In this video you will learn:

  • To determine the differences between physical and occupational therapy
  • How the two disciplines are alike
  • What types of therapies are used for the different disciplines

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now your host, here’s Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman, and I’m standing here with Lindsay Miller, a Pediatric
Occupational Therapist. Lindsay, people are often confused between physical
therapy and occupational therapy. Can you explain with the differences and
similarities are between OT and PT?

Lindsay: Sure. With occupational therapy, we usually work on independence
with self-care skills, and these are skills like dressing and bathing. We
also work a lot on fine motor skills as well. So that’s any sort of
movement using your hands and fingers like writing, coloring, using
scissors, using a fork and knife, those types of things. Traditionally,
physical therapists work on mobility, so that’s walking, running, jumping,
and other gross motor tasks that use the larger muscles of the body. In the
pediatric realm, occupational therapists also work on executive functioning
skills, so those are our thinking skills and our thinking processes, and we
also work on sensory processing as well, so that’s how children react
emotionally and behaviorally to their environment and their surroundings.
In the pediatric world, physical therapists also work a lot on mobility
again and also gross motor development. So that’s, can your child crawl and
can they get themself up into standing and those sorts of things.

Some of the similarities are that occupational and physical therapy both
can look at muscle strength, flexibility, range of motion, and muscle tone,
but the biggest difference is really how we look at those things and in
what context. So occupational therapists look at those muscle strength and
flexibility and those types of things and how they affect functioning and
daily life whereas physical therapists look at those things and how it
affects mobility and gross motor skills. So overall, there is some overlap
between occupational and physical therapy, but the biggest difference is
really how they look at it in terms of functioning.

Robyn: All right. Thank you so much, Lindsay, and thank you to our viewers.
And remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind
to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to
our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at
learnmore.me. That’s learnmore.me.