Tag Archive for: holidays

Picky Eater’s Guide to Thanksgiving

Ahhh, Thanksgiving. For some kids, it’s their favorite meal that comes just once a year! For others, they may dread the sticky mashed potatoes that get plopped on their plate or the smell of Aunt Cathy’s green bean casserole. Preparing your picky eater for this time of year might help you avoid the epic battle you fear is coming!

Here are 5 tips to help this time of year be fun and festive, not frustrating and frightful for a picky eater:

  1. Exposure!- Don’t let the Thanksgiving meal be the first time your picky eater sees all the new foods. Thanksgiving foods are not commonly seen throughout the year and can add stress to an already overwhelming situation. In the weeks leading up to the big meal, try to incorporate one or two Thanksgiving-type foods a week into your family meals or snack time. Even if they don’t want to eat it, they can touch it, smell it, play with it, and talk about it!
  2. Encourage your child to be your sous chef– Incorporating your picky eater into the cooking and creating of meals gives them a varied sensory experience, even if it’s a food they’ve never had (or have tried and disliked). This way, they get to see and feel the ingredients, use spoons and mixers to combine it all, and smell the final product, and feel accomplished for helping!
  3. Let your child choose something to make- Allowing your child to choose a menu item guarantees they will have something they like! Macaroni and cheese, mozzarella stick appetizers, chocolate chip cookies, or homemade rolls may be some favorites.
  4. Bring sauce!- Sauces and dressings can be the key to kids eating new or less-preferred foods. Even if you’re not hosting, bring it with you. If they love barbecue sauce, put a small bowl next to their plate and let them add it to whatever they want!
  5. When in doubt…bring foods they like– If you’re going to someone’s house where you have little to no control as to what is served, you can always bring a few healthy foods you know your child likes. You can re-heat it when the other food is served, and explain to the host that your kiddo doesn’t even eat your cooking to avoid any offense. Just prepare for all of the other kids to be jealous!


NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Deerfield, and Des Plaines! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Sensory Tips for Crowded Holiday Spaces

The holidays are a festive, fun and exciting time to celebrate with family and friends; however, they also bring about a plethora of sensory stimuli everywhere you go! Between the sights, sounds, smells and crowds our senses are overloaded with the spirit of the holiday season. For some people, particularly children with sensory processing difficulties, this time of year can cause stress, anxiety and uneasiness. blog-holiday-sensory tips-main-landscape

In addition to increased environmental stimuli around the holidays, typical routines are thrown off due to breaks from school and travel plans. Children with sensory processing difficulties benefit from a schedule that is predictable, so they know exactly what to expect and how to plan for new or different sensory experiences.

Below are 8 sensory tips to help make the holidays and crowded holiday spaces more enjoyable for your whole family:

  1. Prepare your child for the various events that he will experience over the holidays including specific parties, shopping events or travel. Give explanations of where you are going, what you will do there, what he may see, hear or smell. This will help him to know what to expect at these different places without being worried.
  2. Practice! Before going to various holiday events or places, practice. Stop by the mall with your child for a few minutes a few times before the holiday season, spend time at family or friend’s houses that will be visited over the holidays or visit the airport a few times ahead of your travel day. Giving your child an opportunity to experience these places when they are not as crowded will help him be successful during the busy times.
  3. Use a visual calendar that identifies daily activities over the holidays so your child feels comfortable with their winter break routine. Review each day’s events prior to leaving the house, so your child can better prepare himself for what to expect.
  4. Review pictures or videos from the previous year’s holiday events to remind your child of the sights, sounds, smells and crowds he will experience.
  5. Be prepared! During over stimulating situations your child may benefit from sensory strategies such as headphones, ear plugs, sunglasses, weighted objects or a favorite toy. Be sure to be prepared with these items during crowded holiday events. These strategies will help decrease the intensity of environmental stimuli.
  6. Be proactive! If you see your child becoming upset or overstimulated, find a place to take a break from the situation (bathroom, car, quiet hallway) and help him calm down.
  7. Arm your child with strategies ahead of time to help him through a situation where he feels he is becoming upset or overwhelmed. Strategies such as deep breathing or counting to 10 may help decrease anxiety. Encourage your child to let you know when he feels he needs a break.
  8. Talk to family members and friends about the difficulties your child may have and educate them on how they can help.

Have a wonderful holiday season!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!


Plan Ahead this Easter and Passover For Your Special Needs Child

Easter and Passover are special times during the year in which friends and families get together for a form of celebration. For many easter and passover families, these are happy times in which the event is eagerly anticipated; however, for families with children who have special needs, this can serve as a time of increased stress and potentially fear. These parents often worry about how their children will behave and react to these situations.

Below are some helpful tips that parents may utilize to make the special occasion as stress-free as possible:

  • Let the host know in advance what to expect and what behaviors the child may display. If the host has children, provide information in a kid-friendly manner so that they will be prepared.
  • Prepare your child by creating a social story or script in which the day’s events are planned and sorted out. Utilize visual schedules to help reinforce the child about what the day will look like.
  • Pick battles. Many children with sensory needs will refuse to wear a suit or dress. Plan ahead basics, such as clothing.
  • Set a time limit to the visit. If you know your child is unable to handle social situations or environments in which there is a high amount of action for more than an hour, plan on leaving within an hour of arriving. If you, as a parent, want to stay longer, anticipate this and have a babysitter or caregiver prepared to pick up the child.

Family get-togethers and religious celebrations do not necessarily need to be a fearful or anxiety-provoking event. Remember, you know your child best. If you believe that the situation may be problematic, it most likely will. Anticipate this and create strategies to ensure success for more enjoyable events

Happy Easter and Happy Passover!

6 Fine Motor Toys

When your child has challenges in some domain of their development, you may have questions as to what toys you should purchase art easel that will captivate your child’s creativity, allow for hours of good fun and facilitate the opportunity for your child to expand their skills.

Below is a list of toys that may enhance your child’s fine motor development this holiday season:

  1. An Easel: Easels are frequently used throughout the therapy gym to enhance fine motor skills. Their inverted plane helps your child stabilize their wrist in the correct position while completing fine motor tasks. Allow your child to exercise their creative side by coloring, drawing and writing with paint, markers, crayons and colored pencils.
  2. Piano Keyboard: Keyboards are an excellent way for your child to solidify their ability to isolate finger movements. This fine motor movement pattern is important for your child as they learn to complete self-care tasks and as they learn to manipulate their pencil. Provide your child with a workbook to teach them some of the basics of
    keyboarding skills. Simple songs to begin playing include “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “Twinkle, Twinkle.”
  3. Mr. Bucket Game: This game is a wonderful way to work on turning your child’s wrist to the sky and to the floor as well as utensil manipulation.
  4. Operation: Gather around the table to see who has the steadiest of hands in this hilarious family board game. Children of all ages can work to improve their hand strength and fine motor precision while using tweezers to remove silly game pieces from the body of their “patient.” Don’t get too close to the sides or you’ll hear a big “buzz!”
  5. Scramble: This game will allow your child to practice their fine pincer grasp as they race time to fit all of the pieces into the game board before the timer runs out. As an added bonus, it gives your child the opportunity to practice their ability to visually discriminate between shapes.
  6. Wipe Clean Board Book: This booklet allows your child to become the teacher while practicing their letters and numbers on a dry erase board. These boards offer the opportunity for a great number of repetitions while first learning to write. These repetitions will lead to improved overall fine motor control and letter formation at school as well as on paper!

These are just a few examples of games and toys that could be used to enhance your child’s fine motor development. For additional examples, feel free to ask your skilled occupational therapist. Happy Holidays!


Decorating for Christmas | 5 Activities to Improve Handwriting Skills

All children may benefit from exercising their fine motor muscles. Fine motor skills (coordination, grasping, precision) as well as fine stringing ornamentsmotor strength and endurance are strongly associated with handwriting legibility, endurance and speed. Additional skills, such as bilateral coordination, visual-motor integration (eye-hand coordination) and manual dexterity (manipulation speed) contribute to producing legible writing as well. Legible handwriting, of course, is pertinent in order to successfully complete written schoolwork and assignments. The holidays offer a plethora of opportunities to exercise little hands—here are just a few!

Holiday Activities To Improve Handwriting Skills:

  • Stringing popcorn—this activity can strengthen your child’s fine pincher grasp abilities and improve bilateral coordination—both of which are vital skills for handwriting. If your child is too young to use a needle, have him or her string holiday colored beads onto a shoelace to add a bit of homemade flair to your tree. This will also provide a finger flexion frenzy for your child.
  • Stringing ribbon or hooks onto ornaments—This activity requires a significant amount of visual motor coordination as well as fine motor control. Use ribbon to increase the difficulty—tying the string in a knot requires additional fine motor control, bilateral coordination and visual-motor control. In order to work on manipulation speed, make this into a game and see who can string the fastest!
  • Hanging ornaments on the tree—this activity requires your child’s visual and motor systems to cooperate together in order to successfully place an ornament on the desired branch. You may provide verbal directions to your child, such as “hang this ornament on the branch that is below the yellow light and above the green bulb ornament” in order to work on visual perception as well as discrimination skills!
  • Replacing light bulbs on light strings—this activity requires fine motor control and strength to grip the light-bulb (various sizes may be appropriate—the smaller the bulb, the more difficult it is to grip!) and twist it into place. It’s also fun to watch the lights pop on when all of the new bulbs are in place!
  • Wrapping presents—Wrapping is an activity that requires a lot of fine motor precision (correctly folding the paper and fine motor endurance) holding the paper in place for taping. In addition, wrapping requires bilateral coordination (cutting the paper and working with both hands to hold the paper down and tape). You may increase the difficulty of the activity by having your child tie ribbons on the package and work with two hands to curl the ribbon with scissors or peel the backing off of stick-on bows (which requires a lot of control). The gifts may not look perfect, but with the assistance of your little elves, you’ll have them wrapped in no time at all!

There is a wide selection of activities that you’re already planning on doing for the holidays that can help to fine-tune your child’s individual muscles. Not only are these activities fun, but your child will always remember how she helped you decorate the tree—memories in the making. Happy Decorating!


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.


Holiday Shopping: How to Choose Developmentally Appropriate Toys for Your Child

The holidays are approaching rather quickly and most parents are hoping to not only get their children gifts that will make them happyholiday gifts for kids and excited, but gifts that will help them to learn and grow as well. It can definitely be challenging to not only find a toy or game that you feel your child will like, but that you as a parent will approve of as well due to the skills it addresses. Fortunately, certain stores have created special catalogs and websites to help sort toys by categories and skills. For example, Toys R Us has featured categories on the ‘Differently-Abled Kids’ portion of their website, such as Auditory, Fine Motor, Gross Motor, Social Skills and Tactile. It is important to use these resources to your advantage. Such resources are not only for children with skill deficits, but they also help you, as a parent, to look at games in a functional and educational manner. Below are some examples to give you an idea. It should also be noted that many of the games that are listed below are specific games that we use as occupational therapists, speech language pathologists and social workers within our daily treatment sessions to work on a variety of goals.

Fine Motor Skills Toys:

  • Easel (e.g. Crayola Magnetic Double-Sided Easel)
  • LEGOs
  • Angry Birds Knock on Wood Game
  • Connect 4 Launchers
  • Hungry Hungry Hippos
  • Mega Bloks Build ‘n Create

Gross Motor Skills Toys:

  • Scooter (e.g. Radio Flyer My First Sport Scooter)
  • Mini Trampoline (e.g. JumpSmart Trampoline)
  • Wagon
  • I Can Do That! Games- The Cat in the Hat

Auditory Skills Toys:

  • Bop It! Reaction Game
  • Melissa & Doug Sound Puzzles
  • Musical Instruments (e.g. Casio Key Light Up Keyboard)
  • Barbie Voice Change Boombox

Thinking Skills Toys:

  • Headbanz
  • Scrabble Flash Game
  • Train set (e.g. Chuggington Wood Beginners Set)
  • FAO Schwarz Big World Map

Overall, it is crucial for parents to keep in mind that while new technology is impressive, traditional board games as well as hands-on toys continue to be an ideal way for children to work on a variety of skills and allow them to explore their environment and pursue their own interests. It is exciting to think that your child will gain so many new skills just from playing one of the games listed above with friends and family. Stay tuned for my next blog on a more detailed breakdown of many of these toys. Happy shopping!


‘Tis the Season to Teach your Children to Give

During the holiday season, it is easy for children to get caught up in the “give me” or “I want” moments. It’s entirely natural for them toDonating with Kids be focused on the excitement of presents that come along with the holidays, but this can also be a time to illustrate the joy of not only receiving, but giving as well. Taking the time to demonstrate and teach your children the true meaning of the season will allow them to discover the personal satisfaction that comes along with getting involved and helping others.

Ways for your child to give:

  • Give Clothes. Have your children look through their closets and dresser drawers to find gently-used clothes that they no longer wear or do not fit into anymore. Give these clothes to organizations, such as Goodwill, the Salvation Army or other local thrift stores. Discuss with your children about how the winter season can leave many people cold and in need of warm clothes and blankets. Every little item that your child gives is helpful.
  • Give Toys. Have your children collect their toys, books and stuffed animals that they no longer play with. Although your son or daughter is looking forward to receiving new presents this holiday, there are many children that are not as fortunate. Help your children see that a beloved toy that once gave them so much joy can now bring happiness to another young boy or girl. These items can also be given to places such as a local children’s home, Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
  • Give Food. Your children as well as yourself can go through the pantry and kitchen cabinets to find different canned foods and boxed food items that you can give to a local shelter. If you have older children, consider taking them directly to the pantry and helping unload the food and stock the shelves. Holidays are a wonderful time for feasting and over-indulging; use this opportunity to demonstrate the need not only throughout the world, but also close to home.
  • Give Time. Your children can give some of their time to help elderly neighbors or family members with decorating for the holidays, wrapping presents, shoveling snow or other projects/tasks throughout the house. Older children can also give their time by volunteering at organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, soup kitchens, making meals for Ronald McDonald’s House or animal shelters. Speak with your children and allow them to take ownership in deciding on how and where they think they can help by using their talents to brighten someone’s day.
  • Give Holiday Cards and Crafts. Have your children create holiday cards and crafts. You and your children can deliver the holiday cards and crafts to a local nursing home or children’s hospital. Show your son or daughter that a “gift” doesn’t necessarily have to cost a lot of money in order to be appreciated. No matter the cost of a gift or if the gift is purchased from a store, the best presents are those that come from the heart.
  • Give Money. You and your children can choose an organization that you would like to donate money to. Selecting an organization that grows and provides food for families, saves endangered animals, builds homes for families or no kill animal shelters are just a few organizations that you may donate to. Deciding on an organization that is close to your family’s heart will help make the gesture more meaningful.

We are all guilty of losing sight of the true meaning of the holiday season. Use this time to teach your children that it is more important to give than just receive. Volunteering and donating as a family is a wonderful bonding experience as well as a way to demonstrate the importance of helping others. It does not take much to spread the holiday spirit. Remind our children that the holidays are so much more than getting the latest toy or video game. With commitment, these are qualities and traits that your children will begin to demonstrate all year long.


Holiday Giving Without Spoiling Your Child

Tis’ the season, gift giving is right around the corner! Are you concerned your child is taking gifts for granted? Sure, it is fun to tear wrapping paper off of a shiny new toy but here are some other ideas that will have a lasting effect on your child much past the holiday season!

Tips To Encourage Graciousness In Your Child:mad child with gifts

  • Sign your child up for an activity they enjoy, (dance, art class, sporting activity, karate, etc.) this will challenge them and keep them active all year round.
  • Have your child choose a charity/organization of their choice and make a donation in their name, volunteer, or ask them to donate one of their gifts to a child in need.
  • Have your child choose a day in the city; choose a fun place to have lunch and an activity of choice. This will give you some quality time together enjoying something you do not frequently do!
  • Put money into a savings account for your child or purchase a savings bond to save for their future.
  • Purchase a family pass to a museum, zoo, or Great America.
  • Whether it is near, like a fun family weekend at home with planned activities or a family vacation somewhere sunny and warm, involving your child in the planning of an activity makes them feel involved and invested!
  • Develop a coupon book that includes coupons for fun activities that are redeemable. Activities such as staying up 15 minutes later, extra Wii time, extra book at bedtime, ice cream after dinner, movie/popcorn night with JUST Mom and Dad, the list goes on and on!

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