I’m super excited to publish this post by Melissa Souden, Occupational Therapy extraordinaire- She’s a fabulous OT and a very handy lady! She created her own foot fidget swings using PVC to help sensory and inattentive kids pay attention in class. Here are the Step by Step directions so you can do the same!
How to Make a Do-It-Yourself Weighted Fidget
I’ve been blogging a lot lately about fidgets and fidgety kids. Parents and teachers are always looking for a way to keep fidgety kids quiet and focused. Weighted items like vests or lap pads are commonly used by teachers to help kids who are fidgety, restless, and unfocused. Fidgets are another common request – they are great for keeping busy fingers quiet while the rest of a child’s body is attending to the lesson at hand.
Autumn: pumpkin pie, costumes, and everything else.
As an OT, I love to get into the “Halloween Spirit” of things at school with my students. Sensory recipes are always a great way to work on multiple skills at once, including Mixing, Measuring, Pouring, Stirring, and Kneading.
Sensory recipes are a non-edible method of working on all the above skills, which is perfect for school.
Food Allergies at Halloween
It’s important to make sure that none of your students have food allergies or aversions when you bring a Sensory recipe into a classroom. Some of my kids have gluten-free diets or nut allergies, so when in doubt, I send a letter home with the ingredients a week before the activity to get permission from the parent. Better to be on the safe side.
Halloween parties often include lots of candy and junk food. Instead of the typical sugar overload, why not set up a bunch of fun Sensory activities to get your kid’s friends in the Halloween Spirit?
Halloween Sensory Recipes
Here are my five favorite Sensory recipes – with a Halloween spin!
1) Halloween Dirt Doh
I’ve written about this recipe before, it’s a simple recipe with used coffee grinds. Make a large batch and it’s perfect for a Spooky Coffin!
Here’s the recipe:
2 cups used coffee grinds (wet or dry)
2 cups of water (add it little by little until you get the consistency you want)
2 cups of flour (add more if you need to make the doh a little more doughy)
I asked my local bagel store to save me all their used coffee grinds for a few days before our Halloween party. When I went to pick it up, they had three bags full. Perfect! I filled an “under the bed storage” tupperware container with my ingredients.
Now you have an awesome spooky sensory activity that addresses tactile defensiveness, hand strength, and bilateral coordination. Also – used coffee grinds have a distinct odor. Kids who are picky eaters usually have a strong sense of smell, which can trigger a gag reflex. Engaging in “smelly” activities is a good way to work on desensitizing the sense of smell. Finding things that are hidden in a busy background is a visual perceptual skill called visual figure-ground.
Add a blindfold that takes away the visual component, and now you are working on stereognosis. Stereognosis is the ability to recognize an object by using tactile information. This means a person uses their tactile sense without using their vision or sense of vision or hearing to figure out what they are touching. Just like digging in your purse for your phone, while looking at something else.
Bet you do that a lot! I know I do…
2) Halloween Slime
A simple slime recipe can be altered a million different ways. Add a bit of food coloring or washable paint and you can color it to fit any holiday or theme. I used my go-to slime recipe, added a bit of orange food coloring, and gave my kiddies some cheap Halloween manipulatives to play with.
Here’s the recipe:
2 cups of Elmer’s glue
2 cups of water
2 cups of liquid starch (found in the laundry aisle)
Mix the glue and the water together to thin out the glue. Then, slowly add the liquid starch. Mix together with a spoon, then knead with hands. Add coloring to your liking. Once the starch is all blended (I let the kids take turns kneading and squeezing the whole batch), split the batch into individual portions for each child. Then the fun begins! The texture of the slime can vary, which can alter your activity. I had one class that ended up with very “stringy” slime, which reminded us of spider webs! Another class had very firm slime, which was perfect to make Jack o’ lanterns. Add some cookie cutters, manipulatives, etc. and let the kids get creative! You can even leave it white and let the kids create their own mummies or ghost faces!
3) Halloween Play-doh
– you can go simple and just buy playdoh, or you can whip some up the old fashioned way.
You can use cookie cutters to make witches, pumpkins, spiders, you name it! I like to use a chip tray to give my kids cut up pipe cleaners, wobbly eyes, and tiny spiders. The kids can make a Halloween creation of their own design.
4) Pumpkin Pie Playdoh
I am a pumpkin lover. I love the taste, but I also really love the smell! Like I said, it’s good to incorporate olfactory (smelly) stuff into your activities. It can help picky eaters to broaden their boundaries and it is a great way to incorporate multi-sensory learning into your lessons.
Here’s what you need to make the doh:
2 cups of flour (you can use gluten-free if you need to)
1/2 cup of salt
1 cup of water
a dash of pumpkin pie spice (a make your own recipe listed below if you can’t find it)
a couple of drops of orange food coloring or washable paint
Mix the flour and the salt together. Add the water bit by bit and keep mixing and kneading until you get a firm, doughy texture. Add the pumpkin pie spice and the orange paint. I like to do this at the end because the kids can see where the paint isn’t mixed. This gives them a visual cue to keep kneading, twisting and squeezing until the colors are blended nicely.
To make pumpkin pie spice:
1/4 cup of ground cinnamon
4 tsp. ground nutmeg
4 tsp. ground ginger
1 tbs. ground allspice
This results in quite a bit of pumpkin pie spice – you can half it if you want, but I love to keep it around and use it to flavor my coffee. Add a teaspoon to your regular coffee grinds and you’ve got some fabulous pumpkin flavored coffee. Who needs Starbucks!? Budget Divas make their own!
5) Ghost Guts
My kids got a giggle out of this one! I took a simple sensory recipe and gave it a Halloween name. It went great!
Here’s what you need:
2 parts corn starch
2 parts shaving cream
You can give each kid a bowl or make it in one big batch. I made it in a big Tupperware bowl and let my kids do the mixing. I also hid some little white bones and spiders in there for my kids to pull out. They loved it.
I hope your Halloween party is a smashing sensory success!
Do you have any great Halloween Sensory Recipes to share with us?
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Strengthening is easy to include at school
One of my favorite exercises to do with both adults and kids is resistance band. There are dozens of ways to use resistance band to improve strength, balance, posture, and coordination. One problem that I often encounter with children is that they can’t figure out where to put their hands during the exercises. Even if I start them off in the right spot, their hands slip too far down for correct positioning. So I was thrilled to find the Handee Band, a yellow resistance band with two hand prints in the perfect spot for little hands.
An easy “Brain Break” and it strengthens, too!
I discovered the Handee Band at the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) conference Expo. I was excited about the hand prints on the band, but I was even more psyched about the Handee Band booklet with exercises, stickers, and checklist for the kids to check off what exercises they’ve done. It’s so easy to use and it’s perfect for a quick brain break, warm-up, or transition activity. Kids love to move, and the Handee Band flip book and resistance band is a fun easy activity that a teacher can use throughout the day. Teachers often ask me for ideas or materials for kids that “can’t sit” during circle time, etc. I am definitely adding the Handee Band to my bag of tricks.
My mind immediately started spinning about all the games and activities I could create for my classroom push-ins. In the past, I’ve also created homework programs so that the parents of my kids could work on strengthening and fine motor skills at home. The parents and the kids have always responded really well. Of course, I started brainstorming right then and there about the homework program I could create with the Handee Band.
This is a sponsored post, which means that I was provided with materials in order to write this post and put all my ideas into play. However, all of the opinions and ideas expressed in this post are mine and mine alone. For more info, read my disclaimer.
About the Handee Band: The Handee Band exercise kit was created by an Occupational Therapist named Francesca Avalli. The booklet explains 15 different exercises, each with its own cartoon monster. Each page lists the name of the exercise with simple, easy-to-read directions to ensure that teachers and parents are helping their students to perform the exercises correctly. The booklet is a stand up easel which makes it is easy for kids to flip over the pages. It also has two checkoff pages in the back, so kids can visually track and match the monsters with the days of the week. The checkoff and dry erase marker are perfect for keeping track of how many reps of each exercise the child performed. I also find that when kids are figuring out how to do the exercises with the bands, they are working on their motor planning skills and their ability to follow directions.
Using the Handee Band for Classroom Strengthening Games:
The Handee Band exercise kit works great all by itself. It’s easy for a parent, teacher, or therapist to use the book or the E-book. Extra bands are available for separate purchase for as little as $5 so that there is enough for each child. Once I bought the Handee Band, I started using it right away. However, I am a little crazy that I like to change things up and give the kids “something different” when I push-in. The stickers in the Handee Band booklet are perfect for creating classroom games and activities. The Handee Band is also available in 5 or 10 packs, which is perfect for working in groups or with a class. You can buy extra stickers, too. They’re my favorite! So here are some of the games I came up with…
1) Handee Band Memory
I love to combine gross motor exercise with visual perceptual skills. Memory is a classic game that can be played individually or with a small group. I decided to create a “Handee Band” Memory game using the Handee Band Monster stickers. Each Monster has a Character name under his picture. I decided to adapt the game by having one version with the picture of the monster on one card and the name of the character on the other card. This was perfect for my 3rd grade self contained class. I made a simpler, more classic version for my self contained Kindergarten class. Both versions were a hit! And, after I played the game with the kids a few times, they grew familiar with which exercise each Monster represented. I was able to leave the game and the Handee Bands for the teachers to use as a warm up or a sensory break.
Instructions: Like the classic memory game, with a twist. A child attempts to find two cards that match. When any child in the group makes a match, ALL the children do the exercise that Monster represents. After the class does a set of ten, the kids get back to the next turn.
2) Handee Band Dice
My students love to play gross motor games using dice. I’ve adapted these dice from the Dollar Tree for other gross motor games in the past. So I thought, “Why not Handee Band Dice?” Again, I used the stickers to create a simple easy game to play during class Occupational Therapy sessions. The kids had a blast! I was able to leave the Dice game for the teacher to use with the kids as a reward, as a sensory break, or as a quick warm up.
Instructions: The children stand at their desks or in a circle on the rug, each with their own Handee Band. One child picks a die and rolls it. Whatever “Monster” the die lands on, everyone does a set of ten for that exercise.
3) Handee Band Spinner
Every kid loves a Spinner! Flicking a spinner is hard work; requiring separation of the two sides of the hand (pinky side and thumb side), motor planning, and dexterity. But even when a child can’t flick a spinner, they can still swipe or hit it. For this game, the children take turns flicking the spinner. When the spinner lands on a certain monster, the kids grab their Handee Bands and do that exercise ten times. As the children grow stronger, the repetitions can be increased.
The rules are simple: The children take turns flicking the spinner. Whatever “monster” the spinner lands on, the whole class does that exercise. Then the next kid gets a turn.
4) Handee Band Class Checkoff
I loved the Dry Erase Checklist in the back of the book so much that I decided to create a larger “class wide” version for the kids to use during the Handee Band classroom games. I used the stickers to copy the chart in the back. Again, the checklists require visual tracking and matching skills, so the kids are working on visual perception as they keep track of their progress. I just used a plain dry erase board . I arranged the stickers on the board and made lines so that it could serve as a Class chart.
My favorite thing about the chart is that the kids can use it to track the number of exercises they did. It also works on math skills, because the kids need to add by ten each time they do another rep. In a pinch or a rush, the teacher can keep track on the board while the kids keep working. Either way, my students love having a “chart” to represent how hard they’ve worked. When I made the chart, I made the lines with a sharpie (permanent marker), but I wrote the initials of my kids in dry erase. This way, I can use it over and over for years to come!
The E-Book comes with a downloadable checklist, perfect for keeping track of hard work!
Using the Handee Band for a Homework Program:
Kids love to show off to their parents and caregivers, but they love to show off to their friends even more! Once the kids understand how to do each exercise, the Handee Band Kit is perfect to send home as “OT Homework”. I have put together homework programs for my classes before in an effort to ensure carry-over into my student’s homes. Most parents love an easy fun way to help their children grow stronger. The Handee Band Exercise Kit is the perfect lightweight homework that kids can take turns bringing home. OT’s and teachers can make an “O.T. Homework Chart” to keep track of whose turn it is to take the Handee Band Kit home. My kids love to come in in the morning and put their sticker next to their name to show that they did their “O.T. Homework”. I always include a letter to the parents explaining why the students have “O.T. homework” and why carry-over is an important part of progress.
Strengthening Homework! What a great idea!
Handee Band: Resistive Band Exercises for Kids *The Handee Band kit and E-Book are available for purchase at www.HandeeBand.com. You can also purchase individual or class packs of the bands and extra stickers. It’s perfect for home or the classroom!
Check out this great blog post from Mama OT on How to Use the HandeeBand to Help Preschoolers with Sensory and Motor Skills
~ Miss Jaime, O.T.
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Welcome to Alphabet Sensory Activities, hosted by The Jenny Evolution along with their partner site The Sensory Spectrum! 26 amazing bloggers have gotten together to share a sensory experience based on a letter of the alphabet every day this month. This post contains affiliate links.
Dirt Doh…totally yucky!
As a contributor to the Alphabet Sensory Activities Series, I am responsible for the letter Y. For me, the first thing I think of is “YUCKY!” I love to do sensory activities, especially recipes, with my class push-ins. There are so many functional skills to work on; no matter the age of level of your students. Stirring, Pouring, Kneading, and Squeezing are just a few ways to work on hand strength and bilateral coordination. Measuring, Sequencing, Calculating, and Adding are just a few ways to add Math to the Mix.
Depending on the class I am with, I like to have the children practice opening the packages, walking across the room with water from the sink, and find the measuring cups they need. For older children, I add a math component by asking them to “double” the recipe or “half” the recipe. If the recipe is edible, I even include daily living skills such as washing hands, setting the table, or cutting with a knife and fork. Literally, one recipe can yield endless activities. This is one recipe that I have used in a few different ways and I am so excited to share my recipe for …
Dirt is Yucky! Therefore kids love it! This is a great recipe that is also a “green” activity. Used coffee grinds are the main ingredient, and you can switch up the recipe to change the consistency.
Here’s what you need:
1 parts used coffee grinds (wet or dry)
1 part water
1 part flour
Mix all the ingredients. Add more flour if it’s too wet.
I’ve used this recipe in October to make a Halloween “coffin” filled with “dirt”, bones, fingers, and eyeballs. I’ve also used it in the spring as science lessons to talk about how flowers grow and how bugs live. And worse comes to worse, just make “mud pies” because it’s fun! Dirt Doh is so versatile!
Dirt is “yucky” and kids love “Yucky!!!
If you like Dirt Doh, please make sure to check out the rest of the Alphabet Sensory Activity Series on the Jenny Evolution.com.
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What to do when a child is still mouthing everything…
So, I am addressing this issue this week because it is only the first week of school and already a bunch of teachers and some friends have asked for advice about their student or their own child in regards to kids putting inedible objects in their mouth. Here is what I told them:
During infancy, children go through a developmental phase of putting things in their mouth. Toys, feet, clothing and everything else goes right in the mouth. This continues throughout the toddler years, and then they eventually outgrow it. At least, you hope they do!
Some kids continue to put inedible objects in their mouths into their preschool and school-age years. Although it is normal for kids to want to explore the world around them using all of their senses, it can also become a hygeine & safety issue. Additionally, for some children it can become a social problem when other children take notice of the habit. Children in Kindergarten should not be sucking on their sleeves or the neck of their shirt in class. Of course some kids may occasionally bite the end of their pencil or bite their fingernails, but when it becomes a safety or social issue, it should be addressed.
So why are they doing it?
It is possible that your child is seeking oral sensory input. This means that they crave the sensations of having things in their mouth and may feel pleasure from the sensations of sucking, chewing, or licking. It might provide them comfort when they are upset or make them comfortable when they are relaxed and playing. Sometimes it even helps them to focus and pay attention. It depends on the kid!
So what can you do as a parent or a teacher?
As a teacher you should speak to the child privately about it. Tell them that you have noticed this habit and you are concerned because of germs, they are ruining their nice clothing, etc. Tell them that you would like to help them break this habit. With the child’s help, decide on a non-verbal signal that you will use to remind the child not to put things in their mouth. An example could be tapping his desk as you walk by, making direct eye contact and nodding at him, etc. The purpose is to alert the child of the behavior, not to alert his classmates or embarrass him.
Also, talk to the parent. Inform them what you are seeing and why you are concerned. They may have not noticed or they may not realize that the mouthing is developmentally inappropriate. Or, they may have some background info in regards to why it is happening (dental issues, speech therapy issues, sensory issues, etc.) . Tell the parent that you are open to helping the child to break the habit and let them know about the system you came up with (like the nod or the tap). If you are open to it and the school allows it, tell the parent to send in sugar-free chewing gum. If the child is craving oral input, chewing gum once or twice a day may be enough input to wean them from the habit. Don’t worry about what other kids will say if one child gets to chew gum. Explain that it is simply a tool that “Johnnie” needs in order to focus and do his work. Point out that some kids have a pencil grip and some kids don’t. Some kids have a cushion seat and some kids have a visual calendar on their desk. Gum is just another “school tool” that some kids use, and some kids don’t. End of story.
As a parent, there are more options. You can purposely give your child things to eat that are crunchy, chewy, or require hard work (aka heavy work) to eat. Here are some examples:
- Really crunchy pretzels (Miss Jaime prefers Synders large pretzels)
- Carrot sticks
- Dried Fruit (big ones like apricots or prunes, not raisins –too small)
- Sugar Free Fruit roll ups
- Sugar Free Lemon Drops
- Sugar Free gummy worms
- Sugar Free Licorice Sticks
- Slim Jim
These are all options to send in for snack so your child can receive extra oral input throughout the day. You can also give them things that require hard sucking through a straw, such as drinkable yogurt – the thicker the better. Make sure you give them a straw! Notice that I wrote “sugar-free” for the candy objects. Sour is great, but sugar can lead to increased hyperactivity and a consequential crash when the sugar high is done. Try to give them really crunchy cereal for breakfast before they go to school.
For drinks at school, send in water bottles with a sports cap. Ask the teacher if the child can keep the bottle on the desk. These tops are chewable, and they are much more socially appropriate. Try to use a thermos with a plastic straw. If possible, put a regular straw inside the short straw of the thermos. This will encourage your child to suck up their drink, rather than to tip the spout into their mouth, which does not provide as much sensory input. At home, use a silly straw for regular drinks, because they require more sucking.
After school, provide your child with non-food sensory input items. Teach them how to blow up balloons and to blow bubbles of all different sizes. Try to spend some time every day giving your child sensory input through their mouth. This will help them to learn how to self-regulate the amount of sensory input that they need. Use a vibrating toothbrush instead of a regular one. Set a timer or sing the ABC song and use the toothbrush for a little longer than usual. If they like it, brush more often. It can’t hurt!
Some objects are available through therapy catalogues that are specifically geared for kids who crave oral sensory input. Chewelry, Chewy tubes, and Pencil Toppers are just a few. You can try these out and see if they help at all.
These suggestions are simple solutions to help a common problem. If your child continues to persist in putting inedible objects in their mouth, see your physician or contact an Occupational Therapist or Speech Therapist for help.
Do you have any other techniques that have worked? Please share with us!
~ Miss Jaime, O.T.