10 pocketbook-sized toys to occupy your kid (instead of your phone!)

 handwriting, fine motor skills

I am totally on the “LIMIT TECHNOLOGY” for little kids bandwagon and am all about “Pocketbook-Sized Toys”! I have been so inspired by some articles I’ve read lately; especially a great article by Your Therapy Source (link at the bottom).  So I decided to make a list of 10 pocketbook-sized toys to occupy your kid (instead of your phone!)

As a public school OT, I work with Kindergarten students two days a week.  The continued decline in the basic motor skills of four and five-year-old children is VERY evident.  There are probably many reasons why, but I feel that lack of functional play time is a BIG contributor.    Nowadays, many kids have their own tablets, TV’s in their rooms, and an IPOD shuffle. They spend less and less time playing outside, which limits their gross motor skills, endurance, and coordination.   When they are inside, they spend less time playing with toys and using their hands and more time with technology.

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Combining Handwriting and Play

This post “Combining Handwriting and Play”  is part of a year-long blog hop called Functional Skills for Kids.  Each month, I will be working with other pediatric OTs and PTs to post on different developmental topics that impact functional skills for kids. I’m so honored to be working with some amazing pediatric bloggers to bring you a well-rounded blog hop that will ultimately result in a BOOK!

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Holiday toys from an OT

Holiday Toys Recommended by an OT

Holiday Toy Shopping is around the corner!

The holidays can be very overwhelming.  Shopping for kids who seem to already have everything can be very overwhelming too!  As an OT, I have some favorite tried and true toys and  games that address many educational and developmental issues. I’ve decided to make a short list for all the families out there who want to buy toys  that are fun but meaningful.  Toys that address motor skills, visual perceptual skills, and reading and math are always a great buy, because you are supplying some fun while also working on foundational skills that will also support their classroom leaning.

*This post contains Affiliate Links*

Toys and Games that promote Spelling, Reading and Language Development

Boggle 3-Minute Word Game  Boggle Junior Game

 

 
Bananagrams

 

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 Scrabble Classic  Scrabble Junior Game

 

 Taboo Board Game

 

Toys and Games that promote Math Skills

 
Monopoly (80th Anniversary Version) Froggy Feeding Fun

 

 Yahtzee  Sumoku

 

Toys and Games that promote Problem Solving

   
 Rush Hour Jr   Rush Hour

 

 
 Wood Labyrinth  Junior Labyrinth

 

 Classic Dominoes  Battleship

 

   
 Guess Who?   Clue

Toys and Games that promote Eye-hand Coordination & Using Two Hands

How to Draw Books

 How to Draw Cool Stuff  How to Draw Animals  How to Draw People

Connecting & Bilateral Toys

 
  K’NEX Building Set   B. Pop-Arty Beads  Squigz Starter 24 piece set

 

 
 Magformers   MagWorld Magnetic Tile   LEGO Classic

 

 Spirograph Deluxe Design Set  Beados Gems Design Studio

 Creativity For Kids Quick Knit Loom  Knot-A-Quilt No Sew Craft Kit  Kids Scrapbooking Kit
 
  Friendship Bracelet Maker Kit  Do-it-Yourself Jewelry

 

Toys and Games that promote Hand Strength and Dexterity

  B. Pop-Arty Beads  Play-Doh Fun Factory Play Doh Fuzzy Pet Salon

 

 Finger Puppets  Poppin Peepers Cow  Play-Doh Scare Chair Playset
  Tricky Fingers   Lite Brite Magic Screen  Helping Hands Fine Motor Tools

 Toys For Sensory Kids

Sumoku

     
 Classic Bean Bag Chair  Body Sox Sensory Bag  Fold & Go Trampoline  Kinetic Sand 

 
 Rocking Hammock   Indoor/Outdoor Hammock   Jump-O-Lene Bouncer
 
 Sunny Tunnel  Castle Play Tent 

 

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Happy Holidays From Miss Jaime, O.T.

 

 

 

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back to school tricks

5 Back to School Tips Every Parent and Teacher Should Know

I can’t believe that Back to School is around the corner.   In honor of back to school this year, I’ve decided to share my 5 best back to school tips!  They may seem simple, but they work!  So here goes!

 

1) For the child who doesn’t hold their pencil correctly…

This is a great tip for kindergarten, first, and second-grade teachers.   Kids still need reminders to hold their pencils correctly.  Why not make it fun?  Rather than spending money on an expensive pencil grip that the kids lose, chew, and pick apart; simply take a sharpie and use it to make a face on each pencil.  For the Kindergarten teacher who spends an hour sharpening every pencil to get ready for the first day of school, this should only take another ten minutes.   For the mom of the child who needs reminders, it takes 30 seconds.  And it works!

  pencil grip trick
Drawing a face on the pencil is a simple visual cue. Kids love it when I ask them what kind of face they want: girl or boy? happy or sad?, etc.
pencil grip tricks,
The thumb goes on one eye, index goes on the other. It’s a quick trick that works wonders!

 

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About those crayons…what parents should know

Why you should chuck your Jumbo crayons and Chalk…

“Just say NO to jumbo crayons and chalk!”

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Toddlers use their whole arm to color, it’s natural! Laying on their belly helps them to start using their fingers, instead of their shoulder.

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Do you remember when your child first started coloring?

Babies and toddlers use their whole arm to scribble. You may remember the very large crayons and pencils from when you first learned how to color or write your name. It may be surprising to learn that handwriting experts and occupational therapists actually recommend using small golf pencils and tiny broken crayons for your child as they begin to write and color more often.   Jumbo crayons and pencils are actually age appropriate for toddlers to use!

 

Notice how the package says 12+ months. These crayons are perfect for babies who are just learning to scribble. Not for preschool or school age children.

 

Crayola 8-Pack Crayons - Jumbo (So Big) Size (Single Box)

Jumbo crayons are for babies! Literally toddlers only.

Bigger isn’t better!

Why no Jumbo crayons or CHALK?

It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Toddlers use their whole arm to move the pencil or crayon. They hold it in a fist and use all of the muscles in their arm to make the marks on the paper.

As children begin to develop improved fine motor skills, they use their wrist and fingers to move the pencil or crayon. This is the natural development of shoulder stability.  Between the age of three and four, they should be resting their arm on the table and using the small muscles of their hand to do the work.

Imagine how much heavier those Jumbo crayons and pencils are for those little hands! Using golf pencils instead of Jumbo pencils allows a child to manipulate the pencil more easily, which discourages them from using too many fingers, pressing too hard, or scribbling outside the lines. Very often, children who have difficulty holding their pencil correctly have weak muscles in their hands. To compensate for this weakness, they use more fingers or more pressure! Ouch!

pencilbigvslittle

The Jumbo pencil is more than twice the size of the golf pencil. Too big!

These old fashioned “Jumbo” pencils are only appropriate for babies who are learning how to make a mark on a paper.  They are expected to use their whole arm, so it’s okay. Once they start scribbling, it’s time for a regular pencil or a golf pencil.

crayons, jumbo crayons, grasping, fine motor skills

 

So what crayons should kids use?

Good old regular crayons are fine.  BUT – if you see that your child is using too many fingers, you may want to go with broken crayons.  Broken crayons should be an inch or smaller.  Many moms cringe at this (teachers too) because we remember the awesome feeling of getting a brand new pack of crayons.  There was nothing better than that!  If the broken crayon thing bothers you, there are a lot of cute new crayons that are good for encouraging a proper grip.

 

Crayon rocks are perfect for little fingers! They automatically put your fingers in a “pinch” position so kids don’t get in the habit of “fisting” their crayons.

Handwriting Without Tears makes these cute little “flipz” crayons which are perfect for preschool to school age children! Kids have to use in-hand manipulation to “flip” them over and change color.

 

How can you help your child to develop the proper grip?  There are a lot of things you can do.  First, practice coloring.  This sounds too simple, and moms who have children who don’t like to color may say, “he won’t color”.  There are tons of sneaky ways to get a kid to color.  Go online and google “free coloring pages” and get a picture of their favorite cartoon character.  It’s more motivating (and less overwhelming) than opening a whole coloring book.  Tell your child that Grandma asked for a new picture for her refrigerator.  Or Aunt Susie’s birthday is coming and she wants a picture, etc.

Is coloring absolutely necessary?  Well, no. There are many ways to learn how to write besides coloring.  BUT – Coloring is a fine motor skill. It is exercise for those little muscles in the hand.  If your child refuses to color, it could be because it’s hard for them. They may need some hand strengthening activities to work those little hands so it’s not such a chore.  Play-doh, clay, and cookie making are all good for hand strengthening.

One of my favorite students who spent A LOT of time on his belly with me. Mom followed through at home and NOW he is a Kindergarten Success Story!

One of my favorite students who spent A LOT of time on his belly with me. Mom followed through at home and NOW he is a Kindergarten Success Story!

Another great way to help your child develop shoulder stability (the ability to use their hand without using their whole arm) is to have them color while laying on their belly.  This will be hard at first because it takes muscle! Keep at it.

I hope this gives some motivation to chuck those jumbo crayons! Or at the very least – break ’em!  The smaller the better.  Have fun!

Want more great tips to improve your child’s skills? Check out The Handwriting Book, written by a team of ten pediatric OTs and PTs to help parents, therapists, and teachers just like you!

Handwriting and Middle School

Don’t forget to read this:  Two Magical Crayons that will change your child’s grasp

 

~Miss Jaime, O.T.


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Using Aerial Yoga for Kids with ADHD, ASD, and everything else!

As I’ve mentioned before, I love yoga.  Recently, I had the opportunity to observe an Aerial Yoga class for children.  After that, I just had to try an adult class myself.  I kind of had an idea of what to expect, but the class totally exceeded my expectations.   I practice yoga and I use it with my Occupational Therapy students all the time.  I think yoga is such a wonderful way to work on strength, balance, and coordination.  It also helps to quiet the mind and increase focus.   Aerial Yoga has all the benefits of traditional yoga, as well as the added benefits of sensory input.  Traditional yoga provides sensory input, too, but in a different way.  I am writing this blog post about my experience as an OT in both observing and participating in an Aerial Yoga class.  I recommend that you also read the post “Aerial Yoga from an OT’s perspective”  by the owner of the facility, who is able to give her perspective as a Occupational Therapist specializing in the treatment of Sensory Processing Disorders.   I’ve attached the link for you at the bottom of the page.

You may be wondering exactly what Aerial Yoga is.  Have you ever seen Pink do one of her performances where she sings as she hangs from the ceiling and twists, swings, and flips herself around?   Picture that! Ok , ok. I didn’t hang or twist like a rock star… but the theory is there.  And I felt like a rock star!

Lycra “hammocks” are suspended from two hooks in the ceiling.  The height can be adjusted based on the size of the person who will be using it.   The stretchy  material hangs in a “u” shape.  The material is super stretchy but also very strong, so it can support a child or adult size body midair. The instructor and staff members measured each person to make sure their hammock was the right height.   Aerial Yoga focuses on strength, balance, and coordination through different poses with the Hammock.  The children’s class that I observed was at Sensational Development in Massapequa.  There were 8 students, a Yoga Instructor and three staff members assisting the kids.  The therapists at Sensational Development are trained in Yogapeutics.    For more info on Yogapeutics, please check out the link at the bottom of the page.

AyogaHammocks2

 

Even the room itself was cool!  The lights were dimmed and soft music was playing in the background.  The floor looked exactly like a hardwood floor, but when I looked closer I realized it was made up of foam mats!  The kids ranged in ages from about five to sixteen.  The students seemed familiar with the yoga instructor’s verbal cues and were able to follow the directions.  The music really helped to provide a calm and relaxing aura. Later, when I would get into the complex inverted positions myself, I was able to feel my body become “un–calm”.  My heart would be racing from physically exerting myself as well as whatever else I was feeling from being upside down. Somehow, the instructor Linda, knew how I was feeling too.  After the “stimulating” poses, she would go back to a relaxing, calm pose.  She called it “chill-axing”.  I loved it. She really knew how to get our bodies back to right “state”.  Not too high, and not too low: Just right. The class consisted of children of all different levels of ability or “disability”. There were children on the spectrum, children with impulsivity and hyperactivity, and children with low tone.  The instructor, Linda, had an awesome way of providing the kids with the cues and descriptions to follow her instructions.   I was amazed at how the kids were able to follow up to ten step directions to perform the different moves she was showing them.  I was also surprised at how well the staff was able to manage all of the kids.  They were all different ages and abilities!  The owner told me later that the parents have to sign up their children for the class in advance so she can make arrangements to have the appropriate staff members present based on which kids were attending.   That made sense.  No wonder everything ran so smoothly.  They had it down to a science.

Aerial yoga is one of those wonderful activities that works on a bunch of goals at once.  Here are just a few of the areas that I saw being addressed:

Attention and focus – as I watched the children adjust their bodies according to Linda’s instructions I noticed that each child had a different way of listening and attending to her words. Some of the children stopped moving and watched her quietly and others kept bouncing as though they were on a trampoline. Each child was able to control their bodies and their positions to what felt comfortable for them. In the classroom, there are children who cannot sit still and listen. But just because they aren’t sitting still and just because they aren’t looking at the teacher doesn’t mean they aren’t listening and they aren’t learning. Some children need to move more than others. And some children need to move all the time. This class was the perfect example of showing that you can still listen when you’re moving around. All of the children followed Linda’s instructions. Occasionally one of the kids would try a different move than what Linda was explaining. The staff just gently went over and redirected them to stay on task and with the class. Some children needed more direction and more physical assistance than others.  So the children who needed less assistance were able to “play” in their hammocks until everyone was ready. This worked out great for everyone.  In the school setting we sometimes talk about a child’s need for self-regulation in the classroom.  What we really mean is that we want the child to be able to keep their own body awake and alert without being hyper or “wild”.  The point is that every child’s body and sensory system is different and their needs can be met in different ways.  It doesn’t mean that they have to sit still.

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Strength– the kids used their core (abs and back) muscles throughout the session to arrange their bodies according to Linda’s instructions.  When I had the chance to try the poses myself, I really felt the muscles in my back and abs working to keep myself in the right position. I also felt the strength in my arms and legs during every pose. When we did the upside down poses, we had to use our arms to pull ourselves back up.  You know in the action movies when someone is hanging from a bridge or a train or something and they miraculously pull themselves back up? Yeah.  That was me!  One thing I didn’t expect was the amount of fine motor coordination and dexterity that was incorporated into the aerial yoga class.  Linda often had us re-orient our swing, to make sure it wasn’t all bunched up, so that our bodies would end up in the correct positions. She used cute expressions like “make a bikini bottom”  to help the kids understand what she wanted. The kids learned to use their fingers to bunch up the material the appropriate number of times according to Linda’s request.  It kind of reminded me of scrunching up a sock or a pair of stockings before you put them on. It takes a lot of small movements in your fingers and hands to get that material all bunched up. We had to do it over and over again, so those muscles got a great workout. What an awesome way to hide fine motor strengthening in a gross motor activity.

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Motor planning – as I mentioned before, following Linda’s instructions required a lot of listening and watching her physically demonstrate the movements. She made it look so easy!  It was much harder to get my body to do what she just did. Motor planning is the ability to cognitively plan out how you’re going to move your body to complete an activity. We take motor planning for granted, but it can be really hard for some people.  The  entire one-hour session was filled with motor planning challenges.  Any new movement can be tricky if you’ve never done it before.  The staff was awesome about making sure that each child in the children’s class as well as every adult in the adult class was able to complete the movements either with or without assistance from staff.  

Tactile and proprioceptive input – As the children stretched and pushed their bodies against the Lycra Hammock, they were receiving tactile and proprioceptive input throughout their entire bodies.  Our largest organ is our skin. So when you engage in an activity that stimulates your entire body, the receptors in your skin are sending a ton of feedback to your brain. This can be calming or alerting; it depends on the child as well as the setting of the activity. Proprioceptive input is also known as deep pressure.  Inside that Lycra swing, your whole body is pressing against that material. And the material is pressing back as you hang against gravity, providing proprioceptive input throughout the entire class.  When I had the chance to do it myself, I was surprised at how my perceptions of the input changed throughout the hour-long class. There were times when I was calm and relaxed and there were times where I felt a little nervous or anxious. The sensations and my emotions changed in different poses.

 

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Vestibular input – Hanging from the ceiling with nothing holding you but a large stretchy sock (hammock) can be a little unnerving. Most adults rarely go on rides. I am no exception to this. In fact, I’ve been on a roller coaster twice since the eighth grade. The reason for this is that most rides make me feel sick. Even swinging on a playground swing too high or for too long can make me a little nauseous, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Aerial Yoga. The instructors told me that it’s normal to feel a little lightheaded or dizzy after class. For the most part I was totally fine. Vestibular input can be extremely calming or alerting to a person’s sensory system. Many children actively seek out vestibular input by swinging, rocking, or hanging upside down. They simply know what their body needs. Then, there are other children whose bodies need vestibular input, but it makes them uncomfortable. Some children avoid having their feet off the ground at all. This is called gravitational insecurity and it can really interfere with typical childhood play.  I thought it was amazing how aerial yoga, with one piece of equipment, could provide so many different kinds of sensory input. How awesome!

Self Esteem and Confidence -There was one student, a teen-age girl, who was the sibling of one of the kids in the class.  She was very quiet, but she was great at the poses; maybe even the most comfortable and skilled in the class. The staff told me that she attends the class every week with her sister, who is on the spectrum.  This is one of her “extra-curricular” activities, such as taking dance or gymnastics.  When I commented on how good she was, the staff told me that she progresses each week, learning new and more difficult poses. They tailor certain things to meet her need for a challenge, since she is capable of more than some of the other children.  The best part was that the staff reported that this girl had really transformed since coming to aerial yoga.  She has become more confident, more self-assured, and more outgoing.  How cool is that?

 


For a more detailed description of how Aerial Yoga can impact a child’s sensory system, you should read this post by Sara, an Occupational Therapist specializing in the treatment of Sensory Processing Disorders, and one of the owners of the facility where I took the class. Click here for the link.

 

So, are you willing to try an Aerial Yoga Class? Want to see if your child likes it?  Sensational Development is offering a deal with this blog post; “Buy five classes, get one free”.  Mention “Miss Jaime, O.T.” to get the deal.

 

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~Namaste!

 

 


 

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