fine motor Scissors

Fine Motor Skills and Cutting

Learn how to improve your child’s cutting skills with these simple tips from a pediatric OT.   *This post contains affiliate links

How to Improve Your Child’s Cutting Skills 

“Cutting?”   The mom looked at me nervously…. “Um, I’ve never given my child scissors…. I don’t want him to hurt himself….”   Her face turned red.   “Should I?!”

The poor mom was panicking as she asked me about kindergarten.  She was totally nervous that her son wouldn’t be able to keep up.  Trying to reassure her, I asked how he holds his pencil and how were his cutting skills.  And instead of making her feel better, I made it way worse!   Uh-oh.

(This happens all the time, by the way.  Moms don’t realize that kids should be cutting WAY before Kindergarten. But really – if you are worried that your kid will hurt themselves when they are sitting with you in the kitchen, do you really want them learning how to cut while the teacher is also supervising 20 other kids? )

Nah – better to get them started before school so they know what they are doing.  It gives them a “leg up” on the rest of the kids.    You can always give them those little safety scissors if you are worried that they will cut themselves.   Or the playdoh scissors, which don’t have real blades.

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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 Beapop 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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communication, therapists, schools

How to Improve Communication From Your Kid’s School Therapist

Communication: the key to success!

Since it’s the beginning of the school year, I’ve decided to share my best advice for improving communication with your child’s therapist. Parents sometimes feel helpless because they don’t know what their child is doing in OT, PT, or Speech.   You can’t be with your child all day long, so you don’t know if they had therapy that day, if it was cancelled, if he/she did a great job, etc.  If your child is non-verbal it’s even more of a mystery.

 

Communicate from the beginning!

My best advice for starting the year off right is to communicate with the therapist.  I like for parents to send in a notebook so I can write a short blurb about what we worked on.  I like to give handouts for suggestions at home and let them know how their child is progressing.

 

However, some therapists don’t like notebooks.  For example, my sister-in-law is a speech therapist. She sees children in groups of five. That means that at the “end” of her session, she would need to write in 5 different books.  With 7 therapy periods a day, that would be 35 notebooks a day. Now, what is more important? Writing in the books or working with the kids? You can guess the answer.

 

For me, I see children individually or in a group of two. So it only takes a few minutes to jot down what we worked on and how the child did.  I have some parents who write me back or put a checkmark every time I write.  Then I have a few others who don’t do anything.  Now I don’t know if they read my note  or even saw it.  Did the book even go home? After a few of these, I have to be honest: I am less motivated to write in that book. Because 1) why bother if you are not reading it and 2) it takes time away from your child.

Communication Notebooks don’t always work

Sometimes parents send in a book and then they get annoyed when the therapist doesn’t write in it. Here is my advice for that:

1)  Write to them first.  Tell them you want to communicate and would love feedback about how your child is doing.  You would love suggestions for home, etc.

2) If it’s been a few weeks and you haven’t heard from your therapist, write a note to the teacher.  Maybe the book is lost or maybe your child sticks it in his desk instead of his backpack.

Sometimes the schedule (the therapist’s or the child’s) interferes with writing in the book, too.  In Long Island, most districts do not have their own OT’s and PT’s.  So the therapists are from contract agencies, working in multiple buildings and even multiple districts in one day.  This means that sometimes they eat lunch in their car in between schools.  Life is chaotic.

Anyway, my point is that a day in a therapist’s life is often rushed and scheduled down to the very minute.  So is your child’s.  They have to fit your child’s OT or PT session around lunch, literacy block, other therapies, resource room and specials.  This means they may pick up your child straight from music and then bring them right down to lunch. Maybe they go straight off the bus to the OT room and then the class picks them up on the way to art. The child isn’t in their classroom and therefore they couldn’t grab their notebook.

Communication: Don’t believe what you hear!

Then there is also this scenario:

Mom: “What did you do in OT today?”

Johnny: “We colored”.

The OT: “Johnny colored in a color-by number sheet to work on visual perceptual skills and matching while laying on his belly to increase upper extremity strength and stability.  He is working to increase his endurance for writing.”

Mom: “What did you do in OT today?”
Johnny: “We played games!”

The OT: “We’ve been working on visual perceptual skills and fine motor skills. Johnny has trouble tracking from left to right when copying from the board.  We played “Battleship” because it works on all of those skills at once. We also played it laying our bellies to improve Johnny’s shoulder stability.”

See the difference?  Kids work hard to sit it school all day, so OT and PT are a great chance for them to move and “have fun”.   So most therapists try to work on their therapy goals while incorporating movement and fun for the child.  To the outsider it looks like all fun and games.  But there is some hard work going on.

Your therapist isn’t going to tell your child all the things they are really working on. So your child won’t tell you.

Communication is KEY to progress and carryover.  Your child’s therapist wants them to succeed and so do you.  If the notebook doesn’t work, ask if you can email. Some districts don’t want teachers to email, so if that’s the case ask for monthly updates or a phone call once in a while.  Keep in mind that your child’s therapist may have between 20-60 other kids on their caseload.

Do you have any tips for communicating with your therapists? Please share!

Miss Jaime OT

Have a great year! ~Miss Jaime, OT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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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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What parents need to know about jumbo crayons

handwriting, fine motor, missjaimeot

Do you remember when your child first started coloring?

You may remember using jumbo crayons and pencils when you first learned how to color or write your name. You may be surprised to learn that handwriting experts and occupational therapists don’t recommend them. Jumbo crayons and pencils are actually age appropriate for toddlers to use!

When learning to write, bigger crayons aren’t better crayons!

So learn why not and what to use instead!

crayons, jumbo crayons, grasping, fine motor skills

Why should you chuck your Jumbo crayons and 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.

DSC_0377b copy (1)

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.

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! 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.

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!

Just say NO to jumbo crayons and chalk!

pencilbigvslittle

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

So what crayons should kids use?

Which ones are the best crayons for kids? I recommend two Magical Crayons that will change your child’s grasp, but good old regular crayons are fine too. 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.

large crayon rocks

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.

flip 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.

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!

*This post contains Affiliate Links

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!

 

 

~Miss Jaime, O.T.

handwriting, scissors skills, cutting, writing, coloring, fine motor, MissJaimeOT

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