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

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 playtime 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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10 Pet Peeves of a School-Based OT

Learn 10 pet peeves of a school based Occupational Therapist

10 Pet Peeves of a school-based Occupational Therapist

In the spirit of teaching the general public about OT, I’ve decided to share some of my “O.T. pet peeves”.  The teachers that I work with know me pretty well.  As a true Sagittarius,  I am a very easy going person, but some things drive me nuts! (Yes I believe in that stuff)

My pet peeves are all with good reason, I swear! Over the years, I’ve managed to rub my “O.T. ways” off on many of them.  Here are my pet peeves with explanations:

CUT THE CLUTTER

1) Over decorated classrooms –  A classroom with too much stuff going on can be really distracting for kids with attention issues.  Too much clutter, every wall covered, things hanging from the ceiling, desks covered with pictures and visual cues, etc.  Children who are easily overstimulated get distracted by all of these things.

Teachers wonder why so many kids have such poor attention – maybe all the clutter is what is distracting them?  Also, when children are trying to copy from the board, they need to change the position of their head (as well as their visual gaze) from looking at a vertical surface (board) to a horizontal surface (notebook). Think of all of the visual distractions in the path from the board to the notebook.  No wonder they have difficulty copying!

Check out my video with tips for “copying from the board” here.

This post contains affiliate links.

2)  Gluesticks – The teachers that I work with know that I NEVER want glue sticks if we are working on an art and craft project.  I prefer regular good old Elmers glue!  Why?  I know they can be messy at first, but that’s because children need to learn how hard to squeeze. They need to be able to recognize that the glue cap isn’t open.  They need to use their little hand muscles to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.  Real glue, please!  Also – need a quick glue cap #OThack for little hands?  Use a Wikki Stix  (aka Bendaroo) on the cap so kids know where to pinch.  It also helps them to hold, so their little fingers don’t slide when they twist.

pet peeves of a school based Occupational Therapist

SENSORY PROCESSING

3)   Too many cushion seats – This one is in a special case.  Generally, if a teacher asks me for a cushion seat, I’m psyched.  I love that they are looking for a strategy to increase a child’s ability to focus.  BUT – when a teacher approaches me and says “I need five seat cushions”, my immediate reply (in my head, of course) is “Um, NO, you need to change your classroom routine.” If that many children are having difficulty sitting still or focusing, the classroom routine should be altered to include lots of brain breaks, heavy work, and changes in position.

A cushion seat should be the exception, not the rule. Kids need to move! 

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#Functionalskillsforkids

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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A Fidget for Busy Hands

 

Busy Hands for a Fidgety Kid

Fidgets, Fidgets, Fidgets!

If you’ve been reading my latest posts, you’ll notice that I’ve been talking a lot about fidgets, fidgeting, and all things fidgety. Teachers are constantly asking how to help their students focus and how to keep them in their seats. Parents are looking for sensory toys to help their child succeed at school.  There are many simple fidgets that you can supply a student with to keep busy hands quiet during class activities.

As I’ve recently posted, there are great little toys you can get at the dollar store that will do the job. But, sometimes you need something more. Something sturdy, durable, washable, AND fidgety. Today I’m excited to write about a new product I found called Fiddle Focus™ for Busy Fingers.  It’s made by Creative Educational Strategies and Services.  I had a great experience with one of my most fidgety Kindergarten kids ever. This product did the trick, so I’m happy to share my good luck with you.

*This post contains affiliate links

The Busy Hands tactile fidget is a tactile strip with four different patterns and materials set next to each other in a horizontal row.  There is velcro attached to the back, so you can stick it to the underneath of a desk or a table if that is convenient.

My Fidgety Kindergarten Case

“Danny” was a 5-year-old boy who presented with all the classic symptoms of ADHD.  He was inattentive, impulsive, and had a constant need to be moving.  I worked very closely with the special education teacher in his co-teaching kindergarten classroom to make sure that Danny’s environment was set up so that he could learn.  We tried a Seat Cushion for him, which helped him stay seated for longer periods of time. Then we added TheraBand to the legs of his chair, so he could kick while sitting at his Kindergarten work table.  We gave him a weighted vest to wear during circle time, which he loved.  So we had most of our bases covered.

Except for his hands.

 Those fingers would seek out anything they could during lessons, resulting in untied shoelaces, tiny crayon wrappers all over the desk, you name it.  I decided to try out the Busy Fingers from Fiddle focus.  We had already tried Velcro under the table as a tactile fidget.  The problem was that he kept peeling it off.  Simply rubbing the Velcro wasn’t enough.

busy fingers

The Busy Fingers tactile strip turned out to be perfect.  It comes with a velcro strip, so we stuck it to the underneath of his kindergarten table right at his seat.  Now it was out of view, which didn’t make all the other kids ask about it.

But, when he got up to go sit on the rug, he was able to peel it off and take it with him.  This way, his fingers were busy while the teacher taught her lesson of the day.  Now, with the vest, the cushion, and the Busy Fingers, we had the tools we needed to help Danny focus.  On a side note, Danny’s mom was on board with us trying all this stuff.  He was just as inattentive and fidgety at home.

busy fingers fidget

Danny’s special ed teacher told me that Danny was doing great with the Busy Fingers.  She said  “he’s playing with it while the teacher is teaching but he hears everything she says.   It’s under the table so the other kids aren’t distracted, but he loves to reach for it in between lessons”. Sometimes it’s hard to understand that a child can still hear everything you say even if they aren’t looking at you.  But the same is true for us.  How often do we watch TV, read a book and have a conversation with someone at the same time? Not everyone’s brains are wired to concentrate on one thing at a time. That’s okay. As long as you get done what needs to get done, it’s all good.

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Products for your Fidgety Kid:

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fidget pencils

 What is your favorite fidget?  Please share!
miss jaime ot
~Miss Jaime, O.T.
Dollar store fidgets

10 Simple Fidgets from the Dollar $tore

Wiggly Kids Need Fidgets to Learn  

In the “olden days”,  kids were expected to sit still and listen. When they didn’t, they were in big trouble.  Nowadays, teachers and parents understand that kids need to move in order to learn.  Children who have special needs may have particular difficulty listening or maintaining attention to topic for what educators consider “appropriate” periods of time.   Thankfully, fidgets have become more and more commonplace in the classroom. Teachers have changed their classroom routines to include movement breaks and “brain breaks” so kids can get their “wiggles out”.  But when it’s time to sit and listen, nothing beats a fidget for keeping busy hands still.

 Simple Fidgets from the Dollar $tore

Teachers (and O.T.’s) spend a ton of their own money every year to make sure their kids have everything they need to learn.   As  one of those “teachers” AND a total Bargain-Hunter, I spend a lot of time at the Dollar store.  I’m teaching a class for teachers in a few days about sensory processing and I want to drive home the importance of letting kids fidget.  So I decided to start the class by giving each teacher (aka student in my class) a fidget to play with during the lecture part of my class.   I decided to share my favorite budget fidgets on my blog to help other teachers as well as all the parents of those wiggly kids.

 

 

Fidgets keep wiggly hands busy.  So the kids aren’t looking at you when you talk, Who cares!?  They know what you look like.  And very often, they can still answer your question.   So why not give them something to fidget with?

Ok, so here goes: Miss Jaime, O.T.’s Top Ten Dollar $tore Fidgets

1)  Bubble  Wrap– The best fidgets are silent, but there is really something so satisfying about the “POP” of bubble wrap.  It also works on the “pincer” grip that OT’s are always looking for.  It works on hand strength, too.  A word of caution, kids with weak hand strength have difficulty  popping the bubbles. So they tend to “sneak” a pop by using their nails to cut the bubble. Not on my watch – oh no you don’t.  Pads of the fingers only, kiddies!

2) Car Wash Mitt – this is a weird one, but if you look past the name on the label- it’s a perfect simple fidget.  the soft material just begs for fingers to play and rub and the little nubs are the perfect size for little hands.  If you wanted to take it a step further, you could open it and put some rice or beans in there.  Then it’s not only tactile, but a weighted fidget, too.

3) Microfiber Hand Towels – the ones I found at the Dollar Tree by me (in the Baby section)  have these cute little character faces on the ends.  Just one could be a nice quiet fidget.  Or you could sew two together and make a weighted lap pad.

microfibertowels

These little towels are soft with a little face for fingers to play with.

4)  Cold Compresses – Again, in the baby section.  Most people wouldn’t think of these as a fidget, but why not?  They are filled with little gel balls that are fun to squish around, and they are Quiet!

cold compresses, sensory, fidgets

These are meant for bumps and bruises, but why not as a fidget? Both squishy and quiet, they make a perfect fidget.

 

5)  Pop beads– in the Kiddie toy or “goody bag” section – there are usually  pop beads available.  Now, I can’t pretend that Dollar Store Pop beads are as good as really good pop beads from a therapy catalog.  BUT – sometimes budget pop-beads do the job.  They are quiet. Plus, they work on eye-hand coordination and bilateral coordination.

popbeads, fidgets

Popbeads are great for keeping two hands busy.

6)  Stretchy animals – Again – in the toy section or maybe the goody bag section, there are usually lots of yucky stretchy worms, spiders, frogs, etc.  They tend to be seasonal.  But they are always there.  They are quiet and small enough to fit in a pocket for silent fidgeting.

stretchy bugs, fidgets

Stretchy bugs change every season, but they are always at the dollar store!

7) Silly Putty – Silly putty is almost always available at the dollar store and it’s a great simple fidget.  It’s quiet and so satisfying to stretch and roll in between fingers.  It fits in the little “egg” to keep it nice and clean in the child’s supply box.

8) Loofah – My favorite part about being an OT is that I am able to look at things further than seeing what they are usually used for.  Everyone knows a loofah is great in the tub, but why not in the classroom?   They are quiet, they are fun to fiddle with.  Sometimes they have little animal heads on them, which makes it seem more like a toy and less like a hygiene tool.  But either way, they are great for busy fingers.

9) Tiny Koosh balls –  I like these because they fit right in a little palm or a little pocket.  They are quiet, and they are usually colorful. The tiny spikes feel good when you roll them in your hand or against a desk.  My Dollar Store usually has them in the goody  bag  section.  They usually come ten in a bag, so ten fidgets for a dollar, which makes a budget diva like myself very happy!

10) Large Squishy balls – these are usually in the toy section.  They come in fun loud colors and are sooo fun to squish, stretch, and smash.  I do like these fidgets, but I find that they are a little more distracting than the little ones.  They don’t fit in a pocket, either.

 

A lot of teachers who aren’t used to giving out or allowing fidgets will say to me “how do I explain to the other kids that only Johnny is allowed to have this toy”?  I like to tell kids that every student is different and they all need different tools to learn.  One child might need a special cushion seat and another might need special crayons. Everyone is different and just because one child has something doesn’t mean you all need it.   I love the book “Arnie and his School Tools” for this reason. It basically explains this to the kids in a cute story about Arnie, a very fidgety kid!

Arnie and His School Tools: Simple Sensory Solutions That Build Success

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Products you should check out for your Sensory Kid! (affiliate links)

 

FIDGIPOD HAND FIDGET Set of 3! Tangle Fidget Toy Pencil Tops Fidget

 

 

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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