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!
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.
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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.
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.
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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|What is your favorite fidget? Please share!|
|~Miss Jaime, O.T.|
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…
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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!
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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!
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Shoulder stability provides an important foundation for fine motor skills!
It’s really the first thing I look at as an OT when a teacher asks me to “screen” a child for OT difficulties. Shoulder stability should be established by the time a child starts kindergarten.
When it isn’t, it can lead to difficulties in the classroom, especially for writing and drawing.
What you need to know about child development…
Do you remember when you first started coloring?
Toddlers use their whole arm to scribble. Then, as the child progresses developmentally, they begin to rest their forearm on the table. This helps them to start using their hand and fingers (instead of their shoulder and arm) to control the crayon.
They develop the ability to keep their shoulder stable during fine motor activities, which helps them to use the small muscles of their hand. This is called shoulder stability. Shoulder stability is an important developmental milestone for children who are learning to color and write. A child should be able to rest their arm on the table and use only their fingers to move the pencil by the time they enter kindergarten. Check out your child – is their elbow off the table? Are they moving their pencil with their fingers or their whole arm?
Babies who don’t crawl for very long or can’t tolerate “tummy time” are often delayed in developing shoulder stability. This makes it harder for them to learn how to write. As they reach first or second grade, they often complain that they are too tired or that their arm hurts during writing assignments. That’s because they are using their entire arm to try to make a tiny letter, which is very hard work!
So what can you do to help?
Encourage your child or your student to write on a vertical surface, such as a chalkboard or a dry erase board. Tape a worksheet to the board or a wall and let them write standing up. Did you know that they make the chalkboard and dry erase contact paper? This is a great way to encourage shoulder stability. The child will lean on the wall which forces them to use their fingers! Give your student a slant board or a six-inch binder that slants downward to the child. This forces the wrist to extend upward, forcing the fingers to do the work. For younger children, encourage laying on the tummy to read, play games, do puzzles. Encourage crawling, wheelbarrow walking and using their arms to hold their body up.
Writing on the Wall is a Big Help!
Laying on your belly to color and play helps to develop shoulder stability
Tummy Time Works! Here is my one of my success stories. Look at that perfect Shoulder Stability!
I hope you try some of these techniques – remember developmental progress takes time and patience, but it happens!
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5 Tricks to help your child with cutting
1. Thumbs up for good cutting!
Teach your child that “thumbs up” means “good job”. Then, show them that in order to cut properly, both hands should be “thumbs up” or “thumbs on top”. Most parents don’t realize that their child is”thumbs down” on the hand that holds the paper.
In order to have the best control, both thumbs should be facing up.
2. Elbows in!
Many children use their whole arm when they only need their hands. This is a sign that they are still developing shoulder stability. You’ll notice that they may stick their elbow out, instead of keeping it stable by their body. This is a sign that they are compensating for weak upper body strength and stability. You can help this along by having your child spend more time on their belly when reading or doing puzzles, etc. In the meantime when they are cutting, remind them “elbows tucked in”. This will give them better control.
3. Right side up!
If your child consistently forgets to hold the scissors right side up with their thumb in the little hole, make it fun by drawing a face on their thumb or their thumbnail before they begin cutting. Tell them that the thumb is the bus driver. He sits in the front seat (small window) by himself. The rest of the fingers are the kids, they sit in the back together. Most kids like this trick.
If they still have trouble after a few times, you can also try gluing or drawing eyes on the “little hole”. This way, when your little one picks up the scissors, the eyes are “watching him”. Hot glue does not last very long on plastic, but that’s ok! Hopefully, by the time the googly eyes fall off, your child will have developed the proper habit.
4. The writing hand is the cutting hand!
Children should have developed their hand dominance by the time they are four. However, sometimes they may still switch for certain activities. With scissors, I find that lefties often switch to “righty” to cut because the blades of typical scissors work better when cutting with the right hand. (Most lefty scissors have the blades reversed – who knew!?) Some parents buy their child a lefty scissors to make it easier. I highly suggest this!
But they may still switch hands.
If your child is switching hands, encourage them to use their dominant hand. If you aren’t sure whether they are lefty or righty, watch which hand they use to pick up their fork, crayon, or a toy. Place objects in the middle of their body and see which hand they prefer. Once your child has chosen a hand, encourage that hand for cutting, coloring, and using a fork. One tip to help them remember is to use a tattoo! Put a removable tattoo on your child’s dominant hand as a “reminder”. Kids love tattoos and it’s an easy fix.
5. Get those muscles strong!
One of the reasons that cutting is difficult for children is that they have to separate the two sides (pinky and thumb) of their hand. This is hard work, and sometimes hard work is NOT fun. If your little guy gets frustrated with cutting, work on their hand strength with other activities that work the same muscles. This way, the muscles are getting stronger while your child is having fun doing something “different”. Here are some simple everyday activities that develop separation of the two sides of the hand:
1) Fill an empty spray bottle with water and let your children spray the plants, the car, the chalk off the driveway!
2) Bring it to the beach or the pool and let your children spray you, themselves, or each other when they get hot!
3) Same goes for old fashioned (trigger style) water guns.
4) Use your old tweezers to pick up beans, beads, or anything small.
5) Use Spaghetti Tongs to pick up all the dirty laundry (or anything else) off the floor.
5) Use an old sock to make a sock puppet – draw a mouth and a face so your child practices “opening and shutting” the mouth as he talks.
Hope these simple tricks help you to help your child with the tough task of learning how to cut! Good Luck!
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