Weighted fidget

How to Make a Weighted Fidget

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.

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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

 

 

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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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Getting Your Preschooler Evaluated for Special Education Services

 

Preschool Special Education Services…What does it all mean?

If your child is between the ages of three and five years old and you suspect they may have a delay or a disability, you should contact your school district’s Committee on Preschool Education Department (CPSE).  You can almost always access the contact information on your district’s website.  Smaller districts may combine the preschool and school-age offices into one big Special Education department.  Either way, if you call the Special Education number and tell them you need to speak to someone about your preschool age child, they will direct you to the proper person.

Early Intervention services are different than preschool services. For information about getting your child under three years old evaluated, click here. 

special ed, preschool special ed, CPSE

So then what happens?

If you suspect a delay and wish to have your child evaluated, you need to make a referral to your district CPSE.  A referral can be made by a  parent, a teacher or a professional in your child’s school,  doctors, judicial officers (such as a family court judge or a probation officer) or a designated person in a public agency.  In addition, a referral may also be made by someone from an Early Childhood Direction Center, an approved preschool program or an Early Intervention Program that serves children with disabilities from birth to age three.

A referral is a written statement directed to your school district asking that your child is evaluated to determine if he or she qualifies for special education services.   You should submit the letter to the CPSE chairperson or Special Education Director.  When you write your referral, it is a great idea to include some details about why you are requesting the evaluation.  This will help the committee to make sure they are assessing your child appropriately in the areas that you are concerned about.  Also, include your child’s name and date of birth.

The evaluation process will include various assessments from educational professionals.  Each child is tested according to the Committee’s concerns.  For example, if a parent or teacher voices concerns over the child’s language skills, a speech and language evaluation may be included as part of the child’s evaluation process.   Another child may have strong language skills but very poor motor skills, so that child would be evaluated for occupational or physical therapy, but not speech and language.

special education, CSE, special ed, testing, preschool, getting your child evaluated

As I mentioned before; give some details about why you are concerned.

“My son Johnny has a lot of difficulty running without falling down, he struggles to sit up straight, he appears clumsy and bumps into furniture, etc.”  

“Annie still has a very limited vocabulary and is difficult to understand when she is talking.  My husband and I can understand her, but strangers don’t know what she is saying.”

“Jayden still switches hands when he picks up his scissors or a crayon. He dislikes wearing socks and tantrums if we insist that he uses a spoon instead of his fingers.”

“Matthew’s teacher states that he only likes to play by himself.  He needs constant reminders not to shout indoors.  He has been getting aggressive with his friends, and he hit someone last week when he was upset”  

This will help the committee to make sure they are assessing your child appropriately in the areas that you are concerned about.   After all, you know your child better than we do!

***Miss Jaime OT’s #1 tip – as you begin this process, get in the habit of being very organized. Get a binder or a file folder and keep all of your child’s evaluations, IEP’s and paperwork in one spot.  You won’t regret it!

Next, you will receive a request for your written consent to have your child evaluated.  Make sure you return the papers!  I can’t tell you how many times a parent has complained about the evaluation taking too long when it is simply because the district doesn’t have written consent.   It may seem redundant, but legally the district has to have their “ducks in a row” before they can get started.

The evaluations can take place at your child’s preschool or your home.  Your district will provide you with a list of evaluators or agencies that you can choose from.  I suggest asking your friends for input- did they use an agency that they really like?  If you don’t know anyone whose child has been evaluated, you can ask your CPSE chair for suggestions.


The evaluations will take place at no cost to you.

The evaluations must be comprehensive and will be conducted by a psychologist and other professionals that have specific knowledge about your child’s disability (special education teacher, speech therapist, occupational therapist, etc.)   It will probably take a few sessions to get all of the testing done. In addition, you will be contacted for information regarding your child’s milestones, habits, strengths, weaknesses, etc.  This is called a social history.

The results of the evaluations will be shared with you face to face or by mail.  You will then have a formal CPSE meeting where all of the professionals who worked with your child will go over the results of their testing.  You can bring any additional information or testing to this meeting to add to your child’s case.   The point of this meeting is to get a complete “picture” of your child and to determine if they meet the criteria to qualify for Special Education services.  If you have questions about any of the reports prior to the meeting, feel free to call that evaluator or the CPSE chairperson.  It is only fair that you understand what you are reading. Sometimes the educational reports get very wordy and confusing for someone who isn’t in the field.  It’s Ok, just ask!

 

In order to be eligible to receive services, your child must meet the criteria set forth by the New York State Education Department.  It must be determined that your child has a disability which impacts his ability to learn.  Here are the NY state regulations on determining if a preschooler meets criteria to receive special education services.

http://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/publications/preschool/guide/eligibdeter.htm

So all the testing is done… Now what?

 

If the CPSE determines that your child is ineligible for Special Education services, they will explain to you why your child doesn’t qualify and provide you with written notice of this decision.  If you disagree with the recommendations or decisions of the CPSE, you can begin steps to request mediation or an impartial hearing.  Click on the link above for more information regarding mediation.  You can also consider going through your health insurance.  You would need to speak to your family physician as well as your insurance company to see if these services are covered.  A final option would be to pay privately for the services you feel your child needs.  Much like a tutor, a private teacher or therapist would work on your areas of concern at a schedule that is convenient for you.

If the CPSE determines that your child is eligible for Special Education services, the Committee will then take the steps to develop an IEP for your child.  An IEP is an individualized education plan that is developed specifically for your child’s educational needs.  The Committee can consider providing your child with just related services (speech and language or OT) or counseling.  Sometimes a child needs a SEIT Special Education Itinerant Teacher or even a half day program.  Each IEP is designed to address your child’s strengths and weaknesses in the Least Restrictive Environment.  The Committee will discuss the supports, services, and modifications to meet your child’s needs.

Once the IEP is developed, you will receive a written copy which will include the goals that the professionals servicing your child are working toward.  The district will follow a timeline to set up the services for your child in a timely manner so that he or she can begin getting the help they need as soon as possible.

Here is the link to the New York State Special Education Website, which includes more detailed specific information about the process.

http://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/publications/preschool/brochure.htm

The process takes a while to learn, but soon you will be an expert!  Consider joining your district’s SEPTA (Special Education Parent Teacher Association) to learn more about the Special Education process and all the supports that are available to you and your child.

Knowledge is power!

Good Luck!

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