Play and attention

Using Play to Increase Attention

#FunctionalSkillsForKids

*This post contains affiliate links

This month’s topic in the  “Functional Skills for Kids” blog hop is PLAY, so check out the landing page for the rest of our posts and information on all things related to play skills!

what is play?

Play is defined as an activity that a person engages in for recreation and enjoyment.   For children, play is crucial to their development and learning. A child’s primary occupation is to play, learn, and socialize  (AOTA, 2015).     As a child plays, they develop the ability to problem solve, learn new skills, and use coordination and motor skills.   (AOTA, 2011).    It is important to remember that children learn best when they play with toys that are geared towards their developmental level  (raisingchildren.net).   Encouraging play with toys that are above your child’s developmental levels can lead to frustration and distraction.  

why is PLAY important for children to learn?

Play is an important component of childhood learning.  It fosters the development of motor skills, teaches children how to use their bodies, and helps children learn about the world around them.    When a child “plays”, it can be a structured game with rules such as kickball, free play (building with blocks), or engaging with a toy or another person.   Although play is perceived as “fun”, it is also a vital part of childhood development.

For example, an infant may “play” by cooing and giggling with mommy.  That baby is developing the ability to make eye contact, socialize, and form a relationship.   A toddler may play with blocks or toy trains.  He is developing the ability to use his two hands together to connect the blocks, visual skills to line them up properly, and imagination to decide what he wants to build.  As he plays on the floor with his train, he is crawling on all fours, using his body to bear weight,  and using eye-hand coordination to keep his train on the track.  A school-age child plays a board game with a friend.  Although socializing and forming a friendship with a peer, he is also learning to follow rules, take turns, and cope with losing/ or learning to be a good sport.

As children grow older, the activities they participate in as “Play” activities change.  So do the benefits and acquired skills of the activity they are engaging in.

When a child’s attention limits his ability to play for extended periods of time, it also interferes with his ability to develop the skills that naturally emerge from playtime.   So, as you can see, PLAY IS VERY IMPORTANT!

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long island yoga for kids

Long Island Yoga for Kids

Yoga is my absolute favorite way to exercise.  I also love to recommend yoga for kids. Years ago I got into yoga as a form of exercise and stress relief.   I ended up loving it so much that I was certified to teach “Group Exercise” through the American Aerobics Association with the hopes of teaching yoga as a hobby.  I did that for a year and liked it very much, but decided that I like being a member of a class more than I like being the instructor.  However, I am a huge believer in the old saying “everything happens for a reason”.   I learned yoga well enough to teach it and to combine it with my “OT” knowledge, which really helped me to use yoga as a therapeutic activity with my students. Continue reading

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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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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 *Affiliate Links

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Happy Holidays From 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