Say What?! #2 - Ketchup

There's this little guy I see at school who is totally adorable. I can't give too much away out of respect for his privacy, so let's just say he rocks. He and his classmates are big time jokesters, and LOVE being silly.

As I was leaving today I called out, "Catch ya on the flip side!" Shooting straight up from the floor (which is usually pretty awkward and difficult for him) he shouted, "YEAH! KETCHUP ON THE FLIP SIDE, MRS. HARRIS!!!"

Normally I don't enjoy ketchup, but this little dude completely opened up my world to it! Maybe yours, too!

Ketchup on the flip side...and keep breaking crayons, too!


Say What???

Kids are known to come out with some memorable lines. In an effort to preserve their unknowingly humorous natures, I've started a new (infrequent, probably sporadic) series entitled...
So here goes #1...

Our 3-year-old son, singing Jingle Bells in stead of taking a nap:

"Oh what fun it is to ride in a happy, awesome sleigh!"

Gotta love it! Do you have any funny, quotable versions of Christmas carols from your kids? Share them in the comments!


Fine Motor Activities Don't Work...Unless You Do!

I'm sure some of you are probably offended by my title. Let me preface this post by saying I don't think you're lazy, and I'm certain your creativity in creating or finding fine motor activities to use with your little  ones goes above and beyond average.

The problem is that without understanding WHAT you're using the activity for - i.e. HOW it's helping your child or student - you may be completely missing the boat. Fine motor skills, just like all other skills, develop in a certain order. Lets use my daughter as an example!

Santa was very good to her, as you can see by this cool present she got!

Obviously this is a great craft set to work on her fine motor skills and is totally age-appropriate. Love it. HOWEVER, the little sneak was totally cheating and not using a pincer grasp (pads of thumb and index finger) to pick up and string the beads. In stead, she was pinching with her thumb and middle finger, something I commonly see in my practice in kids with delayed fine motor skills. And being the dedicated OT that I am, there was no way I was letting her slide!

Telling her to use her index finger didn't I resorted to making it so she COULDN'T (evil, I know...again, it's that OT in me!). 

By simply putting her middle and ring fingers into one of the key rings from the craft set. This helped by forcing her to use her index finger to grasp. It was also comfortable to her (didn't cause pain!) and we had a great laugh. And, when she wanted to take them off, off they went!

Moral of the story: be sure your fine motor activity is working on your child's needs, and be sure to watch for anything out of he he ordinary. If you see something "funky", do the OT-thing and make a small change to help facilitate the skills you want to improve. 

Another great idea for pincer grasp is to cutt off the thumb from an old mitten or maybe even a small hole in an old sock. Put it on the child's hand with only the thumb and index finger through the hole. This will make it more difficult for them to use the other fingers (although I've seen some tricky 3 & 4 year olds do it!) and will help strengthen the muscles used to coordinate this type of grasp.

Do you have activities that you rely on to help with certain skills? Ideas to help with certain skills? Questions about how to adapt an activity? Leave your comments below! Above all, it's important to not only provide a child wit a fun, engaging activity but also for YOU to be engaged as well. You'll be surprised at what you'll see, what you'll learn, and how creative you can get with making small changes to help that child grow!

Keep breaking crayons...


Movement Sticks: Calm Your Kids with a Free Printable!

As I've mentioned before, kids are getting less and less opportunities to move throughout their days. With the addition of the new common core standards even students in the lower elementary grades are now required to sit for continuous instruction time anywhere from 60-90 minutes at a stretch!

Movement of all kinds - climbing, jumping, spinning, running, etc. - is not only important to help kids get out "extra energy," but also very organizing and calming to the body. From a sensory perspective, these kinds of activities provide proprioceptive (deep pressure, heavy input to the joints and muscles of the body) and vestibular (balance system) input. Both of these sensory inputs - especially proprioception - play an integral role in a child's ability to maintain body control and even pay attention in the classroom.

So in stead of continuing to complain about the ridiculous common core set-up, I decided to take action. I took inspiration from this post over at Keep Calm & Teach On and created these movement sticks below. (All blue & green activities are created by me, with the other colors inspired by Keep Calm & Teach On).

It's a way to add in some quick movement breaks during the day to help kids stay on task and ready to learn. These can easily be performed in any classroom or even at home as part of a homeschool set-up or even as a way to get your children to calm their bodies in preparation for bedtime!

Included in the .pdf download below are three pages of movement ideas - 36 activities in all - with corresponding cards explaining how to perform each activity. There's a wide variety of choices, including:
  • Group Games
  • Relaxation & Breathing Strategies
  • Yoga
  • Individual Strategies
  • and more!


You can grab the .pdf file here to get your free copy of all 36 activities!

Let me know what you think and how they work for you. Do you or your kids have any favorites from the set? What other activities do you use to help your kids be the "boss of their bodies"? Let us know in the comments!

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Easy Low-Budget DIY Sensory Vest

I have several students on my caseload that have big time sensory needs. Both of our children, 6 & 3, are also a little funky when it comes to sensory input. Our 3-year-old son is a sensory seeker, which in layman's terms means he's "on the go" or "all boy" as my grandmother likes to say!

One of the best strategies I've found to help kids be the "boss of their body" as I say in school a lot is to use what's called a hug vest. Somewhat similar to a weighted vest, the hug vest provides great proprioceptive (deep pressure) input to a child's body - kind of like a big, continuous bear hug! Proprioceptive input is very organizing for the brain and nervous system, which in turn helps children slow down their bodies and get them under control (hence "boss of your body"!).

While the hug vest has been a great tool for me and for many of the children I see, it's not always the most economical choice. The cost for a hug vest can range anywhere from $45 to $100 and up! So I decided to go on a search to see what I could find to make my own. Originally I was thinking about using a lumbar support brace, but the stores in my rural town didn't really have what I was hoping for. But, I was able to find some great alternatives in the fitness section at WalMart!

Let's see below:

 1. This waist trimmer is made of neoprene material - perfect to simulate the piece of the hug vest that wraps around the trunk. For $5, that's a no-brainer!
 2. The thigh slimmers, also made of neoprene - but slightly thinner, are a perfect simulation for the shoulder straps once cut down the middle. These come two for $10 in a box. Again, score!
 3. Here's a terrible picture of the thigh slimmer cut length-wise to make the shoulder straps.
 4. Here's our son Noah, the sensory seeker, modeling the final product. Notice that the straps are criss-crossed and then tucked under the first layer of the trunk wrap. No need to sew additional velcro to secure! Two points for that!
 5. A view from the back. Again, terrible pic!

And how did Noah like the final product?

He was totally digging his "work vest" and was a new kid! No more climbing on tables, running around the house, throwing things for the heck of it. I think that's why I love sensory strategies - they truly help bring out the best in kids!

Do you have any DIY sensory strategies that you find helpful? What are the tools you use the most for kids with sensory needs? Definitely shout the out in the comments. The more tricks we have in our sensory bags, the better we're able to help kids be the "boss of their bodies"!

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Wrapping Paper Coloring Activity

While Christmas shopping last weekend I came across this fantastic wrapping paper, which was on sale at JoAnn Fabrics for 60% off - original price $3.99! A great bargain AND a really fun activity for home or school!

There are so many benefits to having kids write or color on vertical surfaces. It not only helps with muscle strength in their arms, but also puts their hand in the correct position for writing and coloring, such as:

WRIST EXTENSION - wrist slightly pulled back (away from palm)

TRIPOD GRASP - thumb, index and middle finger forming a "tripod"; this is the most functional way to hold (grasp) a writing utensil!

As you can see, I also have my bucket of Magic Crayons for the kids to use. They're simply broken into smaller pieces - halves or thirds - which also helps facilitate a tripod grasp. Easy trick, but be aware that some kids may get tired very easily, especially when working vertically!

This is a great activity for anytime, but especially during the holidays when kids are buzzing with excitement. Keep your eyes peeled for coloring paper next time you go to JoAnn Fabrics, or any store that sells wrapping paper. And if you can't find this paper, you could always use a roll of plain easel paper or even just tape coloring pages onto the wall for a fun activity at home or a holiday party. Just be sure to supervise the kids when coloring...if they're anything like my own, you'll have artwork on the paper AND THE WALLS! 

Happy coloring and happy holidays!

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Handwriting Practice Cards

For some children, handwriting can be a very daunting task. Finding ways to make it both functional AND fun is very important. This hand-made set of letter and number cards is a simple and versatile way for kids to practice formation beyond the basic, mundane pencil-paper routine.

Simply take a set of blank 3 x 5" index cards and use a variety of fun colors to write the letters and numbers. Be sure to place your practice line properly for lower case letters - it's very important for kids that need practice to be able to properly visualize correct letter formation in relation to the base line! Laminate the cards using a laminating machine or even contact paper. Grab a dry-erase marker and you're good to go! You can punch a hole in the top corner of each card and store on a loose leaf ring to keep them all together.

As you can see in the picture, providing a box will help kids who may write too large or small by giving them boundaries when writing. The line to the right simulates how it will appear on paper, and also gives them a chance to further test visual perceptual skills by removing the boundary.

Many times I'll have my students trace the letter with the index finger on their dominant hand a few times (3-5) before writing the letter. This offers additional kinesthetic practice and tactile input, which can enhance their understanding of how the letter is created in space. You can also use Wikki Stix/Bendaroos to have the child form the letter on top of the card as well.

Other ideas for these cards include:
  • Place the cards around a table or even the room; have the child locate in alphabetical or numerical order to write on each card
  • Have the child elect letters in one of their sight words or spelling list words before writing on the cards
  • Use your finger to write the letter/number on the child's back; have them guess which letter/number then find that card to write it out
There are limitless options to use the cards in fun ways to help your child with letter and number formation that go far beyond rote practice! Use your imagination and see what fun ideas you can come up with!

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