With Memorial Day Weekend coming up, summertime feels like it is officially starting. There are so many ways you can encourage what your child has been working on in school and/or therapy in the summertime just by virtue of play. Below are some of our top ideas!

-Barefoot: Playing outside barefoot (on any safe surface) is an excellent way to build strength, provide sensory input and literally “ground” your child”. As often as possible allow your child to play barefoot (when safe) outdoors. You can discuss the different textures your child may be feeling such as hot concrete, itchy grass or spikey woodchips.

-Water Play: Whether it is swimming in a full-on pool, using a kiddie pool, playing with a water table, playing with a sprinkler or watering the garden…Water play is an excellent sensory activity this summer. When one’s body is submerged in water (such as when swimming) you are getting tons of input about where your body is in space (proprioceptive input) as well as strengthening the core and shoulder girdle. Basically, it is an OT’s dream activity! Even when engaging in smaller water play (such as the other ideas listed above) a body is still getting opportunities for exploration and strengthening all at the same time.

-Gardening: Gardening is a great way to sneak in some OT skills. When watering plants (using a hose or watering can) a child is working on wrist/arm strengthening. Weeding is a great fine motor task. Pinching and planting seeds is another fine motor strengthening task. Have your child walk around your yard or neighborhood and spray plants with a water bottle to sneak in some more fine motor strengthening.

-Outdoor chalk: Sidewalk chalk can be used to practice letters of one’s name, make a hopscotch board or just plain old draw. You can also take your indoor easel outside to change things up. When your child cleans up have them spray the easel with a water bottle to sneak in a little extra fine motor strengthening. Sitting down to practice math or letters at the kitchen table or desk can cause kids to want to scream in the summer. But somehow doing it in the middle of one’s driveway feels a lot better!

-Taking walks: Something as simple as taking a walk can have tremendous sensory benefits. Obviously, the movement is really helpful to one’s body. If your child is a big seeker and needs extra input that day have them push, pull or carry something with a bit of weight on it. While you are walking you can have your child notice all of the sensations they are experiencing around them (how does the air feel, is it sunny or cloudy, what do they hear, what do they smell, etc.).

-Bubbles and ice pops: For children who crave oral sensory input these activities are amazing (and even if your child isn’t a seeker in this area, they are still fun!). Blowing bubbles is a wonderful way to strengthen muscles around the mouth and provide some sensory input. Sucking on an ice pop provides a huge amount of oral sensory input from the sucking and the cold. You can also try a variety of foods eaten differently outside. For example, watermelon or oranges cut into wedges versus pieces (let kids get a bit messy). Lemonade can be freshly squeezed outside (the cold and sour will provide an intense sensory experience) and for older kids a lemonade sale is always fun!

-Sand and mud: Whether it’s a beach day, a sand box, a container of sand or just a rainy day, get this messy play in outside while you can! You can practice drawing letters/numbers in sand or mud. Or just sit back and watch your child’s imagination get going. Digging, pouring and shoveling are all wonderful for fine motor strengthening. All of the tactile input is great for sensory play as well! I know mud seems a little silly, but if you can let go of the mess anxiety, let them get out there and get muddy on rainy days. Another wonderful (and not as common) sensory experience.

We hope everyone enjoys their summer! Send us your photos of outdoor play and the newsletter will be back in the fall!

Written by Jessica Addeo

{ 0 comments }

As we all know, children are perceptive, they can sense change and unease around them and to varying degrees are affected. In the tri-state area (and elsewhere) there are some new shifts in regard to COVID policies and the impact this has on everyone’s life. Many schools are moving to more hybrid and in person learning, restaurants and other indoor facilities are opening and the world is yet again shifting. We wanted to use this post to discuss ways you can support your child in this shift. I don’t think last year any of us realized what we were necessarily embarking on. Many of us picked our kids up from school on March 13th, 2020 and then literally did not bring them back for months. It was hard to know what to say to our kids, because so much of what was happening wasn’t known to us as well. A little over a year later, I’d like to think we all are a bit wiser.

For starters, prep your kids. There is no age too young for this, let them know about the changes that are coming with plenty of notice and discussion to the best of your ability. Some kids may be so ready to get back to school or seeing friends that this discussion will help with their excitement and managing that. Other kids may be nervous about it, this discussion can help them as well. As you explain to your child what’s happening (for example, school is going to 5 days a week, starting next week you will be there 5 mornings) leave space for as much or as little detail as your child requires. Some kids will have tons of questions (answer them!) and others will just want to know the surface. There is no right or wrong here but giving an outline and repeating that information often will help your child mentally prepare.

I would also advise to discuss masks. We have all been wearing masks for some time now but for the child who is just transitioning back to school in person this may be new. Explain why they are wearing them and that some people (outside of schools) may choose not to wear them. Role play and write social stories about what to do when you are uncomfortable (i.e.: someone isn’t wearing a mask and you don’t feel safe, or someone asks you to put a mask on and you aren’t comfortable). Again, this is all preparation. The more prepared your child can feel, the less anxiety (hopefully) they will experience. There also is the physical part of wearing a mask and wearing this mask for longer periods of time. Practice keeping one’s mask above your nose and that it is okay to ask for a breathing break if one doesn’t feel well after having the mask on for a while.

In these discussions, allow space for all the feelings. Kids may be confused, angry, not interested, the entire gamete of emotions around these changes. No one way of feeling is better or worse than the other. What we want our children to learn is that all feelings are allowed and normal. Even just checking in with how your child is feeling can help them develop these skills. For example, “how did it feel to eat snack outside with your friends today?”. Begin to show them what it means to reflect on their daily life and how beneficial that can be. For some kids just labeling their feelings can be challenging. This can be developmentally appropriate, or it may just be a hard skill set for them. There are a lot of great books that help identify different feelings. Here are some examples for preschoolers:

  • In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek
  • Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang
  • Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival

Now that we have prepared, discussed and hopefully identified some feelings, the next step is to move on to coping strategies. And these can vary greatly. Taking a drink of water, a shower, going for a walk, just being outside, meditation/mindfulness, yoga, more physical exercise….these are all possible coping strategies for any stress or overwhelm your child (and you) may experience as the world shifts again. For most children more movement will help their body produce more of the coping neurochemicals that will ultimately help them during this transition period. Prioritize taking a walk, doing a yoga video (Bari Koral has great kids’ yoga and mindfulness videos) or even just hanging outside in a park, backyard, etc. All of these activities will help your child’s body produce what it needs to cope. Some kids will need more of this input and some will need less. There is also something to be said for “vegging” out after a long day. The important piece is to find that balance for your child and keep them in the conversation! Some examples of this look like:

– “How does your body feel today, do you think you need to chill on the couch or go for a walk?”

– When your child answers “good” to how they are feeling you can help them elaborate. “Good, how? Tired, cranky, bored, happy, relaxed, calm….which one of these describes you most right now?” 

– “Yesterday you asked to chill on the couch, but you seemed crankier in the evening. Let’s try some outside time first and see how that feels for our body.”

The important piece to keeping your child in these conversations (versus telling them what they need) is we want to teach them to also tune in to how their body is feeling. This is a foundational component to self-regulation. Now, if you think your child is just choosing tv or video games and not connecting to their body, you can point out your observations. “You said you want to play video games, but you seem more stressed out afterwards.” The younger you can start this the better!

Lastly, remember that there is likely to be a transition period. In that transition period you may see an increase in behaviors or just overall your child not seeming like themselves. This is perfectly normal, keep an eye on them, use the strategies above and as always reach out to us with any questions!

Written by Jessica Addeo

{ 0 comments }

“Picky” Eating from an OT and Parent Perspective

April 16, 2021

For many years prior to becoming a parent I worked with children on feeding in my role as an occupational therapist. I thought I knew all the tips and tricks that existed and thought they were simple enough to implement. And then I became a parent and I learned just how challenging eating can be […]

Read the full article →

Encouraging Listening

March 25, 2021

Whether a parent or a therapist, the elusive task of getting a child to “listen” to you can feel critical to success. In today’s post we are going to discuss some strategies that can encourage listening. However, before we get started, I’d like to make an important distinction. When we are talking about listening, what […]

Read the full article →

Attention and Learning

March 10, 2021

Prior to COVID-19 parents were aware of how their children learned and what their attention spans were like, but at somewhat of an arm’s length. In today’s world of remote and hybrid learning, parents are observing attention with more intensity and frequency than ever before. In addition, today’s kids are up against learning challenges that […]

Read the full article →

Kindergarten Skills: What to Look for, What to Expect and What to do! Part 3: Cutting

February 16, 2021

Welcome back to the final installation of our kindergarten series! Today we are going to be talking about cutting. Cutting is an integral kindergarten skill that supports so many fine motor and visual motor skill sets in this age group. Let’s first review what we have discussed so far: Part 1: Pencil Grasp and Handwriting […]

Read the full article →

Kindergarten Skill: What to Look for, What to Expect and What to Do! Part 3: Crossing Midline & Coloring

January 25, 2021

Welcome back to our kindergarten series! Today we are looking at the lesser known “crossing midline” and coloring skills. Crossing midline is a super important foundational skill that can have effects on reading and writing. Coloring is an amazing prewriting and fine motor skill. We will talk about what is appropriate to expect from your […]

Read the full article →

Holiday Gift Guide – 2020

November 23, 2020

The holiday season is here and although things may look different, we all are still hoping to give our loved one’s gifts and experiences that are memorable. The list below is some of our therapist’s favorite toys and what they are giving this year. You can rest assured that these toys are OT and kid […]

Read the full article →

Kindergarten Skills: What to Look for, What to Expect and What to Do! Part 2: Puzzle Skills, Draw a Person & Prewriting Skills

November 12, 2020

Welcome back to our kindergarten series! I hope the last post was informative, if you have any questions please feel free to reach out to us. Today we are looking at skills that sometimes get overlooked in the quest to prepare for kindergarten. Part 2 is all about puzzle skills, drawing a person and prewriting […]

Read the full article →

Kindergarten Skills: What to Look for, What to Expect and What to Do! Part 1: Pencil Grasp and Handwriting

October 13, 2020

As a pediatric occupational therapist one of the common questions we get is, “is my child ready for kindergarten?”. There are countless online checklists to google and even as therapists we have many standardized assessments and charts to rely on; however, these resources aren’t always palatable. This post aims to have a discussion around what […]

Read the full article →