After discussing the sensory mat idea with our PT, I figured I could definitely make one.
Making one was very easy and could definitely have been less expensive then what I spent on making it. All the items could have been purchased from the $1 store except the mat.
With my sons sensory issues he likes and dislikes so many things, so this multi-experience mat is perfect. He thoroughly enjoys running his hands over each section and rubbing his feet on certain ones as well.
The pipe cleaners, which are soft but still a little prickly, are his favorite. He is very intrigued by the sandpaper. The rainbow robe is confusing to him because it is hard when you step on it but nice to rub. He loves the Brillo pads for his hands or feet and he likes to pick off the felt furniture dots.
This whole mat only took me about an hour to make once I collected all the items!!
This week I decided to do an experiment with our Elf on the Shelf. Our son recently turned 10 but surprisingly (and gratefully on my part, I will add!) still believes in the magic of the Elf. I won’t lie and say that the pandemic has been easy for us at home; our son is an only child and is participating in virtual learning, so his interaction with other kids his age is very limited.
Like most families, we have good days and bad days with all of us at home together all day, every day. Because I have such an interest in social emotional learning and adding that to my practice as an OT, I decided to experiment with the Elf as a partner in crime regarding helping my son’s outlook. When he wakes in the morning, he will typically search for the Elf in the house. Along with a surprise location of the Elf, I started leaving positive notes “written” by the Elf. The notes always praise something good that he did the day before. For example, Friday he cleaned his schoolwork area without being asked to, so on Saturday he woke up to a note that read, “You cleaned your school area without being asked! That is being a good helper! Your Elf.” Another note read, “Awesome job reading yesterday!” Now, I know I did not invent this idea of a positive note-leaving Elf; I’m sure many other parents have thought about this as well! Sometimes it is hard for us to think of the good things we are doing, but it certainly feels good when it is pointed out to us.
Activities like this help us to keep focused on the positive things we are doing. And, how nice to start the day with a compliment! So, what is the verdict on the experiment? I can report, although it has only been a week, that my son starts the day with a big smile and has been doing some things around the house without me asking him. I would say, so far, so good!
In this series, Suzanne Gladstone, MS OTR/L, provides a more helpful ways to get out of your chair! In the first video she explains how to make a homemade card using simple abstract art with markers, crayons and paper.
The second video goes over how skills presented in the previous series will be incorporated into this fun art activity.
In this video series, Suzanne Gladstone, MS/OTRL shares some fun ways to get kids out of their chairs. This series shares the benefits of different play positions. These sessions address structured drawing, bilateral coordination and finger isolation.
In this two-video series, Suzanne, an Easterseals of Southeastern PA Occupational Therapist, created two virtual occupational therapy sessions. In the first video, Suzanne explains bilateral coordination and how it is part of our everyday lives and activities. In the second video, Suzanne shares a fun activity for kids, in which they make snack with simple ingredients and use bilateral coordination.
Suzanne shared her video with her students recently and they were a hit!
As we enter another month in quarantine due to Covid-19 and our focus on maintaining our physical health continues, what about our mental health? Making sure we are mentally healthy is equally important, and many of us are facing challenges in doing just this. Our mental health is being challenged whether you are an essential worker and must be away from your family, or you are a stay at home parent navigating distance learning or are working from home while navigating distance learning with your children. Maybe you have a child with special needs or medical needs that causes you extra worry during this time. These, and there are many more, can challenge the mental health of any individual.
May is Mental Health Month, and I wanted to talk about this very important issue. Our mental health is always important but seems to be extra important during the Covid-19 quarantine. But let’s talk about it from the perspective of maintaining mental health of an occupational therapist. Occupational Therapists see “occupations” as a way to health and well-being. Occupations are not just our “job”, but the things we do throughout the day. These could be our morning routines, caring for our children, distance learning, exercising, leisure activities, etc. To help us engage in our occupations throughout the day, I’m suggesting that we take a few moments to focus on our breathing. Breathing sounds like such a simple and basic thing, but how we breath can have either a negative or positive effect on our well-being. We don’t pay much attention to our breath, but if you take a moment to do so right now, you may notice that your breathing is short and shallow. What if you expand that breath, taking in a full deep breath and feel your lungs fill? How does this make you feel? Often when we are stressed, angry, frustrated, sad, etc., our breath becomes shallow. Taking some deep breaths can help calm the mind and the body before we act on our feelings. Being in a more calm and relaxed state can help us engage in our occupations more successfully and purposefully.
Here are some guided breathing exercises that you can do yourself and with your children that are already posted on YouTube. The videos are short, 3-5 minutes. Doing these breathing exercises at the start of the day, when you are feeling stressed or frustrated, or just needing a break, can help you power through the next few hours of your day. I hope you will try them and let me know what you think! Let’s keep a focus on our mental health!
The team in Bucks County created this amazing video of great activities you can do with stuff from around the house that is fun helps develop fine motor skills. In addition to the video is a list of great bath activities!
Here is a list of bath activities that you can do with your kids, to help them have some fun things to do while they are home.
-Stacy G., OT
1. You can let your child use a net to “fish for” toys in the tub. If you don’t have a net, you can substitute a colander. This can work on eye-hand coordination
2. Colanders can also be used as “rainfall” for sensory
“Painting” in the tub/shower: Your child can do finger painting or can use a variety of tools such as paintbrushes, sponges, cotton balls, etc. which can work on fine motor coordination. You can give your child the opportunity to engage in a variety of different sensory experiences, which can increase their sensory awareness, through painting with shaving cream (to which you can add food dye) or even making your own bath paint. For an even easier prep/clean up, you can let them “paint” with a paintbrush/sponge/cotton ball, just using water onto the tub/shower wall, or onto construction paper.
A. “Paint” the tub or shower walls by dipping a paintbrush into water
B. Paint the shower using shaving cream with food dye added to it
C. Cotton ball painting
D. Make bathtub paint
4. Transferring water from one container to another: You can use a variety of different tools to work on transferring water from one container to another, such as cups, spoons, pipettes, bowls, etc. This can work on grasping and pouring skills, which can help to improve overall upper extremity coordination.
5. Animal wash station/Car wash station: You can have your child squirt water from a spray bottle onto a toy animal/toy car, to work on their grip strength and you can also let them scrub animals/a toy car with a toothbrush to strengthen their hand muscles and work on their coordination.
Animal Wash Station
Car Wash Station
6. Bath time for doll: Giving your child the opportunity to give their doll a “bath” can help teach your child self-care skills as well as learning of body parts.
7. Making paper boats and floating them in the water: You can use the directions provided to create the paper boats. You can let your child help you make the boat, by giving them the opportunity to complete 1 simple step in the task at a time, as you model it for them (ex: “fold this part like this”). This can increase their ability to follow directions as well as their imitation skills.
Here are directions for making a paper boat:
8. Make Play-Doh soap!
This can be particularly motivating for children, especially those who don’t enjoy taking baths. Allowing a child to squeeze and pinch the play-doh soap can also work on hand strength and the development of more mature grasp patterns, such as key pinch grip, as well as pincer grasp.
9. Baby Bath squirt toys: These types of toys can work on hand strength and the development of grasping patterns as well.
10. You can make a Water Wall in various ways: You can use funnels, water bottles, or pool noodles. You can use other items too! Playing with a water wall can work on increasing pouring skills and will help to refine upper extremity coordination skills.
11. You can also use laundry baskets for water fun!
You can turn a laundry basket into a “boat” inside or outside the tub! (Of course, always supervise with each of these activities)
Are your children getting antsy? Are you missing your favorite PT and OT? While we are all staying healthy there are simple things you can do at home to have fun, work off some of your child’s energy and best of all help their motor development!
For children not yet sitting:
Children NEED movement! Roll across the bed to the right and then to the left several times till the giggles abound. If your child is hesitant of movement roll them slowly one time each way and increase as they tolerate and enjoy the movement.
Put blankets and pillows in a hard square or rectangular laundry basket (or one of the many Amazon boxes we all have) and lie your child down and move them side to side, forward and back and around in circles. Make sure you spin to the right AND to the left stopping in between briefly.
If your child is light enough, lie them in a sheet or blanket and with the help of a friend or family member, swing them.
TUMMY TIME, TUMMY TIME, TUMMY TIME! Yes, it is important! Kids love to look at their beautiful selves in the mirror so put a small mirror on the floor or bed while they are on their tummies. If this is hard for them roll a small receiving blanket and put it under your child’s chest to help them lift up higher. Lie on YOUR tummy on the floor facing them. YOU are their best motivator and toy. Sing and be silly!!
For children who are sitting, but not yet crawling:
All of the above activities still work for your child. They can now sit up in the box or basket while spinning to help improve their core strength and balance.
Use that empty diaper box or Amazon box with toys on it and help your child play while kneeling.
If your child is starting to get on their hands and knees sing silly songs and encourage them to rock! Row, Row, Row Your Boat works well for this. Be silly and think of more lyrics!!
Row, row, row your boat
gently down the stream,
Mommy’s going crazy now,
listen to her Scream.
The above movement activities are still fun and good for them!
Make a crawling obstacle course! Put folded blankets, rolled towels and pillows on the floor for your child to crawl over! If you have a big box, open at both ends and let your child crawl through it! Good luck keeping up!!
All the movement activities listed above will still be fun and good for development.
Make obstacle courses for walkers
Using pillows, fold a towel or blanket to a balance beam shape (a long rectangle 4”-8” wide”), stepstools, big textbooks, different sized boxes with some soup cans inside for stability for different sized steps, pile pillows on the floor to make a mountain and climb up to the sofa or bed. Do you have bubble wrap and other textured packing materials? They are really fun to walk on with bare feet!!
Most of all have fun, be silly, laugh and love! This too shall pass!! We miss you too!!
Kids on devices as we all find ourselves at home is pretty much inevitable. The positive to that is that they can actually be a wonderful resource!
The following apps can help the child who is learning about cause and effect; all that is required of the child is to touch the screen for something to happen:
Furry friend: a free app, the child meets Leonard, a monster who will repeat what you and laugh when you ‘tickle’ him! The child can tap any part of his body for a reaction, and choose from images of objects below to see how he reacts to them (which further works on visual perception as the child has to scan left to right with their eyes to select a picture to touch).
Fireworks Arcade: a free app; all the child needs to do is touch the screen for fireworks to go off, with sizzle noises and all! The child can also work on pressing and dragging in this game to draw a long stream of fireworks across the screen.
Apps for fine motor development
In these apps, the child will be working on reaction timing, visual perception, and motor control:
Dexteria Jr- 3.99- This app has a variety of levels to work on touching targets (non-moving and moving). Harder levels include having to pinch the target using the index finger and thumb.
Fruit Ninja– a free app; the object of the game is to use your index finger to slice fruit with a fast, linear motion. Targets move fast, which targets a child’s reaction time, and some targets explode if you touch them (which works on the child’s visual discrimination between objects).
Last week, I worked with Occupational Therapy student Bree Lipowski to create a list of at home activities. There are lots of good ideas for sensory play, fine motor activities, chores around the house to do with kids and quiet time suggestions. Be healthy, be safe and take time some time to smile with loved ones:).