Are you wondering what to get your little ones for the holidays this year? We have compiled a list of our therapists’ favorite toys that are both fun and functional gifts! Check out all of our picks below:
Blog post written by: Emily Dyer, MS, CCC-SLP
“When children have opportunities to develop executive function and self-regulation skills, individuals and society experience lifelong benefits.” – Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University
More and more these days we hear about executive functions—in literature, in schools, in our communities. This refers to a cluster of skills that can improve a child’s performance in academics and daily life, and people are now asking how it affects kids' learning potential and behavior.
As pediatric speech, physical and occupational therapists, we assist with skills that fall under the umbrella of executive function – task initiation, impulse control, focus, time management, working memory, flexible thinking, task completion, organization, self-regulation — and figure out which aspects need the most attention to set each child up for success. As we gain a clearer picture through testing, observation and consultation with a child’s team, we can move on to identifying intervention strategies.
But, this is only one aspect of effective treatment. When children thrive and make the most meaningful gains, it is undoubtedly when parents have the skills and supportive tools to make adjustments needed right in the home. This is a foundation for success.
We have witnessed, first-hand, the benefits that children and their families experience with strengths-based and positive parent coaching as a key to systemic shifts in a child’s path to meeting goals in executive function skills.
Blog Post Written By: Kristin Burrell, MA, CCC-SLP
Take a deep breath. Hold it for a second. Okay, let it out. Whew. We all need a reminder to do that every once in a while, right? Something about those three seconds of focus on nothing but a calming breath makes me feel a little better and maybe more ready to tackle what lies ahead. Taking a moment to tune out and turn inward calms our nervous system.
Now, if you need a bigger mental renovation - go for a walk! Aerobic exercise like walking or jogging promotes the uptake of chemicals in our brain that make us feel more relaxed and improve our mood. This month, I want to talk about using yoga to find moments for your child to experience more movement, free-form play, and downtime away from a screen to harness some truly powerful positivity as they navigate the challenges of their own world.
Let's talk yoga. Forms of traditional yoga include aspects of breathing, strengthening, stretching, story telling, and mindfulness. But, yoga doesn't have to fit any specific definition - it can simply be movement that makes us feel good. This is why it's so great for kids! Working some form of yoga into your child's daily or weekly schedule can reduce their stress and anxiety levels, increase concentration and memory during school hours, develop strength and flexibility, and improve self-esteem. Powerful positivity!
I've created an activity for you to try at home. I think this creates a great opportunity for a "brain break" from school and opens the door for creative story-telling, movement, and play! Here are a few ideas for how your child can use the attached card set:
Including mindful movement in your child's day doesn't have to be an added stressor for you to plan and set up. It can be as simple as pulling a video up and letting your kids have free reign. I recommend exploring the hundreds of kid's yoga classes available for free on YouTube and find one with a theme your child is interested in (Star Wars, Frozen, colors, relaxation, animals...you name it!). Some tips and tricks for video-led yoga at home:
I can't wait to hear how you've used yoga and creative play as a jumping off point to add some fun, variety, and movement into your day. Be sure to check out KidSPOT’s Yoga in the Park program currently going on every Saturday at 9:00am! Click below to learn more and sign-up!
Written by: Reagan Rupard, SDPT
KidSPOT Doctor of Physical Therapy Intern
RYT 200 Certified Yoga Instructor
Going back to school may look a little different this year, but you can still set your child up for academic success! Whether your child is attending school in person or online these tips will encourage focused learning and healthy habits. The resources provided will also help educate them on what's happening in the world around them, and how to prepare them for the changes.
1. Portable Hand Sanitizer - Always be sure that your child has a portable hand sanitizer bottle that is easy to access. Practice using it in expected situations such as before eating, after playing, or when using classroom school supplies.
2. Mask Lanyard - Since schools will be requiring students to wear masks this year, a great strategy to make sure your child doesn't misplace theirs or use someone else's by mistake is to put it on a lanyard. You can attach a regular lanyard to one strap or buy a mask specific lanyard on Amazon or Etsy.
3. Personalized Name Labels - Make sure all of your child's school supplies and personal belongings are labeled in an identifiable way (writing, personalize names labels, specific stickers, etc.). This will decrease the chance of them taking another child's materials by accident and reduce germ exposure by only using their own supplies.
4. Plan Outside Time - Transitioning back to school might be tough, so giving children active free time after school can be beneficial. Whether the child is attending school in person or online, playing outside can be a great mental break.
5. Wake-Up Early - To help prepare for the school schedule it is helpful to start waking up at the appropriate school time two weeks before the first day. This will make the transition from their summer schedule to school schedule easier.
6. Set Up Environment - Dedicate a certain space for your child to do their school work that is organized and non-distracting. Try offering alternative seating options to find one that best suits them.
7. Sensory Fidgets - Recently we discovered a wonderful new sensory tool calledCalm Strips. These are sensory adhesives that are crafted to help soothe anxiety and fidgeting by grounding you in a calming scene and giving you a gentle, but textured, surface as a stimulus. Take advantage of their 'back to school' sale by clicking here: https://www.calmstrips.net/
8. Make a Schedule - Help your child prepare for their day by setting a visual schedule. This can be detailed with their class times, or a simple First, Then sequence as they go through the day. A great resource to help you establish this expectation for their day is the app Choice Works by Bee Visual, LLC. You can purchase this app for $10 on any smart device.
9. Social Stories - This school year brings a lot of change to everyone's usual expectations, so how do we describe it all in kid-friendly terms? A speech-language pathologist wrote over 20 social stories to explain various scenarios that children will experience going back to school. Browse through her COVID-19 Related Social Stories for School by following this link: https://www.autismlittlelearners.com/2020/07/covid-19-related-stories-for-schools.html
10. SPOT Books - On the topic of stories, the author Diane Alber has released new SPOT books covering the topics of Online Learning and Staying Home during COVID-19. Along with these specific topics, she has a variety of other books that discuss emotions, perseverance, organization, patience, optimism and more! You can order a book or read them on your Kindle by clicking on this link to view KidSPOT's Amazon List of our favorite SPOT books: https://a.co/iqKJv9J
Blog post written by: Emily Dyer, MS, CCC-SLP
Have you ever considered sound therapy as a component to a home program for sensory processing disorder? There are a lot of programs out there, but one stands above the rest, and has demonstrated its effectiveness through research and clinical data.
The Focus System from Integrated Listening Systems is a unique sound therapy program that can be implemented at home to work on a variety of sensory, behavioral, emotional and academic issues. These include:
The Focus System uses engineered classical music (such as Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss and Vivaldi) that has filtered and enhanced certain sound frequencies to create a therapeutic effect. Additionally, the program passes the music to the brain through the air as we normally hear as well as bone conduction. The bone conduction is provided via an amplifier that is installed in the headband of the headphones. It produces vibration to the bones of the skull and causes movement of the fluid of inner ear and vestibular system to improve body awareness, balance, coordination.
More than just a sound therapy program, the Focus System uses engaging balance, core stability and coordination exercises to further challenge the brain.
The Focus System is a versatile system that can be used for years. It has 4 different programs that can target different areas of the brain and body, depending on which sound frequencies it emphasizes:
- Sensory and Motor
- Concentration and Attention
- Reading/Auditory Processing
- Optimal Performance
Used 30-60 minutes per day 3-5x/week, the Focus System can supplement in-clinic therapy sessions, or be a stand-alone home program.
Interested in hearing more? Contact Jane and Jane@Boulderkidspot.com for more information.
Blog written by: Jane Rauscher, MOT, OTR/L
During this time when all families are spending more time together at home, let’s look at some ways you can increase language throughout your day to promote your child’s development! Have you ever thought about how much language you can expose your child to just by narrating your daily activities? Whether your child is already talking or not there yet, they are absorbing all of that language and already building their vocabulary, language, and social skills.
Even if you regularly see a speech-language pathologist to gain support for your child’s language and speech development, the person who is interacting the most with your child is you! It’s important for you to build on these skills in the home environment everyday to really see them grow. We are going to discuss 3 main ways to increase language in your home: self-talk, parallel talk, and expansion.
Self-talk is when you narrate what YOU are doing in kid-friendly terms. Think of things that are part of your child’s daily routine: meals, bath time, getting dressed, play time, and more! Talk about those five senses of what you see, feel, hear, smell, and maybe even taste (especially during meal time).
During bath time: “Bubbles pop. Water splash. Soap on, rinse off. All done!”
Getting dressed: “I see a pink dress! Let’s put it on. First your head goes in, then arms. Now time for socks and shoes!"
Parallel talk is when you narrate what YOUR CHILD is doing, again in kid-friendly terms. A great time to use this strategy is while your child is playing! Play along with them while narrating their actions, and think about what they are seeing, touching, smelling, hearing, etc.
Playing with a train: “You have a blue train, the train goes ‘choo choo’! Ready, set, go train. You are pushing the train fast. Uh oh, crash! The train fell off the tracks.”
Expansion is building on what your child is saying little by little. If your child is talking, take what they said and add one more detail or expand to a more complete structure. It’s important to acknowledge their effort to engage with language!
Adding a detail: The child says “Car!” then you can reply with “Yes, red car!”
Adding structure: The child says “Car fast!” then you can reply with “Yes, the car goes fast!”
Using these strategies can help expose your child to more language every day! Some key things to remember are to build on your child’s interests and motivation, this is when they will be most engaged with you. Play is an important building block for all aspects of your child’s development, it’s fun to get on the ground and interact with them at their level. Lastly, remember that you don’t have to narrate your entire day like this, it’s important for your child to hear normal adult language as well.
Language can be easy and engaging in the home environment! Make the most of this time at home to connect with your child and family while having fun along the way. Stay safe, stay healthy.
Blog written by: Emily Dyer, MS, CF-SLP
This playdough recipe is a fun and functional way to introduce kids to tactile play, while also targeting fine motor skills and bilateral coordination. This recipe does not call for any stovetop work so kids can help with all steps of making it!
From an occupational therapy perspective, playdough is a great way to target kids’ fine motor skills in various ways including having them open the kool-aid packages, twist the cap on/off the oil bottle, and open the salt container. Also, having them stir the ingredients together is a great way to target bilateral coordination by having them hold the bowl with one hand and stir with their other hand.
From a speech therapy perspective you can practice your child's speech sounds while following directions. This recipe is also great for the child to practice sequencing. After the playdough is made then you can make it into various shapes that contain the target sound. For example, if your child is working on S then you could make a snake, snail, or smiley face.
If the mixture is too sticky add a little more flour and oil until the mixture is binding and no longer sticking to finger.
Once the dough is made the child can use cookie cutters to create various shapes, or they can practice their name by rolling pieces of the dough into letters!
Blog written by: Katie Voorhis, Occupational Therapy Student
Music can have endless benefits in everyday home life and in therapy! How can you incorporate more music into your daily life? Many articles support that singing and songs help with social, emotional, and cognitive development in children. This can also increase bonding within families and improve the parent-child connection. So let’s start with how to incorporate music into your child’s life.
Walking on a Treadmill
Some children may have difficulty coordinating steps while walking on the treadmill. The rhythm in music can help coordinate stepping so the child feels like they are walking down the hall or sidewalk instead of on a stationary treadmill.
Spotify has a really unique option that you can sort your playlist by BPM (beats per minute) so you can decide how fast you want your child’s steps to be! Simply search “Sort my Playlist” and click the playlist you’d like to sort. You can pick all your kiddos favorite songs and make walking therapeutic and fun! http://sortyourmusic.playlistmachinery.com/
Music is often used in the hospital intensive units for its calming effect it has on the children. It has been shown to reduce crying behaviors in infants and toddlers and improve concentration. In the home, try using music during nap times or other quiet times of the day. Not sure what music is right? Type into Google or your music app “calming music” and it’s that simple!
If you feel like you need something to break up your daily tasks, try music! Dance breaks can be incorporated in the home to give kids a fun mental break and redirect emotions. You can also use music as a timer, “When the music stops, we are going to do our next activity!”
When children are developing speech and language skills, singing songs can encourage this development! Music can be a great way to engage kids in tasks and promote more language.
Dancing can be incorporated for rhythmic movement. Play the game red light, green light while dancing to improve your child’s attention. Try teaching dance routines to help them work on sequencing and memory, think about simple ones like “I’m a Little Teapot”. Freeze dance can also be a fun way to test kids’ balance!
Music is a great engaging tool to use in both therapy and at home! These activities can help your child’s development in a fun and functional way. Have you tried other ways to use music in therapy or in everyday life? Comment below to share with us!
Blog written by: Erin Lemberger, Physical Therapy Student
Have you been looking for a fun heart shaped craft to do for Valentine’s Day? Look no further! This fun interactive activity is a great way to work on following directions, sequencing fine motor coordination, and visual motor skills. Keep reading below for instructions on how to make your own!
What you’ll need:
How to make the heart maze:
Step 1: Make a heart maze design with pencil on the cardboard (make sure the pencil outline is wide enough to fit a marble between the maze lines)
Step 2: Outline pencil maze with a marker
Step 3: Place hot glue in sections over the marker and start to place yarn or Wikki Stix on top of the hot glue
Step 4: Continue to put hot glue on the marker outline and finish placing the yarn on the hot glue until the heart design is finished
How to play:
Have the child place a marble at the opening of the heart. Have the child hold onto each side of the cardboard and tilt the cardboard back and forth until the marble reaches the center of the heart. This activity targets coordination on each side of the body and requires the child to control the force they’re using in order to get the marble to the center of the maze. If too much force is used the marble will roll over the yarn, and if not enough force is used the marble won’t move through the maze. If completing the maze with a marble is too challenging, try using a small bead!
Added tip: If you have the child draw the heart maze that also targets fine motor and drawing skills!
Inspiration for this craft from The Inspired Treehouse.
Blog written by: Katie Voorhis, Occupational Therapy Student
Are you shopping for children's shoes that need to fit with orthotics? Heather Willets, a certified pediatric orthotist, has listed some tips and suggestions to help find the perfect fit!
Shoe Brand Suggestions:
Boot Tips for AFOs & SMOs:
Boot Brand Suggestions:
Shoes for Extra Tiny Feet:
Helpful Online Resources:
EXAMPLE SHOE MODELS:
These have worked well for other children.
Works well with SMOs
Toddler size 10 – big kid 6 (toddler sizes 5-9 will be available Fall 2019)
Works well with AFOs and SMOs
Toddler sizes 7-11
Works well with orthotic inserts, may also work well with SMOs
Toddler size 5 – big kid 3
Works well with KAFOs, AFOs and SMOs
Toddler size 5 - big kid 9
Works well with KAFOs, AFOs, and SMOs
Works well with KAFOs, AFOs and SMOs
Works well with KAFOs, AFOs, and SMOs
Works will with AFOs and SMOs
Blog written by: Heather Willets, MPO, CPO
Certified Prosthetist-Orthotist, Pediatric-Focused
300 Exempla Circle
Lafayette, CO 80026