Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Miss Danielle Earned A Straight "A" With Ping Pong Ball Matching!

We host and educate students from all over the country.  One assignment that our students have is to create an activity that can be used with a child that he or she is working with.  There are really only two requirements:  1) It has to cost $10.00 or less to make, and 2) it has to sustain and outlast our "testers"!

Danielle, our OT student, who "graduated" today, made us this Ping-Pong Ball Matching activity!
She provided several laminated pattern cards and a dozen painted ping-pong balls in a recycled egg carton!  The kids have to maneuver and shuffle the balls around to match the pattern, hole by hole and row by row! This challenges many skills including:  visual perceptual, visual motor, ocular motor and fine motor!

Now, that deserves an A, don't you think?!

Other ping-pong ball activities might include:

  • Paint the balls different colors and have them simply match by color (using a pattern card)
  • Build Snowmen or wreaths
  • Write a sight word on each ball and have your child scoop out the ball from a bowl with an ice cream scooper
  • Strengthen oral motor skills by blowing the ball with a straw across the room
  • Place the balls in a bin full of water and have the children fish for them with nets
  • Bounce them from the table into a target such as a bowl or a cup
Kids love balls, even if they're not bouncing them, so I found that kids find Miss. Danielle's activity to be super fun (and challenging)!  Share how you've created fun-filled learning with ping-pong balls!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Simple Mixture Leads to Serious Learning!

A simple mixture of flour and baby powder provided serious experiential learning. The children loved the texture of the bin and repeatedly said, “silky smooth”.  They had various descriptors for the powder scent, which was quite entertaining! Some acknowledged it smelled like a baby, while others were sure it “smelled” like smoke!

The bin offered a variety of complexity.  Some children enjoyed digging deep or simply sifting the mix between their fingers. Others were motivated to find the hidden objects. Small wooden cubes with two different letters on opposite sides were hidden within the mix. The children identified the letters, made the letter sound and came up with words that started with the letter.  For those children working on writing skills, we then drew the letter that was on the block in the silky smooth mixture.

For added fun and tool use, have them sprinkle with a flour sifter, stir with a whisk, or shake the mixture through a strainer. While the bin looked quite simple, the children found it to be interesting and remained engaged for quite some time!

Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Tips to Avoid Fight or Flight on Halloween Night!

Costumes such as these are likely to be a nightmare for our kids with sensory sensitivities.  While Halloween is loads of fun for many children, it can be quite daunting for our children with sensitivities to touch, sound and sight.  This can lead to behaviors where they may literally fight or flight.

Choosing a costume is the first battle. Most of our sensory kids are not going to tolerate make-up, the itchy fabrics or the hats and masks involved.  Consider using clothing they already have and think about accessories they can hold to complete the outfit.  Soft sweatpants come in all kinds of colors, add a tail and some ears to red pants and a sweatshirt to make Clifford. If the outfit needs a hat, try attaching it to a belt loop or use it to hold the treats.

Your child may be tolerate his costume, but add sights and sounds and it may be just too much.  Avoid the houses that look like they belong to the Adams family. The eerie music and sounds along with children screaming can easily set our children into overload. Blinking strobe lights certainly add a scary feel, and may be too over-stimulating for our sensory kids,too.

Many candy givers expect a "Trick or Treat" from your child.  If your child has difficulty with expressive language or has apraxia, practice the steps including ringing the door bell and saying "Trick or Treat".  If he suffers from "stage fright", consider accessorizing with a sign.  For instance, a railroad conductor could hold a sign that reads "Trick or Treat".   For our children who are non-verbal, use a BIG Mack switch with a pre-recorded message that she can hit at each door.

Try these tips to avoid a scary sight on Halloween night:

  • Never force a child to dress up or participate in Trick or Treating
  • Practice at Grandma's house
  • Set out early before it gets too dark and to avoid the crowds
  • Choose quiet neighborhood streets
  • Go to familiar houses
  • Read your child's signs and be prepared to come home early
  • Identify a safe spot if you're at a party or if he gets separated from you on the street- consider an identification tag of some sort
  • Make sure your child is visible, whether it's through the use of glow sticks or a flashlight
  • Allow your child to pass out the candy at your house, rather than go Trick-or-Treating
  • If you're hosting or at a Halloween party, have your child lead the Bobbing for Apples or Pumpkin Painting Contest, rather than participating. Or, allow her to be on the judges' panel and hand out the prize for the best costume!

Enjoy the festivities this week and share any tips that you have to make Trick-or-Treating fun for all!

Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sensory Bins: Fall Favorites!

As I sit down to write this, the autumn leaves are falling down and floating past my window!  Happy Fall!  This first sensory bin is "A Pantry Potluck of Fall Colors"!  This sensory bin has a variety of sizes and textures that I pulled right from my pantry!  From corn to quinoa, lima beans to black beans, you can make it with what you have right at home!  I hunted for various sizes and colors to make it interesting, both for our sense of sight and touch! Throughout the mixture, I hid similarly colored leaves and then added some bright spiky balls for greater intensity. The kids loved scooping and pouring with the little bowls. Be sure to have a broom nearby, we've had beans all over the clinic!

Who doesn't love a trip to the pumpkin patch? Personally, I like to find the nice, plump, round pumpkins.  The children showed preference with the pumpkins in our patch, too.  Within this sensory bin, we've hidden pumpkins of various sizes, shapes and colors.  Some are big and brightly colored, while others are small and shiny. While some children searched for all of the big ones, some preferred the ones that looked like jewels. We have used this bin both as a sorting activity, as well as to work on counting.  There are over 30 pumpkins hidden in our pumpkin patch!

As you begin to carve your pumpkins, be sure to provide your children with opportunities to touch and smell the ooey-gooey mixture inside!  We'll be sure to share our spider web sensory bin that we have planned for next week! Do you have any spectacular sensory bins to share?


Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Sensory Bin Like No Other!

When I show up to the Speech Garden Sensory Preschool with my water marbles, the kids squeal with delight.  This is truly a favorite sensory bin.  (The kids call them water marbles, but they are those water beads that are intended for plants.) Some children are not fond of the wet feel right away, but the brilliant colors end up drawing them in!  I love using the science tongs with the water marbles as they open and close just like scissors and provide another means for practicing the motions for cutting.  While some children enjoy filling bowls or pouring a cup of water marbles onto their hands, others find it fun to “feed” the fish and frog (bath tub grippers) by placing the marbles into the little “divots”.   Sensory bins are a great way to promote language as the kids describe what they see, feel and smell.  We talk about the colors of the marbles, how some are bigger than others and the kids get excited when the find anomalies. They also work together sharing the space around the bin, as well as the tools and supplies within the bin.  Not only do we see bursts of language, but improved arousal levels as they explore this favorite tactile bin!

Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A fine motor favorite that goes for miles!

I can’t take credit for this activity as I got the idea while visiting Forest Hill Playschool.  The teacher in the class used Cheerios to place on the skewers, which is an excellent activity for working on pincer skills, as well as eye-hand coordination.  I always worry about allergies and wanted to be able to use it with a number of children, so I substituted the cereal pieces for plastic rings.  To make it more difficult, we added paperclips. The paperclips worked nicely, because my wooden sticks weren’t exactly skewers, but were more like tall, skinny Popsicle sticks.  Therefore, the children had to turn the paperclips just so, to get them to fit the end of the stick. The funniest thing was how long the children attended to this activity.  Once they finished a stick with one color of clay on the bottom, they wanted to try another one with a different colored ball of clay at the bottom. 

Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Marshmallows aren't just for S'Mores! Create a sensory bin right from your pantry!

Marshmallows, flour, coconut shreds and plastic non-frozen ice cubes provided several different “feels”.  At first, the marshmallows were dry and spongy.  After some poking and squeezing, they got sort of sticky.  They loved poking their fingers through the ends of the marshmallows! 

Exploration of the marshmallows provided nice hand strength, too, as they kids squished them into balls.  Sifting the flour between their fingers was calming, and promoted quiet time. 

The children enjoyed searching for the colored cubes among the marshmallows as they sort of felt the same, being somewhat squishy and the same shape. Some of the children enjoyed sorting the cubes by color, while others were challenged to build structures from the model.  

The coconut shreds sort of got lost in the mix, but did provide a nice olfactory component, as they provided a pleasant smell.  Some of the children said it smelled like “sun lotion”.  I took the bin home after school and my seven year old had just as much fun!  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Create your very own fall sensory bin that kids will love!

It's back to school time for me, too!  That means I'll be making a sensory bin each week to take to my schools!

The first one of the year had a fall theme.  Since some of the children are new to me and to OT, I kept it dry this week, as usually that is easier to handle.
Under the piles of various colored leaves, I hid all sorts of fall colored and themed objects:  apples, oranges, acorns, leaves, and pom-poms. The children sorted them by color into the sorting tray.
Once they got the hang of that, we moved on to finding two objects at a time; first find a green one, then a red one. Finally, we counted all of the "treasures" they found.

Even though it's dry, touching the various textures can still be challenging for some children.  If they're initially resistive to exploring, give them tools to use, then work to using their hands. You can give them salad tongs, tweezers, science tongs, spoons, etc. to scoop out the "treasures".

Add another component by having the children go on a leaf hunt to find their own real leaves for the bin.  That will give it a whole different feel with crisp, crunchy leaves!  Some may even crumble in their hands, adding another tactile component!

While sensory bins tend to be tactile in nature, bring in all of the senses when you can!  Promote heavy work and motor planning by having them perform animal walks or climb trees to get to the leaves.  Even raking is fun for them! I was at my son's school for gardening day and raking was the favorite "job" of the day! Have them rake the leaves into big piles and jump into them! Consider the smell, too! Pine needles and pine cones could add a nice touch to this fall themed bin!

Happy Fall Ya'll and stay tuned for more tactile "finger fun"!

Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Because we know that you're on the go!

I made this simple activity as homework for one of my little guys.  He happened to be working on his diagonal lines.  That week we focused on the letter x.  

His mom brought it back the next week and said I should share it with all of you.  She carried it around in her diaper bag (she has a newborn too!) and by the next week forming diagonals was simple as pie for him!

All you need is a paper bag, red, green and black markers, Wikki Stix and some wooden craft sticks or popsicle sticks.

Make a green line at the top to indicate where he should start.   Measure the length of a Wikki Stick at a diagonal and then add the red line so that he has the baseline boundary.

I like to use  different colored Wikki Stix just to aide in the visual discrimination of the two lines.
We worked from corner to corner and corner to corner.
We did "Rainbow writing" with many different colors of Wikki Stix and formed the X over and over again.

To add another kinesthetic property, we also used wooden craft sticks.
On the opposite side of the bag, I provided the same green and red lines as top and bottom boundaries (this will carry over to the Fundanoodle method once we take it to paper).
Because the sticks are shorter, I provided black, vertical boundaries on the sides.
Again, we worked from corner to corner and corner to corner!

After he masters X's, move on to letters like V, M and N! All you need are a few more sticks!

Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

This is what happens when two OTs go out to dinner...

We all get bored waiting for dinner, right?!

 Use the napkins and make some origami! Have your child copy your design and then see what she can come up with on her own!

Take a look around the table and use a variety of media! Sugar packets make nice details on a house.

Origami has several benefits:
  • Motor Planning
  • Sequencing
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Attention to detail
  • Spatial-temporal skills
  • Bilateral motor coordination
  • Fine Motor Coordination and dexterity
  • Problem-solving
  • Creativity

Who can make the prettiest bouquet?

This is just like the dog that we use to test children with Lucy Jane Miller's Miller Function and Participation Scales (M-Fun)

This is our attempt at duplicating the fish on the M-Fun!

Stop the food fights and try origami, instead!
Do you have any interesting strategies to occupy the kids at restaurants?

Michelle Yoder, OTR/L