Parents, do you remember placing your finger into the palm of your baby's hand? They sweetly wrap their fingers around your finger and you go "awww, their holding me!"
This first "grasp" pattern seen in babies at birth is a primitive "grasp reflex". It only lasts for about four months, however it prepares babies for voluntary grasp and release patterns.
Grasp and release patterns are an important part of early child development. At about four months, babies are reaching for objects with a momentary grasp and by about nine months babies are learning to release objects voluntarily (Parks, 1996).
Coordinated grasp and release skills (and therefore the opening and closing action of your child's hand) are important for the development of scissor skills. Children need to be able to hold scissors and guide them to open and close as they cut across paper.
You can use the following activities to encourage children with "opening and closing hands".
Parks, S. (1996). HELP strands: curriculum-based developmental assessment: birth to three years. Palo Alto, CA: VORT Corp.
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Cutting, laminating, photo copying, lesson planning .... do you do your preparation in the school holidays?
Teachers and OTs (or an other therapists for that matter)... we have a problem!
We never quite "switch off"!
We are always looking or listening out for a great idea that we can implement with the kids we see. Even on holidays... I notice ramps and think about access, I notice toys in shops and think how I could use that or I watch kids play and guess how old they are! Yep, I have a problem!
Last year we were quarantined at home during one school holidays due to illness (gastro from memory). To make the most of this time, I made these scissor skills busy boxes! I knew that they would come in handy once the illness had passed and I was back at work! These boxes are perfect for home, preschool or in an OT tool kit!
Yes they take a little while to set up but they are worth it!
I sourced theseplastic boxes years ago from IKEA Australia and love that they have little compartments which can be adjusted in size. They also have a lid making them ideal to move around from place to place!
I set up two types of boxes but you could use a combination of craft and cutting strips. The cutting strips were made from scrapbooking paper. This is a little thicker than normal writing paper and easier for little hands to hold and to cut (as it doesn't flop around as much and require too much stability with the non-dominant hand).
In the cutting strip box, I wanted to have a range of developmental stages including shorter strips, thicker lines, thinner lines, curves, straight lines, corners and more! Read more about developmental stages over at MamaOT. If you are making this box for home, you may want to consider where your child is at developmentally before starting!
A craft box is a great way to encourage those who are just starting out with scissors! Present a range of things to cut such as straws, crepe paper, wrapping paper, tissue paper, wool, ribbon, twine, tinsel, etc! Encourage your child's creativity with some glue to stick down all the things they cut!
These scissor skills busy boxes will appeal to your child if they already interested in cutting or they love experimenting with craft supplies!
However, there are some children who are just...not..interested...in...cutting! These are the kids who are referred to OTs because of poor fine motor skills, poor hand strength and poor postural control. Sometimes these children have difficulty with cutting because they have not yet established a hand preference or have poor bilateral coordination (see here for more information).
Here are some tips for using the scissor skills busy boxes!
Please tell me that I'm not the only one who has trouble "switching off"! Perhaps this is a subconscious reason I started this blog, so that I could record ideas and observations!
Have you got a "busy box" for scissor skill practice? What have you included in your box?
Please welcome today's guest blogger, speech pathologist Vincent Borg from Box Hill Speech Pathology Clinic. Vincent is a leading specialist in stuttering therapy with almost 36 years of practice. Vincent is here to share about stuttering; what signs to look for, what to monitor and the treatment options which may help! This is a subject close to home as I sought speech pathology assistance for my son before he started school so that we could address a mild stutter. We participated in the Lidcombe program which is mentioned in this article!
It’s a common concern we hear at our speech pathology practice, particularly from parents of toddlers and pre-schoolers, “Our toddler started stuttering overnight.” It can be particularly worrisome for parents when their child was speaking perfectly fine beforehand.
Between the age of two and four years old, children suddenly have so much to say! Quite often their little brains simply cannot keep up with all the things they want to say not to mention also trying to figure out how to put sounds and words together into phrases that make sense.
Signs of stuttering in toddlers and pre-schoolers
Stuttering can not only present itself as sound, word or phrase repetition, for example,‘w-w-w-will you play with me?’ or ‘can-can-can I go outside?’ or ‘I want to, I want to, I want to um go home now’ but can present itself as a stuck or blocked sound production or the stretching of sounds, for example, ‘Ca___n I have a drink please?’
The development of language skills is like a huge jigsaw puzzle for young children as they try to grasp new words, sounds and phrases and dysfluency quite often occurs during this developmental period. Some children outgrow their stuttering once they move through this phase and some don’t. It can bequite difficult to determine whether or not stuttering is normal or if it will pass, this is why it’s best to take a proactive approach.
Closely monitoring the dysfluency is essential and if you’re concerned or unsure about your child’s stuttering, seeking speech therapy for stuttering from an experienced speech pathologist will give you answers and set your mind at ease. Treatment is most effective if started before the child turns six years old.
Why types of stuttering treatment are available? Do they work?
The Lidcombe Program is a best practice treatment for young children who stutter in Australia. The program is a parent training program which teaches parents how to provide feedback regarding their child’s speech that is carefully worded and well-timed, during specific games and naturally occurring situations.
Parents and children that have undertaken the Lidcombe Program say that the program is fun and easy to implement. Children enjoy coming to our clinic to engage in the ‘smooth talking games’ and parents feel very empowered because they are equipped with the knowledge and tools to be able to be a direct therapist for their child.
What is smooth talking?
Smooth talking can also be known as speech restructuring, smooth speech, prolonged speech or The Camperdown Program and it teaches children with a stutter to use a slightly altered speech style to control their stuttering. This approach is effective in reducing stuttering where accurate self-monitoring and close attention is paid to the technique. We rarely recommend this treatment for very young children but do recommend it in partnership with the Lidcombe Program for older children.
What things to monitor before attending stuttering therapy?
To achieve the best possible outcome at a speech pathology appointment, it’s essential that you make close observations of your child’s stuttering and document the following:
How to support your child while they are experiencing stuttering?
If your child starts stuttering, in addition to making observations and seeking advice from a speech therapist, it’s essential to display sensitivity towards your child. Try not to make a big deal of their stuttering, let them know that you are there to help them through their frustration and that you will wait for them to say what they need to.
It’s so important that you’re not in a hurry to communicate with them. Try to slow down your questions and give them the amount of time they need to express themselves properly. Patience when it comes to stuttering is key.
Has your child started stuttering all of a sudden? Did it go away on its own or did you seek therapy?
By Vincent Borg
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MESS FREE? ✔
EASILY TRANSPORTED? ✔
FUN AND ENGAGING? ✔
MORE THAN ONE THERAPY GOAL? ✔
This activity ticks all the right boxes for a mobile occupational therapist!
Have you heard of Q-tip painting? (Q-tips are also called "cotton tips" in Australia and are usually found in the personal care section of a supermarket). Q-tip painting has been quite popular in the last few years with Q-tips used as paint brushes dipping into paint and making "spots" onto various printables available.
Last year, I put together my Q-tips and my ink pads... creating Q-tip stamping! It was a hit with my kids; providing the same fun engaging activity without the MESS!
This is why I love Q-tip stamping!
This is an activity that would well in a classroom, at home or in an OT session! You could shrink down the pages and turn them into a card or display the finished pictures!
Have you tried Q-tip STAMPING before?
Do you have other mess-free activities that you use in therapy sessions?
If you try this activity for yourself, I would love to see it! Tag #yourkidsot on Instagram or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Don't forget to download yourFREE EASTER Q-TIP PRINTABLE HERE!
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Everyone loves rainbows!
The colours of a rainbow can brighten a cloudy sky. I often feel like breaking into song ... "Somewhere over the rainbow...."
Rainbows are everywhere in preschool and school craft activities and projects. This is a special one as we look at how the whole body works in crossing the midline. The "midline" is the imaginary line which can be drawn from your head to your toes through your belly button, dividing your body left from right.
Some children have difficulties integrating the left and right sides of their body. They may adjust by moving their work to one side, shifting their body position on a chair or neglecting to use one side of their bodies. Read more about crossing the midline and bilateral coordination HERE.
When encouraging "crossing the midline", we look at a child's ability to rotate at the trunk to use their right hand in the sphere of the "left side of the body" and their left hand in the sphere of the "right side of the body".
What to do:
1. Set up this simple rainbow drawing with a large piece of paper or cardboard.
2. Have your child sit cross legged in the centre.
3. Give your child a crayon or texta and ask them to reach across their body to start the rainbow. (ie. using the right hand, cross over to the left side and vice versa for the left hand).
4. Repeat this with multiple colours and in both directions (it is up to you if you want this rainbow to reflect the "real" colours").
Once the rainbow is completed, I also had my kids "drive along" the rainbow. I encouraged them to take a car with their right hand, cross over to the left side of the body and drive it back on the rainbow to the right. Sometimes we then pass the car behind the child's back and at other times, the car did a U-turn and drove back along the rainbow (with the alternate arm pushing it).
Do your kids love drawing rainbows? Do you ever break into song (even in your head)?
What is your favourite "crossing the midline" activity?
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OT is fun!
OT is work!
OT can be frustrating!
OT is learning!
OT is rewarding!
Kids who participate in occupational therapy sessions may have a range of feelings. They may feel all of the above in one session!
Kids come to OT because they need help. They want or need to learn something (because sometimes mum, dad or a teacher want them to learn something)!
Learning can be tough especially when mistakes are involved.
I wanted to encourage the kids who see me for OT with some "learning rules"! I shared these on social media last week and had a great response!
These rules are so much more than "OT rules"! They are a learning contract between myself and the kids that I see. We will do these things together.
We will do our best.
We will be ready to learn.
We will be respectful to each other.
We will work hard.
We will try new things.
We will follow directions (or give them in a way that takes into account their learning style).
We will ask questions (including asking for help).
We will have FUN!
We will believe in ourselves.
We will make mistakes (because that's how we learn)!
These "learning" rules are suitable for the classroom, home, therapy clinic .... for learning in life!
We are all life long learners and these posters may motivate you as the teacher, therapist or parent!
I have now made these posters available in the Your Kids OT shop. OT rules remains a FREE printable. You can also obtain the classroom and generic learning versions in the shop.
What is your favourite "rule" for learning?? How do you motivate your kids to learn?
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Do you fidget?
Do you chew your pencil, tap on a table, tap your foot, move in your seat, twirl your hair?
Fidgeting is a movement that you may not even be aware of until someone points it out to you. People (both children and adults) may fidget whilst they are concentrating on a conversation, listening to a teacher or watching TV (just some examples).
Some children with sensory seeking behavior need ways to intentionally fidget so that they can obtain the proprioceptive input to help their bodies regulate and calm down.
Have you seen balloon fidget toys before?
I have been wanting to make these for a long time and have finally made them! They are so awesome to squish and squeeze! There are lots of recipes on the internet, but I found two really simple (and dare I say fool-proof) ones that I have "tweaked" for you to try!
Water Beads Balloon Fidget
What you will need:
2. Water beads (fully grown)
What to do:
1. Give your balloon a stretch and blow into it (just to stretch it).
2. Deflate your balloon and attach to the end of the funnel.
3. Push the water beads into the funnel and into the balloon. You may need to move them down the neck of the balloon with your fingers.
4. Fill your balloon to the desired size then tie a knot to secure them.
Your kids will love scooping water beads to put into the funnel, then pushing the water beads into the funnel with their fingers. The perfect finger isolation activity!
Note: Inspiration for these balloon fidgets came from Karina Garcia's You Tube channel. She uses transparent balloons which are so cool!
Baking Soda and Conditioner Balloon Fidget
What you will need:
1. Baking Soda (aka. bicarbonate soda)
2. Hair conditioner
4. Plastic fork or spoon
7. Elastic Band
8. Netting from fruit or vegetables
9. Matches or lighter
What to do:
1. Pour your baking soda (I used 300 g to make 2) into a bowl.
2. Slowly add a little hair conditioner to the baking soda and mix together with the spoon. Continue to add the hair conditioner and mix until you get a sloppy thick icing consistency (see video for consistency).
3. Give your balloon a stretch and blow into it (just to stretch it).
4. Deflate your balloon and attach to the end of the funnel.
5. Push the baking soda mixture into the funnel and down into the balloon. You may need a plastic fork or spoon to help push it down.
6. Fill your balloon to the desired size then tie a knot to secure them.
7. Cut some fruit/vegetable netting to the desired size. Singe the ends of the net with a lighted match just to stop any fraying.
8. Secure the netting over the balloon with a rubber band.
9. Squeeze and play!
Your kids will love helping you mix the baking soda and hair conditioner together. You could play with this as "cloud dough" until you are ready to fill the balloons. Make sure you get a reasonably wet consistency for to put into the balloons (it will still work if you don't but you might not get the bubbles popping out of the net). Once ready to play, your kids (and any adults around) will love squeezing these over and over again!
Note: Inspiration for these balloon fidgets came fromAira Tan's You Tube Video.
Have a look at my video to retrace the steps and see how squishy they are!
Use of these balloon fidget toys should always be supervised especially over time with the wear and tear of the balloon. The length of time each balloon will last, will depend on the quality of the balloon and how often it is played with. You could try adding a second balloon over the first to provide some longevity. These balloon fidgets are not suitable for children who are mouthing toys and objects. They are also not suitable for children under 12 months of age.
These balloon fidgets provide sensory input for a child who needs to fidget. They also make great ways to warm up your child's hands ready for writing or cutting. They are perfect little stress balls and they are also heaps of FUN!
I love these balloon fidgets! I hope you do too!
Have you made a balloon fidget yet? Let me know if you try one of these!
Don't forget to share this article with your friends and family if you think they will like these balloon fidgets too!
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Last week we looked at the gross motor skills involved with page stabilization. If you missed it, catch up on it here (Gross motor skills needed for page stabilization during writing)!
But what if your child is still struggling to hold their paper whilst they write or draw?
I was recently introduced to the Stay Put Mat: Non Slip Writing Aid!
The Stay Put Mat:Non Slip Writing Aid was designed by a mom to help manage slipping papers on a table. The Stay Put Mat:Non Slip Writing Aid consists of a magnetic frame made on a non-slip base. It is durable and lightweight and easy to transport around (so important for a mobile OT)!
I have been testing the Stay Put Mat:Non Slip Writing Aid in my OT sessions and these are my favorite ways to use this non-slip mat!
I especially love how the page does not get marked with use in the Stay Put Mat. There are no tape marks or blue-tak stains. There are no rips, tears or creases either!
Who would benefit from use of the Stay Put Mat:Non Slip Writing Aid?
The Stay Put Mat:Non Slip Writing Aid provides an innovative attractive way to compensate for difficulties with page stabilization.
It would benefit:
Occupational Therapists will find this mat invaluable!
For more information bout the Stay Put Mat: Non Slip Writing Aid, visit the website "STAY PUT MAT"!
Have you tried this mat?
Disclosure: This product was gifted to Your Kids OT for the purposes of a review. Reviews and endorsements of products will only be made based on my expertise and personal opinion; and deemed worthy of such endorsement. The opinions shared in sponsored content will always be my own and not that of the advertising company or brand.
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Put your left hand on the page and have your right hand do the "writing".
Hold the page not your head.
Don't let your page wiggle!
Do these phrases sound familiar to you? There are some kids who can't seem to hold their page still on the table. The paper flies off the table, moves as it is being written on or even gets crumpled under their hand.
This makes drawing and writing really tricky!
Ideally at the table, children use their dominant hand to hold a writing implement and use their non-dominant hand to stabilize the page they are working on. They provide just enough pressure so that the page does not move. The dominant forearm also rests on the page with their fingers and hands controlling the pencil.
Did you know that the ability to stabilize a page on the table may be due to core muscle weakness, poor bilateral coordination and poor shoulder stability?
Core Muscle Weakness
Core muscles can be considered "as the sturdy central link in the chain connecting your upper and lower body".* Core muscles describe both the muscles which assist with stability as well as those which enable trunk movement. **
What you might see in the classroom:
Have a look at OT MOM LEARNING ACTIVITIES CORE EXERCISES FOR KIDS for some great suggestions to help with core muscle weakness.
Bilateral coordination/integration is the ability to use both sides of the body at the same time in a coordinated way.
What you might see in the classroom:
Read more aboutbilateral coordination HERE or obtain a copy of the bilateral integration reference sheet with over 50 activity suggestions HERE !
Shoulder stability refers to the ability to contract (pull together) the muscles on either side of the shoulder joint to hold the shoulder steady. This allows the arm to be held in different positions while the forearm and hand do an activity. ***
What you might see in the classroom:
A child with poor shoulder stability may use their whole arm to control their pencil rather than using their fingers.
Shoulder stability can be developed with tummy time and crawling (for all ages)! Read more about this HERE! For further activity ideas to assist shoulder stability have a look at OT MOM LEARNING ACTIVITIES SHOULDER GIRDLE EXERCISES FOR KIDS!
Do you have a child who struggles to stabilize the page on the table during writing?
Do they have difficulties with any of these gross motor skills?
Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this article to promote products that I recommend. This means that if you follow through with a purchase from these links, Your Kids OT will receive a percentage of the sale. Reviews and endorsements of products will only be made based on my expertise and personal opinion; and deemed worthy of such endorsement. The opinions shared in sponsored content will always be my own and not that of the advertising company or brand.
* Publications, H. H. (n.d.). The real-world benefits of strengthening your core. Retrieved February 07, 2017, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-real-world-benefits-of-strengthening-your-core
** Khadir, S. A., Knight, K., Bras, S., Rhule, V., & Pagare, V. Core stability - Physiopedia, universal access to physiotherapy knowledge. Retrieved February 7, 2017, from http://www.physio-pedia.com/Core_stability
*** Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne, 2005. Occupational Therapy Kids Health Information: Shoulder Stability and Control. Retrieved February 07, 2017, (n.d.) from http://www.rch.org.au/uploadedFiles/Main/Content/ot/InfoSheet_F.pdf
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Today I would like to introduce the lovely Fi Morrison from "Mumma Morrison" as a guest blogger to Your Kids OT. Fi is a mother to a gorgeous baby boy (check out her Instagram feed to meet her bub) and a primary school teacher. I recently discovered that Fi taught one of my nieces a few years ago! My niece LOVED being in Mrs Morrison's class! Today Fi is helping us with 5 ways to promote social skills with children! This is a timely article with the recommencement of school here in Australia! Thanks so much Fi for writing this article!
I was sitting in my classroom next to Bryan* and Charlie*, helping them with their maths task, when Bryan snatched Charlie's pencil. Charlie started pointing the finger, crying and yelling, saying Bryan had stolen his pencil (which I obviously knew, because I was sitting RIGHT THERE).
Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence in my life as a teacher, and I'm sure it sounds all too familiar to parents and teachers everywhere. What do we do with those children who fight and bicker, who haven't learnt to share or turn take, and overall drive us bonkers with their antisocial antics? (My pet peeve is dobbing. I had students who would say, “SHE LOOKED AT ME” and it would drive me up the wall!).
I think many parents, and teachers, assume that social skills are inherent within children, but it is just not that simple. Social skills, like the majority of other skills, need to be taught to children and reinforced. While practice might not make perfect, it surely does make progress.
If you have been struggling with social issues with your child at home, or in a social or educational setting, these activities can help to improve their social skills and teach them the right way to deal with particular issues.
Social stories are particularly used by educators for students with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). It is a visual story that describes certain situations or scenarios a child might encounter, and the best way to respond. It is one of the easiest and most effective ways to teach children social skills at home, because it is through the medium of story telling (a family favourite!) that the skills are reinforced.
For example, I had a year 2 student, Stacey*, in my class last year who had ASD and Anxiety. To support her transition to year 2, we created a social story by taking photos of our classroom, her peers, meeting spots and play areas around the school for her to be acquainted with, then bound the book into her social story. You could do something similar for a social situation your child struggles with. Take a photo of the situation in the wrong way (for example, pushing someone) and of the right way (standing next to each other, talking). Write captions for the story about the wrong way and the right way (I will not push someone if I don’t like what they say. I will stand next to them, talk to them and say ‘I don’t like what you said’). For older children, you can turn this into a learning activity and create the story together (which goes hand in hand with role plays, see below).
Role playing a situation can be a powerful way for your child to understand how someone might react to a situation. For example, if the situation was ‘Someone has said something mean to you’, work through the situation with your child the wrong way (what shouldn’t we do) and the right way (how can we react to that situation). By getting your child to physically act out and verbally respond to each scenario, and playing off the responses you give, your child can see the impact of their words and their actions on other people.
With role playing, however, you will need to be mindful of how you act out certain scenarios. Children might find some scenarios hurtful (such as saying something mean), and you don’t want it to escalate out of control. This might give you a lot more teaching than you were expecting! As a teacher, we need to be mindful about the scenarios we ask children to roleplay (for example, peer pressure to do certain things), however it is a helpful medium for children to develop their social skills and understand how their actions and responses affect others.
This activity works well with a group of children, and was taught by our Learning Support teacher at school. Children would sit in a circle, and the teacher would ask the children a question about a social scenario (e.g. If the teacher is talking to another student and you want to ask them a question, what do you do?). To monitor the discussion, the teacher would use a soft toy as the ‘talking’ prop, and whoever had the prop could answer the question. The social circle was a great way to promote discussion between peers, bounce ideas off one-another, and extend their thinking in different ways.
Puppets are absolutely by far one of my favourite educational (and play!) resources ever! They are super fun, engaging for children and can promote learning. I used to run puppet workshops for gifted and talented children, and social skills was one of the biggest benefits I would promote for children who attended the workshop.
Similar to role playing, puppets can be used as an engaging way to act out certain scenarios for children to respond to. However, puppets have two extra benefits:
Explicit discussion and modelling
As parents and teachers, we should never underestimate the power of a simple explanation from an adult and our own role modeling of the correct response.I would always reinforce this with posters in our classroom to remind the children after our conversation.
For example, with our dobbing situation, I sat the children down and spoke about when was an appropriate time to speak with me (if someone was hurt or in danger) and when there was a situation they could resolve themselves (someone using the wrong book for class work). After this, I modeled for them how the children could approach me about a situation, and then reinforced it with a display in the classroom.
Social skills are vital for children to learn to help them in a variety of social situations. By teaching and practicing these skills at home, as well as in educational settings, your child will develop the necessary social skills to participate in a variety of social settings both during childhood and beyond.
Have you found other ways to develop your child’s social skills?
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Hi, I'm Cindy and I am an Occupational Therapist. I enjoy working creatively with children to see them reach their potential. Read more about me here.
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Disclaimer: The information on this site is general in nature and should be used for educational and entertainment purposes. The activities are safe for most children, however, you should consult an Occupational Therapist or health professional to address specific movement, sensory or other medical conditions. This blog does not replace formal therapeutic professional advice given by a health professional or medical practitioner. Reviews and endorsements of products will only be made based on my expertise and personal opinion; and deemed worthy of such endorsement. The opinions shared in sponsored content will always be my own and not that of the advertising company or brand. Content, advertising space or posts will be clearly identified if paid, affiliated or sponsored. Affiliate links may be found throughout this website in advertising. This means that if you follow through with a purchase from these links, Your Kids OT will receive a percentage of the sale. Your Kids OT undertakes to meet the requirements of the "Social Media Policy" as published by Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Further information about this policy can be found here.
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