Car Wash Sensory Play

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So, let me introduce you to your new best friend, Car Wash Sensory Play. Your kids are going to eat it up! Not to mention keep themselves thoroughly occupied for at least an hour.

Here’s how to play:

You and your kiddos line-up all the toy cars in the household, spray them all over with shaving cream, fill up a sensory bin with water and a little blue dye for some extra pzazz and give them some old toothbrushes to help “scrub the cars squeaky clean”. They brush them off with their toothbrush and them dip them in the “soapy” water to get them rinsed off before lining them up to dry.

There are three primary objectives in this fun outdoor game:

  1. To squeeze in some messy tactile sensory play: Messy tactile input is important for so many reasons! To stimulate the tactile senses in a fun way, to decrease or eliminate any hypersensitivity to touch or textures which can impact a whole number of things (the most important being future acceptance of new food textures), to increase awareness of the hands and body and to let kids realize its OKAY to get their hands messy. If your little has an absolute meltdown when their hands get messy, this might be a good activity to try with them. Having a barrier between the hands and the shaving cream (the toothbrushes) help for those who are hesitant to touch the messy texture.

  2. To promote imaginative and parallel play (side by side play) with siblings

  3. To get kids outside!

    The greatest part is you probably have ALL of the items you need to play this game laying around somewhere in your house. Isn’t it cool that its the simplest things in life that keep kids busy and their brains working? (some of my favorites are old boxes, tissue paper, tape, shaving cream, empty water bottles and old containers, just to name a few)

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So what are you waiting for?? Go put on your mom pants on and get ready to G E T M E S S Y!

**Clearly we did this outside so I could spray them down with a hose when we were done :)

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Large container for water

  • Toy cars

  • Shaving cream

  • Old toothbrushes

  • Food dye (optional)

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-Ashley

Restaurant Boxes (DIY Fine Motor Fun)

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I have a confession..

I have been carrying around random zip-lock bags of thera-putty and bags of beads and strings in my purse for about three years now.

Why on earth would you do such a thing, you might ask?  Because I’m sure you can imagine how just one more thing totally adds to the mom-purse dilemma.  You know, the one where you go on one short trip to or from preschool and you end up with the contents of what looks to be food and supplies for a small tribe of Indians! 

Why the heck would I want to encourage you to add one more thing into that shameful mom-pile??

No, its not because I’m taking crazy pills.  It’s because there is nothing worse than the wait for food at a restaurant with hangry and busy-bodied children.

Especially when you don’t always want to pop a device in front of your child, because said device only decreases child’s ability to control impulses and attention skills, according to research.

Dont get me wrong, we use devices quite frequently in our home, but I do my best to not use it every single time my kids are bored.

Waiting on your food at the restaurant, waiting at the doctors office, waiting to get your oil change with the kids, long road trips, Oy vey, is parenting full of lots of waiting! 

Patience is a virtue, people.  Something I am learning myself along the way but also something even more challenging to teach to children. 

The truth is I would much rather let my kids play and refine their hand skills than be zombified by Paw-Patrol for an hour.  Maybe its the OT in me (ok, its definitely the OT in me)  Maybe its the perfectionist (yeah, its definitely a little bit of that too).  I don’t know guys.  But I will say these little restaurant boxes have saved me more times than I can count. 

So today, I am spilling the beans to my long kept secret to restaurants with kids peace. 

Enter, the restaurant box.  

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:Sigh of relief:

...... 

So, I fill these little guys with all sorts of simple fine motor activities and pop them open when my kids are getting antsy.  It buys me just enough time to look at the menu, order food for everyone and possibly even have a bite of my own food. 

I include all different sorts of simple fine motor activities.  Here’s what I put in mine:

  • A few crayons
  •  Thera-putty (sort of like resistive play-dough) and small beads to push in and take out if it
  • all different sorts of strings and beads (big and small) with different sized strings and felt pipe cleaners for my youngest (easier)
  • A pair of tweezers and these tiny erasors to practice pinch and grasp when putting things in/out of cups and bowls
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The best part is that they are extremely inexpensive and simple to make and you can tailor them to your own child’s interests and age group. You can switch out the items at any time and keep these boxes on deck in the mom-bag at all times for those desperate times (you know the ones I’m talking about).

These containers I found on amazon on the perfect size to keep stowed away in your purse and have handy-dandy compartment separators and locks to keep from spillage. So what are you waiting for?? Go fill up some boxes for some restaurant peace and quiet. Maybe even pretend to have a date-night with your hubs with your kids in tow?

Comment below and let me know what types of tricks you use to keep your own kiddos busy when eating out!

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-Ashley

Cutting Straws + Build a House

Anyone else feeling the summertime crazies already?!

I will openly admit I have been going a little stir crazy around here. Keeping these guys busy is imperative to my sanity!

Thank goodness I pulled out one of my all time favorite fine motor activities yesterday and was able to keep these busy little hands at work for quite some time!

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✂️Cutting Staws +  Build a House🌈🏠

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You’ll need:

✂️Scissors

✂️Colorful straws

✂️Paper

✂️Glue

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Cutting straws is the absolute best in my opinion.  Here’s why I think it’s the cats pajamas:

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🎉It’s always my go to as the first step to teaching scissor skills due to the fact that it’s one small snip and way less challenging than cutting paper

🎉It gives toddlers instant gratification

🎉The straws literally shoot across the room and they (and I) think it’s hysterical

🎉It gives great feedback (auditory and propricoeptive) to a beginning cutter like my 2 year old

🎉It’s a bilateral (two handed) task that makes the 🧠left and right sides of the brain work together as a team to build good motor planning skills!


Adding a second step to build a house made it a bit more challenging (and increased the task completion time 🙌)for my 4 year old buddy who’s got cutting down pact.

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This week I’m partnering with thinkbaby.org, an amazing resource for all things parenting,  and I just LOVED this list of Fun & Educational DIY Crafts for Toddlers.

 

If you’re having the summertime mom crazies, like me, I think you’ll find this list very useful! 

 

-Ashley  

Birthday Cake Surprise -Fine Motor Fun

And our adventures continue trying to beat the heat this summer...Bored with play dough? Have a kiddo who loves talking about all things birthday?Just want to keep the kids entertained indoors to escape the relentless summer heat? 😩😭

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Enter birthday cake surprise! Place candles into the “cake” and then decorate the candles! You can make patterns if you want to make it more challenging. And of course sing happy birthday 1,000 times 😆

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This activity is great for any age really. All you need is play dough, spaghetti noodles, marshmallows and Cheerios. 👌if you have any foam blocks laying around (we found ours at the dollar store) it adds a bonus challenge 👍

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This activity works on lots of things, including sensory exploration, grasp development and strengthening, fine motor precision and graded pressure modulation.

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Most wild boys (ahem, my son) and wild girls too, who are described often as ‘too rough’ are missing the ability to grade (control) their pressure on objects might have a hard time with activities such as this. They might appear clumbsy or too rough. They spill, accidentally crush things 😂 and have a hard time with things that require them to s l o w their bodies down.

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Pushing the marshmallows onto the spaghetti noodles without breaking them and also pushing the noodles into the foam bricks requires a lot of graded pressure modulation so it’s a great activity for those wild ones.

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We did lose a few noodles, but in the end, my wild boy was able to master his birthday cake surprise!👌🤗👏🙌

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Try it with your kiddos and let me know how they do😃

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Decorating Telescopes for Fine Motor Skill Building

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(18 months and up)

I love stickers for 3 reasons:

  1. They keep kiddos entertained F O R E V E R
  2. Taking stickers off of the pad encourages a three-digit grasp (tripod grasp) and strengthens the thumb 👍muscles which are an important building block for all aspects of prehension (grasp)
  3. Taking stickers off of a pad encourages higher level bilateral coordination (using both hands together in a coordinated way) I’m always looking for smaller items that encourage one hand to stabilize while the other hands manipulates (places stickers) and these toilet paper rolls are 👌

✍️Why am I always talking about the importance of thumb strength and the development of proper grasp?

Because if encouraged early on through simple play like this, kids can avoid awkward grasp patterns down the road.

I treat so many kids in the clinic who don’t have a functional grasp due to weak arches of the hands and poor thumb strength improper grasp patterns on a writing utensil cause quick fatigue of the hand during writing tasks and can (not always) lead to an overall negative association with all things handwriting related.

Get some stickers from the dollar store and some toilet paper rolls and you’re good to go! Also my son for some reason believes he can spy things more easily through his “telescope” 

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Easter Egg Rocks + Chalks

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Okay so we have quite a ways until Easter but don’t judge me.  I am oddly obsessed with all games and toys that are related to eggs.  Opening/closing egg toys are my favorite for babies because they teach them how to use both hands together in a coordinated way AND they usually have some sort of visual matching component too.  

Anyways, I digress. 

You guys, this activity was SO easy to set up, or should I say there was really no set up, and the kids LOVED IT. I am not kidding when I say they have been playing it non-stop all weekend.  So if you’re feeling the weekend toddler crazies and trying to prevent your house from being turned upside down before nap time, run to Easter Eggs Rocks + Chalks quick! 

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All you need is 4 things:

  • Chalk of any kind
  • Old egg carton
  • Rocks
  • Easter baskets (optional) 

This activity is definitely chalk full of skill building but honestly, we were just trying to have a little fun and kill time before dinner. 

Heres how to play: 

  1. Color the rocks all your favorite colors
  2. Put them in the carton
  3. Have the kids count the rocks
  4. Talk about your favorite colors together
  5. Hide the rocks all over your house or backyard
  6. Take turns hiding the eggs (the kids especially loved getting to hide them for me and watching me try to find them) 
  7. Practice math skills when trying to determine how many eggs are still missing
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Here’s a few skills we worked on: 

  • Bilateral integration skills (Using one hand to stabilize the rock while the other dominant hand colors)
  • Tripod grasping skills (using three fingers to hold the chalk with an open web space in the web space)
  • Counting
  • Simple subtraction
  • Parent interaction
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-Ashley

Totally Doable Household Chores for Toddlers (by age range)

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As an OT, building skills for functional independence is basically my thing.

Giving kids (no matter their age) chores that are within their functional abilities will:

  • give them a sense of accomplishment + pride
  • empower them to become a contributing family team player
  • build functional skills that can be built upon in other areas (such as categorizing, reaching, balance skills, problem solving, etc)
  • teach them life skills for the future
  • help you out with your endless parenting to-do list

Having little ones rummage through and tear apart the house while you're trying keep it in order can drive anyone a little crazy, myself included.  I have found it most helpful to get the kids involved when I am in the cleaning spirit.  

When you keep their little hands and minds busy working alongside you, they (hopefully) won't un-do all that you're trying to accomplish.  

It is SO important with toddlers to find just the right task.  By that, I mean, the activity must have just the right balance of challenge and feasibility.  You want them to be challenged but you also don't want them to become so frustrated that they give up.  

I thought it might be helpful, to other parents out there, to make a list of age-appropriate house hold chores (listed by age range).  So here it is, I hope you find it useful!

Remember: the idea isn't necessarily for them to be thorough but to learn and feel as though they're helping.

14 months - 2 years

 Meal time:

  • Help prepare veggies/fruit for snack: watch and helping to place pre-cut food items onto plates, closer to age 2 they can peel bananas and oranges (adult starts the peel, child finishes)
  • Help set table: bring utensils to the table while the older children can place them properly
  • Help set table: bring everyone’s drink and place it on table near their chair
  • Wipe the table down after dinner with help

Laundry:

  • Place sorted laundry into basket (to keep hands busy i.e. not pulling sorted items out)
  • Help take out items from dryer and place into basket with you
  • With help, can transfer clothes from washer to dryer
  • Place sorted clothes into washer with you + pour pre-measured laundry detergent in
  • Help push button to turn on washer/dryer

Misc:

  • Routinely clean up at bath time by putting bath toys away into bin
  • Carry a small sized bag of recyclables and place them in bin (use stool if needed) 
  • Can pull a small sized garbage bag to the outside garbage (with an adult)
  • Take out the plastic cups and silverware from the dishwasher and hand them to you as you sort + put away
  • Starting around 18 months, they can start sorting the silverware into forks, knives and spoons drawers.  If they can’t sort types, start with only forks and spoons (they will only have to divide their attention by 2 vs 3)
  • Clean the cabinets  - give them a wipie or wet cloth and have them get busy
  • Clean up spills with a towel
  • Help feed pet by scooping + pouring dog/cat food into bowl
  • Water the plants with a squirt bottle or small watering can
  • Clean up and put away one singular toy set at a time with adult encouragement (I.e LEGO’s, blocks, one puzzle) learning to clean up is easiest when an adult models desired action (I.e putting blocks into container)
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2-3 Years 

Meal Time 

  • Help prep snacks and veggies - peel and cut bananas and other soft fruits with butter knife, break broccoli stems off, peel oranges, sprinkle seeds, toppings or spices (salt, chia seeds, nuts, etc)
  • Help plate pre-cut food items
  • Sort knives, forks, spoons into appropriate drawers from dishwasher
  • Set table by bringing fork, knife and spoon and placing properly in desired location (adult will model desired place setting first)
  • Help set table- bring everyone’s drink and place it on table near their chair
  • Bring dirty dishes to dishwasher or sink and can begin to learn how to put plates into dishwasher and silverware, etc
  • Wipe the table down after dinner
  • Can use a small hand broom to clean up spilled food, will need some help

Laundry

  • Help transfer laundry from washer to dryer and turn on dryer 
  • Help sort clothes into baskets (lights, darks, whites)
  • Put laundry into washer and pour pre-measured detergent
  • Lay out clothes, find the stains and spray with spot treatment (may want to have them wear gloves in case of leakage)
  • Match socks: first find the matches, then lay the match atop each other (may be able to roll them as well)
  • Help each family members underwear in proper drawers
  • Help washcloths with adult modeling
  • After they have mastered folding washcloths, then teach them how to fold towels
  • Put away individual folded piles of laundry into correct drawers, one clothing item at a time (I.e. “put away this stack of shirts, hold them like this”)

 Misc

  • Routinely clean up at bath time by putting bath toys away
  • Carry a small sized bag of recyclables and place them in bin (use stool if needed)
  • Take out items from dishwasher and hand them to you while you put away/organize
  • Clean the cabinets  - give them a wipie and have them go to town
  • Clean up spills with towel
  • Water the plants with a squirt bottle or small watering can
  • Help dig, till, weed and plant seeds for a garden
  • Help feed pet by scooping + pouring dog/cat food into bowl
  • Clean up 2-3 toy sets at a time with adult encouragement (I.e “you clean up the blocks and LEGO’s, I’ll clean up the dolls”)
  • Clean up book shelf independently (putting books in correct position with title facing out, cue them to "turn it so we can read the words.")
  • Help spray and wash glass windows
  • Put away bikes and scooter when finished playing

4-5 Years

Dinner Time 

  • Prep snacks and veggies - cut bananas, break broccoli stems, peel oranges, use a butter knife to spread peanut butter/jelly/butter etc on toast or crackers, add toppings/spices/salt and pepper. 
  • Help to taste and add spices/salt + pepper to dishes (also helps to decrease sensitivity to certain spices and warm-up their palate for mealtime)
  • Help plating food items
  • Tear napkins and fold into squares, set them on table
  • Set table with silverware in correct position atop folded square napkins
  • Pour waters for everyone having dinner (pre measured water, from a pitcher or water dispenser)
  • Bring dirty dishes to dishwasher, can learn to place plates and silverware in proper locations
  • Wipe table down after dinner, use a squirt bottle to spray first
  • Begin to learn how to sweep items into a pile (still may need assistance)

Laundry 

  • Help transfer laundry from washer to dryer and turn on dryer (the fun part!)
  • Help sort laundry into baskets I.e lights, darks and whites
  • Lay out clothes, find the stains and spray with spot treatment (may want to have them wear gloves in case of leakage) 
  • Match and fold socks: first find the matches, then lay the match atop each other, then roll them together
  • Put each family members underwear in proper drawers
  • Fold washcloths in halves or folded squares (folded in half twice)
  • After they have mastered folding washcloths, then teach them how to fold the larger item, towels
  • Put away folded piles of laundry into correct drawers, learning how to hold the folded piles with two hands without dropping them
  • Help put hangers into shirts and hand them to you while you hang them in the closet

Misc 

  • Routinely clean up at bath time by putting bath toys away
  • Take our recycling: find a handy-sized bag they can fill and carry out to the bin
  • Take out trash
  • Help find ripe fruits and veggies at the grocery store: give them a baggie to fill and teach how to tell if a fruit/veggie is ready to eat
  • Take out items from dishwasher and help put away/organize
  • Clean the cabinets - give them a wipie or wet wash cloth and have them go to town
  • Clean up spills with towel
  • Water the plants with a squirt bottle or small watering can
  • Help dig, till, weed and plant seeds for a garden
  • Clean up a small room with encouragement but break the tasks down into steps for them (i.e “first clean up the LEGO’s, then the books”)
  • Clean up book shelf independently (putting books in correct position with title facing out, cue them to "turn it so we can read the words.")
  • Help feed pet by scooping + pouring dog/cat food into bowl, filling up water bowl
  • Help spray and wash glass windows
  • Put away bikes and scooter when finished playing
  • Help put clean pillow cases onto pillow while you put clean sheets on the bed
  • Around age 4, they can manage pushing a small vacuum 

 

Wall Stickers - Color Match

Here is an effortlessly simple fine motor toddler activity for a rainy afternoon!  It will keep those little hands and brains busy like they should be so hopefully you can get something accomplished for the day.  My son and daughter were both SO excited about this game. 

Being an occupational therapist and mother to two little ones, its always important to be able to grade an activity up or down to make it harder or easier for both age levels. 

For my daughter (who is 21 months), we worked on color recognition, bilateral hand skills and tripod grasp to take off the stickers.  And for my son, I graded it up a bit  and turned it into a connect the dot number puzzle afterwards.

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Supplies Needed:

 

 

 

color code dot stickers, markers, paper roll, tape

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Here are all the skills this activity addresses + promotes:

  • bilateral coordination hand skills *the ability to cross midline and use the hands together in a coordinated way
  • tripod grasp strengthening - taking off the stickers
  • upper extremity reaching skills
  • upper extremity strengthening of the shoulder girdle or proximal stability
  • color recognition + matching skills
  • visual scanning and visual sequencing - for connect the number game
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I talk a lot about how writing + coloring on a vertical surface such as a wall, window, easel is great for strengthening all the muscles in back and shoulder girdle.  "Why is this so important?" You might ask. 

The reason is that the shoulder girdle and back muscles are the basis of support for the entire upper extremity.  The stability of the upper extremities depend completely on the shoulder and scapula strength.  Essentially, fine motor control cannot be established without adequate stability at the shoulder.   We call this proximal stability, quite literally meaning strength near the spine.

There are so many children that I work with in the clinic who have poor proximal stability at the shoulder girdle, and, therefore, have poor fine motor strength and control.  Instead of immediately addressing their grasp strength and fine motor control, I usually have to first take a step back and strengthen the shoulder girdle before we move on to the next.  

 

 

-Ashley  

 

Finger Marble Maze

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This little Finger Marble Maze has been with me since I began practicing OT and it never lets me down!  The children use their fingers to pinch the marble from one side of the maze to the other side.  The idea of this activity is to encourage an appropriate pencil grip.  

All you need to make this Finger Marble Maze is: 

  1. two blue pieces of felt
  2. brightly colored thread
  3. a sewing machine
  4. 1 marble
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Here is all the different skills this maze addresses.

  • Encourages an appropriate Triopd Grasp by strengthening the three fingers involved (thumb, index and middle finger)
  • Strengthens the muscle of the thumb (thenar eminence) for better prehension skills
  • Finger Isolation (sometimes the child uses the index or thumb to push it through vs pinch)
  • Bilateral coordination (using both hands together in a coordinated way)
  • Crossing midline which helps to synchronize the left and right hemispheres of the brain
  • Visual tracking skills
  • Attention
  • Task Perseverance

 

Colors of Fall Mason Jars

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Fall may not be changing the weather around here in Florida but it is definitely apparent in the colors of the leaves!

We made these super cute and easy Fall Colors Mason Jars quite by accident and they turned out so perfect! We found lots of different colored seeds from the palm trees in our neighborhood (not sure what they're called?)

Anyway, all you need for this little craft is some time to go outside with your kiddos, a keen eye for color and some sort of glass container to display these beauties.  

I love simple activities that involve getting kids in nature.  

You can work on color discrimination and counting as a bonus learning activity. 

1. Color discrimination: A quick game of I-Spy will do the trick.  Or just a simple verbal cue to say "let's find all the yellow leaves." 

2. Counting: When you return home from your foraging, say "Let's see how many yellow things we have" or "How many leaves."  First line them up, and then count them together.   

Enjoy! Happy October 😀