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

First Foods For Baby - What Your Pediatrician Won't Tell You

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Most pediatricians won't tell you that the best first foods to start your baby on are real, nutrient dense, whole foods.  Most pediatricians won't tell you that spoon feeding for extended periods of time is unnatural and takes away your babies autonomy with food.  Most pediatricians won't tell you that offering your baby only purees for extended periods of time can affect your baby's development of oral motor skills.  They also won't tell you that rice cereal is a synthetic (made in a lab) food that would be hard on your little one's immature gut.

Nothing grinds my gears more than nutritional recommendations for babies that suggest iron-fortified rice cereal and purees as the gold standard for babies first food.  First time mothers (and all mothers alike, really) are looking to their pediatricians for advice on when to start and what to give their babies as a first food. 

Most pediatricians recommend starting solids around 4-6 months of age and way too many recommend baby cereal as a first food.

Rice cereal has been long known for filling up tummies to encourage babies to sleep through the night and pediatricians often encourage them for their benefit of having added iron (along with other vitamins and minerals).  One fact rings true; that growing brains and bodies need rich sources of iron.  However, I beg to differ that rice cereal is the best source of this key nutrient.

It really doesn't take much investigation to understand why rice cereal is a poor choice for a first food to introduce to an immature and developing gut.


Why Rice Cereal is a Poor Choice

  1. Difficult on babies immature gut:
    The first ingredient is usually some sort of whole-wheat or white rice flour which has been highly processed (for that "instant ready" option).  This highly processed flour (white or wheat) is usually unrecognizable to a babies digestive system and if it contains the gluten protein, it is inflammatory by nature within the gut.  
  2. Low nutritional value:
    Since rice cereal is naturally lacking in the nutrition department, manufacturers add synthetic (made in a lab) vitamins back into it to boost the nutritional value from a marketing standpoint.  
  3. Synthetic additives:
    Soy lechtin is an ingredient in many popular brands on the market and introducing soy to a baby so early on in life can cause allergies and damage the gut.  The other vitamins and minerals are synthetic and more difficult for baby to absorb than if they were to obtain it from real, whole foods.
  4. Rice products manufactured in the US have been crop dusted with the herbicide Roundup:
    Its no secret that glyphosate, a known carcinogen and key ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, is being used widespread on wheat crops in the US.  Roundup has been known to significantly damage gut lining, increase permeability of the intestinal wall and disrupt the beneficial bacteria balance in the gut.  In my opinion, this would render any non GMO or non-organic rice cereal brands unsafe to offer to a baby.
  5. Bland and Textureless:
    Since babies palates need to be exposed to many different types of textures and flavors, the bland nature and non-existent texture of rice cereal sets off a red light in my head.  If the baby is getting mostly rice cereal and then offered something with a little flavor (even something like peaches), it would be completely alarming to their taste buds.  A bland diet of mostly baby cereal can easily lead to rejection of a wide variety of flavors in the future (aka picky eating and limited diet.)

Let's talk a bit about baby purees.  For the most part, I think they are usually safe and not harmful to baby, especially if you're buying an organic brand.  After all, they are really just pureed fruits and vegetables.  I do think they are a good way to introduce baby to a new and unfamiliar taste.  However, my problem is with prolonged and exclusive feeding of purees (longer than 2-3 weeks) and I find it to be quite common.  Prolonged puree feeding can cause long term feeding issues.  


Why Purees Aren't Great for Baby

  1. Promote long term spoon-feeding:
    Just like all humans, babies like to be in control of what is going into their mouths.  (Would you ever allow someone to place an unkown flavor/texture into your mouth?!)  They want to be the ones to decide if they like it or not and be able to expel it if the taste or texture does not agree with them.  Spoon feeding is great in many instances, especially if baby needs your help or when they are first beginning to use utensils.  But long term and persistent spoon feeding, after the age of 1, diminishes the control the child has over his/her feeding experiences and also limits their ability to learn how to manage utensils on their own.
  2. Limit the types of textures baby is exposed to:
    If you have read my article about how to avoid picky eating, you know I recommend all different types of textures during the first 2 years of life including finely chopped, fork mashed, soft table foods, meltable solids (crackers), crispy foods, mixed textures (more than one food texture mixed together), difficulty chewy foods.  Feeding mostly purees for an extended period of time (longer than a few weeks) only offers baby one type of texture and this can potentially cause food rejections, picky eating and limited diet in the future.
  3. Can cause delayed oral motor skills:
    Purees provide little to no propriocpetive feedback to the mouth.  Proprioception is simply how we use receptors in our body to determine where we are in space (in this case, where the food is within their mouth).  Different textures provide a range of propriopceptive feedback to the mouth.  This simply means depending on how hard or soft a food is, baby can feel the texture of the food on their teeth, gums and with their tongue in order to determine 1) where it is in their mouth 2) what it feels like 3) what to do with it in order to mash it up and swallow it. 

    Can you take a minute to think about how eating something like an apple provides different feedback to the mouth than pureed spinach? Purees lack any real propriocpetive information and are typically taken in as a bolus on a spoon and then swallowed.  The problem with this is that babies aren't learning how to chew and manipulate food.  I will even go as far as to say that babies who are spoon fed purees too long often have little to no awareness of the components of their mouths due to lack of sensory information provided through their diet.  These are the kids we often seen in the clinic for feeding issues.
  4. Low in calories:
    Rapidly growing brains need a large amount of healthy fats and protein to thrive.  That's why human breast milk (from a healthy mother) has about 50-60% of its energy as fat.  Pureed fruits and vegetables are low in calories and won't provide adequate amounts of protein and fat.

Don't worry mamas, I want to help you find some great sources of nutrition for your baby and also give them opportunities to learn how to develop healthy oral motor (and utensil) skills along the way!  Instead purees and rice cereal, I suggest introducing real, nutrient-dense whole foods, one at a time, while monitoring closely for any allergic reactions.  I suggest offering these foods in a natural, family-style setting, with other role models surrounding the child for support and learning.  

I am working on the follow up piece entitled - 9 Nutrient Dense Foods for Babies First Foods and How to Introduce them BLW Style.  Comment below if you will find this helpful!

Stay tuned!

 

-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 

 

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