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Winter Swimming

Winter Swimming

Shake Off Winter Blues in the Pool!

Consider your local pool or aquatic park this winter for all it’s amazing benefits! 

Welcome winter and all it’s fun activities like ice skating, sledding and SWIMMING! The joy of swimming doesn’t have to end when winter begins. Indoor pools are the ultimate good mood booster along with so many other benefits! Open swim, swim lessons, aqua therapy and aquatic parks are amazing ways to get some exercise and a splash of the summer feels during the cold winter months.  

Winter swimming has even more benefits than summer! Here are some cool pool perks!

  • Playing in the water makes us happy! Water is a natural anti-depressent. Prevent “SAD” (seasonal affective disorder), a common syndrome in the winter months. Water submersion stimulates our sensory system, exercise releases endorphins and decreases anxiety. 
  • Master those swim skills! Practicing safety and swimming skills in the winter months will improve skills over the summer.  Motor planning for treading water, breath control, floating and swimming takes practice. Those skills are lost during the winter months and need to be reintroduced for water safety and proficiency. 
  • Create joyful memories! The family that plays together stays together! Exercising with family is not only fun but promotes a healthy lifestyle for your children to follow as they grow older. Promote year long family fitness and a lifelong healthy lifestyle.
  • Water is magic! Water play improves mobility, flexibility, balance, coordination, strength, posture, spatial awareness, endurance, circulation, attention, sensory motor integration and confidence. It decreases pain, muscle spasms, abnormal tone, rigidity, joint compression and stress. 

Concerns of increased illness from winter swimming are common. Check out these pool facts that address common miconceptions of winter swimming. 

  • Only a virus can cause a cold or flu. Viruses are more common in winter months from school and being indoors. Any indoor activity during the winter months increases the chances of catching a virus.   
  • Risk of illness is greatly reduced from a properly maintained pool.
  • Illinois Department of Health enforces rules and regulations for water quality in public pools.
  • Several studies have shown that wet hair along with cold exposure has not been linked to increase illness.  
  • Indoor pool water temperatures must be kept at 77-84 degrees and warm water pools are between 86-92 degrees for safety all year long. 
  • Prevent chills or risk of hypothermia by drying off properly, wearing a hat, and dressing appropriately for the cold weather after a fun winter day at the pool! 

Aqua Therapy is a great way to get started with a life long love of the water in a safe and accepting environment. Ask your pediatric therapist how aqua therapy can benefit your child! https://bdiplayhouse.com/aquatic-therapy/ 

Written By: Dana Bukala, PTA 

 

Pragmatic Language

The Power of Pragmatic Language

Social Language Milestones

Pragmatics is the way we use our language in social settings. For example, how to start a conversation, interpreting body language, understanding different perspectives, and using sarcasm. Pragmatic language is typically learned incidentally (learned through experience) but with some children, it may need to be directly taught. Pragmatic language begins to develop as an infant and continues to grow and form until the high school years. Below is a list of “milestones” to expect along with activities/strategies to enhance social language. 

Infant (3-12 months)

  • Starts making eye contact
  • Reaching 
  • Participates in parallel play (playing next to caregiver, sibling) 
  • Participates vocal turn taking
  • Uses vocalizations to request, protest, express feelings 

Activities: Peek-a-boo, stacking blocks, waving, songs, nursery rhymes

Toddler (12-36 months) 

  • Imitates routines
  • Imitates other children
  • Uses words (12 months)/phrases (18 months)/sentences (30 months) to request, protest, express feelings
  • Asks questions
  • Begins at 18 months
  • Initiates pretend play (ex: playing in toy kitchen, pushing trucks/cars, playing with baby doll)
  • Begins at 18 months
  • Takes two turns in conversation
  • Begins to describe/retell events 
  • Begins to return/initiate greetings by waving 

Activities: Ask questions during pretend play (“What’s baby doing? Where are they going?”), “sabotage” by putting toys out of reach, shared reading activities, scrapbooks to encourage retelling 

Preschool (3-5 years)

  • Uses language for teasing, joking, fantasies 
  • Starts to share with others
  • Joint play with peers (participating in others play schemes, including self in play) 
  • Theory of Mind: Understanding that others have different beliefs 
  • Begins at 4 years
  • Produces narratives as “chain”
  • Takes 4-5 conversational turns 
  • Improves describing skills to repair communication breakdowns
  • Begins to inference/predict 
  • Participates in turn-taking games

Activities: Sequence 3-4 pictures and retell story, give simple riddles (i.e., “This is an animal that lives on the farm and says ‘Moo’”), play “Go Fish” or “Bingo”

School age (5-11 years)

  • Invites others to play 
  • Initiates conversations with familiar topics (ex: school, weather, weekend) 
  • Problem solving (individually and in a group) 
  • Begins 6-8 years old
  • Gives and responds to compliments 
  • Tells and understands jokes of greater complexity 
  • Politely interrupts 
  • Responds to and uses facial expressions (ex: smiles, frowns, looks of surprise) 
  • Recognizes spatial boundaries 

Activities: Practice multiple meaning words, Apples to Apples, Emotion charades, Red Light Green Light 

Middle/High School (11-18 years)

  • Recognizes if listener is interested or bored 
  • Shifts topics during lulls in conversation 
  • Understands difference between friends/acquaintances
  • Engages in collaborative discussions 

Activities: Would You Rather questions, book club, Let’s Talk Conversation Starters

If you notice delays in the way your child is using social language such as having difficulty making friends, understanding body language, or maintaining age-appropriate conversations, schedule a screening with an SLP at BDI Playhouse today!

 

toy

Tis the Toy Season- Toy Guide

‘Tis that time of year again! And all your kids want are toys, toys, toys! This can feel overwhelming when adding to an already large pile of toys in the home setting. Especially when the kids don’t even seem to play with the toys already available!  

Below are some tips and ideas for bringing new toys in this Holiday season. 

1. Balance of educational and choice toys; balance of seated and movement activity gifts

    • Teach your kids from a young age that they may not get everything on their wish list.
    • Provides them with opportunities to learn about toys they may have never seen before.
    • Encourages seated attention or physical activity. 

2. Hide toys and rotate them

    • Hide old toys before new toys come out.
    • When child appears bored of toys that are available, switch toys out with the hidden box of toys. Children will forget about some toys they have, making them feel new and exciting again!
    • Continue this toy rotation as child displays readiness with multiple boxes as options. Allow child to peek into boxes and choose box, if they wish.

3. Incorporate multiple skills per toy

    • Challenge the child to create different ways to use the toy.
    • Model your own creative ways to use the toy
    • Encourage exploration of new toy.

4. Use toy in obstacle course

    • Toys that appear more challenging for a child are great to incorporate into a fun movement activity. This helps break up the challenge and decrease frustration.
    • Great for toys with multiple pieces.
    • Encourages physical activity, especially in those cold months!

5. Keep toys simple

    • Simple toys encourage creativity and imagination!
    • Toys don’t need to have a lot of lights or songs to be fun. These can actually become over-stimulating for a child.
    • Allow child independence for exploring toys with only interrupting activity if unsafe.

6. Favorite educational toy companies

    • These websites allow you the ability to choose toys based on age range so you know what activities are developmentally appropriate for child

If you want some more ideas check out our website or amazon idea page!

 

Preschool: Top 5 Reasons Why Preschool is Important

Questioning whether or not to send your child to preschool? From a therapist perspective, preschool is such an important piece to practicing skills required later down the road. It facilitates structure, independence, social-emotional learning, and the foundation for higher level skills. 

1.  PLAY AT PRESCHOOL

Play is how kids learn! They learn to use their imagination, be creative, socialize with others their age, share, and problem solve when an obstacle arises. It also provides various play experiences through structured and unstructured activities, all of which allow children to build confidence, a sense of self, and critical thinking skills.

2. STRUCTURE

Preschool is where children start to participate in more structured routines like stations, lining up, singing a morning song, or learning the days of the week. Consistent routines are important for understanding expectations, predictability, and at the same time adapt to any changes that may arise. 

3. FOUNDATIONAL SKILLS

Preschool helps you develop: 

      • Fine motor skills (pre-writing strokes, grasp, stringing beads, scissor skills)
      • Visual motor skills (building block structures, coloring)
      • Gross motor skills (catching, jumping, playing on the playground)
      • Communication skills (having conversations with others, identifying colors, asking questions)

4. INDEPENDENCE 

Preschool instills independence and provides an opportunity for children to develop self advocacy skills and personal interests. Within preschool, children start learning how to take responsibility for their actions and provide numerous occasions to complete simple tasks on their own. 

5. SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING

The preschool environment gives children the chance to engage with others, navigate conflict, understand their own emotions, and learn about empathy. Building on these skills at a young age provides children opportunities to grow and reach their full potential and beyond. 

If you find that your child may have trouble in one or more of these areas, reach out to the BDI Playhouse office to schedule a free OT, ST, or PT screen. 

 

Written By: Kiersten Robertson, MOT, OTR/L

 

Back to School

Back to School Transition Strategies

Back to School Emotions

August means back to school is right around the corner!  Back to school means transitioning to new schools, new teachers, new peers, new expectations and new routines! Many kids are excited about the anticipation of a new school year, but for many kiddos “new” can be scary and worrisome. 

Children can communicate their emotions through a variety of behaviors. It’s important as parents and caregivers to be aware of these behaviors to help our kiddos manage their emotions and provide opportunity for a successful transition back to school!

The best way to help our kiddos with new tasks is by creating predictability and maintaining consistency in their routines.  This will help ease their worry and fear while building their confidence for success.

 Simple Strategies to Help Back to School Transition: 

Waking and Bedtime Schedule

We all fall into the summer slump of less structure and organization in the routine of our days. Beginning at least a month prior to the first day of school, begin  implementing a waking and bedtime schedule that will mirror your child’s school time routine.

Visual calendar count down

Time is a vague concept for young kids, so counting the “number of sleeps” until school starts is a meaningful way to incorporate how many days until the first day of school.

Social Stories

Read social stories and talk about expectations for the new school year.  Don’t forget to highlight important details that you know they are looking forward to (including a favorite teacher, familiar classmates, exciting activities they are looking forward to that year), but also recognize and discuss novel tasks that may cause stress (such as attending at a new building, bus rides, lunchtime, whatever it may be).

New Peer Playdates

Reach out to local parent/community groups to set-up park meet-ups/ playdates to become familiar with new peers.

Trial Run

Do a trial run before school starts. Drive by your child’s school to create familiarity.  Is there a park accessible to play at? Go play to create positive experiences associated with the school. This will help to see where you might have some bumps getting on the road and need to tweek parts of your morning routine.

Label feelings

Validate their feelings. Use visuals when you can. Provide your child with a ‘toolbox” of calming strategies to attain/maintain a feeling of calmness throughout their day.

Model Confidence

Model your confidence to make them feel confident (even if you have to fake it); kids feed off of our emotions. This includes talk enthusiastically about what a positive experience this will be, avoid lingering at drop-offs and encourage participation in new activities.

Back to School Mantra

Create a mantra to repeat out loud.  “I am safe” is one of my favorites!

List of Resources

Below are a list of resourceful links to provide more information about typical/atypical behaviors, countdown calendars, addressing feelings and visuals for calming strategies:

  1. Managing Behavior Strategies
  2. Social Story
  3. Journals
  4. Emotions for Kids
  5. Back to School Countdown

Don’t forget, what may seem like a minor problem to us as adults, feels like a BIG problem to our kiddos, especially when they are learning to recognize and handle their big emotions.  Make the experience easier for them by  remaining calm if things do not go as planned, or their reactions don’t meet our expectations. Don’t forget to model flexibility to bumps in routines.  Also,  remember that changes don’t happen overnight and give your child time to settle into their new routines! If things don’t get easier and you would like some additional strategies, please schedule a screening with one of our therapists to help find individualized strategies for you and your child.

Written by Jamie Blough

Undistracted eating- Meals without the iPad

It has become a common occurrence to see a child on an iPad while out to eat, and often enough we hear families telling stories about iPads at meals. We get it. It is hard! Kids don’t want to sit still; kids don’t want to eat right now; my kid is super picky; there’s more than one kid to take care of so the iPad acts as a babysitter. The reasons go on and the iPad makes these small parts of the day run a little bit smoother. But here are some important reasons why undistracted eating is best and tips how to try and ditch that iPad altogether while at the table. 

  • Promotes obesity OR child may not be eating enough
    • When deeply focusing on the iPad it is common to robotically continue to place food into our mouths without realizing just how much food we’ve eaten. Adults do it too!
    • Children may become SO distracted they minimally eat anything at all! Later you find them irritable and “always hungry”, as some parents report.
    • This impacts a child’s ability to listen to cues from their body (interoception) on when they feel full,  if they are still hungry, or if they need a drink of water. This is SO important! Lack of attending to our body cues can begin to impact our emotional awareness and control.
  • Promotes poor posture
    • Increases risk of future musculoskeletal problems such as back and neck pain due to leaning position
    • Carry over poor seated posture to school and play
    • Increases choking risk due to decreased attending to oral feedback telling us we’ve chewing enough times prior to swallowing and poor posture impacting alignment of swallowing mechanisms impacting ease of food movement down to tummy
  • Decreases social interactions
    • Discourages learning about others, asking questions about the world, discussing our emotions, working on back and forth conversations, discussing foods presented on plate
  • Minimizes exploration with foods 
    • “Well my kid is picky anyways…”, but that is okay!! (and may actually be a result from all the table iPad use)
    • Kid gets busy touching iPad and not exploring or playing with the food options
    • When a child gets “bored” sitting at the table they will be encouraged to fidget with anything…including food. Encourage this, even if it doesn’t get eaten.
  • But what can I do besides an iPad?
    • Fun plates (Amazon “kids maze plates)
    • Silly utensils (sometimes comes with the plates and can be found on Amazon)
    • Specified “table toys” if they absolutely need something to do while eating (especially out at restaurants)
    • List of questions to discuss with parents or siblings (best/worst part of day, what else do I want to do today…)
    • Exploring then reporting the senses of each food – smell, lick/taste, color, visual presentation (bumpy, smooth, fluffy…) and
    • comparing one strawberry to another one, feel (wet/dry, tough/soft…)
    • If you haven’t started providing an iPad at meals, don’t start it!! Even if the older sibling is stuck on the iPad at meals use. Eliminating 1 iPad will be better than having to eliminate 2.
    • If your child has trouble rapidly transitioning to no iPads at meals, then start gradually. Start with only half the meal where they can have the iPad, then decrease that time length every day until they can tolerate no iPad throughout the entire meal.

If your child absolutely cannot separate themselves from having an iPad at meal times even when attempting the above listed suggestions, has a tough time transitioning away from iPads in general, or displays additional difficulties with feeding with or without an ipad present don’t hesitate to give us a call. BDI Playhouse Children’s Therapy offers free screenings and consultations through Telehealth or at one of our child-friendly therapy gyms in Orland Park and Aurora, IL

Written by: Rebecca MacKenzie, M.S., OTR/L

Healthier Garden

Small Steps for a Healthier Life

Worried about your child’s health related to weight?  “The most common causes of childhood weight issues are are genetic factors or family history of obesity; decreased participation in physical activities; unhealthy eating patterns or behaviors; and, in rare cases, medical conditions.” – AOTA.  Do you have concerns about your child? Getting healthier doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Making small changes in activity level and making healthier food choices are a great way to start feeling good and reducing weight related illness.

What can I do to start making healthy changes?

Healthier Park

  • Make conscious decisions about your activities. Start with making small changes like:
  • Adding a little movement to morning routine to get body ready for the day like animal walks or a walk around the block
  • Encourage activities your child and family enjoy. Do you like to dance or play sports?
  • Adapt evening routine to decrease screen time and prepare body for sleep like doing some fun yoga stretches 

 

 

 

 

Healthier Raspberries

How can you make mealtime fun and healthy?

  • Make mealtime a valued time for socializing and sharing
  • Eat dinner together as often as possible
  • Make small swaps for healthier meals like quinoa for white rice
  • Let the kids select a healthy menu and help make it 
  • Add some fun with trying a new fruit or vegetable

 

How to get some quality Zzzz’s? 

Healthier Sleep

  • Provide time for lots of movement throughout the day
  • Keep a consistent wake-up time every morning, and nap time for little ones
  • Have a consistent bedtime routine every night 
  • Decrease screen time in the evening at least 1-2 hours before bed
  • Mealtime should be at least 1-2 hours before bedtime and include complex carbohydrates (fruits, veggies and whole grains)
  • Reduce simple carbohydrates like candy, cakes, cookies, juice, soda
  • Check temperature of room not too hot and more on the cooler side
  • Dim the lights, if child needs a nightlight use a pink light bulb
  • Make sure pj’s are comfortable, not itchy
  • Use white noise to drown other environmental sounds
  • Use lavender or vanilla essential oils for calming scents

Getting healthier doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Making small changes in activity level and making healthier food choices are a great way to start feeling good and reducing weight related illness. If you need support for a healthier lifestyle don’t hesitate to give us a call. BDI Playhouse Children’s Therapy offers free screenings and consultations through telehealth or at one of our child friendly therapy gyms in Aurora and Orland Park, IL.  Our occupational therapists can help you curate culturally appropriate healthy food preparation and meal ideas as well as identify enjoyable physical and social activities for you and your child.

Written by Jessica Frederick, COTA/L

Healthier Climb
Healthier Carrots
Elbow

Hypermobility in Children

What is Hypermobility?

Hypermobility is a term used to describe joints that move more than normal and can place the joints in increased stress.  

How can Hypermobility affect my child?

Risk of Injury

Increased joint movement can cause joints, ligaments, and tendons to be at higher risk of injury.  Joints are less stable and can strain all the structures attempting to make the joint more stable.  In addition to joints moving more than normal the signals to the brain about where the body is in space can be impaired due to the ligaments requiring increased stretch before the message is sent to the brain making it harder for children to know where they are in space and making it harder for them to correct the joint position prior to exposure to extremes of  range of motion.  

 

What are the common signs of hypermobility in children?

Knee HyperextensionElbow HyperextensionHands to the Floor with

Straight Knees

Flat Feet
ELBOWHands to floorflat feet

NOTE: These are all postures that can occur in typically developing children with no cause for concern.  However, when multiple joints are impacted and your child twists their ankles or knees frequently, or reports leg pain this may be a sign to follow-up with your physician. 

Who can help my child?

BDI Pediatric Physical Therapists create a strengthening and proprioception program that can improve your child’s participation in recreational activities as well as lower their risk of injuries. Exercises consist of 

  • strengthening the muscles around the joints
  • working on postural control
  • sport specific training 

 

Next Steps

Do you think your child is at risk for injury due to hypermobility?  Schedule a free screening with one of our pediatric physical therapists.  When hypermobility is identified and treated with a proper development regimen, your child will report less pain, improve balance, strength, and functional performance.  In addition, your child can prevent future pain. 

Written by: Lisa M. Wood, PT, DPT

Girl refusing tomato

Feeding Fiasco

For some families, meal time can be the most challenging part of the day. Parenting a child who is having difficulty with eating can be tough for the entire family! Some kids are picky for a short time, or avoid only a few specific foods, and some kids may outgrow a food challenge. Some children maintain a difficult relationship with food for an extended period of time, seem to be regressing in skill, or make meal time a complete disaster with no end in sight. 

The Battle Field

When the preparation of food, the presentation of food, and/or the act of coming to the table is just the beginning of the mealtime battle, getting your child to eat nutritious and delicious food can be tough. If you are having to frequently pull out your sword and shield in preparation for a mealtime battle, it’s time to seek help from feeding therapists!

Too Tiny

If your child’s eating is impacting their growth, or your child is requiring supplements for weight or growth, our therapists can assist in food expansion strategies to enhance your child’s food intake and overall well being. 

  • Flee the Scene

Some children are overwhelmed by specific foods or the mealtime experience and will run away. Others require parents to strap them in, bribe them, pull out the tablet, or chase them down just to get to the table. If your child is having trouble coming to or staying at the table, feeding therapists can help make food more approachable, assist in attention enhancement, and provide strategies to remain at the table for the entire meal!

  • Tantrum Time 

When your dinner is thrown on the floor, smeared on the table, or screamed about in protest, your little one is struggling with food. Anxiety and frustration look different on each child, and tantrums can be one of the many responses to complex feelings food may be causing. Your therapist can help determine what abilities your child is struggling with that make the meal so difficult, and assist in developing skills to engage in meals and manage big emotions throughout the eating process.

  • The Picky Eater

A child is defined as being a “picky eater” when their food intake/variety is limited, but they are able to eat 30 or more food items. This number includes being able to eat the same food item prepared in a variety of ways! A picky eater may avoid an entire food group, or limit foods to a specific consistency or flavor. A feeding therapist can help picky eaters develop a meaningful relationship with their food and help the number and types of food accepted increase.

  • The Problem Feeder

A “problem feeder” is a child that eats 20 foods or less. This child may be brand specific in the foods they tolerate, they may have eliminated entire food groups, or they may avoid all foods that are a specific color, texture or consistency. Problem feeders may have underlying difficulty with oral motor or sensory processing skills resulting in gagging/vomiting, choking, coughing, or drooling. Our therapists are trained to assist in assessing the areas of challenge and increase the types of foods a child is eating to improve their nutritional intake and overall health/wellness.

  • Social Skills Suffer

Eating is a social activity. Families and friends sit down to share a meal, go out to eat meals together, bond over coffee dates, celebrate milestones with food, and more! If a child is having difficulty remaining at the table or tolerating being around others eating food, a feeding therapist can step in before social skills and meaningful events are impacted!

If your child falls into any of the above categories, bring your worries to BDI Playhouse feeding therapists! Set up a free consultation to get more information, and put your worries to rest!

Written by: Maggie Lord, MS, OTR/L

Potty Accidents

Potty Accidents

Why is my child having potty accidents?

Potty accidents aren’t fun for anyone. It can impact a child’s relationships with their family and friends.  Here are 5 common reasons children have accidents

Constipation 

Chronic constipation is the main cause of pee and poop accidents in children that have been potty trained. This is a great handout to see if your child has any of the main signs of constipation. Did you know that pooping every day doesn’t mean they aren’t constipated? “The Poo in You” is a video with a great explanation of what happens inside the body. 

Lack of Awareness 

Many kids may not have any idea that they have to go. They may not realize that they have to use the bathroom until it’s too late, or until they’ve already gone. Knowing what is happening inside the body can be a hard concept for kids with difficulty with sensory awareness. 

Poor Potty Posture 

Poor potty posture makes it hard to clear out the bladder and bowels. The Squatty Potty  or other step stool helps support the feet which lets the pelvic floor muscles relax. Therapists can also help with postural awareness and strength to help with the proper potty posture for successful toileting.

Scary Bathrooms

The bathroom can be a scary place for kids! Sitting with dangling feet, the noise, and the smell can all make kids avoid the potty. Many children avoid public bathrooms because of these fears. 

Medical Reasons

There could be a medical reason your child is having accidents. If you have concerns about your child’s accidents talk to your pediatrician. They can help decide if a referral to gastroenterology or urology is needed.

 

Who can help my child?

If you think your child might have constipation or is struggling with accidents, please reach out for a free screening! Sometimes, you may need the help of a physical, speech, or occupational therapist to help identify the reasons for your child’s accidents and/or constipation. 

Pediatric Therapists

Therapists trained in pediatric incontinence can provide treatment with:

    • Core strengthening
    • Biofeedback
    • Bladder re-training
    • Behavior and diet strategies
    • Body awareness to help realize the urge to go 
    • Posture training
    • Increasing fiber rich food intake 
    • Increasing variety of foods