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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
Halloween

Halloween Activity

Happy Halloween month! At BDI, the therapists have been incorporating Halloween vocabulary throughout their sessions!  This simple activity of stickers and real image vocabulary card can be used to target all different areas of communication, fine motor skills, and visual processing.  Targeting holiday specific vocabulary can help your child communicate in their community.  Why?  Because our kiddos are seeing Halloween items everywhere (i.e pumpkins on walks in their neighborhood to spooky spider displays at the grocery store)!   The following are examples of ways to achieve different developmental goals by using the same activity.

Halloween Bingo

Matching

Starting out, simply matching the animated sticker to the real image is a perfect way to help teach reality vs. fantasy and to make sure the child isn’t just memorizing one specific image!

Imitation

The child imitates the vocabulary word and receives the sticker to mark as “complete”.

Independent labeling

The child labels the Halloween card or sticker independently

Receptive identification

If your child is a great talker but needs to work on his/her listening skills, you can ask your child questions!  For example, you can ask your child “where is the cat?” or “which one is round and orange?”.  Columns or rows can be covered to reduce the amount of items he or she is scanning.

Image description

After basic labeling is mastered, you can have your child be more descriptive with their request.  The child can request the “black cat” sticker, “scary spider”, “two bats”, “silly pumpkin” etc.

Simple requesting

“I want + vocabulary word” or “Can I have + vocabulary word”

Complex requesting

“I want the purple hat”; “I want the scary ghost”

Articulation

Try finding all the final /t/ sounds in these fun Halloween words!

Are you looking for more ideas on how to make every day activities a little more festive?  Join our Talk and Groove class to learn about more ways to help your child develop their language and fine motor skills at home!

School set up

Successful Classroom Set-up

Classroom setup is more important than ever. A properly set-up room can increase focus, increase a student’s ability to sit still, and even decrease problem behaviors.

1. Less is best

The first step to a successful classroom is embracing “less is best”.  A crowded classroom can cause over stimulation. This can cause challenges with attention or following directions. When too many visuals are placed on the walls of a classroom, students can become easily distracted. Start by simplifying the classroom. Use uniform colors.  Place limited posters on the wall. If educational posters are a must, it is important to keep those areas defined by placing similar visuals together towards the back of the room.

 

2. Dynamic seating

Noticing students having challenges with sitting still? Alternative seating options provide an opportunity to increase self-regulation, attention, and productivity within the classroom. Offering flexible seating choices, allows teachers to enhance their learning environment while providing control and comfort for students.  Here are a few dynamic seating options:

Besides utilizing dynamic seating options, it is important to make sure their current desk and chair fit. Make sure both feet can touch the ground.  The desk height needs to allow their arms and hands to rest on top. 

 

3. Organization

Another tip is maximizing organization.  Organization is key within a classroom learning environment. Messy desks or a cluttered space  causes difficulty focusing or turning work in on time. Desks should hold limited supplies and should be cleaned out regularly. Color coded folders for certain assignments or subjects can be utilized as a visual to increase task engagement, participation, and attention. Organizing the room in a way where students know where items are, by utilizing labels is a great way to assist with independence in the classroom.

 

4. Lighting

The next step to consider is utilizing natural lighting.  Natural lighting has benefits for attention and task engagement. Bright fluorescent lights can cause distractibility, discomfort, and decreased regulation. If natural lighting is not an option, utilize a cozy shade or fluorescent light filters during classroom set up is a great way to enhance regulation within the learning environment.

 

5. Visual boundaries

Finally, the last recommendation is using visual boundaries within the classroom. Doing so can provide order and success within the learning environment.  They are helpful for students who have difficulty with spatial awareness, eloping, or other difficult behaviors.  Utilizing painters tape on the floor to set the boundaries for a play area or a reading space is a great way to help with task engagement and to decrease roaming around the room during center time. 

If you notice a student or child who still has challenges with attention, self-regulation, or organization within the classroom even after implementing these strategies, BDI Playhouse offers free screenings and can help improve executive functioning skills, task engagement, and participation.

 

 

 Written By: Kiersten Robertson, MOT, OTR/L

 

hitting

My Kid Keeps Hitting

Does your child keep hitting others when he wants what they are playing with? Grab toys away from other children? Kick over other’s toys? These are all considered undesirable behaviors and can be frustrating to watch your child do at home, in their community, or at school.  Here are some strategies to help your child with undesired behaviors. 

Step 1- Hands are not for hitting

Remind your child what their hands are for. Hands are for waving, washing, clapping, counting, drawing, doodling, holding, hugging and eating. Hands are not for hitting. Hitting hurts!

Step 2- Use these words

Teach your child the words to use when wanting something from someone else. Can I please have a turn? Could I see that toy? Let your child know they have to wait for the answer. This may be the hardest part. If a child will not share a toy provide suggestions for another toy to play with.

Kids Fighting

Step 3- Hitting hurts

If a child does hit, have the injured child tell that child,” I don’t like that, that hurts!” 

Step 4- Don’t force apologies

Do not make your child apologize for undesired behaviors. Making a child apologize has no meaning behind it if they are just saying it because you told them too. Some children may use this to their advantage and think, “It’s OK to hit if I apologize afterwards.” Remind your child that it hurts others and our hands are not for hitting. We must use our words to ask for what we want.

If hitting persists or your child is unable to utilize the strategies, call to schedule a free screening with one of our pediatric therapists.  Sometimes, hitting occurs when a child does not have an ample vocabulary or language to make requests or negotiate.  It can also occur when a child excites easily or seeks input.  Our trained therapists will be able to give additional recommendations unique to your child’s needs!

Written by: Jessica Frederick, COTA/L

Wrapping Presents for all Abilities

“Rocking (and unwrapping) around the Christmas Tree” – with Glee

green present

You’ve been plotting, planning, shopping and ordering fabulous holiday gifts for your little one. Now, it’s time to wrap up that pile of goodies! Here are a few tips to make the unwrapping process by your child easier and more fun for everyone!

  1. Use a single piece of tape while wrapping:

    Little fingers have a hard time pinching and pulling long edges of perfectly secured wrapping paper, make the wrapping/unwrapping process easier on both you and your child by securing sides with a single small piece of tape. The easier to unwrap, the less you have to help and the greater independence you foster in your child!

  2. Use festive bags:

    Avoid the hassle and frustration of unwrapping challenges all together by placing your child’s gifts in holiday bags! The ease of reaching in and removing their special gifts makes the moment more magical!

  3. Skip the wrapping, use a blanket, bag or box:

    Instead of wrapping presents, allow for an “unveiling” of gifts done by the child or parent with a “cover and lift” method. Simple placement of a cover leads to easy removal, decreasing the frustration of small eager hands without spoiling the surprise!

  4. Have toys and objects ready for use:

    The morning of a holiday brings chaos. The anticipation of gifts can lead to high tensions in the home. Make the moment more enjoyable for both of you by setting up toys or gifts ahead of time for prompt use. This means ditching the cardboard boxes, cutting through the tough zip ties, and inserting batteries (when required) before wrapping. Your child will delight in being able to promptly play with their new items while you relax and soak up the smiles!

  5. Scraps saved for learning:

    When the gifts have been opened and the bags, wrapping paper and tissue paper have been strewn about the room, collect the remnants in a box for later use. These various textures, colors and papers provide an excellent opportunity to work on skill building such as digging/finding, texture exposure, cutting with scissors, ripping/tearing, sorting, color identification, and other fun play and learning activities!  

Really let yourselves enjoy the holiday season by removing the stress of present unwrapping with these helpful tips! If your child is having difficulty around the holidays with motor skills for unwrapping and/or management of emotions or expectations impacting sleep, behavior or play, BDI therapists are here to help, offering free consultations for families all year round. We are wishing you the happiest of holidays!

Written by: Maggie Lord, MS, OTR/L

 

Gift Guide

BDI Playhouse is thrilled to share its 2020 gift guide.  This list is compiled by BDI Playhouse’s therapists specifically for children of all abilities.  The toys are shown through an Amazon Idea List but shopping around and shopping second-hand is highly encouraged!  A variation of each one of these toys can be found at BDI Playhouse’s clinics and are used on a daily basis.  The first list contains items that can be bought at the store or sent straight to your house.  The second list contains experience based gifts.  Both are intended to help your child grow in many areas!

Gifts for Growing Minds and Bodies

Amazon Gift Guide

Gifts that Keep on Giving

  1. Season passes: zoo, museum, aquarium
  2. One-time passes: movies, bowling, swimming, theatre performance, Disney on ice, circus, ice skating, roller skating
  3. Subscriptions: KiwiCo, National Geographic Kids Magazine, Little Passports
  4. Class/Season of Lessons: swimming, sports, gymnastics, dance, karate, musical instrument, pottery class, art class, craft class, horseback riding lessons

Thanks for stopping by!  If you have any questions on the best way to use these toys, check out one of BDI Playhouse classes where we demonstrate how to use these materials or schedule a free screening to talk to one of our therapists!