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Tag: occupational therapy

Mealtime Wiggles

So frequently do I hear “my kid takes a bite to eat then leaves the table” or “my kid can’t sit still throughout his entire meal” creating a lengthy meal time and impacting positive mealtime dynamics. Here’s come tips and tricks for getting your child to sit for longer durations:

  • LOTS of heavy work right before meal time!
    • Helps get extra energy out right before having to sit down
    • Bear walks, wheelbarrow walks, rolling child up in a blanket like a burrito and then unrolling MANY times, frog hops, running and crashing into pillows/ blankets over and over, crawling over pillows/ blankets/ couch cushions thrown unevenly onto floor, inchworms, belly on ball arm walkouts, lifting or pushing heavy baskets
  • Wiggle cushion
    • Round or inclined textured cushions can help provide movement even while seated (can be purchased  on Amazon)
    • Can also place cushion on floor for child to stand and move on while remaining at table.
  • Weighted blanket or lap pad while seated; weighted shoulder wrap (also available on Amazon )
  • Boundary to maintain near table, even if not sitting.
    • Try a chair with arms on it
    • Provide painters tape boundary on floor for child to remain in during meal. Start off bigger and make boundary smaller as the child displays readiness. Be strict on maintaining in boundary area throughout meal.
    • Can provide sensory movement items in this area.
  • Thera-band wrapped around chair leg
    • Child can push legs/feet to fidget on band while sitting
  • Allow child to stand and eat if that’s what is needed to remain near table
  • Wobble stool (available on Amazon)
    • Only use if child has enough core stability and safety awareness
    • Ensure table height matches with chair height
    • Better for older children
  • Stabilize those little feet!
    • Stabilizing the feet will help to stabilize the core. When our core is not stable, our attention is overall decreased and chewing can become a chore.
  • Textures or fidgets
    • Attach velcro textures under table or chairs
    • Special “meal only” fidgets to play with and only while sitting or standing right at table
  • List of discussion topics for family to engage in
    • Talk about feelings  throughout day, favorite/ worst moments
    • Distraction is a great way to enhance attention
  • Have child walk around with weighted backpack for up to x20 minutes prior to meal
    • Can wear while helping set table
  • Timer
    • See how long the child can tolerate sitting, then lengthen the timer just a bit longer. When sitting for timer duration is easily attainable for child, adjust timer for a slightly longer time frame.

*Strategies may take multiple attempts to see change. Keep trying and be consistent!

*Some strategies may work, and some may not. That is okay! Find what is right for your child.

If your child is having trouble sitting still during mealtimes, during free time playing at home, in the school setting, and overall seeking extra movement from same aged peers or siblings 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

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

Twas’ The Night Before… Let’s Go to Sleep

Twas’ the night before… anything (Christmas, Halloween, going to DisneyWorld, birthday, or for me, Great America for the first time). I remember how hard it was for me to fall asleep when I got to do something super fun the next day or stay asleep at night. With holiday season here, we may see increased sleep issues in our kiddos. However, many kiddos (and adults) have a difficult time with sleep, not just at the holidays, but every night.   This will detail sleep for both the holidays and every night sleep.

Let’s start with the basics…

What does a sleep deprived child look like?

  • Babies sleeping less than 14-16 hours in a 24 hour period

  • Toddlers sleeping less than 13 hours

  • Preschoolers sleeping less than 12 hours

  • School age kids sleeping less than 10 hours

  • Teenagers sleeping less than 9.25 hours

 

What do a sleep deprived child’s behaviors say?

  • Difficulties controlling their body and impulses

  • Difficulties getting a long with others

  • Hard time managing emotions

  • Inability to stay focused and perform well

  • “Wired” at bedtime: The need to stay awake is so strong in some children that instead of getting drowsy many get ‘wired’. They appear to have ‘wild’ behavior as long as they have stimulation levels high enough to keep them awake. Once the stimulation decreases they create their own commotion to keep themselves awake.

What do kids need to sleep?

  • In order to sleep a child must feel SAFE. If a child does not feel safe they will have more anxious emotions and a rise in stress hormones which will make falling  asleep even more difficult.

    • What can make a child feel unsafe? – Sleeping in a new environment, changes to their nighlty routine, new or unfamiliar people in the house, unfamiliar lights or sounds.

  • Children need CALM to sleep.  Anything that upsets your child’s sense of well-being will raise their arousal and pull her system in the opposite direction of sleep.

    • What impact’s children’s well being? Parental stress, separation, major life changes, upsetting events, lack of sleep, overstimulation, overscheduled days, anticipation, growth spurts, pressures to perform.

  • Children need to DROP THEIR BODY TEMPERATURE to sleep.

    • Humans need to drop their core body temperature 2-3 degrees in order to initiate sleep. When kids are physically active after 6pm it raises their body temperature, making it harder to initiate sleep.

  • Children need consistent ROUTINE to sleep

    • They need a transition to indicate it’s time to get ready to sleep. This is something that happens every night. (ie: snack, dimming lights, picking up toys)

    • They need a connecting and calming activity. This can be reading together, drawing together, giving your child a massage.

    • They need a cue activity..something that happens every night before bed while the child is in bed. This can be a song, a prayer, turning off the light, or turning on the fan which signals it’s time to sleep.

 

How do we unintentionally disrupt sleep in our kids?

  • Irregular schedules: If there is more than a 30-60 minute difference between when a child woke up/went to sleep it can throw our kids into jet lag. Even changes in meal time can affect their circadian rhythms.

  • Light: Strong morning light is very important to a child’s body clock keeping a consistent rhythm. If a child is exposed to too much light at the wrong time of the day it sends the wrong signals to the brain about when to sleep. Too many lights on in the house and too much LED screen time before bed is incredibly stimulating to child’s brain and reduces signals for the body to prepare for sleep.

  • Exercise: Not enough or exercise at the wrong time of the day. Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity during the day. Too much exercise too late at night overheats the body when body temperature should be dropping.

  • Stimulants: One can of soda is the equivalent of an adult drinking 4 cups of coffee. It takes a long time for caffeine to leave a child’s body.

 

Are there certain times we should expect more difficulties sleeping?:

  • 2 to 3 days before and after holidays

  • Time surrounding growth spurts

    • Growth spurts happen every 6 months in 2+ year olds, much more frequently from birth to 2

  • Troubling events

    • Sometimes it can take up to 6 months for a child whom you otherwise thought was able to cope with a difficult situation to show their stress. Big life changes due to COVID are a perfect example!

  • Vacations

    • The anticipation of, disruption of routine, new environment can all cause difficulties sleeping.

When you know what to expect you can better respond to and care for your child when they are having difficulties sleeping.

How can you help your child sleep?

Sleeping girl

It starts during the day!

 

  • A rushed or stressful wake up in the morning (well all know how short tempered we can be when running late!)can leave your child feeling stressed and disorganized throughout the day.

  • Keep a consistent wake up time in the morning, and predictable timing for naps

  • Schedule meals an hour or two before bedtime and keep consistent meal times during the day. Research shows it’s best to not have a heavy meal right before bed.

    • In your child’s diet include complex carbs; this includes fruit, vegetables, whole grains

    • Reduce simple carbs like candy, cakes, cookies, soda and fruit juices.

  • Provide exposure to morning and daytime light.

  • Make sure your child gets exercise during the day! During the cold long winter months there are many indoors activities you can do with your child to meet their need for movement. Our Occupational Therapists have some great ideas including;

    • Heavy work; this includes pushing, pulling, lifting, carrying, anything that puts those muscles to use.

    • Playing hide and seek.

    • Creating an indoor obstacle course.

    • Pretending the floor is ‘lava’ and your child has to jump on pillows/couch cushions to get from one side to another.

    • Jumping on a small trampoline.

Night time tips to promote sweet slumber:

  • Eliminate screen time at least after dinner- blue light shuts down sleep and suppresses natural melatonin production. If a night light is needed make sure the light is indirect and use a pink light, or warm yellow colors. Turn off the light when the child is asleep.

  • Dim lights around your home after 6pm to signal to your child’s brain that the time to sleep is approaching.

  • Keep a consistent bedtime. Cortisol (stress hormone) increases when a child goes to bed past the appropriate time. This impacts sleep due to increased stress of fight or flight phenomenon.

    • Give your kiddo a hot bath before bed then have child in bed no more than 30 minutes after bath, right after bath is most beneficial. The warm water from the bath helps to draw heat away from your child’s core, lowering their body temperature and signaling to their brain’s it’s time to sleep.

  • Towel dry with firm pressure to give your child sensory input.

  • Provide comfy pj’s and the coldest room possible. Listen to your child, if they tell you a tag is bothering them or their PJ’s feel scratchy find something that will make them feel comfortable. We all know how annoying a scratchy tag can be!

  • Ideal placement of bed is in a corner or against wall looking towards the door. Think about how your child’s bed can become a safe ‘nest’. A bed that sits on the floor with no distinction between the floor can feel to open and vulnerable to a child.

  • Try lavender or vanilla essential oils (therapeutic grade) to assist with sleep.

  • Use a white noise machine to block out distracting noises.

  • Keep the bed away from window so your child isn’t exposed to lights or noises from outside.

  • Use blanket rolls to make  canoe or nest for increased input in the bed. Most of the time when a child crawls into bed with mom or dad they are seeking the pressure they feel from mom and dad’s body against theirs.

  • Consider a weighted blanket or bean bag on child to increase the pressure and sensory input on your child during the night.

  • A massage before bed can help your child feel connection to you their parent and helps their body to calm and meet needs for touch and sensory input.

  • Use a visual schedule. This helps to set expectations for your child and reduces the stress than can occur when your child does not know what will happen next.

We have learned a lot through education, clinical experience, and through reading! A great book full of resources for childhood sleeping strategies that we found invaluable in learning about sleep for this blog is “Sleepless in America” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka ; “Sleepless in America” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka.  If you would like more information or need help with implementing these strategies, please schedule a free screening with one of our skilled pediatric Occupational Therapists.

Written by Jessica Frederick COTA/L and Amy Stumpf, M.S., CCC-SLP/L, CLEC

Spooky Speech

Speech Language Pathologists love a good theme!  Themes can unite all of our kiddos but allow scaffolding for every child’s needs.  They also allow for perfect home carryover for all our families!  Here are a few spooky speech activities that you can do with your children at home or in your community to promote speech and language development.

 

Books:

Books are fabulous!  You can target specific vocabulary, different grammar (i.e. prepositions), comprehension, sequencing, feelings, and speech sounds!  An example of a spooky themed book is Pete the Cat: Trick or Pete, an interactive book with flaps.  We love to practice our speech sounds with this particular book!  For example, the t sound is on every page with CAT and PETE!  

 

Sensory Bins:  

You cannot go wrong with a sensory bin!  They hold children’s attention and their bodies in one space.  Sensory bins can also encourage some spooky speech with what we call “focused stimulation”, when you pick a few words to target over and over again during play!  Spooky speech sensory bins can easily be made from items around your house or a few clicks from amazon! If you are in need of some inspiration Busy Toddler has fantastic options. 

 

Youtube: 

Technology does not have to be a curse if used correctly!  There are so many books and programs that provide ample spooky speech opportunities! You can play Peppa Pig Pumpkin Party and pause the video, ask simple wh questions, name vocabulary items, make predictions, and try to recall details of the program!

 

Bingo Card:

A fan favorite at the clinic is using a free printable Halloween Bingo Card.  We use these for matching, naming, identifying, and speech sounds!  You can take the Bingo Card into your community (i.e. grocery store, on a walk, flashlight to find items around the house) for a scavenger hunt.  Target and Michaels have Halloween dollar-sticker-books that we use to say the spooky words as we match them to the bingo card. 

 

Halloween SweaterFestive Wear and Decor:

As cheesy as it may seem, children LOVE pointing out spooky vocabulary on clothing items and decorations.  If you are trying to be eco and/or budget friendly, we highly recommend looking at your local thrift store, facebook marketplace, or your parent’s house for the clothing and decorations!  Some of the best items come second hand!  Another more eco friendly, minimalist approach would be to get items that will be re-purposed or consumed!  I.E. a pie pumpkin, a wreath that can be decorated for all season with items found in nature! 

If you feel like your child’s speech and language development isn’t spook-tacular and you’d like to speak with someone about your pumpkin’s speech and language development, please call 708-478-1820 or visit our website to schedule a free screening

 

Written by Jessica Keenan, MA, CCC-SLP/L, inspired by Kristen Santoro, MA, CCC-SLP/L

I can wash my hands all by myself!

Is your child having trouble washing his hands by himself? Is he not thorough when washing hands? Or, would you like your child to wash hands independently? Teaching your child how to wash their hands can be accomplished in a few easy steps!  The important thing to remember when teaching any hygiene routine is to make it fun and model the action yourself!  The more they watch you do it, the more they will want to do it too!

First, make hand washing fun! Get some fun soap, make it a game, and sing a little song!  There are some fun songs on YouTube that you can memorize and sing along with your child or just make one up!

Tell your child they are germ busters when they wash their hands well. No germs will spread because I busted them up! 

Create a handwashing procedure and place it in the bathroom for your child to use. You can print this one if you like. Steps for hand washing.

  1.  Turn warm water on and wet hands.
  2. Lather up! Grab your fun soap and make tons of 
  3. Sing ABC’s or Happy Birthday while scrubbing to get rid of all the germs.
  4. Rinse those bubbles off your hands in warm water! See ya later bubbles! Turn the water off.
  5. Dry hands really well! All done! You did it! You busted all those germs! Yeah!!

If your child has a hard time implementing hand washing into their day and you would like some additional help specific to your child, please contact BDI playhouse to set up a free screening.

Written by: Jessica Frederick, OTA

preschool circle time seating

Sit Smart, Not Still – Best Seating for Classrooms

Is it necessary for children to sit still to attend in circle time? Let’s talk about creative seating in the classroom. As adults, we make sure to “get comfortable” before focusing on things we want or have to do, whether it’s paying bills at the table or watching T.V. on the couch. We do it automatically – we shift our weight or add a pillow under our legs without even thinking about it! When your seating arrangement is comfortable, you are able to give your full attention to the task at hand without having to think twice about how your body is positioned. Like adults, kids need to be comfortable and “situated” in order to focus, especially in school. Sometimes, finding comfortable and focus-inducing seating for the classroom requires creativity and flexibility!

“Sitting Smart”- Benefits of flexible seating options: 

  • Movement Opportunities: Moving your body helps increase blood flow to the brain, which improves focus and attention & reduces stress. Movement options while sitting in the classroom can involve small, minor movements/wiggles or large bounces/shifts to facilitate organized engagement in those wiggles and promoting increased focus.
  • Something for Everyone: Providing a variety of seating options encourages kids to explore and figure out what helps them learn best – we are all different! Allow a child to select what helps them most provides a sense of ownership and self-awareness that will allow for increased engagement in their task, their way!
  • Motivation: Having fun seating options is a way to motivate kids to want to come to school and learn. Increasing the intrigue with novel seating arrangements improves a child’s willingness to approach a seated task that might otherwise be “boring” or “too hard”.

Here are some seating options to help kids improve focus and participation while seated in the classroom:

Cube Chair 

Low Table with Pillows

Floor Chair with Back Support -Postural stability is key!

Fidget Band for Chair -Gives kids an opportunity to move their legs and improve focus

Wiggle Seat – Movement and input while sitting are super motivating!

Exercise Balance BallProvides range of motion opportunities

Wedge Seat positions pelvis for upright posture

Beanbag Chair – Available at Walmart

Scoop Rocker Chair

Inflatable Chair  

Wobble Stool

If these seating options aren’t providing everything your kids need to be successful, BDI Playhouse Children’s Therapy offers free screenings to give your child the necessary tools to improve participation and function at home and in school.

By Jade Pellerito, OTR

Occupational Therapist