10 Fine Motor Tools You Can Find at Target!

 

10 Fine Motor Tools You Can Find at Target (1)

by Stacy Turke, OTR/L

“Just where DO you get all that amazing therapy equipment you use?”

 

As a School OT, I hear that ALL. THE. TIME. See, in my job, I get to play…er, work…with kids most of the time, and although we have important therapeutic goals we are working on, we have to make it fun and meaningful for the students or we will get nowhere fast. I always have a bag full of fun, enticing materials and equipment that I carry in and out of the schools I serve because I want kids to think, “Wow that looks like FUN!” There are all kinds of great companies that sell therapy stuff like alternative seating options, adapted writing tools and grips, specialized writing paper, mats to encourage reluctant eaters, and things like that, and I do use those catalogs and websites. But honestly, most of what I use during sessions with students I get at local stores, like Target.

 

This is not an advertisement for Target. I’m not an affiliate…I’m just a big time Fan. With a capital F.

 

You see, as a school OT, Target “gets” me. They know that I cannot resist that seasonal dollar section at the front of the store, where I might be able to find adorable little erasers in shapes that match the season or upcoming holiday that we can use for sorting. Target knows that I cannot pass by the wonderful office/art supply section, where I can find several different size and shapes of crayons, or super cool erasers that will ease the pain of having to “edit” work. And the toys. Don’t get me started on what can be found in the Toy Department. Cuz once I start I can’t stop.

 

I was recently at Target. I went because some of my Twitter friends had tweeted about a cool fidget ball they found at Target, and I just had to get myself one. If  you are a school OT, you know you can never have too many Fidget tools that are both engaging and useful! My plan was to go in, locate the needed ball and then head DIRECTLY to the check out and for the low low price of $3.18 I would have a new tool for my students. However…while there, Target’s amazingly enticing array of stuff drew me in and I left with a cart FULL of new tools to add to my every growing bag(s) of tricks. None of which is official “therapy equipment” yet all therapeutic and readily available. And I thought I would share it here for all my friends, colleagues, and students’ parents who wonder, Where can I get THAT?

 

From that Irresistible Dollar Section

  • Super Squishy Blob BallSuper Squishy Blob Ball: I am not kidding, it is actually called this! For $3, you get a gel ball inside a threaded mesh cover that allows the ball to squish through the mesh when the ball is squeezed. Super fun, and can be used both as a fidget tool and as a means of strengthening the muscles of the hand. Not for kids who might mouth or bite it, nor for a child who might poke it with a sharp object. For everyone else, super fun, as evidenced by the number of OT friends who were tweeting about it!

 

  • Squishy FishSquish-A-Fish: This ultra sticky, squishy fish is filled with what seems to be water beads and a blinking light that starts when the fish is squeezed. I searched carefully through the bin of different colored fish to find one with a broken blinky light, because in my experience blinky lights are very annoying in classrooms! Plus, there is a risk that a strobe-like light can trigger headaches and seizures, so I try to avoid those. Cost for this guy? $3! He’ll make a great fidget tool because it’s quiet and interactive, and it will provide a nice finger/hand wake-up before writing tasks. That’s a lotta bang for $3.

 

From the Office/Art Supply Aisles

  • Yoobi PencilsYoobi 24 Pack Mini Colored Pencils: These pencils are adorable, people! They are the size of golf pencils, so they encourage a “tripod” pencil grasp because they are just too small to hold in a full hand grasp. While markers offer a smooth, low-resistance feel when writing or drawing, pencils give the brain more feedback about what the hand is doing. And because most kids are expected to use pencils for most of their school work, using pencils for drawing and coloring helps support learning pencil skills. Kids have fun while learning and growing. That’s a win. Teachers and parents have kids who willingly work on improving skills (even though they may not know they are “working”). Another win. Everybody wins, including my wallet, these are just $4.

 

  • Yoobi Pretzel ErasersYoobi 4 Pack Pretzel Erasers: “Good writers edit their work.” Just about every one of my students hears me say this each and every time we get out a writing task. It’s a reminder that the “rough draft” is a real thing, and that only through fixing errors and rewording do we come up with a final draft we can be proud of. But try convincing a reluctant writer that writing isn’t done yet-and we need to erase work YOU’VE ALREADY DONE to do it again? Or a student with a strong perfectionistic streak that their work wasn’t perfect the first time! UGH! So I find that when I have interesting, enticing erasers available, kids don’t mind fixing their work as much. In fact, finding things to “edit” might actually be fun. And the sting of  work that might be less than perfect is lessened. These pretzel erasers have an added bonus: they can double as a fidget tool in a pinch. All for the low, low price of $1.50. One tip I learned the hard way: when these things are left in the car in the winter, they get hard. And then when they get hard because they are frozen, they break like dry twigs. And then the OT is sad. So don’t leave them in the trunk of your car if you live somewhere that gets cold in the winter. You’re welcome.

 

  • Yoobi Binder ClipsYoobi 6 Pack Binder Clips: Yes, I realize this feels like an advertisement for the Yoobi line of products. It’s not, unless gushing over products my students and I love is considered an advert. I’ve always loved these binder clips for kids because they are so intriguing, and they require good finger strength and bilateral coordination (both sides of the body working together) to make them work. This particular set has emoji faces on them, and anything with a face seems to draw kids in (have you seen Shopkins???). And these have a cool added bonus, GOOGLY EYE STICKERS! Honestly, there are some kids who would do absolutely any fine motor task I ask of them, no matter how challenging, if Googly Eyes are involved! Cost? $3.

 

From the Party Supply Aisle

  • Spritz Maze PuzzlesSPR!TZ Handheld Puzzles (pack of 18): For $5, this is almost a classroom pack! These are little marble run type puzzles of assorted designs. I’ve already put several into a lunch sack, and had a child reach in and pull out one. His friend with him also pulled one out of the bag, and then they worked to move the marble from the beginning to the end. The bag fed into my students’ natural curiosity, and made working on a visual processing puzzle more fun.

 

  • Spritz Mini ErasersSPR!TZ Mini Erasers (pack of 24): These erasers are not only erasers of cute foods, like slices of cake, ice cream cones, popsicles, sandwiches, and hotdogs, but they are also puzzles! Yes, the pieces pull apart and push back together…at least initially (they will wear out). So not only are they tools to help ease the harsh reality of “editing,” but they are also quiet fidget tools that are socially appropriate and even desirable. And cute, did I mention how cute they are? I paid $5. For 24 tools. Roughly 21 cents each.

 

From the Gilded Aisles of Toys

(Okay, it’s Target, so the aisles in the toy section are as red as the aisles in every other section. But just go with it…this section is special for School OTs.)

  • Grabber PicRobot Claw!: My absolute favorite item purchased this trip? Hands down, it was this $5 grabber that makes a cool ratchet-like sound when you squeeze the trigger-like handle. So far, 13 of 13 students have ADORED this new toy that acts like an adult reacher and strengthens hands and grasp skills along with eye-hand coordination while being really fun. This was the best $5 I’ve spent this year, and that’s saying a lot because there’s this coffee roaster in town that makes a WICKED good pour-over coffee from beans they roast themselves…but I digress. Seriously, you’re going to find that this toy can be used for all kinds of functional tasks while making the task feel like play. And did I mention only $5???

 

  • Feed The WoozleFeed The Woozle: This was a bit more costly, $20. But the options for this game were great so I gave it a chance. It was a good decision. Don’t let the “for little kids” reference scare you off. Many of my students struggle with games that require more strategy than action, or that are heavily language based, and this game can be played in a way that minimizes those challenges. The object of the game is to cooperatively feed the Woozle Monster from a variety of snacks that come with the game (or that you add yourself). The child rolls the dice on his or her turn, and using the enclosed spoon (or, again, any tool you want to select from your arsenal of tools), you place the food into the Woozle’s mouth. It involves counting, balancing items on a spoon, moving items from one spot to another while seated or when moving (if the Woozle is placed across the room). You can divide the food items up and the first child or team of children to run out “wins,” or you can eliminate winning and losing by simply ending when the food runs out. Cooperative play, turn taking, simple counting, gross and fine motor skills, eye hand coordination…lots of learning happening while playing this game.

 

  • Amazing Color Changing Putty.jpgAmazing Color Changing Putty: Back to the steals (well not literally,) this silly-putty like material changes colors when squeezed. So obviously, we will be working on all the usual “putty” activities including strengthening the muscles of the hand, enhancing or activating the tactile sense when we hide small items like plastic beads in it, motor planning skills, etc. Oh and remember using silly putty to “copy” comics in the newspaper when you were a little kid? (No? Maybe you’re not as old as me?!) You can recreate that memory using this little tip: draw a small box, say 2 inches square. Inside it, draw a simple smiley face using very dark pencil lines. Place the putty on top of the design and push down. Have the child count slowly to 5. Carefully peel the putty up and you will have an exact copy of your smiley face, which can now be pulled and tugged into all kinds of funny distortions. Now that your child has seen the process, you will not have any trouble getting them to try it on their own. Instant magic. Oh and the cost? Just $6.

 

Full Target CartI wish I could say that I walked out of Target that day with these 10 items only. But alas that would be a lie! Still, I considered this to be a major haul at $55.50 for 10 items, each of which will be fun for kids, serve multiple purposes, and boost my creative juices for the remainder of the school year.

 

Please note: Unless you have money burning a hole in your pocket and you simply MUST part with it, there is no reason why you would EVER need to buy all 10 of these items, even if your child is getting Occupational Therapy and needs to work on all of these skills. But I hope that these examples show you how easy it is to find interesting and fun “tools” to support your child’s natural inclination for play while working on developmental skills. You don’t have to have the latest therapy equipment catalogs. It’s as easy as a trip to your local Target.

 

Have you found fun and interesting toys and tools at a store near you? Share your finds in the comments below! It’s so much fun to share 🙂

 

Profile Pic from WhartonStacy M. Turke, OTR/L: “On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog.” Stacy has been a school OT for 31 years with the same intermediate school district in Michigan in what she describes as “my dream job.” Her career has ranged from working in a “center-based” school to working in public and private schools throughout the county, including those in the rural, suburban, and urban areas. She has experience working with students with a wide range of educational needs, to include cognitive impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorder, physical challenges, sensory processing needs, and many other learning challenges. She expresses her enthusiasm when she says “This career has been fulfilling, always presenting new and interesting challenges, and is NEVER boring!” You can connect with Stacy on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/stacyturke/ and on Twitter at @StacyTurkeOT.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Go-To-For-OT Blog or affiliated Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest sites, and shared on social or public media or as links on other sites is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors and administrator of these posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources

10 Fine Motor Tools You Can Find at Target!

Fun with Food!

 

Fun with Food!

Turke July Intro Pic

 

by Stacy M. Turke

on the On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog

 

 

 

 

 

When I was growing up, mom insisted that we could not play with our food.  I’d bet lots of you heard that growing up, too.  As a kid, I never really understood why “playing” with my food was a problem, as long as I ate it and didn’t make too much of a mess at the dinner table.  I understood that Mom didn’t want us to waste food, certainly, and she wanted to be sure that we had adequate nutrition.  But what was the problem if my carrot sticks first became a “paintbrush” to make designs in the ketchup that was inevitably on my plate?

And now I’m a School OT and I encourage playing with food!  There are so many reasons to try using food items in non-traditional ways with kids, and all of them are fun. So this month we answer the question:  Should I let my kids play with food?

The answer: Yes!  Yes you should!

 

Working With Food For Fun

This summer, I am working in a school setting that provides Extended School Year services to students from all over our county.  One group of children on the Autism Spectrum have goals that focus on visual-motor development, ranging from using both hands together to complete a task (bilateral hand skills) to writing their first names from memory.  I could grab the crayons, paints, and playdoh and create a fun task that would address the kids’ goals.   And that would be fine.  But because I know that several of the children have significant limitations in what they will eat, I decided that this summer we would address goals through the use of food items.  And so far we’ve had FUN!

It is important to point out that while we are using food as the medium, the actual “eating” of the food for this group of students is a secondary goal.  In fact,  we do not even mention eating with them unless they indicate in some way that they want to munch on the materials.  We want to reduce anxiety around food for our students who are very limited in their food tolerances, and we stress the process rather than the product.  While it’s not always possible, I try to avoid working in the same area where the kids normally eat to differentiate this from snack or mealtime.  We fully allow tasting the materials; and if any of the students want to eat more than a taste, we keep handy a visual that says “First work then eat” so they know that actual snacking can happen when the work part of the task is finished.

Fun Food Projects To Try

 

Fruit Kabobs

Fruit Kabobs

 

Last week, we created Fruit Kabobs with a 4th of July slant.  I found the idea on Pinterest.  (How did we ever function before Pinterest?)  We loaded bamboo skewers with blueberries and added a watermelon star at the top.  After making these cute kabobs, we recreated them on paper. This was a really simple process for the students, all of whom could participate with minimal adult support.  In advance, I prepped the watermelon by slicing it into thin slices so that each child could have their own piece.  I made one sample skewer, giving my students a visual prompt they could use as their model.  The kids used star-shaped cookie cutters and pressed them into the watermelon slice to make the stars.  And then we put them together. Really that simple.

And what therapeutic benefits did the students receive?  Well, for starters…

  • Great sensory input including tactile, olfactory (smell), visual, and taste (for those who braved tasting!)
  • Motor planning while completing the observed tasks
  • Completing multi-step tasks from a model
  • Bilateral hand practice when placing the blueberries onto the skewer
  • Eye-hand coordination, not only while placing the blueberries onto the skewer, but also when we recreated them on paper
  • Visual tracking and eye-gaze shift while “stringing” and referencing the model

 

Pretzel/Pudding Painting

Another task we completed this summer was Pudding Painting.  As a group, we made pudding from an instant pudding mix and added blue food color to make it resemble the color someone might use to paint a water scene.  We used a little more milk than the recipe called for so that the texture was closer to paint.  Wow, did we have fun!  While the pudding set in the refrigerator, the kids glued a pre-cut yellow circle onto the top of a piece of paper then added vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines around the “sun” to resemble sun rays.  And then we “painted” the blue water on the bottom of the page using fingers or pretzels as our “paintbrushes” and a simple paper plate as their paint palette.  Such a simple task, yet so many therapeutic benefits!

Pretzel Painting1

Pretzel Painting2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adaptations For Making Messy Play Fun

Playing with food can be messy, and for many kids that is half the fun!  But what can you do if your child doesn’t tolerate messy play?  Well, just offer some simple tools and accommodations!  For example,

  • If finger-painting is the focus but your child won’t get his or her hands into the pudding, grab a painting tool.  You might need to start with a long-handled paint brush so the child can see that there is almost no chance of getting his or her fingers messy.  Move to a shorter handled tool once the longer one is easily tolerated.  Maybe even introduce a small truck or car to make wheel marks on paper or across a cookie sheet.  Or how cute would it be to make footprints with small plastic animals?!
  • A specific example of an accommodation made with this summer’s group of children allowed a child to work slowly toward tolerating portions of the task.   One of my students did NOT want to hold the blueberry at first, so loading them onto the skewer was frustrating for him.  Instead of making this a frustrating bilateral task, we allowed him to stab the blueberry on the plate and then an adult helped him move it down the skewer.  After doing a bunch that way, this little guy eventually tried to move a couple down the skewer himself using one hand to hold the stick and the other to hold the blueberry.  (Hint:  that made it a bilateral task!)  He was still addressing so many therapeutic goals by stabbing the blueberries, and eventually was able to tolerate the whole task.
  • Allow the child to wear plastic gloves if those are tolerated but messes are not.
  • Keep paper towels or wipes handy, and reassure your students that washing hands is always an option.

 

Other Considerations

Before you begin using foods as a medium for therapy, it is important that you know if your students have any food allergies or restrictions.  Even if you believe you know for sure that a child won’t try eating whatever you are using, you must be sensitive to cultural or religious food exclusions, and certainly stay away from any food items to which your students are sensitive or allergic.  If you are unsure, communicate with the families of your students before embarking on fun with food.

However you play, make sure it is a fun and no-pressure environment, and you will ALL have a good time!

 

 

Stacy M. Turke, OTR/L:   “On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog.”  Stacy has been a school OT for 30 years with the same school district in Michigan in what she describes as “my dream job.”  Her career has ranged from working in a “center-based” school to working in public and private schools throughout the county, including those in the rural, suburban, and urban areas.  She has experience working with students with a wide range of educational needs, to include cognitive impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorder, physical challenges, sensory processing needs, and many other learning challenges. She expresses her enthusiasm when she says “This career has been fulfilling, always presenting new and interesting challenges, and is NEVER boring!”  You can connect with Stacy on Pinterest at  https://www.pinterest.com/stacyturke/ and on Twitter at @stacyturke.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Go-To-For-OT Blog or affiliated Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest sites, and shared on social or public media or as links on other sites is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors and administrator of these posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.  

Picture Credits:  

Photos are the property of the author or site owners and their use should include the link provided to the contributor’s source.

Fun with Food!

Using Bubbles to Support Handwriting? Really?

Using Bubbles to Support Handwriting? Really?

by Stacy M. Turke

on the On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog

 

soap bubble platinumportfolio pixabay

Another amazing school year is about to come to a close in my county, and staff and students are looking forward to some well-deserved time off. We will spend the summer wrapping up year-end paperwork, planning for the next school year, and hopefully getting a few moments off with our families to refresh and reconnect.  Some of us have to-do lists longer than there are days in the summer, which we will tackle with various levels of intensity and focus.  All of us will find the time flying by too quickly without a doubt!

At this point in the year, parents are asking School OTs what they can do over the summer to support their children’s handwriting and fine motor growth and successes so that they don’t lose too much of their skill during this down time.  I  know most are expecting to be provided with a list of “homework” looking activities, such as practicing grasp patterns using tongs to sort tiny objects, hunting for seasonal words in Word Search puzzles, and using handwriting books to practice correct letter formation. These are certainly favorites of mine and are important components to include in a summer program designed to support improved visual motor skills.  But I don’t like to ask families to do these kinds of things exclusively.  Summer is a time off from the usual demands of the school year and busy families often find it challenging to get their kids to do the more “schooly” looking tasks.  I remember well trying to get my own kids to use the practice materials their teachers sent home at the end of the school year in an effort to reduce lost skills…and it wasn’t pretty!  So when parents ask “What should I do with my children to help improve their visual motor skills this summer?”, I suggest the tongs and the letter formation practice, and I add this sure fire way to get kids engaged:

Play with bubbles! Seriously!

Bubbles

 

I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t love bubbles, so this will be an easy one for you. There are so many benefits of bubbles, all of which contribute to improved focus, visual tracking, and eye-hand coordination. First, let’s talk about the more standard types of bubbles, the ones in which children hold the bubble bottle (of various sizes and shapes) in their non-dominant hand, Bubble Wandsthen dip the bubble wand carefully into the bottle to load it with the bubble solution using their dominant hand. To begin, the children use fine motor skills to grasp and twist open the top of the bottles, which requires strength and coordination of the shoulders (for stability) and hands. Kids have to dip carefully or the solution will spill, and in order to do that they are using eye-hand coordination and bilateral hand skills. Bringing the loaded wand to their mouth involves visual-motor coordination using both eyes together and good visual tracking so that they don’t stick the wand over their noses or in their mouths (which I’ve done on many occasions…yuck!).  Kids must grade and control their breath to gently and continuously blow to allow for as many bubbles as possible to come out of that wand.  And then the visual tracking that happens when they watch (and chase!) the bubbles as they move away is where the magic happens, right?

 

So think about this.  When kids are using standard bubbles, they are working on or getting:

 

  • Upper extremity strength and coordination
  • Bilateral hand skills
  • Motor planning
  • Grading of movement
  • Grasping skills
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Visual tracking
  • Convergence (eyes working together)
  • Focus and attention
  • Focused breathing
  • Aerobic exercise (as they chase the bubbles)
  • Tactile and olfactory input from the bubble solution

 

I love using different kinds of bottles of bubbles with kids, even in the same session.  I’ve used the more typical bottles, that hold 4 ounces or so of the bubble solution, but I also enjoy bringing out the tiny bubbles that you find in the party section of discount stores because the fine motor and visual motor skills needed are different. And who doesn’t love the bubble wands that look like long, colorful tubes and have really large bubble openings? These are especially great for bilateral control.

 

But if my students love standard bubbles, they ADORE this next method of bubble delivery (to sound scientific!). This is so simple, you probably have all of the materials needed for this bubble process in your house already. There may be a more official name, but we call them Bubble Cups because, well, we make them out of cups!  For each child, you will need:

 

  • 1 Disposable plastic cup
  • 1 (or more) Straw
  • 1 piece of an old towel or wash cloth, just large enough to completely cover the top of the cup
  • 1 rubber band
  • 1 pie pan (or similar dish for dispensing the bubbles)
  • Bubble solution

 

Bubble Cup1

Bubble Cup2

To make the cup, simply make a hole approximately 1 to 1-1/2 inches from the top of the cup using a sharp scissor.  (Please do this for your child in advance of the activity so they don’t hurt themselves).  Cover the opening of the cup with the piece of washcloth and use the rubber band to secure it so that it’s snug across the top.  Invert the cup and dip it into the bubble solution (in your pie pan) until the cloth is soaked, then lift and allow the extra to drip back into the pan.  Invert the cup again so that it is right side up and insert the straw into the hole.  Blow into the straw (making sure that it is not pressed against the side of the cup or nothing will happen) and you will see the coolest bubble rope develop. Your child will be amazed as will you, especially when you look at your watch and notice all the time that has gone by!

 

 

 Bubbles3

 

Using bubbles can be a great precursor to a more traditional handwriting practice activity because you will have helped your children prepare their minds and bodies for the focused work that comes with writing or coloring. The whole body will have been engaged by way of motor skills, visual processing and visual tracking, and self-regulation support.  And the child will have had a chance to enjoy and wonder at the beauty and simplicity of bubbles while getting fresh air outside. This will be the kind of “homework” that everyone wants to complete!

 

A hint about bubble solutions:  Add a little bit of glycerin (available at most pharmacies in the diabetic supplies section) to make the bubbles super bubbly!  I add a teaspoon or so to the large bubble wands and maybe that much to the pie pan when I add the solution for the bubble cups. You’ll notice that the bubbles coming from the wands and cups have greater staying power and your child will likely have greater success blowing lots of bubbles.

 

Do you have a favorite way to play with bubbles? Please share in the comments section!

 

 

Stacy M. Turke, OTR/L:   “On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog.”  Stacy has been a school OT for 30 years with the same school district in Michigan in what she describes as “my dream job.”  Her career has ranged from working in a “center-based” school to working in public and private schools throughout the county, including those in the rural, suburban, and urban areas.  She has experience working with students with a wide range of educational needs, to include cognitive impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorder, physical challenges, sensory processing needs, and many other learning challenges. She expresses her enthusiasm when she says “This career has been fulfilling, always presenting new and interesting challenges, and is NEVER boring!”  You can connect with Stacy on Pinterest at  https://www.pinterest.com/stacyturke/ and on Twitter at @stacyturke.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Go-To-For-OT Blog or affiliated Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest sites, and shared on social or public media or as links on other sites is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors and administrator of these posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.  

Picture Credits:  

Photos are the property of the author or site owners and their use should include the link provided to the contributor’s source.

 

Using Bubbles to Support Handwriting? Really?

When an OT loses control of the session!

 

When an OT loses control of the session!

Can We Try It Like This?  Or, What happened to this school OT when she lost control of a therapy session…

by Stacy M. Turke

on the On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog

 

Last year I had a student who helped me grow as a therapist.

Okay…truth be told, all my students do that, daily, because from our interactions I learn what works, what doesn’t, what to repeat, and what to toss into the ‘great idea, poor outcome’ pile.  This particular student came to me on this particular day as he always did, full of energy, chatty, and happy to see what was beyond the door in the therapy environment.  “What we doing today?” he asked with his usual eagerness.  I adore this aspect of his personality.

We entered the room and on the table was a container of the indescribably pinkish-coralish-orangeish material that School OTs know as Therapy Putty, medium resistance.  “Oh I know that stuff, you squeeze it!” he exclaimed.  Of course because it is my space, and I am not as organized and structured as I wish I were, there was also another set of materials on the table, within reach instead of neatly tucked out of sight ready for our follow up task.  We were going to play a game of Perfection.  Both of these separate and distinct tasks were carefully planned to prepare the body and the brain for a writing activity that would follow to address the boy’s IEP goals geared toward helping him improve his ability to produce written work in school.  He was a hard worker, this young student, so my therapy plan would be able to be completed in the allotted 30 minutes and he would be able to go back to class ready to work.  Best Laid Plans of an experienced OT and all…

So we calmly sat down to start with the pre-determined therapy putty exercises that were so neatly and carefully detailed in my therapy plans…and that’s when things quickly devolved. And I mean quickly.  Within a 30-second period, this 3rd grader moved from squeezing the smallish therapy putty ball to grabbing the remaining hunk left in the container, collecting it all while rolling it into a fat cylinder, and then reaching for the Perfection pieces innocently and innocuously sitting next to the game box awaiting their turn.  “Hey,” he asked, “Can we try it like this?

“OH NO,” shouted my brain, “We are out of control here!”

“This isn’t on the plans!”

“This will not lead to the outcome I had envisioned!”

“I’m in charge here! He must follow the procedures”…um…

…wait…

Hmm.

I’m grateful that my brain took a while (if “a while” can be defined as 10 seconds or less) to process what was happening because what evolved from that session was nothing short of magic for me.  The kind that you bring home in your heart and think over for days and weeks to come. The kind of magic that reminds you why you do this School OT stuff anyway. It was client-centered therapy (shoot, it was CLIENT CREATED).  It was meaningful and fun for the little guy.  It addressed the goals for the session and then some.  And this young boy, for whom school is not always fun or easy, left a session with his OT feeling valued and appreciated.

So what did we do?  What did he guide us to do?  Well first, we pushed the Perfection pieces into the cylinder of putty handle-end first, providing great resistance to our strengthening activity while focusing on the fingers used to hold a pencil.  Try it.  You will see that it takes a lot of strength and joint stability to make this happen!  I don’t know what his thought process was as he began pushing the pieces in.  I only know his smile lit the room when I told him how cool I thought his putty creature looked!  Plan 1  Getting the body ready for writing through hand strengthening:  accomplished!

 

Perfection Putty TurkePerfection Putty Cylinder Turke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From there, we discovered (okay…HE discovered, and I quickly began to document this for use with other students!) that the pieces could be made to look like facial features.  So we searched through the pile of Perfection pieces to find eyes, noses, mouths…and this addressed some of the visual processing skills we were going to work on during this session.   Plan 2  Preparing the brain for writing through a visual perception task:  check!

 

Perfection Putty Emotions Turke

 

It appeared that we were creating feelings on these therapy putty people.  So, we then took it a step further and assigned emotions to the feelings.  My brain was finally catching up to his so I may have had a role here!  Searching through the list of emotions on our favorite self-regulation app from the Zones of Regulation, we decided which “zone” each was in then drew a picture of each emotion, labeling it in the correct “zone” color.  In all sincerity, I asked him if it would be okay if I shared the activity he had just created with other kids because it was so much fun and he beamed back at me.  “Sure!” was his reply.  Plan 3  Writing and drawing:  done!  We did all of this in 30 minutes!

 

Perfection Putty Emotions HW Turke

 

Did we accomplish all of the therapy goals laid out in my plans for that half hour?  Yes. Oh yes.  Well, to be fair, we did not write any full sentences during this session.  With the emotions as our starting place, we saved that for the next time as we each scurried off to our appointed locations.  But he had fun and seemed refreshed.  And I learned a valuable lesson.  Being a good OT is as much about listening and honoring and guiding as it is about planning and implementing and documenting.  In this era of evidence-based work, I had all the evidence I needed to know that this was a good therapy session, even if I wasn’t fully in charge of it.  Or maybe that’s precisely the point:)

 

Stacy Bio pictureStacy M. Turke, OTR/L:   “On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog.”  Stacy has been a school OT for 30 years with the same school district in Michigan in what she describes as “my dream job.”  Her career has ranged from working in a “center-based” school to working in public and private schools throughout the county, including those in the rural, suburban, and urban areas.  She has experience working with students with a wide range of educational needs, to include cognitive impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorder, physical challenges, sensory processing needs, and many other learning challenges. She expresses her enthusiasm when she says “This career has been fulfilling, always presenting new and interesting challenges, and is NEVER boring!”  You can connect with Stacy on Pinterest at  https://www.pinterest.com/stacyturke/ and on Twitter at @stacyturke.

 
 Disclaimer: The information shared on the Go-To-For-OT Blog or affiliated Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest sites, and shared on social or public media or as links on other sites is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors and administrator of these posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.  
Photos of therapy activities are the property of the author and are not to be used without her explicit permission.  Photos that include a link to an originating site are the property of that photographer and their use should include the link provided.
When an OT loses control of the session!

How do I help my child at home? Answers from your school OT

hand skills HolgersFotografie pixabayHow do I help my child at home?

by Marie Toole, MS, OTR/L

on the School Tools From Your Pediatric   Occupational Therapist Blog

 

Happy November!  By now the school year is off and running and routines have been established (we hope!).  Parents are coming into our school this month for parent-teacher conferences for first quarter report cards.  When I meet with parents, the most common question I get asked is “How can I help my child carry over therapy techniques at home?”  My answer almost always is “Make it fun and it won’t seem like homework!”  Carryover activities should not appear to be one more thing to do in a long list of many homework assignments.

 

One of my favorite home program activities is our school’s Handi-Tool Kits.  I had always envisioned my students having a type of lending library of therapy toys. I wanted them to be able to borrow toys or activities for the weekend and bring them back after showing mom and dad how awesome they were to play with.  They never knew that they were improving their hand skills at the same time!  So, I contacted our town’s Men’s Club, a local charitable group, and met with them to review my proposal for funding.   Then, I put together a kit of hand tools and toys to help improve  fine motor control.  We put together a content list and wrote out directions for accessing and using each toy.  After we purchased items for a number of kits,  we put them together in lunch box sized cases and started reviewing how to use and play with the items in our therapy sessions.  When we were ready to start sending the kits home, we sent a letter to the parents beforehand to make sure that particular weekend would be a good time for them to explore the Handi-Tool kit with their child.  My students love taking the Handi-Tool kits home and parents get to see some therapy items and become more familiar with hand skills when they read the cards  included in each kit.  This is a win-win for all of us!

Handi Tool Kits Toole
Handi-Tool Kits —— Click on the picture for a larger view!

 

Core and upper body strengthening are two other developmental areas that I always encourage parents to work on at home.  I emphasize that at home they need to make sure that their children are sitting properly when they work at a table and are eating meals.  Their backs should be straight and resting against the back of the chair with their feet flat on the floor and their head and eyes positioned forward.  I point out that it is not acceptable for children to hold their heads up with their hands or to have their heads lying on the table or desk when they are writing.  Step stools or books/boxes for footrests are helpful to maintain correct posture.  During writing activities, the non-dominant hand needs to stabilize the paper at all times.

 

Local children tug of war during a community park festival

To help increase core or upper body strength and stability, I suggest that parents try some of these activities:

  • wheelbarrow walking around the house or yard:  Have them measure how far they can go.
  • crab walk forward, backward, and sideways
  • tug-o-war
  • knee or wall push ups:  have them keep count of how many they can do.
  • climb the jungle gym or monkey bars at their public or elementary school playgrounds
  • work on their tummies when watching TV, drawing, or writing:  have them lie on the floor on their stomachs holding themselves up using their elbows and forearms propped on the floor.  Do not allow them to hold their heads up with hands.
  • write/draw/paint on a chalkboard or easel or any vertical surface such as a wall or window
  • complete household chores such as carrying in groceries or yard work

 

Another area to focus on is hand skills.  Parents should encourage their children to hold pencils and utensils correctly.  Constant reminders are needed for those who have difficulties. At school, we encourage children to “pinch” the pencil at the tip with thumb and index finger.  This is the most mature and efficient position for handwriting and tool use.  For students who tend to have difficulty with this, we recommend the following fun activities:

 

  • use an eye-dropper with colored water for painting or coloring activities
  • use tweezers to pick up macaroni, goldfish, cheerios, rice, or pasta and place them in a cup –or in their mouth!spintoy janerella pixabay
  • spin tops by pushing the thumb and index fingers in opposite directions to make them spin
  • flick coins, ping-pong balls, tiddily winks, or cotton balls with their thumb and pointer fingers:  make this a game of hockey or try to aim for a target
  • snap fingers:  start with the dominant hand and then both hands
  • use a spring clothespin to pick up small objects and place them into a container
  • play with clay, play dough, or theraputty:  hide small items such as buttons or coins for them to find

 

Even in today’s computer world our children still need to learn to write legibly.   It is extremely important that they form the letters in the correct direction.  I encourage parents to remind their children to take their time when writing and forming letters.  They should ask their child’s teacher or OT for a visual model from the handwriting program they use in school to encourage carryover at home.

 

To improve letter formations parents can:

  • write letters on the wall with a flashlight
  • write letters in a tray or pan filled with salt, sand, shaving cream, whipped cream, or pudding
  • write on the shower walls with shaving cream, soap, or tub paints
  • mystery writing:  One person holds a piece of chalk or a pencil and then closes their eyes.  The other person moves their hand to write a letter or word.  Or one person can write a letter with their finger on the other person’s back or palm of their hand.
  • rainbow writing:  Write a word or letter on the paper or chalkboard and have their child trace it several times in different colored chalk or crayons.
rainbow writing toole
————Rainbow Writing————-
letter formations Toole
Letter Formation Practice Using Different Media Forms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I stress to parents that they should always remember that these activities should not be viewed as “homework” but rather as games that are fun and can help to increase skills critical to classroom success.  They should think of the outdoor games such as tag, kick the can, hopscotch, or jump rope that they enjoyed as a child and teach them to your children.  We never knew that having all that fun was good for us!  The best piece of advice I have for parents is “Have fun “working” with your child!”

 

 

Marie TooleMarie L. Toole, MS, OTR/ L, is a pediatric occupational therapist with 28 years experience in NICU, Early Intervention, and private practice with the last 20 years spent working in public schools. She is NBCOT and SIPT certified as well as a member of AOTA and NHOTA.  She lives in southern New Hampshire and can be reached at toolem@sau25.net.  Follow her on Twitter @MarieTooleOTNH, on Pinterest marietooleNHOT, and on School Tools for Pediatric Occupational Therapists  where she tweets, pins, and posts about OT, education, autism, and sensory integration, as well as other school related topics.

 
 Disclaimer: The information shared on the Go-To-For-OT Blog or affiliated Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest sites, and shared on social or public media or as links on other sites is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors and administrator of these posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.  
Photos are the property of the author or contributors on other sites.  Their use should include the link provided to the contributor’s source.  

 

How do I help my child at home? Answers from your school OT

“School Tools” from your Pediatric Occupational Therapist – Tips for Typical Development

Marie Toole, OTR/L

“School Tools” from your Pediatric Occupational Therapist

Marie L. Toole, MS, OTR/L

 

 

In this new blog, I plan to share some of the teachings I have done over the years for parents in hopes of providing you with information that is timely and relevant.  As a school-based occupational therapist with over 20 years experience, I have seen lots of children …and counseled lots of parents… on what to expect from their toddlers through first graders.  With the pressure of “high-stakes testing” looming before them, many parents want their child to exceed expectations and may set unrealistic hopes and dreams for him or her.  Today’s blog will help you sift through the details of developmental milestones and remind you that they are children first, and that they will reach those milestones when they are ready.  If we expect them to do too much, too soon, we are asking for frustration.  It is okay to slow down and enjoy the journey of childhood.  It is not a race to the top.  We need to remember to let them be kids.  If we could only convince the makers of those high-stakes tests that they are little children and not widgets coming off the assembly line, we might have much happier children and parents!.  No two children learn alike nor will they do every activity at exactly the correct age or time frame.  The activities I will share today are meant to be guidelines to help all of us remember how these baseline skills will affect future school performance.   Try some of them out with your children today!

 

Typical Development of the 2-6 year old:  The Importance of Play

Preschoolers and kindergarteners should be playing more.  The benefit of fine motor play helps build wrist stability, aids in the development of the arches and web space of the hand, helps with separation of the sides of the hand, and builds an understanding of delicate touch when needed.  The benefits of gross motor play help increase endurance, increase core strength, and improves mobility, as well as wards off childhood obesity.  

Terrific Two’s Fine Motor Skills include:

  • Developing wrist stability, as well as the small muscles and arches of the hand, by picking up small objects like cereal or feeding self with a spoon.
  • Beginning to use both hands at midline where one hand holds the object and the other hand manipulates it, such as opening containers and popping hand-shaping iwanna pixabaybeads.
  • Repeatedly “dumping” and “filling” cups or buckets to build wrist stability and grasping skills.
  • Beginning to use playdough or clay by rolling and shaping with help to build finger and hand strength.
  • Stacking blocks starting with large blocks and moving to one-inch to build grasping and visual-motor skills.

Gross Motor Skills include:

  • Walking forward, backward, and up steps.  It’s fun to try marching or Simon Says to make it interesting!
  • Walking down steps with both feet, one step at a time.
  • Running without holding on.
  • Kicking a ball.
  • Throwing a ball into a box.
  • Moving pedal-less riding toys.
  • Walking up and going down a slide.

Thunderous Three’s Fine Motor Skills include:

  • Stringing one inch beads.  Begin with pipe cleaners and move on to shoelaces.
  • Folding paper.  Try making easy Origami shapes with tissue paper, foil, or wrapping paper.
  • Building a tower of 6-9 blocks then making trains and bridges out of blocks.origami DevilsApricot pixabay
  • Snipping with scissors.  Start with play dough logs and work up to different types of papers, such as construction or plain bond.
  • Tracing and copying basic shapes with large crayons or sidewalk chalk.
  • “Painting” the house or wall with water using large strokes and brushes.
  • Creating easy pegboard designs with large or fat pegs.
  • Using glue to complete simple art projects such as a collage.

Gross Motor Skills include:

  • Walking a straight line.  Try using a jump rope or chalk line as a guide.
  • Walking upstairs with alternating feet.
  • Walking tip-toe for 10 steps.  Playing games like “Mother May I” is fun!
  • Balancing on each foot for 2-4 seconds.  Yoga poses work well for this activity.
  • Throwing a ball overhand.  Start with playground balls and move towards tennis balls.
  • Catching a 9-inch ball using both arms and the body for support.
  • Jumping up with both feet together in games like Jumping over sticks, ropes, or cones.
  • Hopping 1-2 times on one foot.  Dancing to music can be exhilarating!
  • Pushing and pulling a wagon or similar type object 10 feet.
  • Riding a tricycle.

Fearless Four’s Fine Motor Skills include:

  • Using a four-fingered grasp on hand tools such as large crayons or chalk.
  • Stringing ½ inch beads.
  • Completing simple puzzles, first those with peg handles and then moving on interlocking puzzles.puzzle Efraimstochter pixabay
  • Drawing simple designs using a circle or a square.  Paint, chalk, or shaving cream are excellent mediums!
  • Coloring a simple picture such as a house, an animal, or simple basic shapes.
  • Cutting on a straight line. Remember:  thumbs up for cutting!
  • Picking up small objects or toys like paper clips or small pegs with finger tips.

Gross Motor Skills include:

  • Walking down stairs using alternating feet.
  • Balancing on each foot for 4-6 seconds.
  • Completing a broad jump.
  • Hopping 5 times on one foot.
  • Galloping.

Fabulous Five’s Fine Motor Skills include:

  • Refining grasp (3 or 4 fingers) on tools such as pencils, crayons, or paintbrushes.
  • Cutting more precisely with scissors using pictures or designs with more intricate details.
  • Completing mazes and dot-to-dot activities.
  • Playing target games such as bean bags or velcro toss.
  • Using Magna Doodles, Etch-A-Sketch, or iPad apps for fine motor control.

Gross Motor Skills include:

  • Walking on a straight line using heel-toe action.  Try a balance beam or a line of tape on the floor!
  • Balancing on each foot for 8-10 seconds.
  • Catching a 9-inch ball with hands only.
  • Jumping backwards 6 times.  Try jumping rope!
  • Hopping on one foot 2-3 yards.
  • Skipping with alternating feet.
  • Hanging from bars using an overhand grip for 5 seconds.
  • Running and avoiding objects on an obstacle course.

Sensational Sixes’ Fine Motor Skills include:

  • Using a mature 3-fingered grasp for tool use on pencils or crayons.
  • Picking up and sorting small objects, such as coins, pegs, or marbles.large pegs alexas_Fotos Pixabay769283_1280
  • Using tweezers to pick up objects such as small blocks or play dough balls.
  • Using a paper punch to make designs and pictures.
  • Snapping fingers.
  • Using squeeze bottles to create art. Try colored water on the snow or driveway.
  • Sorting and turning over playing cards.

 

Gross Motor Skills Include:

  • Completing one full sit up and one push up.  Family work out time!
  • Carrying objects down stairs.
  • Beginning to ride a 2-wheeler with training wheels.
  • Learning to swim.
  • Throwing and catching softball-sized balls.
  • Climbing trees, pumping high on swings, crossing monkey bars, or participating in acrobatics or gymnastics.

 

Understanding each developmental stage will help you as a parent to support your child’s learning.  When you know what your child is capable of and what is developmentally appropriate, you can set realistic expectations for skills and behaviors.  If you are concerned about your child’s development, please consult with your healthcare provider for additional supports and services.  Your local school system can assist with services once your child turns 3 years old.  

 

Marie L. Toole, MS, OTR/ L, is a pediatric occupational therapist with 28 years experience in NICU, Early Intervention, and private practice with the last 20 years spent working in public schools. She is NBCOT and SIPT certified as well as a member of AOTA and NHOTA.  She lives in southern New Hampshire and can be reached at toolem@sau25.net.  Follow her on Twitter @MarieTooleOTNH, on Pinterest marietooleNHOT, and on School Tools for Pediatric Occupational Therapists  where she tweets, pins, and posts about OT, education, autism, and sensory integration, as well as other school related topics.

 

 Disclaimer: The information shared on the Go-To-For-OT Blog or affiliated Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest sites, and shared on social or public media or as links on other sites is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors and administrator of these posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.  
Photos are the property of the authors and administrator and are not to be used in any fashion except as links to the appropriate blog without the expressed, written permission of the author and/or administrator.
“School Tools” from your Pediatric Occupational Therapist – Tips for Typical Development