4 Tips for adding more movement into the school day

movement Peggy_Marco pixabay4 Tips for adding more movement into the school day

by Marie Toole, MS, OTR/L

on the School Tools From Your Pediatric   Occupational Therapist Blog

 

 

 

It’s February…and winter is digging in its heels!  The groundhog says spring is coming early…yet here in New Hampshire we just got 8 inches of snow!.  If you talk with any elementary school teacher the winter is never ending it seems!  Getting the kids ready for outdoor recess is dragging on…and sometimes it is too cold to go out.  What’s a teacher to do?  Well, its easy to add some sensory and movement experiences throughout the day.

 

 

battery charger bykst pixabay

 

Classroom Rechargers

 

In the elementary schools I work in, we have added sensory and movement experiences in a couple of unique ways.  A few years ago the physical education teachers and the occupational therapy staff collaborated on booklets we call “Classroom Rechargers.”  We compiled 20 activities for each grade level that classroom teachers can do with their entire classes, with little to no equipment and little space.  We made them developmentally appropriate for preschool through fourth grade.  Each grade level’s booklet is unique so students don’t use the same ones over and over as they progress through the grades.   Teachers use them frequently throughout the day, especially during transitions between subjects.

To access these booklets, click on the grade level that you are interested in:

Rechargers Grade 1

Rechargers Grade 2

Rechargers Grade 3

Rechargers Grade 4

Rechargers Grade 5

 

Sensory Therapeutic Exercise Programs (STEP)

You may have heard the term “sensory diet” used frequently.  Parents and staff alike seemed confused about that term so we now call it “Sensory Therapeutic Exercise Programs” or STEP programs.  We collaborate with the classroom teachers and use their existing schedule and transition times to add STEP activities for their students.  As they walk in the hallway to go to art class, the whole class may stop outside the art room and do wall push-ups.  Or maybe the kindergarten class walks like animals on their way to use the bathrooms.  As teachers finish math instruction and are moving into reading groups, many teachers will add a movement break to ease the transition.  You will see some of our students in the hallway using jump ropes or medicine balls.  We have many options for students to add sensory and movement experiences throughout their day.  All students need a break now and then.  One of their favorite STEP activities is “Go Noodle”  There are so many to choose from and the students love them!

Toole Feb BodySpell

 

STEP Camp

Another option we have for our students is Sensory or STEP Camp.  Each morning at the first bell when the rest of the students are lining up to come in from before-school recess, we have a small group of students come to the OT room for STEP camp.  We have created a monthly calendar for the school year and have designated 3 exercises each week to complete.  The students come in, drop their backpacks in the designated spot, and get to work completing the activities listed.  There are usually three activities, with two being heavy work type activities (such as Roman Soldiers, Cross Crawls, Jumping Jacks, Skier Jumps, or some other activity).  We always end with a breathing exercise.  We may use 6-sided breathing, Lazy 8 breathing, Hot Soup breathing from Zones of Regulation, or we may choose another breathing activity.  Initially, the OT staff walked them through each activity.  By this time in the school year, however, they are mostly independent in completing them on their own and we just supervise.  The students are then allowed to get a “mouth tool” (a piece of sugarless gum and drink of water) before going to class.  The students don’t miss any class time as this typically takes less than 5 minutes to complete.  Our students generally benefit from missing the hubbub around the coat and backpack hooks in that early morning rush; so this helps them to start their day in a more positive and calming way.

Toole Feb Bulletin Board 4
Click here for STEP Camp Calendars!

 

Session Warm-Ups

For those students who have direct occupational therapy services included in their IEP, we start each therapy session with warm-ups.  In our OT office, we have a bulletin board designed with choices for different warm-ups.  These warm-ups are generally closely tied to what the students will be learning in physical education class.  This gives them extra opportunities to practice skills that are typically harder for them.  Our students just completed a fitness unit in PE class.  In our OT sessions, we worked on crunches, planks, and long leg stretches as our warm-ups prior to our writing or “OT work” session.  Next month our students will be completing jump rope skills, so we have started introducing jump ropes into our therapy sessions.  Collaborating with the physical education teachers has been so helpful for all of our students.

 Bulletin Board 1

 

There is plenty of research out there that touts the benefit of adding more movement experiences to our students’ school day.  I am a big proponent of outdoor recess and activities that promote movement in school.  Childhood obesity is a very real and dangerous malady affecting many of our students.  Let’s do our part to help students get the physical exercise they need each day to be productive and engaged scholars!

 

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 site owners and their use should include the link provided to the contributor’s source.  

 

4 Tips for adding more movement into the school day

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