Promoting Calmness

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Summertime is redolent with scents that will bring forth memories years from now. The smell of a family cookout, watermelon and freshly cut grass will linger in a child’s mind as they make emotional connections which can be triggered years later. The sense of smell, also known as olfactory, can readily alter a child’s mood. Lavender can help your child relax and be calm. Here are a few ways lavender can be used to promote a calming sensation:

  • Lavender scented lotions are an easy way to introduce the scent to baby and older children. Massage a small amount on their arms and legs after a warm bath to help your child unwind. This mild pressure from touch also promotes relaxation before bed.
  • Dried lavender can be placed in a muslin bag and sewn shut to keep it in. Your child will enjoy holding and smelling the bag during story time. Dried lavender can also be mixed with dried lentils and made into an eye pillow for relaxation while you tell or read your child a story. Take the time to teach your child how to breathe in deeply and exhale to further the relaxation response.
  • A few drops of lavender essential oil can also be added to a diffuser. Turn down the lights and play soothing music such as piano or lullabies for a peaceful atmosphere.
  • Make your own play dough and add a few drops of lavender. Squeezing the dough is a stress buster and helps generate a sense of calm.

Setting time aside to teach your child how to be calm and relaxed with scents like lavender creates long-lasting memories by tapping into this powerful sense of smell. Enjoy and take a moment to relax yourself!

Lisa Cummings OTR/L
Director of Fun, Co-Founder & Mom of Four
Pediatric Occupational Therapist
Sensory Integration and Praxis Test Certified (SIPT)
Each HOOT for Kids blog represents our point of view but should not replace diagnosis and treatment from your own doctor or therapist

Playtime with a Purpose

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The early stages of a child’s life are some of the most impactful years, especially for development. Studies show that most American children typically spend up to seven hours a day in front of a screen, which causes a child to be inactive for a huge part of their day. Encouraging purpose-driven play with children can help build their developmental learning and tune up those fine motor skills. HOOT for Kids gives a few fun and exciting ways on how to put a purpose behind everyday playtime activities.

Active Play
Activities such as pushing, pulling, jump roping, climbing and ball skills strengthen the large muscle groups. Build an obstacle course, grab a ball or see who can jump the highest on a trampoline. Active play challenges balance and coordination, improves strength and endurance and allows your child to develop body awareness. So grab a ball, Hula Hoop and a Frisbee and head outdoors!

Follow that Light!
Parents can bring a new meaning to the game of tag by turning down the lights and playing flashlight tag!  Turn the lights down and shine a flashlight at the wall in a random pattern by moving the light up and down, side to side and in loops. This fun activity encourages eye-tracking skills by following the light as it moves in all different directions. The older child will enjoy trying the same activity without moving their head as they follow that light.

Mirror Mirror…
These fun games help strengthen lips and promote awareness of the face.  Activities such as blowing through a straw to see if your child can move a small piece of tissue forward, blow bubbles or play an imitative game of “Do what I do” with your tongue in front of a mirror: “stick out your tongue,” “move it side to side” and “all around the lips.” Bring out a variety of horns, whistles and harmonicas. Older children can learn to whistle and blow up balloons.

Get Messy with Playdough
Get messy and stock up on the playdough! Children can strengthen fine motor muscles while having fun. Use dry stamps to press in dough or push in small pegs for them to discover and retrieve.  The older child will enjoy rolling it out with both hands to resemble a snake and cutting it into small pieces by snipping. This also provides valuable sensory input and sparks creativity for pretend play.

Not only is purposeful play instrumental in early child development, but it also gives them ways to stay active and creative. For more ways to incorporate purposeful play, be sure to follow HOOT for Kids on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Now get out there and have some fun!

Lisa Cummings OTR/L
Director of Fun, Co-Founder & Mother of Four
Pediatric Occupational Therapist
Sensory Integration and Praxis Test Certified (SIPT)

Each HOOT for Kids blog represents our point of view but should not replace diagnosis and treatment from your own doctor or therapist.

Splash Into Summer with HOOT for Kids

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Summertime is here—that means it’s time to get your child’s hands messy! Incorporating sensory development into your child’s playtime has many benefits and makes for an all-around good time. If you are stumped on how to infuse fun into their summer days, we’ve dreamt up some clever ideas to ensure your child is having fun while also developing their sensory skills. HOOT for Kids has a few helpful ways to get your child outside and immersed in their surroundings!

  • Sand play is a great way to engage your child’s sense of touch and gives them the ability to practice hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Don’t live near a beach? Bring the beach to you and create a sandbox in your backyard. There is no wrong way to play with sand so dig, scoop, sculpt and pour away!
  • On hot summer days, water play is the way to go! This type of play can activate a child’s curiosity, imagination and experimentation. Whether your child is splashing around in the pool with you or enjoying bath time with you and their favorite toys, water play allows them to freely explore their creative side.  
  • Bring on the mess! Don’t be afraid to let your child get their hands dirty this summer. Whether it’s finger painting, playing in the mud or making soap foam bubbles, your child has endless opportunities to engage their visual and touch senses. These activities can spark creativity and foster a fun learning environment for your child.

Sensory processing skills are directly linked to your child’s motor, cognitive, social and emotional growth. It is important to make sure that children are getting the most out of play time. In addition, purpose-driven play promotes focus and attention to task which helps improve a child’s concentration. Have some fun this summer and give your child the tools they need to promote sensory driven play while developing their own sense of creativity and imagination.

For more ways to incorporate sensory development into your summertime play this year and share how you’re playing this summer, be sure to follow HOOT for Kids on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and use #hootforkids.

Lisa Cummings OTR/L
Director of Fun, Co-Founder & Mother of Four
Pediatric Occupational Therapist
Sensory Integration and Praxis Test Certified (SIPT)

Each HOOT for Kids blog represents our point of view but should not replace diagnosis and treatment from your own doctor or therapist.

The Art of Slowing Down

As parents, life can become hectic fast–trying to get your child ready in the morning or keeping your household in order can end up in a whirlwind of chaos. While it’s easy to talk about “slowing down” and taking a break, this is often easier said than done. Engineering a family slowdown can take work, but here are some simple ways to practice the “art of slowing down” that are sure to get you inspired:

Move Activities Outside of the House

Not sure what to do with the family tonight? Escape outside! Make a habit of having a weekly family date by going on a walk together, heading to the park, riding bikes or even having a picnic! With the HOOT for Kids activity guide that comes in your Treasure Box, we share tips on how to use toys that have been carefully curated just for your child. Shake things up by moving these activities outside and in a different setting!

Make a Meal Together

Have everyone pitch in when it comes to dinner time! Have your child set the table, wash vegetables or even help to measure out ingredients. You’ll not only spend time with one another, but you’ll share the satisfaction of having worked together in creating a delicious meal. In addition, sitting down together and sharing a meal helps to build stronger bonds as a family.

Turn Off the Technology

Turning off the TV or computer and encouraging your family to bond in other ways may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Start by cutting back 30 minutes and going from there, introducing a fun activity like baking together or implementing game night so that your family isn’t missing that time in front of the tube.

Make Bath Time Special

Splish, splash – turn bath time into a fun activity for you both! Use bubbles, foam soap, toys and water-based activities to bring excitement to an otherwise dreaded chore while also working on fine motor skills. Look forward to bath time and use this as an opportunity to bring both you and your little one closer together.

Starting with small changes each and every day will not only help you slow down, but will help you bond with your family and bring you closer together. Set out to try at least one of these recommendations or come up with your own! For more tips on how to take time out of your day and slow down, follow HOOT for Kids on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Now take a deep breath and go enjoy a good old cuddle session with your family!

Lisa Cummings OTR/L
Director of Fun, Co-Founder & Mother of Four
Pediatric Occupational Therapist
Sensory Integration and Praxis Test Certified (SIPT)

Each HOOT for Kids blog represents our point of view but should not replace diagnosis and treatment from your own doctor or therapist.

Inspiring Imaginary Play

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Your child’s primary occupation is to play so naturally they will begin to explore pretend play as their solitary play becomes more sophisticated. Provide your child with props, puppets, and ordinary household items along with their already existing figurines/stuffed animals to set the stage for imaginary play. Through pretend play your child will explore who they are and the many uses of ordinary things. They will exercise their physical abilities, social skills, emotional maturity and sense of humor.

  • Encourage pretend play while using play dough! Bring out the baking tins, pegs for candles, or marbles for chocolate chips. Decorated cupcake papers or felt crowns can be placed on each (stuffed animal) guest as a party hat. Have your child dress up for the occasion—the more outrageous, the better! Complete the scene with party horns and balloons to make the event even more realistic.
  • Pretend play encourages creativity and role playing. It also gives your child an opportunity to rehearse social skills while building self-confidence. Allow them to be the host at dinner time and have them seat the family. They can put on a chef’s hat and announce what is on the menu as the food is being brought to the table.
  • Props for imaginary play do not have to be expensive or complicated to be beneficial. Simply pull out the pots and pans, empty boxes, spools of thread, paper bags and noise makers. Shredded paper, Easter grass and cotton balls will add to the fun. Play along with your child to get them started. Pick a theme and go with it!

Pretend play is a vital component of your child’s development. Enjoy watching this aspect unfold in your child!

Lisa Director of Fun, Co-Founder & Mother of Four Registered Licensed Occupational Therapist (OTR/L) Sensory Integration and Praxis Test Certified (SIPT)

Each HOOT for Kids blog represents our point of view but should not replace diagnosis and treatment from your own doctor or therapist. Be sure to provide supervision with small parts.

Sensational Doughs

Homemade playdough recipes offer your child a host of benefits as it awakens the senses and strengthens fine motor skills all at once. So dive in for some creative play and for the additional therapeutic benefit of hand strengthening, bilateral coordination and in hand manipulation!

Here’s a simple homemade playdough recipe: 1 cup boiling water, 1 cup flour, ¼ cup salt, 2 tbsp cream of tartar, food coloring. You can add scented items like pumpkin spice, lemon extract, instant fruit drink crystals, or even cocoa powder!

Hand Strengthening: Whether your child is squishing dough between their fingers, smashing it with the sides of their hands and squeezing it with all their might, the resistance is building and refining muscles of the hand. This is a great way to help build endurance for holding scissors, coloring and writing.

Bilateral Coordination/Specialization: Hand dominance becomes more apparent as your child transitions from toddler to preschool. Provide tools that encourage both hands and a single hand for specialization. Have your child use dry rubber stamps, pegs, scissors and kitchen utensils for safe exploration.

Pre-writing Skills:  Have you child roll out “snake” pieces of various lengths and watch as your child forms shapes, letters, numbers or creates their very own designs and pictures. Flatten out playdough like a pancake and create a resistive surface to practice letters and shapes using fingers, chop sticks or unsharpened pencils.

Better yet, join in on the fun and create your own letters and shapes with your child. Nothing helps relieve the everyday busyness of the day like having a good case of the giggles while playing. Enjoy!

 

Lisa Director of Fun, Co-Founder & Mother of Four Registered Licensed Occupational Therapist (OTR/L) Sensory Integration and Praxis Test Certified (SIPT)

Each HOOT for Kids blog represents our point of view but should not replace diagnosis and treatment from your own doctor or therapist

Giving a Hand with Handwriting

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Handwriting skills are strengthened by pre-handwriting activities such as cutting, pasting, drawing and squeezing. Making cookies in the kitchen is a great way of working on the grip needed to hold the pencil correctly! Making Valentine’s Day cards is also beneficial in developing the hand arches needed for your child to maintain that pencil grip for letter formation. Once the pencil is in hand, here are a few pointers to get a grip on handwriting early on:

  • Having your child recognize their letters and numbers before actually writing them will help them confidently work on their handwriting.
  • If your child seems to hold their pencil awkwardly, offer pinch size crayons by snapping a crayon in thirds to help strengthen their grasp on occasion. There are a fun variety of shaped crayons—from eggs to stars—that will enable the younger child to strengthen the finger muscles. Rather than try to correct the grasp, try a large molded grip which will allow your child to get the grip they need.

 

  • When forming letters be sure to instill correct directionality. All uppercase letters start at the top and follow a progression from top to bottom and left to right.
  • Try other creative ways of encouraging correct letter and number formation in sand trays, shaving cream and sidewalk chalk on larger surfaces before moving onto a printed line.
  • Try air writing by demonstrating the letters using the whole arm and pointing the index finger as though writing on a large sheet of paper suspended in front of you.

Good handwriting skills early on will ensure success later on in school. And those tasty Valentine’s cookies you made together? They are a nice way to treat your child for a job well done when practicing their letters!

Lisa
Director of Fun, Co-Founder & Mother of Four
Registered Licensed Occupational Therapist (OTR/L)
Sensory Integration and Praxis Test Certified (SIPT)

Each HOOT for Kids blog represents our point of view but should not replace diagnosis and treatment from your own doctor or therapist

Musical Motor Fun!

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Children naturally love music and even the littlest one will bounce along to a song. So turn up the tunes and grab the shakers, tambourines and noise makers and have your child join in on the fun. Musical instruments encourage motor skills, creativity and depending upon the tempo they can be either calming or energizing. What better way to have fun in 2017 with a bang…or a beat!

  • Drums, xylophones, piano and flutes all encourage bilateral skills, the ability to use both hands together. Even if it sounds like a cacophony let the symphony begin! Even toddlers can join in on the fun with a shaker in each hand or they can clap along.
  • Slower paced music with a consistent and predictable rhythm will have a calming effect on the system. Music that is quick paced and more upbeat will have an alerting effect and this facilitates action/movement.
  • Just as it’s more fun to work out to music, encourage your child to get off the couch for some music and dance as an exciting way to exercise! Have your child turn around, jump up and down and rock side to side to the beat. Have your child dance to the “Hokey Pokey” or sing “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” slowly at first so your child can keep up. For older children speed it up or make up your own words as you move along.

Remember to capture these great family moments and join in on the fun too!

Lisa
Director of Fun, Co-Founder & Mother of Four
Registered Licensed Occupational Therapist (OTR/L)
Sensory Integration and Praxis Test Certified (SIPT)

Each HOOT for Kids blog represents our point of view but should not replace diagnosis and treatment from your own doctor or therapist

Spread the Fun: Angels in the Snow!

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Bilateral coordination involves the ability to use both sides of the body together in a coordinated manner. This skill is called upon when catching a ball, riding a bike and jumping rope. Another great activity to develop this skill is having your child make “angels in the snow.” Even if you do not live where it snows, it can be performed indoors on the floor with cotton fill.  This activity can be adapted to both older and younger children. Here is how to get your child in the fun!

  • Have your child lay flat on the ground with their arms and legs together so their body is perfectly straight. Have your child begin by opening just their legs in a rhythmic fashion.
  • Move onto to just the arms which tends to be a bit trickier—have them raise their arms up overhead while maintaining contact with the surface.
  • Put it together now with the arms and legs opening in unison forming angels in the snow!
  • For the older child let the challenge begin: try to see if they can do one arm and leg on the same side or alternate left and right. For the younger child, challenge them to spread open their legs and close them only, then open their arms and repeat legs/arms/legs/arms.

Blog 9 revised photo

Join in on the fun alongside your child who may find it easier imitating movements through demonstration. Enjoy coordinating your movements together to make a “family” of angels to resemble your own family!

Lisa
Director of Fun, Co-Founder & Mother of Four
Registered Licensed Occupational Therapist (OTR/L)
Sensory Integration and Praxis Test Certified (SIPT)

Each HOOT for Kids blog represents our point of view but should not replace diagnosis and treatment from your own doctor or therapist

Creating Long-lasting Holiday Memories

The holiday season is in full swing and with children in the home, it’s always a flurry of excitement. Selecting a tree! The presents! The lights! Traditions are in the making with every bulb hung, every cookie made and every song sung; these moments create treasured memories. Enjoy these moments and engage your little one in the holiday festivities:

  • Have your child hang plush ornaments towards the bottom of the tree. Using a pipe-cleaner to hang the ornament is safe and easy for your child to handle. Take a moment to recognize their achievement and contribution—this builds close relations, a strong sense of belonging and boosts their self-esteem.

Blog 8 Lori and Connor Holiday Socks

  • Have your child color a wooden ornament with markers, crayons or paint. Adorn the tree or hang throughout your home where your child will see it easily! Or get fun holiday socks and have them color them in with fabric markers.
  • Turn up traditional holiday tunes as your child helps out in the kitchen. Provide child sized baking mitts, small cookie sheets and child-friendly plates to go through the motions of baking. With their own small rolling pins and spatulas they can partake in the finishing touches while working fine motor skills. Even the youngest child can be present handing you supplies and hand towels as needed.
  • Folding napkins or placing them in ring holders is a great way to help at the table. Have your child assist in a holiday bouquet for the table.
  • Homemade holiday and thank you cards can be created from one of their festive drawings. Top it off with holiday stickers for friends and family to treasure their creations.

From our family to yours, Happy Holidays!

Lisa
Director of Fun, Co-Founder & Mother of Four
Registered Licensed Occupational Therapist (OTR/L)
Sensory Integration and Praxis Test Certified (SIPT)

Each HOOT for Kids blog represents our point of view but should not replace diagnosis and treatment from your own doctor or therapist

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