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Holiday Speech and Language Activities

Here are some examples of how a holiday tradition can be turned into a speech and language activity: blog-holiday-speech-main-landscape

Looking at Holiday Lights

  • For a younger child: Play a silly sentence game. Make a sentence about the light display but put in a nonsense word. See if your child can fix the silly mistake. For example, “The snowman is under the grass.” or “There is an elephant on the roof.” Then see if your child can make a silly sentence for you to correct.
  • For an older child: Create complex sentences. Challenge your child to use the conjunctions and or but to talk about the lights. For example, “The window has a wreath and the garage has a bow.” or “This house has only white lights, but that house has all different colored lights.”
  • For a child working on speech sounds: See if the child can find decorations containing their sounds. For example, if a child is working on /l/, they can practice saying blue lights, yellow lights, snow globe, soldier, and igloo.

Singing Holiday Songs

  • For a younger child: Work on rhyming by starting a well-known carol then substituting a non-rhyming word in place of a rhyming word. For example, “Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh. O’er the fields we go, laughing all the go.”
  • For an older child: Make inferences about song lyrics by asking your child why For example, “Why do you think Santa asked Rudolph to guide his sleigh?”
  • For a child working on speech sounds: Listen to a familiar song and have your child write down every word with their sound. Then go back and practice saying the words they wrote. For example, a child working on final /l/ can listen to “Chanukah, Oh Chanukah” and practice saying the words we’ll, all, while, and table.

Decorating the Christmas Tree

  • For a younger child: Teach directional concepts. Ask your child, “Should I put this ornament above the tinsel or below the tinsel?” or “Should I put the star on the top or on the bottom?” while showing them what each directional word means.
  • For the older child: Practice describing ornaments by word features. Have the child say the shape, size, color, material it’s made of, and parts. You can play a guessing game where the child describes clues about the ornament and you guess which one they are describing.
  • For a child working on speech sounds: Pick a word that has a child’s sound in it and have your child repeat the word while decorating the tree. For example, a child working on “ng” can say “hang” every time someone hangs an ornament. A child working on /r/ can say “wrap” a number of times while wrapping lights around the tree.

Making Holiday Crafts

  • For the younger child: Practice requesting. Provide your child with all necessary materials but leave one item out. Encourage them to make sure they have all the items they need and have them ask questions if they do not have everything.
  • For the older child: Work on narrative skills. Have the child pretend they are leading a how-to TV show. Have them use the words first, next, then, and last to give at least four steps. Build the craft yourself and see if the directions are clear enough to be followed and encourage your child to clarify communication breakdowns if needed.
  • For a child working on speech sounds: Create a phrase that the child must use for each part of the craft. For example, a child working on ch can say,” I chose the ____.” A child working on /g/ can say, “I got a ____.”

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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10 Festive Activities to Get Your Family in the Holiday Spirit

You’d have to be crazy to say you live in Chicago for the winters, but you’re not crazy to say you love the holiday season in the city. From light parades to ice skating rinks, there are plenty of blog-holiday-activities-2-main-landscapeholiday activities to help get your family feeling festive.

Here is a list of 10 holiday activities around the city for a classic Chicago holiday season:

  1. Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza. Christkindlmarket is an open-air, European holiday market in Daley Plaza featuring traditional art, handmade gifts, German foods, beer, hot spiced wine, choirs, and carolers. Free admission!
  2. The Great Tree at Macy’s Walnut Room. Expect to wait to get a table in the Walnut Room. You can see the Great Tree from the eighth floor of the store.
  3. Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park. ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo features millions of holiday lights, ice carvings, music, carousel rides, train rides, food, and gift shopping. Free entry.
  4. Ice Skating at Maggie Daley Park. Admission is free, but skate rental is $12 during the week and $14 on the weekend. The ice ribbon will be open through the first week of March.
  5. Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier. Festival Hall at Navy Pier becomes an indoor Winter WonderFest for the holidays, with music, carnival rides, and entertainment. Expect crowds. Free entry.
  6. Shopping on Michigan Avenue. View the festive lights, people watch the tourists and get some shopping done before stopping for a delicious holiday lunch at one of the city’s many restaurants in the area.
  7. A Christmas Carol. The Goodman Theatre’s annual holiday production of the Charles Dickens classic enters its 39th year with seasonal charm intact.
  8. Christmas Around the World. View more than 50 trees and displays at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas Around the World exhibit, a Chicago tradition since 1942. Each tree is decorated by volunteers from Chicago’s many communities, representing their diverse culture and holiday customs.
  9. Morton Arboretum Holiday Lights. Parents and children alike will love the 50 acres of vibrant LED lights that are hung on the Morton Arboretum’s vast treescape, creating a kaleidoscopic winter wonderland. This year’s “Illumination: Tree Lights” is wowing audiences already; it’s absolutely worth the drive out to Lisle.
  10. A Charlie Brown Christmas. With The Peanuts Movie introducing Charles M. Schulz’s characters to a new generation of kids, Emerald City Theatre and Broadway in Chicago bring the classic TV special about the true meaning of Christmas to the stage.

We wish you a happy holiday season and a happy new year!

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Activities to Help A Child with Low Tone

Muscle tone refers to the amount of tension present in a muscle. This is different than muscle strength, Low Tonewhich refers to the amount of power a muscle can generate. Low muscle tone means that the muscles are slow to activate and initiate movement, and have decreased endurance for sustaining contractions. A child with low tone may appear weak, floppy, and have poor posture.

If your child has low tone, here are some activities you can try at home:

  1. Yoga poses – Practice a variety of yoga poses each day. Superman pose and plank are good for developing core and upper extremity strength.
  2. Animal walks – Encourage your child to use animal walks around the house. These include bear walking, crab walking, and wheelbarrow walking.
  3. Lying on the belly – Whenever your child is playing a game on the floor, encourage them to play while lying on their stomach. This will support the development of back and neck strength.
  4. Carrying heavy items – Have your child help out around the house by carrying items that are heavy (but not too heavy!) such as a bag of groceries, a basket of laundry, or a watering pot. If it is too challenging for them to carry these items, try having them push them around the house instead.
  5. Climbing and swinging – Any activity that requires the child to lift both feet off the ground at the same time will help develop their core strength. This can include climbing a knotted rope or hanging by their arms from a trapeze swing while kicking a ball.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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5 Reasons Free-Time is a Good Thing

Free-time is a good thing. Parents spend a lot of time encouraging their children to participate in recreational activities during the school year. There is nothing wrong with having your child participate in different activities and helping them to figure out what they are passionate about; however, over-scheduling your child with too many activities can often lead to increased stress in children and their parents. It is important for parents to be cautious about how much they are scheduling their children and to encourage more free time.

Here are 5 reasons why it is important not to over-schedule your child:KidsFreeTimeFall

  1. Over-scheduling can create increased stress and anxiety for both parents and children. Over the last several years there has been an increase in anxiety related disorders due to the stressors involved with over-scheduling.
  2. It creates less time for children to complete their homework and can cause them to have less sleep at night due to staying up later to complete their homework.
  3. It decreases the amount of quality time a children can spend with their family.
  4. Over-scheduling can cause a child to have less time for free-time and with you. Quality time doing imaginative play with your child is important in order to encourage creativity and to help develop independence in children.
  5. It can also cause children to have difficulty maintaining with peers due to not having enough free time to spend with them and to build their relationships.


 Is over-scheduling or homework creating stress? Read here for 8 Tips to Ease Homework Time Stress.




How To Make a Weighted Animal

Here at North Shore Pediatric Therapy, we utilize weighted objects for a countless number of activities. They can be used as a self-regulation strategy, providing deep proprioceptive input to your child’s muscles and joints.  Various weighted materials, including vests, belts, blankets, wrist-weights and ankle-weights, are utilized in the clinic multiple times throughout the sock puppetsday. For all of you crafty parents, as well as those who (like me) are “creatively challenged,” below are some DIY instructions to follow so that you can create your very own, personalized weighted animal.

4 Steps To Create Your Very Own Weighted Animal:

Step 1: Find an old knee-high sock. You can choose a sock that is your child’s favorite color or has their favorite cartoon characters on it.
Step 2: Fill the sock with a grainy material, such as rice or sand. Put enough rice in your sock so it is four-fifths of the way full. Tie the open end of the sock closed. There should be enough rice in the sock so when it is draped across your child’s shoulders, it droops down onto their chest. This activity has the added benefit of incorporating direction-following and tactile play into your daily routine.
Step 3: Finally, decorate the sock with “googley eyes” and markers. The sky is the limit as far as whether your sock animal has polka-dots, stripes, zig-zags or checkers.
Step 4: Kick back and relax with your very own personalized weighted animal.

These strategies can be utilized when your child is feeling frustrated or having a difficult time organizing their thoughts. Your child’s weighted animal can also be used for strengthening. When at home, have your child carry the animal around the house or encourage them to sustain various Yoga poses while holding their animal friend. The added resistance while sustaining these poses will only help build muscle strength and improve motor planning. Whether your weighted animal is used as a self-regulation strategy or a strengthening tool, it is up to you and your child’s interests. In either case, creating the animal is a wonderful craft to save for a rainy day and a great way to get the whole family involved. Make one, make two or make a whole zoo of weighted animals. Your child’s new friend is sure to be a hit and cherished companion for years to come.

Why Can’t my Child Sit Still? Strategies for the Overly-Active Child

Does your child seem to be constantly on the move or just can’t seem to sit still? This is a common concern that parents have of their wild child children as they are worried that this behavior can affect their child’s ability to pay attention in school, play appropriately with other children and participate at mealtime and homework time at home. Children who seem like they can’t sit still or can’t keep their hands to themselves may have a sensory processing issue and/or low muscle tone. Muscle tone is the amount of stretch muscles have at rest. Muscle tone cannot be changed, but the good news is that there are many strategies that can be used to increase their ability to sit still. It is easier for children with low muscle tone to move around than to sit still. When children move around, they are using more muscle groups and do not have to contract the muscles for an extended period of time; however, sitting still requires an individual to contract their muscles for an extended period of time therefore, children who have low muscle tone may not have the endurance to contract their muscles for very long.

Below are some strategies that will help your child sit still in order to maximize their educational potential:

  • Use a Move-N-Sit (AKA disco-sit) cushion. This is a rubber disc that is placed on the child’s chair. The rubber disc allows a child
    to move around in their seat. This will decrease the need to get up and move from his or her seat.
  • Participate in heavy work activities prior to sitting. Examples of heavy work include: erasing the blackboard, moving his or her chair or desk or carrying books back to the library. Heavy work provides a lot of input to a child’s muscles and joints, which can be very calming and regulating for the nervous system.
  • Allow the child to have frequent movement breaks. This will give him or her an outlet to exert the energy they have and get the movement they seek. By allowing your child to take short frequent breaks, they will only have to stay in once place for shorter periods of time until their next break.
  • Have him or her chew bubble gum or suck on hard candy. This is an example of an oral sensory strategy. Putting things in the mouth provides a lot of proprioceptive input to your mouth and jaw. This can sometimes substitute the need to physically move around which, in turn, allows the child to focus more on the task at hand.
  • Use a fidget toy. A child may be able to get the movement he or she seeks by playing with a small toy with their hands, such as a koosh ball or stress ball, without taking away from their own learning experience. It should be noted that a fidget toy is a privilege and should be taken away if it becomes disruptive.
  • Implement a strengthening program. Doing wall push-ups, sit-ups and Super-mans (laying on your stomach with your arms and legs elevated from the ground) can increase a child’s muscle strength. Since muscle tone cannot be changed, it is important to improve their strength. Speak with your doctor or a health professional in order to implement a safe and individualized exercise program for your child.
  • These are just some of the many ways that can improve your child’s ability to sit still in class or at home for extended periods of time. These strategies can give your child the opportunity to make the most of their educational experience and succeed at school!

Click here to learn more about Sensory Processing Disorder

Common Household Materials for Tactile Exploration and Learning

At times, the best source of entertainment can be found in the simplest materials! Use these readily available household items for a child playing with ricerich tactile sensory and learning experience right at home.

Common Household Materials for Tactile Exploration and Learning:

  • Beans or Rice tubs- Find buried treasures hidden within! Fill a small container that can be used more than once and add fun treasures for you child to dig for. These items can include creepy crawlers, toy cars or action figures. In addition, while playing games with small pieces, have you child find them in the bean or rice bin. The textures of the rice and/or beans provide different textures for you child to explore.
  • Shaving cream– Use shaving cream on a mirror, table, the bathtub or anywhere else that can be easily be wiped clean. Kids can simply explore their tactile sense by covering their hands with this fluffy foam. They can also spread a thin layer over a flat surface and practice their pre-writing or writing, For example, have your child draw pictures….like Pictionary!
  • “Goo”– Mix cornstarch, water and food coloring in a bowl and mix ingredients together. This slimy substance will feel dry when it is squeezed, but then drips through your fingers.
  • Hair Gel– Put colored hair gel in a secure plastic freezer bag, add tape over the zipper for extra protection. Kids can use their finger to draw letters, shapes and designs.
  • Paint– Ditch the brushes and have fun with finger paint! Create an extra challenge by painting on a vertical surface, such as an easel or on paper attached to the wall. Performing any tasks on a vertical plane can improve shoulder stability. It can also provide the needed support for your child’s handwriting and fine motor control. Touching the paint with your hands provides the tactile input and also promotes body awareness.
  • Art Dough– In a bowl, mix together 4 cups of flour, 1 cup of iodized salt and 1 ¾ cups of warm water. Have your child knead this mixture for about 10 minutes. Mold the clay with your child…the possibilities are endless! Once the creation is perfected, bake at 300 degrees until hard and let it air dry for a few days. Once dry, these can be painted or decorated. The activity also improves hand strength as well as provide tactile input.

Overall, these are quick, fun and easy activities that not only provide your child with a rich sensory experience, but they all address many other areas of development! Other areas that are addressed include, but are not limited to, fine motor coordination, motor planning, should stability and visual motor skills. Please consult a occupational therapist for additional information or more tactile activities. Happy exploring!

Incorporating Balance into Your Child’s Before-School Routine

boy balancing on floorBalance, like many things, will only get better with practice and through challenging the balance systems. However, it can be hard to find time after school to work on balance activities when kids already have mountains of homework to keep up with. It can also be difficult to make balance exercises fun and enjoyable for kids.

In order to work on balance skills while saving time and keeping it interesting, here is a list of 5 balance activities that can easily be incorporated into your child’s before-school routine:

  1. Put pants, shoes, and socks on while standing up-This will require your child to stand on one leg while using her arms to don the clothing.
  2. Sit in ‘tall kneeling’ (sitting on knees with hips straight and knees kept at a 90 degree angle) while packing up the backpack-Sitting in the tall kneeling position narrows your child’s base of support, making it harder for her to maintain her balance. This posture also helps to strengthen her hip muscles, which are an important part of keeping her stable in positions that are challenging for her balance.
  3. Sit on a pillow while having breakfast-The pillow serves as an unstable surface, so your child will have to work hard to balance while sitting on it. This is a great way to work on core strength as well.
  4. Walk heel-to-toe on the way to the bus stop-Narrowing the base of support by walking heel to toe will challenge your child’s balance  and help improve her balance when she performs dynamic movements such as running or walking.
  5. Brush teeth with eyes closed-Vision is a big component of balancing, and when you close your eyes you are no longer able to rely on that sense to balance. Your body instead will have to use its vestibular and proprioceptive systems to keep steady.

It is going to be important to supervise your child when beginning these balance activities, as they may be hard at first. If you have significant concerns about your child’s balance with daily activities or if you have balance-related safety concerns, you can contact an occupational or physical therapist at North Shore Pediatric Therapy. To find out more about the vestibular system read our blog To find out more about the proprioceptive system read our blog

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How Does Play Help Meet a Child’s Therapy Goals?

Occupational therapists often use play as a means of helping achieve our clients’ goals. Many times, it may not look like our sessions are working on your child’s areas of need; however, when we are working with children, we often try to adapt play activities in order to help your child meet his goals. Play is a very motivating activity for a child to engage in with the therapist and work on some of his goals. Play may also mask the fact that children are working on a difficult skill by introducing fun into the activity. For example, if one of the child’s goals is to improve his handwriting skills, you could play a game that involves writing, such as Boggle, Scattergories, or crossword puzzles.

Therapist and child at Gym

Here are some play activities that OT’s use to help your child meet his goals:

  1. If your child needs to work on balance and coordination, we may play basketball while standing on top of a bosu ball (imagine standing on the rounded part of a ball cut in half).
  2. A child who needs to work on core and upper extremity strength could meet these goals by playing a game while lying on his stomach over a therapy ball, while balancing with his arms on the ground.
  3. In order to improve self-regulation for a child who has sensory concerns, we may start our session by playing on the gym equipment in order to help regulate his nervous system.
  4. To work on bilateral coordination and fine motor skills with a child who does not like drawing, we often use play-doh and have him trace shapes and cut them out with scissors.
  5. Another way to work on gross motor coordination is to practice climbing a rock wall, climbing a ladder, or swinging on the monkey bars.

Sometimes, however, it may be difficult to adapt the activity and make it fun for the child. In this case, the therapist may have the child participate in an activity to work on the skills he needs to improve, but use a play activity as a reward.  From the first example in which the child’s goal is to improve handwriting, the child may still not want to play the games that involve handwriting. Then, the therapist may tell the child that after handwriting, he can do an activity of his choice.

Hopefully, this blog provides a bit more insight into the therapist’s mindset while working with your child. The therapist is constantly thinking and problem solving about how to make an activity therapeutic and how to make it easier or harder based on the child’s ability to succeed at the tasks. If the therapist is successful, the child will not even realize the activities are working on their areas of need and will want to come to therapy every session!

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Physical Activities to Get your Child Moving | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric physical therapist will explain creative ways to help your child get up and get active!

In this video you will learn:

  • What indoor games are best for encouraging physical activity with your child
  • What outdoor activities increase muscular activity
  • What gaming system is best for enhancing your child’s activity

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now you’re host, here’s
Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host Robyn
Ackerman, and today I’m standing here with Leida Van Oss, a
pediatric physical therapist. Leida, can you tell us some
physical activities that we can use to get our children
moving?

Leida: Sure. When you want to get your kid moving and active, it’s
really important that it’s something that’s fun to them. So
if they’re really interested in doing board games, there
are a couple different board games you can do, such as
Hullabaloo or I Can Do That by Cat in the Hat or Twister.
If they like to go outdoors, then do something like a
sport, like swimming or soccer, or if there’s snow on the
ground, you can build forts or go sledding. But it’s really
important to pick something that they’re going to be
interested in so that they get really active.

If they really like video games, there are a lot of good active video
games you can do, especially with the new system, the
Kinect. Things like Just Dance or Dance, Dance Revolution
are all really good games that incorporate the video game
aspect with being really active.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much for those tips, and thank
you to our viewers, and remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of
mind to your family with the best in educational
programming. To subscribe to our broadcast, read our blogs,
or learn more, visit our website at LearnMore.me. That’s
LearnMore.me.