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Sit Back, Relax, and Enjoy Your Very Own Body Pillow

Throughout the clinic, the options are endless as far as games to play, equipment to climb, and toys to use. With all the available choices, onebody pillow item continues to be a favorite of children of all ages and interests: the body pillow. For all of you craft-loving parents, as well as those (like me) who are “creatively challenged,” here are DIY instructions for creating your very own, personalized body pillow.

Step 1: Cut a large foam block into tons of little pieces varying in shape and size. Most pieces should be about four inches in diameter. Set these pieces aside for later.

Step 2: Next, choose a simple twin-sized duvet cover. Fill this cover with the foam pieces as full as you see fit. This will create the body of the pillow. Some kids prefer the pillows to be overflowing with foam pieces so that they can sit high up on top, while others prefer to sink into the crevices of a pillow that is less full. Once the foam is in the cover, secure it tightly by using the buttons and by tying the ends into knots.

Step 3: Once the body of the pillow is filled to your child’s preference and tightly secured, slip it into a second duvet cover. This is where you can add a personal touch by choosing a fabric that is your child’s favorite color, has her favorite movie character, or matches the interior decoration scheme in her room. Once again, make sure this casing is secured tightly to prevent the foam from escaping. A second cover also gives you the opportunity to wash the outermost layer of your new pillow without emptying the foam.

Step 4: Kick back and relax on your very own personalized body pillow.

Here at NSPT, we use the encapsulating body pillows for an endless amount of activities. At home, you can use the new comfort havens in a quiet place where your child can go to be by herself, calm down after an argument, or read a book.  She may feel a sense of comfort and ownership if she has a safe place that is designated as her own. The pillow can also be used for various activities that can provide your child with deep proprioceptive input to help her self-regulate. In the clinic, for example, we frequently use the pillow to help us create “Kiddo Sandwiches.” In this activity, the children lay on a soft surface under the pillow while their therapist “squishes” their bodies with quick and rhythmic pushes on the pillow. Kids really get into this activity and frequently tell their therapist what ingredient should be squished into their body sandwich next (e.g., cheese, turkey, or mustard).

Whether you use the pillow as a place to lounge, a self-regulation tool, or just a cool piece of furniture, it is sure to become a family favorite in no time. This is a great craft to save for a rainy day and a great one to get the whole family involved.

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Speech Delays and Talkative Older Siblings

Older sibling with younger siblingA parent recently asked me what to do when her child’s older sibling constantly answers for him.  While it’s caring that the older sibling wants to help his little brother, it’s also very important for each child to have his own space to learn and develop, try new things, and make mistakes.  So how can parents help?

What to do when an older sibling compensates for a child with speech and language difficulties:

  • Talk to the older sibling alone. Instead of being reactive, be proactive by talking to your older child about his younger sibling’s needs.  Teach him that it takes time to learn how to talk, and he can help his younger sibling talk by giving him space to try on his own.
  • Use positive language. Instead of telling older siblings what they can’t do, tell them what they can do.  For example, “You can help Jonny talk by being a good listener,” or, “You can be a helpful big brother by letting other people have a turn to talk.”
  • Teach older siblings alternative ways to be a helper. Praise your older child for wanting to help his younger sibling, and then offer him other ways to help. For example, he can help his younger sibling by being a good listener, by giving him time to finish his ideas, and by saying encouraging things (such as, “good job!” or, “thanks for sharing your idea!”).
  • Emphasize “talking turns” between family members.  It’s important for all children to learn conversation rules early on, which includes learning about listening, interruptions, and waiting for a turn to talk.  This can certainly be hard for young kids.  To help, emphasize “talking-turns.”  (“It’s Jonny’s turn to talk. Next will be your turn to talk.”)  You might even use a tangible object, such as a toy microphone, ball, or teddy bear, to pass back and forth when it’s each person’s turn.
  • Play games as a family that promote turn-taking.  You might take turns with a toy by passing it back and forth, play catch with a ball, or play a board game that involves turn-taking, such as Barn Yard Bingo, Candy Land, or Zingo.
  • Encourage active listening. Teach family members what it means to be a good listener. Use concrete examples such as, “You can listen by looking at the person who is talking,” or, “When you are listening, your mouth is quiet.”
  • Set aside one-on-one time for each sibling to play with a parent alone. Language development is enhanced through modeling, practice, and play with caregivers.  To make sure your child is receiving language-rich opportunities, set aside 15-20 minutes each day to play one-on-one with your child.
  • Praise the things that are going well. When you notice positive behavior, reinforce your child right away using very specific language.  For example, “Wow! You let Jonny have a turn to talk. You are a very good big brother when you let other people have a turn to talk.”

By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, you can help your children develop healthier communication habits.  Older siblings have a special role as a “big brother” or “big sister.”  By teaching them about their special role, you can encourage your kids to feel more positive about helping their younger siblings. For more ideas about how to incorporate siblings into your child’s speech and language development, visit the blog, Encouraging Siblings to Help With Speech & Language Practice.

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Monkey Bar Mania

It is time. Lunch is over and the weather is finally allowing our children to break free of their heavy winter coats and boots to enjoy the warm, fresh, and invigorating air on the playground. Antsy children struggle to contain their excitement as they take their final steps to the great outdoors- slides,Little girl climbing on monkey bars teeter-totters, swings, and kickball fields galore. Only the bravest of the brave dare take on the tall metal intimidators commonly known as the monkey bars.

Monkey bar climbing has been right of passage for children all across the playground. Conquering their cold frames take time, practice, and determination. Here are the developmental steps to achieving the ultimate goal: swinging from one end to the other without touching the ground as our ape-like friends seem to do so effortlessly.

  1. First, ask your child to reach for the monkey bars and let their feet dangle. Cheer them on and encourage them to hang on as long as they can. This will help them to strengthen the muscles in their hands and upper body.
  2. Next, encourage them to swing their legs back and forward while maintaining their tight hold on the bar. This swinging will in turn, give your child the burst of momentum they’ll need to eventually move across the bars.
  3. Next, help them coordinate the swing of their legs with the movement of an arm to reach for the next bar. Keep in mind that your child may need you to support them at their waist in order to complete the first few swings. It may also be a good idea to encourage them to first reach with their dominant hand as they may have an increased rate of success at grabbing the bar.
  4. After successfully completing one swing, talk your child through bringing their other arm to same bar that the first is holding. Once your child can successfully cross the monkey bars one at a time, they may then practice alternating hands on sequential bars. Once they’ve mastered the monkey bars, they can move on to eventually skipping one or two bars at time!

For other playground tips and tricks, see Amanda Matthews’ blog suggesting tips to work on motor skills at the park.

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How to Promote In-Hand Manipulation in Everyday Activities with Kids

In-hand manipulation skills are important for many everyday tasks, such as eating, writing, dressing, playing, and drawing. With all the busy schedules these days, it is often hard to find time to practice such skills enough.Mother practices hand manipulation with daughter

Here are ten ways to encourage development of in-hand manipulation through tasks and activities that you and your children already do!

  1. When putting change into a piggy bank, have your child pick up several coins with her fingers, one at a time, and transfer them onto her palm. With all of the coins securely held in her palm, she should then transfer one coin at a time into the bank.
  2. Play board games or any game involving small pieces (for example, connect-4). Have your child hold all the pieces in her hand, transferring pieces from her palm to her fingers, one at a time, as needed for the game.
  3. While eating snacks, have your child hold multiple small pieces in her hand, letting go of one at a time. Also, while eating a larger snack like a chip, have your child rotate it in-hand (turn it in a circle) before eating it.
  4. Use tongs or tweezers to pick up game pieces. You can also use them for crafts!
  5. Encourage your kid to do buttons, skips, and snaps independently or help you with yours.
  6. Ask your child for help with various baking and cooking tasks such as rolling bread or shaping cookies. She can also use tubes of frosting to help decorate cakes and cupcakes.
  7. If you are about to enjoy a pop, ask your child to help you open it. Do the same for opening and closing bottles or jars of various sizes.
  8. While drawingplace the crayon inverted (upside down) on the table so that your child has to turn it around with one hand before drawing.
  9. Complete a puzzle together. While figuring out where the pieces go, encourage your child to use one hand to rotate a piece until it fits in a spot.
  10. When writing with a pencil, practice rotating it around to erase with one hand or have races to see who can “shift” their hand down the pencil the fastest.

Do not let a learning opportunity pass you by! Keep an eye out for these everyday opportunities that can promote continued development of in-hand manipulation skills for your children. Without any planning, you can still easily help your children blossom and reach their full potential!

For more information on in-hand manipulation, see my previous blog.

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