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Sensory Play in the Snow

It’s that time of year again! The temperature changes, the holidays pass, and the ground becomes filled with a powdery white. While you may be dreading the shoveling, defrosting, and traffic that follow, if you bundle up and brave the cold, you can help create valuable sensory experiences for your child! snowmain

The play experiences you create with your child can help their bodies learn to process sensory information more effectively and efficiently. From snowball fights to building snowmen, snow can create a chilly yet enriching environment for our brains to process, respond to, and use the sensory information it receives.

Here are 10 sensory activities for you and your child using the snow just outside your door:

  1. Snow Angels– Making snow angels is a great activity to target the tactile system, our sense of touch, as your child learns about texture and temperature while the snow moves under their arms and legs.
  1. Freeze Bubbles– When the temperature drops below 32 degrees, blow bubbles and quickly catch them on the wand. Watch the bubbles freeze, then shatter into crystals, and note the vivid colors.
  1. Build a Snowman– Pushing the snowballs across the ground as you roll them into bigger shapes provides our bodies with resistive input which targets our proprioceptive system. This input is generally organizing and calming, and can improve attention as well as arousal level and body awareness. Create even more fun by using candy for the snowman’s arms, buttons, and nose.
  1. Go Sledding and Tubing– The movement provided while in a sled or tube allows for changes in head position and our sense of where our bodies are in relation to gravity, which targets the vestibular system. The vestibular system helps coordinate eye and hand movements, use both sides of our bodies together, and affects balance and equilibrium. Have your child sled in different positions (on their back, on their belly, etc.) to provide further changes in head position.
  1. Snow Painting– Take a spray bottle filled with water tinted with food coloring out into the snow and spray it around. Allow your children to create pictures with it or make colored snowballs. You can place a few drops of food coloring directly in the snow to allow for smaller “paintings” too.
  1. Snowball Throwing Contest– Using colored water, spray a large circular target into the snow. Have your children stand back from the target and see how many snowballs they can get into the circle! This will help target their visual system as they learn to interpret distance.
  1. Snow Maze– Walk all over the yard in different directions, creating a bootprint maze for your children to follow.
  1. Scavenger Hunt– Hide a cooler full of fun items in the snow, and create a scavenger hunt with clues for your children. Have them follow the clues to various spots around the yard, eventually leading them to the cooler with surprises!
  1. Shoveling – Shoveling snow provides great resistive input to target the proprioceptive system, much like pushing the balls to make a snowman. This activity can be calming and focusing for your child, not to mention will help you tackle the daunting task! Make sure to use a child-sized shovel and provide your child with short distances (such as shoveling horizontally across a driveway rather than vertically).
  1. Hula Hoop Contest– Hula hooping can be hard as it is, not to mention with layers of winter clothing on! When you’re all bundled up, take some hula hoops out into the snow and see who can keep the hula hoop going the longest.

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NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. 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 today!

5 fun holiday break activities

No Video Games Allowed: Five Secrets to a Successful Holiday Break

I cannot tell you the number of times that I have heard parents say that the kids are getting bored and that they (the parents) are at their wit’s end…two days into the much-anticipated (and dreaded?) winter break. There are only so many times you can watch Frozen or play Minecraft before everyone loses it! So, what if for this winter break we start a new tradition…in the form of an “unplugged” winter break? The following is a list of five non-television and video game-related activities that are bound to keep the kids entertained, their brains active, and you sane!

Five Activities for a Successful Holiday Break:

  • Go Local: Whether it is the children’s museum or that exhibit at the aquarium you have been meaning to visit, 5 fun holiday break activitiesmake the trip! Many of the museums offer special discounts on specific days or may even have special events going on for children during the break.
  • Indoor “Laser” Obstacle Course: Hang up yarn from one end of the room to another multiple times until the yarn crosses over itself. Put “prizes” on one end of the room and try to make it from one end to the other while not coming into contact with the yarn. For added fun, turn it into a race against time, or add furniture for more obstacles.
  • Top Chef©_ Children’s Edition: This may be messy…but well worth the fun! Set out a number of ingredients and have kids mix and create new dishes. Set up a “judge’s table” and let everyone try the masterpieces and vote on the best dish!
  • Indoor Scavenger Hunt: Make a list of random items (or things that you have lost if you are really trying to make the hunt efficient) and award point values for the various items. If you live in a neighborhood with lots of children, make it a block event!
  • Camping Out – Inside: Unless you are fortunate enough to be in a warm climate, or you want to brave the cold, try setting up a tent (made of blankets or otherwise) in front of the fire place. Have a camping-inspired dinner of hot dogs, beans, and S’mores! All the fun of camping WITH running water? Sounds like a win to me!

Want to get out of the house? Check out our Winter Break 2015: Chicago Family Activity Guide.

The Hidden Benefits of Sledding

Looking for fun winter activities to do with the kids this season? Sledding is one of the easiest snow-day experiences to learn, especiallythe hidden benefits of sledding for young children. With minimal equipment required, there are numerous fitness benefits of sledding. So find the closest hilltop and take that toboggan or flying saucer for a spin!

Find the right hill:

Look for snow-covered hills right outside your home and in your neighborhood parks. Make sure the hills are easy to climb back up, without rocks, trees, or other obstructions that might make the downhill ride dangerous.  In the city, make sure you stay clear of roads or areas with cars. Read more

Family-Friendly Children’s Gross Motor Activities for Fall

Late-autumn is upon us, however, the cooler weather doesn’t mean your children are out of fun things to do outdoors. Gross motor skills are important for kids to improve upon, no matter their age or activity level.  These skills require engagement of the child’s big muscle groups to improve balance, coordination, and posture. In pre-school age kids, working on gross motor skills builds body awareness, helps them keep up with peers and perform better in school, and motivates them to engage more with others.   Below are some simple activities you can do with your children this season that will give them the opportunity to build their muscles and confidence-minimal equipment needed.

Dance

By dance, I don’t mean reviving your ball-room dancing days or enrolling the kids in ballet (though both are great routes to take).  What I mean is simple…be silly with your kids. Put on their favorite song and make up the moves as you go. There is a reason songs such as Hokey Pokey stayed so popular with toddlers and teachers for so long: they make it fun for kids to learn how their limbs work and how to engage their trunk. Tapping their feet to the beat works on coordination, shifting their weight works on their balance, and wiggling their hips works on their obliques and other parts of their core muscle groups.  Teach your child to skip around the room and she will learn to synchronize her opposite sides and build on her total body coordination. Learning to dance with a partner and imitating big movements will help your child tune into working with others, following directions, and use your child’s large muscles in a not so tiring way. Read more

Chicago Family-Friendly Destinations

Winter is right around the corner, and with the cooler weather keeping us indoors, parents are always looking for new destinations to take their

bubbles academy

Bubbles Academy

children. Try some of these “hot spots” around Chicago to keep your child active and engaged during the snowy months ahead:

1. Little Beans Café: An indoor playground and café for parents and kids of all ages to relax, be creative, interact, and have a snack or two! A variety of classes are offered throughout the week as well, including kids yoga!

2. Gymboree Play and Music: Children are able to play and explore with a variety of equipment; and participate in classes such as music, art, sports, and school skills to work on a variety of areas of fine and gross motor development.

3. Bubbles Academy: An open play space for families to run, jump, and climb; including a meadow room, an ocean room, a mountain room, and a tree house! Classes include yoga, cooking classes, and creative movement!

4. Family grounds : A café for all ages, in which the main café and kids playspace are separated to accommodate everyone’s needs. The playspace includes different areas such as a performance stage, arts and crafts, and a trains and cars.

5. Sweet and Sassy: A great place to host a birthday party or to get your child’s hair cut (boys and girls). Other activities include manicures and pedicures and lots of glittery make-up.

6. Pump it Up: Another awesome location for a birthday party or field trip destination, known as “the inflatable party zone”, which is filled with bounce houses, slides, and obstacle courses.

7. Kid’s Table: A place for children, parents, and families of all shapes and sizes to learn about healthy foods. Enjoy classes or the retail store, and begin cooking together at home. Classes include a variety of themes, such as “Kids nite out” and “family class”.

 Please feel free to leave your family fun place suggestions in the comments form below!

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