smart play made simple

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  • What is Smart Play?

    With the increased presence of technology in children’s products and toys, you may have come across the term smart toys. […]

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  • Toys are Tools Educational Toy Reviews: Review & Worldwide Giveaway: MeMoves: Prepare the Body For Learning

    Toys are Tools Educational Toy Reviews: Review & Worldwide Giveaway: MeMoves: Prepare the Body For Learning

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  • Great Exercises for the Great Outdoors

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    June is National Great Outdoors Month.  It also is the start of summer for school children.  Although it is good to give your child a break for the traditional school environment, parents sometimes make the mistake of not encouraging further development of skills over the long days of summer.  When children return to school, the transition can be difficult not only in terms of attention, but also for the tiny muscles of their hands that haven’t worked out in over two months.  You can help your child by providing some fun outdoor activities that also work to improve or maintain the stability of the shoulders, which is needed for good posture and handwriting skills when they return to their desk in the new school year.  When you are outdoors this summer, try these four examples of smart play made simple.

    1. Use Sidewalk Chalk- Draw pictures on the ground pushing the chalk across the rough texture of cement.  This promotes good hand strength as well as drawing and writing skills.
    2. Play Tug of War- Have partners hold onto a rope or belt on opposite ends being careful not to fall.  This increases strength and endurance throughout the hand and up to the shoulders.
    3. Practice Wheelbarrow Walking- This partner activity of children walking on their hands while their feet are raised off the ground can improve coordination and shoulder stability.  Get a group together for a race.
    4. Play Balloon Volleyball- Blow up a balloon and tap it with your fingertips keeping it off the ground as long as possible.  This activity can build endurance, control of the muscles, and reaction time to moving objects.

    If your child is having difficulty with coordination, strength, or endurance, you should consult with your doctor about having an occupational or physical therapist conduct an evaluation and create a treatment plan if deemed necessary.  Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information, visit www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

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  • Summertime Game & Giveaway

    imageWe are so excited to be teaming up with a great group of therapy bloggers this week to bring you a SUPER fun blog hop and giveaway! All of us have picked out our favorite summer toy or activity that promotes developmental skills. The list is full of great ideas that are sure to keep your kiddos moving, learning, and having fun all summer long! Read on for more details about how to enter the giveaway. Wouldn’t a $50 gift card be a great way to kick off your summer?

    Here is how it works:

    Step One:  Use the Rafflecopter below to enter to win!

    Step Two: Visit each of the 10 blogs below including this one and comment on their post about their favorite summer toy or activity.  Have you tried it?  Will you buy it?  Would your kiddos love it?  How would you use it?   

    Step Three: After you comment, make sure to head over to each blog’s Facebook page and click “Like.”

    REMEMBER: You will only be entering the Rafflecopter ONCE ON THIS PAGE, not on every blog in the hop.

    Contest is open to anyone.  Winner will be chosen at random via Rafflecopter drawing and will be notified by email once participation in blog commenting has been verified.

    The Inspired Treehouse  –  OT Cafe  –  Golden Reflections Blog  –  Pink Oatmeal  –  Therapy Fun Zone  –  Your Therapy Source  –  Mama OT  – Playing with Words – Starfish Therapies

    Rafflecopter Giveaway.

    Playapy’s Founder’s Choice for Favorite Summertime Game is… 

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    Timocco is an interactive gaming system used to help motivate kids while they work hard to strengthen their motor and cognitive skills. The system includes the use of over 50 virtual games to work on a variety of skills including attention, midline crossing, bilateral coordination, cause-n-effect, and early learning skills.

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    I was recently introduced to this gaming system to use with my patients in my private practice. It has quickly become a preferred game. I love it because I get small children with low muscle tone and decreased endurance to participate in activities that improve strength for longer periods of time. This is particularly great for developing shoulder stability needed for good fine motor skills and posture.  Check out a short video to get a feel for how Timocco works in this way.

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    What makes this great for summertime is that you can easily take it with you when you are on vacation and/or have your therapist set up a plan for you when she is away on vacation as well. A $30/month subscription will get you up and running. It only requires a computer with a webcam (or use the one that comes with it) and three small gaming gloves (pictured above as the blue ball).   It is also great for those rainy days and can be used for short periods of time between activities.  Lastly, it is easily for you to monitor progress and keep on schedule even when the summer sun prevents you from remembering what skills your child needs to practice at home.  This monkey is one you will find will keep your mind at ease and make summer fun and functional. image

    Timocco has been recently introduced in the United States and is referred through occupational therapists.  Speak to your therapist about using Timocco at home.  If she or he doesn’t know about Timocco, they will be thankful and impressed that you introduced it.  It’s a win-win for everyone!  

    I hope you find this summertime suggestion helpful.  Good luck with the giveaway and have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information, visit www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

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  • The Smart Play P.L.A.N.

    Women are known as natural planners.  Many plan their weddings.  Many more plan their pregnancies and create a birth plan.  Yet, not so many have a plan for playtime.  

    As a pediatric occupational therapist, I often meet parents that don’t realize how much is involved in play until they notice a developmental delay.  After all, playing isn’t something that many people think of as being complicated since it’s the backbone of childhood.  However, what if parents approached play with a plan?  Since a plan typically involves achieving a goal, wouldn’t it make sense to make a plan for achieving the milestones of development? But, who has time for that….

    So how do you make smart play simple? I suggest you follow the P.L.A.N.- The Position-Lesson-Action Nexus.  This simple 3-step concept is about creating a connection of thoughts while playing with your child. 

    Position

    In what position is your child’s body?  

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    Changing positions allows for the body to have different opportunities and challenges.  Changing the position of the head can create a different sensory experience.  Putting weight of the hands can create more stability in the joints closer to the core of the body.  You have many options: sitting, standing, kneeling, lying on tummy, lying on back, on a ball, on a swing, on hands and knees, legs crossed, etc.  Learn to explore these options to vary your play time.

    Lesson

    What lesson or skill are you addressing?

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    There are several areas of development that you can address separately or simultaneously. Therapists are trained to do this easily but as parents you can learn to do this as well. Try to think in broad terms.  You have many options: sensory processing, development of hand muscles, thinking skills, strengthening, development of large muscles, balance, visual skills, etc.  Learn to focus on different skills so that you aren’t always working on the same thing.

    Action

    What activity is your child completing?

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    Playing is all about doing something.  This is usually the part that parents find easy.  Give a child a toy and a demonstration and let them figure out what to do with it.  You have many options: painting, building, coloring, drawing, catching, kicking, pointing, locating, exploring, rolling, listening, bouncing, following directions, etc.  Remember to vary play time so that even if you are working on the same skill you are using different toys, games, or materials to keep your child interested.

    Nexus

    This is where the magic happens.

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    When you incorporate the 3 elements listed above into one activity you create the nexus.  Above you see this in action.

    1. Position- lying on her tummy to encourage strengthening, endurance, and weight-bearing on arms, elbows, legs, and hips.

    2. Lesson- development of small muscles of the hand, thinking skills, visual perceptual skills, and development of large muscles.

    3. Activity- building with blocks.

    This connection is where regular play becomes smart play…and it can be just that simple.  

    I hope you find this tip helpful.  

    ~Amy Baez, OTR/L

    Pediatric Occupational Therapist & Founder of Playapy

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