• Hiring a Tutor for a Child with ADHD

    Therapy is great for children with learning disabilities, but what happens when they no longer need therapy but still need […]

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  • From Zoo to Zen

    As schools put more pressure on young
    students to read and write at earlier ages, children are fighting a battle to
    maintain a lifestyle of learning through play. The preschool years are now
    cutting back on the playtime necessary to develop the sensory and motor skills
    needed prior to instructing skills like handwriting. In addition the increase
    in use of technology is changing culture and creating norms that are deterring
    adequate social skills needed for engaging human interaction and motor skills
    needed for fine motor and daily living tasks. This is having psychosocial
    consequences on children leading to a generation of children that do not enjoy
    learning nor have adequate attention spans to absorb what they are learning.
    Their brains can be compared to a zoo full of monkeys swinging from one idea to
    the next without the skills needed to rest the mind.

    each passing day, the practice of mindfulness is finding its way into daily
    conversation and advice columns. It seems like everyone from comics to
    corporate CEOs are finding ways to zone in on Zen practices to clear the mind,
    escape technology addictions, and find new ways to connect with humans. The
    idea of mindfulness, the state of being aware of the present moment, may sound
    sophisticated, but research now suggests it should make its way into classroom
    curriculum.  In fact, actress Goldie Hawn
    is the founder of a mindfulness classroom curriculum called MindUPTM.
    Its proven benefits include increased optimism and self-concept,
    improved academic achievement, increased planning and organizational skills,
    and increased empathy and other pro-social skills.  

    Here are some simple mindfulness
    activities that I practice with children to foster these skills at an early

    Body Awareness- Practice squeezing individual body parts upon request while lying on floor face up with eyes closed. Recall which body parts were squeezed at the end of the exercise.

    Breathing Bundy- Practice breathing
    while lying down with a stuffed animal resting on the tummy. Watch the animal
    rise and fall with each inhale and exhale.

    Blind Touch- Practice holding and feeling an unknown object with eye closed. Determine its qualities through the use of the sense of touch.

    I hope you find these tips helpful.
    If you child has difficulty focusing despite practicing mindfulness activities,
    consider consulting with an occupational therapist for additional strategies. To
    learn more about MindUPTM and its research findings, check out the

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational
    therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more
    information about Playapy services and products, visit or email

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  • Does Your Child Have (Sensory) Issues?


    As the number of
    children diagnosed in the United States increases each year, so does the
    public’s awareness of autism and its symptoms. Sensory processing problems,
    also referred to as “sensory issues,” are one of the most common symptoms of
    autism. They, however, can be experienced in children without the other
    criteria required for an autism diagnosis, which include communication
    difficulties, social challenges, and repetitive behaviors.

    processing is defined as the way the nervous system receives information from
    the senses and interprets it into motor and behavioral responses. Sensory
    issues occur when the body has a response that is considered to be outside of
    the normal range. For example, a child may be overly sensitive to light and may
    not be able to tolerate brightly lit supermarket. This may cause the child to
    act out or have “issues.” When a child has responses that seriously affect or
    interfere with everyday life, a diagnosis such as Sensory Processing Disorder may
    be given.

    Everybody knows the
    five senses of sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. Yet, sensory input also
    can be received from the sense of balance and spatial orientation in movement
    (vestibular sense) and the sense of position and strength needed in movement
    (proprioceptive sense). When a child is hyper-responsive, that means he or she
    demonstrates a low or hyposensitivity. When a child is hypo-responsive, that
    means he or she demonstrates a high or hypersensitivity.

    Examples of hyposensitivity

    Touches people or things excessively or when
    not appropriate

    Craves movement and/or has difficulty
    remaining still

    May harm others by not recognizing his or
    her own strength

    Does not respond to requests or name being

    Examples of hypersensitivity

    Easily distracted or annoyed by background

    Avoids or is fearful of playground
    equipment like swings or monkey bars

    Walks on tiptoes or is hesitant to walk on
    sand or grass

    Very particular about clothing or food textures

    therapists (OTs) specialize in helping children regulate the sensory system
    through sensory integration therapy. If your child has disruptive sensory
    issues, consider consulting with your pediatrician about prescribing an evaluation
    with an OT who can create and implement a plan specific to your child. I hope
    you find this information helpful. Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational
    therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more
    information about Playapy services and products, visit or email

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  • Start Smart this School Year

    Every morning millions of
    American children start their school day sitting down to eat a breakfast that
    will most likely cause them to feel relaxed, calm, and less worried. Sounds
    great! That same meal, however, may also cause them to feel less motivated. The
    standard American breakfast has been labeled as too sweet and unhealthy at
    times because it is full of simple carbohydrates such as those found in
    pancakes, waffles, muffins, bagels, cereal, and sugary drinks. These choices
    may seem convenient and innocent, but what if what you are feeding your
    child is causing more harm than good?  

    In the book Healing ADD, best-selling author and
    psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen describes
    how to control the mind and mood with food. He explains how sugary meals are
    known to increase serotonin and rapidly increase insulin, which then causes low
    blood-sugar levels in a short amount of time. Therefore, by the time your child
    arrives at school, he or she could be feeling tired, confused, or inattentive
    or even possibly be too happy and relaxed to get any work done. What if instead
    they ate something different that led to feeling more motivated, driven, and
    focused? Wouldn’t that be a smarter way to start the day? Smart carbohydrates
    are known to slowly increase serotonin and include foods like sweet potatoes, apples,
    blueberries, carrots, quinoa, and chickpeas. In addition, protein-based meals
    tend to increase dopamine levels in the brain and create energy and help
    children to focus. These foods include beef, poultry, fish, eggs, seeds, nuts,
    and cheese. Additional smart foods include avocados, lima beans, liver, salmon,
    and shrimp.

    I invite you to consider being
    creative and thinking outside of a boxed breakfast by introducing your child to
    a non-traditional selection. Children all over the world eat items that may
    seem foreign to American youth, but they still enjoy the meal just the same. In
    Turkey, they eat olives. In Jamaica, they eat mushed plantains. In Korea, they
    eat fermented cabbage. In fact, most countries eat a breakfast that is more
    savory than sweet. Perhaps a smart start to your child’s morning can make all
    the difference in his or her world.

    I hope you find this tip
    helpful. If your child is having difficulty with attention and focus despite
    changing to a smarter diet, talk with your pediatrician about consulting with
    an occupational therapist for help. 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
    about Playapy services and products, visit
    or email

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  • Fidgeting May Be Beneficial for Children

    Did you know that fidgeting may actually be beneficial for kids? While fidgeting is mostly viewed negatively as restless movements including tapping a foot or fiddling with fingers, hair, clothing, or objects, it can also be purposeful and helpful.

    Some parents battle with their child to stop these restless behaviors, and sometimes it is necessary because the child may be harming him or herself. Yet, the fight to end fidgeting may be a battle better left unfought. Research conducted in the UK in 2005 by psychologists found that children that were allowed to fidget with their hands performed better in memory and learning tests. Researchers concluded that teachers should actually encourage fidgeting in class. This supports what pediatric occupational therapists have long recommended to teachers when suggesting fidget toys as tools for improved learning.

    Fidget toys provide sensory stimulation including tactile input and movement for a child’s hands. Together they help to improve focus and attention and can also facilitate language production and thinking overall. The improvement is attributed to how fidgeting can reduce stress or can arouse the body to function at an optimal level of performance. Without a fidget toy, a child could actually find it more difficult to maintain attention to a task, keep still in a seated position, or have difficulty formulating thoughts. Some examples of fidget toys can include small toy figurines, koosh balls, a pencil, or Tangle toys (pictured above).  Allowing a child to use a fidget toy may provide the needed stimulation for the brain and decrease negative behaviors like nail biting or picking at skin.

    A parent should consider having his or her child evaluated for an underlying cause of fidgetiness or poor focus in the classroom when the child’s progress is negatively affected or his or her behavior becomes a disruption to peers. A parent should also consider a professional opinion despite their own experience with fidgeting when they were younger. Parents sometimes feel that if they had the same issue as a child and survived without additional services that their child should be able to as well. However, schools are now more open to adapting environments for children and understand the benefit of addressing such behaviors from a developmental perspective.

    I hope you find this tip helpful. 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 or email

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