child development

  • Save the Broken Crayons

    If you are anything like me, you may be the type of person that likes order and gives away under-utilized […]

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  • SIDS Awareness Month

    October is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome/SIDS Awareness Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/CDC, 3500 infants die each year […]

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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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  • 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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  • Holiday Tips for Toy Buying in a Tech World

    The holidays are quickly approaching, and parents have toy buying on their minds. With the fast-paced advancement of technology, gift giving has become an expensive and overwhelming process that seems to generate more anxiety than joy to the world. Parents want the best for their children and are willing to purchase the newest products, but sometimes simplicity is superior. Numerous studies have shown that the increased use of technology has resulted in a decline in critical thinking and cognitive skills, attention span, and the ability to self-regulate. In addition, the use of technology in small children can limit the time spent using their hands in ways that develop the muscles needed for skills like handwriting and shoelace tying. In fact the late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple and the visionary behind the iPhone and the iPad, understood that fostering a young child’s creativity and imagination involves also limiting time with technology. He was known as a low-tech parent as are many tech executives in Silicon Valley that have adopted this parenting style.

    So how can a parent feel empowered and balance the love of technology without causing any harm this holiday season? Here are some tips to consider.

    1. Limit Use Time: Restrict infants aged 0-2 years completely from technology, 3 to 5 years olds to no more than one hour per day, and 6 to 18 year old to 2 hours per day according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Society of Pediatrics.
    2. Choose Educational Games: Purchase apps that help to develop math, reading, and other developmental skills including games that encourage problem solving and strategy.
    3. Purchase Timeless Toys: Select games and toys that involve constructing, building, or creating. Toys that don’t require batteries or wifi like blocks, dolls, board games, and card games also encourage proper social skills that are neglected from too much tech time.

    Holiday toy buying can seem like an exercise in list checking, but taking the time to make intelligent choices about technology can also encourage play to be smart as well as simple, affordable, and healthy for your child. I hope you find these tips 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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