Occupational Therapy

  • 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 www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

    Continue reading
  • 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 www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

     

    Continue reading
  • October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month

    Dyslexia is a learning disability that is commonly known but poorly understood. Most people associate dyslexia with reading letters backwards, but that is only one possible symptom of many.  Generally speaking, dyslexia is a specific learning disability for reading.  It is often characterized by difficulty with word recognition, decoding, or spelling. This can lead to difficulty with reading comprehension and could slow down vocabulary growth resulting in struggles with reading, writing, and sometimes speaking. Against popular belief, dyslexia is not caused by poor instruction, poor intelligence, laziness, or impaired vision. It is a result of a neurological condition and can also be genetic. It is also something which can be overcome with help and support leading most to good reading and writing skills overall.

    It is important to detect dyslexia as early as possible because reading and writing are such an integral part of learning in the classroom. Some signs of dyslexia in young children include having trouble with recognizing letters, matching letters to sounds, learning new words, learning the alphabet or numbers, rhyming words, or remembering word sequences like the days of the week.  Some signs of dyslexia in older children include poor handwriting, reading or writing reversed letters like b or d, mastering spelling rules, following a set of directions, or remembering facts or rules. 

    I hope you find this information helpful. If you feel your child may have multiple signs of dyslexia, you should consult with your doctor about having an occupational therapist or speech 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.

    Continue reading
  • #1 Back-to-School Blunder

    Every year millions of parents and their children head to stores with a list of required supplies for the return back to school.  Every year that list includes a composition notebook.  Despite the wide range of ages, this book is a standard purchase and in my book the #1 Back-to-School Blunder for Kindergarteners. 

     image

    Young children that are just learning to write and beginning to master their hand skills typically write large.  The lines of a composition book are for small writing and lead to errors in handwriting and poor habits in addition to the confusion it causes children when their other workbooks and worksheets provide large lines and more visual cues.  There, however, is somewhat of a simple solution to help a child.  You can use a marker to create a dashed line to serve as a middle line sandwiched between two solid lines.  This will create a larger space closer to the one-inch height that is more suitable for large printing.  You may want to discuss this with the teacher beforehand and explain your alteration.  image

    I hope you find this tip helpful.  If your child is having difficulty with handwriting skills, you should consult with your doctor about having an occupational 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.

    Continue reading
  • Great Exercises for the Great Outdoors

    image

    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.

    Continue reading
1 3 4 5 6