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  • Top 5 Equipment Recommendations for Parents of Young Children

    As an occupational therapist with close to 20 years of experience working with parents of young children, I often get […]

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  • Playing Together

    I have strong memories from childhood of playing together with friends. Before I was old enough to explore the neighborhood […]

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  • April is Autism Awareness Month

    playapyplatform:

    Recent reported estimates in the news have stated as many as 1 in every 68 children in the United States has autism, a developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of life, and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.  The numbers and methods of obtaining these new estimates are subject to debate, but what is clear is that the increase in cases in going up and up year after year.  Some of this is attributed to the increase in awareness of symptoms, which may be leading to inaccurate diagnosing from parents and doctors.  However, the increase in awareness can also help to get children services needed to improve developmental skills despite having the correct diagnosis.   There are screenings available that include checklists to help in this process.  The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised with Follow-Up is a 2-stage parent-report screening tool to assess risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The M-CHAT-R/F is an autism screening tool designed to identify children 16 to 30 months of age who should receive a more thorough assessment for possible early signs of ASD or developmental delay.  The M-CHAT-R/F is intended to be administered by a trained health care professional, so if you answer the questions at home, please discuss your results with your doctor regardless of the results.  You can view and complete the checklist at no cost on www.m-chat.org.  

    If your child is having difficulty with language and social skills or play, learning, and self-care skills, you should consult with your doctor about having a speech therapist or 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.

    Celebrating Autism Awareness Month with a reblog of this 2014 blog post. 

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  • ‘Tis the Season for Toy Making

    It is commonly
    known that the holiday shopping season is very important to the toy industry.
    Just last year U.S. retail sales of toys topped $18 billion. Interestingly, there is
    a trend that could save you money instead of having you spend it if you gift
    your child the opportunity to embrace his or her creativity. The biggest theme
    from this year’s Toy Fair in New York seemed to be maker toys, playthings that
    encourage children to create, innovate, and design which they make and modify
    with their own hands. These toys often consist of constructional pieces and may
    include initial instructions to start a project but also allow for a child to
    take on the challenge to create something new.

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    As an
    occupational therapist, I am in the position to play with children daily to
    prepare them for the responsibilities they face in school and at home. I
    consistently recommend to parents constructional toys and craft activities
    because the benefits are numerous. They improve the developmental skills of the
    hands, enhance thinking and strategy skills, keep a child engaged for long
    periods of time, increase self-confidence and self-esteem, and are fun and
    educational simultaneously. These benefits are not only good preparation for
    their childhood learning but for their future. Many businesses are now
    employing concepts like design thinking and prototyping to solve problems and
    improve products and services. In November, the city of Miami hosted Miami Make
    Week, where individuals signed up to join teams to make innovative solutions
    for the home that save resources. Participants also attended workshops and
    lectures on additional topics including robotics, 3D printing, software
    development, and traditional craftsmanship. It is great to see that this is how
    the future leaders of the world will be working, using creativity involving
    both the mind and the hands.

    For this year’s
    holiday season, I invite parents to think outside the traditional wrapped box
    and consider giving your child an open box full of items to create with
    including: cardboard, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, paper clips, construction
    paper, glue, markers, tape, scissors, and aluminium foil just to start. If this
    is too abstract or your child is too young, consider buying constructional toys
    or maker sets that give your child the chance to be creative and build. There
    are many brands like Lego, ThinkFun, WabaFun, and Funnybone Toys selling
    products that encourage the imagination and can turn your little ones into the hard-working,
    toy-making elves they are meant to be.

    I hope you find
    this tip helpful. If your child struggles with activities with that involve
    planning, creating, building, assembling, or completing age-appropriate tasks,
    talk to your pediatrician about consulting with an occupational therapist. 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
    www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

     ***Check out this video for some inspiration.***

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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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