• Let Kids Be Kids

    Let Kids Be Kids. Seems like a simple concept. However, preschools are turning into bootcamps with teachers acting as drill […]

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  • Is Your Child Ready to Write? Part 1

    One question I wish more parents would ask themselves is whether their child is ready to write. Many parents and […]

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  • Heads, Tummies, & Tails: A Smart Guide to Printing Lowercase Letters



    Tummies & Tails: A Smart Guide to Printing Lowercase Letters was developed to improve the handwriting of children by providing therapeutic techniques to assist in their learning. One of the
    most common errors that occur with children’s handwriting is the alignment of
    letters.  This refers to how the letters
    are placed in relation to each other and also the lines used to assist with
    maintaining the letters in a straight line.  
    Unlike uppercase letters, which are all drawn from the top and fit
    inside the same space, lowercase letters vary more and, as a result, are more

    In this book, lowercase letters are separated into three groups to help children
    relate the letters to the lines on which they were writing. In addition, ten action word phrases are used to help a child memorize how to form individual letters. This provides a multisensory approach as the child feels the motion of the pencil, hears the words, and sees the strokes as they are being formed into letters. In addition, there is a helpful mascot cheering along as a child works his or her way through the book.  

    workbook was created to help parents, educators, and occupational therapists. Its concept is smart and effective and should be
    introduced around 5 years of age when children typically begin
    learning lowercase letters. It is intended to be completed after its companion workbook for uppercase letters. The separation of uppercase and lowercase letters leads to greater success. 


    The 26
    lowercase letters of the alphabet are separated into three alignment groups: Heads,
    Tummies, & Tails

    Lowercase letters that
    ascend or “touch the top line” are in the Heads group. These are
    the following 7 letters: b d f h k l t. Ask Your
    Child:  Which letters touch the top line
    like the monkey’s head?

    Lowercase letters that
    remain at the middle or “mark the middle line” are in the Tummies group.

    These are the following 14
    letters: a c e i m n o r s u v w x z. Ask Your Child:  Which letters stay in the middle like the
    monkey’s tummy?

    Lowercase letters that
    descend or “break through the bottom line” are in the Tails group.

    These are the following 5
    letters: g j p q y.
    Ask Your Child:  Which letters break through the bottom line
    like the monkey’s tail? 




    The 26 uppercase letters of the alphabet can be formed using ten simple phrases called Action Words: Add a Dot, Break Through, Curve Around, Make an Ear, Make a Hook Down, Make a Hook Up, Slide Down, Slide Up, Zip Down, and Zoom Across.



    First introduce the Action Words pages. They are used to introduce the language used for the formation of the curved and straight lines. The Coloring Pages are then used as introductions to the different groups. The groups do not need to be completed in the order they are presented.


    Next, each letter will have a page within a group. Action words printed in bold should be said aloud to guide the child. Using a character voice makes it more fun and encourages the child to say the words as well. There are also alignment circles on these pages that match the placement of the monkey’s head, tummy and tail. They help to encourage proper placement of letters.


    Lastly, there are additional pages including reviews of the groups, copying words, and activity pages. The workbook also includes a visual chart and a guide with all the action words for the 26 letters on one page.


    Visit to purchase the award-winning Heads, Tummies, & Tails and its companion workbook Treasure C.H.E.S.T.: A Smart Guide to Printing Uppercase Letters.


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  • Just Say No to Preschool Pressure

    Recently I was having a
    conversation with a mother of three children under the age of six. She explained
    to me that one of her current concerns is that the new preschool her
    three-year-old was attending sends him home with homework. She was initially
    shocked and confused considering her older child did not have this demand. Her
    resolution was to adopt the saying from the 1980’s war on drugs campaign and to
    “just say no” to the pressure this preschool was putting on her child. I
    applaud her and encourage others to do the same. 

    Over the past ten years I
    have seen as increase in the demands placed on preschoolers to perform tasks
    that used to be introduced in kindergarten. I have had countless conversations
    with parents explaining that one of the reasons their child cannot complete the
    work given is become it is not developmentally appropriate. My resolution also
    was to “just say no” to the caretaker because there is no rule that homework is
    mandatory. In fact, the National PTA and the National Education Association created
    a 10-minute Rule established after extensive research from Duke University. The
    rule recommends that 10 minutes of homework is suggested starting in 1st
    grade and adding another 10 minutes per grade. Therefore Kindergarten students
    should not be issued any homework. Other research has also shown that an
    overload of homework is associated with a decrement in performance. As a
    therapist, I have noted that some children also suffer from decreased self-esteem
    and stress on the small joints of their hands from too many expectations. Yet,
    despite this rule, the average Kindergartener was found to be completing 25
    minutes of homework daily.

    How should you handle the
    pressure to do homework in preschool? You can keep calm and politely let the
    teacher know that your child will not be completing any homework at this age.
    Instead you will spend the time playing. According to Jay Giedd, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego,
    most kids younger than 7 or 8 are better suited for active exploration than
    informational or educational explanation. He states, “The trouble with
    over-structuring is that it discourages exploration.” Hence, parents should take the time after school to
    engage with their child by participating in playful exercise and activities
    that improve and encourage creative, social, and fine motor skills like
    building with toys, coloring, drawing, assembling, and even food preparation. 

    I hope you find this tip
    helpful. If your child is having difficulty with age-appropriate activities for
    a preschooler, 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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  • Why Writing Capital Letters 1st is Key

    Learning to write
    is a milestone in the childhood experience of almost all typically developing
    children. Still, it is achieved with great effort and struggle for many. Countless
    products sold in stores often complicate the task for parents by combining
    uppercase and lowercase letters and encouraging the printing of 112 letters in
    an alphabetical yet developmentally arbitrary fashion. This can be overwhelming
    for a small child, decrease their confidence, and create poor habits. Hence,
    specialists often teach uppercase letters prior to introducing lowercase. It
    may seem counter-intuitive to learn capitals first when mostly lowercase
    letters are used in writing. There, however, are several important reasons why
    this particular method is beneficial to a child in terms of ease and

    Here are 5 helpful reasons why learning to write capital letters first is the key to success:

    1.     All uppercase letters start at the top.
    Lowercase letters vary and have different starting points.

    2.     All uppercase letters are the same height.
    Lowercase letters vary and have different heights with some tall and some

    3.     All uppercase letters use the same space.
    Lowercase letters vary with some letters ascending to the top line and some descending
    below the base line.

    4.     Uppercase letters are easier to recognize.
    Children have more exposure to capital letters in their environments on street
    signs, billboards, buildings, etc.

    5.     Uppercase letters encourage top to bottom
    and left to right eye and hand coordination fundamental for reading in addition
    to writing.

    It is also important to note it is not necessary to learn to write letters in alphabetical order.  Many handwriting programs are available with instructions to teach letters in groups according to how they are formed or in developmental stages. This helps a child to practice similar letters together and quickly become more successful.  Remember to consider if a child has the foundational skills of copying and connecting simple lines to form basic shapes before teaching letters. If your child is struggling with handwriting, consult with your doctor about seeing an occupational therapist for an evaluation or consultation. 

    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
    about Playapy’s publications, visit
    or email

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