smart play made simple

  • What is Smart Play?

    With the increased presence of technology in children’s products and toys, you may have come across the term smart toys. […]

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  • Great Exercises for the Great Outdoors


    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 or email

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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. 


    In what position is your child’s body?  


    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.


    What lesson or skill are you addressing?


    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.


    What activity is your child completing?


    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.


    This is where the magic happens.


    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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