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Thanksgiving Turkey Treats for Sensory and Fine Motor Skills

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

I stumbled upon this fabulous rice crispy turkey treat recipe and cannot wait to try it out. The combination of temperatures and textures make for a rich sensory experience. It’s a great recipe for sensory seekers who love to get their hands messy and exciting enough to motivate sensory avoiders to get involved in the activity. The detailed décor provide lots of opportunity to practice fine motor skills. Lets take a closer look at the recipe:

Ingredients:

Rice Crispy Treats:
1/4 cup butter
10 oz marshmallows
6 cups rice crispy cereal
1/2 cup peanut butter (omit if making classic flavor)

Turkey Decor:
Candy corn
Cashews (split in half, and then broken in two)
Whoppers (or other round, brown candy)
Black frosting
Red licorice
More peanut butter for “glue”

Method:

  1. Melt butter in a pan, add marshmallows and mix. Once melted, remove from flame and mix in cereal –Stirring the thick mixture of marshmallows and rice crispies provides proprioceptive input to the arms and builds up strength.
  2. While still warm, use mixture to form small balls – The warm temperature and combination of textures provides tactile input to the hands. Proprioceptive and tactile input builds sensory awareness of the hands to prepare them for fine motor activities. Luckily this recipe has a built in fine motor component following the sensory input (see step 3)!
  3. Use peanut butter as glue (marshmallow fluff is a peanut free alternative). Tack on the candy corn (feathers), Whopper (head), beak (cashew), little red waddle (licorice), and then use black frosting to make the eyes – Here the child works on using a pincer grasp to grip the candies. Breaking the cashews in half strengthens the small muscles of the hands and promotes bilateral coordination.

Below is the link to the recipe page:
http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/peanut-butter-rice-crispy-treats/

Submitted by:  Ariela Warburg OTA &
Dr. Chaye Lamm Warburg, DPS, OTR/L, Director, POTS

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 and is filed under Fine Motor Fun, Seasonal Tips, Sensory Integration.

The Edible Sukkah

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014


6d9ea80825881c5a2cdfc527cf17e575Since I was a little girl, I have always been interested in building a ginger bread house, but I have never had the opportunity to make one. This edible sukkah caught my eye as the perfect way in to indulge in a childhood desire, connect with my own children in a fun, hands-on way and ramp up their fine motor skills. As an Occupational Therapist (OT), I love to do hands-on activities because I know that when my children use their hands, it makes them more active participants in the experience and helps solidify the holiday in their memory.

As a working mom, it can be difficult to carve out “special” time with each child, so when I do it, I want to be sure they will remember it! Given the list of yummy ingredients, I expect to have my children’s full and enthusiastic participation, even though minor frustrations such as braking cookies and falling pretzels might derail them in a less appealing project.

You will need:

  • Graham crackers
  • Edible “glue” (I used Nutella, but you can also use chocolate spread, peanut butter, or marshmallow fluff)
  • Trix cereal or round jelly beans
  • Pretzel sticks
  • Parsley (optional)

Here are the steps to follow: (thank you biblebeltbalabusta.com)

  1. Use Nutella to secure the bottom cracker to the plate as your floor
  2. Spread Nutella along all the edges of the crackers to adhere the walls in place
  3. “Glue” the pretzel sticks on the top as the roof. To make the schach look more realistic, add some parsley for greenery
  4. “Glue” the Trix cereal or round jelly beans to the pretzel sticks for beautiful decorations

I am a Queen Multi-tasker, so turn this parent-child bonding experience into a skill-building opportunity as well by having your child do all the spreading. This way, you are practicing utensil use, pressure modulation and fine motor coordination as well. Using appropriate pressure modulation (a pre-writing skill) is crucial, since squeezing too hard will result in broken crackers or pretzels.

I hope you enjoy this edible sukkah as much as I did!

Blog written by: Aviva Goldwasser, MS, OTR/L

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 and is filed under Fine Motor Fun, Seasonal Tips.

App of the week: ColAR Mix that animates your child’s drawings

Friday, September 5th, 2014

 

Mom, can I play on the (insert digital device here)? As parents, how many times do we hear that question every day? We are living in a digital world. While some devices have benefits, they have many drawbacks as well. As a pediatric occupational therapist who also has young children I can attest to the fact that one drawback to devices is that our children do not use their hands as frequently as we used to. Now, I don’t want to turn this into an “I remember when …” article, however, kids used to play in the dirt and with a huge variety of toys such as Legos, Erector sets and Lincoln Logs. They cut, pasted, glued, colored and made Play-Doh cookies. All of these activities naturally facilitated hand development and were the physical foundational skills built upon when they entered school and learned how to write. With the current pervasiveness of digital devices, kids are using their hands a lot less and increasingly lack the building blocks for muscle strength and coordination to support early writing. When they get to school today’s kids often present with a weak grasp, hold a pencil awkwardly, and have difficulty learning how to write properly. Sounds kind of gloomy, right? Well let me tell you about an app that blends the digital and the physical world so your child will be motivated to color, which in turn, will assist in building up those hand muscles.

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Download the ColAR Mix 3D coloring app free from the Google Play store or iTunes. Next, go to colarapp.com to print coloring pages that appeal to both boys and girls. Once your child colors in a picture, open up the app and hold it over the picture. Magically, the picture is transformed into a 3D animated picture that is truly amazing; a flying dragon breathing fire, a bird chasing and catching a worm, an airplane that does loop-de-loops, all in the exact colors that your child used. There are even pictures where you can write in your name, which then pops up on the 3D picture!

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While the he app is free, all the pictures can be printed free of charge, and quite a few of the coloring pages can be transformed into 3D for free, others cost some money to unlock the magic. All the children I have used this app with became so excited when they saw their pictures come to life that they asked to color more. So, while we are living in a digital world, there are many opportunities out there to blend the virtual with the real and keep things moving in a positive direction, so our kids don’t miss out on basic pre-school skills.

Sumitted By: Gershon Kravetz, MS, OTR/L

This entry was posted on Friday, September 5th, 2014 and is filed under Fine Motor Fun, What's App Wednesday.

Educreations

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

 

educreations

Professional athletes, international speakers and anyone who wants to improve performance has access to video critiquing, a highly effective tool for self-improvement. The users film themselves either at practice or when performing live, and then watch the video, either by themselves or with others, to analyze and fine tune their performance. Are they throwing the correctly? Are they speaking clearly and slowly? They may make small critical changes, or perhaps catch a fundamental error and completely change their approach.

This is similar to learning handwriting. People who are kinesthetic learners learn by doing. By this I mean, they practice writing a number of times on a firm or textured surface, their muscles receive the feedback of how letters should be formed, and they can learn to form their letters properly. Other individuals may be visual or auditory learners. They learn best by watching a demonstration and following directions. Most people benefit from both. That’s why using multiple modalities is an effective way to teach children.

What does this have to do with video critiquing? I’m glad you asked! Educreations is free app from the iTunes store that I have been using effectively in my occupational therapy (OT) practice.

educreatorslogo

The app consists of an interactive whiteboard that let’s you record what you draw, and records your voice as well. It was designed as a teaching tool so that an educator can record a lesson, and then email or post it to the web to share with an online community.

educreations-gallery

 

For OT purposes you can have children draw a letter while dictating the steps of how to form it. For example if they are learning the letter ‘B’, while they are drawing they can use the Handwriting Without Tears language: “Start at the top, draw a straight line down, frog jump to the top, little curve to the middle, little curve to the bottom”. When they are done drawing\recording you can save the lesson. Once it has been saved they can play it back, and watch and listen to how they wrote the letter.

Kids love doing this. They see the letter being formed and hear their own voice. It is a very powerful strategy for all those visual and auditory learners we spoke about before. They can see how it was done and spot any mistakes they may have made.

The app itself has some rich features to keep things interesting. You can choose to write in various colors, you can type letters, and you can even add pictures to the lesson either by taking a picture or downloading one from the web.

Using pictures is a great feature because:

  • You can take a picture of the handwriting worksheet you are using, and use it as a template to trace over as they are doing the lesson.
  • Children can take a picture of themselves and use it as the background to write on.
  • Another way to use a picture of oneself is to have the child draw on the picture. Can they draw a hat on top of their head? How about boots on their feet. Maybe have them draw a balloon or animal behind them. This is a great way to teach directionality, which is a foundation for learning how to form letters.
  • There is also an option to resize the picture. So, take a full body picture of your child, size it so it takes up half of the screen, and then have them draw a picture of themselves on the white space. In this way you are having them practice body parts as well as body awareness, which is another foundational skill for letter formation.

For a free app this has a lot of wonderful features that can be utilized in many ways. So, how are you going to use this app? Please post your comments below, and any suggestions on apps you would like to see reviewed or have questions about.

If you have any other questions I can be reached at gershon@potsot.com

 

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 19th, 2014 and is filed under Fine Motor Fun, Handwriting & Fine Motor Coordination, The Special Needs Child, What's App Wednesday.

Can’t draw? Create funky animals on the Drawnimal App

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

There’s a TV show I enjoy watching on the Discovery channel called “Dual Survival”. On the show they take two survival experts and drop them off in a barren area. There  they rely on their knowledge of the land to survive and find civilization. If they were to deposit me in the same area, I would look around and see trees, dirt, rocks, insects etc. These experts see ways to make shelter, fashion weapons, gather food, and most importantly, make fire. Essentially, the survival experts are doing a “task analysis” of their situation, quickly envisioning the possibilities that the found materials afford them. While I may be at a loss to analyze a survival situation, as an OT I am continually doing a task analysis of all the equipment that I have, and what each item affords me when I work with a child. This is true in the world of Apps. One person may look at an App and see a game, but I look at it and see a therapeutic tool to facilitate learning and development.

drawnimal_logo

One App I recently discovered is Drawnimal (available on the itunes App store). As stated on itunes, this app teaches kids to think out of the box. How does it work? First place your device on a sheet of paper. When you launch the app you are shown a letter. Under that is a representation of the ipad\iphone. There are then cues to draw various shapes around the ipad.

drawnimal_howitworks

For example, you may be prompted to draw the tail of an alligator, the ears of a bear, or the fins of a dolphin. Most are pretty basic shapes, but some younger kids may need more help from a parent. When you finish drawing, click “play” and the animal appears on the screen to completes the picture you drew! Finally when you tap on the animal, it does some funky action that will make you laugh, and motivate kids to play again and again.

First of all I love this App because it is gets you to pick up a pen\marker\pencil and draw, to work on pencil grasp. Next , it is a great exercise in visual perceptual skills, as well as directionality. Do I draw it on the left, right, top, bottom? In addition, it provides practice in sequencing and spatial relations. Where do I start? How far up the side? How far apart should the ears be? These are all developmental skills that are precursors to letter formation. What a great tool to use to encourage kids to practice their (pre-) handwriting! While the app does not ask the child to form letters, but you can encourage your kids to do that. Perhaps, before they move on to the next animal, have them write the first letter of the animal they just saw. If they are learning a specific handwriting technique, such as Handwriting without Tears, have them practice the letter formation that reinforces proper technique. You can encourage older children to write the whole word. They will be having so much fun they won’t even realize they are practicing their handwriting.

As you use the app repeatedly, change it up and make it more interesting by having the children add more body parts. If the app just asks you to draw the ears, suggest that your kids draw arms, legs, and tails. Get creative, draw the bear holding a jar of honey, and then have your kids write a sentence, paragraph or story about how he acquired it. Maybe the bear met the survivalists, scared them off, and stole the honey from their packs.

Ejemplos-Drawnimal

As you can analyze this app there are so many possibilities for strengthening skills  here, drawing lines and shapes, visual perceptual skills, sequencing, directionality, letter recognition, and handwriting. All from a simple game  .So, the next time you discover a new app, look at it more critically ,analyse the task requirements and you may find  more ther than meets the eye initially.I if you are working with an OT ask them what possibilities your child’s favorite  of the apps afford.

As always, if you want to contact me about any apps I can be reached at gershon@postot.com

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 29th, 2014 and is filed under Fine Motor Fun, Handwriting & Fine Motor Coordination, What's App Wednesday.

Our new favorite pre-writing App is “Ready to Print”

Friday, May 16th, 2014

readytoprint

 

In the ever changing, fluid world of apps, it is challenging to keep up with all the new innovations that are taking place daily, if not hourly. The same holds true for apps that are used by occupational therapists to boost handwriting, fine motor control, visual perception, sensory regulation, and organization. In this space I will present those apps that I have used and found beneficial and worthwhile to utilize during therapy sessions, and at home.

Ready_to_print_app

I have recently discovered and am impressed with ‘Ready to Print’.  As indicated on the app’s web page, “Ready to Print is a pre-writing app that was developed by an occupational therapist with more than 20 years of experience working with children.” It was designed to help children progresses through pre-writing skills in a developmentally appropriate order, so that they can master the skills necessary for writing.

Ready_to_print_app

As you can see from the screenshot, the app is divided into eight categories that progressively build upon the developmental skills required for pre-writing and handwriting.  The first two games, Touch and Ordered Touch, focus on finger individuation and sequencing, requiring the child to touch in the order that will be required when beginning to form letters.

Matching. In this activity the child matches basic shapes. Like all the other activities it can be easily customised to match the child’s skill level by changing how many items have to be matched, as well as the size of the shapes. This activity facilitates visual tracking, scanning, and visual motor skills, all of which are required when learning how to write and recognize letters.

The next two games, Paths and Shapes, have the child trace a line or shape within set boundaries. They both tap into visual tracking and visual fine motor skills. As children progress and refine their skills, the width of the paths can be adjusted.

In Connect the Dots the child is asked to draw one of ten different shapes, from simple to more complex. The app encourages proper formation of the shapes , which will eventually carryover into good practice habits when learning to write letters.

The Pinching game sharpens fine motor skills. The ability to pinch is helpful when developing a grasp for any writing implement. Two objects are presented which the child has to bring together using his/her thumb and any other finger on the preferred hand. The spacing between the objects can be adjusted for various hand sizes.

Having progressed through all the other developmental levels, we finally arrive at  Letters, where children learn and practice letter formation. In this section the child is asked to copy letters first by following prompts on the right side of the screen, and then immediately practice freehand in a blank space on the left side of the screen. This is a wonderful feature missing from most other handwriting apps that I have used. This section allows you to work on capitals, lowercase letters, numbers, or a combination of upper and lower case letters.

Finally there is a section for free drawing that encourages creative and artistic expression with a variety of colors to choose from.

Overall, this is a marvelous app that is rich in many different areas. It provides a child  with the developmental activities required to build up underlying skills to support handwriting, as well as an opportunity to learn and practice handwriting in a fun way, all in one app. While no app should be a substitute for using a marker, crayon, chalk, pencil, or pen to write, this app is good to add on your tablet, to be used with a finger or a stylus (higher level). The ability to customize each level to match each child’s progress is a winning feature. I encourage you to log on and create a user account so you can track your children’s progress.

This app is available on Apple’s app store, Google Play, and for the Kindle fire.
I look forward to your feedback.  Feel free to contact me at gershon@potsot.com

This entry was posted on Friday, May 16th, 2014 and is filed under Fine Motor Fun, Handwriting & Fine Motor Coordination, What's App Wednesday.

What every parent should know about keyboarding

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

What every parent should know about keyboarding

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The Imperative: By 2015, according to  the Common Core national  3rd graders will be expected to type 3 short pieces on-line. 

The Concern: Digital natives lack the keyboarding fluency to focus on content.

What does research show?

  • To be an effective keyboarder, typing must be at least as fast as handwriting least.  Typical 5th graders write at about 15 words per minute (WPM).  In a recent study, after 6 weeks of focused practice , many 5th graders increased their speed to 25-30 WPM. That is functional!
  • 10-12 year olds gain keyboarding skills more rapidly , than younger children, so think twice before spending considerable effort on drilling  your youngster on fingering the whole QWERTY keyboard . Do focus on developing excellent life-long habits (see below)
  • Beware: Until a child is a fluent keyboarder , typing might actually slow his/her  writing to glacial speed, so be patient and strongly encourage  consistent focused practice
  • Good technique is the key to rapid accurate typing; emphasize form over speed

How do you become a great keyboarder? 

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!

 

Tips to promote fast typing and develop good life long habits:

Proper position :

  • Sit up straight with back against the chair
  • Center chair at the j key
  • Feet in front, flat on the floor
  • Shoulders relaxed; elbows comfortably at the side of the body
  • Wrists straight ; not bent up or down or to either side
  • Eyes on the monitor    

  Hand position

  • Keyboard at the edge of the desk
  • Fingers on the home keys; learn to find those “nubbies” on the f and j keys
  • Hands curved
  • Hit the RETURN key with the left pinkie
  • Hit the SHIFT with pinkie of the correct hand
  • Always use correct fingers, once learned

The most effective practice:

  • Immediately after a session of drills,  use keyboarding for a real life task, such as spelling words homework, making a birthday wish list, writing valentines, making a shopping list or  organizing dinner menus for the week    
  • Make it FUN!
    • type in the dark
    • type with the monitor turned off
    • a big variety of on-line typing games

A word of caution for poor hand writers: There is a fair to moderate correlation between handwriting legibility and typing speed. Why? Both are physical skills that rely on motor planning

Why practice nonsense phrases?  To develop the muscle memory  to reinforce motor planning, so go ahead and copy a sentence backwards just for fun!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 and is filed under Fine Motor Fun, Getting Ready for School, Parenting.

Get Ready For Purim: Make Your Own Gift Baskets For Mishloach Manot

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

As a mom, I love to have my children be as involved as possible in preparing for holidays and special occasions. It is one way to impart more meaning for them, as well as build memories and family traditions.

Here is a fantastic way for children to be involved in the process of preparing gift baskets, or mishloach manot. Be on standby to help out when need be, particularly for younger children.

In addition, my inner occupational therapist is pleased that this great craft involves many fine motor components, such as measuring, drawing, cutting, and weaving.

Purim-Homemade-Woven-Basket-Mishloach-Manot-

(http://theshiksa.com/)

Materials:

  1. 1 sheet of construction paper, cut to 12×12 inches for the main body of the basket
  2. 1-2 sheets of construction paper in a contrasting color for the strips
  3. Clothespins, glue, or a stapler
  4. Pencil
  5. Ruler
  6. Scissors

Directions:

1. To measure for the bottom of the basket, use a ruler to make a 4×4 inch square in the center of the main 12×12 inch square sheet of paper

Purim-Homemade-Woven-Basket-Mishloach-Manot-2

2.  Use the ruler and pencil to make straight lines. It will create a grid with nine boxes (like a tic-tac-toe board)

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3.  Cut out each corner box, so that what you are left with is like a plus (+) sign

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4.  Fold along the remaining lines to make walls around the center box

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5.  Cut flaps into each “wall” by cutting three strips on each side

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6. Cut strips out of the contrasting colored construction paper to weave through the flaps. The strips should be at least 16 1/2 inches long. If your construction paper is not that long, glue or staple two strips together to get the length you need. The strips need to be the same width as the flaps. (If you made 3 flaps, they should measure 1.33 inches wide, then the strips should measure 1.33 inches in width as well.)

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7. Fold your strips in 4-inch segments. This will help you later when you are fitting your paper strips into the corners of your basket.

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8.  Now you are ready to begin weaving. Staple the beginning of your strip to your first flap. If you don’t like the look of the staples, you can use glue and clothespins to hold things tight

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9.  Once you have your strips woven around the basket, you can fold the excess flaps at the top of the basket over and secure them down. This will create a rim on the edge of the basket

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10.  If you would like to add a handle to the basket, cut a long strip and attach it to two opposite walls of the basket.

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 11. Last, have your child fill the basket with yummy treats to share with family and friends. Keep in mind that this basket is made out of paper, and be sure the treats are not too heavy

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Blog written by: Aviva Goldwasser, MS, OTR/L

This entry was posted on Monday, March 3rd, 2014 and is filed under Fine Motor Fun, Seasonal Tips.

LOVE BITES

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

To make this adorable Valentine’s Day craft (www.allfortheboys.com), all you need is:

  • Red construction paper
  • Clothespins (regular or mini)
  • Glue
  • Marker
  • Scissors
  • Googly eyes, optional

First, fold the construction paper in half, draw a heart, and have your child cut it out. Since the paper was folded, this will yield two hearts, identical in size.

Next, have your child draw and cut a zig-zag line for the mouth. Draw two eyes on each heart, or glue on googly eyes. Lastly, use glue to adhere the hearts to either side of the clothespin.

Use these charming clothespins as a gift or treat bag topper. Opening the clothespins using the tip of the thumb and index fingers is a great activity for fine motor control. The space between the thumb and index finger (also known as the web space of the hand) should be open and rounded. If you notice that your child’s muscles have fatigued, and the web space of the hand is elongated or closed, simply end the activity and come back to it at another time.

 

Blog written by: Aviva Goldwasser, MS, OTR/L

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 and is filed under Fine Motor Fun, Seasonal Tips.

POTS Fine Motor Infographic

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Our first infographic!

A synopsis of fine motor development.

synopsisoffinedevelopment_v2

 

Enjoy!

Click here for a printable-version

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 9th, 2014 and is filed under Fine Motor Fun, Handwriting & Fine Motor Coordination, Parenting, Uncategorized.