Friday, September 25, 2009

Toddler Activity: Sandwich & Burrito Game

One of my 5 year old daughter's favorite things to do is get wrapped up in a larger blanket or comforter and pretend that she is a sandwich or a burrito. We have played this game since she was 2 1/2 and it is a great toddler activity! After wrapping her up in the blanket, AKA bread, I then push on her joints or tickle her as I say that I am adding ketchup, lettuce, mustard or other condiments. I sometimes throw pillows on top of her while saying that I'm adding cheese. I am guaranteed to get a true giggle from her. Afterwards, she likes to switch and have me be the sandwich or burrito. If I am a "burrito" then she pretends to rub cheese, sauce, beans, or meat on me as she pushes or swipes her hands over me. When we really are in a silly mood, we are a double-decker sandwich and get in the blanket together and roll around in synchrony as we add things such as tomatoes and bacon to our sandwich. Often, my 15 month old son will jump or roll around with us, but obviously he is too young to add the imaginative components that her and I do. Yet, he giggles and has lots of fun, too!

This activity helps to develop language because you can ask the child to say what they want put on them. You can also ask goofy questions to an older toddler such as "Do you want chocolate or pickles on your sandwich?" this helps you know if they know categories of foods and that chocolate wouldn't go on a sandwich...although I may have to try it some day! This activity is also working on: cooperation, sharing/ taking turns, touch sensation, muscle strength, following directions (receptive language & cognition), and vestibular & proprioceptive sensations.

Even if you don't play the sandwich or burrito game, just getting on the floor and being silly with your young children is important. Many toddler activities include using the imagination and getting down on the floor. And if you are in the right mindset, you are guaranteed to have fun!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Info Spot 4 the Special Tot: Snacks for Toddlers with Oral-Motor Problems

It is important to know if your toddler has sensory or motor problems that are contributing to mealtime frustrations. This blog discusses symptoms of a problem & tips to help with snacktime Info Spot 4 the Special Tot: Snacks for Toddlers with Oral-Motor Problems

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mommy's Little Helper

I just finished a load of laundry, loading and unloading the dishwasher, dusting the windows to the breakfast nook, and sweeping the kitchen floor after a messy breakfast. My 15 month old son and 5 year old daughter were my helpers during these chores. Now, it took much longer to have them help than had I just done it myself. But having them help actually made it kinda fun. We sang, counted, and made a game of the chores. This got me to thinking how beneficial it is for children's development to be "Mommy's Helper". It helps them:

  • Learn to imitate. Imitation is needed for language, motor, self-help, and cognition skills. Whether it be imitating sounds or actions, this is a pertinent part of development.

  • Enhance sense of touch- various textures are touched within the laundry basket, dishes, etc.

  • Enhance visual perception- sorting laundry, putting articles of clothing into the dryer or basket, sorting utensils for mealtime, looking for food particles on floor, etc.

  • Enhance motor coordination- takes balance to walk around with a broom, to push laundry basket, fold laundry, dusting, wash windows (I don't recommend the use of harmful or strong chemicals, use milder fruit or water based cleaners), etc.

  • Develop listening skills and following simple directions

  • Increase attention span by staying with a task until it is finished

  • Gain responsibility by being responsible for the cleaning/care of their property. Also, not expecting the parent to clean up all of their messes for them: room, after meal, toys throughout house, bike outside, etc.

  • Socialize- when cleaning in a group

  • Taking turns, sharing, & waiting- if there is only one broom, then the kids must share

  • Language- have the kids make choices, label activities, and sing the steps to the chores. An example of a choice for a toddler might be "Do you want to sweep with the broom or wipe the windows?"

Because I have had my kids be "Mommy's Helper" from the beginning I have two kids who put their paper plates in the trash. My daughter actually cleans her own room without being asked, especially after a playmate leaves who didn't get a chance to help. Okay, go clean!

Friday, September 11, 2009

"Touchy" Toddler Activities

Toddlers are little investigators: they like to climb, touch things, make noises, & have fun (and tantrums)! They are learning through their senses. I am listing some fun activities for toddlers to do that help develop their sense of touch (AKA tactile sense):
  • Put small toys and trinkets within containers that have lids. I save the used wipee containers, then label it as toys. Next, I find "odds and ends" toys that are too large to be swallowed or choked on and stick them in the container. This is often where Happy Meal (R) toys end up! It is also where party favors from birthday parties end up! Specific toys that may end up in the container are: miniature plastic figurines such as army men or dinosaurs, mini maraccas, small balls, rattles, slinkies, fuzzy dice, small stuffed animals, and other random toys that no longer seem to have a home. My kids love to rummage through closed containers.
  • Home-made edible playdough. There are many good recipes out there on the Web. Common ingredients include: flour, peanut butter, koolaid (R) powder, and oatmeal
  • Helping to make cookies: use the rolling pin and cookie cutters. Kids love this. Someone bought me a box of over 200 cookie cutters which contains numbers, letters, shapes, and holiday characters and I use these for cookies as well as with playdough
  • Sandbox and water table outside. I didn't want a sandbox on the ground, so I bought two water tables and use one of them for sand. In the water, I put water toys such as fish that get squeezed or boats that float. In the sand, I leave a small shovel as well as plastic and rubber animals and fuzzy balls for my kids to search through
  • WikkiStix(R) or other candle-wick type sticks. These are fun to make things with, and aren't really for younger toddlers, but once a child is near 3 years or older, he should enjoy these. The best thing is that they can be used over and over again, because they are flexible and then can go back straight again
  • Finger painting. This is my all time favorite! Spread some newspaper outside on the sidewalk or inside on a table, and let the kids smear the paint around until they have beautiful artwork
  • Rice, macaroni, or bean containers with small items hidden within them. You can put large spoons or tongs in the container for the toddler to use as a search tool. Common items I hide in these mixtures are the same toys I would put out in a sandbox.
  • Spaghetti art: Cook spaghetti noodles and add a bit of oil, then a bit of food coloring. It sticks quite well to construction paper. The oil is necessary so that the noodles can be pulled apart. On the paper, noodles can become hair on a person's head or fur on an animal...what fun artwork!
  • Pudding or shaving cream art. Smear it on a cooking sheet and draw shapes and other things with a pointed index finger. Then rinse off, of course of using the pudding, you can also lick your fingers to help clean up!
  • Fidget toys: I keep small little toys for my kids to fiddle with during car rides, while waiting at a restaurant, or while sitting in a grocery cart. Party favors as well as stretchy rubber toys make good fidgets.

If you notice that a child is sensitive to touching things, then do not force him to participate. Think of a way to alter the activity to where he will think it is fun. For instance, if he dislikes digging through sand with his bare hands, then give him tongs. Or if he dislikes finger painting, give him a paint brush. Maybe with familiarity and repetition, the child may soon want to participate in the "feely" activity. If you feel that the child's disinterest in touching things is abnormal, then check out for "red flags" for sensory processing problems. If other symptoms are then noted after looking at this list, the child may benefit from an occupational therapy evaluation.

Info Spot 4 the Special Tot: Visual-Perceptual Skills...Do You See What I See?

Info Spot 4 the Special Tot: Visual-Perceptual Skills...Do You See What I See?

Info Spot 4 the Special Tot: Teaching Toddlers How to Play with Toys

Info Spot 4 the Special Tot: Teaching Toddlers How to Play with Toys

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Toddler Activities for a Sensory Diet: Magic Carpet Ride

I will be providing various toddler activities for a "sensory diet" during the next few blog entries. You may have heard the term sensory diet but weren't sure what it is. Well, it is extra sensory input provided to a person on a regular basis, just as food is provided on a regular basis throughout the day. We all get some amount of sensory input at all times: hunger, thirst, sights within the room, the feel of our clothing or jewelry, sense of motion and balance as we walk around, etc. But many of us need more sensation than just mere existence provides. This is especially the case for toddlers and preschoolers...they are in the sensorimotor stage of development. They need extra time for dancing, climbing, running, swinging, singing, coloring, building blocks, etc. That means some sit down fine motor play, but it also means "wiggly" gross motor play. Gross motor play is easy to provide a child when you have a park or swimming pool near your house, but not as easy on rainy days or for someone who lives in a high rise apt. with no place to run around.

I have blogged previously on obstacle courses and other indoor activities. But one of my all time favorite indoor gross motor toddler activities is having the child pretend that he is taking a ride on a magic carpet. The "magic carpet" could be a sheet, quilt, or blanket that is sturdy. Have the child participate by being the passenger or being the person that pulls another person as they are being taken for a ride. I often start out by letting the child be the passenger first and having him lie down on the blanket. Then, I hold one end of the blanket and run as fast as I can across the cleared room or hallway. Language skills can be addressed as well by having the child request to go slower or faster, or when to start and stop. If you really want to challenge the toddler's balance, have him sitting up as opposed to lying down. Whether the child is the passenger or the puller, he gets sensory input. Being the passenger provides tactile and vestibular input. Being the one who pulls the other person provides tactile, vestibular, and mostly proprioceptive input. Proprioception is the sense of body-in-space awareness and proprioceptors are located in muscles and joints. Anything resistive will provide proprioceptive input.