St. Patrick's Day Crafts for Kids

By Laurel Martinez, TLC Teaching Assistant & After School Teacher

You won’t need the luck of the Irish to pull together these five easy and fun St. Patrick’s Day crafts with kids. They’re colorful, kid-tested-teacher-approved, and sure to be a hit with any preschooler when celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.

Pom-Pom Rainbow Craft

Puff Ball Rainbow.jpg

This craft is so simple and requires very little prep. Just find a printable rainbow with a pot of gold at the bottom or draw one yourself! 

What You Will Need:

  • Red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple small pom-poms

  • Gold sequins

  • Glue

  • Black marker.

Directions:

Draw or print a rainbow with a pot of gold at the bottom. Use the opportunity to look at pictures of rainbows and talk about the order the colors go in with your child. Have your child place the pom-pom in the corresponding rows and glue them down. Add some gold glitter to the pot of gold and let them color the pot black! Voila - fine Motor Skill practice and color learning all in one!

Shamrock Slime

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This craft is for the preschooler who loves all things slimy. This ooey-gooey shamrock slime is tons-o-fun.

What You Will Need:

  • ½ cup of sater (divided in two)

  • 1/4 cup of clear glue

  • Glitter and shamrock confetti

  • 1/4 teaspoon of borax

Directions:

Get two small bowls and add 1/4 cup of water to each. To one bowl add 1/4 cup of clear glue and sprinkle some glitter and shamrock confetti. In the other bowl add 1/4 teaspoon of borax. Mix each bowl really well. Slowly stir the borax mixture into the glue mixture and watch the slime begin to take shape! Continue stirring until everything is mixed well. Keep your shamrock slime in a sealed container when you’re not playing with it. 

NOTE: Children should never have direct contact with borax! Never leave them unattended while playing with slime!

Beaded Shamrocks

Beaded Shamrock.jpg

These beaded shamrocks are a great parent and kid work-together activity as they are a little more involved. It offers great motor skill practice and the supplies can be used over and over again!  

What You Will Need:

  • Pipe Cleaners (I used green sparkly ones)

  • Pony Beads

Directions:

Twist two pipe cleaners together.  Leave them in a straight line. Work together to make your own unique pattern with the beads. Once the patterns are complete fold the pipe cleaners in half. Create one heart shape at the curved end of the folded pipe cleaner. Twist underneath that heart to help it hold its shape.  Fold the remaining edges up and twisted them in the middle. Form them into heart shapes as well. Then, finally, add another pipe cleaner to make the stem of the shamrock. This one is, again, great motor skills practice. Try making some with rainbow pony beads or green and white as well!

Melting Pots of Gold

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Preschoolers love to help, this we know. So how about letting them help the leprechaun find his pot of gold and all his coins. This one requires some prep time but it is worth the fun. 

What You Will Need:

  • Mini Black Pot/Kettle

  • Gold Coins

  • Gold Glitter

  • Jewels in Rainbow Colors

  • Eyedropper and Squeeze Bottle

  • Pennies

  • Container

  • Water

Directions:

To set up this St Patrick’s Day ice melt activity, I recommend you freeze the items in layers. In the first layer freeze the pot of gold (fill with pennies to sink), some jewels, and coins.  Make sure it freezes completely before adding the next layer. Top it all off with some glitter and coins. Allow your child to test which method works better to melt the ice, eye dropper or squeeze bottle. Both are great motor activities. This activity is an easy, fun, and simple science concept as well.  Want to add math skills? Just count the coins together! 

Quilted Paper Shamrocks

Mosaic Shamrock.jpg

What’s St. Paddy’s Day without some shamrocks? This easy craft is great for a variety of ages and is almost completely mess-proof. 

What You Will Need:

  • Paper in different colors and patterns

  • Green shamrock cut out (use cardstock or heavier for best results)

  • Glue

Directions:

Work on those motor skills once again and allow your preschooler to cut out pieces of paper that they like. Allow them to apply the glue to the precut shamrock (glue sticks work best) and then stick their cutout paper on to the shamrock shape. If some of the paper overlaps the edge of the shamrock just trim it once it is all dry and enjoy! 

These projects are easy and (mostly) no mess. You possibly already have most of the ingredients at home, too! So gather the lads and lassies and get crafting! Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

Valentines Crafts for Kids

By Laurel Martinez, TLC Teaching Assistant & After School Teacher

Valentines is such a fun time to get creative with kids. There's themed art projects, fun snacks, and my personal favorite activity: red glitter playdough. Here are 5, teacher-tested, kid approved Valentines Day crafts for you and your preschooler to do together: 

Valentines Day Crown

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This cute Valentine’s crown can be tailored to fit the interest/involvement level of any kid. Add different stickers, glitter, markers, crayons, etc. Go themed with cute animals, or even use superhero stickers! Let the kids' creativity reign. This craft is so simple and needs very little prep.

What you will need:

  • Adhesive backed foam hearts

  • Poster board

  • Markers/crayons/etc.

  • Pipe cleaners

  • Stapler

Directions:

Cut the poster into strips and let them decorate their headband with markers and stickers. Then twirl up some pink pipe cleaners and staple the whole thing together. So inexpensive and fun. This craft hits fine and gross motor (allow them to try to twirl the pipe cleaner around a pencil, or even allow them to help you staple it together,for older preschoolers). Plus they can wear it and declare themselves Queen/King of Hearts.
 

Heart Shaped Bird Feeder

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For the preschooler who loves all things animals, this heart-shaped Valentine’s Day Bird Feeder is an easy way to combine social responsibility with the ooey-gooey fun of peanut butter.

What You Will Need:

  • Bread

  • Peanut Butter

  • Cookie Cutters (heart-shaped, of course)

  • Bird Seed

  • Twine or string

Directions:

Use the cookie cutters to cut heart shapes out of the bread (this is a great chance to use up any stale bread). You might have to help your child push the cookie cutter all the way through the bread, depending on age and skill level. Use a straw to poke a small hole at the top of each cutout. This is where the twine will go through, so you can hang your bird feeders outside. Use a butter knife to spread the peanut butter on to the bread (this is part of why stale bread is better). This is the messy and fun part for the kids. Then sprinkle the bird seed on to the peanut butter (best to do over a bowl). All that’s left is to string the twine and hang them up outside! So fun and eco-friendly.


Heart Glitter Jars

Heart Glitter Jars.jpg

Heart Glitter Jars are the perfect sensory valentines project for calming and focusing. These pretty swirly jars are so much fun for kids (and adults) to look at. 

What you will need:

  • Glitter

  • Clean glass bottles or plastic bottles (plastic is safer for younger kiddos)

  • Glitter glue

  • Water

  • Measuring Cup

Directions:

To start, pour most of a red glitter glue bottle into a measuring cup. Then add about the same amount of hot tap water to the cup. Mix everything together until it seems thoroughly mixed. Then pour the glue and water mixture into your bottle of choice. After that, just add a bit of heart glitter. The glitter doesn’t need to be measured – just add whatever you feel like. Easy and fun, not to mention sparkly. 

 

Magic Marbled Milk

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Magic Marbled Milk is pure science fun. Watch your kids' faces light up in amazement as this nifty little experiment. It’s an easy activity that is kid-friendly and clean-up friendly.

What You Will Need:

  • Milk (any kind of milk will do)

  • A bowl, casserole dish, or baking sheet

  • Food Coloring (especially red and pink)

  • Glitter

  • Heart cookie cutters

  • Liquid dish soap

  • Toothpick

Directions:

Place a heart-shaped cookie cutter in a shallow dish or baking sheet. Pour milk into the cookie cutter. It will leak out into the dish, but that’s fine. You don’t need much, just a thin layer that covers the bottom. Squeeze a few drops of food coloring into the milk. Then dip the end of the toothpick into the dish soap and then into the center of one drop of colored milk. Don’t stir it! Watch the color explode and swirl inside the heart. Repeat and enjoy this valentine’s science experiment. 

 

Red Glitter Playdough

Glitter Playdough.jpg

Red Glitter Playdough is another perfect sensory activity for little ones. I love homemade playdough and this no-bake recipe is perfect. Add some lavender essential oil for even more sensory fun.

What you will need:

  • Liquid food colouring

  • 2 cups flour

  • 1 cup Salt

  • 1 tbsp Oil

Directions:

Mix the flour and salt and add the tablespoon of oil. Add the water and mix well. I usually start with a spoon to gather it mostly together then use my hands for the rest. Kids love this part and it’s a great opportunity to include them. Once mixed to desired texture add the glitter and mix again to ensure an even distribution. Add essential oils to preference. This is sure to be asked for over and over.

Note: Want to bring in some literacy? Use masking tape to spell out letters and have children roll out the playdough to spell the letters - this makes great name practice and hits motor skills as well!

 

All of these projects are totally teacher tested and kid approved. They’re super easy and most of the ingredients you probably already have at home! So gather the kids and get crafting! Happy Valentine’s Day!
 

Exploring Science with Preschoolers

By Kathy Porter Peden, TLC Teaching Assistant

I love watching children learn about the world around them. They are such eager explorers and anyone who has spent more than a few minutes with a preschooler knows they are full of questions and curiosity.  

Sometimes, as teachers or parents, we are reluctant to dive into science topics and activities with our young kids, but I encourage you to give science with preschoolers a try. Here are four common fears with teaching young children science, and tips on addressing and overcoming those fears for a fun and engaging activity:

1.    "Science is intimidating.  I don’t know much about the subject my child or class is interested in."

  • You don’t have to be an expert in astrophysics before you start talking about space and stars with your children. You can teach them a vital life lesson by admitting you don’t know all the answers but you’d like to learn something new.

  • The children’s section of the local library has great beginner science books. Many have just a few words and great pictures.

  • You can find some great information and some really good videos on the internet bu make sure to screen these before sharing with your children. Not everyone has the same standards for what a child should see.

2.     "It seems too complex for young children."

  • Children grasp way more than we give them credit for. Think of all the amazing learning they have done in a few short years! Even if they don’t understand all the intricacies of a subject, having fun exploring it now will likely leave the door open to add to their understanding in the future.

  • Preschoolers LOVE big words. Science is chock full of impressive vocabulary. You can teach them one or two big words relating to the current topic and give simple definitions. Give them the opportunity to discuss and use the words several times and you will see their pride as they talk to others using that vocabulary. Recent “big words” in our class have been: nocturnal, echolocation, translucent, opaque, condensation, evaporation, and precipitation.

3.    "It might not work right. I tried before and it was a flop."
  

  • Well, yes, that does happen. Things don’t always go the way we expect but even failures can be learning opportunities. Talk with the children about their ideas. “Why do you think it didn’t work?” “What should we do differently next time?” “Do we want to try this again to try something else?”

  • Try not to impose your own expectations on their exploration. If you hear yourself saying, “That won’t work. Do it this way,” you might need to back off and let them do their own research. Last year I had one of those moments when my little students wanted to plant a huge mango seed along with all the lettuce and pansies we were starting for our garden. My first reaction was to explain that mangoes do NOT grow well in Colorado but looking at their eager faces, we stuffed it into a jar of dirt. They watered it and watched for weeks. I was just ready to throw it away, assuming it was just a moldy mess when I saw a big green shoot was erupting from the ground. We transplanted it into a real pot and it’s a sturdy little mango tree these days. Every time I see that tree-let I am reminded that sometimes following a child’s curiosity can land you in a beautiful place.

4.    "It might be messy."

  • Well, yes. There is that. You can take that into account and minimize the mess. Do the messiest stuff outside. Use a drop cloth or work in a dish tub or on a cookie sheet. Keep towels handy. Encourage the kids to wear their lab coats (paint smocks)

As you explore science with your children remember to:

Keep it safe.  Make sure your materials are safe for impulsive and fast moving little people.  Supervise closely.

Keep it fun.  Exploration and discovery and laughter are fun.  Memorization drills are NOT fun.

Invite the wonder.  Model asking questions and pondering the things your children ask about.

"I wonder why…?"

"I wonder what would happen if …?"

"I wonder how that works…?"

I hope you have fun exploring the world and seeing it through the wondering eyes of the preschoolers in your life.
 

A Scary Story by TLC Alum Hunter

Hunter is a TLC alum who received pediatric therapy services from age two to 12. Hunter's mom reports that he's doing great in school and recently wrote a Halloween story he was very proud of. We're proud of the story and of Hunter, so thought we'd share it with you!

Scary Story

John can see the old, abandoned lighthouse from his bedroom window. One night, the lantern in the lighthouse flicks on, and begins rotating. In front of the light, walks a shadowy figure…spooky. Is it the old lighthouse keeper, the one who disappeared years ago? John is so spooked that he yells for his parents. His dad comes into the room and John points at the lighthouse. “Look at the lighthouse!” he screams.

His dad turns on the bedroom light and looks out the window. The lighthouse is dark and the light isn’t spinning anymore. “What are you pointing at?” his dad asks.

John looks at the lighthouse, but there’s nothing there. “There was a really creepy ghost. He had a really creepy cloak on,” John says.

“Calm down. It’s nothing. Go back to sleep,” dad says, but John can still feel the creepiness as dad leaves the room and shuts out the light.
John doesn’t go back to sleep. He is worried the lights on the lighthouse will come back on again and he keeps thinking he sees a ghost near his window. He thinks the doors might open automatically. 

Something hits his window and the window glass shatters. John screams. Dad comes running back into the room. 

“What happened here?” he asks, but before John can answer a creepy shadow passes by the broken window. Dad reaches to turn on the lights but they don’t come on. 

John, shivering in fear, just points at the window.

Dad stays in the room with John until 3 in the morning when the power comes back on. The lights turn on, and the water in the sinks in the bathroom and kitchen starts running. 

“Why is the water running?” Dad asks. He tries to shut off the water but it won’t shut off, so the house starts flooding. Dad grabs John and starts to run outside. After three minutes, the water stops. The floor is wet but they go back in the house to clean things up. The clean up takes a long time, and by the time they’re done, John has to go to school.

At school, all of John’s friends are talking about the power being out. At all of their houses on the same street, glass shattered, power went out, and flooding happened. 

“It can’t be a coincidence,” John says.

After school, John and his friends are talking in the hallway and trying to figure out the mystery. John tells them what he saw at the lighthouse, so they decide to investigate. They reach the lighthouse but they notice something is wrong. There is a fence around the lighthouse when there never was one before. The friends decide to climb over the fence. Once they are inside the fence, they hear a bell ring, and the fence becomes electrified. They are completely surrounded. After five minutes, the bell goes off again and the fence is not electrified. They think they have five minutes to get over the fence. They go as fast as they can. As they are running away from the lighthouse, they hear a ghostly voice say, “Get out of here and leave me alone!”

The friends decide that’s a good idea, so they never go back to the lighthouse again.

TLC kiddos have fun with Executive Director Matt Eldred on Halloween last year. Kids are welcome to bring their costumes on Monday, October 31st, for a TLC Costume Parade.

TLC kiddos have fun with Executive Director Matt Eldred on Halloween last year. Kids are welcome to bring their costumes on Monday, October 31st, for a TLC Costume Parade.

Holiday Stress Reduction Tips for Kids & Parents

Happy Thanksgiving holidays to everyone from TLC! The TLC staff of teachers and therapists have pooled a few of their tips on how to have a happy, fun, and low-stress holiday break with your special kiddos.

Ashlee Andrews, TLC Teacher:

To help children adjust to the busy-ness and disruption from daily activities brought by the holidays, try to keep the daily schedule as normal as possible for children. Tell your child about the upcoming events so they have time to prepare for changes in their routine and schedules. With that, I think it’s important not to throw out ‘typical’ things just because it’s the holidays. For example, if it’s a routine for you to go to the library once a week or have a designated homework time, make sure to keep those designated activity times going. Priority lists are also great tools for making sure the most meaningful routines are taken care of, just in case you have to weed out a few activities and/or to-do's due to a time crunch.

Shari Karmen, TLC Occupational Therapist:

Help children prepare for unfamiliar faces and situations by creating a "family & friends" book full of family member names and information, or flip through a photo album that includes photos of relatives the child will see and remind them who each person is. Help kids stay in touch with far-away family throughout the year by helping the child exchange letters with the family they will see over the holidays. Teach children what to expect at holiday gatherings by practicing at home. For example, if the family meal will be a buffet and the child hasn't served themselves before, have a family buffet night at home before the event, and practice serving with special utensils and recognizing appropriate portion sizes. If a child is shy, help them initiate social interactions by letting them bring a toy, game, or other item they can show to family and explain the significance. The item can be both a conversation starter and a comforting presence for the child. Get more ideas like these at Sandbox Learning.

Amy Kuesel, TLC  Teacher:

During the holidays, it's important for kids to get enough sleep to help them stay happy and calm during the excitement of the busy days. Have a quiet time mid-afternoon even if children do not nap. Get cozy in bed and read a book or listen to music to help create a calming, quiet space. In addition to excitement, the holidays can entice both kids and adults with lots of sugary foods. To help kids stay regulated in their behavior, be sure to balance the extra sweet foods with plenty of nourishing, healthy food.

Christy Griffith, TLC Occupational Therapist

Help children engage in focused, fun, and helpful activities through sensory-oriented tasks like kneading and rolling dough, washing windows, carrying weighted packages, or playing on a playground to make use of their energy. If going to an event, let children know what to expect, and how many minutes they may need to sit still for. Sensory pressure can help some children feel calm when events become over-stimulating: wrap your child snugly in a blanket so they feel safe and secure, or help them roll up "like a hotdog" in a blanket. The pressure and warmth of the blanket can be calming to some children when they become overwhelmed. Find more ideas at ATeachAbout.com

Do you have any tips for helping children and families enjoy the most out of the holidays possible? Let us know in the comments! And have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Surviving Halloween & Having Fun With Your Child

By Lindsey Blechle, MOT, OTR

The excitement and anticipation of Halloween is building at TLC Learning Center, but for some children who are easily overwhelmed or with sensory processing disorder, this is a very stressful time of year. Halloween is a night that is full of novel and potentially over-stimulating sensory input, but it can be fun and successful for all children provided it is met with patience, planning and some creative thinking.

Below are some ideas to help you plan a fun Halloween, no matter what your child's threshold for sensory input, activity, and stimulation:

  • Plan your child’s costume in advance and practice wearing it often. Choose a costume that will not irritate your child (for example, costumes with itchy or hot fabrics, scratchy tags, heavy or full-face masks, etc.), and a costume that can be easily removed if needed at some point in the night. Have your child be an active part of this process so he or she feels comfortable and confident that their costume will work for them. Remember that less is more, and that it is okay if your child would just prefer to wear a Halloween shirt, a simple cape, or attach a tail to a pair of sweats.
  • Consider building sensory strategies into your child’s costume. If your child will have a hard time with auditory input, try building headphones or ear muffs into their costume. If your child is going to need deep pressure throughout the night to remain calm, try having them wear Under Armour beneath their costume for consistent proprioceptive input.
  • Create a schedule of the day’s activities with your child so they know what to expect. See previous TLC blog posts for great ideas on creating and using visual schedules.
  • Set expectations with your family to help your child prepare for the night's activities. Decide if you’ll be using walking feet (this is a term we use at TLC to positively discourage running in the hallways), if the family will go trick-or-treating together or if the parents will wait on the sidewalk, if candy can be eaten when received or if it has to be sorted first, how to ask for a break, etc. Setting up these expectations in advance will help avoid any meltdowns or power struggles in the moment.
  • Limit the number of houses you will visit, or stick to familiar houses if trick-or-treating. End the night successfully and when your child is ready. Honor any requests to go home and be observant of when your child has had enough.
  • Decide as a family if you’ll be out while it is dark or if you will be coming home at that time. The lights, noise, and a dark environment may be too much for your child to handle all at once. Know when to call it a night before things get overwhelming.
  • In advance, create a safe spot for a break with your child. A wagon, stroller or bike may provide your child with some quiet time and help them refocus for more activities.
  • Think creatively when decorating pumpkins. Your child may not be open to touching the inside of a pumpkin but may enjoy decorating with stickers, painting or attaching accessories.
  • End the night with some quiet time in a safe spot that your child loves. A snuggle at home with calming music and hot chocolate will help reset, calm, and end the night on a positive and peaceful note.

I hope these suggestions help make your night a Halloween success! Do you have other tips for a successful and happy Halloween?  Please share them with us in the comments!

Are you looking for a childcare center, preschool, or therapy services that are familiar with children who experience a sensory processing disorder? TLC integrates pediatric therapy for children with sensory processing disorder and other needs into our inclusive classrooms. TLC therapists see older children and non-TLC students in their homes and on our campus. Learn more about TLC's programs for kindergarten-readiness in all students by emailing Cindy Wickham at cwickham@learningwithtlc.org. Learn more about TLC's pediatric therapy program for children with sensory processing disorder and other developmental delays or disabilities by emailing Shari Karmen at skarmen@learningwithtlc.org

Summer Sensory Fun for Kids

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Happy Summer! The warm months are a time for relaxation - naps in the hammock, reading a book on the beach, long walks at the park, and escaping to the mountains. At least, that is our perception as an adult. However, for a child who is home from school for the summer, their routine has been thrown upside down. The schedule and predictability that once dictated their days is gone, and often they are left struggling to regulate, and desperately craving a routine. As an occupational therapist, I look at a child’s environment, routines, activities, and sensory input, all of which change dramatically in the summer. I see a number of children whose behavior and response to their environment is also impacted due to the summer's change in routines, environment, and activities.

While I can’t promise you will never hear “I’m bored” again this summer, I hope that this list of sensory summer fun activities will provide you with ideas to increase regulation, routine, sensory input and overall summer enjoyment!

The following activities can be alerting, organizing or calming. Each individual child is unique in their response to activities. Please consult a therapist at TLC Learning Center if you have specific questions regarding your child’s sensory processing.

Movement Activities (Vestibular Input):

  • Swimming
  • Swinging
  • Running, Jumping, Skipping, Hopping, etc.
  • Team Sports
  • Hiking – nature walks, new adventures
  • Water Play – run through sprinklers, jump in puddles, have a water balloon fight
  • Get Up and Move Dice

Deep Pressure and “Heavy Work” Activities (Proprioceptive Input):

  • Ride a bike, scooter, roller skate
  • Build in wet sand. Don’t have a sand box? Fill up a Rubbermaid container with sand from a hardware store.
  • Gardening – digging, pushing a wheelbarrow, planting, etc.
  • Push and Dump Ice Relay
  • Stomp Paintings

Touch Activities (Tactile):

Taste & Oral Activities:

Please let us know your favorite sensory activities for kids in the comments! If you have questions about Sensory Processing Disorders or Occupational Therapy, please contact us to discuss an evaluation for your child.

Lindsey Blechle, MOT, OTR