Responsive Language

By Amy Kuessel, TLC Teaching Assistant

Responsive language is a way of speaking with children that uses reason and logic, encourages independence, uses nurturing control, and encourages elaboration. Responsive language helps children develop oral language skills, self-expression, and social-emotional skills related to peer and adult interactions. The opposite of responsive language is restrictive language. Restrictive language asserts power, discourages independence, is controlling, and has a lecturing tone. 

It seems natural to ask children questions to elicit responses, but research shows that asking pointed questions can raise the anxiety of a child and thus limit the complexity of a child's language and response. Questions can be restrictive when a child worries about giving an adult the "right" answer, or about selecting his or her words to stay in the parameters of the question. Responsive language creates opportunities for children to speak freely, using an expanded vocabulary and independent thought. Some suggestions for using responsive language when conversing with a child include:

1) Repeat: Repeating what the child said opens up the conversation and lets them know they are heard, and that the adult is receptive to the child elaborating on his or her statement.

2) Expand: Repeat what the child said and expand on it in your response. This helps guide the child's thoughts down new paths, keeping the conversation open and moving.

3) Self-talk: Use self-talk to teach children how to connect actions with language. In self-talk, a parent or guardian narrates what they are thinking and feeling. For example, "I like strawberries on my cereal," "I am slicing carrots for your lunch."

4) Parallel talk: In parallel talk, the parent or caregiver repeats what the child may be doing, feeling, and thinking to help the child connect language with their actions and feelings. Parallel talk almost always starts with "you," for example, "You are playing with your blocks," or "You are chewing your spaghetti."

5) Modeling: Modeling is another way to maintain a conversation with a child, but this time without using the child's words. This type of responsive language helps a child learn new ways to say things, while guiding them to elaborate on a topic or thought.

Strategies that support children's learning and give and take in conversation help children develop language skills, independent thought, and social-emotional skills. Responsive language is a great and easy strategy to give kids a head start in the development of these positive skills!

Finding Inner Peace: Calming Choice Boards

By Mia Girard, TLC Occupational Therapist and YogaKids instructor

Transitions are difficult for everyone, kids and adults alike. It's hard to transition to something new – a new schedule, new school, new job, new season, new whatever! While it can be exciting, it can also be a bit anxiety-producing and unnerving.  This is especially true for small children, who often don't know what to expect from a new experience, new face, or just a new activity sequenced in the day's normal events.

Calming choice post-it's to pick from in stressful situations.

Calming choice post-it's to pick from in stressful situations.

During my routine Monday morning yoga class, I was reminded that my favorite part is savasana. To me, this final pose is like a delicious dessert, something to savor at the end of a really yummy meal. I found myself lying there thinking about transitions and all that is new to my family and the kids that I work with, and wishing that I could recruit and share this fantastic, relaxed, connected and organized feeling whenever I so desire!  Savasana -- such a nourishing, sweet, soul-satisfying pose. It helps me feel as though I can take on anything that life dishes my way!

After class, I began to think about how I can accomplish this task using yoga like the YogaKids pledge reminds us: “anytime, anywhere to calm myself, energize myself, and make myself feel better.” I am reminded of my most difficult time of day: the after-work, pre-dinner time-frame when I am running low on patience, life gets briefly super-busy, and my sensory system is most sensitive and fragile.

Doesn’t it seem like everyone needs a bit of you right then? To help with homework, answer the phone, cook dinner, pick up something at the store, go through the mail, see who is at the door, answer a text message, etc.? Sometimes I feel as though if one more person needs my attention, I am either going to run for the hills or scream like a baby.

A calming-choice board in the Yogakids classroom.

A calming-choice board in the Yogakids classroom.

Not a very pretty picture, is it? Most of the time, I have enough wits about me to remember my strategies: take a break for a minute, spritz myself in a calming essential oil mist, do some alternate nostril-breathing, a forward-fold, a sun salutation... While I might not be able to enjoy savasana at this time, are there other yoga poses and tools that I can access to find the serenity within me? Ah, yes!  And these help me regroup and re-enter my world with a refreshed mind, an open heart, and a calmer sensory system.  

Not all children are able to do this. In fact, many are not. One of my favorite things about YogaKids is that it gives us the opportunity to teach children about the art of self-regulation, the ability to calm or energize to meet the demands of the environment at any moment. More and more often, children need strategies to learn how to calm themselves. How can I help my kids learn them?

One way is to more openly share when I am about to enter into a fight-or-flight response. This allows me to communicate with my family what I am trying to accomplish when I dive into a forward-fold! Another way is to create a choice board: a place for pictures or hand-written sticky notes of choices. In this case, calming choices that work for both myself and the others in my family.

I often use choice boards at work with the children and within classrooms as I find that the visual reminder can help more than a verbal cue to remember strategies. After all, when I am nearing a fight-or-flight moment, the last thing I want is for someone to suggest I calm down! With a visual reminder of options for calming choices, it empowers rather than recommends a choice. The key is making sure that the pictures or choices used on the board will work.

How do you know what will work? Put on your detective spectacles over the course of a day or so. See what your children do to calm themselves. Do they rock in a rocking chair, chew gum, take a bath, swing on the swing set, ask for a hug? From their choices, see what you can glean to enrich the sensory opportunities they are seeking and expand upon them.

A few calming yogakids pose choices

A few calming yogakids pose choices

For example, if they like rocking chairs, think of yoga poses that involve rocking, like Rocking Horse or Rock ‘n Roll.  If they self-regulate through the use of their mouths, consider deep breathing through Take 5, Breezing, or Sitali Breath. If they like the warmth and feel of being in a bath, try a 2-3 pound heated and scented rice pack as a strategy to calm.

Depending upon what you find that works, creating a calming choice board for your home (or your classes) can empower children to develop for themselves the art of self-regulation.

Cold Weather Speech and Language Activities for Kids

By Fawn Gold, TLC SpeechTherapist

January in Colorado is a chilly month! And with cold temperatures, ice, and snow, comes the need for indoor activities with children. Find a whole month's worth of indoor speech and language activities to help keep kids busy (and having fun!) while developing speech/language acquisition skills, and oral motor skills in the chart below:

 Make hot chocolate and talk about each step involved in preparation (first, second, third, etc.).

 When getting ready to go outside, talk about the purpose of coats, hats, scarves, and why we need to wear them.

Name four animals you see in the winter/cold climates and find pictures to discuss how they are similar and different from each other.

  Act out and talk about the verbs jump, crawl, kick, throw, catch, and other movements that can be demonstrated in the living room.

 Race cars on a table and talk about the differences between fast and slow.

 Read a book about winter and ask your child to recall five details from the story.

Find items of different textures (rough, soft, hard, etc.) and put them in a bag and have your child guess what they are.

Use silverware to make a pattern and talk about what’s first, last, and what will come next.

 Take turns thinking of things that are white like the snow. Where can you find each of the things you list?

Help your child find 10 words in a book or magazine that start with the same letter as your child’s name

 Find five things in the kitchen and talk about how they are used, and what you can make with them.

 Make snowballs of various sizes and talk about the differences between big and small.

Find all the tables in your house and talk about their sizes and shapes. Ask your child, what can you do on each table?

Make a grilled cheese sandwich and label and talk about the ingredients.

During a meal, include a variety of food textures and talk about soft, crunchy, chewy, etc.

 Have your child help sort the laundry and match colors.

Write the names of all family members and then count the letters and talk about long and short.

 Find several pairs of shoes and arrange them from biggest to smallest.

Have your child go to three rooms in your house and find five things in each room that are blue

While driving, ask your child about all of the different colors of houses, buildings, etc. that they see.

Walk between two buckets transferring cotton balls on a spoon and talk about full and empty.

Take turns hiding a small object under one of three bowls and guessing which bowl it’s under (1st, 2nd, or 3rd).

During bath time, talk about which toys or objects float and sink.

 Use play-doh to make a snowman and talk about all of the body parts.

Take turns naming as many different animals as you can.

Are you looking for a pediatric speech, physical, or occupational therapist for your child? TLC Learning Center has a highly rated pediatric therapy center, in addition to our 4 Star ranked preschool education and infant care center. Call us at (303)776-7417) to learn more.

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

Kids & Transitions

By Kathy Keith, TLC Occupational Therapist

Transitions can be hard… for all of us. This is something I am acutely aware of during this current season we like to call “back to school.” As a mom and an Occupational Therapist, I regularly see the challenges associated with transition periods in kids (and sometimes, grown-ups too).  These can range from the transition of going from kindergarten into 1st grade, to transitioning between play activities, to transitioning from just getting out of the house and into the car. Personally, I see the flurry of disorganization and dole out hundreds of reminders trying to get my own crew out the door in the morning (do I really need to remind a 12 year old to brush her teeth?). Professionally, I often see families with children who are unable to seamlessly transition from activity to activity. 

The following strategies are a few ways that may help with difficult transition times, and will hopefully help with increasing independence as well!

  • Create a routine

Children crave routine and structure! It helps them feel safe and understand what will be happening next, or what to expect. For example, a bedtime routine could be: jammies on, brush teeth, one book, then bed.

If bedtime always looks the same, it can increase the child’s independence in completing the steps themselves, and decrease struggles with caretakers.

A schedule to help make transitions run smoothly

  • Make a schedule

Kiddos also respond well to visual schedules. At TLC, we use pictures to show the kids what the day will look like. The pictures are arranged in order of when parts of the day happen (circle time, snack, outside, free play). If the day will look different from a typical day for any reason, the change is noted in the schedule. A child I see at TLC was very anxious about what he would be doing during our sessions. He would ask questions repeatedly and become very upset if there was something in the room that was unfamiliar to him when he walked in. We have a routine now, of sitting together first thing and drawing our schedule on the board.  It allows him to understand what his time with me will look like, gives him some control of the activities, and keeps him organized as we mark off the activities that we have completed together.  His anxiety has lessened significantly throughout his time coming to TLC, and now he is much more able to try novel things.

Schedules can be as specific or as general as you need. Some kiddos benefit from a personal schedule that they keep with them, while others can check in with a general schedule to help keep them organized and knowledgeable throughout the day. At home, you can experiment with something as simple as a white board that allows you to draw pictures or write words depending on what is appropriate or works for your child.  It can be specific like the morning routine, or it can be more broad, as in what will happen that next day, or week (or both!).

At our house, typing up a general list of “to-do’s” before getting out the door helps immensely. Instead of me needing to ask what has and has not been done (“Did you brush your teeth?  Did you pack your lunch?  Did you get your book?  Do you have your backpack?”), my one direction is: “check your list.” 

A photo routine that can be used at home

  • Give consistent cues

Transitioning between activities can be challenging, too. Giving a consistent visual cue (turning off or dimming the lights), giving a “2 minute” warning or singing a transition song, can help prepare the child for change.  These transition songs are nothing complex.  Mine often consist of a silly song about what we are completing and what will be next and is regularly sung to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or “BINGO”.

We all benefit from the comfort of predictability.  For our kiddos, providing routines and schedules not only helps with some of the struggles related to transitions and change, but helps them develop a sense of security and control, and supports increased confidence and independence.  This is what we all want for all our kids.

A photo schedule on Velcro in a TLC classroom

To learn more about how working with an Occupational Therapist may help your child, or to learn about how our classrooms help build independence in children, contact TLC at (303)776-7417.

The Power of a Pledge: Yoga with Kids

by Mia Girard, TLC YogaKids instructor and Occupational Therapist

Maya Angelou once said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I love this quote and want people to remember from my interactions with them that I made them feel good on some level. Often I am reminded of this quote as I am planning and teaching my YogaKids classes, thinking of ways to help my YogaKids feel confident, celebrated, and validated in a memorable way.

For me, the YogaKids pledge is an important part of how I create a loving, safe and memorable community within my classes. I make a point to recite the pledge with the kids regularly. I find that it not only has special meaning for me, but also special meaning for them. For me, its importance lies in the fact that it delineates some of the expectations of our class, as well as the overall purpose for participating. For the kids, it becomes a consistent and routine activity that they can anticipate and participate in. It allows them to feel purposefully connected to the class, to their peers, to me, and to people and things in their world.

I also feel it is important to live by the pledge myself. If I simply treat the kids as the pledge suggests, I see that I have made them feel celebrated and honored in a memorable way. This is my job as a YogaKids teacher and I find it extremely important. As an Occupational Therapist, my classes include children of all abilities and our pledge has morphed and changed as the need arises. The pledge is as follows: 

  • I believe in myself.
  • I love and honor my body. 
  • I will do my personal best.
  • I will stay on my mat to keep us all safe.
  • I will be kind and gentle to myself and others. 
  • I can use yoga anytime, anywhere to calm myself, energize myself, and make myself feel better. 

I have found that if I treat children in a way that honors and shows fidelity to this pledge, they not only remember me but more importantly, the pledge and the connectedness that we share in yoga. After all, yoga means to join together or unite. So, for me, the pledge is: 

  • I believe in them.
  • I love and honor their bodies. 
  • I acknowledge them doing their personal best (often).
  • I help to keep us all safe in class.
  • I am kind and gentle to myself, the children, and others.
  • I model and teach them to use yoga anytime, anywhere to calm themselves, energize themselves, and to help them feel better!

I remember realizing the meaning and importance of the pledge years ago in one of my first YogaKids sessions. One of my students was a beautiful child with cerebral palsy. She had limited use of her legs and feet and yet participated beautifully with modifications in every aspect of the class whether it was balancing poses, or Michaelangelo's Drawing with My Feet activity.

Her mother shared with me that one day she found her daughter upstairs with her dolls, playing. The girl had arranged her dolls in a circle just like the one we sit in during YogaKids, and was pretending they were in the midst of a YogaKids class. She picked up one doll, moved it gently up and down as if giving it life and movement, and said "I believe in myself.” She then picked up another doll, moved it up and down and said  "I love and honor my body.”  She continued this way, until the dolls had recited the entire pledge, word for word.

To hear that she incorporated the pledge into pretend play with her dolls made me realize that she felt connected, comfortable, and confident in our class. While her body presented her with significant challenges, she was able to rise above that and, at least in those moments, love and honor her body, her grace, and her beauty. When children bring yoga home and practice off the mat, it validates for me the connection between our classes, the YogaKids pledge, and Maya Angelou's quote, that "people will never forget how you made them feel." I hope that all children who take a YogaKids class leave feeling as strong and good as that little girl.

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TLC offers YogaKids classes throughout the year for all full-day preschool students, and as an after-school enrichment class for children up to age 12. To learn about TLC's programs for children eight weeks - 6 years old or YogaKids after-school program, call TLC at (303)776-7417. 

Pediatric Physical Therapy Through a Child's Eyes

By TLC Physical Therapist Candice Cartiaux, PT, DPT

"I am a kiddo and I have some special needs.  Every day starts with my mom showing me my daily schedule.  My schedule is made of labeled pictures that show me doing the different activities I will do today.  My mom puts them in the order we will do them, and sometimes I help choose what we will do first. What a sweet time each morning for my mom and me! I find freedom to relax and trust someone else to make my decisions when I am given instructions and shown what my day will be like.  I know what to expect, and I like that. 

A photo schedule by Milk Allergy Mom

Today is Thursday.  My mom shows me a picture of myself and my physical therapist as she tells me that I will have therapy this afternoon.  Every week on Thursdays, I have a friend who comes to my home to spend an hour with me.  Even though Mom calls it physical therapy, I really feel like it’s just my special play-time.  When my friend comes over, she always asks if I am ready to play, and even though I can’t tell her yes, my mouth smiles and lets her know that I am ready.  My friend prefers to play on the floor.  I enjoy this because I spend a lot of time sitting in my wheelchair at school during the day.  It feels good to stretch my body and have some space to move.  Though I cannot do much movement on my own, it is great to have the freedom to try. 

A child plays out of his wheelchair during a therapy appointment

My friend likes to take her shoes off and get on my gym mat with me.  My mom puts my favorite songs on the CD player while we play, and I like that my friend sings along to them.  Sweet music puts my body and heart at ease.  Even though we work through some of the same activities and tasks each week, my friend always tells me what she is about to do or help me do before she does it.  I don’t like to be surprised by touch or sound, so this gives me the chance to be mentally prepared and engaged.  

A kiddo plays with two therapists in his backyard at home

One of the biggest things my friend is helping me learn to do is roll over on my mat.  I am pretty good with using my neck to turn my head each direction, especially if there is a toy I like to see and hear.  I swear she can read my mind!  When I turn my head to look at my jingle bells, she says “bells” and shakes them.  I love being able to have a conversation with my eyes because it is very hard for me to form words with my mouth.  I know if I keep looking at the bells out of my reach, my friend knows that I really want to play with them.  She then uses the simple words, “Let’s Roll!”  I appreciate how she gives me more time to process what these words mean, because it takes a little longer for her message to move from my brain to my body.  Because I am already looking over, I can feel my body ready to roll, and we roll.  My body adjusts once I have rolled over, and from the praise I received from my friend, you would have thought I won an Olympic gold medal! It sure feels like it. 

My friend is not only helping me get stronger but also feel stronger.  The stronger I get, the more time I can have to play with my family.  And honestly, that is my favorite thing to do."

Physical therapy can be a fun part of a child's week, in addition to an important part, that helps them grow stronger and more independent. TLC therapists invite kids to PLAY with them during sessions! If you would like to learn more at pediatric physical therapy for children birth - 12, or about pediatric therapy integrated into a preschool setting, contact TLC at (303)776-7417

Early Intervention & Occupational Therapy

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By Shari Karmen, TLC Therapeutic Services Manager & Occupational Therapist

I believe in Early Intervention; I don’t believe in the motto “wait and see what happens in a year." Parents should trust their gut feeling when worried about their child’s development because parents know their children best. Early Intervention and screening for developmental delays and disabilities can make all the difference in setting a child on course for healthy growth.

Helping kids and their families screen for delays and address areas of concern to build strong, happy kids is what I love to do. I want all parents to know what Early Intervention is, and how it can benefit their child.

 My son, K, as a baby

When I think of the successes of Early Intervention in children I've worked with, so many faces come to mind. I remember when a little girl with a serious heart condition ate her first cheerio without choking, a huge feat for a toddler with a history of feeding difficulties and poor weight gain. I remember another little girl who was sent home from her long hospital stay with bottles and nipples from the hospital that were not available to the public. Her mom was panicked, but we worked together to find the right combination and a comfortable feeding position. Together, we were able to help the little girl move to a commercially available bottle and nipple. Her mom was overjoyed, and the little girl was able to eat a healthy amount and gain weight at a healthy pace, and that made me smile. I have so many stories like these.

I also have a personal story. My son, K, was delayed. I was probably the nightmare mom – the one who knew just enough to drive the doctors nuts. I brought my son in to the doctor's at four days old and said he had low muscle tone. Of course at the time he was crying his eyes out and stiff as a board, making the process of observing him more difficult. But my pediatrician believed me when I voiced my concerns, and referred me to the Early Intervention program in Tucson.

K is truly an Early Intervention success story. We started Physical Therapy for his low muscle tone at six months, followed by Occupational Therapy, and then Speech Therapy. With help building his strength and muscle tone, K was able to sit upright, as well as crawl a crooked path at nine months. He walked at 18 months. He did not use verbal language, but learned some sign language between 12-18 months. He was very sensitive to movement, noises, and touch, which made car rides, going to the grocery store, and getting dressed a challenge. Our therapists worked with K and us on each of these difficulties.

My husband and I followed through with every recommendation and exercise demonstrated by our therapists, working with K at home following appointments. My son graduated from Physical Therapy, then Speech Therapy (speaking in full sentences), and lastly, Occupational Therapy within three years. I am happy to report that today he is a talented, soft spoken, and loving 18 year old, getting ready to leave the nest to pursue degrees in classical piano performance and music education. We couldn't be prouder parents.

I know not everybody’s story is the same, but in all of my years working, I can honestly say that I always see positive changes with Early Intervention services. I was friends with my son’s therapists, and now I have made friends with my client’s families, and I love seeing the progress their children make long after they've graduated from Early Intervention therapies.

So, what is Early Intervention?

Commonly referred to as EI, Early Intervention is a nationwide system that helps identify, and then helps treat babies and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities. EI focuses on five areas of development:

  • Physical (rolling, crawling, using hands to play with blocks)
  • Cognitive (problem solving how to get to a toy, playing peek-a-boo, figuring out a toy)
  • Communication (babbling, talking, following directions)
  • Social/Emotional (feeling secure, smiling, playing with other children)
  • Adaptive (eating, dressing, sensory processing)

Eligibility for EI services is determined by an evaluating team. If eligible, EI services can be put in place from birth up to a child’s third birthday.

Anyone can refer a child to EI. If you as a parent have a concern about your child’s development, you can call a center like TLC (a pediatric therapy office specializing in EI services and physical, occupational, and speech therapies for children up to 12), the local Child Find office through your school district, or the Part C agency in your county. Physicians and daycare providers are also great referral sources.

Early Intervention services include:

  • Physical Therapy – to address gross motor skills such as rolling, crawling, and walking, issues with balance, strength, and coordination.
  • Occupational Therapy – to address fine motor skills, sensory processing, self help skills (feeding, dressing), and play skills.
  • Speech and Language Therapy – to address understanding of language, expression, social communication, and speech intelligibility.

EI is based on routines. That means that we, the therapists, help you, the parent, to provide therapeutic activities during your child’s daily routine. EI therapists can see children in the hospital, in homes, in childcare settings, and out and about in the community.

If you have any concerns about the development of your child, don't hesitate to have your child screened. It's easy, and can make a world of difference in helping your child be the happiest and healthiest baby it can be. I'm proud to say, Early Intervention works!

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