Author: Jessica O'Connor

Reindeer Tube Sock Neck Wrap

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I had a group of kids recently beg me to make tube sock neck wraps.  This is a project that we do ALL THE TIME, so I decided that I needed to add a spin.  And so, the Reindeer Tube Sock Neck Wrap was born!

Our local dollar tree had these perfect socks and I had a stash of felt, so we got to work.

                                    

We cut shapes from the felt to make eyes, nose, and antlers.  We then hand-sewed the shapes on.  Hand-sewing is such a great skill to learn so I often incorporate this into activities!  This sewing task was a little tricky because we had to be sure that we only sewed through the surface layer of the sock.

 

 

Next we made our filling – rice, cloves and cinnamon!  I found inexpensive cinnamon sticks and cloves along with the rice at the local Price Rite.  We cut the cinnamon sticks into small pieces using scissors, then mixed the cinnamon pieces and cloves in with 1 – 2 lbs or rice, depending on preference.

 

We poured our mixture into our sock and hand stitched them up.  My group were sewing pros by now and were quite proud of their work!

To finish it off, I added a mouth to mine.  I felt like he was missing a smile!  And now he is complete:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These little reindeer neck wraps can go into the microwave for up to two minutes.  With the smell and warmth, they certainly promote relaxation!  Neck wraps also add deep touch pressure for an added benefit.

In finishing this project, my group;

1. felt proud of their work leading to improved self-esteem and sense of mastery

2. worked on a fine motor skill and important life skill – sewing!

3. created a tool that they can use for coping and regulation

All while having fun, of course!  I hope you enjoyed this post and are inspired to make your own reindeer pal. And feel free to get creative and cut your felt to make any character or design you like!

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.

 

Tool of the Month: Weighted Blanket

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This is my first Tool of the Month post and am so excited to share my thoughts about the WEIGHTED BLANKET!

So, here we go!

I chose the weighted blanket for my first tool because it is the first tool that I have ever made!  When I made the jump as an OT working with at-risk youth, I worked on a pediatric inpatient behavioral health unit.  A close friend gave me her sewing machine, so of course, I thought, I will bring this to work and make weighted blankets.  There was quite a learning curve, but I figured out how to use the machine, and then teach kids to use the machine (or step on the pedal) to make their own weighted blanket that they could take home from the hospital.  I have continued to perfect my art and have made them for friends, family, co-workers, and at-risk youth.

What is so great about a weighted blanket anyway?

A weighted blanket provides deep touch pressure to the body.  Deep touch pressure provides calming signal to the brain from the body, and can help to inhibit irritating stimuli.  Think about when you have a headache and put a pillow on your head, or when you are hammering and miss the nail, hitting your finger instead -, you squeeze it, right?  The pillow and the squeeze are giving deep touch pressure to cancel out the pain and replace it with comfort.  So imagine having this comforting weight or pressure all over your body.  It can help you feel relaxed and grounded.  Read more about deep touch pressure HERE.  Weighted blankets can help with settling for bed, calming nerves, and easing stress by offering this wonderful sensory input!

Are you up to the challenge of making a weighted blanket?

YES!  Read on.

NO WAY!  Click here to customize and order.

How to sew a weighted blanket.  begins now!

You will first need to determine size.  I typically make blankets that are sized from chin to feet, so it is big enough to cover the whole body, but not so big that the weight is not distributed over the body.  So for this blanket, the kiddo stood up, we held the cotton print fabric at his chin and cut at the floor.  Then measured a piece of fleece to be the same size.

Next we sew the two short sides and one long side as close to the edge as we can, about a 1/2 margin.  This step is repeated to make all outside edges of the blanket strong.

Now flip the blanket right-side out and smooth the edges.  Measure the long edge of the blanket, and divide that evenly so the pockets will be no more than 8 inches.  Once you have this measurement, measure across the blanket and tape the lines down.  For our blanket, we were able to make each pocket exactly eight inches.  We had a little tape fiasco, so I have a different picture here to show what the taped lines look like.

Here you will sew lines along the tape.  Leave about a 2 inch gap when you get to the end.  This allow you to finish the blanket neatly when you get there.  Sew all the lines beside the tape.

Now you will take a measurement of the short side of the blanket and calculate approximately how many lines you need, no more than 8 inches apart.  Tape these lines down as you did previously.

It’s time to fill your blanket!  I order my beads from http://primoplasticpellets.com  I find shipping costs to be low and the price to be reasonable as far as weighted beads go.  Determine how much you want the blanket to weigh.  Weighted blankets can be up to 20% of body weight.  When I make blankets, I also consider what size and weight can reasonably fit into a washing machine without offsetting the machine, and settled on 12 – 14lbs as my maximum.  If you plan to use a commercial washer, than the heaviness factor might not be an issue.  Now we get to do some math!!

We decided to make this blanket 12lbs.  The short side length was 40″, so we made 5 rows that were 8″.  We converted pounds into ounces, needing 192oz.  We divided that number by the 5 rows, requiring 38.4oz per row.  Each pour was weighed on a small scale, and weight of container was zeroed out.

Holding the open side up, evenly pour the beads into all of the pockets.  Sew across on your line to trap in the beads and then repeat until all rows have been filled.

After all rows are filled, carefully fold both edges inward and stitch shut.  You may want to stop a 1/2 inch before each pocket to reposition and re-grip the folded fabric.  You can use pins to help hold this project closed.  I often work in programs where sharps are restricted, so we do our best without the pins or count them carefully.

Double stitch this end and the cut off all of the loose threads.   And hooray!  You made a weighted blanket!  And of course, I didn’t take a picture of the final product, but here are some pictures of other final products.

         

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.

Categories: Soothe Tool

Soft Simple Play Dough

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This play dough recipe will quickly become your favorite because it only requires two ingredients!  It is also the softest play dough you will ever feel and leaves your hands feeling super smooth after you play.  Even better, it smells wonderful!  Sold?  Head to your local dollar store or grocery store for corn starch and hair conditioner, and maybe a table cloth…  Corn starch can be messy!!!

Materials:

  • Cornstarch (2 parts)
  • Hair Conditioner (1 part)  I personally love the White Rain brand, for the smells (apple, rain, and coconut, and also for its consistency).  Every conditioner has a slightly different consistency, so you may have to adjust your measurements accordingly.
  • Measuring cups, such as 1 cup and 1/2 cup
  • Container for storage
  • Fork for stirring
  • Optional – food coloring

I often do this activity in a group setting, so I vary my “parts” accordingly.  Today I did it with C and G, so we had plenty to spare, and they even made two batches each.  We started with 1/2 cup of conditioner.  They measured it out and added it to their containers.

Then they measured out their cornstarch.  One big tip to this recipe is GRADUALLY adding the cornstarch to the conditioner.  The recipe will still work if you add it all at once, as many a kid I have made this with has done, but it comes together so much easier when added gradually.

  

Once all of the cornstarch is added and the dough begins to come together, take it out of the container and knead it.  If its still a bit sticky, tap it in some of the cornstarch that inevitably spilled 😉  If it is a little dry, add more conditioner.  Be sure to knead enough before you decide to add more cornstarch or conditioner.  And that is it!  You are now holding the softest, most wonderful smelling play dough.

We were having so much fun, that we decided to switch it up and add some color.  To do this, we added 5 – 10 drops of food coloring to the conditioner and stirred before adding the cornstarch.  Then we completed the recipe in the same way and we got these results:

 

Play dough is such a great tool because it just makes you feel so playful!  As soon as we finished, C said “can we take out our play dough tools?”  So not only did we have a blast making it, but it kept us busy for a while after we made it!  Play dough offers an invitation for people of all ages to playful and get messy.  I made this same play dough last week with a group of adolescent girls and others could hear their laughter from down the hall.  Many of them asked to make more than one type, and that classroom was COVERED in cornstarch, which they willingly cleaned because they had so much fun making the mess.  They also were excited to show it off, and show off how soft their hands were.

Having something in our hands, somehow, just makes us feel more at ease.  So what exactly is that somehow?  We all do certain things when we are nervous, bored, upset, to make us feel better.  Some of us chew gum, some of us bounce our leg, and some click their pen.  And some do all three 🙂 By accessing our senses, we can change our level of arousal – to help us wake up, calm down, or stay exactly where we need to be.  Using play dough, fidgets, or any FOCUS tool can help us to feel regulated.  So, might this be your tool?  Give it a try!!!

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.

Search Bottle

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Still have all these goodies from your gel pack?!  Or do you have a bunch of small objects that need a home?  Then let’s make a search bottle!

What is a search bottle, you ask?  It’s a fabulous FOCUS tool, for keeping eyes, hands, and minds busy!  The search bottle is filled with small objects that appear when you rotate and shake the bottle.  For kiddos and teens that get easily anxious, overwhelmed, even bored, it gives them something to keep them occupied and can take their mind off of what is bothering them.  You can make a list of all of the objects and attach to the bottle, giving a specific task to complete. Challenging them to find all of the item on the list can extend the life of the activity!  Sounds good, and you have a pile of small objects hanging around?  Then you are ready!

Materials needed:

  • small objects such as pompoms, googly eyes, beads, jewels, small figures, dice, buttons, and anything else you can find
  • leftover bottle, clean and dry
  • filler, such as rice, beans, craft pellets
  • Optional — super glue to seal the bottle tight

Directions

Lay out and count your objects.  This may be the best time to make your list so you are sure to keep track of all of the objects you plan to include.

 

Pour a few items into the bottle, then add some filler.  Continue until you had added all objects and the bottle is filled with at least a 2 inch gap at the top, to allow items to move freely.  A funnel can help with filling, but not totally necessary.  For my search bottle, I used the craft pellets that I use when I make weighted blankets.  I chose this material because I had it and thought it would look pretty, but if you have rice or beans at home right now, they will do the trick!

Tada!  Attach your list and glue on your lid and your search bottle is good to go!  Great as a coping tool, busy tool, or activity to do while waiting 🙂

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.

Halloween Themed Sensory Bin

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I love making themed sensory bins, and since Halloween is a favorite in our family, G and I set out to to make one. We found JACKPOT at our local dollar store including sticky eyeballs and a skeleton that could be taken apart and reassembled.  We also found autumn scented dried spices to make our sensory bin smell a bit like a pumpkin pie!  We rushed home, to put this beauty together!To get started, we colored our rice.  G chose the colors orange, yellow and purple.  We added one pound bags of rice, actually brown rice, to gallon Ziploc bags.  We were not sure how well the brown rice would color, but figured we would give it a try, because that is what we had. 

Then we made a plan to color and scent our rice.  After a smell test, we choose cinnamon, clove, and ginger….

Since we had dried spices, we needed to add water to them so they could stick to the rice.  We added one tablespoon of spice to two tablespoons of water and this seemed to do the trick!

          

We put it in the bags and shook, Shook, SHOOK.  We added that mixture onto the rice and then added in about 20 – 30 drops of food coloring to get the colors we wanted.  Then we wiggled and danced and shook again!

   until we had:

We carefully poured them into our bin.

     

Read on for information on how bin size and amount of rice are the key for to making a sensory bin a the perfect tool for regulation and coping.  But first, the finishing touches!  How great are these Halloween add-ins?!  We took the pumpkin stickers and stuck two sticky sides together to keep them from sticking to the rice.  We found an awesome skeleton that could come apart, so we added each individual part to the skeleton.  We finished the bin off with sticky eyeballs, larger eyeballs and stringy centipedes.

Mixing it up was as fun as making it!

So what is so great about a sensory bin anyway?!

1. They provide a variety of sensory inputs – touch, smell, sight, and even sound!

2. Depending on the amount of rice and depth of the bin, they can assist with a variety of needs

~A shallow bin will help with DISCRIMINATION skills.  The more touch opportunities we have to discriminate, or detect the salient qualities of sensory inputs, the better we understand our bodies and how they interact with the environment.  This can help with improving fine motor control and coordination.

~A deep bin will help with MODULATION skills.  The deep rice, like really deep, up to the elbows, provides deep touch pressure which is calming and comforting for the body.   [See SOOTHE for more information on DEEP TOUCH PRESSURE)

3.  They can become a FOCUS tool, especially when you create a list of things to find in the bin.  Or even better, with this bin, to find all the parts of the skeleton and reassemble.

4.  Sensory bins can be used during quiet time, sensory break time, or even classroom stations.

5.  And like many sensory tools, that often seem to appeal to younger ages, I have seen many teenagers fully engaged in making and using sensory bins.

6.  You can be super creative.  Come up with your own theme and go CRAZY!

Recap:

Materials — bin, rice, food coloring, dry spices, water, miscellaneous decorative supplies of different textures

Directions

  1. Pour rice into Ziploc bags
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of water to 1 tablespoon of dried spice and stir
  3. Pour mixture over rice and shake
  4. Add 20 – 30 drops of food coloring per bag of rice to create colored rice
  5. Pour rice into bin
  6. Add decorative materials
  7. Mix and have fun!

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.

 

 

DIY Chew Necklace

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Working in a community-based non-profit, I have become pretty crafty and frugal with supplying sensory tools.  One tool that is requested frequently, but beyond our budget to supply, is the chew tube.  So I did some brainstorming and came up with my own version of a chew necklace.  First, I reached out to plumbing supply companies to find clear vinyl tubing that was FDA approved, food quality, and durable enough for chewing.  I found this item, and it was quite inexpensive, about forty cents a foot!  I did have to buy a whole spool to save on shipping, but this spool has lasted years!

Then I thought about what material to make the necklace out of that might look natural, so that kids of all ages could use this chew necklace, without it being an obvious sensory tool.  It also needed to be durable, and of course, affordable, so I went with faux leather lacing.  To make the necklace, I simply braided the leather lacing and added 1 – 1 1/2 inch pieces of tubing on at regular intervals, and voila! a hand-made inexpensive chew necklace!  Here are my step-by-step directions if you want to try this for yourself or your CHEWER!

Materials:
~clear vinyl tubing, 1/4″ diameter, cut into three to six 1 – 1.5 inch pieces
~leather lacing, about 6 feet
~tape
~scissors

Directions:

1. Cut one piece, your preferred color to about 4 feet.  Cut the second piece to about 2 feet.

2. Fold the longer piece in half, and make a knot at the fold, incorporating the shorter piece into the knot.

3. Tape it down, and begin your braid.

4.  Add on one of your pieces of tubing and then continue your braid.

5. Continue to braid and add pieces, ending with a longer braid, similar to that at the beginning of the necklace.

6.  Tie a knot by making a loop and pulling tight,  This knot will fit through your initial loop to close of the necklace.

Now that your necklace is done, I would love to share with you why these chew necklaces are so beneficial!

Many of us have habits that provide oral motor input that help us to feel awake or calm, depending on what our bodies needs.  Going to a stressful meeting?, chewing gum or biting on your straw can help you to feel calm and in control.  On the other hand, going to a boring meeting? popping a chip in your mouth or sipping ice water can help pep you up.  Some of our kids and teens that struggle with regulating their bodies haven’t learned these little tricks that we have.  Instead, they may chew slash destroy their shirt collars or bite their fingernails.  If they are going to chew, why not give them a strategy that can be discreet and helpful?

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.

Balloon Stress Balls

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So balloon stress balls seem pretty straight forward, right?  Fill the balloon with some flour, and…. then there is flour EVERYWHERE!   I am so happy to share with you the magic tool:

 

Tada!  A bottle with the bottom cut off will become your best stress ball making friend.  So grab some household objects and some balloons and get to filling!

Suggested fillers — flour, cornstarch, salt, rice, beads, beans

Directions:

1. It help to blow up the balloon at first, so its stretched and can be easily filled.  G was happy to help with that part and her skills were quiet impressive!

 

2. Place the stretched balloon over the lip of the bottomless bottle. 

3. Pour your filler into the bottle and pull the balloon down to fill.  Keep pouring filler into the bottle until your balloon is plump and squeezable.   4. Tie it off.  To make it more secure and less pop-able, cut the lip off of a second balloon and put this filled balloon into another balloon.  Even with the lip cut off, you should still be able to knot this second balloon.  And you have successfully and mess-lessly made a stress ball!  and Bruin approves!!

Now let’s take this stress ball and make a sensory game!  Your challenge – choose your fillers, at least four.  With each filler, make two stress balls, so you have a total of eight, and each has a match.

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I won’t tell you what is in my stress balls, it’s a guessing game 😉

This stress ball matching game is perfect to use as a fidget or focus tool!

 

Here are some other benefits – –

Spending time, squeezing each stress ball to try to find its match can help to soothe and release tension.

Participants can feel satisfied once they have successfully matched each pair.

After the challenge is complete, have them make another set to share or keep.

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.

 

Squishy Fidget Gel Packs

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One of my favorite simple, affordable sensory crafts for all ages is the Squishy Fidget Gel Pack!

Here are some of the fabulous benefits – –
1. The process of creating can assist with feelings of self-mastery and self-efficacy.  So your kiddo will feel proud of what they made!
2.  Participating in the project engages the senses – – touch, sight, smell – –  providing a regulating experience.
3. The finished product makes a fabulous fidget tool.  This tool can appeal to the sense of touch as it is manipulated and squeezed.  It can can also be very visually pleasing, and offer some distraction while searching for specific items.
BONUS!  You can store this in the refrigerator, adding cold temperature to the experience.

If all of the benefits aren’t enough, this is a low cost project!  You can head to your local dollar store for most of these materials…

Materials needed –
ziploc bags
hair gel
colorful duct tape
miscellaneous small items such as pom poms, buttons, gem stones, glitter, foam shapes. Avoid items with sharp or pointed edges

Organizing the small items can be helpful for the selection process and well as the clean-up process.

Directions – –
1. Grab your ziploc bag and fill it about 1/4 – 1/3 of the way with hair gel. 
….as you can see, this can get a little messy, but that’s all part of the sensory experience, right? 😉  My C sure didn’t mind!

2. Now fill the bag with as many small objects as you would like.  Today we used pompoms, butterfly gemstones, googly eyes, and beads.  We were a little sad because we didn’t have any glitter!  We highly recommend adding glitter!!

3. Lay the bag flat, squish out all the air bubbles, and close the bag.  The place another ziploc bag over your gel filled bag, with zippers in opposite directions.  Squeeze air bubbles out again and seal.  Another bag gives extra protection and prevents messy gel pack explosions!

4. Tear 4 strips of duct tape that are the length of each side of the bag.  Place one piece halfway along the edge of the bag and fold over.  Then repeat along each side to frame the bag.

5.  You completed your Squishy Fidget Gel Pack!  So much fun to make right?  But now what are you going to do with it?  Here are  a few activities ideas…

Write a list of all of the items inside.  When feeling bored, anxious, overwhelmed take out the list and find your items

Squeeze it, and all of its objects, during a meeting, car ride, or while doing homework

Keep it in your coping kit or calm down space and use it when you need it

Use it to motivate babies.  Tape it to to floor for tummy time or the wall for sitting practice

and most importantly, have fun!!

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.