Category: Uncategorized

Creating Our Own Activity Game Board

Jessica and I have always loved playing games.  Our passion for games has definitely rubbed off on the kids!  Recently, they came up with the idea of creating their own game board.  They used the panels of the gymnastics mats that we have in our playroom, but anything can be used for this idea.  You could use yoga mats, towels, or pillows.  If played outside, sections of yard could be marked off with towels, cones, hats… you can get creative here.  If using pavement, you could use sidewalk chalk.  Each panel was labeled a different task, with both kids creating separate boards.  We have a swing in our playroom, so for the kids turn, they closed their eyes and took a swing over the game board.  Wherever they landed, they had to complete that task.  For the adults, we closed our eyes and spun around on the board, walking to a random location.  If you have an outdoor swing, you could create a game board around it, otherwise spinning your body and walking to a spot works!

C used all 8 panels of the mats and made some really interesting spots.  I made signs for each spot and printed them out:

1 – Mario and Luigi chase you (remote control cars)

2 – We kick balls at you (soft ones, 1 minute)

3 – Safe zone

4 – Do hopscotch

5 – Safe zone
6 – Do 50 jumping jacks
7 – We throw balls at you (also soft, 30 seconds)
8 – Water drinking contest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

G went at it with a different approach, acting as the teacher.  She used 5 panels, and when you land on a spot she would conduct a lesson:

1 – Show and tell

2 – Phys Ed (she wrote gym, but I let it slide!)

3 – Tech

4 – Art

5 – Music

We really enjoyed playing this with them.  They were really proud of creating their own game boards, having ownership over the rules.  There are so many different creative ideas you could use for your game boards.  And for those that hate spinning, like Jessica, you could use dice to advance around the board.  You could set the amount of turns for each player, and even award points for completing tasks, lots of options!

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Homemade Scoops

At my two schools, we have nice sets of scoops that we use to practice throwing and catching.  When I first started teaching, I was at a lot of schools that didn’t have any equipment.  There are plenty of activities that can be done without equipment, but when I wanted to get creative, I would make things at home.  I remember one of my first projects being a set of homemade scoops.  It takes a while to complete if you’re making them for an entire class, but if you’re making them for the family it will be a lot faster.  All you need is empty milk jugs and any kind of ball that can be tossed back and forth.  Once you clean out the milk jugs, you make a cut in the bottom and add some duct tape along the edges.  Once you have them made, you can practice your throwing and catching skills, seeing how many successful catches you can make in a row.  We mix in some defense over here, with Bruin and Berkeley attacking the ball!

Categories: Uncategorized

Keep It Up!!

As I continue to think of activities that can be done at home with little to no equipment, I remembered one of our favorites that we haven’t played in a while – Keep it Up.  I think that we have been avoiding it for a while because of our giant puppy likes to destroy balloons!  We can only play when he is super passed out.

 

This is a very simple activity that is great for practicing hand-eye coordination.  It can be played inside or out, solo or with other family members.  All you need is a balloon or a light ball to strike into the air.  Once the ball is tossed into the air, the goal is to keep it from hitting the floor.  For us, we count the amount of times we can hit the balloon before it falls.  This way, we create a high score for ourselves, something to try and beat every time we play!

Categories: Uncategorized

Being a parent and an OT

Every kid has their own share of tantrums, emotional breakdowns, and fears, right?  And this is all part of normal child development… true?  I have been trying to tell myself this as we have had a particularly emotional month at home.  But, it is so hard to use my OT brain when I am STUCK right in the middle of parenting!  After another major meltdown over, hmmm… maybe — an invisible cut that just happened to start to hurt right at bedtime or a joke that I missed and now clearly she will never be able to make me laugh again — I was feeling totally lost on what to do.  But, I have finally realized that I give recommendations to families all of the time that are going through something similar, and often even more difficult, so I should really start taking my own advice.  And so, I am going to try…

 

Recommendation 1: Introduce strategies to encourage co-regulation

Before kids can calm themselves down independently, they needs some guidance and instruction.  Some of this comes naturally, when a baby is crying – we soothe, when your child is scared – we say everything will be okay.  BUT when your child gets upset over something that may seem really insignificant, it certainly takes patience to step up and help them out.  A co-worker recently shared this article – 10 Emotion-Coaching Phrases to Use When Your Child Is Upset, and, boy, did this put me in check!  It helped me take a step back and remember that emotional development does not happen over night, and I really need to help my kiddos to process any feelings they are feeling.

 

  1. One co-regulation technique that has been simple, but effective, is putting G or C onto my lap when they are upset and starting my own deep breathing.  As they feel my chest rise and fall and hear my breath sounds, they intuitively follow suit.
  2. When one of them is feeling really down and I see self-esteem plummeting, I ask, what are three things that you are good at or that make you feel proud.  Depending on mood/state, this can be challenging, but once they get started, and get some positive feedback, I find it turns the frown upside-down 😉  For example, G might say – I am good at drawing, so then I can say, yes you are and I love that drawing you made of you and C swinging.  Or C will say –  I am strong, and I will say, show me your muscles!  After they name their three, I have them repeat them, like affirmations.  “I am good at drawing”, “I am strong”, “I am a good friend”.
  3. Hands on deep pressure and proprioception can help with getting some quick regulating input.  We call it “squishes” and I provide joint compressions throughout the arms and shoulders.  For this one, you might need to get some advice from an occupational therapist, but if you are not trained to perform joint compressions, massaging helps too!

One last thing about co-regulation, when thinking about the kids you might work with rather than your own children.  For our youth that do not have a healthy attachment figure – that is someone that they can trust and rely on and that will be able to offer some co-regulation – these kids will need more teaching and more frequent co-regulation while in your care before they will be able to self-regulate.  They also often need stronger and more frequent sensory input.  So maybe it isn’t appropriate to put a child you are working with on your lap or provide massage, but you can model breathing techniques and offer sensory tools.

Remember as co-regulators, we should be looking for early warning signs.  It is important to think about the basic human needs – hunger, thirst, rest, warmth, etc.  When emotions are high, start there!  Is it close to lunch time?  How about starting lunch a little earlier before engaging in another power struggle?  This might have been me yesterday 😉

So now that I have written this, I have to put it into practice.  While we continue to work on co-regulation, we can also start to teach skills for self-regulation.  And that is recommendation number 2, coming your way asap!  Subscribe to get updated on my latest posts (orange box on the right!)

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: Uncategorized

Taste Test!

The other night G and C asked for a taste test!  This is a game that we play every so often, originating from a group that I frequently run.  This weekly group has a fun activity paired with learning about each sense.  The taste week is always a fan favorite!  We have done this so many times at our house that we decided to make it really tricky this time… in between things that we knew they would recognize (starburst, kit kat), we included something bitter – a drop of coffee, something salty – salted snap pea crisps, and something sour – a not quite ripe blueberry.  Their faces were priceless!

    

We play the game by having them close their eyes.  In groups that are not comfortable with closing their eyes, I place the food item into a small paper cup with a napkin over it.  I then tell the participants to pour the item into their mouth, without looking or touching.  For G and C, we put the food item in their mouth, so they are not using the sense of touch as a way of identification.  We ask them to move the food item around, notice the shape, texture, temperature, etc. before biting.  I often provide a sheet to check off descriptive words for each taste test item.  After the item has been explored, then they can take a bite.  Just one, and notice again.  Then they can write down a guess.  G and C took turns sharing their guesses aloud.  Even if they cannot recall the name of the item, they are pretty good at providing descriptive words – – like – – “crunchy and chewy”, “sour”, “kind of like a cucumber” “oh, oh, a PICKLE!”

On top of it being really fun to see their faces, this is a great game for many reasons.

  1. Learning about the senses is an important way to understand your surroundings and yourself.  Practicing in a hands-on way enhances processing, learning, and comprehension.
  2. Using the senses is a great way to practice mindfulness.  For each piece of food, taking the time to notice its qualities helps with staying focused on the present moment.  Some of the really strong sensations – bitter, sour, spicy – can actually be used for grounding and bringing one back to the current moment.  A taste test is a way to find out which sensations might do this for your participant.
  3. Foods definitely provide the sensation of taste, but also offer touch and oral motor!  Putting something in your mouth that you can suck or need to spend some time chewing or crunching can be soothing.  Sucking, chewing and crunching involve exercise for your mouth or PROPRIOCEPTIVE input!

Here are some of my favorite foods and types of foods to include in a taste test:

Jelly Belly beans – so many flavors, they really make you think!

Hershey kisses – dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate – same textures and shape so you really have to hone in on the flavor

something salty, something bitter, something sweet, something sour – this way you can talk about the taste buds

a hard candy like a hot ball, or chewy item like a Twizzler.  These take a some time to finish and can give you an opportunity to talk about how these types of food items can be regulating tools.

and with a group that trusts you – something that will bring out this face 😉

Other things to consider and prepare for;

  • allergies and food sensitivities
  • food as a memory trigger, bringing out positive or negative emotions

Happy Tasting!!

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: Uncategorized