Painting Pinecones Language Therapy

painting-pinecones-final

So I don’t know the weather where you guys live, but where I live the forecast is snow, then cold, then rain, then snow again.

While I am more than happy to bundle up my kids and send them outside to play in said snow, the reality is we spend 30 minutes getting all their winter clothes on and about 20 minutes actually outside in the snow.

That means we need to find things to do inside. Because even though I don’t think TV is wholly evil and brain-draining, I don’t want my children watching it for hours on end.

A few weeks ago, pre-snow, the kids and I (asked) and gathered pinecones from a neighbor. We washed and dried them, and I displayed them in a funky vintage bowl I have with a pumpkin candle in the middle.

(In the immortal words of A Goofy Movie: saaaaaaaaaaaa-wanky).

But as Thanksgiving passed and the snow started to fall, I decided it would be fun to bleach the pinecones and let my kids paint them with glitter paint.

It would also justify my buying a cinnamon-y holiday candle. A big one.

As my kids and I were cleaning up, I thought of three ways you can utilize this activity to not only have fun inside on a cold day, but also sneak in some language therapy.

Now a few words to the wise: pinecones do not bleach quickly. I don’t recommend doing it. Also, unless you absolutely drench the pinecones in glitter paint, it is a subtle effect (as you can see in the top photo). If you want more wow factor, I would spray paint them white before painting them.

So, without further ado, here are my three language activities for use with Painting Pinecones:


A “P” Party

Just, for heaven’s sake, don’t call it that in front of your kids.

  • As you are setting up and gathering your supplies, emphasize the “P” sound. The Paint, the Pinecones, the Paintbrushes, the Paper (to Protect your table).
  • Have your kid(s) repeat the sound. You can put it to a little tune and say “P makes the ‘P’ sound.” You could also put it to the tune of Mary Had A Little Lamb- ” The letter P says Puh-Puh-Puh…”
  • As you are painting, brainstorm with your kids about other words that start with “P.”
  • Once you are done painting the pinecones, give your child a crayon and have them look for the letter “P” in the sale ads you used to protect your table.
  • If your kid(s) are old enough, have them write the letter “P” on the sale ads. If they are very young, write a letter “P” with a highlighter and have them trace it.

Following Directions

Part of language development is learning how to follow directions. If your child(ren) are younger, give them opportunities to follow one-and two-step directions. These include:

  • Washing the pinecones (put the water in, add the soap/vinegar, add the pinecones, rinse them, etc.)
  • Setting up the art table (laying down sale ads, putting glitter paint on a plate, etc.)
  • Cleaning up (set pinecones out to dry, wash out the paintbrushes, throw away the sale ads)

If your child(ren) are older, talk about what might happen if you did the steps out of order. For instance, what if you painted the pinecones before laying down the paper? Or just put vinegar in the sink with no water?  This helps teach them to think about sequencing, which is moving towards high-level, abstract language skills.

Sensory

No matter where your child’s abilities fall, all kids need sensory exposure as well as the language to go along with it. This activity lends itself to a lot of sensory experiences and opportunities to teach your child sensory words.

  • Gathering the pinecones- words like bumpy, rough, fat, or sticky (if there’s pitch on them).
  • Washing the pinecones- words like cold and wet. Also, as the pitch comes off, the water color will change- so sneak in color word like clear, blue, and brown.
  • Painting the pinecones- if you’re brave, let your child paint them with their fingers. Practice words like sparkly, squishy, bright, etc.

Part of sensory language is being able to compare and contrast things. Don’t forget to talk about the opposites of the above words. For instance, you can compare the fat, round pinecones to the thin, long pine needles.


Well I hope this gives you a fun idea for ways to incorporate language activities into your child’s (cold) day. I would love to hear more ideas from you guys!

How To Make a Fairy Garden

fairy garden final

So around this time every year I start bingeing on Pinterest’s gardening ideas. The sun is out, and in my mind, it is time to turn my backyard into a magical wonderland of perfectly-placed flowers, shrubs, and landscaping.

But unfortunately, I run into two main problems: 1) all those things cost money, which sadly doesn’t grow on all the trees I want to plant, and 2) I kill plants.

Now, I don’t mean to. I really don’t. But I’ve never had an annual, blooming flower last more than a few weeks. So when I finally admitted defeat on my once-beautiful ranunculus, sweet alyssum, and lobelia arrangement in a pot on my front porch, I knew I had to do something different. Something that didn’t have flowers but still felt flower-y.

Well, all those hours of PInterest-bingeing finally paid off because fairy gardens have been ALL.OVER. the gardening boards. I knew that was my answer.

I also knew I wanted to involve Chicka Chicka, so it had to be kid-proof, and kid-approved (none of the ceramic/glass/breakable stuff would be allowed). I knew she would be enamored with the idea of making a fairy home, especially since we’ve found the Tinkerbell movies on Netflix (Neverbeast? Pirate Fairy? Anyone?).

So after a quick trip to the Home Depot and the Dollar Tree, some foraging in the backyard/garage, and quite a bit of tinkering, we got….

fairy garden mid post

Voila! A fairy garden with two hardy succulents, a walkway, and a little swimming hole!

As soon as we finished, Chicka Chicka started calling out “Fairies! Your house is ready!”

I have a feeling she will start getting little notes from fairies wanting to move in 🙂

So here’s what I used, did, and learned:

Materials:
1 unfinished wood birdhouse (thrift store/craft store)
1 bag fake moss (Dollar Tree)
2 succulents (Home Depot, $3.50 each)
1 bag blue floral stones (Dollar Tree)
Pebbles (in garage, previously bought at Home Depot)
From my backyard:
small rocks
sand
sticks
leaves
dirt
mulch

What I Did:
I had Elsie paint the birdhouse while I filled a pot with dirt.
I covered the roof of the birdhouse with moss while the paint was still wet.
I put the birdhouse in the pot.
I planted the succulents.
I carved out a path and filled it with pebbles.
I toyed with the rock placement until I found an arrangement I liked.

Swimming Hole:
I filled the small planter from the succulent with the blue stones.
I dug a small hole in the planter dirt so that the planter with the blue stones was level with the dirt.
I put a thin layer of sand on the top.
I put a ring of stones around the “pool.”
I broke off some sticks and made them look like a fence.
I then put some leaves to look like foliage.

Things I Learned:
1) Pinterest makes things look a LOT easier than they are. It took about four tries to get everything the way I liked.
2) The simpler the better. Chicka Chicka was absolutely ECSTATIC with just the essentials we put in today.
3) Succulents are awesome. Minimal water, full sun, and they thrive when you just leave ’em alone.

My Suggestions:
These little “gardens” are definitely not limited to fairies. Off the top of my head I’m thinking gnomes, dinosaurs, aliens…

Make it interactive. My plan is to make it “Elf on the Shelf”-esque with a fairy figure that can be repositioned and moved around the fairy garden.

I also plan to introduce miniature accessories slowly- once again, encouraging the magic and imagination. (I’ve just gotta wait for a JoAnn’s coupon!)

I hope this has inspired thumbs of all colors to try a fairy garden! It made for a great afternoon for under $15.

Using Sensory Ideas to Calm Down

Hey sorry I missed yesterday- I was volunteering at a consignment sale and spent my whole day elbow-deep in cute little kid clothes! It totally gave me a case of the baby rabies… and a whole trunk full of goodies to take home!

I’m back on track today, and I want to continue my sensory week and talk about using sensory strategies to help your child calm down.

I have written posts here and here about dealing with emotions, or “big feelings” in children of all abilities. However, I will be the first to admit that a child needs to be calm(er) in order to positively process emotions.

My first offering is making a calm-down jar. If you have ever spent any time on Pinterest, I am sure you have seen these. But they work! In this regard, simpler is better. I would just use colored water and confetti/glitter in a plastic water bottle that is sealed with glue or duct tape. And for the love of all things clean, do not use a mason jar! Even grownups want to break breakable things when they are angry.

The idea with a calm-down jar is that the child shakes or swirls the jar, and then watches as the water and the confetti/glitter settles (generally 15-30 seconds). This is a distraction technique, and children get sucked in to watching the jar and start to calm down.

Since I would love to get some more followers on Pinterest, I have pinned several calm-down jar ideas onto my Pinterest boards, and you can follow THIS link to get to them. Thank you!

My second idea is based on a product designed for autistic children, but it can be adapted for children of all abilities. It is the idea of security. Many (but not all) autistic children can benefit from a weighted vest. There is something about the security and the weight that is calming. I have found this principle to be true in many children, including my own. Even just a blanket, or a box, or a hug (if you know the parents are okay with it!!) can have the same effect. Sometimes children get so overwhelmed that they need someone or something else to intervene.

I learned this third technique while I worked with the special needs preschool population. It is called a “cool-off.” It is basically a time-out, but it is not framed as a punishment, but rather an opportunity to step away from the situation and regroup. I find it works best if a child “cools off” in the same spot every time, with limited sensory input (low lights, low sound, low amount of stuff, etc.).

My final idea is nothing new to parents: coloring. I don’t have any scientific research to back this up, but there is something about coloring that is absorbing and soothing. Maybe it’s the creativity flowing, maybe it’s the repetitive motion, I don’t know. But I may or may not have a Harry Potter coloring book for myself.
To use coloring as a sensory strategy for calming down, I recommend having a specific coloring book for those times, or use a product like Crayola Color Wonder markers that only show up on special paper (in case the markers end up on places they shouldn’t, or get flung).

I would love to hear more ideas on using sensory strategies during those tricky emotional times! Please share or comment below!

Water Table Wednesday!

Sensory water table. spigot

We are on Day 3 of Sensory Week! Whoo-hoo!

So today I am taking advantage of alliteration and calling today Water Table Wednesday!

I have had a water table for a few years, and honestly, I’ve struggled to know what to do with it. I see beautiful, elaborate “mini-worlds” and “sensory bins” made with them on Pinterest and I just know that’s not going to happen. Half the toys will end up in the mud or sandbox, and anything that should not be eaten will most definitely be eaten (water beads, I’m looking at you!)

So today, I want to give you some of the more realistic yet engaging water table activities I’ve found on the internet. A Water Table Wednesday Round-Up, if you will.

Obviously the main reason your child will want to play with a water table is water. But Allison of Learn Play Imagine makes a very good point: some children do not like being forced to be put into (more than likely) cold hose water. Now, I suppose you could bust out lukewarm Evian, but I think we all agree that setting it up and letting your child “discover” the water is a much better option. Plus, an activity that a child chooses is automatically more engaging than an activity they are forced to do. Consider it a perk.

Now, before the internet etiquette police chew me out for not linking to Allison’s website, here is the link. Her opinion on letting a child discover a water activity is embedded in her awesome post about Ice Cube Play! Simply put food coloring and water into ice cube trays, then fill up your water table (or bin, or bucket, etc.) with water. Let your child drop the ice cubes into the water and watch them melt and color the water! If you have older children, you could do this as a race to see who’s ice cube melts the fastest. You could also use Kool-aid mix for the coloring if you are wary of traditional food coloring.

My next one is from No Time for Flash Cards, and it involves bubbles. The link is HERE, but basically you add food coloring to bubbles and whisk them together. How fun, right!! And just in case you aren’t aware, the bubbles will eventually turn murky brown as your child furiously whisks every single color you have in your pantry. If your child may not be able to handle that, I would suggest separate bins for each color mixing.

My next one is from teachpreschool.org., and all you need for this one is those squeezy condiment bottles. I am 93.6% sure I have seen these at the dollar store, so no excuses people! This is a similar concept to the bubble-whisk activity, but you put colored water in the condiment bottles and squeeze. I love this one because there is a muscle-strengthening component of squeezing the bottles, which can be a great way to improve coordination and finger strength (think pre-writing skills!)

My next one comes all the way from the land of koala bears and insects that are just too big, courtesy of childsplaymusic.com.au. This one uses metal bowls, pots/pans, and lids to generate music! Simply add water to the metal bowls to change the pitch, then hit them with a rock or spoon or something! I love this because it teaches cause and effect: when you put more or less water in the bowl, it makes a different sound. You could also talk with an older child about pitch and vibration and such (follow this up with the Magic School Bus episode and voila! a great afternoon).

My final link comes from Where Imagination Grows, and it is the suggestion that I have used with my own children with great success. Set your water table up with soap and wash stuff. This particular link washes animals, but you can also do plastic dolls (and their clothes!), duplos, rocks, basically anything washable! This is so perfect because it is totally child-directed play. Let them guide the play, make choices, and maybe even sneak in a few “problems” that your child can solve!

So here’s to Water Table Wednesday! Don’t feel overwhelmed and inadequate by what you see on Pinterest. Just get outside and let the play happen!

Tuesday Tub Time: Shaving Cream and Paint

Sensory tub time final

You know that song that iconic 90’s song? “Peanut butter jelly time!” *repeat as desired*

Well, I am going to change it up on you and make it, “Shaving cream and painting time!”

Fits perfectly. Someone call MC Hammer.

Because that is my sensory activity for today!

This is so mind-blowingly simple, engaging, and clean up is literally washing everything down the drain!

Stick your kids in the tub, and spray some shaving cream in the tub and on the walls. My personal favorite is the gel kind that squirts blue and then foams up. Just one more level of mom awesomeness, in my kids’ eyes.

* Yes, if your child is young enough, he/she may try to eat the shaving cream. Unless your child is super sensory-proof, they will only taste it once. If you are concerned about this, may I suggest whipped cream. Although I can’t guarantee the easy clean-up of whipped cream.*

Let your kid(s) play in the shaving cream in the tub. You can make silly designs in it, you can make letters in it, you can take turns putting it on arms/legs/head (be sure to label them!), or, my daughter’s personal favorite, spread it out all over the bottom of the tub and make shaving cream angels.

Oh to be 4 again.

Once the novelty begins to wear off, give your tub a fresh squirt of shaving cream and…

wait for it…..

give your kid some washable paints! I personally only use Crayola watercolors because I know they are nontoxic and I am paranoid that Poison Control keeps a record of how many times I’ve already called. Plus, I can vouch that Crayola watercolors wash right off!

Let your kid(s) mix the paint into the shaving cream, talk about mixing colors, make silly mustaches/beards/mermaid hair, pretty much just let your child direct the play!

When you are all done, simply scrub up your child, then rinse the tub! It should all just go down the drain. I’ve never had a problem with the watercolors staining my tub, but my tub is also several shades away from white. If you are worried about it staining, definitely stick to watercolors and maybe limit the dark colors.

This is a perfect rainy day activity. It would also be great outside in a water table with swimsuits on!

Try it and let me know how it goes!

Sensory Week Kick-off: Playdough!

Sensory playdo final

Welcome to my Sensory Week kick-off! This week’s posts will be all about using sensory activities to engage your children.

Sensory, WHAT?!?

So first off, why does sensory input matter?

Basically, we are all along a sensory spectrum. On the extremes, there are hyper- and hypo- sensitive people. Hypersensory people, or sensory avoiders, are easily overstimulated. They will reach their threshold for touch, taste, sound, or even emotions quickly. This often results in the child shutting down, melting down, or acting out. Hyposensory people, or sensory seekers, are understimulated by those same sensory inputs. These children will often go looking for increased sensory input. The rest of us fall somewhere in the middle.

To make it even more challenging, some children can be hypersensitive to some things, and hyposensitive to others. This is commonly seen in children with autism; they may be overly sensitive to certain textures of food, but will spend hours elbow-deep in playdough.

The awesome thing about using sensory activities with children (hyper, hypo, or in-between), is that it is a great segway into language development. If you have a sensory seeker, you can use that as motivation for communication. For instance, hold your child’s favorite playdough toy out of reach so they have to initiate a social interaction to get it. If your hypersensitive child is in the middle of a meltdown, you have an opportunity to teach your child to use words to process and express their feelings. You could also offer calming sensory options like a calm-down jar, a “cool-off”, or a weighted vest.

The important thing to remember with children and their sensory needs is that each child is different. Each will respond to sensory input differently, and it is up to you to figure out the exact formula for your child. I wish there was a simpler way, but it truly is trial-and-error. I feel it is also important to remember that you are the adult. Just because your child is over/under stimulated and mid-meltdown/destroying the house/eating playdough does not mean they get to be in control of the situation. They need guidance in these instances, not punishment. Read my posts about being calm, consistent, and clear here and here.

So now, to the fun stuff! Today I want to share my favorite recipe for playdough. I know that Pinterest has 628,000 recipes for sensory-enhanced playdough (think glitter, smells, etc.), but time and time again my kids love just the basic playdough. Also, no matter how hard I tried, my playdough just looked like a blob of playdough (hence the commercial Play-doh in the above picture).

This particular recipe is from Parenting Chaos. You can find the entire post HERE, but here’s the rundown:

1 cup flour

1 cup water

2 tsp cream of tartar

1/3 cup salt

1 tbsp oil (I use vegetable)

Food coloring (if desired)

In a saucepan, add the flour, cream of tartar, and salt.

Add the water and oil. Mix well on medium heat. Add food coloring.

Keep stirring until the playdough is thick and, ya know, looks like playdough.

Once it doesn’t look wet anymore, put out on the table. You may need to add a bit more flour until it is totally dry. Store it in an air-tight container or Ziploc.

Parenting Chaos has a ton of great ideas on all things kids and education, so go over and take a look around!

So now you’ve got your Playdough, now what?

Well, first off, squish the warm playdough between your hands. Warm playdough is seriously one of the most comforting sensations in the world. Your kids probably won’t appreciate it now, but they will one day.

Fortunately, kids don’t usually need much prodding to play with playdough. But these are great additions to enhance the play (and no need to spend more money!):

Little plastic animals

Measuring cups/spoons

Wood blocks

Duplos (keep some toothpicks handy to dig out the playdough that will inevitably get squished in there)

Straws

Cookie cutters

If you do want to spend money, I highly recommend the Melissa and Doug playdough rolling pins and the Play-do brand scissors. Yes, that’s right, they make scissors that cut playdough like paper. And I’m not an Amazon affiliate, these are just links.

What does your child like to make with playdough? Need more ideas? Comment below and stay tuned for more sensory play ideas coming this week!

TV and Kids: Using Technology in Parenting

TV and Kids

Before I start this post, I just want to make it clear that I love my children. I say that my husband is my pride and my children are my joy.

But have you ever had those days where you wake up to one child saying, “I didn’t make it to the potty” and the other is screaming bloody murder and all you wish is to be that kid in the BFG that turns invisible when he pushes his belly button? Granted, that was a dream, but it was a whizzbanger of a dream. If I’ve lost you, please go try childhood again and read Roald Dahl.

Or how about that 2:00 slump where your toddler that should be taking a nap is most definitely not going to take a nap, and your preschooler pulled open a yogurt and splattered probiotic-dairy-goodness all over? Not to mention you just found a bill half-shredded under the couch that you never, ever saw come into the house.

Or, the motherload of all bad times, that 4:30-6 window I affectionately call the “witching hour,” where husbands are still trying to get home while you are trying to get dinner going and your kids have unanimously decided to be as whiny and destructive as humanly possible?

If you’ve never had these moments happen to you, or even if they don’t happen on a daily basis, kudos to you and you need to write a book on that.

For the rest of us, sometimes we just turn on the TV because good golly life just hits us smack in the face and we need a moment to breathe. Or call somebody. Or cook dinner.

However, while I totally empathize with every mother in the world who has ever felt guilty about turning on the TV, I do think there needs to be some guidelines for TV watching, especially for young children.

Here are my thoughts as a speech therapist and as a parent on the subject of TV:

1) You definitely have to keep an eye on what your child is watching. Chicka Chicka is 4, and is semi-proficient in remote control controlling. Sometimes she has stumbled upon something (even on the Kids section of Netflix) that is not okay with me. I can’t stand potty humor, or just about anything from the Cartoon Network.

Can I go on a mini-rant here? It is 2016 and I still can’t hide or block a show on the Kids section of Netflix. Get your act together Netflix and make this happen. Okay, rant over.

2) Look for shows that teach good social behavior and manners. There are several that don’t even show kindness, and instead have a Mean Girls-esque mentality about them (My Little Pony, I’m looking at you). Also, be mindful of violent shows. I remember a class discussion in college about how the average Power Rangers episode has over 100 violent acts per 20 minute episode. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

3) It has to be something you can stand to listen to. I think the premise of Little Einsteins is good, but o-my-gosh hearing the same snippet of music over and over and over makes my right eye twitch.

4) Be aware of your child’s attention span and subjects that they would be interested in. I will join in any Bill Nye chant I hear (Bill!Bill!Bill!) but I tried to have Chicka Chicka watch it and it was above her attention span. But I’ve got some Magic School Bus love going on right now, so I can’t complain.

5) Make TV work for you! Especially if you have a child with delays or disabilities. Turn it into a reward for something specific, or have a reward chart and when your child gets x amount of stars they get to watch their show. I know some will disagree with this, but this can be especially motivating for kids who have limited interests. It can also be a good “brain break” for kids who are overstimulated or overtired.

6) Finally, tap into how your child learns. If your child is a visual learner, TV can be a great opportunity to spark conversation or use it as a reference. Like, “Remember how the cone snail stung Kwazii on Octonauts? Bees can do the same thing.” You could also use it for story recall, “What did Curious George plant in the front yard? Why didn’t it grow?”

Now, for my personal TV recommendations. Please note that I am a cheapskate and only have Netflix on a Roku, so anything not on Netflix I can’t vouch for.

  • Daniel Tiger. Daniel Tiger is my absolute favorite kid’s TV show. At first I thought it was annoying because each episode has a recurring theme and accompanying song. However, I did my penance once my daughter watched the potty training episode and suddenly things clicked. I swear, I can say something 428 different ways but if Daniel Tiger puts it in a song suddenly Chicka Chicka remembers.
  • Curious George. This cute little show offers a lot in terms of story recall and appropriate behavior. Even though George often gets in trouble, he also tries to make it right. It also has what I call the “Antiques Roadshow” factor- there are never super loud moments and it always has a soothing narrator. This is good for sensory children, and, let’s face it, all moms. There’s nothing worse than turning up the volume in a quiet part only to get blasted a moment later.
  • Sophia the First. This is a Disney show about a girl who “becomes a princess overnight” when her mom marries the king. This show actually combats the princess/entitlement mentality, and thank goodness, amiright? There are several social situations in it, as well as conversation prompts (like Sophia’s amulet).
  • Dinosaur Train. This PBS show is the story of a dinosaur family that gets on a magical train to learn about different dinosaurs. It is also a blended family, since they are all Pteranodons and somehow a T-Rex egg landed in their nest (that’ll make for some awkward family conversations later). It is part learning about dinosaurs and part learning about playing with siblings and getting along.
  • Octonauts. Octonauts is a BBC show about a crew of animals that goes around saving underwater creatures. It is on Netflix, and I believe it is broadcast on Disney Jr. in the U.S. I’m not gonna lie, I love the British accents in this show and if Benedict Cumberbatch voiced one of the characters I just might die (BBC, this needs to happen). This is one of those rare educational animal shows for kids that doesn’t have a blatantly obvious political agenda.
  • Jake and the Neverland Pirates. This fun Disney Jr. show makes the list because I have yet to meet kid or mom that did not like Jake. I wouldn’t classify it as an educational show, but it has loveable characters and good problem-solving social situations (thanks to that sneaky snook Captain Hook!). It also has these two pirates at the end of each episode that sing silly songs and I think they must honestly have the easiest job in the world.

Just remember, TV is not the enemy. You as a parent control what and how much your children watch. It can even become a motivator when all else fails.

What are some of your children’s favorite TV shows? Do you have any concerns over what your child watches?

5 Ideas to Reuse Easter Eggs

Use Easter eggs to work on basic concepts.
Use Easter eggs to work on basic concepts.

First off, I hope everybody had a great Easter! Whether you are religious or just celebrating spring, I hope you enjoyed yourself.

However, if your household is anything like mine, you’ve now got more than a few plastic eggs lying around. Wondering what do to with those leftover plastic eggs?

Well, I’ve got five ideas for reusing them at least once before they’re sent off to the recycling bin.

1) Make homemade maracas! This is a fun sensory activity. Take a few eggs, and put different things inside each egg. Try rice, beans, pennies, cheerios, whatever! See what different sounds they make, and talk about how they are different. You could even put them in order from quietest to loudest. Just be sure to tape them closed- you don’t want an explosion!

2) Those plastic eggs are natural little scoops. They are perfect for playdough, sensory bins, in the sandbox, or even bathtime! Bitty babies especially like to scoop and dump, scoop and dump. Plastic eggs are also the perfect size for little hands.

3) Got a picky eater? Grab an egg carton, and line it with 4-5 plastic eggs. Put just a small amount of food in each (think 1-2 bites). You could even leave the tops on the eggs so that your child gets to open each one and try the food!

4) Create a sorting activity. Grab a box of Skittles, M & Ms, anything with a bunch of colors. Then, have your child sort the candy into the eggs by color. Just don’t let them eat too many!

5) Have an inside Easter hunt! I don’t know about you, but today is rainy and I’m already bracing myself for lots of wiggles. So reuse those Easter eggs and hide them inside! If your child is a little bit older (think 2 years and up), this is a perfect activity to practice those pesky prepositions like in, on, under, behind, over, inside/outside, etc.

So there you have it. 5 ways to reuse plastic Easter eggs.

I would love to hear from my readers! How do you reuse Easter eggs?

P is for Rocks

P is for Rocks final copy

Tonight, Boom Boom and I went walking around our neighborhood. He had some definite wiggles and grumpies and that means we go outside if at all possible. We found (of course) the ONE house that has some pebbled rocks right next to the sidewalk. And Boom Boom plunked himself down and played with them. When I tried to move on, he wriggled out of my arms and just marched himself right back to the Rock House. As in, he walked a block and a half. My kid has a better sense of direction than I will ever have. What is it about rocks that all kids love? I’m not sure- but I’m fairly certain it has something to do with the fact that they are almost always dirty. Kids and dirt go together like…kids and dirt.

Anyway, it got me thinking about a behavior often seen in children with disabilities, especially autism: perseveration. That’s the fancy term for when a child obsesses over something; it can be a motion or an item, and can be caused by several things or for no reason at all. This isn’t typical child obsession; it is usually a repetitive motion (like opening and closing a door), or talking about a subject for an inappropriately long amount of time. Depending on the severity of the perseveration (try saying that 3 times fast!), this can greatly hinder social interactions or the ability to process big feelings.

So how do you work through perseverations with young children? For this, we have to dig into the toolbox and try to stretch the boundaries of that perseveration. First, try distraction. The distraction has to be a serious gamechanger, like a favorite game or toy. Try to include physical space between the distraction and the perseveration. For example, if the child is turning the light switch on and off, put Mr. Greatest Toy Ever in the middle of the room so the child has to leave the light switch.

If distraction doesn’t work, the next thing I pull out of my toolbox is my CCCs. For me, these stand for Clear, Consistent, and Calm. See HERE for more information on this. I get down on the child’s level, and make sure I have the child’s (somewhat) attention. For me, this means they are making eye contact, with the behavior paused. I use a quiet but firm voice, and tell them it is not okay to be doing this. It is crucial that you find a phrase that is used in several disciplinary situations. In my family, we say “___________ is not okay.” This lets the child know exactly what is not okay, and they know mom (or teacher) means business. As parents, it is SO easy to try to explain ourselves, to get too wordy in an attempt to get our point across. But kids of all abilities respond much better to simple, black-and-white communication.

From here, I like to move into the Cha-cha-cha. It means you give the child a chance, a choice, and then a cheer! In this case, I would first give the child a chance to express any feelings they may be having. Perseverations can be triggered by overstimulation, so it is important to work through those feelings in a positive way (instead of the perseveration). Then, you give the child a choice.

Now, repeat after me: Do not make the perseveration a choice! The choice may be between a new toy or a new activity, a new game or a new book, etc. The choices need to physically and emotionally move the child away from the perseveration. Once your child makes a choice, go with it! Give them a cheer (see here for my thoughts on positive reinforcement) and move forward with your day. You can also treat yourself to a Dr. Pepper because, well, good job to you too!

So in conclusion, I have a feeling that rocks will be a big part of my life for the next few years. And for those struggling with perseverations, they will most likely be a part of life, though they may transform over the years. I hope that this post gives you some positive strategies to work through a difficult and tricky situation.