Why We Love Puzzles


I just found out that today is National Puzzle Day.  Who knew?   Puzzles are fabulous toys for every child.  Be sure to look for puzzles made of good quality and try to find some with pictures that look as realistic as possible.  There are a lot of developmental skills you can work on while playing with puzzles.

1.  Fine Motor Skills – Getting those puzzle pieces to fit exactly right takes a lot of concentration and fine motor skills.  Holding the little knobs (if there is one) is a great way to work on using a pincer grasp.  Bigger knobs work on holding objects with your palm and whole hand.  Some puzzles are inset puzzles, others are interlocking puzzles.  There are puzzles with fun textures and some with locks, latches and doors.  All of these require different fine motor skills and strategies.

2.  Visual Processing – Looking at the puzzle pieces and trying to figure out how to make them fit takes a lot of hand-eye coordination and visual processing skills.

3.  Cognitive Skills – Puzzles are great to work on matching pictures and following directions.  You can also work on identifying, matching and naming colors, shapes, numbers and letters.

4.  Speech and Language Skills –  Not only are puzzles great to work on naming pictures, but you can also encourage your child to request objects.  Hold the puzzle pieces in your lap and encourage your child to request which piece they want by signing or saying, “more.”  For older children, you can work on using the phrase, “I want + object name”  (e.g. “I want cat, I want blue circle, etc”) to request the desired puzzle piece.  Some puzzles make sounds when you place the pieces on the board – this is a great way to encourage your child to imitate sounds and talk about what they see and hear.

5.  Gross Motor Skills – You might be wondering how puzzles can work on gross motor skills, but they can be a great for encouraging motor skills.  For younger kids, place the puzzle board on top of your couch, chair or coffee table.  Then, place the puzzle pieces on the floor.  Your child will have to bend and squat down to pick up the puzzle pieces and then place them in the correct spot.  For older kids, place the puzzle pieces across the room.  Encourage your child to walk, run, hop, jump, skip, crawl, etc. across the room to pick up the puzzle pieces one at a time and then bring them back.  You could even develop an obstacle course for them to go through to bring back the pieces.  These activities are great for encouraging gross motor movements and motor planning skills.

Puzzles can be a lot of fun and they work on so many great developmental skills.  So, grab a puzzle and your child and have some fun!


Now It’s Your Turn:  Does your child have a favorite puzzle?  If so, tell us about it. 


Encouraging Pre-Handwriting Skills


Photo courtesy of Clip-Art

While handwriting is an important skill for children to learn, they aren’t developmentally equipped to write letters with diagonals until age 5 and can develop poor habits if asked to try before they’re ready.  However, there are a few tips to encourage PRE-Handwriting skills to children under age 5:

  • Around age 3, children should be using fingertips on a pencil or crayon to color rather than a fist.  However, they may not move to just 3 fingers until age 5.  Encourage your child to use their fingers by using small, broken pieces of crayon to color or bulb crayons, like Alex brand finger crayons.
  • Begin reinforcing good habits as soon as they express interest in writing letters.  Letters are formed most efficiently from top to bottom.
  • Don’t substitute video learning games for fine motor activities like drawing and coloring – they do not build the foundational muscle control needed for writing.  And remember – no more than 2 hours of screen time a day (video, computer, TV, iPad, etc).
  • Good activities for foundational skills include mazes, dot-to-dot puzzles, tracing with color change markers and lacing.
  • You can put maze books or dot-to-dot books in a sheet protector and use dry erase markers over and over.
  • Work on recognizing letters and spelling your child’s name with magnets rather than trying to write.

Here are some fun activities to use with your kids:

Crayola Switchers
String Along Lacing Kit
Melissa and Doug Deluxe Alphabet Stamps
School Smart Dough
Squeeze Rocket
Squeezer and Tweezers
Magnetic Train Maze 
First Mazes

By:  Rebecca Thomas, MOT
Occupational Therapist

Disclosure of Material Connection: The above links are for informational purposes only. Brightsong, LLC does not receive a commission on any of the products reviewed or listed. The Brightsong team only recommends products or services we personally use and believe will add value to the families we work with. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

10 Reasons Why Reading is Important


Reading books and stories with your child is important for their development.   There are a variety of different ways to read a book now.  You can read “real” books, board books, digital books, magazines, picture books, etc.  We don’t know what the world will look like in 5 or 10 years, but what we do know is that reading is important and that reading a “real” book is different than reading an electronic book.

Real books feel and look different.  They have texture and substance. You can feel and smell the pages.  A lot of children books have beautiful pictures to engage your child.  These books have textures and pop-up pictures that you can see and touch – which enrich the story and increase your child’s understanding and vocabulary skills.  Children learn about following directions and when and how to turn the pages.  They learn about the cover of books and “the end” of the story.   Children learn to use their imagination while hearing and reading these stories.  As they get older, children learn how to mark their favorite pages or make notes in the margin.  They learn how to take care of their books.  Children learn that snuggling up with mom and dad for story time is a great bonding experience full of love and adventure.

Digital books feel and look different.  There are a variety of devices capable of displaying digital books – smart phones, tablets, e-readers, etc.   One of the benefits of these devices is that they offer a different learning experience.  We all know that children learn in different ways.  If your child is not interested in “real” books, they might be very interested in digital books.  These devices offer a different type of visual stimulation and learning.  Children are still learning.  They’re still following directions and building their vocabulary skills and some devices even take the story to the next level.  A lot of details can be expanded on using the digital books, but it might be hard for the child to snuggle with the device and mom and dad – especially if they want to use it independently.

Regardless of the type of book you use, reading is important because it opens up a world of opportunities.  Stories are full of excitement and adventure.  These stories build on your child’s imagination and promote language development and literacy skills.  Reading to your child every day and having them see you reading are beneficial because:

  1. Children learn to love books by watching their parents read
  2. Reading aloud is fun for children
  3. Reading aloud teaches children a great deal about words and language
  4. Reading allows children to learn about and pursue their personal interests and passions
  5. Hearing stories about other children helps develop a sense of empathy
  6. Reading exposes children to a variety of cultures and places
  7. Books create connections between everyday situations (such as going to the dentist)
  8. Books encourage pretend play
  9. Reading teaches children about the world around them
  10. Reading together creates a special bond between parents and their children

So, grab a book and your child and enjoy some time together.

Now It’s Your Turn:  Do you have a preference for “real” books or digital ones?   What’s your child’s favorite book?

Move and Groove with Elvis!


Today is the birthday of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley.  To honor him and to celebrate his birthday, here are some fun ways to incorporate his music into your child’s learning and development.  Most children love music, but listening to children’s songs every day can get tiring.  Have some fun and change up your music selection by introducing them to Elvis.

Music can be a fun and important part of your child’s development.  While singing, playing musical instruments or dancing, encourage your child to get involved and move to the beat!

Elvis has a collection of songs that are fast paced with a strong rhythm and beat.  Songs such as All Shook Up, Hound Dog, Heartbreak Hotel, Shake, Rattle and Roll, Blue Suede Shoes, We’re Gonna Move, etc. are great for motor movements.  While listening to these songs, encourage your child to:

  • Imitate motor movements and actions (clapping hands, stomping feet, etc)
  • Identify body parts
  • Follow directions
  • Bring their hands together to clap or bang on instruments
  • Use both hands at the same time to shake shakers or bang on drums
  • Move their body up and down, fast and slow, etc.

Other songs such as Kentucky Rain, It’s Now or Never, Can’t Help Falling in Love, etc. are slow, soothing and calming.  While listening to these songs, encourage your child to move slowly.  These songs can be used to “calm down” after getting all riled up with the fast paced songs.  Encourage deep pressure movements such as giving hugs, rubbing their legs and arms, etc.

Music is a fun way to work on developmental skills.  So, gather your kids, an Elvis CD and some musical instruments and start jamming!

Now It’s Your Turn:  What’s your favorite Elvis song?


Disclosure of Material Connection: The above links are for informational purposes only. Brightsong, LLC does not receive a commission on any of the products reviewed or listed. The Brightsong team only recommends products or services we personally use and believe will add value to the families we work with. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Our Top 10 Apps for Preschoolers

Preschool Apps

There are literally thousands of apps on the market. It can be confusing and frustrating to find one that is appropriate for your preschooler. Here is our list of Top 10 Apps for Preschoolers.

1. My Play Home – This app is a lot of fun and kids just love it! It’s a playhouse complete with rooms, people and interactive objects. This app works on pronouns, action verbs, sequencing, naming objects, etc.

2. Zoo Train – Kids of all ages love trains. This app has 5 different games. Children can make choices and choose which animals ride the train and where they go (the farm, beach, city, etc). There is also a train track game which works on problem solving skills and a puzzle game that works on matching and visual perception. Another game included is a spelling game. Children can match letters and put them in the correct order to spell simple words. The last game is a musical one with different train whistles and songs. We love this app!

3. Bug Games – The same company that makes the Zoo Train app makes this one. There is a maze which works on problem solving and visual processing skills. A connect-the- dot game works on number identification and sequencing and a music game plays different songs. There is also a game for spelling simple words and completing puzzles.

4. Articulation Station – This is a great app for working on specific speech sounds. You can purchase the entire collection, or choose a few targeted sounds and buy them individually. The pictures are great and you can target sounds in different positions (the beginning, middle or end of words). The pictures are presented several different ways (flash cards, matching game, etc) – which makes it fun for kids.

5. Toca Boca Robot Lab – This is a fun app that children love. You get to create your own robot out of scrap pieces. Your robot looks different each time you do it. After you build your robot, you test it out by traveling through a maze, collecting stars and finding your way home. Great for sequencing skills, visual tracking, spatial relations, etc.

6. Bob Books – This is a great app to work on pre-literacy skills. There are 4 different levels that work on matching and sequencing letters to spell words. The pictures become animated after the words are completed. If your child needs help, visual cues are provided.

7. Lenord Furry Friend – This is a great interactive app. Lenord, our furry friend, imitates what is said and interacts with a variety of objects. Your child can help him pop a balloon, pop bubbles, tickle Lenord and give him something to eat and drink. This app works on cause-and-effect and social interactions.

8. Starfall ABC’s – This app is great for letter identification and phonics. Each letter is presented with a variety of games which encourage your child to identify and match letters and sounds.

9. Injini – This app has several games focusing on different developmental skills. The free version does include some good choices, but the paid version offers several different gaming levels. Games include matching, sequencing, color identification, animals, letter identification, etc.

10. Monkey Preschool Lunchbox – This app offers several different games. After a few games, children can put a sticker on the board. Skills targeted include matching, counting, identifying colors, identifying beginning letters, etc.

These are a few of our favorites and we use them during therapy sessions in addition to traditional therapy techniques. Apps can be a great addition to your child’s therapy protocol, but always check with your child’s therapist to make sure you are on the same page and working together.

Now It’s Your Turn: What are some of your child’s favorite apps?


Disclosure of Material Connection: The above links are for informational purposes only. Brightsong, LLC does not receive a commission on any of the products reviewed or listed. The Brightsong team only recommends products or services we personally use and believe will add value to the families we work with. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2012 Year In Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,600 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 8 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.