Why We Love Puzzles

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. 

 

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Encouraging Pre-Handwriting Skills

painting

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
Fingerpaint
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.”

Move and Groove with Elvis!

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.”

 

Thankful for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a special time of year.  This Thanksgiving, take a few minutes with your child to talk about the meaning of Thanksgiving and how they can share and celebrate this season with others.

1.  Read a book about Thanksgiving.  We love the book Thanks for Thanksgiving.  This book can be easily adapted for any age.  The pictures are lovely and are great to talk about with your child.

2.  Sharing Thanks.  Take time to talk about what each person is thankful for.  For younger children, they can draw a picture of the people they love and share it with that special person.  Older children can write a special note to the people they care about.

3.  Giving to Others.  As a family, take some time to volunteer to serve others.  This could be donating at a church program or making a meal to take to a neighbor.  Go through your clothes and toys and make a trip to The Salvation Army or Goodwill.  Children can donate toys to children in need through a local preschool, daycare or non-profit that works with children.

Talking about the meaning of Thanksgiving, sharing and giving to others will make a huge impact on your child.  As Cicero once said, “a thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.”
 

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Now It’s Your Turn:  What traditions does your family have to celebrate  Thanksgiving?

 

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 Spooktacular Activities for Your Little One

Halloween is upon us!  In the midst of decorating pumpkins and finding the perfect costumes, there are several activities you can do at home to work on your child’s development while celebrating this “spooktacular” season.

1. Visit a Pumpkin Patch:  There are lots of pumpkin patches this time of year.  Find one that is kid friendly.  Let your child pick out their pumpkin and decorate it.  You can paint the pumpkin, use stickers or markers to make faces and have fun!  Targeted skills:  motor and sensory coordination, language development and cognitive skills.

2. Squishy Pumpkins:  Find some orange hair gel.  Put the gel in a Ziploc bag (make sure it’s taped tightly closed).  Draw a pumpkin face on the outside of the bag.  Encourage your child to “squish” the pumpkin.  How does it feel?  Talk about the way it squishes and moves.  Use your fingers to draw designs.  Targeted Skills:  visual, motor and language stimulation.

3. Pumpkin Toss:  Find a large pumpkin basket or bucket.  Encourage your child to toss bean bags or balls into the pumpkin.  Targeted skills:  motor skills, body awareness and hand-eye coordination.

4. Dress Up Fun:  Gather some old Halloween costumes and let your child play dress-up.  Putting on different clothes and accessories is fun and works on a variety of skills!  Targeted skills:  self-help (dressing), language development, sequencing and motor coordination.

5. Leaf Painting:  The leaves are already starting to change colors and fall to the ground.  Why not take advantage?  Have the kids pick 5-10 different kinds of leaves that they really like.  Grab some thick paper and washable paints.  They’ll have a blast unleashing their creativity.  Targeted skills:  motor coordination, sensory skills and language development.

6. Leafy Fun:  If you have a ton of trees in your yard, enlist your kids to help.  They won’t even know they’re doing chores.  Rake the leaves in piles, let them have a hay day, jumping and rolling.  Then just before it’s time to head inside, bring out the bags and stuff the bags to make scarecrows. Targeted skills:  body awareness, balance, motor coordination and language development. 

7.  Make a Scarecrow: Find some old clothes: jeans, long sleeve shirt (flannel shirt if you can). Grab some of those twist ties that you never use (if you don’t have those then rubber bands will work too). Fill the jeans and the shirt separately, tying off the openings. Sit the scarecrow on the porch, adjusting the pieces as necessary. For the head, use an old pillowcase—draw a face on it and put a hat on top. Targeted skills:  sequencing, motor coordination, language development and dressing.

8. Time to Bake:  Kids love to get involved in the baking process.   Cracking of the eggs, stirring the mix, and of course, licking the bowl.  Invite your child into the kitchen and see what fun evolves!  Targeted skills:  cognitive, sequencing, math, motor skills and language development.

9. Down and Dirty: Fall is a great time for gardening, Put on some old clothes and spend some time digging in the yard and planting some seeds.  Targeted skills:  cognitive, language development and motor skills.

10.  Pumpkin Ball:  Find an orange ball and draw on a pumpkin face. Encourage your child to roll, throw and kick the “pumpkin.”  Targeted skills:  motor coordination, balance, language stimulation and body awareness.
All these activities are fun for the whole family and can easily be adapted to fit your child’s needs.

Now It’s Your Turn:  What fall activities do you like to do with your child?   

5 Activities for Pumpkin Fun

Fall is my favorite time of year.  One great thing about fall is that there are so many fun things to do with pumpkins to encourage your child’s learning and development.

1.   Pick a Pumpkin – Visit one of the local pumpkin patches.  Encourage your child to pick out and decorate their own pumpkin.  As you look at the different pumpkins, talk about the shapes and colors.  Which one is bigger?  Which one is short?

2.   Pumpkin Sorting  – Gather several pumpkins of different sizes.  Encourage your child to “sort” the pumpkins from smallest to largest.  Next, gather other fall items (leaves, gourds, etc.) and encourage your child to sort the items into 2 groups – those that are pumpkins and those that aren’t.   For older kids, you could also make patterns with objects (pumpkin, leaf, gourd, pumpkin, etc.) and ask your child, “What comes next?”

3.   Sensory Pumpkin  (requires adult supervision) – Have an adult cut off the top of the pumpkin.  Encourage your child to smell the pumpkin and then use a spoon to scoop out the inside.  Talk about what they see and feel.  How does it feel?  Is it cold? Squishy?  Hard?  For older children, talk about the different senses and how we learn about things using all of our senses.

4.  Pumpkin Art – Wash and dry the pumpkin seeds and then encourage your child to make an art project.  They can glue the seeds onto a paper pumpkin, make a mosaic with other seeds and fall objects, etc.

5.  Pumpkin Snack  (requires adult supervision) – Roast the pumpkin seeds and serve them as a snack.  For some delicious pumpkin treats, use canned pumpkin puree to make pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin cookies, etc.  Invite your child to help you in the kitchen while baking – it’s a great activity to work on sequencing and math skills!

Don’t forget to have fun!