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.”

 

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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.

The Colors of Christmas

Identifying and naming colors are important skills for children to learn.  Most children know basic colors (red, blue, orange, yellow, green, purple, etc) by the time they are 3 years old.  During the holidays, there are a lot of sights and colors everywhere. This can be a great time to work on helping your child identify and name colors.  Here’s a simple craft to work on this important skill.

Materials needed and to be used with adult supervision:

1 large green triangle made from construction paper, cardstock, poster board or foam
1 medium green triangle made from the same materials as the larger one
1 small green triangle made from the same materials
About 8 different colored pom-pom balls* OR circles cut from different construction paper
glue
1 yellow star cut from construction paper

*Pom-poms are very enticing to young children.  Please supervise your child carefully so they do not place them in their mouth. 

Step 1:  Glue the green triangles together and glue on the star.

 

christmas tree

Step 2:

  • To work on identifying colors:  Present two different colored pom-poms or circles in front of your child.  Ask your child, “show me blue.”  If they reach for the correct color, praise them and then let them glue the pom-pom or circle on the tree.  If they don’t get the correct color, present the two colors again, but move the targeted one closer to your child.  Continue this step until all the colored pom-poms are on the tree.

 

  • To work on naming colors: Place the colored pom-poms in a bag so you can’t see them.  Have your child reach into the bag and pull out a pom-pom.  When they do, say – “oh look – it’s _____” and wait for them to respond with the correct color name.  If they do – praise them and let them glue it on the tree.  If they don’t, ask them, “what color is it?”  If they still need help, say the color name and try it again.

 

christmas tree colors

Step 3:  Have fun!

 

Now It’s Your Turn:  How do you like to work on identifying and naming colors?

 

 

 

How to Make a /k/ Sound Candy Cane

The /k/ sound can be a tough sound to make.  Many children will produce a /t/ instead of a /k/.  For example, they say “tar” instead of “car,” or “tat” instead of “cat.”  This sound is typically mastered by children around 3 1/2 years of age.  If your child is working on the /k/ sound, here’s a fun and crafty speech therapy idea.

Parents – just remember that a word that is spelled with a “c” does not always make a “kuh” sound.  For example, in the word “cent,” the “c” sounds like a /s/.

Materials needed: 

Paper or cardboard cut-out of a candy cane shape
Red marker or crayon
Pictures of objects and animals that start with the /k/ sound
Glue or glue stick

 

Step 1: Have your child color the candy cane by drawing stripes with the red marker.

drawing

Step 2:  Go through the pictures and have your child say each targeted word.

Step 3:  Give your child a choice between the two pictures.  For example, ask if they want the “cat” or the “car” and emphasize the /k/ sound when you say these words.  Encourage them to ask for the desired picture by saying the targeted word.  If they reach for the picture, but don’t say it – tell them, “you say ___” and encourage them to say the word correctly.  After they make a choice, give the picture to them.

Step 4:  Have your child glue the picture on their candy cane.

Step 5:  Repeat until all the pictures are glued on.

candy cane
Step 6:  Have fun!

 

Now It’s Your Turn:  Do you have a special craft activity that works on the /k/ sound? 

Cooking Up Some Holiday Fun!

Bradly Cookie
When families get together, adults and children most often end up in the kitchen.  Children love to get involved and help “cook.”  This time of year, making holiday cookies is a perfect way to spend an afternoon in the kitchen with your little helper.   Here is a simple sugar cookie recipe for kids of all ages.

1 cup softened butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat oven to 400°

1.  In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla extract until blended.

2.  Add flour and baking powder, mix well.

3.  You can make traditional sugar cookies by scooping out teaspoons of dough, roll them into balls and flatten with a fork.  Or, you can roll out the dough to use cookie cutters. Then, sprinkle with colored sugar or sprinkles for added fun!

4.  Bake 7 – 8 minutes until just starting to brown around the edges.  Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Have fun and happy holidays!

Now It’s Your Turn:  What does your child like to help you “cook” in the kitchen?

Meeting Santa

Santa and Boy
Santa Claus is a special guy, but meeting Santa can be overwhelming for some children. Before you visit Santa, tell your children the history of Santa to prepare them ahead of time.

Saint Nicholas was born a long time ago.  He traveled around the country giving gifts and helping the poor and the sick.  Santa Claus has many names around the world.  Some call him St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle or Father Christmas.

In the United States, Santa Claus is known as a chubby man with a white beard and red suit.  This description of Santa is based on a story called “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore.   When Mr. Moore met Santa that night, he learned a few things:

  • Santa Claus understands that many children may be scared to sit on his lap and tell them what they want for Christmas.  That’s okay.  You do not have to sit on Santa’s lap.  You can give him a handshake or a high five – he’d like that.
  • If you don’t want to meet Santa by yourself, a parent, sibling or friend can go with you.
  • If you don’t want to talk to Santa – that’s okay.  You can write a list or draw some pictures to give to Santa.
  • You can ask your parents to call (951) 262-3062 and you can leave a message on Santa’s answering machine.
  • Santa likes to give gifts because it makes people happy and he feels good afterwards.  The holidays are a time for giving and it’s important that we share and give to others – just like Santa Claus.

Meeting Santa for the first time is a special day.  By preparing your child ahead of time, you can avoid some of the uneasiness and fear your child may experience.  If your child becomes upset while visiting the Santa at the mall, find him at another location without so many other people around.   The most important thing is to have a positive experience so you and your child can enjoy this wonderful holiday tradition.

Resources:

The History of Santa Claus

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

 

Just Like You – Down Syndrome: An Interview with Rachel and Savanna

Rachel

Photo courtesy of the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City

 

A collaboration between Just Like You films and the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City has resulted in a fantastic video,  Just Like You – Down Syndrome This video features Elyssa, Rachel and Sam – three kids with Down syndrome and their best friends, Bretlyn, Savanna and Bobby.   They talk about Down syndrome, what it’s like to have Down syndrome and how others can support those with Down syndrome and be their friend.

I have known Jawanda and Rachel Mast for almost 10 years.  Jawanda was on the Board, and then the executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Memphis and the Mid-South (DSAM) when they lived in Memphis.  Rachel attended public school and studied piano with my husband at The McMahon Piano Studio.  In 2008, the Mast family moved to Kansas and became involved with the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City.

On Saturday, December 1, I had the privilege to interview two of the stars of the video – Rachel and her best friend Savanna.  Rachel has Down syndrome.  Over Skype, we talked about the film and their friendship.  Rachel’s mother, Jawanda Mast, was also present and contributed to the interview.

How did you girls meet?

Rachel: We met at school in fifth grade.
Savanna:  We were in the same elementary school class and have known each other for about 3 years.

You girls have been friends for a while, what kind of things do you like to do together?

Rachel: We do games, movies and sleepovers.
Jawanda:  Savanna also likes Rachel’s iPad©.
Rachel: We play Water.
Savanna:  Water and Cut the Rope.


What kind of movies do you like to watch?

Rachel:  We like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and um, we watch movies at my house.
Savanna:  Didn’t we go see Arthur’s Christmas?
Rachel:  No.
Savanna:  Yeah, we did. We did go see Arthur’s Christmas.  It was good.

Savanna, what makes Rachel a good friend?

Savanna: She’s very nice, very compassionate.  I mean, she doesn’t care what you are or what you dress like.  She’s very considerate.

Rachel, what makes Savanna a good friend?

Rachel:  She’s fun. She’s kind.  She likes to hang out with me.

Tell me about the video, Just Like You – Down Syndrome.  How would you describe it?

Savanna: Very informational.  It has a lot of information about how to deal with Down syndrome and how to be friends with somebody with Down syndrome.
Rachel:  I think that it’s awesome and good.  I love it and would love to do it again. And, I want everyone to see it.

How did you like being a part of the movie premiere?

Savanna: It was fun.  We got to ride in a limo.

What else happened at the premiere?

Savanna:  We got to walk the red carpet and watch the film.

Were there a lot of people?

Savanna:  Like 400 people at an AMC theater.

Jawanda:  At the end of the premiere, they brought the 6 kids on stage for a Question and Answer. They were open ended questions with no practice.  Tell Liz your favorite questions.

Rachel:  Um, if we have boyfriends and girlfriends.
Jawanda:  What was your answer?
Rachel:  Um, no.
Jawanda:  And then she said that her mom says she’s not old enough to have a boyfriend yet.

Savanna:  I think my favorite was when they asked about the heart problems.  They thought that they did, but they didn’t.
Jawanda:  In the video, they talk about how some babies with Down syndrome have a heart problem. So, someone in the audience asked the kids if they had heart surgery.  So, Rachel went first and said yes and then started to describe her heart surgery. Then, her daddy and I said, “no – Rachel, you did not have heart surgery.”   Then, they ask Sam and he begins to talk about having heart surgery.  Then, his parents say, “no – you did not have heart surgery.”   Then, they give the microphone to Elyssa and she says, “mom, dad – did I have heart surgery?”    It was funny.

What do you want other kids to know about Down syndrome?

Savanna:  It’s not contagious.
Rachel:  Down syndrome is not scary and I love my life.

What do you want the world to know about Down syndrome?

Savanna: Individuals with Down syndrome may look and act different, but people with Down syndrome are just like you.
Rachel: Kids with Down syndrome like to have fun and do the same things as everyone else. We are good friends.

Just Like You – Down Syndrome is a wonderful video for adults and children to watch.  It shares great information about Down syndrome, but it mainly focuses on the individuals.  Down syndrome does not define anyone.  As Rachel says in the video, “it’s just one part of my beautiful self.”

One of the best things about the video is that it shows some great friendships.  Friends are people who accept us and like us for who we are.  Friends love you and make you feel special without expecting anything in return.  After watching Rachel and Savanna interact with each other and learning more about them, it’s easy to see that they have a lot of fun together and are good friends. That’s perhaps the greatest lesson and gift from this video – friendship is important and everyone needs and can be a good friend.

Special thanks to Rachel, Savanna and Jawanda, Just Like You films and the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City. 

 

 

 

Handling the Holidays: Tips for Parents of Children with Sensory Processing Issues

The holidays are a special time of year – full of fun and family.  There are so many sights and sounds.  People are everywhere! Family members you haven’t seen in a while arrive and some family members may even crowd into the house and it feels like they’ve taken over!   Holidays can be fun and stressful for adults and children.  For children with sensory processing issues, the holidays can be overwhelming and overstimulating.   Here are a few simple tips to help you and your child make it through this holiday season.

1. Try to keep your child on a routine.  Most children thrive on routines and schedules.  They know what to expect and when to expect it.  Try to limit the number of changes in their schedule – this includes their sleep schedule.  If possible, put visiting family members in another room and let your child with sensory issues stay in their own room and bed.

2. Let your child take a break.  The sights, sounds and people can be overstimulating for children with auditory, tactile and visual sensory processing issues.  If you notice your child becoming agitated or shutting down, give them a break. Designate a space just for them that will provide the sensory break they need.

3. Talk to your family.  Well-meaning family members may have lots of suggestions for you and your child.  Tell them about your child’s sensory issues so they can fully understand what’s going on and not take it personally if your child refuses to give them a hug.  Help everyone understand and encourage them to be patient.  Talking to everyone in advance can save hurt feelings and over expectations later.

4. Prepare your child for what’s coming.  Talk to your child about the holidays and what to expect.  Talk through possible situations they may face and how they can handle these difficult situations.  For example, when grandparents come, you could tell them, “Grandma and grandpa are coming to visit.  We don’t see grandma and grandpa very often, but they love you so much.  When grandma gets here, she will want to give you a big hug.  If you don’t want a hug, you could blow her a kiss or give her a high five.  She would like that.”

Sensory processing can be a difficult diagnosis for family members to understand.  Talk to them about your child’s needs and reiterate that your child is not “acting out” or “anti-social.”  Leave handouts or books about sensory processing issues around the house and share information.  Some great resources include:

Books:

The Out of Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz
Sensational Kids by Lucy Jane Miller

Websites:

Sensory Processing Disorder
Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation
Sensational Brain

Now It’s Your Turn:  What other suggestions do you have for handling the stress of the holidays?

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 Favorite Toys

As therapists and teachers, we are asked all the time, “what toy should I get for my child?”  There are so many toys on the market – it can be overwhelming.  The most important thing to remember is that any toy can be adapted for your child.   Playing and spending time with your child is the best thing for their development and in actuality – YOU are your child’s best toy.

With the holidays upon us, the Brightsong team has developed a list of our favorite toys from birth to elementary school ages.  All of these toys can be found at your local toy store or online.  We hope you and your child enjoy these toys as much as we do.  Have fun!

The Brightsong Team

Now It’s Your Turn:  What’s your child’s favorite toy? 

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.”