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?

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.”

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.”

Help Bring Best Buddies to Memphis


What is Best Buddies?

Best Buddies is an international nonprofit organization that creates opportunities for “one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

There are 8 programs associated with Best Buddies:

1. Best Buddies Middle Schools – This program partners middle schoolers with special needs with a “typically” developing peer for one-to-one friendships and social interactions.

2. Best Buddies High Schools – This program partners teenagers with special needs with a “typically” developing peer for social interactions and one-to-one friendships.

3. Colleges – This college program partners college students with young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

4.  Citizens – This program matches adults with developmental disabilities with individuals in the corporate and civic communities.

5. e-Buddies – This is an e-mail pen pal program for people with disabilities (ages 10 years and up) and peer volunteers across the United States and around the world.

6.  Jobs – This program places those with developmental disabilities into the community through supported employment.  Adults are able to attain and maintain jobs of their own choosing by providing ongoing support and training.

7.  Ambassadors – This program educates and empowers those with developmental disabilities to be leaders, public speakers and self-advocates in their schools, communities and workplace.

8.  Promoters – This program empowers youth to become advocates for people with developmental disabilities and introduces them to the disability rights movement and the importance of the inclusion through local awareness events.

Where is Best Buddies Located?

There is a Best Buddies program in every state and in 50 countries around the world.  To find a location near you, visit Best Buddies. In Tennessee, the state office is in Brentwood, TN.

How Can I Help Bring Best Buddies to Memphis? 

1.  Attend, Volunteer or Sponsor the Champion of the Year Gala and Silent Auction.  On November 9, several candidates are competing to be the “Champion of the Year” by raising the most money for Best Buddies.  There will also be a Silent Auction.  All proceeds will benefit the Memphis chapter of Best Buddies. To purchase tickets, click here.

2. Make a donation to Help Bring Best Buddies to Memphis. All donations are tax deductible.

3. Volunteer!  Help Bring Best Buddies to Memphis would love to have you volunteer at the fundraising events, stuff envelopes or call for sponsors and donations.

4. Spread the Word!  Talk to your child’s school, your local college or office.  Tell them about Best Buddies and how this program will benefit those in the community.

5. Become a Sponsor. If you would like to sponsor a fundraising event, Help Bring Best Buddies to Memphis would love to meet with you!  Contact Kristin Barek or Melissa Todd.

 

This program will change the lives of children and adults living in Memphis and the Mid-South.  Everyone needs a friend – a buddy – to hang out with, share your dreams with and learn from.  Best Buddies will be a wonderful addition to the Mid-South community.  Please Help Bring Best Buddies to Memphis.

 

Now It’s Your Turn:  Have you been involved in a Best Buddies program?   Tell us about it.

 

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!

10 Reasons to Step Up for Down Syndrome

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.  Many organizations across the United States will be hosting walks and events to raise awareness and support for those with Down syndrome in their community.  In Memphis, we will Step Up for Down Syndrome on Sunday, October 21 at the Memphis Botanic Gardens.

There are many reasons why you should Step Up for Down Syndrome in your community:

1.  By attending these events, you are showing your love and support for those with Down syndrome and their families. You are advocating for the acceptance and inclusion of EVERYONE in your community.

2.  It doesn’t cost a lot of money – $10 to show your support and you get a t-shirt and food!

3.  These organizations are mostly non-profits.  The money raised goes towards the cost of running these organizations and to fund programs and workshops in your community.

4.  You’ll see and meet some very talented children and adults with Down syndrome.  At the Memphis event, there is a wonderful talent show each year.

5.  It’s a fun family day.  In Memphis, there are children’s games, face painting, wonderful food and lots of great music!

6.  You can check out the ABILITIES of children and adults with Down syndrome in your community by visiting the Imagine the PossABILITIES tent showcasing all their wonderful achievements.

7.  You’ll be able to get outside, enjoy the fresh air and the beautiful scenery – especially at the Memphis Botanic Gardens.

8.  Take some time to visit the Resource Tables.  You’ll be able to learn more about the different agencies and the services offered in your community.

9.  Form or join a team.  You’ll spend some fun, quality time with your friends and family while helping others at the same time!

10.  You will learn that we are all more alike than we are different. Each person at these events has a story to tell and a dream to share.  Please join us and let’s celebrate the possibilities!

For more information about the walk in Memphis, please visit DSAM.

To find an event near you, please visit the the National Down Syndrome Society.