Saturday, September 24, 2011

Blow Out Your Candles

Kids loooove to blow out candles!  Here's a sensory strategy that will get your child practicing for that next birthday party while helping to calm their bodies to be in a "ready state" for learning.  Most people know that deep breathing is an effective tool for calming however it can be tough to teach that to little ones.  If you need to help a child (or a whole class of children!) calm their bodies when they are upset or just a little too excited, ask them to hold up their "candles" (all 5 fingers); take a big breath (you can model this) and "blow out your candles".  You can model how each "candle" goes down as it gets blown out.  Also model a long slow exhale to get all of those candles down.  If there's still a bit too much fidgeting going on, say "Let's do it one more time.....put your candles UP!".  Again, you'll model taking a big breath and slowly blowing each of the candles.  This is such a quick and easy strategy that doesn't cost a penny and it really does work!  Here are  a few pics of my student utilizing the candle technique:

When might you use this strategy?  It works great for group time on the carpet, lining up and getting ready to leave the classroom, or maybe if a little friend needs help to stop crying.  It's a technique you can use on a daily basis, once a day or several times a day.  It also helps when you use a calm voice when modeling the technique for the child.  Give it a try!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Your Name in GLITTER!

I've never met a kiddo who doesn't love GLITTER!  As I've stated in earlier posts, it's really important for kids to practice letters in LOTS of ways and not just with a pencil.  This activity helps children to get more familiar with letters and also works on hand and finger strength. 

An adult prints the child's name on a piece of cardstock and then have the kids "trace" the letters using glitter glue.  It takes some muscle in those little fingers to be able to squeeze out the glue and manage the coordination to keep the glitter on the lines.  When the tracing is complete, sit it aside until the next day so that it's good and dry.  Once dry, the letters are raised up and the child can trace the letters with his finger.  I found this great bucket of 50 glitter glue tubes at a local craft store.....look at all of the colors!  With my Sunday paper coupon, it was only about $5.00 for this bucket of fun! 
This activity could be done with other letters too or with shapes.  If the child isn't able to do the glitter glue himself, an adult can glue and the child can practice the tracing once it's dry.  OR if your goal is simply improving hand strength and muscle development, then don't worry about learning letters and just put out a fun bucket of glitter glue in lots of colors and let the child create a beautiful picture!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Free Webinar

Periodically throughout the year, the Handwriting Without Tears website offers FREE webinars to anyone who's interested!   There is one coming up on September 27th called "Top Ten Questions About Handwriting" and all you have to do is follow the link at to register.  It starts at 8pm ET and the webinars usually last about an hour.  I'm always a fan of anything FREE so I wanted to pass it along!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Buddy Art

I love this activity!  This is a picture from an early childhood classroom, however, I've done this with K, 1st, and 2nd graders too and they always love it too!

Start with a box and 2-3 small rubber balls.  Each student works with a buddy and there's quite a bit of team work involved.  In this case, they were given a choice of 6 colors and were asked to pick 2 (that alone was a challenge for some!).  Then they decided if they wanted 1 ball or 3.  There is some motor planning involved as they coordinate how to roll the balls around the box "just right" so that they don't go flying out.  These little guys had a plan that they wanted their paint to go "up and down" in lines and they did a pretty nice job with that!  Other kiddos tried for circle swirls or just a plain ol' pretty design. 

From an OT perspective, I love that this task incorporates bilateral hand skills.  It's a great team task and fun to do at the beginning of the year to encourage students to work together.  Give it a try!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Little Attention Please

I've been very lucky to work in some really amazing early childhood classrooms over the past 9 years!  The little cuties returned to class this week and everybody is learning the new routines for the day.  Our class is an integrated classroom that consists of 6 typically developing children and 6 children with special needs that can range from speech delays to developmental delays to cognitive impairment to autism....and everything in between.  I've learned A TON from working in these classrooms with outstanding team members.

We work hard to help our kiddos increase their attention span so that they can maximize their learning.  Sometimes our goal is to help a child attend for even 1-2 minutes with a specific task such as cutting with scissors or coloring.  One or two minutes might not sound like a whole lot of learning time but it can be a real challenge for some kiddos. 

My own baby girl started high school last week and she attended an assembly this week where the speaker talked to the freshman class about how to be "successful learners".  One of the ideas she brought home to share is a tidbit that is good for all of us to remember when working with children.  She was taught that a person's optimal attention span is equal to their age + 2.   That would mean that a 3 year old has an optimal attention span of 5 minutes.  Obviously this is a general equation and some folks will have longer attention spans and others will have less.  The key word here is "optimal" and I think that's pretty important when it comes to educational tasks.  If you take time to work on a targeted skill such as learning letters or writing activities,  consider that you can expect the best learning to occur within that "optimal range".  In other words, planning  three 5 minute tasks will likely be more successful than one 15 minute task when working with a young child.

I don't know about you but I think this equation idea takes a turn at some point!  My attention span seems to diminish with every birthday :-)

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Friday, September 9, 2011

Now on Facebook!

Jen's OT For Kids is now on Facebook!  You can find blog updates to read and share at Jen's OT For Kids Facebook or click the link on this page.  Feel free to post a question or comment you might have about OT =)
Thanks for following along!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Join the Club

If you're visiting Jen's OT For Kids, then you must have an interest in child development, right?  I was introduced to a new website this week that I love and wanted to share with you!  It's called Child Development Club and it has loads of information.  This site was started by another OT, Laura Efinger, who splits her time between practicing in the US and Egypt!  She initially started a Facebook page related to her experiences in Egypt and as it grew, she saw that there was a need for a full blown website to encompass forum discussions, exchange of resources, networking, blogging, and sharing great ideas.  I am excited to say that Laura has asked me to be an active contributor on her website and I'm looking forward to it!  You'll want to take a look....I know you'll learn something new! 

PS---The web address for Child Development Club is

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Fuzzy Ball Fix

I have a 2nd grade student who has looooong challenged me for trying to correct his pencil grasp.  He holds the pencil with all of his fingers on the pencil and it is a super INefficient grasp!  Looks like this:
When I give him assist to correct it, he INSISTS that it "hurts", trying to describe that it feels funny for him to hold it any other way.  If I can catch him in a cooperative mood, he does well with my "fuzzy ball" game.  I give him a small fuzzy ball that he places in his palm and holds in place with his 4th and 5th finger.  He "wins" if the fuzzy ball is still in his palm when he finishes his writing. 
Keep in mind that the pencil  is a little too upright in the picture ---this was when he first picked up the pencil---I had another picture a moment later with the pencil positioned down a bit more but unfortunately the picture didn't save!  This little guy's teacher is on board with trying to help him correct his grasp consistently.  I gave her a couple of fuzzy balls to use with this student and any others she thinks could use it (also helps this student to not feel singled out).  I'm going to set up a chart where he'll earn a sticker for each targeted time he uses the fuzzy ball for writing and have him earn a little prize of some sort. 

Besides a fuzzy ball, you could use just about anything little to place in the palm of the hand---a bead, a little ball of paper, or a cute little eraser like these:

Consistency is key!  Teachers and parents who encourage their students to practice everyday will surely see improvement!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L