Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide for Kids


Well, we've reached the "less than 2 weeks 'til Christmas" mark!  Have you finished shopping for your favorite kiddos?  If you're like me and you've still got some gifts to buy, take a few minutes to look over the list of gift ideas I wrote last year this time.  It's a developmental list organized by age groups to help you find that "just right" gift. I thought it might be worth re-posting right about now. You'll find the link to my posting at Holiday Gift Guide!
Now get shopping!            
Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rudy the Writing Reindeer

It's been a bit of a rough year with one of my first grade friends who simply detests school work and anything associated with it.  His "team" of teachers and therapists have already met several times this year to try to come up with a plan that might encourage this little guy to want to participate at school.  So today he had a writing assignment that he had refused to do in class for his teacher and I was going to give it another try to see if maybe ...just maybe....he could be motivated to try.  SO let me introduce Rudy the Red Nosed Writing Reindeer!  You might have heard about Rudy in your favorite Christmas song, right?  Yeah, well he somehow made his way into my bag this morning so that he could see what my first grade friends were writing at school.  Can you even believe it?!  Let me tell you, my first grade kiddos LOVED Rudy and would have done just about anything to have him sit on the desk to see their "Fantastic First Grade Writing".  My less than motivated buddy couldn't wait for his turn to have Rudy watch him write. In fact, he didn't want to STOP writing because he did not want Rudy to go to another friend.  Oh yes, he most certainly did finish that writing assignment and asked if Rudy would be back tomorrow to see him write.  You can BET that Rudy will be back!  If a cute little stuffed animal can motivate my kiddos to write, then it looks like Ms. Jen has a new assistant!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Sunday, September 16, 2012

National School Backpack Awareness Day

backpack day logo

The 3rd Wednesday of September every year is the day the American Occupational Therapy Association has named "National School Backpack Awareness Day".  What's it all about?  The purpose is to teach students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and the community about safety tips to prevent back pain and injury.  As the mom of 2 high school students, I've seen it first hand that even kids and teens are suffering back and neck pain simply from carrying their overloaded backpacks!   My 14 year old son is nearly 6 foot tall and 150 pounds yet he has complained of neck and shoulder issues since starting high school a month ago because of the crazy amount of gigantic books along with a laptop and case he has to carry throughout the day.  We took a look at tightening up the straps and making sure he is carrying the bag on BOTH shoulders instead of slinging it over just one shoulder.  He also learned that he is able to keep 1-2 of his super huge books at home as reference books instead of carrying all day.  Some things you can't control (the amount of homework!) but there are some things you can do to prevent back and neck pain for your kiddos AND yourself!

  • A backpack should weigh no more than 10% of the child's body weight.  So this means that an 80 pound student should carry a bag that is 8 pounds or less.
  • If the bag is too heavy and overloaded, consider carrying 1 or 2 items in your arms.
  • Place the heaviest items in the back of the bag so it is up against the child's back.
  • Take a look at how the child wears the backpack---it should be worn with straps snug so the bag is right up against the back.  The bottom of the bag should not be lower than 4 inches below the child's waistline.  
  • Choose a bag with well-padded shoulder straps.
  • If there is consistently a heavy load to carry, consider a backpack on wheels.  These bags actually weigh about 4-5 pounds more than a regular backpack so they are best if the school is one level without steps. 
For more info and ideas to promote backpack awareness at YOUR school, head over AOTA's website where you'll find links and handouts to share!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Thursday, August 9, 2012

FREE Pre-K Webinar

Handwriting Without Tears will be offering another free one hour webinar on August 21st at 8PM Eastern time.  Learn about the "Top 10 Ways to Prepare Your Children For Kindergarten"!

Go to Get Set For School Webinar Series at to register and learn how to help your kiddos get ready for a great school year!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Back to School Favs

Back to school sales are in full force in my neck of the woods!  I snapped some pictures of some of my favorite supplies for kiddos...and grown ups who love kiddos, to help you make that shopping trip fun and useful.

First of all, a decent pair or scissors to fit little hands.  My favorite every year are the Fiskars brand scissors and you can find them for $1-$2 during back to school sales.  They fit kiddos fingers and are intended for both righties and lefties.  Bottom line is that they actually CUT!  Please, please, do not buy your little ones the super cheap scissors that won't cut a darn thing.  Cutting is a pretty tricky skill for kiddos to learn and can be frustrating in the best of circumstances---cheap scissors that don't cut make the job oh so much more difficult.  You'll find both blunt and pointed designs.  I've never had an issue with any child using the pointed top scissors and I think it helps them when cutting small pieces.

Markers---kiddos LOVE markers!!  I really like the Crayola Pip-Squeaks for little hands.  Again, these are markers that fit their hands and are easy to manipulate.  They come in lots of colors and motivate kids to draw and create!  There are also "Pip-Squeaks Skinnies" that are obviously... SKINNY :-)   I've had students use both regular and skinny and both worked out just fine.

HIGHLIGHTERS!  Kiddos LOVE these too!  They are super cheap during back to school sales and are an excellent tool for practicing letter and number formation.  I'm not a fan of giving kids dotted lines to trace letters because it's just a lot to look at and there are dots everywhere that look choppy and disjointed.  You can print letters using a highlighter and the child can see exactly what the letter looks like without all of the dots.  It is easier for tracing and helps the student be more fluent.  On top of it, who isn't motivated by fun, bright colors?! For kids who have difficulty with line orientation (keeping letters on the line when writing), a simple highlighted line provides a visual boundary and you'll be amazed at how much more legible handwriting can be when letters actually sit on a line instead of running all over the page.

Mechanical pencils are great for helping students learn "appropriate pressure" for writing.  Kids who push so hard that it nearly puts holes in the paper can use a mechanical pencil to learn to use less pressure because the tip can break off quite easily.  I've found that it gives kiddos a good reference for how much is too much when pushing the pencil to the paper.  In addition, my students always consider it a treat to use a mechanical pencil because it's like a "grown up" pencil.

Elmers has some fun new glue sticks with GLITTER!  OK, they're a little more expensive than regular glue sticks, but oh my goodness, children LOVE GLITTER!  Other than the glitter, it makes things stick like regular glue but I'm a big believer in making the cutting, glueing, and writing as motivating as possible.  I can promise you my students will be excited to practice cutting and glueing in style!

These little dudes are called Stetro pencil grips.  I've had lots of parents and teachers put this their students' pencils when the child has a funky grasp.  The secret is that these won't do much of anything to help if you don't take the time to correct the grasp.  For example, have you had a student who wraps their thumb tightly around the pencil? It seems that the Stetro grip would fix that right up, however, the student simply wraps his thumb tightly around the Stetro grip around the pencil.  It would be MORE beneficial to re-train the grasp---use small pieces of crayon and pencil to get a tripod grasp; practice on a vertical surface, etc.
the soft grips below are popular too and the only thing these do is make the pencil softer.  There's nothing wrong with that!  Just don't expect that it is useful in correcting a poor grasp.  

So what the heck are these things you might ask?!   They are intended to be stretchy long erasers.  I saw them and thought "fidgets".  For $.79, you've got a socially appropriate, inexpensive classroom fidget for some of your kiddos who need a little something extra to hold on to to help them focus.  I found these at Target but I've seen them at Walmart, Walgreens, and the grocery store.
These are just a few of the things that popped out to me when I was shopping for my own kids last week.  Some of these items might  not be listed on the "required" list but can help make fine motor FUN!  Check out your local sales and get shopping!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Oh my word, it has been WEEKS since I've posted on my blog!  The end of the school year nearly took me down with so many new evaluations, re-evaluations, IEP's, and PAPERWORK and there simply weren't enough hours in the day to fit in a new post.  When I finally had some time to post, I had computer issues and wasn't able to access my own blog :(    Everything is back on course now!

Wouldn't you know, the 4th of July was just a few days ago and yet I'm sitting here with a pile of BACK TO SCHOOL newspaper ads!  Goodness, I've still got piles of schoolwork to get organized from the year I just finished but I just cannot resist a good back to school shopping trip.  I found a new product today and had to share.  They're called "Shaggies" pencil grips.  For about $2.40, there are 5 of them in a package in different colors.
Shaggies are made of that soft, rubbery, "Koosh" type product that can be squished and stretched.  I thought this would make an excellent FIDGET for kids of all ages!  You just slide these on a pen or pencil like any other pencil gripper.  While they are intended to be a "gripper", you can also move it up further to act only as a fidget.  I already know that if I give one to my students, ALL of the kids in the class will want one!  I like them myself and my own kids broke them open right away.  Sometimes the fidgets I give to students can be distracting in class because they might fall to the floor or other kiddos want to pull on them too.  Shaggies are small enough to help a student keep it in his own space and are readily accessible on his own pencil.

I included a picture of the back of the package so you can see this is a latex free product for anyone who needs to keep an eye on that.  So I've officially started my newest pile of school supplies for when we return to school in August.  Until then, I'm going to savor every minute of summer!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Great Bike Giveaway!

The nice folks at PediaStaff shared the great news about the ‘Great Bike Giveaway.’ Friendship Circle of Michigan has partnered with adaptive bicycle companies to give 14 children with special needs a free adaptive bicycle for winning this contest!

How does my kiddo win? Starting April 16th through May 10th, submit a creative photo or photo of a child (yours or your therapy client) along with 250 characters describing why he/she needs an adaptive bike.

Share! From May 13th through the 18th share your submission with as many friends and family members as possible. Ask them to vote for your submission and to share with their friends and family.

WIN!!!! The 14 submissions with the most votes will win 1 of the 14 adaptive bikes!!

Adaptive bikes are AMAZING and would mean the world to that special kiddo in your life. VOTE TODAY!
Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Follow Me on PINTEREST!

If you haven't been completely sucked into the world of Pinterest, you've got to give it a try!  I checked it out a few months ago and can officially add it to my list of addictions!    Just in case you haven't seen Pinterest and don't know how it works, it's basically a virtual bulletin board.  You set up "boards" that you can label any way you want and then you "pin" interesting pictures and ideas to your board.  There are literally thousands of pictures with just about everything from recipes to wedding dresses to cleaning ideas to pets to vacation spots.  Seriously, I'm talking about thousands of pictures!  When you see something of "interest" you simply "pin" to your board and you have a built in resource you can refer to anytime anywhere.  The really great part is that when you click on the picture you've pinned, it takes you directly to the website where it was found and you get all of the details you need!

         While it's easy to be distracted by so many pretty pictures and lots of  different topics, I've been most excited about the WEALTH of information that is available relating to Occupational Therapy and kids!  I LOVE IT!!!!  Oh how I wish that Pinterest had been around when I was in OT school or working as a new grad.  The ideas are ENDLESS!  This one little website (OK, it's not so little I suppose) has sparked a new excitement in me about OT and I'm more anxious every week to try out some new ideas with my kiddos. 

I've been having such a fun time creating boards on lots of different topics for my own personal interests.  Several "Jen's OT For Kids" readers have emailed and asked me to add a link to my Pinterest page.  I've hesitated on adding the link since I didn't intend to connect my page with my blog and had not really organized the page to be "only" OT related.  With a few more recent inquiries from readers, I've decided to add the link and you are welcome to follow along!  The page is actually set up as "Jennifer Darnell Dermody" and you should be able to get to it through the "Follow Me on Pinterest" button at the top of this page.  There is a specific "Jen's OT For Kids" board along with "Preschool Fun", "School Day Fun", "Visual Motor", and  "Sensory Motor".  You can choose to follow individual boards or the whole page.  I will try to keep adding lots of OT ideas for kids and hope you will find something helpful for your kiddos!  Pin It!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Saturday, March 17, 2012

3-D Collage

Well it's been nearly a month since I've posted something new.....for any of you who work in schools, you know that life gets crazy by this time of year with new referrals, re-evaluations, and IEP's.  Some how, it all gets finished, right?!

In the mean time, I wanted to share another fun fine motor task that preschool teacher Miss Angela set up for her little darlin's.  She calls it "3-D Collages" and the kiddos LOVED it!   Each child had a paper plate and were offered a variety of "things" to decorate the plate for an original 3-D collage. 

You could use just about anything you want to recycle or re-use for this project. Here we have some toilet paper rolls cut up into smaller pieces, strips of sand paper, mini-muffin cups in bright colors, small styrofoam balls, colorful streamers, and some coated wire. Let me tell you, it is not easy to poke a small wire through a paper plate but when you're a little person who really wants that wire in there, you find a way!   Some great skills are required to tape, glue, poke wire through stryrofoam, tearing paper streamers, and getting everything to STICK!  

Some designers had a theme (can you tell we had a dusting of snow that day?)

Some opted for a simple design....

and others couldn't walk away from adding more "beauty" to the design!

This was a very simple and inexpensive project that encouraged creativity and worked lots of fine motor skills.  There is no "right or wrong" and everyone walked away with an original piece of art!
Give it a try today!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sensory Friendly Films at AMC Theatres

Sensory Friendly Films

AMC Theatres across the country have expanded a Sensory Friendly Films program in partnership with the Autism Society.  It's such a great idea!  The program started in one theatre when a parent of a child with autism requested a special screening in Columbia, MD and the theatre agreed to give it a try.  More than 300 children and parents showed up to the first screening and AMC decided to expand the program to many other theatres across the US!  "The auditoriums dedicated to the program have their lights up, the sound turned down and audience members are invited to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing!" 
I LOVE IT!  There is a sensory friendly film once per month on a Saturday at 10AM.  "Journey 2: the Mysterious Island" will show at 10AM on Saturday, February 25th, and "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" will be on Saturday, March 10th.  You can find other scheduled films at the AMC Theatre website page

AMCDon't forget the POPCORN!                           

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Monday, February 13, 2012

Thank you to Pedia Staff!

PediaStaff - Building self-confident children... one professional at a time
I am excited to tell you that Pedia Staff contacted me recently with an invitation to be a part of their guest blog team!  "Ice Cube Painting" was posted as the "Therapy Idea of the Week"! You can check it out at
Pedia Staff is a fantastic site with lots and lots of resources, a blog, newsletter, and staffing opportunities for OT's, PT's, SLP's, and school psychologists.  Take some time to browse the Pedia Staff site at you're sure to learn something new!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Yet Another FREE Webinar

Handwriting Without Tears is offering another FREE webinar on March 6th! Now that the school year is more than half over, it's time to really zero in on making sure our preschool friends are ready for kindergarten. can register for "Top Ten Ways to Prepare for Kindergarten" at doesn't love a class that you can attend in your slippers and PJ's...and for free?!  Hope you find this helpful :)

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ice Cube Painting

It was "Winter Week" in preschool this week with all sorts of super-duper winter activities!  There was the "ice skating rink", pretend snow in the sensory table, snowman games, "Break the Ice", and painting with ICE CUBES!!  Oh yes, painting with ice cubes just happened to be the Special Activity of the day and it was a real hit.  Food coloring was added to the water and frozen in regular ice cube trays.  The kiddos wore gloves (always tricky getting those little fingers where they belong!) and then created their designs by "coloring" with the different colored cubes.

You could modify this activity by using various ice cube trays with different shapes and sizes or colors.  One little hint to share is to have some extra gloves because they do get wet as the kiddos color.  Very simple and very FUN!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Monday, January 23, 2012

We Celebrated Our Great Handwriting!

Just as I had suspected, my students were excited to hear that today was a special "holiday" to celebrate their great handwriting!  I brought copies of the special paper from the Handwriting Without Tears website with the "National Handwriting Day" seal at the top.  Each of the kiddos chose one special adult at school and wrote them a note using "very best writing".  They were so darn cute about wanting to pick somebody special who would be happy to receive their handwritten notes.  Among the lucky recipients were some classroom teachers, the school nurse, and of course the principal!  The children carefully followed all of the rules of writing to "finger space", keep letters on the line, start sentences with a capital letter, and always end with punctuation.  They were very sweet to remind each other of the rules and complement each other on their efforts.  Naturally, the notes needed lots of stickers to brighten up the paper.  Who doesn't love a celebration?!  They did a great job!   As my kiddos liked to say today......
Happy Handwriting Day to YOU!

Here's a few pics of my little friends~~

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Sunday, January 22, 2012

National Handwriting Day!

Did you know that there is a National Handwriting Day to celebrate John Hancock's birthday?!  Oh yes, it's true and this year it will be on January 23rd!  Kids love to celebrate ALL special days so take this opportunity to encourage good handwriting skills.  Some ideas might include using special paper or  note cards to make a hand written note for a parent, grandparent or teacher.  Write a note to a soldier overseas or to an elderly person in a nursing home.  You can find more ideas and free downloads of paper on the Handwriting Without Tears web page at
and on the Zaner Bloser web page at

Happy Handwriting Day to you!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mmmm...Mmmmmm....The Gingerbread Man

"Run, run, as fast as you can't catch me I'm the gingerbread man!"  Kiddos LOVE that story and they love everything gingerbread at preschool!  The classroom never smelled so yummy as it did during this week's special activity making little gingerbread men on paper.  The children were given a paper with a gingerbread man shape and used a glue stick to fill the shape with glue.  Then it was time to shake, shake, shake some cinnamon on the paper and when they shake off all of the extra cinnamon, they were left with a cute little gingerbread man!  

Note the "visuals" on the red paper that provides my little friend with 3-step picture directions he can follow by himself. The picture posted doesn't provide you with a very clear view of the directions so I'll tell you that the directions are to (1) Write your name; (2) Glue stick; (3) Sprinkle cinnamon.  Everything "written" in pictures and easy to follow.  "Visuals" are an EXCELLENT way for children to learn and follow directions.  They work wonders! 

Mmmm, Mmm....when all of the masterpieces were hung in the hallway, it smelled like a Preschool Bakery!  Super simple and the kiddos loved it.

Another fun gingerbread man activity this week was building a giant "cookie" at the easel.  The giant cookie cutout was hanging on the easel and the children added velcro pieces to complete their designs. 

Mmm...Mmmm GOOD!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Thursday, January 5, 2012

FREE Handwriting Without Tears Webinar!

Handwriting Without Tears is offering another FREE Webinar!  You can sign up for "Response to Intervention:  The Link to Handwriting Instruction and Intervention" by following the link to the registration page at .  The webinar will be on January 31, 2012 at 8PM.


Objectives for this webinar include the following:
  • Identify and help at-risk students early
  • Implement strategies to provide differentiated classroom instruction
  • Improve performance with a multi-tiered model for handwriting
  • Discover tools for screening and tracking both student and class performance, and for providing targeted remediation
I love FREE and I've found the HWT webinars to be helpful....hope you enjoy!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

50% OFF Zaner-Bloser DEAL!

Who doesn't love a great sale to ring in the New Year?!  You might have read my post about the Zaner-Bloser Handwriting program from December ( ) where I wrote that I had learned about some helpful additions to their curriculum including music, manipulatives, and online resources.  Well, a very nice representative from Zaner-Bloser happened to see the post and has offered an exclusive sale offer for readers of 'Jen's OT For Kids'!! 

Follow the link to the Zaner-Bloser Handwriting at where you'll see a link about ZB Fonts Online.   This feature allows you to make your own worksheets to be consistent with the Zaner-Bloser books you might be using in the classroom.  There is a free version with limited features or a premium version, ZB Fonts Online Plus, that provides more options and allows you to save and edit worksheets you create. The regular price of the premium version is $30.99/year HOWEVER you can now get ZB Fonts Online Plus for $14.99 if you enter the code ZBFOP.  This offer will be valid through December 31, 2012!
 ZB Fonts Online                                                                
I've found that it's helpful for students to have CONSISTENCY when learning and practicing handwriting.  If you are currently using the ZB curriculum, I do encourage you to take a peek and see if you can find something to enhance your lessons.  If your school does not have a handwriting curriculum, please take some time to look over various books such as ZB and Handwriting Without Tears to see which might be a good fit for your students.  A mere 5 minutes a day of direct instruction DOES make a difference for teaching and reinforcing good writing habits. 

Happy New Year and Happy Writing!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L