App Name: Letter School
Why We Love It: This app provides stroke by stroke instruction for uppercase letters, lowercase letters and numbers. Options include Handwriting Without Tears, D’Nealian and Zaner-Bloser stroke styles. Each letter or number is presented in 4 phases:
2. Touch the correct dot to start each stroke
4. Independently write
The best part about this app (other than the creative visuals) is that it provides extra cues as needed. For example, if the child repeatedly taps the wrong dot, the right one “jumps” and makes a sound, or if the child repeatedly attempts the stroke in the wrong direction, arrows will appear to help guide the child.
Why Kids Love It: This app makes letters come alive with soap bubbles, caterpillars, trains, lawnmowers and more. The visuals are very engaging without being a distraction, and this brings the kids back to this app over and over, without groaning about practicing handwriting.
Available: Itunes store – Lite version is free, Full version is $2.99
Check out the Letter School Website for more info.
5 Fun Ways to Improve Fine Motor Strength
Clothespins: Use clothespins to move game pieces during board games. Try different types of clips too – chip clips, wooden clothespins, plastic clothespins, office clips etc. for more (or less) of a challenge.
Play Scrap Paper Basketball: Cut up small pieces of scrap paper (or better yet, have your child cut them up!), then show your child how to crumple the paper using one hand. This works on strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the hand. See who can score the most points shooting the balled-up pieces into a laundry basket or trashcan.
Spray Bottles:Spray bottles can provide year-round fun. Let your child paint on the driveway with water. Have them draw a picture with markers and spray it with water to make it “melt” into the sink. In the winter, mix a few drops of food coloring with water in a spray bottle and let your child paint the snow. In the summer, hang sponges as targets outside and use spray bottles to aim and shoot at the targets. Use food coloring to make different colors and have a competition to see who hits the sponges with greatest accuracy.
Turkey Baster:Have a turkey baster race. You’ll need a turkey baster and some cotton balls or pompoms. Have your child lay on their belly on the floor and army crawl as they use two hands to squeeze the bulb of the baster to blow on the cotton ball and push it across the floor. Use a stopwatch to see who can get to the finish line first, or use two basters and go head-to-head. You can even set up obstacles, like toilet paper tubes to go through or pillows to go around for more of a challenge.
Play-doh and Clay: Make creations out of clay or play doh. There is even a clay-like material available from craft stores that can be used as an eraser after it is baked in the oven.
App Name: Toca Kitchen
Why We Love It: This app provides great stimulation for expressive and receptive language skills for children ages preschool through lower elementary (2nd or 3rd grade). The player can choose a character to feed, and then can choose a food item from the “refrigerator”. The next step is to cook the food using a microwave, pot of boiling water, or frying it. The child can then chop the food using a knife on a cutting board or by placing it in the food processor. The language that can be elicited revolves around talking about type of food and food categories (i.e. “a lemon is a fruit” and “the sausage is a meat”), how to prepare the food, and whether the character enjoys the food. Each character has his/her own preference and will provide nonverbal information regarding whether he/she likes the food.
Why Kids Love It: They can choose a variety of foods, even hay, to give to the characters. Most children love being able to cook the food and feeding it to the characters. The sounds the characters make help maintain the child’s interest.
Cost: App store: $1.99; Toca Kitchen Monsters is free
App Name: Sticker Sudoku
Why We Love It: Anyone who has played Sudoku before knows the visual perceptual and problem solving skills required to solve these puzzles. But all those numbers and boxes can be confusing to younger children. Sticker Sudoku is the perfect app to introduce the concept of the game. Instead of numbers, the grid is filled in with friendly animal “stickers”. The grid itself is only 4×4 (rather than the traditional 9×9). Each column, row and group of 4 boxes must have one of each of the animals to correctly solve the puzzle. One useful aspect of this app is that if the child incorrectly places an animal, it turns upside down, but stays in place. This allows for discussion of why the placement is incorrect and allows the child to use problem solving skills instead of simple trial and error. The visuals are clear, without distractions. The only thing that would make this app better would be to have multiple levels of difficulty, but for a free app, we won’t complain.
Why Kids Love It: The animals are cute without being too juvenile. Many kids have seen parents or siblings play Sudoku and they love mastering a game that adults play.
Available from iTunes – FREE
Helpful Hints for Talking About Emotions
Managing strong emotions can be difficult for many children, but this can be especially challenging for kids with sensory processing difficulties.
Think about how you perceive emotions. How do you tell the difference between being embarrassed and angry? Nervous or excited? There are subtle differences in the way these emotions physically feel. Both angry and embarrassed may result in a flushed face, but angry may lead to an increase in your heart rate, while embarrassed may lead to a “sinking” feeling in your stomach.
Some children with sensory processing difficulties have a high threshold for noticing touch, movement or other sensory inputs. They may not interpret the first physiological signs of an emotion until the emotion is quite intense. Other children are extremely sensitive to such sensory input, and may become distressed by the physical implications of emotions. Either way, children with sensory processing difficulties can have a hard time accurately interpreting internal and external sensations involved with emotion.
So what can you do?
- Talk about emotions. Name your own emotions specifically: “I feel anxious right now, I’m worried we might be late.”
- Talk about how emotions physically feel: “When I feel anxious, my tummy feels jumpy and I have a hard time holding still”.
- Look at pictures that show different emotions, as well as different levels of emotion. Does the boy in the picture look bored? Tired? Exhausted? Does the girl look annoyed? Angry? Furious? Look through magazines or clip art online to find pictures to use.
- Help your child give a name to emotions before they get too big to handle. In the middle of a meltdown, your child is not going to be able to take in and process new information.
App Name: Memory King
Why We Love It: This app is a great way to play a classic game of memory, without all the hassle of setting up the pieces, making sure you have two of each picture, and trying to keep an organized grid of cards. This app has a wonderful variety of settings to tailor fit the challenge with the child’s abilities. It can be played with 1-4 players, you can set up a grid of 2 pairs to 32 pairs of cards, have the cards remain face up for 1/2 a second to 5 seconds, even record your own customized audio labels for each picture! During multiplayer games, the background color of the screen changes for each player to help track whose turn it is. The free version includes pictures of animals and toys, plus there is the option to purchase expansion packs for $0.99 each, such as numbers, letters, food, marine life, zoo animals and more. But don’t worry, the expansion packs are hidden within the Settings, so the kids won’t accidentally make an in-app purchase.
Why Kids Love It: After each match, the friendly voice on the app provides feedback such as “You did it!” or “Good work!”. Fun sound effects keep the kids attention, too.Every match earns the player 50 points, and there are speed and accuracy scores at the end of the round.
Available: iTunes FREE