Archive for June, 2013

Why Childhood Games Matter: Swimming

In an age of electronic entertainment and plugged-in play, many classic childhood games are being pushed aside. However, these classic games provide key benefits for child development. In this series of posts, we will explore how these “unplugged” activities are more than just child’s play.

splashing in pool


Swimming is a favorite summertime activity for many families and is one of our most recommended activities for children who seek proprioceptive input. Being in the water provides uniform deep pressure input over large areas of the body which many children find to be organizing. Jumping into the water provides a great opportunity for more intense deep pressure and proprioception. Studies have shown that proprioceptive input causes the release of neurochemicals such as serotonin (involved in mood, sleep and appetite) and dopamine (involved in the sleep/wake cycle). Many families at the clinic have reported noticing positive changes in their child’s ability to sit through an evening meal, participate in family activities and transition to bed after a long day of swimming. The deep pressure of the water is also helpful to children who struggle with body awareness and motor planning, as the water provides a higher level of feedback than moving oneself on land. All swimming strokes, from simply propelling oneself by kicking to the doggy paddle to formal swim strokes, require efficient bilateral coordination, which is the ability to use the two sides of the body together to complete a larger task. Swimming also addresses strength, endurance and the cardiovascular system. Time to dig out the bathing suits and sunscreen!

Planning a Plane Trip

Are you planning a plane trip for school vacation?  There are many aspects of the airport and plane that can be a challenge for children with sensory processing disorder.  Here are some ideas to consider as you plan your trip.

airplane overhead

Airport Tips:

  • Create a checklist of the steps involved in air travel: parking the car/being dropped off, checking baggage, going through security, finding the gate, etc.  Have your child check off each step as you complete it.  You may want to add bathroom stops as required steps if your child is hesitant to use the restroom.
  • Talk about the security checkpoints and behavior expectations.  Frame your expectations in a positive manner, “The lines may be long, but I know you will do your best to have a quiet body.”
  • Have your child wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off as they go through security.
  • Make sure your child understands that TSA dogs are working and cannot be pet or played with.

Sensory Tips:

  • Have your child carry a small backpack through the airport for added deep pressure input.
  • Find a quiet corner of the terminal and have your child complete wall push ups or other proprioceptive activities.
  • Pack chewy snacks for your child to eat.
  • Let your child chew gum during the plane’s ascent and descent.  Make sure your child tries the flavor before the trip and understands how to dispose of the gum properly.
  • Bring a loop of theraband for your child to pull on during the flight.  Your child can stretch it with their hands, loop it under their legs and pull upward, or loop it under their feet and press down.

Tips for the Plane:

  • If you are bringing a portable DVD player or using the in-flight movie system, make sure you pick a movie or show that is shorter than the flight time.  Check with the flight attendants to estimate how long before landing the pilot will require passengers to turn off electronics.  Or, be sure your child understands that when the pilot says to turn off the movie, it is time to turn off the movie, even if it is not finished.
  • Bring extra batteries for portable electronics.
  • Keep a stash of snacks in a small bag that you can stow under the seat in front of you. If there is heavy turbulence or your child gets hungry during the plane’s ascent, you will not be allowed to retrieve anything from the overhead bins.
  • Talk about the plane’s bathroom ahead of time.  Look at pictures online together. Discuss that the bathroom is likely very small, the toilet water may be blue and the bathroom may have a strong air freshener.  If your child is bothered by sound, let them use the restroom and wash up, then let them leave before you flush the toilet.  Make sure your child uses the restroom prior to the plane’s descent, because once the fasten seatbelts sign comes on, they will not be allowed to get out of their seat.
  • As the plane is descending, take a moment to remind your child that even after the plane stops, you will have to wait a few minutes for the people towards the front of the plane to gather their belongings and get off the plane.

boy in toy plane

Have a great trip!

Why Childhood Games Matter: Memory

In an age of electronic entertainment and plugged-in play, many classic childhood games are being pushed aside. However, these classic games provide key benefits for child development. In this series of posts, we will explore how these “unplugged” activities are more than just child’s play.

playing memory


Time to clear some room on the table and pull out a set of Memory cards.  Perhaps the most evident skill this game addresses is visual memory, the ability to mentally store information in order to retrieve it for later recall.  Other visual perceptual skills practiced include discrimination (recognizing the image, matching images and categorization of the images) and tracking (scanning the entire field of cards).  Flipping over the cards requires efficient grasp, forearm rotation and release.  Children practice turn taking skills and can work on appropriate social interactions by encouraging another player.  For a personal touch, print out snapshots of familiar people, places or toys as the memory cards.

Apps We Love: Little Finder

Why We Love It: Little Finder is a more structured take on classic hidden picture activities. The images are presented in a grid, ranging from 2×2 to 7×8, and a friendly voice calls out the name of an image for the child to locate. If the child takes more than 5 seconds to click on the item, it begins to subtly bounce to provide a visual cue. Points are awarded for the speed of finding each item. The game can be set for 1 minute, 2 minutes or an untimed “zen” mode. The pictures are high quality images of animals, food and household items on a plain white background. As with all of the products from Alligator Apps, the settings provide a wide range of challenges that can be customized for the child such as the level of cues, the option to rotate some of the images for an additional challenge, or even customizing the audio cues for the image.

little finder

Why the Kids Love It: If traditional hidden picture activities are difficult for a child, the additional visual structure of this app is very helpful. Many children who have a hard time focusing on a task for a prolonged period appreciate the short, timed rounds. As always, the ability to earn points and beat the high score is highly motivating. The game can also be played as a two-player head-to-head activity to see who comes out on top.

Available: iTunes FREE