Many of the children we see in our clinics struggle with coloring skills. Whether the difficulty is rooted in poor fine motor control, visual perceptual skills, attention or regulation, it is common to see a child begin coloring a page with good intentions, then end up scribbling or abandoning the task. We are careful to present the children with a coloring page with a “just right challenge”, but there are an abundance of free printable coloring pages online. Here are some of the things we look for.
- Choose a topic or character your child is interested in. He may be more motivated to color a picture of a Lego Ninjago character than a holiday themed page.
- Look for bold outlines. Children who have difficulty with the motor control necessary to efficiently direct their crayon will benefit from the extra “wiggle room” between sections, while children with visual perceptual difficulties may be able to better identify different areas of the picture.
- Find pages with little or no background detail at first. Check out the difference between these two images. Both are Lightning McQueen, but a child with decreased attention or ability to maintain a regulated state may give up on the more detailed picture before it is finished.
- Encourage your child to choose one area at a time to fill in. If your child needs help to stay organized, ask questions like “What color should his tires be?” Praise your child for his effort and make some room on the refrigerator for the masterpiece.
Learning to properly set a table is a useful life skill. If your child needs help remembering where to place utensils, take a picture and have your child match the sample.
Distress during nail clipping is one of the everyday obstacles we hear about from many of our families. Some children have trouble tolerating the clippers, some dislike the sharp feel of the nail after clipping, or the novel tactile input on the fingertip that was previously covered by the nail. Here are some ideas to try next time the clippers need to come out.
- If your child likes to play with resistive materials like theraputty or play doh, have him use the materials before nail clipping as a way to “warm up” the fingers before the task. Or, let him hold a vibrating massager to provide vibration to the fingers. Offer these types of materials after the trimming as well.
- Try a lotion massage on the hands, using firm stroke with your whole hand (not just fingertips pressing into your child’s hand). End with deep pressure gently “pulling” down the length of each of his fingers, toward the nail.
- Nails will be softer and easier to trim after bath time.
- Use child-friendly terminology – don’t say you are going to “cut” the nails, use words like “trim”. Children may associate “cut” with pain.
- Have your child be in charge of counting each nail that is trimmed. Counting will help him see that the process will not take forever.
- Singing a song together may help as well. Try the tune of “Here we go ‘round the mulberry bush” and change the lyrics to “This is the way we trim your nails”.
- Some children prefer the vibration and pressure of a nail file rather than clippers.
- At first, a successful nail trimming may be one hand at a time, or even one nail. Find the level where your child can tolerate the process without being overwhelmed and build from there.
- Teach your older child to safely trim his or her own nails. Sensory input that he controls may be easier to tolerate than imposed input.
Does your child struggle with putting her shoes on the correct feet? Try this simple trick: choose a sticker with a face, a vehicle or an animal. Cut it in half vertically. Place the left portion of the sticker inside the left shoe on the arch and the right portion in the right shoe. Teach your child to line up her shoes next to each other so the image on the sticker looks whole, like this:
It’s no secret that many children enjoy playing on their parents’ phones and tablets. While there are many apps that help teach problem solving skills or work on fine motor and visual perceptual skills, there are huge benefits from “real” play. Studies have shown toddlers and children learn better when actively engaged in play. You can use some of the themes and challenges of your child’s favorite apps by translating them to reality. Here are some ideas to start:
Angry Birds: save boxes from cereal, rice, and spaghetti. Weigh down the boxes by placing a baggie with a small amount of rice or sand inside the box and tape it shut. Gather small stuffed animals or socks to take the place of the pigs and use bean bags or balls to act as birds. Have your child build his own fortress for the pigs with the boxes, adding other items such as cookie sheets or plastic cutting boards for additional reinforcement. Then bomb birds away! How many birds will it take to demolish the pig’s fortress?
Mario Kart: create your own race track with obstacles. Mark a start/finish line with a beach towel on the ground and arrange garden hoses or long ropes on the ground in a large oval to indicate the borders of the track. Use placemats, Frisbees or cones as obstacles to avoid. Have your child ride his bike or push his scooter around the track and reward points based on time and accuracy.
As the holidays are fast approaching, we wanted to take the opportunity to offer some tips about choosing toys and games for your child. Here are some guidelines for how we choose new toys and activities for the clinic.
1. Will it last?
o Does the item appear sturdy? Are there small pieces to break off and get lost? If they do break off and get lost, can the toy still be used?
2. Can it be used in multiple ways?
o Does the toy lend itself to multiple options for play? For example, bean bags can be used for target games, scavenger hunts, hopscotch and more. Jump ropes can be used by one person or a group people, be turned into a wiggly snake, or be used as a boundary line.
3. Does it appeal to a wide age range?
o Is the product going to be used for a month and tossed aside by a young child who is quickly developing new skills? Can the item “grow” with your child by adjusting the height or the complexity of the task?
4. Does it offer multiple types of sensory input (without becoming too overwhelming?)
o For example, try musical instruments which provide opportunity to practice motor coordination while exploring auditory and tactile input, as opposed to items which play music and have blinking lights after simply pressing a button.
5. Can it travel easily?
o Wiki sticks, Play Doh and travel sized board games can provide structure while waiting at a restaurant or at a sibling’s sports practice.
6. Does it allow the child to create their own play schemes?
o Matchbox cars or barn play sets allow the child to come up with their own ideas for play. Baby dolls or other toys that “talk” may direct the play time for your child.
Halloween is almost here! Are you ready?
- Have your child try on his costume ahead of time. Layering tight fitting clothing, such as Under Armor, may help decrease the discomfort of novel fabrics. Be willing to adjust your expectations of what constitutes a costume. A simple pair of black sweatpants and a favorite Batman shirt could be a Batman costume.
- Face paint and masks can be difficult for children with tactile sensitivities. If your child wants to have a mask but cannot wear it, attach a dowel to the side so she can hold the mask up when she wants to.
- Canvas your neighborhood before Halloween. Avoid houses with motion-sensor decorations or warn your child ahead of time if he has auditory sensitivities.
- Role-play the social interactions required during trick-or-treating. There are many “hidden curriculum” items involved with Halloween, such as:
– skipping houses that do not have lights on
– taking one piece of candy instead of a handful
– waiting in line behind other children who arrived first
– some adults wear costumes while others do not
– other children may wear the same costume as you
– some people wear scary costumes while others do not
– if it is cold outside, you may have to wear a jacket over your costume
– if you do not like any of the candy that a person is offering to you, you can say “No, thank you” or politely take a piece to share with someone else in your family
- Children who are sensitive to smells and tactile input may be able to participate in pumpkin decorating by painting, drawing or placing stickers on their pumpkin instead of carving.
- Know your child’s limits. Some children can only tolerate trick-or-treating at a few homes. Watch for signs your child is becoming overwhelmed or over stimulated and take a break.
- Have a plan and discuss it with your child ahead of time. When will you go trick-or-treating? How much candy will your child be allowed to eat that night?
- Use sensory breaks. Bring along a drink in a sports bottle or let your child chew gum for organizing oral motor input. Have your child pull a wagon or do a quick set of wall push-ups against the car or an understanding neighbor’s house.
- As with any holiday, try to keep a reliable schedule at home during the week of Halloween.
- Most importantly, have fun! Halloween is not about making it to every house in the neighborhood; it is about the quality time your child can enjoy participating in the festivities in a way that works for them.