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.
Many children find it difficult to tolerate haircuts. From the auditory input (clippers, hairdryers), to visual input (large mirrors and styling tools), to tactile input (light touch of scissors, water dripping or trimmed pieces of hair) to the smells of a salon, this environment is primed for over-stimulation. Here are some tips to help with the next time your child gets a haircut.
- Try to schedule appointments when the salon is the least busy.
- Bring an extra large tee shirt or soft flannel shirt from home to use instead of the stylist’s cape.
- Always plan on going straight home after a haircut so your child can wash off any stray hair clippings.
- Barber shops are often less overwhelming from a sensory standpoint, as opposed to a salon.
- Give your child a scalp massage prior to a haircut to help desensitize the scalp.
- Make a picture schedule of what to expect. Talk about the steps in positive terms (“Sometimes clippers are loud, but we’ll be OK.”).
- Ask the stylist if they would be willing to give your child breaks. Count back from 10 (sloooowly), then give a break (read a short book or let your child play for a few minutes on a handheld game). Use a timer if needed. Repeat until finished.
The doctor’s office can be a scary place. Here are some tips to make your child’s next trip to the pediatrician a little smoother.
- Talk to the doctor or a staff member ahead of time. Find out what procedures your child is scheduled for. If you are seeing a different health care provider than typical, let them know that your child has sensory difficulties and may require a little more time and explanation.
- Try to make the appointment first thing in the morning or right after lunch to decrease the chances of the appointment running late. Keep in mind your child’s natural rhythm when picking an appointment.
- Make a visual schedule of what to expect. Steps may include waiting, standing on a scale to be weighed and measured, taking temperature, waiting again in the exam room, having the doctor check eyes, ears and chest, etc. Let your child check off the steps
- Bring a large, soft button up shirt or bathrobe from home and a pillowcase or towel to sit on if your child has difficulty tolerating the paper gown or table cover.
- Have your child complete wall pushups in the exam room when waiting for the doctor to come in.
- Read children’s books about going to the doctor. Mickey, Dora and Clifford all have books about their own doctor’s appointments.
- Play doctor at home. Set up a reception desk, waiting area and examination room. Practice the steps of a doctor’s appointment so your child will know what to expect during the real thing.
Dentist appointments are often difficult for children, regardless of sensory difficulties. Imposed touch in the mouth can be overwhelming and children with vestibular processing difficulty may have a hard time with the tilting of the chair. Here are some tips to help your child have a successful visit.
- Try and schedule the appointment for first thing in the morning or right after lunch to avoid extra waiting time.
- If your child benefits from deep pressure, ask if your child can wear the x-ray shield throughout the appointment.
- Before the appointment, ask for a sample x-ray film so your child can get used to the feel of the film in their mouth. Have the dentist show you how to safely place the film in your child’s mouth. Practice holding still and counting to 10 with it in their mouth.
- Take a trip to the dentist’s office for a tour. This will introduce your child to the sounds, smells and look of the office in a non-threatening manner.
- Relaxing music played with headphones or a portable DVD player with a favorite movie can go a long way to helping your child stay calm.
- Let your child wear sunglasses if they are sensitive to the lights.
- If your child becomes distressed by imposed movement, have the dentist tilt the examination chair to the correct position before your child climbs up.
- Ask if you can bring a towel or handkerchief from home to drape around your child’s neck if the paper bib is bothersome.
Top 10 Tips, Cardon
Indoor Proprioceptive Activities
With the wintry temperatures and the early sunsets, this time of year can be hard for children who crave proprioceptive input for regulation. Proprioceptive input is provided via activities such as pushing, pulling, dragging, squeezing, jumping, and crashing. Here are some ways to get this input while indoors.
- Helper jobs – have your child push a basket of laundry down the hall, use a push broom in the garage, carry (non-breakable) groceries, move chairs to sweep under the table, drag a blanket with books or toys to move them to another room, etc.
- Indoor obstacle course – create an obstacle course with steps like jumping over a pillow, crawling under a chair, catching a weighted ball, or tossing balled up socks to a target while sitting on a small yoga ball. Feeling stuck for steps? Find objects to go over, under, around and through. Have your child help with the set up and clean up for extra input.
- Mini-trampoline – small trampolines can be a great way of getting both movement and proprioceptive input. There are many trampolines available with handles for extra safety.
- Animal walks – have your child walk like a bear or a crab, jump like a bunny or frog, slither like a snake or even roll like a log.
- Wall push-ups – have your child stand facing the wall with hands on the wall at shoulder level, and bend his elbows to complete a push-up movement. Start with 10 and see if your child wants to do more. Younger children can help “make the rooms bigger” by pushing on the walls.
- Tug-of-War – clear an area of furniture or other objects. Make a line with tape on the floor. Lay a rope across the line so an equal amount of rope is on each side. Have each person grab an end of the rope. At the count of three, begin pulling on the rope. Whoever pulls the most or all of the rope over to his or her side of the halfway line wins the game. You can also use a jump rope, long scarf, old sheet, pillowcase or blanket. Tying knots at the ends of the object may make it easier to hold on.
- Stationary bicycle – older children may benefit from using a stationary bicycle during the winter months. Allow your child to turn the resistance up or down to meet their proprioceptive needs. Be sure to monitor for safety.