Thursday, June 30, 2016

Ideas for summer play

Just a few ideas to follow up on my summertime post from a few weeks ago. 
Here are some ideas to fill those days where your kiddos are bouncing off the walls and it's really hot out and September seems eons away...

•    You don’t need a therapy room devoted to mats, balls and swings, there are all sorts of activities to get the same input. Try games such as Twister, sack races, whiffle-ball in the yard, or even a trampoline –the mini or large kind.

•   Hiding under cushions, making forts, obstacles or crash pads in the living room is always fun.  Rolling up in a big blanket together to make “body bagel dogs” or under a bunch of pillows to make “human fruit salad” on the couch or floor is always fun. “Toss” the salad by having the child pile up with pillows and stuffed animals on a big blanket, then you gather up the corners of the blanket and shake and pull them around. Then change places. Be brave! Wrestle, roughhouse, break a sweat together. Put on fun music and dance.

•     If you have a/c on very hot days, play in the kitchen. Make fruit kebabs or no-bake cookies. Baking bread can build arm and hand muscles getting movement and heavy work. Stirring the dough, kneading, using cookie cutters and rolling pins are all great for this. There are even quick breadstick mixes in the grocery store. Make breadstick letters and then try different dips. Put on favorite music in the background.

•        For picky eaters, get that vinyl tablecloth out for a picnic on the porch with the lure of water play. Throw both new and loved foods into a bin of water; watch, touch and talk about what happens. Do those foods float, sink or dissolve? Do they do the same in our mouths? Watching what happens can help reduce anxiety about how it feels in our mouths where we can’t see it.

·        Freeze small toy “prizes” in ice and chip it out with tools and basters filled with salty water. Lots of work and a prize at the end to play with! The Dollar Store is your friend.

•   Go old-school! Get a little spinning sprinkler that attaches to a hose. (Dollar Store again) The combo of spinning water and sun is an awesome, stimmy visual.  Throw a plastic tablecloth down by the sprinkler, add soap and turn on the music for some slippery dancing or add a beach ball and some shaving cream.
·        Speaking of the Dollar Store, that’s a great place to practice social skills and money handling skills for an air conditioned, cheap outing. --And seriously mamas, I totally promise yours will not be the loudest or most disruptive child they’ve ever seen in there. You know I’m right.

•    Visit a u-pick farm. Great for tactile, fine motor and heavy work. Squish those peaches! (the ones already on the ground and mushy!) You know you’ve always wanted to do that.

·        Check out the many free outdoor summer concerts in the area. There are lots of kids at these, dancing away. Music is a great stim!

•        Find a log and help kids pound big nails in a pattern with a hammer, use a screwdriver to put screws in, and then take it all back out. Kids love real, grown up tools.  For older kids, woodshop and mechanical activities are awesome for fine motor, visual motor, and sequencing skills. Not to mention following directions and reading plans –challenging for many of us!

•   Crafts are great and there are a million on the web with any kind of theme you want. Dinosaurs, ladybugs, garage doors, Blue’s Clues, whatever makes your child go up on the toes, it’s there.  
--There’s a DIY guide to making a Star Wars AT-AT walker planter on Pinterest-- For REALS people!
 Google  “(whatever theme) crafts” and you’ll get tons of things your kiddo will be all stimmy for.

•        Ask for help with dinner. Not only does cooking provide a sensory bonanza, but it introduces kids to all the types and layers of foods in their lives, and exposure is a huge part of building increased food tolerance. Look at measuring rice, chopping carrots, mashing potatoes, using tongs to flip burgers, toss salad etc. for upper extremity and fine motor strengthening. Eating with chopsticks can be fun.
***HINT:  Go old school again –put away that electric mixer for extra muscle building, our grandmas didn’t use them and their cookies and pies were amazing!!!

  •  You can use pretend food —or play-doh—to achieve the same movements/activities during play if your kiddo really likes the cooking theme but you surprisingly don’t have the desire to cook all day.
•        Find what your child likes to do and adapt it to build his strength and ability. Repairing bikes or cars with a parent or building wood projects are great for a left-brain kind of kid. Art/pottery classes at the community center or YMCA are also good for your creative one and staff usually will adapt if you prep them.

•   At home, kids who are motor driven and sensory-seeking really benefit from activities such as climbing at a rock wall gym,  a jungle gym or even *gasp* a tree! Hiking, biking, gardening are also great to provide movement, heavy lifting, digging, etc. Martial Arts, Gymnastics and swimming lessons would also be wonderful options.  Even fishing requires postural stability, shoulder, arm strength and bilateral coordination. Kickball is a team sport that anyone can play!

•        Of course, there’s always housework. You never run out of it. Kids never guess that folding the laundry or helping you carry the heavy laundry basket up and down stairs is therapy!
--And yes, bribe. I need a bribe to do housework myself, so I believe it goes for everyone. Pay them in money, screen time or trips to the Dollar Store. 
Mopping and vacuuming are more fun with music. Gardening, weeding, raking and watering also count and getting dirty is ok when you are doing these!
Washing dishes, cleaning the tub, carrying the dog food in or groceries from the car for you will not only build strength and be organizing through heavy work, it will make them feel good about helping you do something you have a hard time with.

•        Another alternative is just plain strength training. Go work out with some dumbbells together, swing and climb to the top of a rope swing, or take a nightly walk. Get a large therapy ball and have him sit on it and maintain balance, lift it overhead ten times. Toss it back and forth, kick it, get creative.

If you can’t find anything that looks like it’s going to work, just keep trying, remember repetition is key to building tolerance in those little rigid minds! 

You can’t go wrong with any activities involving:
Heavy lifting, pulling, pushing, climbing; Using one’s own body weight to propel themselves; or manipulation of tools, crafts, food or objects.
It doesn’t need to feel like a chore or “therapy homework”. Make sure it’s something your family can take on without setting you all over the edge.
Find what interests your child, run with it and above all have FUN! There are a million different ideas out there on the internet: Pinterest, and are great resources and have a ton of ideas.

Everyone needs a little down time to let their brains rest and integrate, so remember T.V. time is totally okay for a little while mamas! Don’t beat yourself up for getting a little break here and there, life is short, and you need rest to be creative too, right? Go ahead and pop in that Weird-Guy-at-a-Construction-Site video they love and sit down for a minute. 

Stim on, my tribe, stim on.

--Joanna Blanchard, MOTR/L
Everybody Stims Pediatric Therapy
Copyright 2016 Everybody Stims, LLC

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