DIY Adaptive Summer Seating

Equipment for individuals with special healthcare needs have come a long way. The field is always evolving to higher levels of performance and patient friendly options, but the problem generally still exists that many items are bulky, heavy, and expensive.

A family I work with in early intervention is well equipped with equipment to ensure that their daily activities as a family are as easy as possible, including adaptive seating and mobility options for community outings, playtime, and daily routines like bathing and eating.

With spring finally deciding to show up around here, this family (like many) is busy planning more ways to enjoy time together outside. One area they identified as a challenge was helping their son to sit on their deck and at the park or beach. Yes, they are fortunate to have specialized strollers, but the reality is that for a quick trip, something light or something that doesn’t take up the whole trunk was desired.

Today during our session, for under $10, his mother and I created something that filled the need for his family. If you or someone you know could benefit from something similar, we are happy to share what we did and what we learned.

Supplies:

1 simple plastic chair ($5):

TIPS:

Fit to size for your child.

We preferred one with the bottom lower than the knee area (to prevent sliding).

Highly recommend a chair with slits to help with attaching supports.

2 Pool Noodles ($1 each).

Scissors to cut noodles.

Two bags of large zip ties ($1.87 each).

Plastic or wire cutters to trim zip ties once attached.

 

Assembly:

  1. We chose to start with the child in the chair and observe his posture. Where did he struggle to maintain neutral and upright positioning?
  2. With him in the seat, cut noodles to accommodate his size and weaker areas. For him this included: back of head, on each side of the trunk under arm pits to base of hips (vertically), on sides of lap from knees to hips (horizontally), a smaller piece on top of these horizontal pieces to support the elbows as needed (these were added after the photo shown above), and a small piece in between the legs as a pummel to prevent sliding.
  3. Attached noodles with zip ties by lacing through chair slits (note: we realized after the fact, but it would be recommended to have the fastener part of the tie on the backside of the chair to prevent rubbing/irritating the skin). 
  4. We attached a loose scarf of moms through slits and around his upper trunk, not as a firm support, but a light reminder for him to avoid slouching.

We were thrilled with the results and so was he! With an adaptive tray he could easily access his I-pad (used for vision work and communication) in his new “desk!” His mom and I were quickly able to identify many potential uses – kicking in the baby pool, outdoor movies, on the sidelines at siblings games, at grandma’s house!

We believe play keeps us all happy, healthy, and smart! When I can help adapt something simple to make joyful activities easier for families, it’s just a really good day.

 

 

 

Share Your Story With Stones

Stones. Rocks. Pebbles. Boulders.

I love them. I don’t know why but I do. And I always have.

I love to see kids proudly tuck them in pockets. It reminds me of my “lucky hopscotch rock” I kept for months in my pocket.

I love to create and craft with them. I especially love to paint on them (a favorite I used to do with my mom and later with my kids).

But one of my favorite’s is to create story stones.

Using (free) rocks and a simple black marker, you can create a variety of children’s favorite objects or people and let them line them up and then create a story based on the order they created.

I recently did this with my cousin’s son. He is just 3 years old but is creative, articulate, and thoughtful and was pretty fascinated by the “game.” He made me tell about 10 different stories based on the various arrangements of rocks he laid down. When I asked him to take a turn, he wasn’t quite ready, but a short while later, I found him creating his own story with his special rocks for his Papap (who just woke up and wasn’t sure what was going on!).

I love story stones because they are simple, cheap, build vocabulary, help focus attention to task, and are fun! As a child gets older or understands the process of the “game,” stones can easily be added to develop more complex plots and details. And you can search for the perfect stones on walks and hikes! This is a great activity to introduce around 15 months but may be especially meaningful as a child’s vocabulary increases rapidly between 2-3 years old.

 

This story went something like…..

Once Thomas the Train had a best friend, a little boy named Gabriel. Gabriel loved trucks and cars. He lived in a house with his mom and dad and baby brother and their dog named Ethan (he filled in this detail!).  One sunny day Gabriel and Ethan went on a walk and chased birds at the park.

Simple. Easy. Fun. and a purposeful way to play.

Try exploring new mileSTONES today with story stones — and send us your pictures. We’d love to hear from your little authors!

For more ideas of pairing milestones with with purposeful play, grab your copy of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me today! (As always FREE Shipping in the US).

 

Earth Day Discoveries – what you can learn about your family and your world.

Have you ever heard the term biophilia?

Edward O. Wilson introduced this concept based on his work, describing biophilia as the notion that that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. 

Simple really if you break down the word. Bio=life, including organisms, species, habitats, processes and objects in their natural surroundings. And Philia= attraction or positive feeling toward.

Do you think Mr. Wilson considered the need for sunscreen without cancer causing agents and natural bug sprays, the increase in child predators creeping in suburban neighborhoods, increased presence of bullies, the risks of getting nice clothing dirty, getting precious children dirty, the norm of fenced yards providing safe perimeters, expectation of themed and scheduled playdates, and the fact that no adult is available to be present every single minute of every single daylight hour in order for a child to play?

This leads to the question of — are we interfering with a child’s natural biophilia? Or our own for that matter?

Earth day is coming up on Sunday April 22, 2018. What better day to discover your family’s natural biophilia?

Don’t know where to start? Here are some ideas that might please your whole crew.

  1. Hike.
  2. Freeze Tag.
  3. Climb a tree (you know you’d still love to).
  4. Find some big rocks and sit and read.
  5. Go fishing.
  6. Try geocaching (our fav!) More here.
  7. Go on a nature treasure hunt and fill buckets with treasures.
  8. Wade in a stream with rain boots and record all the organisms you find.
  9. Bird watching. Print a sheet of birds common to your area and let the kids circle what you see.
  10. Set up a drawing or painting station in the yard and create art inspired by nature’s beauty.
  11. Collect rocks – simply to save or to build or create with later.
  12. Hit the lake or river with a boat or float.
  13. Bike – in your neighborhood or local trail.
  14. Beautify – choose a park or street to clean up/remove trash.
  15. Be brave and actually let them play in the mud (they’ll never forget it).
  16. Visit a local orchard or farm and learn how real food grows.
  17. Skip rocks in a stream.
  18. Grab large flat pieces of cardboard and slide down the best grassy hill near you.
  19. Plant a simple potted garden on your porch or in your yard that everyone can help care for.
  20. Gaze at the clouds and tell stories about what you see.

According to the Child Mind Institute, the average American child is said to spend 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors, and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen. Simply put – people (children included) are happier and healthy when they engage with their outdoor environment. No better day to start than today!

 

Opt Outside and Discover a New Treasure – Geocaching!

Motivated to get your family outside this spring? Geocaching is a great way for the whole family to PLAY!

Regarded as the world’s greatest treasure hunt, there are geocaches (or hidden treasures) all around the world – likely in and among places where you are every day. Encouraging discovery, exploration, and adventure, geocaching encourages staying healthy and being outside with friends and family.  My children LOVE geocaching and I LOVE that they want to do something with us that doesn’t involve staring at a screen. My husband first discovered it and we quickly learned how easy and fun it is to do!

If you are interested in hunting down a geocache, simply go the official geocaching website or app and discover marked caches close to where ever you are (even if you are on vacation!).  Using the app, GPS, or if you are brave a good old fashioned compass (we don’t do this!), search for the desired cache using clues and location information. You might agree with us that the search for the cache is almost as fun as finding it, but once you actually locate it, it is customary to record the date, your name, and a message if you like in the log (small notebook) that usually accompanies most caches. If the cache also includes a collection of “treasures,” it is tradition to take one only if you leave one in return. Some examples are small erasers, stickers, bracelets, seashells etc. You can be creative with what you leave or you can find things inside your car like we’ve done from time time (keeping it real). Some caches are in official geocache containers and some are in tupperware – you never know what you’ll find!

Whether you been searching for caches for years or head out on your maiden hunt this week, we’d love to see the pictures of the treasures your family discovers.

 

FOREVER TOYS – What are they and where can you find them?

If you have ever asked Nicole and I for toy recommendations then you are familiar with the term “FOREVER TOYS”. FOREVER TOYS are what Nicole and I lovingly refer to as toys that stand the test of time (and we don’t just mean durability). FOREVER TOYS are those toys that kids can play with for many years, at multiple stages in development; toys that don’t take batteries to work but a child’s imagination instead!

Forever toys are harder to find in mainstream toy stores.  They are NOT toys related to the most popular kids’ movie or television show or iPad app.  They are toys that have no identification to a character.  They are toys that don’t require batteries.  They are toys that occupy their space on the toy store shelf for many years because they appeal to all generations no matter what the latest trend in toy manufacturing.  FOREVER TOYS are most commonly found in small, locally owned toy stores that understand the importance of these types of toys to our kids’ growth and development.  On your next shopping trip take a look at what’s on the shelves of the toy aisles.  Look more critically for toys that will challenge your child, toys that don’t do it all for them.  Consider these types of toys for their next birthday or holiday.  Your child’s imagination will blossom and no doubt, their creativity will impress you!

My mother-in-law saved these Construx toys that once belonged to my husband for many years. My son loves them! With them he has created a multitude of things from a “backpack buddy robot” to a bow and arrow. Although Fisher Price no longer makes Construx, they would qualify as a FOREVER TOY in my book! This building toy could be used to supplement a math lesson about shapes, connected to create a fence to contain toy animals, shaped into letters for a multi-sensory spelling lesson, or used to create weapons for a pretend battle just as my son did!  Manufactured over 30 years ago, Construx have stood the test of time and are most definitely what Nicole and I consider a FOREVER TOY!

What toys do your kids have that would be considered a FOREVER TOY? Do the toys your kids gravitate toward most stretch their imagination and challenge their creativity?

Owen proudly displaying his creations!

An ax, bow and arrow, shield and sword – all made with imagination and Construx!

A Must Have Baby Book (with a purpose).

When we created 1-2-3 Just Play With Me, we did so with some very specific considerations. One was choosing a card format vs. a book because while the content on those cards are therapist inspired, we created the product we wanted (and had time for) as busy moms AND therapists.

One benefit we envisioned was the ability to stick a few at a time (appropriate for baby’s age and/or stage) on the refrigerator or nursery shelf,  empowering families to learn the many beautiful details of early development by playing with their baby purposefully, while being present in that specific moment in time and not getting overwhelmed with the many changes that come in the first few years.

 

Along the way, we’ve discovered (with the help of many of you) more creatives ways our sweet cards could be practical in every day life. One of our favorites is using the cards as your personal “baby book.”  As you enjoy reading detailed milestones to watch for at each age and in each developmental domain, customize your cards with what you are seeing your baby doing! Add first words, dates that milestones were achieved, and funny or cute experiences.  That’s right take a pen right to those beautiful cards!  Not only will you have a detailed account of your baby’s development, you can also share their individual developmental path with your pediatrician at your child’s next appointment.

 

Don’t have your copy of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me yet? Pick one up for you, or as a gift and explore why Today’s Parent calls 1-2-3 Just Play With Me a “Product That Will Make New Parent’s Lives Easier.” (Also available via Amazon Prime, in ebook format, and select retailers).

Don’t Add Tummy Time As Another Thing On The Schedule. What a pediatric PT wishes every hospital told new parents.

I love working in early intervention for many reasons, but one of the most rewarding is working alongside other passionate therapists. Today I got a call from a long time and skilled colleague, a speech language pathologist who is a feeding expert in our community. She had a question that led to a great discussion that led to this post (why not share helpful convos, right? That’s why we are here). Her question: I’m working with a 2 month old that hates her tummy. I’ll give general recommendations, but when do I need PT support? And why do babies hate being on their bellies so much? And what can we do to make this more pleasant for babies and families?  

In my experience, there are several understandable reasons parents tend to avoid tummy time, rooting in real reasons that babies don’t enjoy the position, resulting in real (and incredibly frequent) consequences.

WHY DO PARENTS AVOID TUMMY TIME FOR THEIR BABY?:

FEAR:  As a new parent leaving the hospital you are overwhelmed with education on the dangers of letting baby sleep on their belly. It is natural that your first instinct as a new parent is to keep them SAFE. That’s the #1 goal right? I see so many parents avoid tummy time out of fear that their precious, little, fragile baby will not be safe on their tummy.  I was this parent. And I am a physical therapist and my husband is an occupational therapist and we STILL avoided it somewhat with baby #1 OUT OF FEAR. I reassurance parents daily (and wish someone had reminded me) that if you are present, awake and alert, and placing baby on a firm surface, being on their tummy from day 1 is not only safe, but beneficial. Here’s WHY.

DISCOMFORT:  For many reasons (another post, another day), there are many babies that suffer from acid reflux and colic early on. This can lead to legitimate (and often under recognized pain) and a strong avoidance of a tummy down posture (interestingly some babies with these diagnoses may prefer this posture and find it soothing). If untreated and unresolved the pain from acid reflux often leads parents to avoid placing baby on his/tummy and this ultimately leads to other concerns. If you feel that a baby is genuinely in pain or distress, speak to your pediatrician about your concerns. 

CONVENIENCE:  Technology and innovation continues to progress as time goes on and the baby industry is not absent from advances. More and more baby “containers” are created that are incredibly efficient at soothing a baby. Often recreating the sensation of the womb, these swings, seats, bouncers, and rockers can keep baby happy and quiet for long periods of time. The result is more time for parents to get some rest and get things done (who doesn’t love and need that? Me too!) However, there is a reason babies fuss. It’s how they communicate early on. It is their way to request what their body needs – food, physical contact, movement etc. If the container does such a good job at soothing them, they often miss out on natural experiences with their caretakers and during play that are SO IMPORTANT and essential for their development. So while we all need some help and convenience  from time to time, it’s important to limit time in these containers. More on avoiding the “container shuffle” here. 

WHY DO BABIES DISLIKE BEING ON THEIR TUMMIES?:

PAIN: See above. A baby in pain may not like this posture. We can’t stress enough that signs of pain should not be ignored. 

SENSORY CONFUSION: When we think of senses, we thing smell, taste, touch, and hearing. But body position and vestibular movement is a large sense represented in the young brain. Our brains seek out what we are used to and familiar with. Many parents tend to wait until 4-5 months when baby seems more stable with more head control to start tummy time. But by this time, this belly down posture, can seem very foreign to a baby who has only been positioning upright or on his/her back. When things seem foreign we tend to make noise. Think of yourself upside down on the occasional roller coaster. It feels weird, and scary – so you scream….same for baby who has never been placed belly down. If tummy time is started from day 1, it is my experience that frequently baby will never complain or dislike it. 

POSTURAL IMBALANCES: The longer baby stays in the womb the more restricted they are to movement (no more room in the Inn). So many are born with some postural imbalances where the fascia over the muscles becomes restricted on one side vs. the other (think of your stiff neck on one side when you’ve slept in a “funny” position). In many European countries, they often treat infants with osteopathic adjustments for this very reason before they send them home from the hospital.  Often times, these imbalances (if minor) will work themselves out if baby is benefitted with free movement, however if significant, imbalances occur (often presenting as torticollis) baby may be uncomfortable on his/her belly.  

 

CONSEQUENCES OF AVOIDING TUMMY TIME:

DELAYED MILESTONES: Studies show us that babies that have more exposure to free play on the floor meet their milestones earlier. I see this every day. To be frank, this isn’t rocket science. We get better at anything we get to practice. More time on the floor or a firm surface to play allows baby to flex, extend, move in diagonal patterns, and generally get stronger and more coordinated which eventually leads to rolling, crawling, sitting, and walking! I frequently remind parents that they can’t magically roll if they are either held or strapped to some sort of seat all day. 

MISSING OUT ON TYPICAL DEVELOPMENTAL EXPERIENCES: Babies are born with primitive reflexes and responses that are replaced with more mature postural reflexes as they move and develop. If these aren’t replaced or fully integrated, there can be lasting consequences. For example, there is a reflex that integrates when a baby crawls. If it does not, seated attention, posture, and hand/eye coordination can be affected. Other benefits can include improved visual coordination and strength, aided digestion, promotion of natural head shape, and development of natural muscular arches in the hand that support eventual skills such as handwriting.

IMPACT ON OVERALL DEVELOPMENT: We focus on gross motor or physical benefits of tummy time which are so important, but we can’t forget the other areas. When babies become mobile on their tummies, they engage in problem solving situations, flexing their cognitive muscles (How can I get to that thing I want across the room), fine motor skills (picking up tiny things they shouldn’t on the ground), and social skills (I WILL get to mom/dad to show them what I want) to start to advocate for themselves and engage with others at will.

STRATEGIES TO MAKE ALL THIS BETTER:

ALTERNATE POSITIONING: Tummy time means belly down – allowing lifting the body against gravity. This doesn’t have to be on the floor. It can be on a parents’ chest, a large yoga ball, over a lap, or on an incline/wedge/Boppy type pillow.

INTERESTING MATERIALS AND ENTICING SETTINGS: Kids always like the paper or the box, right? Save enticing but safe materials for supervised tummy time experiences (bubble wrap taped to the floor, tissue box, kitchen spoon/whisk) and settings (textured blanket, kitchen floor (yes I’m serious), the grass (or any place outside on a blanket), the kitchen table (with parent right next to them – great place for eye contact!).

DO IT EARLY & STOP SCHEDULING IT: My favorite tips include not to schedule it and to start on the day you come home from the hospital. If we make tummy time an “event” on the daily schedule, it’s likely to not happen or only last 10 minutes. I advise parents to always place baby on the floor or Pack-N-Play on the tummy when they set them down vs. a swing or seat. Ay the end of the day, this practice leads to MANY minutes of exposure to play on the belly, and a natural part of the daily routine leading to consistency. 

A child’s development is fascinating and exciting. Learn more about what to expect and how to encourage early milestones in a format you will actually have time to read and use. 1-2-3 Just Play With Me is kind of like this post – Mom inspired and therapist created. Hope both are helpful!

Milestones & Miracles

2017 Holiday Gift Guide For Kids By Age

“What should I get them???”
As therapists we hear this all the time.
You know what else we hear often?
“My kids don’t really play with toys.”

Here’s our 2 cents on this as professionals who believe in the power of play. We all play. All mammals. No matter how old. We were designed for play. It’s the best form of stress release. It recharges creative pathways. And most importantly, it brings JOY.

Sometimes as parents the hardest part is finding the right toy for the right kid (or adult). But we believe Santa has the perfect one for everyone.   
So here’s what we’ve done this week.
We’ve made our lists and we’ve checked them twice.

We added toys we have in our homes. Toys we’ve learned about in patient’s homes. Toys recommended by therapists around the globe. And toys that span a large range of interests and prices.  We’ve combined all our lists by age right here for you and hope you’ll find it helpful.  What would you add to our lists? What do your kids love?

1 YEAR OLDS

2 YEAR OLDS 

3-4 YEAR OLDS

5-7 YEAR OLDS

8-10 YEAR OLDS

10 & OLDER

Don’t forget 1-2-3 Just Play With Me for the expecting or new parents on your list! Empowering them with 3 years of education and purposeful play suggestions is a perfect and practical gift! 

 

2017 Holiday Shopping Guide – Unique Finds for 5-7 year olds

“What should I get them???”
As therapists we hear this all the time.
You know what else we hear often?
“My kids don’t really play with toys.”

Here’s our 2 cents on this as professionals who believe in the power of play. We all play. All mammals. No matter how old. We were designed for play. It’s the best form of stress release. It recharges creative pathways. And most importantly, it brings JOY.

Sometimes as parents the hardest part is finding the right toy for the right kid (or adult). But we believe Santa has the perfect one for everyone 
So here’s what we’ve done this week.
We’ve made our lists and we’ve checked them twice.

We added toys we have in our homes. Toys we’ve learned about in patient’s homes. Toys recommended by therapists around the globe. And toys that span a large range of interests and prices.  Make sure to check back every day for our next list and remember that toys and interest vary by age, so something on another list may really interest a child even if it is not included on the list for your child’s particular age.

5-7 year olds are a fun group.  Kids really start to discover interests and love making first real friends on their own so buying for them can be fun and exciting.  Here’s our picks for this group this year!

  1. Stomp Rockets
  2. Zoom Ball
  3. Fantasy Fort
  4. Domino Race Set
  5. Walkie Talkies
  6. Etch-Sketch Freestyle
  7. LightBrite
  8. Rock Em Sock Em Robots
  9. Root Viewer
  10. Light Up Bubble Wand

The 4 Essential B’s of Early Childhood

When working in the homes of families as an EI therapist I notice many things about a family. The longer I’ve done this work in the family’s natural environment, I’ve become more accurate in picking up small cues about the family…things like, What they value. What time of day they like best. What they want to learn from me and our session. What their comfort level is with a therapist sitting on their floor and jumping into their daily routines. The list really could go on forever.

And as a self described people watcher, I’ve come to know that 1) These things really matter in helping me to do a good job, and 2) They vary GREATLY from family to family. There are very few consistent trends when it comes to my interactions with families in their space…with a few exceptions. The largest exception I see is a parent’s desire to make sure their child has what “they need.” This desire seems universal to me. I’m often asked to recommend toys, asked if they have the “right things,” and asked to make gift recommendations for upcoming birthdays or holidays. Despite family income, I see a trend in family’s feeling that their child needs STUFF. And I understand it. Because I am a mom.  And I also love toys. And because the companies that market to us as parents want us to think that MORE is MORE.

As therapists, we believe the opposite – LESS IS MORE. Here’s why. A child can more easily access and interact with fewer number or toys that are organized with their corresponding parts. Hear me – this does not mean designer toy organization (unless you want it to), but this could mean using bins and boxes or separate areas on shelves (more tips HERE). It just means that toys, which are the TOOLS for learning, have an intended purpose for the age/developmental stage and that we don’t need 50 toys that do the same thing. Note that the recommended toy age is not always developmentally correct. It’s being set by marketers not pediatricians or developmental therapists with different goals in mind. Just because that box says 3-6 months, does not mean the toy is developmentally appropriate for a 3-6 month old baby. (Interested in what real development looks like at each stage and how to pair it with purposeful play and creative materials?  Check out 1-2-3 Just Play With Me We have done that work for you.)

When discussing this, we often talk about THE 4 ESSENTIAL B’S OF EARLY CHILDHOOD. And we’ve challenged ourselves with this question:

What developmental milestone could you not achieve between 0-3 years of age with simply BOOKS, a BALL, a BABYDOLL, and BLOCKS? 

Literally we’ve sat around the room with other therapists and challenged ourselves with this question (desperately nerdy, I know) and we can’t find one single milestone.

Quick examples (But the options are endless):

BOOKS:  Early literacy, labeling of objects, visual focus, turning pages for fine motor activities, turn taking, pointing. (Some of our favorites HERE and HERE and Toddler Reading Tips HERE. (We REALLY love books!)

BALL: Hand eye coordination, grasp/release, turn taking, language, social anticipation and peer play, balance and coordination, joint attention.

BABYDOLL: Imaginative play skills, labeling body parts, fine motor strengthening with dressing, social emotional practice of emotion sharing.

BLOCKS: oral motor exploration, cause and effect (knocking down), stacking, jumping over, counting, role play when using as other objects (cell phone, people), patterning, spatial awareness. More on the importance of blocks HERE.

THE4B's

 

As a parent, I encourage you to shed the cloak of stress that “my kid needs more.” Our kids need us. Embrace that thought. It’s quite freeing and leads to memory making experiences no toy can replace.

As a therapist, I encourage other therapists to spread this message. I sat with a young first time, young  mom yesterday who asked me to go through a laundry basket filled with an array of toys she had been gifted, purchased, or had been handed down. She, like many parents I know, stressed she didn’t have enough or the right things for her child. We went through that bin together and identified what he might learn from those toys at this stage of development and which might encourage him to do the next exciting thing. And she boxed up the things he had outgrown, was too young for, or had too much of. She was so relieved and I was so excited for her and her child.

Spring cleaning leaves room for new growth. That holds true for our little ones too. Shed the rest and see what fun you can experience today with our 4 essential B’s!