This post on how to dye pumpkin seeds was one we originally created back in 2014. The thing is that colored pumpkin seeds is still just as much fun for fine motor and sensory play as it was 5 years ago! We make these dyed pumpkin seeds each year and always play with them a TON in fine motor activities and sensory trays. This year, we made rainbow pumpkin seeds after Halloween. Use this recipe on how to dye pumpkin seeds to create a Fall activity for play activities of your own this year! We’ve been playing with them in all kinds of sensory play activities, fine motor fun, and learning activities.
Dye pumpkin seeds for kids to play with:
Pumpkins are all around us these days! If you have carved a pumpkin with the kids and have the seeds sitting in a bowl ready for roasting, you are in luck. Before you mix up a batch of your favorite roasted pumpkin seeds recipe, save a few handfuls for dying for sensory play!
Pumpkin seeds are a great addition to sensory play experiences. Allowing kids to scoop the seeds directly from the pumpkin is such a tactile sensory experience! But for some kids, that pumpkin goop is just too much tactile input. Using dyed pumpkin seeds in sensory play is a first step in the tactile experience.
How to Color Pumpkin Seeds the Easy Way
This post contains affiliate links.
This year we made them a bit differently than last year. I tried to roast the seeds after coloring them with the food coloring. To make our seeds this year, we used liquid food coloring dye and gel food coloring. Each type of food coloring worked really well. The problem with roasting the seeds after coloring them is that the colors don’t “stick” as well to the seed, making less vivid colors. I would suggest first roasting your seeds and THEN dying them like we did here.
Whether you use liquid food coloring dye or gel food coloring, add the seeds to plastic baggies and add the food coloring. Seal up the baggies, mix the seeds around, (or hand them over to the kids and let them go crazy), and get the seeds coated in coloring.
Spread the seeds out on aluminum foil spread on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes. Be sure to check on the seeds often to make sure they are not burning. If you roast them first, the colors will cover any brown spots.
Colored Pumpkin Seeds for Fine Motor Play
We used our dyed seeds in art projects first. Manipulating those seeds is a great way to work on fine motor skills. Little Sister was SO excited to make art!
Add additional fine motor work by using a squeezable glue bottle to create a pumpkin seeds craft and pumpkin seed art. Squeezing that glue bottle adds a gross hand grasp and fine motor warm-up before performing fine motor tasks.
Use dyed pumpkin seeds to make a colorful mandala craft with fine motor benefits. Picking up the pumpkin seeds uses fine motor skills such as in-hand manipulation, separation of the sides of the hand, pincer grasp, open thumb web space, and distal mobility.
Placing the colored pumpkin seeds into a symmetrical pattern of colors promotes eye-hand coordination and visual perceptual skills such as visual discrimination, figure ground, and other skills.
Little Guy made a gingerbread man. Because why not??! 😉
Squeezing the glue bottle into a shape and placing the colored pumpkin seeds along the line is another exercise in visual perception and eye-hand coordination.
Little Sister made a rainbow with her seeds.
How to Dye Pumpkin Seeds for Sensory Play
Use the directions listed above to create a set of colored pumpkin seeds. Use the colorful pumpkin seeds in a big pumpkin sensory bin to create a tactile sensory experience. Kids can draw letters in the seeds to work on letter formation. Add this idea to your toolbox of sensory writing tray ideas.
Add a few Fall themed items such as small pumpkins, acorns, pinecones, scoops, and small bowls to the sensory bin activity. Dyed pumpkin seeds are a great sensory bin medium this time of year when making an easy sensory bin.
This sensory play activity was very fun. We couldn’t keep our hands out of the tray as we played and created.
More Colored Pumpkin Seed Activities:
Be sure to use your dyed pumpkin seeds for a few fun ideas like these:
Looking for ways to keep the kids moving and active? Maybe you need some indoor play ideas. Perhaps you are looking for movement activities for children when getting out of the house just isn’t possible. Kids just aren’t moving like they used to. Need a few ways to add movement activities into each and every day? Adding extra movement breaks or brain breaks into the classroom or just daily play can be a helpful tool for improving the underlying skills kids need for strengthening or just getting the sensory input they crave and need to develop. Sometimes, it’s as simple as coming up with creative movement ideas. Other times, kids play the same favorite gross motor games over and over again. These monthly sensory movement activities provide the sensory input and gross motor movement that kids need!
Monthly Movement Activities
Add a few of the occupational therapy activities in this post into your therapy line-up. Having a few monthly themed activities for therapy can make the routines less boring and a great way to throw a wrench at the burnout machine.
Use the lists below to inspire therapy plans for the month or weeks ahead. Simply add the theme into your occupational therapy activities for the week. Then, use specific graded activities to meet the needs of each child on your caseload. This strategy can help in planning OT activities in the clinic or school-based interventions. (And, having a theme set up for the week totally helps with carting items from place to place in that trunk of yours, too!)
Monthly Movement Activities for Kids
Kids love a fresh occupational therapy activity, too. Adding a fresh and fun new game or activity can make a rainy indoor day more fun or can bring a little something different to a sunny afternoon outdoors. The best thing about these movement and play ideas is that they provide all of the right kind of sensory movement input that kids need to pay better attention, calm down, or self-regulate. Use these activity ideas as movement activities for preschoolers in planning lessons that meet movement needs.
The movement activities listed below are play ideas that promote proprioceptive input, vestibular input, gross motor skills, body awareness, fine motor skills, visual motor integration, bilateral coordination, crossing midline, core strengthening, motor planning, and so much more. Best of all, they are FUN!
Movement activities for Preschoolers
In the preschool setting, there is often an emphasis on writing letters. However, there is a much more important area that needs addressing…movement! Adding movement activities for preschoolers in learning builds the underlying skills that are many times, lacking in preschool-aged kids, and beyond. By adding movement activities to the preschool classroom, kids can learn letters, colors, numbers, and more through movement, and really gain that kinesthetic learning component.
Given that so many kids are spending more time on screens and have less opportunities to play outside, I wanted to provide a big old list of movement pay ideas that can be incorporated into every day of the year! These ideas cover each month and have themes but can be expanded on so that every day of every month is covered.
occupational therapy games and activity list
Therapists will love to use these movement activities as home programs or as part of therapy interventions. Adding themed activities is a fun way to work on specific skills or goals using occupational therapy games with this activity list.
Teachers could sneak some of these movement ideas into the school day as brain breaks, indoor recess activities, or movement breaks to improve attention. The list below separates each month into themed sets of activities that can be used in handwriting, gross motor games, fine motor activities, sensory movement activities, movement breaks, and more.
Parents will love adding these activities into everyday of the year to get the kid active and moving both indoors and outdoors!
This year of movement activity list is part of our A Year of Sensory Play packet. It’s a printable packet of TONS of themed activities that will last the whole year long. Each activity is designed to promote movement and sensory processing through sensory challenges and play activities. There are 67 pages in the Year of Sensory Play Packet and the activities cover every season. The packet also includes 12 months of sensory planning sheets, and the monthly movement activities listed below. There are also monthly sensory bin filler ideas so that every month of the year is covered when it comes to gross motor and fine motor sensory play.
The Year of Sensory Play packet is a resource for planning out and actually USING the sensory ideas that provide sensory input kids need to develop the skills they require for attention, focus, regulation, handwriting, learning, managing clothing fasteners, and overall functioning as a thriving kiddo!
Now onto the sensory play ideas!
Monthly Sensory Movement Activities
The ideas listed below are movement-based activities. Each sensory activity doubles as a gross motor or fine motor movement activity that builds on sensory based activities. These are fun ways to get the kids learning through play and are activities for toddlers to gain skills like balance, eye-hand coordination, fine motor development, and core strength.
When intending to improve various skills in preschool-aged kids, use these sensory movement activities for preschoolers, as well.
Try incorporating these ideas into each month for a year of movement and fun!
January Movement Activity Ideas
Jumping Jacks Indoor Yoga “Snowman Says” Indoor Tag Build a couch fort Hide and Seek Burpees Push-Ups Brain Break YouTube Videos Build with blocks Indoor parade Packing peanuts Blanket tug-of-war Bean bag toss Hop on paper snowflakes
February Movement Activity Ideas
Heart hopscotch Obstacle course Masking tape maze Paper plate ice skating Slide on cardboard on carpet Indoor snowball fight (paper) Draw on windows-dry erase marker Scrub floors with soapy water Build with cardboard boxes Gross motor Uno Bedsheet parachute play Crawl through tunnels Movement scavenger hunt Marching games Wash walls
March Movement Activity Ideas
Indoor trampoline “Leprechaun Says” Therapy ball Sit and spin Charades Tumbling Dance party Balloon ball toss Shamrock balance beam Hoola hoop Dribble a basketball Plastic Easter egg race on spoons Animal walks Roll down hills Easter egg hunt
April Movement Activity Ideas
Playground tour Jump in puddles Bear walks Dig in dirt Plant flowers Sidewalk chalk race Trace shadows with chalk Bounce ball on wall Flutter like a butterfly Grow like a flower Pick flowers Fill a recycle bin Wheelbarrow walks Crawl like a bug Draw big flowers with both hands
May Movement Activity Ideas
Leaf balance beam Hula hoop race Beach ball toss Ride bikes Mother May I Use a bike pump Outdoor yoga Swim relay Bouncing ball tic tac toe Lawn games Jungle gym Hike Outdoor picnic Bounce a ball on a line Collect sticks
June Movement Activity Ideas
Swimming Craw walks Log balance beam “King of the Mountain” Kick a ball course Throw paper airplanes Hammer golf tees into ground Climb trees Play catch TV Tag Limbo Ride scooters Collect nature Walk a dog Toy scavenger hunt
July Movement Activity Ideas
Fly like a bee Jump waves Creep like a caterpillar Catch fireflies Jump rope balance beam Leap frog Waterguns Freeze tag Shadow puppets Put up a tent Water balloon race Pull a wagon Pillow fight Cartwheels Blow bubbles
August Movement Activities Ideas
Slither like a snake Hop like a frog August Sensory Bin Catch bugs Gallop like a horse Sort seeds Small toys frozen in ice Finger paints Hang clothes on a clothes line Hunt for sounds Walk with a ball between legs Hit a kickball with tennis racket Run through sprinkler Pick fruit or berries Water table play
September Movement Activity Ideas
Write on sandpaper Pool noodle balance beam Balance board Hop on leaves Scurry like a squirrel Fall hike Bob for apples Roll like a pumpkin Fall leaf hunt Collect acorns Family walk Bike parade Wash the car Donkey kicks Waddle like a duck
October Movement Activity Ideas
Spin like a spider Carve a pumpkin Stretch spider web netting Punch holes in leaves Cut leaves Football toss Farmer in the Dell Jump in pillows Paper football “Scarecrow Says” Autumn art projects with leaves Wash apples Chair push-ups Make applesauce
November Movement Activity Ideas
Jump in leaves Rake leaves Catch falling leaves Waddle like a turkey “Turkey Pokey” Thread beads on feathers Flashlight Tag Thanksgiving Charades Crumble and stomp on leaves Trace leaves Turkey hunt Roll a pumpkin Run in place Cut feathers Blow a feather with a straw
December Movement Activity Ideas
Christmas themed yoga Wrap presents “Santa Says” Prance like a reindeer Shovel relay race Decorate a tree Roll and knead dough Pull a sled Crunchy walk on ice or snow Holiday themed charades Holiday march Jingle Bell Catch Relay with gift bow on a spoon Stocking guessing game Push boxes
Looking for more ideas to add movement throughout the day? Check out The Sensory Lifestyle handbook to add sensory input throughout daily activities to create a lifestyle of sensory success!
I’ve worked to create a book on creating an authentic and meaningful sensory lifestyle that addresses sensory needs. The book is now released as a digital e-book or softcover print book, available on Amazon.
The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory diet creation, set-up, and carry through. Not only that, but the book helps you take a sensory diet and weave it into a sensory lifestyle that supports the needs of a child with sensory processing challenges and the whole family.
Tummy Time Advice…There are certain tummy time myths that are part of that advice. You’ve heard about it at each baby well visit and read it in all the baby advice books. All of that tummy time advice is so important. But what happens when that sweet little baby wails as soon as they are down on the floor? Those little screams can break a mama’s heart! It can be stressful for mom and dad when tummy time results in a red-faced, screaming baby. Here’s the thing though. Tummy time doesn’t need to be stressful. But how do you break through those screams of discomfort? It’s actually part of the tummy time myths we’re debunking here. Read more for tummy time myths and what’s really happening:
Your Biggest Tummy Time Myths Busted
What is the biggest myth or misconception surrounding tummy time ? What is one thing that many parents believe…but it just isn’t true?
Here’s the thing: Babies don’t actually hate tummy time.
Back to Sleep has our babies sleeping on their backs, and that’s a good thing. But babies are also spending a lot more time on their backs that is necessary it’s having an impact on development, and issues like Flat Head Syndrome ( or Positional Plagiocephaly), or torticollis (or stiff neck in babies). There are other issues that can come up as a result of lack of tummy time. There is a reason why doctors and therapists agree that babies need that time every single day. Tummy time is so important for neck and core strength, digestion, spatial awareness, eye-hand coordination, visual processing, preventing flat spots on the head, and strength and stability of the trunk, neck, and arms.
Tummy Time Myth #1 My baby hates tummy time.
Baby needs tummy time. Baby is placed on their belly…and they scream. Mom or dad swoops in and picks up baby. They MUST be in pain, right? Crying = something is wrong, right? Wrong! Your baby actually doesn’t hate tummy time!
So often, parents of a young baby are told to place their
infant into tummy time for proper development, strengthening. The pediatrician
has mentioned it at each doctor’s visit. But each time you dread it. It hurts
your heart to hear that sweet little thing wail or downright scream each time
he or she is placed on her belly!
Baby actually just needs a little help learning to get
comfortable, adjust to new positioning, staying calm, connecting with a loved
one, and engaging in this strange, new view of the world. Think about it this
way: your child just spent a long nine months (or more/less) curled up in a
cozy fetal position in the womb. That’s a lot of time to get comfortable in a
curved and flexed position. Then, that newborn sweetie is swaddled, held,
placed on their back to sleep, or snuggled in a car seat or baby swing most of
the day and night.
Positioning baby on their stomach actually stretches and lengthens those muscles that have for so long been curved up in a snuggly curved forward position. Laying a baby on their belly stretches and develops the muscles that will later support the child in sitting and playing in the coming months. Tummy time is also essential for neck and core strength, visual processing, and eye-hand coordination. It prevents flat spots on the head and allows for flexibility of the neck and hips. The problem is that all of this work is hard for baby!
So, a crying baby in tummy time is definitely communicating
their dislike of this new and hard task of stretching out those muscles and
joints. They are telling you that the hard sensation of the floor on their
tummy is different. They are expressing uneasiness in the way they can.
Tummy Time Myth #2: Tummy Time starts at 2 months
Nope! Tummy time actually starts before that three month time, or even one month. In fact, tummy time starts much, much earlier! Knowing when to start tummy time is actually one of the most common questions new parents have about their baby.
When to start tummy time?
Tummy time starts day one! That’s the thing: tummy time can start on the day (or night) that your little one is born and it can be easy to do. As soon as baby is fed, rest that sweet little one on your chest and you’ve got a baby in its first session of tummy time. Using chest positioning several times a day is an easy way to transition to floor tummy time where the little babe can build the strength they need.
Tummy Time Myth #3: Tummy Time is Hard!
When little baby cries because they are used to going “Back to Sleep”, spending time in their car seat, baby swing, bouncer, Bumbo pillow, or curled up to eat, they can have some trouble in tummy time. Think about it: when your little one has spent so much time curled up in a comfortable bent forward (flexed) position, laying on the floor in tummy time can put a stretch on those muscles. But tummy time doesn’t need to be hard…
In fact, there are some simple ways to make tummy time easier for baby so that the important strengthening, stretching, and development can happen:
Use short 3-4-minute periods of tummy time several times throughout the day instead of longer spurts. Make it part of the routine of the day.
Try positioning baby in tummy time in position where they feel more connected to mom or dad: on a parent’s chest, laying across the knees with support, in the arms in a football hold, with a nursing pillow, etc. Here are more tummy time activities in various positioning.
Get down on the floor and make eye contact with a soothing voice. Baby needs to feel connection so he/she can learn to stay calm in tummy time. A tummy time mat can make the floor feel softer and provide an engaging surface. Some of the best tummy time mats have bold patterns with black and white or black/white/red patterns.
Engage with baby in play while in tummy time. Invite siblings to play with baby. Talk to baby. Use tummy time toys to engage baby. The options are limitless. Try this tummy time play idea with baby-safe mirrors.
Encourage reaching for toys and development of eye-hand coordination skills that will drive crawling, play, and eventually reading and writing. Here are some baby play ideas for older babies, but some to give an idea of tummy time play.
A final Note on Tummy TIme Myths
Did any of these tummy time myths resonate with you? Have you run across questions about tummy time or wonder when to start tummy time? Let me know in the comments below. Add your tummy time tips too. You never know if they may help another new parent!
For those of you looking for flexible seating ideas for the classroom, we’ve got some to share! But, one of the most common concerns about setting up flexible classroom seating arrangements is the price! Finding inexpensive seating options that meet the needs of kids can be difficult. In place of pricy alternative seating ideas, why not try the frugal version and make a few DIY flexible seating ideas? Here are some ideas for adding sensory seating to the classroom with do-it-yourself versions of seating options to arrange a classroom for success!
DIY Flexible Seating Ideas
Add some of these seating strategies to a classroom sensory diet, to meet sensory needs, or to help with self-regulation or attention issues. These classroom seating options can meet the needs of a single student or a group of students. From wobble seats, to therapy balls, to using a futon in the classroom, flexible seating looks like a lot of different things! The alternative seating options below are a do-it-yourself version.
Tire Seat- You may have seen DIY tire seats shown on Pinterest. Be sure to check out our Pinterest page of flexible seating options for some ideas and more options! One easy DIY tire seat tutorial is listed on A Life That We Built, which shows how to construct a tire seat as a seating idea for kids. This looks easy enough!
Circle Dots- Kids can really benefit from floor time! The versatility of moving colorful dots around the room as a seating option is perfect for the classroom that covers many needs. While these carpet dots are available commercially, what if you could frugally create your own version? Here’s the how-to:
Using a black marker, trace a dinner plate on each sheet of felt.
Use your sharpest scissors and get to cutting.
Done! Use those carpet dots to encourage movement, set up visual cues for seating, sort students into groups by colors, create in-classroom obstacle courses, and use as a visual seating spot for learning of all kinds!
Partially Deflated Beach Ball– Yes, a beach ball! We shared how and why this DIY seating option works in a past blog post. Using a beach ball as a cheap seating option is a great way to encourage the proprioceptive and vestibular input kids need.
Therapy Ball- A flexible seating option doesn’t need to be specified as a seat. Just like using a partially deflated beach ball described above, try adding more or less air to exercise balls aka a stability ball, yoga ball, or balance ball.
Chair or Couch Made from a Wooden Pallet– Use a couple of discarded pallets to create a small chair or bench. One tutorial is available on Funky Junk Interiors. This would make a nice reading space in a classroom or home.
Milk Crate with Cushion- Use a milk crate, fabric, and foam to create a no-sew milk crate seat. These can be adjusted for students by adding softer or thicker foam, inflatable cushions, or other options. Really Good Teachers shares how to make no-sew milk crates easily and without pulling out the sewing machine!
Pillow Pile on Shag Carpet– Keep your eyes peeled for a sale on area rugs and especially for a shag carpet that’s on sale. A small cozy reading corner can be made using a shag rug and a pile of pillows. The shag seems to be a great fidget for some kids, too. Here is one option for a reasonable price.
Window Seat with Storage- Curling up with a book and some comfortable pillows sounds like a fun way to spend a little free reading time. Use a cube storage bench with pillows to create a flexible seating idea for the classroom or home. Store books or other materials in the cubes.
Cozy Corner Tent with Pillows- A calm-down space or cozy corner can be a part of the classroom’s flexible seating options or used as an area to meet specific sensory needs within the classroom. Some ideas for creating a cozy corner can include a teepee or tent, cardboard box, or even a fort structure with a sheet roof.
Lounge Cushions- Make your own lounge cushions by recycling old couch cushions or sewing up a sleeping bag. You can often times find cushions available on Facebook marketplace.
Carpet Scrap Placed Upside Down on Linoleum– This is a quick seating option that can help kids with the wiggles while providing a means of vestibular input The ability to scootch and slide the carpet square can be a movement break for some kids. Keep the carpet square “parked” in a designated spot when it’s needed and the child can keep their hands and feet still. This alternative seating option is a nice one for helping kids with personal space, too.
Yoga Mat– A yoga mat can be purchased fairly inexpensively and can be a nice way to provide movement in the classroom, both as a movement break, or even as a space to lounge while reading or completing group work. Yoga mats can be rolled up and stored in a closet or locker and pulled out for group yoga activities. While this isn’t a DIY seating idea specifically, you could use painter’s tape or electrical tape to create markings on the yoga mat for specific seating ideas to help with body awareness or marked spaces to sit and work.
Cardboard Box– Alternative seating strategies don’t need to be expensive! Use a large cardboard box either as a quiet space for reading or chilling, or as a seating option. Kids can get into a cozy box and read or complete a specific task. The walls of a cardboard box can muffle some distracting noises and can be a space to create or calm down. Add a string of Christmas lights for a sensory tunnel space or cave like we did in an old blog post.
Laundry Basket- Another inexpensive seating option, a laundry basket offers a cozy and small space for kids to calm down and focus on a task such as reading.
Soft Tent- There are so many options for play tents out there. Grab one or tow and make it a calm down space in the classroom that offers a quiet place to read, complete an assignment, or regroup. Kids can complete written assignments by using a small stool or lap tray to write on in the cozy sensory tent. They could also just chill and read in quiet by lounging on a bean bag or some pillows. Search pop-up kids indoor tent on Amazon to find lots of options.
Foam Blocks- Yoga blocks can be used for so many different positioning needs. Use them to prop up feet to provide a foot rest for fidgeting or to get kids into a better posture for writing. The input through the feet can help kids with proprioceptive input that aligns their body for a better upright posture. Foam blocks could be used to prop up a clipboard to create a DIY slant board option, too. There are options on Amazon, but these can be found at discount stores like Five Below, too. To make a DIY version, use an old phone book with duct tape to create a sturdy block. Or, cut hard foam from packing materials and cover with tape.
Lowered Table and Kneeling- One nice option about some tables and desks is that they can be lowered with the help of the custodial staff at schools. The lower legs can be removed and placed into a cut tennis ball to creates a half-sized desk or table, Kids can then sit or kneel to work at the table surface, while getting some really great proprioceptive input in through their knees and legs.
Standing Table Surface- Other tables can be raised to create a standing surface. Kids can then stand to work in small groups or to complete short assignments. A pub-style table is a great surface as a standing table. This one is very nice for one or two students to work on a task.
Swivel Seat- This is an alternative seating idea that provides much-needed sensory input for some kids. Think of a Lazy Susan and the spinning/rotation benefits that can occur. A swivel seat pad can provide that spinning or rotating vestibular input on any chair surface or even the floor. Kids can rotate their lower body to turn back and forth in their seats. I love this swivel seat option.
Flexible seating tips
What are your favorite DIY flexible seating ideas? Would any of these alternative seating ideas work in your classroom or home? Let me know in the comments below!
I have some fun information to share with you today! So, as a mama of four big kids (my baby just went off to kindergarten!), I have to live vicariously in the baby stage by sharing information about baby development. Luckily, as a pediatric occupational therapist, developmental milestones and other child development aspects is part of the job! Today, we’re covering all things spatial awareness for babies, including how visual spatial skills develop through play and tummy time. For our young babies, time on the tummy time mat is so important for development of spatial reasoning and the bodily kinesthetic intelligence that goes along with it! With tummy time play comes skills like spatial reasoning, eye-hand coordination, motor skills, and spatial ability for function. Read on for some FUN ways to encourage spatial skills through play!
Resource for New Parents
Many people think new parents are the only ones that need baby advice. Maybe you found yourself as a new mother who suddenly had a lot of questions on sleep patterns, eating and childhood milestones. But, if there is one thing that therapists wish they could tell new parents, it’s that parents could have a better understanding of how movement plays into development.
Therapists are many times, seeking resources to share with parents to support a family through the first year of baby’s development so they can thrive.
Remarkable Infants is a great opportunity for parents and professionals alike to educate more people on how to support a baby’s first-year development for future learning development.
Yes, this course does provide information on helping a baby sleep and eat, but this course is the other more comprehensive sections. The pieces most other baby trainings don’t provide.
It’s a 5-step, all-inclusive online training for new moms focusing on the development of the whole child from birth through 12 months of age. It includes the following:
Language Development (Talking with your baby)
Healthy Sleep Habits (Understanding baby sleep)
Cognitive Development and Motor Development (Playing with your Baby)
Reading with your Baby (Vocabulary, visual-motor, speech and language)
Infant Nutrition (Feeding your baby)
Even though this course is geared to moms, it’s also great for professionals. It can be a HUGE help to clients, expecting moms you work with and those that have kids with learning challenges. The more we can help educate parents on the necessity of building a baby’s cognition, speech and language and motor movements in their first year, the further ahead that child will be later in life.
The 2 best parts are:
1. Each section is taught by a specific professional (Occupational Therapist, Speech and Language Pathologist, Pediatric Sleep Sleep Specialists and Registered Dietitian) with evidence-based research. So you know you’re getting advice from the pros!
2. If you are a professional, you can get CEU credits/Certificate of Completion for taking this course.
You can also get an additional 10% discount when you use our coupon code “COLLEEN10.” To join the Mommy Academy, click here. Don’t forget to enter the discount code!
Spatial Awareness For Baby
What is spatial awareness? Spatial awareness in early childhood is so important to child development!
We’ve talked a lot about spatial awareness in handwriting. But, what exactly is spatial awareness and how does it develop? Spatial relations allows the organization of the body in relation to objects. This is an important part of movement-based activities. Knowing where your body is in space and in relation to the world around you is so important for learning, development, and gaining skills. For young babies, spatial awareness develops through movement and exploring the world around them.
An important part of spatial awareness is the visual component. In order to reach for a toy that is nearby, a baby must first visually see the ball, be aware of where their body is in space, and use coordinated effort to reach for that toy. All of this sense of space is a part of bodily kinesthetic intelligence and using that information to perform actions.
Another essential piece is the body awareness. For young babies, knowing where their body is in space is important for reaching, grabbing, rolling, crawling, and walking. You can see how the beginning stages of play has a big part in child development. Helping babies understand body awareness is a wonderful thing!
Having the weight of a toy or the weight of moving to reach for a toy provides proprioceptive input and feedback, with helps with body awareness.
Spatial awareness is also the ability to understand how objects relate and interact with one another. Play is a big part of this piece of the visual spatial puzzle. Toys move, blocks stack, balls roll…For a baby, understanding how all of this works develops through play.
Giving kids the words they need to understand their spatial sense is powerful. By saying words like, up, down, under, in, and behind, we label where objects are in relation to one another. Playing in tummy time is a great way for babies to establish these building blocks of learning. It’s just another reason why tummy time is so important for babies!
Spatial SKills for Babies
Play for babies offers so many valuable lessons. Getting down on the floor with a few toys is an opportunity to refine beginning understanding of spatial skills. By using a few items designed to promote spatial learning, babies can establish the skills they need to learn.
We had the chance to check out a Panda Crate from Kiwi Crate and found some great items inside that are perfect for teaching spatial skills and spatial reasoning. Try some of the ideas below to work on skills that small children will use as they grow.
Some of the spatial skills that you can work on during tummy time play include:
Spatial exploration- including concepts like in, out, behind, under, on top, etc.
There are other child development benefits that occur through tummy time play too:
Fine motor skills
Gross motor skills
Strength and stability
Early math concepts
Use patterned cloth squares to hide in a zippered pouch- This simple play activity teaches babies so many skills. Part of spatial reasoning includes realizing that when an object is out of view, it still exists. This piece of child development is an important milestone in cognition for babies. It is a skill that evolves into stranger danger and a sense of self as baby develops.
Use small objects like these wooden coins (big enough that they are safe for baby!) to “hide” under a blanket or cloth. Hiding objects is a great way to work on object permanence, and spatial language such as the word “under”. These skills are the building blocks of spatial recognition and spatial reasoning.
Create a DIY tummy time mat with fabric squares and small toys. Using high-contrasting patterns in black and white provides an engaging and vivid visual prompt for babies. They are motivated to reach and grab for the objects on the tummy time mat while working those reaching and eye-hand coordination skills. Where does the objects go as soon as baby grabs them? Right to their mouth as they explore…and that is ok! Using items that are safe for baby, like these toys in the Panda Crate makes playtime safe. And, when baby brings those items to their mouth, they are learning about weight of the object, tactile sensation, and with visual processing benefits too: visual convergence, motor planning, eye-hand coordination and bilateral coordination.
Work on spatial reasoning by allowing baby to put items into and pull items out of a small space. By manipulating baby-safe objects, they learn to control their movements (eye-hand coordination) that is necessary for refined fine motor skills in coloring and managing clothing fasteners down the road. Be sure to use spatial language such as “in” and “out” to label the child’s movements and really work on that spatial awareness.
Spatial concepts such as empty and full are a building block of spatial learning. Grabbing fabric swatches from a container like this soft tissue box from Panda Crate offers early math concepts and spatial ability needed as they grow and develop.
Make a DIY tummy time mat using a blanket and some scattered toys that encourage reaching, rolling, and pivoting on the belly. All of these movements are pivotal in crawling and the strength that will be needed down the road for things like writing!
In fact, those movements (reaching, pivoting on the belly, and rolling toward a desired target (like black and white fabric swatches) can be helpful in teaching babies to crawl. This developmental milestone can be helped along by spreading out a blanket and scattering engaging items just out of reach. Make them a little further apart to encourage more reaching and scooting along on the floor.
There are so many ways to work on the essential skills kids need through tummy time and floor play. Babies will develop the spatial awareness they need as they explore how their body works and the objects around them.
Want more ways to give babies the skills they need? The Panda Crate from Kiwi Crate was really fun to explore with a therapist’s lens on child development. How would you use the items in the Panda Crate? These would be a great recommendation from therapist as toys that parents can use at home to build the skills kids need. They make awesome gift ideas from a therapist or parent who loves skill building toys!
You can order a Panda Crate here for the baby in your life.
Disclosure: We received a Panda Crate to check out, but only recommend items that we feel will really benefit you, the reader. All opinions and information in this blog post are our own.
Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20 years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to email@example.com.
This Halloween activity is one that I came up with while thinking about our recent Halloween Occupational Therapy activities post. So often, we see kids who struggle with coping strategies and require tools to improve self regulation. This can occur at school or at home. What if we could combine a child’s interest in all things Halloween with a deep breathing exercise that can be used as a coping strategy, or a calm down activity? That’s where this pumpkin deep breathing exercise comes in.
Deep Breathing Exercise
So often, parents and teachers ask for strategies to use as a coping mechanism. When kids have coping tools in their toolbox for addressing sensory needs, worries, and getting to that “just right” state of regulation, a self-reflective state can occur.
Deep breathing exercises help with mindfulness and coping skills for several reasons:
When kids are taught about how their body feels and reacts in certain situations, they can self-reflect on past responses. They can better understand who they are and how their body reacts to stressful or sensory situations. By better understanding their states of regulation, they can be mindful of things that may set them off, but better yet, know how to respond. Having a coping strategy on hand can set them up for success in learning or social situations. Practicing mindfulness activities and coping strategies can be powerful for kids.
Mindfulness is the ability and awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations as our body responds or reacts in thought, feeling, and sensations. Mindfulness is being present in the moment in any given situation with full awareness of inward and outward sensations. Practicing mindful awareness through deep breathing exercises is one way to notice how our body is reacting in a given moment and provides a tool to reset. Coping skills for kids may include deep breathing as just one strategy.
Here are some mindfulness videos on YouTube to help kids better understand what coping strategies and mindfulness in action looks and feels like.
Deep breathing acts as a coping tactic and a calming activity. It’s an easy coping strategy for kids because taking deep breaths with mindful breathing can be done anywhere and without any equipment.
Taking controlled breaths with deep breathing can give kids a sense of control that helps them rest and address self-regulation or emotional regulation when they are upset, worried, or feel a need to calm down.
coping skills…with a pumpkin
So now that we’ve covered deep breathing and why it’s a helpful coping strategy for kids, let’s talk about a fun Halloween themed coping strategy that kids will love to try.
This deep breathing activity uses a simple picture of a pumpkin, but you can use a real pumpkin, too. The small decorative gourds or pie pumpkins are perfect for this activity, because kids can hold the small pumpkin in their hands and feel the weight of the pumpkin as they complete the breathing strategy.
Using a pumpkin picture or real pumpkin, show kids how to use deep breathing as a coping tool by taking calming breaths while they trace the lines of the pumpkin.
Trace the lines up toward the stem while taking a deep breath in. Hold the breath for a few seconds and then trace a line down another section of the pumpkin while slowly breathing out. Hold that breath for a few seconds. Repeat this process as you slowly trace up and down the sections of the pumpkin.
Teaching cursive handwriting is a challenge for many parents and teachers. Taking it step-by-step is key. Here, you will find strategies for how to write cursive letter a. Many times, there is not a specific curriculum that schools use and teachers need to scramble for resources and THEN fit handwriting time into an already jam packed day. That’s why here at The OT Toolbox, you will find cursive writing tools that can be easily added into a school day. So, if you are wondering how to teach cursive writing, then you are in luck, because we have specific tips and tricks to teach cursive letters a-z.
Here you will find tricks and tips to write cursive a…in fun ways!
How to Write Cursive a
Lowercase cursive letter a is one of the wave letters. The letters c, a, d, g, q, and o make up these letters that contain similar letter strokes. That’s why when children are taught to write in cursive, these letters are typically grouped together. We talked about how cursive letters are related and grouped into cursive letter families. Teaching cursive letters in groups helps with letter formation, including the motor plan to form similar letters. When kids can practice cursive with a sensory approach to writing letters, they engage multiple senses along with the motor movements to form each letter. Grouping them into like letters makes the learning easier.
Let’s get started with cursive letter a!
Start with reviewing cursive letter c
Start by reviewing and practicing cursive letter c. Cursive letter c (and cursive a) is a wave letter. Starting with some pencil strokes and multi-sensory practice of the wave formation is a good place to begin. Try some multi-sensory approaches to build motor planning for forming cursive a.
Hold a small crafting pom pom or cotton ball in the thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger. This positions the hand into a tripod grasp and “wakes up” the muscles for writing. Holding the cotton ball, students can use whole arm motions to “draw” an imaginary wave in the air. Encourage them to be sure to re-trace the wave so it has a big curved portion at the top or crest of the wave. Here is more information on teaching wave letters.
By re-tracing that wave back down to the bottom, they can see the letter “c” or the beginning part of a letter a forming. One tip to get that line really formed with re-trace is to tell kids tha they want the wave to be great for surfing under. If the wave is fat at the bottom, it’s not a surfing wave. We want to see a wave that is ready to fall over and crash so a surfer can surf right along the inside of the wave.
Making a string of cursive c’s or a wave with several waves together is a good exercise.
Multi-sensory approaches to teaching letters
Use the pom pom/cotton ball large motor method described above
Practice the wave curves (focus on those thin, ready to break waves!) on the palm of the hand, by “writing” with the pointer finger
Once that curved c is reviewed, and the students are tracing back over their wave lines so the curve looks like a single line, it’s time to turn lowercase c into lowercase a.
Teach cursive a by telling students to form a cursive c that looks like a wave ready to crash over. Their pencil should trace back over the wave line and move along the baseline. The pencil should move straight up to the top of the wave and pause where the wave is just about to tip over. Next, the pencil should trace strait back down to the bottom line of the paper. Then, the pencil can move along the baseline to connect to the next letter. Here are tips to teach cursive letter connections.
Here are those cursive writing directions listed out:
Write a cursive c with the top of the wave ready to crash.
Move the pencil along the baseline and up to touch the tip of the wave.
Pull the pencil strait down to the baseline.
Curve away to connect.
Fix cursive writing problems
What happens when the cursive a (or other writing in cursive) falls flat? There can be some troubleshooting to do when it comes to writing in cursive. Here are some problems you might see whth letter a.
The lines curving up to the top of the lowercase a aren’t touching- Remind the student to trace back over the curve of their magic c. Review how to make the curve of a letter c.
The “wave” looks to wide- A gaping wave can make the letter a look sloppy. Teach students to trace back over the curve of the along the same line. Try using rainbow writing for this method.
The up line to touch the top of the a is slanted. The a looks
Letter Reversals…they are a major cause for handwriting concern by most parent’s standards. Do letter reversals mean dyslexia? And dyslexia means problems learning to read and write. However, there is much more to reversals than what meets the eye, and should be assessed before jumping straight to the conclusion of dyslexia. Here we are covering information about writing letters backwards and what is normal for letter reversals in development. We also have some great tips for addressing common letter reversal struggles and even reversal activities that can help with visual perception handwriting struggles. Read on!
LetterReversals Normal Development
Reversals are age appropriate up until 7-8 years of age!
That’s right! Letter reversals are normal up to a certain age range. And when kids write letters backwards it is actually typical development in handwriting skills. Working on letter reversals in occupational therapy (and other visual perceptual areas) can be a common occurrence for school-based OTs…but just because kids are writing letters backwards, it doesn’t mean there is a true problem indicating a need for intervention.
It takes our brains that long to integrate all the skills
needed to form a letter correctly and automatically during written expression.
Skills needed range from phonetic awareness, ability to imitate pre-writing
strokes, automation of letter formation, and higher level cognitive skills for
Some kiddo’s develop these skills faster than others. Some
kiddo’s struggle with these skills and may receive support services such as
occupational therapy or pull out services with their school’s reading
specialist before age 7.
Services provided before age 7 are typically preventative
and because the child has shown struggles in the foundation skills needed for
reading and writing, such as phonemic awareness, challenges with pre-writing
strokes and shape formation (visual motor integration), poor fine motor skills,
dominance concerns or underlying vision concerns.
Phonetic Awareness and Letter Reversals
The current theory among the educational community is that
reversals start with phonemic awareness. If a child is lacking phonemic
awareness, they may struggle with letter identification and spelling needed for
fluent written expression. Similar struggles may also be seen with numbers,
resulting in a negative impact on math skills.
In my clinical experience, I have found that children with high rates of ear infections and PE tubes (ear tubes) struggle with sound awareness. If the kiddo is unable to hear the sound of the letter clearly and consistently, it leads to poor sound awareness. I have also found that children with difficulties with attention and auditory filtering often pair the wrong letter sound with wrong letter. This is important to note in sessions as it may require remediation by a speech therapist or reading specialist if available. Here is more information and activities for auditory processing.
While phonetics play a large role in reversals, many other
foundational skills may influence whether a child will struggle with reversals
Hand Dominance and Letter Reversals
Hand dominance is typically fully developed by five years of age. Right at the same time most children are learning and mastering the formation of letters and numbers. It also coincides with the start of kindergarten, or formal education where children who are struggling may be noticed for the first time. Writing with both hands can be a common struggle and an indicator of hand dominance challenges.
Children with handedness issues, whether it’s mixed dominance or delayed development of dominance, are more likely to struggle with left versus right tasks. This plays into reversal concerns as many of these children cannot consistently discriminate left from right, leading to b’s and d’s, p’s and q’s being flipped. Often times, they are unable to recognize that they have made the mistake as their brain is registering the letter as they meant it to be.
Letter Reversals and Visual Processing
Vision is can be one of the biggest challenges facing children who struggle with reversals. Chances are, they have had an underlying vision concern that goes unaddressed or unrecognized during the critical learning period of letters and their sounds.
(Children in the U.S. typically begin to learn letters and sounds between 3 and 4 years of age when they enter preschool programs. Curriculums now expect children to know their letters, sounds and how to write them upon entering kindergarten.)
Due to their vision deficit, the child may not consistently
see the same image of the letter each time, or may not see the letter that is
being taught due to “wandering” eyes or poor abilities to focus on the letter.
The kiddo now has a poor foundation from which to build on, due to difficulties
with recalling from their visual memory what the letter looks like, and pairing
it with the correct sound.
To add to vision deficits, vision is not just what we see, or how the eye’s work together. It is also a motor task of taking information in with the eyes and reproducing an image, or in this case, letters on paper. This skill is known as visual motor integration and also plays a role in reversals.
Visual motor integration allows us to write, draw and paint freely. To do all of these things, we go through a set development of producing pre-writing strokes and basic shapes in imitation to freely producing them from our memories and eventually becoming automatic. Here is more information and activities related to visual motor skills.
Most children learn to imitate these strokes and shapes at a
young age from top to bottom and left to right. However, some children do not
learn it this way or their brains are not “wired” to follow this pattern of
development. Children who deviate from this pattern may have difficulties with
reversals as they struggle to learn and integrate letter stroke combinations in
the correct order. When this happens, they struggle to write fluently and
reversals may begin to appear.
Signs of poor visual motor integration skills that could
lead to reversals include:
Segmental Drawing—drawing a shape one stroke at
a time instead of integrated
Bottom to top orientation when drawing
Right to left orientation when drawing
Difficulties crossing the midline during drawing
Rotation of the paper to adjust for angle
Failed attempts to imitate basic shapes after
the child has stated what the shape is
Executive Functioning and Letter Reversals
Executive functioning skills refer to our higher level thinking that includes attention, multi-tasking and memory, among many other skills. Writing requires all of these skills to be working at their best. If a child is struggling with any of these skills, they may demonstrate reversals and poor overall handwriting.
Reversals and poor handwriting may be the result of the
child being unable to recall the strokes of the letter, the sequence of the
strokes, what the letter looks like, where to start the letter, how big to make
the letter, what each letter sound is, how to spell a word and complete their
thought. Oh, and lets add in that they have to remember how to hold their
pencil correctly. For a kiddo who is struggling, this is a CHALLENGE.
There are so many more things that go into writing that may
lead to reversals then what I have listed, but are too many to list out. The main concept of executive functioning is
that if the child cannot make it all work together, from fine motor to phonemic
awareness to visual motor, they are more likely to struggle with reversals in
Letter Reversal INterventions
It is important to recognize that reversals may be the sign of underlying deficits with foundational skills and should be addressed when they are noticed. The sooner that these underlying deficits are addressed the better off the kiddo will be. Once a child has had a long enough time period to practice incorrectly, it will be that much harder to break the “bad habits” and correct the reversals.
Addressing some of the other co-existing issues discussed in this article can be a start.
Address the motor planning in handwriting necessary for letter and number formation. Strategies that develop motor planning skills utilizing multi-sensory approaches can help with letter reversal. When kids learn and practice letters with visual, auditory, and kinesthetic sensory channels at the same time, the weaker channel may be reinforced (Berninger, 2000). Strategies such as
Gain a better understanding of visual processing and all of the “pieces” of the vision puzzle that play into letter reversal and other concerns by joining thousands of other therapists, teachers, and professionals in the Visual Processing Lab.
Use this Vision Screening Tool to identify and address specific vision concerns such as letter reversals.
Have concerns? Talk to your child’s teacher or occupational
therapist to address your concerns.
Contributor Post by Kaylee Goodrich, OTR: Hi Everyone! I am originally from Upstate N.Y., but now live in Texas, and am the Lead OTR in a pediatric clinic. I have a bachelors in Health Science from Syracuse University at Utica College, and a Masters in Occupational Therapy from Utica College. I have been working with children with special needs for 8 years, and practicing occupational therapy for 4 years. I practice primarily in a private clinic, but have experience with Medicaid and home health settings also. Feeding is a skill that I learned by default in my current position and have come to love and be knowledgeable in. Visual development and motor integration is another area of practice that I frequently address and see with my current population. Looking forward to sharing my knowledge with you all!
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