Tag Archives: summer

A Super Sensory Summer

By: Laura Bueche MOT OTR/L

Summertime is the best time for some creative sensory play outside. Your child will have a blast learning and exploring with these sensory summer activities that won’t break the bank.

IDEAS TO INSPIRE YOUR LITTLE SPROUT

Garden Party!

Fill a tub with soil. Hide plastic bugs, coins, or dinosaurs.
Use shovels or hands to find the treasures.

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Paint pots, plant seeds and watch them grow.
Overturn rocks to search for bugs and worms… or play with fake worms. Recipe here.

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Photo Credit: Learning4kids.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is real mud a difficult texture for your little one?  Start with “ghost mud”.
Recipe here

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Photo Credit: TreeHouseTV.com

Make a Splash with these Water Activities

Water Fun!

Fill a tub with water beads and ocean animals for an awesome, hands-on aquarium.

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Freeze toy animals, foam puzzle pieces, or pretend jewelry in ice. Have your kiddos use squeeze bottles, and eye droppers of warm water to get them out. Instructions here.

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Photo Credit: LittleBinsForLittlehands.com

Green gross swamp sensory table. Recipe here.

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Photo Credit: NoTimeForFlashCards.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaving Cream Car wash. Recipe here.

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Photo Credit: TreeHouseTV.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s go to the Beach!

Feel the sand between your toes with these fun tactile activities.

Sand Slime. It’s ooey, it’s gooey…and sandy? Recipe: Here

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Photo Credit: GrowingAJeweledRose.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drawing letters in the sand, a perfect pairing of visual motor and tactile. Recipe here.

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Photo Credit: AnyGivenMoment.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kinetic Sand…semi sticky, and super moldable sand. Get it here.

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Good old sand box play…because nothing beats the classic, pale and shovel.

For more summer sensory ideas, or ways to adapt these activities to your child’s needs and goals, ask your occupational therapist at Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley. For more information about occupational therapy visit our website.

Have a great summer!

 

Help Your Little One Love to Swim!

By: Bridget Hobbs, PT, DPT

Summer months are just around the corner which means neighborhood pools and splash pads are opening.  Toddlers are so curious about the water but are often a bit scared to take the plunge and go in the pool.  Here are some fun and easy ways to get your child to learn to love the water. 

1)      Treasure Hunt: When children can sit up by themselves (about 6 months old), sit by them in the kiddie pool or a blow up pool in the backyard.  Place fun things at the bottom of the pool, such as plastic fish, rings or some of their favorite bath toys.  Pools with a zero-depth entry where you can walk in on a gradual decline are excellent for making a trail of toys into the water for your little one to follow. 

2)      Peek-A-Boo!: Once your little one is in the water, putting their face in can often be a scary thing. Playing Simon Says or Peek-A-Boo can be a fun way to break the ice.  Kids love to mimic their parents, so placing your face in the water covering your face, then lifting your face out of the water making a funny face at your child can be a hit.  Practicing blowing bubbles through a partially submerged straw is also fun for kiddos. 

3)      Getting comfortable on their back:  Floating on their backs is one of the first things that kids learn in swim lessons.   While you are supporting them under their mid back, asking kids to describe shapes of the clouds, sing songs and even looking for airplanes are ways to help children ease into this skill.  Practicing back float in the bathtub is also a good way to practice this life-saving skill.

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Photo Credit: Kristi Hughes

4)      Fun with Noodles: If your pool allows noodles, having your children straddle the noodle while supporting them at their waist can be not only fun for your kiddo but also a great way to strengthen their core and leg muscles.  Have your child hold onto the noodle with two hands in front of them and pretend that they are riding a horse or biking to their favorite toy store or ice cream shop. 

5)      Listen to Your Child:
If your child cries during swim lessons or has tantrums when you are trying to get them into the pool, do not force them to go in the water as this can make it worse.  They may need a few sessions of watching other kids from the deck on the side of the pool to realize that swimming is not a scary thing.  Make sure to pick a time where your child is not tired or hungry.   Let them pick out a swimsuit at the store and fun pool toys so they feel like they have some control over this new experience. 

Swimming is one of the only sports that people can enjoy for their entire life-span.   It can also be life-saving and build confidence in your little one.  So, make sure to be positive and motivating with your little one in the water and help them learn to love to swim.

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Photo Credit: Joann Hartley

 

To learn more about Aquatic Therapy and other
Community Based Therapy Programs at
Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, click here.

Cover photo by Chris Pestel

 

How Monkey Bars (and Other Fun Summer Activities) Will Improve Your Child’s Handwriting Skills

By: Maureen Karwowski, OT

Summer is here and that means plenty of opportunities for outdoor fun.  I can only guess that the last thing that your child is thinking about is handwriting.  That is okay because many outdoor activities actually help with fine motor skills such as handwriting.  If handwriting skills are challenging for your child then summer is a perfect time to address them.

Fine motor skills are important for so many things.  Buttons, zippers, cutting with scissors, cutting food with a knife, opening glue bottles, unlocking a door, opening a bag of chips, and writing are just a few examples of how we use refined fine motor skills every day.  Many of the children that I see in occupational therapy are working to improve their fine motor skills, and especially handwriting.

AFaithctivities to help promote fine motor skills typically focus on two areas:

  1. Strengthening of the core and upper body
  2. Strengthening of the fine motor muscles of the hands.

We know that in order for our hands to develop precision, for grasping, and for handwriting, the core must be as stable as possible.  Imagine sitting on a wobbly chair and trying to write your name.  That is an example of how the stability of the core impacts the way we are able to use our hands effectively.  We also know that in order to use both hands together the core needs to be strong.  Again, sitting on a wobbly chair and stringing beads would be very challenging.

The good news is that you can incorporate activities to help your child develop core and upper body strength into outside play naturally.  These will then impact fine motor skills.

  • Wheelbarrow walking.  Hold your child at the hips or knees, wherever you see your child have the best posture.  A “sagging” stomach is not an ideal posture.
  • Animal walks such as bear walks and crab walks.  Donkey kicks are also great.
  • Help your child climb the rock wall at the park.

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    Photo by Petra Ford
  • The glider at the park is a great way to promote core strength.  Have your child look at his/her knees while gliding to encourage even more trunk strength.
  • Help your child cross the monkey bars at the park.
  • When you are swimming help your child push themselves up to the side of the pool with both arms.
  • Play tug of war with your child.  Encourage them to pull you towards them pulling one hand over the other.
  • My favorite game to use in occupational therapy sessions is the “zoom ball” which is a great way to work on using both hands together.

Some ideas for grip strengthening activities:

  • Squirt guns and spray bottles.  The squirt guns that require both hands are especially good.
  • Squeezing out nerf balls while in the swimming pool.
  • Digging in the dirt and sand with a small shovel.
  • Drawing with sidewalk chalk.  Drawing on vertical surfaces such as on the garage wall is even better.  Use large chalk for whole arm movements, and small chalk pieces to strengthen a pencil grip.  Have your child “erase” the drawings with a squirt bottle.
  • Have your child wash the picnic table, or a wagon using soap suds and a large car wash sponge.  Encourage them to squeeze out the sponge in the process.
  • Draw” shapes or letters in the dirt using a popsicle stick.
  • Tools are a great way to build up hand strength.  Make a project with kid sized screw drivers, paint brushes, nuts and bolts.

Incorporating these activities naturally throughout the summer will greatly improve fine motor skills before the school year.

For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit EasterSealsDFVR.org.

Accessible Family Vacations

By, Sharon Pike, Parent Liaison

Summer vacation is on its way! Many families and I discuss the difficulty in scheduling vacations. Not only do our busy schedules make it hard to go away and relax, but finding an accessible family-friendly destination can be overwhelming.

But family vacations are where wonderful memories are made. I found several destinations below with a little help from a Center parent.

Shared Adventures, Santa Cruz, CA

day on the beachShared Adventures is a non-profit organization that puts on an impressive array of programs through the summer for special needs children and adults.  In July, they host an annual Day on the Beach, which offers adaptive or assisted kayaking, canoe rides, scuba diving and floatation for people of all ages!  Volunteers erect plywood “paths” for wheelchair access; you can also rent beach wheelchairs.   The day ends with live music and free food!

Splore, Moab, Utah

Splore, is a not-for-profit that provides outdoor activities for special needs children and adults at affordable prices.  Theywhitewater organize river trips, rock climbing, hiking through a partnership with Red Cliffs Lodge.  More of a resort that a hotel, Red Cliffs Lodge offers an impressive variety of accommodations and activities. There are wheelchair-accessible rooms adjacent to the lodge.  Sidewalks with ramps let to all patios and to the museum.  The meals are “traditional cowboy fare”, the chef can rustle up special menu plans upon request.  Utah prides itself on offering accessible recreation!

Island Dolphin Care, Key Largo, FL

Island Dolphin Care is a not-for-profit magical place for children with special needs and their families to enjoy and discover new abilities through dolphin therapy.  Parents and their children celebrate their strengths and even new inspirations through classroom activities and dolphin therapy.

The founder, Deena Hoagland‘s goal was, and still is, to help children with special needs and their families who have developmental and/or physical disabilities, critical, chronic or terminal illnesses and emotional challenges.  Deena is a mom who witnessed the remarkable recovery of her disabled son Joe, at the age of three after swimming with dolphins.  Her son was born with a heart defect that required many open heart surgeries. During one surgery, Joe suffered a massive stroke which paralyzed his entire left side.  Through repeated therapy sessions with dolphins and hard work, he regained use of his left side.    Deena believes that all children with special challenges should be given an opportunity to enjoy life‘s experiences through a full range of activities, including dolphin assisted therapy, all children love to smile, laugh and have fun!

I learned about this destination from Center parent, Lynn Matusik, whose family has now traveled twice to the island Dolphin Care. Who better to talk about their recent experience then her?

Lynn: Our son Sam LOVES the water.  We thought it would be a wonderful experience for him if he could somehow swim with dolphins. Due to his severe disabilities and being 100% dependent on others we were not sure if this would be something he would ever be able to do.

During one of our weekly therapy visits at Easter Seals, our therapist told about a place that a fellow client had visited called Island Dolphin Care which is located in the Florida Keys.

We did some research on Island Dolphin Care and found it to be a family oriented facility.

sam with dolphinsOur first trip to Island Dolphin Care was in 2014.  From the moment we saw his name on the board, walked out of the elevator (yes the ENTIRE facility is handicapped accessible!) and were greeting by staff, we knew this was the perfect place for our son Sam.  The staff at Island Dolphin Care are incredible, welcoming, knowledgeable, patient, unbiased and understanding.

Sam participated in the IDC (Island Dolphin Care) 5-day program.  There are four days of classroom time and 5 days of dolphin swim time.  In the classroom, families and their children are able to work toward IEP or therapy goals if they chose, with a therapist while applying those skills by participating in aquatic related crafts and projects.  It was truly a time to laugh and enjoy family time in a non stressful environment!

Swim therapy time with the dolphins was INCREDIBLE!  Our son worked with his therapist, dolphin trainer and a dolphin or sometimes two!  Sam was able to work, interact, and play safely with his dolphin in a structured environment.  IDC also provides swim time with siblings so they are also able to interact with the dolphins along with their brother or sister.  The last swim day at IDC is for one parent or caregiver and child.  They swim freely in the water among all of the therapy dolphins and other families.  The dolphins at island dolphin care are so patient, gentle and loving with the children that words cannotsam with therapistt express the emotions that parents feel when they see their child interact with these beautiful creatures.  Seeing our son Sam smile and hearing his giggles were truly priceless.

IDC is a place where parents can leave the stress of caring for a child with special needs behind and just enjoy their child.  It is an exceptional experience that the entire family can participate in and enjoy!

IDC will also provide you with hotel accommodation information, places to eat, other attractions, etc. to help make your stay in Key Largo one that you can enjoy with your entire family.

We could tell you so much more about our trip to IDC and our son Sam but  we would love for you to experience the magic first hand with your special needs child!

More information can be found on their website: www.islanddolphincare.org.  Tell them Sam Matusik sent you!

Thanks Lynne for that great information!

I can’t wait to hear about your family adventures this summer. Look for my next blog post for more family-friendly vacation ideas!

For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit EasterSealsDFVR.org.