Tag Archives: toddlers

18 Children’s Games to Stay Active Indoors

By: Laura Basi, PT, MPT

With the cold winter weather and limited ability to participate in many activities due to COVID-19, it can feel challenging to continue to find ways to keep children active. Fortunately, with a little creativity and imagination, there are many ways to help your children stay active indoors and have fun while you do!

I have listed the following activities and ideas to give you ideas as a starting point, but remember, some of the most engaging activities are when you place your own twist on them! Nearly all of these activities can be modified to fit your child’s unique needs, and don’t require buying extra toys or supplies. So don’t be afraid to change, break, or make your rules. You may even want to challenge your child to develop their own unique game or activities after taking inspiration from some of these existing ideas!

  • The Floor is Lava
    There is an actual board game one can purchase with this name, but it’s easy to create your own game with household items. You can create a course across a room or even throughout the house to navigate that has a start and finish with the goal being that you cannot touch the floor (the lava) — creativity wins here. The game can easily be tailored to age/ability level (and parent tolerance for furniture climbing). Try using couch cushions, pillows, toys, and other objects that can be used to jump to and from safely!
  • Simple Exercise Training Routine
    For elementary school aged kids who like to feel like they’re “training”, a good way to tackle a few exercises for building strength and endurance is by completing a number of reps that match the date.  For example, my son Will and I do jumping jacks, squats, sit ups and push ups every day…. 1 of each on the 1st of the month, and build up to 30/31 of each by the 30th/31st of the month…we break them up into smaller sets as the number gets high. Our goal is to complete them all in one day.
  • Have a Dance Party
    Put on a favorite song and dance/move any way you like to — this appeals to all ages because the kids can choose the songs. To get increased time out of this activity, try setting a timer and announce the family will be dancing for a set amount of time or a certain number of songs- perhaps one song per family member so that everyone gets to choose one. Make it even more fun by hanging up lights (a string of holiday lights works excellent) and otherwise darkening the dance party’s room.
  • Play Freeze Dance
    For younger children or those with limited endurance, play Freeze Dance. Parents can pause the song at random, at which time everyone dancing must stop in place. Kids 10 and under will find it funny to freeze in silly poses (or see their parents do so!), and the pausing will allow a brief rest break for those that need it. As a bonus, freeze dance works on pairing movement with listening skills and practicing starting/stopping on cue, something that kids with coordination disorders may need extra practice with.
  • Movement and Action Songs
    For preschoolers, many movement songs can be found on the web. This list here from Preschool Inspirations has many good ones. In addition, on youtube, I like Freeze Dance (The Kiboomers) and Listen and Move (TheKidsCartoons) because they prompt kids to vary their movement (i.e., dance, hop, skip, twirl, tiptoe, gallop, etc.).
  • DIY Stationary Bike
    For kids who need to practice pedaling for bike riding or for active kids who need to move, a bike with training wheels can be brought inside and transformed into a stationary bicycle. Modify the bike to become stationary by placing the front wheel on a towel and training wheels propped inside a pair of shoes to lift the back wheel enough that it will spin when the child pedals.
  • Keep the Balloon Up
    Keep the balloon off the floor gets everyone active and can be played solo or as a whole family – for families who enjoy some competition, hang string or yarn across the room as a “net” and play volleyball with the balloon.
  • Board Games
    Family Board Games that get you moving: Twister, Hullabaloo, Pancake Pile-Up, Floor is Lava
  • Minute to Win it
    Minute to Win It games are various 60 second challenge games based off the international game show of the same name. The games are engaging and practical because they all utilize everyday objects you probably already have around the house. A quick internet search will result in hundreds of ideas and you can also easily make up your own games for more fun. https://www.familyeducation.com/family-games/our-favorite-minute-to-win-it-games-for-kids
  • Prone Scooter Board
    For those with a skateboard, clean off the wheels and bring it inside to use as a prone scooter board — have your child lie on the board on their stomach and challenge them to get across the room only using their arms.
  • Build a Fort
    This one is a classic for a reason. Kids love the process of building forts! This activity encourages creativity and problem solving as kids figure out what materials to use and how to keep the fort from falling apart. Make sure your child takes the lead and participates in the building so that they are lifting, pushing, and pulling pillows, cushions, furniture, blankets, etc., to help create the fort. Modify your level of involvement based on your child’s age and abilities. Just make sure to challenge them to be creative and be active!
  • Build an Obstacle Course
    Younger children might enjoy turning this into a pretend game of animals in which the course is their animal home. Older children might enjoy acting like ninja warriors on their obstacle course. Be creative and incorporate lots of variety (climbing under, climbing over, jumping down, jumping over, crawling, reaching). Painters tape works great to place lines for walking or jumping over without damaging floors. Use sturdy furniture or objects for stepping/jumping from one area to another.
  • Create a Cocoon
    For kids who like/need deep pressure input or those who just enjoy pretend play, spread out a bedsheet or beach towel and have the child lie down along one edge as a caterpillar – the child can grasp the edge, or parents can tuck the edge between child’s arm and torso. The child then rolls themselves up in the sheet/towel, turning into a tight “cocoon” with only their head sticking out – they can push against the sides of the towel, imagining they are growing their wings. When ready, they roll in the reverse direction to unroll the sheet/towel and burst out as a new butterfly. This activity can be done on its own or incorporated into other “animal walks.” These walks could include:
    • Bear walking (walking on hands, feet, belly, and face down).
    • Bunny hopping (small jumps).
    • Frog jumps (big hops).
    • Crab walking (walking on hands and feet, belly and face up).
  • Cosmic Kids Yoga
    For kids who enjoy following along with a story, Cosmic Kids Yoga on YouTube and Amazon (free and subscription based options) is an excellent resource with a LOT of variety in length of time and story content. I recommend this program for children 3 to 8-years-old range who have difficulties with strength, postural control, balance, coordination and motor planning.  
  • Create a Dance/Gymnastics Routine
    Creating a routine can be done solo or works excellent with a sibling set. For extra fun, add in performance clothes, create a “stage” and encourage your kids to put on their show.
  • Spray Bottle Activities
    For hand strengthening, let kids play with spray bottles and squeeze bottles (could finger paint on the shower wall and then let them spray it off and then wipe it down or spray/squeeze water into cups). You can find countless spray bottle activities here.
  • Stuffed Animal Bowling
    Set up stuffed animals in a circle around your child and specify which animal the child should knock down. The child will need to turn their body and roll ball to knock down and stuffed animal. A great toddler movement activity!
  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat
    Child sits in a laundry basket, and caregiver will push the basket or tilt it side to side like they are on a boat. You can do it to the tune of Row, Row, Row, Your Boat or other songs.

I hope these ideas have helped you think of fun activities and games to keep children occupied and active in these unusual times. Remember that with a little creativity and imagination, the possibilities are endless! For more information on physical therapy services at Easterseals, visit: https://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/medical-rehabilitation/physical-therapy.html.

Indoor Activities to Release Energy and Build Imagination

By: Occupational Therapist, Laura Van Zandt, MS, OTR/L,

Container Play Activity

By using simple materials and exploring your child’s natural interests, you can ‘sneak’ in some various fine motor or speech and language development for toddlers. Remember, get down on the floor and see where they take you in play – play is the work of the child, but it shouldn’t be hard. 

Work together to put some of your child’s favorite small toys in different containers. Containers can be found all over your house or after meals. Use a (cleaned) yogurt cup, oatmeal container, cereal or pasta box, delivery package, etc. 

Watch this video for the overview, or scroll down below for more information.

For my three-year-old, I had him pick out the toys, but you can do this ahead of time to keep it more of a surprise. You can easily incorporate different developmental skills into this simple task but remember to keep it fun and easy for you both. If it is too hard (or easy), here are some other ways to update:

  • Decrease or add language skills by sorting toys into different sizes or colors of containers
  • Use simple words that match the action and the emotional experience paired with affect in your voice to keep your child present and engaged (e.g., hard – stuck – pull –wow – etc.)
  • Explore pretend play (the options are limitless) – go to a store, have a party, have a snack, greet guests in different ‘houses,’ put bad guys into time out or jail, and more!
  • Work on fine motor skills by opening different containers or using different household materials to practice wrapping them) adjust the type of container based on your child’s abilities and base how you decorate on your child’s age.
    • If your child is between 15-20 months, you may only want to have them work on removing the tape and having the lids pre-opened, so they only have to focus on pinching and pulling. You can add simple things like markers or stickers to decorate if you desire.
    • If your child is closer to 24 months, you can sneak in scissors (supervised) to snip the tape before you wrap up the container. You can also include markers and stickers but add large shapes to scribble so you can color.
    • If your child is closer to 36 months, you can do all the same things above, but you can add more of a challenge by drawing lines or circles together to decorate.

Simple Sensory Play Ideas: Dump Truck Game

Ask any specialist working with kids, and they will tell you play is the work of the child. It’s through play that a child’s life becomes alive and enriched with endless life lessons. It is through play that boundless learning opportunities unfold.

The good thing about play is it doesn’t have to be complicated or even expensive. Play should be about you connecting with your child and following their lead. A toddler’s mind is like an unread book full of adventures just waiting to be experienced if we just let it unfold. The most essential component of play is being one with your child. If you allow them to express their interest, unlimited possibilities will present themselves.

In this video, I use my son’s interests in construction vehicles to provide him with some sensory input. When the seasons start to change, and winter is upon us, most parents find themselves all going a little stir crazy being stuck inside. Kids need movement just as adults need movement. However, kids especially need an outlet for all the fun imagination developing inside their little bodies.

Materials needed for this activity:

  1. You
  2. Your child
  3. Lots of pillows or you can use your bed for a soft landing cushion

Let your child lead you, however, here are some ideas to expand this play.

  1. Count to a specific number or use a particular word that your toddler needs to listen to before he can be dumped
  2. Have your child take an object with them to hide under the pillows / within the bedsheets to bring to the junkyard if pretending to be a dump truck
  3. Hide people/animals under the pillows / within the bedsheets to be a rescue hero flying and going to save the people/animals -> can expand the steps of play to bringing the people/animals to their homes once safely found
  4. Depending on where your child is at with his or her unique development, use less language and highlight only the key words paired with the actions (up, go)
  5. Wait for your child to do something to tell you he or she wants to play (e.g., comes back to you, lifts arms up, leans closer to the pillow to fall, etc.)
  6. The benefits of sensory play are endless and certainly can be enjoyed by all ages!

Make it Fun!

Remember, this is your time with your child. This activity can be as long or as short as you need it to be based on your available time. There are many ways to expand to work on speech sounds, language skills, movement, and fine motor. Sit back and
enjoy the process while the play unfolds. Have fun!

Ending Notes

For more play activities for all ages, search our blog at eastersealsdfvr.wordpress.com. If you are curious about how your child is doing or have concerns about his/or her development, we have a free screening available at askeasterseals.org. This tool looks at
key developmental areas: communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem-solving, and personal-social skills. Based on your responses, the results will help you see if your child’s progress is on track and alert you to any potential concerns.

If delays are identified, Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley can offer the support needed to be school-ready and build a foundation for a lifetime of learning. Research proves that when children receive the right treatment and therapy they need before age five, they are more prepared to learn alongside their peers, build lifelong skills and achieve their dreams.

Should my 2-Year-Old Be Talking?

By: Jennifer Tripoli M.S., CCC-SLP  

I have heard this from countless parents during initial evaluations.  “But he/she is only a baby! He/she should be talking?!” “The neighbor child didn’t talk until he was 3 and he turned out OK.” “I just assumed he/she would catch up.” The answer is YES! Your 2 year old should be talking. Did you know most typically developing children begin using words at around 12 months of age and by the time the child is 2 years of age they are beginning to combine words? Now, like any area of child development there is an age range for when skills begin to emerge. For instance some children may need a few extra months to “catch up” or develop these skills.

I am finding at our Centers that pediatricians are referring young toddlers earlier for speech evaluations due to limited expressive language skills and this is GREAT! There has been a vast amount of research published on Early Intervention and an increased public awareness regarding Early Intervention. “The earlier the better” thought is likely influencing these referrals.

I have to say I am thrilled about this new trend as I get to work with these kids sooner rather than later. It is a much better situation to work with a child who is delayed at 15-18 months versus 24 months or later. Children who are 2 years and older and not talking, or talking very little, are extremely frustrated with their inability to communicate. Many times these children are experiencing pretty severe tantrums and some are even socially withdrawn from other children due to their lack of communication. Yes, some children do fine with the “wait and see” approach. They eventually develop age appropriate speech and language skills, but for some children this is NOT enough. These children will fall further and further behind as we “wait and see” what happens.Voice Box Photo

This blog is by no means supposed to serve as an evaluation tool to determine if your child requires speech therapy, but instead help parents understand if their child is in on target with speech and language skills for their age. If you have any doubts in your child’s development, it is best to consult with your pediatrician. A full speech and language evaluation performed by a pediatric Speech and Language Pathologist would determine if your child is a candidate for speech and language therapy.

Here are some general speech and language guidelines for children 1-2 years of age:

12 months

  • Uses gestures to communicate such as showing, giving, pointing, reaching for preferred item and waving
  • Babbles during play with a variety of different consonant and vowel sounds
  • Plays communicative games such as Peek-a-boo or other back and forth games
  • Begins to use single words though sounds may not be clear
  • Learns new words quickly
  • Attempts to imitate new words
  • Understands common items such as cup, shoe, etc.
  • Understands basic requests related to routine such as “come on” or “give me”

18 months

  • Average expressive vocabulary at 18 months is between 50-100 words
  • Begins to use early 2 word combinations such as “more juice”, “daddy shoe”, etc.
  • Begins to understand 2 step commands with and without gestures
  • Points to pictures when named in books27_Nevean
  • Identifies a few body parts

24 months

  • Uses 2 word combinations “more cookie”, “bye mommy”, “daddy go”, etc.
  • May still be using some single words, though most language is expressed with 2 word utterances
  • Identifies several body parts
  • Begins to ask questions “Where’s mommy?”
  • Unfamiliar listeners understand your child about 50% of the time

For more information regarding typical speech and language development visit the American Speech Language and Hearing Association’s website here.

To learn more about speech language therapy services at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, click here.

The Best Developmental Toys for Toddlers

By: Bridget Hobbs, PT, DPT

Perhaps you have a toddler’s birthday coming up or with (I can’t believe I’m saying this) the holidays just around the corner, you may be thinking about finding gifts for the little ones in your lives.  As a pediatric physical therapist, I often get asked about best toys for development.  Since I have a soon-to-be toddler at home, and because this age can sometimes be difficult to buy for (past rattles but not quite to the Barbie stage), I thought I’d share the best toys to encourage their development.

Blocks: Toy blocks might not be as sparkly or fancy as the tech-geared toys on the market.  However, they have stood the test of time for a reason.  Dating back to Piaget, numerous studies have proven the positive effects of block play with math skills later in life.  An author of a recent study that was published in the journal Child Dblocks2evelopment states “Research in the science of learning has shown that experiences like block building and puzzle play can improve children’s spatial skills and that these skills support complex mathematical problem solving in middle and high school,” explains Brian N. Verdine, one of the studies’ authors. You can read more of the study here. 

Play kitchen: I love a play kitchen not just for the imagination and sequencing aspect of preparing a meal, putting it on aplay kitchen plate and serving it to others, but for the gross motor benefits as well.  As seen below in the picture, there are many different levels to a play kitchen.  A child has to stand up to get a plate, squat down to put a pretend pie in the oven and walk side to side to put things in the sink.  All of these are dynamic movements that help to incorporate balance, stability and agility and helps toddlers build their confidence while navigating their environment.

Sound puzzles: Puzzles give little ones a jump on hand-eye coordination, help develop grasp as well as sequencing skills.  A bonus is the sound puzzles that make a sound, such as a helicopter motor or a cow mooing.  These puzzles teach cause and effect and can help TakeThreePhotography_05202010-62develop early sound development.

Small table and chairs: Children this age want to start coloring, drawing and delighting in their masterpieces.  An ideal chair for a little one would be one that helps their feet be firmly planted, with their hips and knees at 90 degree angles.

Shape sorters and stackers:  Shape sorters help a child with discriminating between different shapes, and figuring out how things fit together (think early engineering skills).  Shape sorters are a great way to encourage problem solving skills starting at a young age. Stackers, such as the cups shown below, assist a child with important concepts of placing things into a container and taking them out again.  shape stackers

Ride-On Toys: Try to avoid the expensive ‘power wheels’ type of toys that lose their battery after a week and take up loads of space in your house or garage.   A classic ride on toy will last riding toyyears or decades and will provide your child with balance and strengthening through propelling the toy and coordination through steering.

Often it’s the simplest, tried and true toys that are the best for child development.  So, if you recognize toys in the store that you had a kid, it’s likely that they are good for your child’s learning and motor development.   All of these toys listed above are enjoyable, educational and affordable.   They assist with gross and fine motor skills, language development and social engagement.

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

How to Make Reading Fun!

By Jessica Drake-Simmons

photo

Reading is my absolute favorite activity for developing language skills! Books provide an organized, meaningful context for children to cultivate a deeper understanding of language and acquire new vocabulary.   A book with pictures provides children an opportunity to visualize what they are hearing and supports their understanding of the language. Reading also develops strong imaginative abilities and it can improve attention. The more often you read to your child from an early age, the greater the positive effect on their future reading abilities and thinking skills.

So, how can we compete with the bright screens and rapid changing graphics of iPads, computers, TV shows and video games? Here are some ideas for making reading something that your child wants to do, not something he has to do.

1. Give children an active role in reading. We all learn better from ‘doing’ rather than just listening or watching and children are no exception! Children demonstrate an increased level of engagement and comprehension when they are able to participate in the reading of a story.   Participating in a story could be as simple as:

  • Pointing to pictures
  • Turning the pages
  • Choosing the book
  • Imitating fun actions like stomping or waving related to words in a story
  • Making silly sound effects

2. Ask your child questions during and after the story like, “What did Pete step in?”, “Who built their house out of straw?”, “”Can you remember something that the caterpillar ate?”, “How do you think the rainbow fish felt?”, “What would you do if?”, ”Why do you think?”, “Have you ever felt?”. Have them make predictions about what might happen next in a story like: “What do you think this story will be about?”, ”Wow! David made a mess! What do you think his mom will do?”, ”The pig just ran away. Where do you think he could be going?”, ”They were invited to a party. What do you think will happen at the party?”.” Having children make predictions and respond to questions will increase their engagement, comprehension and thinking skills. It is also an effective way of gauging their understanding of the story. Tell them your response to these open ended questions. Modeling your thinking skills is a powerful teaching strategy.

3. Make the story come to life! Using story props or dressing up is so much fun and makes the child feel the experience of the story. If you are reading a book about pirates, put on your pirate hat and if you are reading a book about princesses, get out the wand. Use story props to have the child manipulate during the story. If you are reading a story about farm animals, bring out stuffed animals, plastic animals, puppets or puzzle piece animals. Act out the words of the story with the props or let your child control the props. For your child’s favorite stories that they request to read over and over again, there are plenty of websites that offer printable story characters and ideas for extension activities. For more ideas and resources, check out our Pinterest site: http://www.pinterest.com/speechdeptes/literacy/.

4.   PLAY! Use the story that you just read as an imaginative play schema. This gives children an opportunity to retell the story, use newly learned vocabulary and increase their comprehension of themes and concepts from the story.   It also gives them the chance to use their imaginations and expand the story in their own creative ways. For older children, have them act out the story. This will help gain a deeper level of understanding and it will allow them to take on the perspective of different characters in the story.

Most importantly, you need to have fun and enjoy this experience with your child. If you are having fun, chances are your child will be too! What are you waiting for?! Let’s get this reading party started!

Jessica Drake-Simmons

Jessica Drake-Simmons, M.S. CCC-SLP, is a licensed speech-language pathologist with a specialty in pediatrics. Jessica received her Master’s degree in 2009 from Eastern Illinois University in Communication Sciences and Disorders and her Bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University. She has a particular interest in working on early communication, apraxia, articulation, receptive and expressive language. Jessica has gained valuable experience treating children in both the school and clinic setting. She loves finding ways to make targeted skills functional and meaningful in a child’s life. Jessica is passionate about supporting kids in the acquisition of communication skills and she loves making therapy fun. Jessica is grateful for the lessons that special kids with a different perspective of the world are able to teach her each day.