Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bumble Bee Breathing Break – Deep Breathing Exercise

Did you know that deep breathing exercises can help to alleviate stress, reduce anxiety, strengthen the attention span and sharpen the ability to focus and learn?  In addition, deep breathing helps certain physiological responses as well such as slow the heart rate and decrease blood pressure.  Seems like an easy fix right?  Well, maybe not that easy since it takes practice and time to become mindful of your breathing and to improve your deep breathing techniques.

Give it a try with this FREE Bumble Bee Breathing Break.  Download your FREE breathing break here (a tab will open in a new window).  This is from the Breathing Breaks complete packet.

Bumble Bee Breathing and all the Breathing Breaks are a great activity to teach children to help them to tune out stress, to relax and to get the mind ready to learn.  Here are some suggested times throughout the day to try Bumble Bee Breathing with children:

  1. Before the school day begins.
  2. After recess to help calm the class.
  3. After a brain break.
  4. Following a kinesthetic lesson.
  5. After lunch.
  6. Before a test.

Give the children some time to learn how to do the bumble bee breathing.  Make sure they understand the benefits to the exercise and try and keep it serious.  Children can get silly easily so remind them to stay focused and mindful on their own breathing.

Would love to hear how it goes in your classroom, therapy room or home.  Let me know.
Breathing Breaks: This digital download is a collection of 16 deep breathing exercises and 3 tip sheets. Deep breathing exercises can help to decrease stress, reduce anxiety, remain calm, strengthen sustained attention, sharpen the ability to learn and more! This packet includes 16 full page breathing exercises and 3 tips sheets in color or black and white. In addition, the breathing exercises are provided 4 to a page to make smaller cards or booklets.  FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

10 Suggestions to Reduce Pencil Pressure When Writing

When students press too hard during handwriting tasks, the hand can fatigue, paper can rip and legibility may decrease.  Recently, a reader asked for tips and suggestions to help decrease pencil pressure for when students press too hard during handwriting tasks.  Here are 10 suggestions to help children reduce pencil pressure when writing:

  1. Write on carbon paper – the child has to write softly so the marks barely go through the paper.
  2. Color using shading to demonstrate that different shades require a different amount of pressure.  Try this free Shade Wisely activity or Missing Monster freebie.
  3. Provide extra input to the hands before the students write.  Warm up by squeezing a stress ball or upper extremity weight bearing activities such as wheelbarrow walking, Proprioceptive Poems, animal walks or wall push ups.
  4. Fine tune the fingers and grip with clothespin activities.  Try the free Ninja Clothes Pin activity.  Play some visual perceptual clothes pin games. Make clothes pin silly faces.
  5. Wrap clay around pencil – if student changes the shape of the clay the student is applying too much pressure.
  6. Use a mechanical pencil – if student applies too much pressure the tip will break off.
  7. Use a slant board – when the students wrist is positioned in extension it can improve pencil control.
  8. Place student’s paper on top of a flimsy book or Styrofoam – if student presses too hard the pencil will poke through paper.
  9. Provide sample of handwritten work with correct pencil pressure.  Write one word too light, one word just right and one word too hard to represent the differences in pencil pressure.
  10. Explain to students exerting too much pressure when writing can fatigue the hand.  Have students practice writing lightly, writing just right and pressing too hard.  Can they feel the differences in their hand?

Click here to read 10 ideas to increase pencil pressure.

Handwriting Stations

Handwriting Stations: This digital download includes the materials to create a handwriting station on a tri-fold or in a folder. The station includes proper letter formation for capital and lower case letters, correct posture, pencil grip, warm up exercises, letter reversals tips and self check sheet. In addition, there are 27 worksheets for the alphabet and number practice (Handwriting without Tears® style and Zaner-Bloser® style). This download is great for classroom use, therapy sessions or to send home with a student  FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION.

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Fidget Spinner Workout – Exercise While It Spins!

Right now, fidget spinners are everywhere.  Whether they are banned from your school or not, here is a fun way to add in some overall exercise while your spinner spins! You can download your FREE fidget spinner workout below.  Years ago, I created a fun printable with a different DIY spinning top (you can view that here).  I thought I would update it so children can use a fidget spinner to time their exercises.  The fidget spinner workout would make a great in class brain break to get the body ready to learn again.

How to Do the Fidget Spinner Exercises: Get the free download below and print.  Spin your fidget spinner. Try to do the exercises listed the entire time the fidget is spinning. Put a checkmark in box when completed. Write down some additional exercises that you want to try while the fidget is spinning.

If you need more quick aerobic exercise workout for children check out Movement Flashcards.  This digital download includes 10 aerobic exercises with flash cards templates. Students can get physical activity while reviewing material. The 10 aerobic activities include: run in place, jumping, hopping, squats, lunges, skipping, twists, cross crawls, jumping jacks and marching. Each page includes a picture image of the aerobic exercise along with a blank template to type in 18 flash cards. You choose what to work on for academic material.  FIND OUT MORE.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

10 Activities to Get Children Ready for Prewriting Skills

The fingers, hands and shoulders require hours and hours of practicing different skills to get ready for the actual job of picking up a pencil and making marks, lines, shapes and letters on paper.  Prewriting skills include the ability to write straight lines, curved lines, zig-zags and shapes. These skills are building blocks for letter formation during handwriting tasks.  Here is a list of 10 fun activities to get children ready for prewriting skills:

  1. Play Dough – Using play dough helps strengthen the muscles in the fingers, hands and shoulders which are essential for legible handwriting.
  2. Playing in prone – By laying down on the floor on their bellies propping up on their elbows, the shoulders, arms and hands receive proprioceptive and tactile input to help children learn where their body is in space.  In addition, this position helps to strengthen the head and neck muscles.
  3. Animal Walks – Children can practice moving like different animals particularly ones where their hands are on the floor such as bear walks, seal walks and donkey kicks.
  4. Sensory Trays – Practice making marks in different sensory materials such as shaving cream, sand or flour.
  5. Lacing Activities – Lace beads onto pipe cleaners.  Try lacing shoelaces on lacing cards.  These types of activities help to fine tune the intricate fine motor skills needed for handwriting.
  6. Make shapes and letters with your body – Form the lines, shapes and letters using your body.  Check out Alphabet Movement Cards for easy visuals to get started.
  7. Move in different directions – Perform locomotor skills in straight lines, curved lines and zig zags.  Move in a circle.  This helps children develop visual spatial skills which is necessary for spacing and sizing of letters.
  8. Building blocks – Using Lego or Duplo blocks help children improve fine motor skills, muscle strength in the hands and fingers and visual spatial skills.  Brick Activities for Home and School provides patterns to create numbers, alphabet and seasonal objects using LEGO® style 2×2 and 2×4 size blocks.
  9. Fingerpaint – Let children explore making marks with their fingers.  It is easy and fun.  If the child dislikes the sensation of finger painting, offer different objects to paint with instead such as toy cars or plastic toy animal feet.
  10. Moving or placing objects along a path – The teacher can draw different lines or shapes on paper or put painter’s tape on the floor. If it is on paper, children can try putting stickers along the lines or rocks.  If is painter’s tape on the floor, children can try driving toy cars along the lines.  Draw with sidewalk chalk outdoors and children can practice riding a tricycle along the path.

When the children are ready to start with pre-writing skills here are some great resources:

Prewriting Activity Pages includes 50 black and white pictures to trace and color. This is a “just right” activity for children who are learning to write, draw and color. Each picture has dotted lines for the child to trace to practice visual motor skills. Once completed, the child can paint or color the picture. Various prewriting practice strokes are included throughout the packet such as vertical lines, horizontal lines, diagonal lines, curves, circles, squares, loops, wavy lines and more!  FIND OUT MORE.

Fading Lines and Shapes includes worksheets that gradually increase in visual motor difficulty while decreasing visual input for line and shape formation.  There are 18 worksheets for line formations ie horizontal, vertical, curves, waves, diagonals, spikes and combinations.  There are 9 worksheets for shape formations ie circle, cross, square, rectangle, X, triangle, diamond, oval and heart.  This download is great for push in therapy, therapy homework or consultation services in the classroom.  FIND OUT MORE.

Simple Lines, Shapes and Design Coloring Pages: This download is a collection of pre-writing and drawing visual motor worksheets. Practice coloring horizontal lines, vertical lines, curved lines, diagonal lines, zig zags, circles, crosses, squares, rectangles, X’s, triangles, diamonds, ovals, hearts and various combined designs. There are 40 coloring page in total. Print them full size or select print multiple pages to print half or quarter size pages. This is a great packet to encourage creativity, pre-writing strokes and coloring skills. You could use crayons, water colors or paints to complete the pictures. The dark black background helps the children to see how to stay within the shape. If mistakes are made, the errors are not as noticeable so it may help to decrease frustration in children who have difficulty coloring.  FIND OUT MORE.

Lines, Lines and More Lines

Lines, Lines and More Lines: This download is a collection of pre-writing visual motor worksheets. Practice pencil control for vertical, horizontal, diagonal and curved lines. There are 4 separate activities included: 24 task cards to practice pre-writing strokes, 5 worksheets connecting words starting with the same letter drawing different lines, 4 spin and trace the line games and 3 roll and finish the picture games.  This download is an excellent choice for: fine motor centers in the classroom, visual motor skill practice, special education classrooms and/or handwriting warm ups. FIND OUT MORE.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Proprioceptive Activities for the Classroom

As pediatric therapists, we all know how beneficial proprioceptive activities are for children.  These heavy work exercises help provide students with sensory information about body awareness and positions.  They help to calm and regulate a student.  Proprioceptive activities can also help to wake up the muscles getting our bodies in an alert state to be ready to learn.

Some of the best proprioceptive exercises for children are monkey bars, jungle gyms and trampolines.  Obviously, those are not available throughout the school day so here are 10 proprioceptive activities for the classroom that students can do independently:

  1. Chair Push Ups:  Sitting with upright posture in a classroom chair, the child put his/her hands on the side of the seat.  The child lifts and holds his/her bottom up off the seat for 3-5 seconds and then slowly lowers back down into the chair.
  2. Wall Push Ups:  Put both hands on the wall with the feet a little farther than arm’s length back from the wall.   Lean your body towards the wall and back out.  Another option is to just push both hands against the wall for 5-10 seconds with arms extended.
  3. Desk Push Ups:  Place both forearms on the desk, palms facing down and flat.  Lean your body weight over your forearms lifting your bottom off the chair.  Return to a seated position.  Repeat several times.
  4. Bear Hugs:  Wrap your arms around your chest or knees and give yourself a big, firm hug.
  5. Arm Squeezes:  Use your right hand to give firm arm squeezes up your left arm starting at the wrist.  Repeat with the left hand squeezing the right arm
  6. Carry Heavy Books:  Give the child a job to organize or hand out heavy books.
  7. Wash the desks or boards:  The child can apply pressure when wiping the desks.
  8. Stack or unstack classroom chairs:   Classroom chairs are heavy therefore this is “heavy work”.
  9. Use a hand held pencil sharpener:  The act of holding and turning the pencil with one hand and holding the pencil sharpener tight with the other hand provides proprioceptive input the hands and fingers.
  10. Jumping in place:  Jumping in place, jumping jacks or marching in place helps to wake up the leg muscles and provide sensory input. This is a great activity to do before activities that require body awareness such as sitting during circle time and walking in a classroom line.

You could create a proprioception station in the classroom.  Students could perform heavy work activities prior to school work. Proprioceptive Poems can help jump start that station into action.  This digital document includes the Push Poem and Jump Poem. The poems encourage proprioceptive input with visual cues for the child to follow. Each poem comes with 5 pictures for visual cues along with a poster. The sing song text of the poem is easy for the child to remember. This is a great starter activity prior to table top tasks, fine motor skills and tactile input.  FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION.

Read more about proprioception and handwriting.


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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

10 FUN Games to Practice Self Regulation Skills (No Equipment Needed)

Self regulation skills help children to control emotions, thinking, behavior and motor actions in different situations.  Throughout the day, children need the ability to tolerate sensations, situations and form appropriate responses.  It requires that children control their impulses to stop doing something if needed and to participate in something even if the children does not want to do it.  For example, children need self regulation skills to control an impulse to move all around the auditorium during an assembly and they need to sit and watch the assembly even if they are not highly interested in the presentation.   Research indicates that self regulation in children is a predictor of academic abilities. Children with higher levels of self regulation have achieved higher scores in reading, vocabulary and math. In addition, some research has shown that the ability for young children to self regulate is associated with higher, future education levels.  The ability to self regulate is an extremely important skill that needs to be taught to children.

And guess what?  Playing games help children to practice and learn those skills!  Think about it.  Playing games help us to learn to: wait, follow rules and to tolerate losing.  Here are 10 FUN games that require no preparation or equipment to practice and learn self regulation skills:

  1. Red Light, Green Light – kids move on the green light and stop on the red light.  Don’t get caught moving on the red light.
  2. Mother May I – one child is the leader.  The rest of the children ask: “Mother May I take….” a certain amount of steps, hops, jumps or leaps to get to the leader.  The leader approves or disapproves.
  3. Freeze Dance – turn on music.  When music stops children have to freeze.
  4. Follow My Clap – The leader creates a clapping pattern.  Children have to listen and repeat.
  5. Loud or Quiet – Children have to perform an action either loud or quiet.  First pick an action i.e. stomping feet.  The leader says Loud and the children stomp feet loudly.
  6. Simon Says – Children have to perform an action only when the leader says “Simon Say do…”.  For example, if the leader says “Simon Says touch your toes” and all the children touch their toes.  If the leader says “Touch your toes”, no one should touch their toes.
  7. Body Part Mix Up – The leader will call out body parts for the children to touch.  For example, the leader calls out “knees” and the children touch their knees.  Create one rule to start.  Each time the leader says “head” touch your toes instead of your head.  This requires the children to stop and think about their actions and to not just react.  The leader calls out “knees, head, elbow”.  The children should touch their knees, TOES and elbow.  Continue practicing and adding other rules to change body parts.
  8. Follow the Leader – The leader performs different actions and the children have to follow the actions exactly.
  9. Ready, Set, Wiggle – The leader calls out Ready…Set…Wiggle and everyone wiggles their bodies.  The leader calls out Ready…Set…Watermelon.  No one should move.  Leader calls out Ready…Set…Wigs.  No one moves.  Leader calls out Ready…Set…Wiggle.  Everyone wiggles again.  You can change this to whatever wording you want.  The purpose is to have the children waiting to move until a certain word is said out loud.
  10. Color Moves – Explain to the children that they will walk around the room.  They are to move based on the color paper you are holding up.  Green paper means walk fast, yellow paper means regular pace and blue paper means slow motion walking. Whenever you hold up a red paper they stop.  Try different locomotor skills – running in place, marching, jumping, etc.

If you need more ideas to teach self regulation skills to children Self Regulation Skills Curriculum.

Self Regulation Skills Curriculum

Self- Regulation Skills Taught: This curriculum provides an effective, time-efficient structured system to provide classroom breaks, improve self-awareness and self advocacy and teach specific self-regulation skills so that kids have tools to use in their classrooms. This system will get kids moving, give them the benefits of a brain power boost [from getting their heart rate up], give them heavy work and isometrics to help them calm down, and help them learn techniques to quiet and control their bodies in order to return to their academic work.  FIND OUT MORE.

Read how to play 6 more Self Regulation Games for Children.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

How to Increase Home Exercise Program Compliance

How to increase home exercise program compliance for parents of children with disabilities can be a tough question to answer.  Parents have a tough job today.  Juggling work, home life, children’s schedules, homework assignments and more can feel impossible on some days.  Add home exercise programs for parents to perform with their children in between therapy sessions and it can certainly feel like overload.  As therapists, we know that parental participation in a home exercise program can have positive effects on the children and even themselves.  For example, it can be very difficult to teach a child to get dressed independently, but once they can do the skill by themselves, it is one less skill a parent has to help with.  We need to be cognisant of the fact that parents need all the help they can to make carry over of home exercise programs easier.  According to the recent research below, the therapist’s delivery of the home exercise program can make a big difference!

Recent research investigated whether the different behaviors of health professionals and parents influenced home exercise compliance in terms of frequency and duration for children with disabilities.  Parents completed a survey in 18 different early intervention facilities to determine how physicians and therapists interventions influence parents regarding their adherence to a home exercise program (HEP).  The results indicated the following:

  • rate of adherence to the prescribed frequency and duration of the HEP was similar (about 61%)
  • parents who were comfortable integrating the exercises into their daily routine had a higher probability of adherence to the frequency and duration
  • there was a significant impact on the frequency of the HEP being completed when the professional provided information about: the progress, evolution and usefulness of the exercises, ways to include them into the daily routine, checking on skills during follow up and asking about HEP adherence.

The researchers concluded that physicians and therapists can help to increase HEP compliance by providing information on the purpose of the exercises, instructions for the HEP, tips on incorporating the HEP into the daily routine and following up by checking skills and asking about HEP adherence.

Reference:  Medina-Mirapeix, F., Lillo-Navarro, C., Montilla-Herrador, J., Gacto-Sanchez, M., Franco-Sierra, M. Á., & Escolar-Reina, P. (2017). Predictors of parents’ adherence to home exercise programs for children with developmental disabilities, regarding both exercise frequency and duration: a survey design. European journal of physical and rehabilitation medicine.

Therapeutic Activities for Home and School DOWNLOAD

Therapeutic Activities for Home and School provides pediatric therapists with over forty, uncomplicated, reproducible activity sheets and tips that can be given to parents and teachers. Each activity sheet is written in a simple format with no medical terminology. The therapist is able to simply mark the recommended activities for each child. By providing parents and teachers with these handy checklists, therapists will be encouraging therapeutic activities throughout the entire day rather than time set aside for traditional home exercise programs. This book is an essential tool for all school based therapists to facilitate carry over of therapeutic activities in the home and classroom.  FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION.

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