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Calm Down with Friends

Fidget toys are supposed to help kids who… well, fidget a lot. True confession: I find them often more distracting to the child, other children and adults than helpful. One day our group kids entered the room in a loud, active whirlwind. Although they often enter this way, this particular day they were not able to hear the adult voices and were literally bouncing off the walls, the chairs and tables. In an act of desperation, I brought out my bag of fidget toys.

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Toy Bag Contents

My toy bag that day included a buzzer bug, mesh squeeze ball, a tactile image captor, and plastic bottle filled with thick liquid and glitter stars. Each child was given one item and told to play with it for 20-30 seconds. When I said, “Switch”, they were to pass the object to the child on their right. We proceeded to move the objects around the table until everyone had a chance with each item.

No Talking

The kids wanted to start sharing and talking while playing with the objects but we found they couldn’t listen to each other. They were told to either play quietly or talk about the objects. This became a mindfulness exercise bringing the kids into the present moment but within the group.

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Two Minutes Later

At the end of this brief session, the kids put the objects back in my mysterious black bag without a fuss and were ready for conversation and play! The following week, one boy started us off by saying, “Can we use the calm down toys?” We did, and the outcome was the same.

Building Friendship Skills with Fidgets

We switch up the toys often to maintain interest and novelty. The kids have experienced how it feels if one child doesn’t switch when he’s supposed to, causing others to have to wait. Sometimes we have the kids ask a friend to switch practicing the important question, “Want to trade?” and responses, “OK” or “In a minute”.

See our Amazon Store for fidget toys we use and some we hope to use in the future.

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

tags: friendship, perspective taking, regulation

 

kids in the boat

Inspired by Friendship Month

Did you know that February is Friendship Month?  We didn’t until last week when our friend Tiffani over at Special-ism let us know.  For some time now, Meghan, Jill and Karen have taken a hiatus from the online portion of all4mychild.  We moved our clinic a couple of years ago and took some time to focus on that.  We have missed our online friends, however, and felt that there was no better time to return than in celebration of Friendship Month.  We spend every day working with kids to help them feel more socially confident so that their friendship circles can grow.  Now we want our online friendships to start growing once again as well.

If you don’t already subscribe to our newsletter, you can do so HERE.  We are excited to start blogging again, to review more books, to continue to offer special promotions for our APPS  and to add more exciting features to our website. We hope you will follow along with us as we once again join this amazing online community of those who love children.

kids drawing

Keep the Peace or Build Flexibility

Many aspects of life are paradoxical and this is one of the biggies for our socially challenged kids.  The children who participate in our Social Adventures Groups earnestly try to be flexible, to “go with the flow”, to try new ideas, or play a game with someone else’s rules, but it is SO very hard!

We did an activity that flopped miserably several weeks ago.  Each child received a piece of paper with a simple shape drawn on it and were given 30 seconds to create a picture using the shape.  Next, they passed their pictures to the person on their left who added to and changed the picture to match the image in their minds.  Six-year-old Joey fell apart.  We had explained and demonstrated the activity but he simply couldn’t handle it.  He cried, hid under the table then tried to flee the room while yelling, “YOU ARE MESSING UP MY PICTURE!”

Since that session was a wash, Meghan and I talked about how to follow it up the next week.  Do we let Joey draw his own picture to keep the peace or do we push the envelope?  The next week, Meghan and I demonstrated again how the activity worked while some of the kids added to Meghan’s picture and some to mine.  Then we switched.  We talked about the pictures in our heads and how they were all different.  We also practiced complimenting each other’s pictures.

Last week, the kids were each given 1 minute to change their shape into anything they wanted and would be able to take that picture home.  They were then given a second paper with a shape to draw on and switch.  This is what Joey did.  He was given a figure 8 shape and began turning it into a racetrack by drawing a little car on the side.  It was passed to his neighbor, Sam, who turned it into a large pair of eye glasses.  When the sharing time arrived, we honestly didn’t know whether Joey would lose it or love it.  They were such different kinds of pictures – a racetrack and a pair of glasses!  Comments flew around the table that it would be so cool to have a pair of glasses with a racecar on the side.  (Joey wears glasses, by the way).  We all held our breath until a generous smile emerged on Joey’s face.  When it was time to go, he ran to his mother with the picture, delightedly exclaiming that he and his friends invented a new pair of glasses!

This story exemplifies one of those balancing act events that everyone who has children in their lives experiences hundreds of times a day.  Happily, I think a little peace AND flexibility were achieved in Joey’s mind and heart that day… along with a cool pair of glasses.

Submitted by: Jill Perry MHA, MS, OTR/L

image by:  David, Bergin, Emmett…

Check out the Social Adventures App for more activities like this.

red sled

Red Sled

Title: Red Sled

 Author: Lita Judge

Description:  A little girl leaves her sled outside at night, and realizes that she is sharing it with many forest animals!

Goals/ objectives:

  • Early narrative (simple sequence story)
  • Perspective taking
  • Early prediction
  • Emotion/Facial Expression
  • Vocabulary (forest animals: moose, raccoons, opossum, porcupine, etc.)
  • Social Pragmatics
  • Speech Production

Why I like this story: This story was recommended by a good friend (and also People Magazine ;)) and has been a hit with so many children. It’s mainly a wordless book with adorable illustrations.

Ideas for use:

  • Have children be the “teacher” and read it to you. Encourage temporal markers (first, next, then) and expanding on their language. Would be great to incorporate with early learning of story grammar elements (character, settings, initiating event, etc.) and pair with “Braidy” from Mindwingconcepts.
  • A great story to “act out” in a group. Have different children be the various animals and get on the sled (can use an actual sled, a carpet square, blanket, etc.). Great to work on “sharing space.”
  • Use thinking and speaking bubbles and have kids fill them in. What are the animals thinking, saying, etc.
  • Mainly a wordless book, but lots of opportunity for speech production. For example, I have been using for syllable sequencing kiddos, and making up different sounds the animals make (appropriate for their targets) as they travel down the hills (i.e. wooogoooo, gaaaaaadeeeee, moooooowaaaa, etc.). You could do this with straight articulation targets too.
  • The illustrations are great for working on simple prediction. What animal will be next? What will happen next?
  • Have kids write a “sequel.” What would happen the next day? Would they try another winter sport? Would new animals join? Kids can draw their own pictures, could create on a story making app (i.e. Story Patch), use google images, etc.

Submitted by Meghan G. Graham M.S. CCC-SLP

Please support books4all and order this book from our Amazon Store.

*Like this review and activities? Check out the Social Adventures App for more activities for children.

Snow_friends_L

Snow Friends

Title:  Snow Friends

Author: M. Christina Butler and Tina Macnaughton

Description: A little bear wakes from his winter nap and has no one to enjoy the snow with. He decides to build a snowman to play with and meets some friends along the way.

Goals/ objectives:

Narrative/Retelling
Early inferencing and predicting
Why questions
animal/winter vocabulary (winter animals: bear, rabbit, otter)
social skills/friendship
body language

Why I like this story: A cute winter story that encourages friendship and thinking about others.
Ideas for use:

Great story for retelling and identifying the story grammar elements (characters, setting, initiating event, etc.). I pair with “Braidy” through Mindwing Concepts. A clear kickoff and plan (bear needs a friend so builds a snowman…)
use to discuss setting (woods, cave). Draw a big winter wood scene and have child add the various winter animals to retell the story.
Good for description as well as the pictures are textured….sparkly, shiny, white, cold snow. etc.
Great for early prediction/inferencing (e.g. What could be under the snow making noise? (rabbit in burrow), what will they use the sticks for?)
Good for modeling and exposing to “why” questions. Why do they need carrots? Why is the rabbit upset? Why is the bear lonely? etc.
Beautiful illustrations for body language and emotions. Have children act out the body language.
Good story to act out in a group or dyad . Use big exercise balls to act as snow balls. One child holds the bottom while the others, “make” the other snow ball. Encourage team work and communication as they roll the balls.
Discuss friendship and thinking of others. Why did the animals make another snowman? (They didn’t want the snowman to be lonely when they left to do other activities). How can they include others?

Submitted by Meghan G. Graham  M.S. CCC-SLP

Please support books4all and order this book from Amazon.com

*Like this review and activities? Check out the Social Adventures App, available on the Social Adventures - all4mychild, for more activities for children.

mitten mystery

The Missing Mitten Mystery

Title: The Missing Mitten Mystery

Author: Steven Kellogg

Description: Annie loses her 5th mitten of the season.  While trying to find it her imagination goes wild.  It is found in a most unexpected place.

Goals/ objectives:

  • Question-asking
  • Negation
  • Flexible thinking
  • Sequencing/ retelling
  • Body language/ facial expression
  • “wondering” vs “knowing”

Why I like this story: A wonderful winter story about a lost mitten that’s found.  Always a good thing :)

Ideas for use:

  • while reading, talk about making “pictures in your mind”.  Have the kids generate picture memories of places they would look for a lost mitten (e.g.., in the driveway waiting for the bus, in the hallway on the way to class, on the playground at recess, etc).  Encourage kids to include lots of details.  This is a great excercise for practicing Lindamood-Bell Visualizing and Verbalizing concepts.
  • encourage kids to “imagine” what else the mitten might be used for.
  • identify all of the verbs in the story and discuss the different tenses used to tell the story.
  • discuss the concepts of “wondering” vs “knowing”.  Generate lists of things we wonder about before we actually know (e.g., birthday presents, etc) and what has to happen in order to “know”
  • the illustrations in this book are excellent for talking about facial expressions and body language and reasons for them.
  • have kids generate their own story using the same story structure (e.g., losing a hat in the spring or a kite in the summer)

Submitted by Karen S Head M.S. CCC-SLP

Please support books4all and order this book from our Amazon Store.

*Like this review and activities? Check out the Social Adventures App for more activities for children.
breathe deeply

What’s So Hard About Breathing?

What could be simpler than breathing? We don’t have to think about it… it just happens even when we sleep. But guess what? Breathing to create a relaxation response may take some work and practice, especially for children. BUT it is well work the trouble and this is why:   Children who struggle with social challenges often live in an anxious state. When stressed, heart rates increase, blood is diverted away from the stomach to the muscles of the legs for flight, and stress hormones such as cortisol are released. This physiological response to stress is also known as the fight, flight or fight response.   How can we expect kids to remain seated in school, stay focused on a topic, respond to and play appropriately with peers, and learn when their nervous systems are working against them? We can teach them to breathe.   Deep breathing is so much more than relaxing. It can train the body to react differently to stressful situations. For example, when faced with frustration, anger, hurt, loneliness, fear, uncertainty and anxiety, breathing can help a child make wiser choices regarding how to respond in each circumstance.   However, it can be difficult to teach young children how to breathe. They often breathe quickly and shallowly as if in a race – who can breathe the loudest or fastest? They can’t see their breath and don’t have patience to slow down their breathing when their bodies are racing 90 miles per hour. In addition, many children who operate in this fight, flight or fright mode don’t possess the body awareness needed to understand what slowing and deepening their breath actually feels like.   We have been experimenting with ways to teach children the experience of inhaling and exhaling deeply while helping them notice and reflect on how this type of breathing affects their bodies and moods in the moment. We’ll be sharing thoughts and experiences using these strategies in upcoming blogs and would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences as well. In the meantime, just breathe…   photo by Amanda Hirsch https://www.flickr.com/photos/89917639@N04/

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Rabbit’s Gift

Title: Rabbit’s Gift

Author: George Shannon / Laura Dronzek

Description: A rabbit has a bit more food than she needs for the winter. Soon she learns that sharing with others leads to a wonderful surprise. This sweet story is based upon a Chinese Fable.

Goals/ objectives:
• Regular past tense
• sequencing/ Retelling
• early prediction
• why
• sharing and friendship
• /u/ and /o/ vowel sounds

Why I like this story: A cute winter story.

Ideas for use:
• simple story sequence to retell with repetitive phrases. Can make board maker pictures or use google images to find the various animals. (rabbit, donkey, goat, deer) and use to sequence and retell the story. Incorporate temporal markers (first, next, then, etc.)
• use to discuss setting (woods, cave). Draw a big winter wood scene and have child add the various winter animals to retell the story
• identify all of the verbs in the story and use different tenses to tell the story.
• discuss the idea of taking another’s perspective and the difference between “thinking” and “knowing”
• fun story to act out in a group, with focus upon the ways that the different animals move through the snow and facial expressions related to finding the turnip and thinking of who to share it with
• encourage kids to share personal stories of a time that sharing with others led to a similar surprise

Submitted by Karen S Head M.S. CCC-SLP

Please support books4all and order this book from our Amazon Store

*Like this review and activities? Check out the Social Adventures App for more activities for children.

crepes

Crepes by Suzette Interactive Book App

 

Title: Crepes by Suzette

Author: Monica Wellington (See another story by Monica reviewed on all4mychild here

Description:  Suzette, the main character of this story, is a Parisian crepe maker and street-cart Vendor, who travels throughout Paris selling her delicious dessert. This app has wonderful interactive components throughout the story that including a labeled map of Paris with Suzette’s travels, videos and photos of real life experiences in Paris complimenting the story, and highlighted vocabulary provided in various languages (English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Japanese). The story can be read yourself or to you in these language as well.

Goals/ objectives:

  • Narrative language with a focus on “character” and “setting”
  • Pair with Curriculum Concepts of: cities and maps; Paris, France; art/artists/museums
  • Sequencing
  • Play

Why I like this story: This interactive story app is so engaging, with endless possibilities for children. The music and pictures are appealing as well, and make the entire story experience quite enjoyable.

Ideas for use:

  • Narrative Language goals: Suzette travels all around Paris: Parisian streets, street markets, Luxembourg Gardens, the Seine River, Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Louvre Museum, Tuileries Gardens, Place Vendome, Palais-Garnier (opera house), carousels, and the Eiffel Tower. Use these places to work on understanding of “setting” and setting descriptions. Pair with the Mindwing Concepts Program and/or iPad App setting description (see below). The story lends itself well to describe all the senses that could be experienced.
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    • Retell the story focusing on the sequence of events. Add in temporal markers: first, then, next, after that, etc. 
  • Curriculum Concepts: The various landmarks described above could be expanded on with the Google Earth app. This would provide an excellent context for more description and understanding of Paris and/or the “city” concept. See Sean Sweeney’s informative post on Google Earth here and here for more info on the advantages and uses of this app.
    • Use Google maps and “street view” as well. Can you use Google Maps to get from one of Suzette’s locations to the next? Can you compare the map provided in the app (see image below) to Google Maps directions?
    • Would be great to pair with concepts of Maps and directions (north, south, east, west left, right, map keys, streets, bridges, etc.)
    • You could create a map and story in another major city. Can they generate new characters, describe new settings, etc.
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  • Sequencing Goals: Use pictures of the various locations (screen shots or google images) and sequence the events of the story. Pair with story retelling.
    • Make Crepes! There is a recipe and video of crepes being made in action. Discuss the various steps and order while following the recipe. This can be “real” or through pretend play! They can use the video examples to make their own “how to make” crepes video (use iMovie or the video recoding app on the iPad/phone)
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  • Play Goals: Act out the story. Kids can be Suzette with their very own cart. They can use a cash register, cooking materials and “take orders” from their customers. More than 1 student, have them “be” the various customers that come to Suzette’s cart. Can they negotiate and plan out the play and the events? Pair with the Mindwing Concepts symbols to assist with the planning states and various “characters” and settings.” Can they generate their own ideas for a different day? A different city?
  • Submitted by Meghan G. Graham M.S. CCC-SLP
  • A promotional code for this app was given to all4mychild, however, the review are my ideas alone.
chime

Chime Time

Self-regulation is a critical life competency that opens the door to learning, communication, and play. Without it, the brain and body are too disorganized to take in new and changing information. Yet, self-regulation is really hard to teach. We can talk about it. We can practice it. We can provide behavioral rewards. However, in order for children to understand that self-regulation is important, we must help them find ways to use it and notice the benefits themselves. Ah… there’s the challenge.

We have used a wonderful little Zenergy chime to help children develop this intrinsic understanding of self-regulation in 3 different and progressive ways with our young children in Social Adventures groups. Our youngest group of 4 year olds had no interest or ability to stay with the group or play with one another once they entered the gym area. They didn’t seem to understand that the point of the group was to learn to play with each other. “But I want to do what I want to do! I don’t want to do what he is doing!” Sometimes they were very polite about it. “No thanks, I’ll just play over here by myself.” As they ran raucously around the gym, voices intensified, bodies crashed into one another and hearts, heads and bodies were hurt.

We then instituted chime time. The kids were free to play but when they heard the chime, they needed to run to the mat, sit cross-legged and fold their hands in their laps. They were then asked to breathe slowly in and out as one of the group leaders slowly released one finger at a time from her fists to provide a visible example of the speed of breath.

 Extremity-upper-fingers

This gave the children enough time to breathe and become a little better regulated before heading back out to play. Over time, we began to lengthen the time and purpose of the chime break. We noted when their breathing slowing down. We emphasized deeper breaths and longer exhalations. We commented that our bodies feel so much better when we can slow our heart down by breathing deeply. We then began to add, “Now what will you play together when you go back?” and the kids started suggesting ideas to one another! If they happened to have been playing together before the chime rang, we helped them reflect on the fun they were having together. The kids in the group began saying, “It’s chime time!” when they felt things were getting out of control. And there it is: self-regulation! Next blog I’ll write about a second way we like to use the chime in our groups. We would love to hear your ideas about how you use the chime or other strategies for self-regulation.

If you’d like to purchase this chime, please click on over to our Amazon Store so they know who sent you.