Talking Train App – Not just for SLP’s

We are so excited that our Talking Train is now available on Talking Train - all4mychild. We have previously blogged about using this adorable little train to help kids keep their stories “Short and Exciting”, but there are so many more ways to use this app.

As an OT working closely with my SLP colleagues, I find frequently myself thinking a little like an SLP.  However, every once in a while, I try to analyze activities exclusively from an OT perspective.  We have been using the Talking Train app in our groups for the past few weeks while we waited for approval from iTunes.  Like many tools we all use in therapy, there are a variety of ways to apply this app.  The Talking Train does have animation, train sounds, and recording feature.  But the aspect I have been most pleased about as an OT is the freedom kids experience when they create their own drawings on the train cars.  Kids who have been reticent to draw, who are self-critical, and who can barely hold a crayon have been more than willing to draw on the train cars.

This is what I observed.  The 5 and 6 year olds in our groups were thrilled to tell their stories using the Talking Train app.  The focus was on the story and the train; NOT on the drawing.  They quickly recognized the benefit of creating an iconic drawing to represent the thoughts they wanted to share.  They didn’t seem to feel pressure to make a “perfect” drawing or even one that was recognizable to others.  They realized that the purpose of their representational drawing was to help them communicate.  Isn’t that what we look for in all the writing work we do as OTs?  We want kids to be able to express themselves in print.  We want them to develop the ability to coordinate and integrate their visual perceptual and motor abilities (visual motor integration).  We want them to be able to create images in their heads and translate them in word or picture in order to apply meaning to their worlds in an organized manner (visual discrimination, spatial organization).   We want them to understand their world in a left to right progression.

The Talking Train app has been surprisingly effective in tearing down the anxiety and insecurity that many of my kids feel when faced with drawing tasks.  Its reward is greater than the struggle and I’m pleased to watch my kids happily head down this track (pun intended 😀 ).  OT’s please let us know how you use the Talking Train.  We’d love to hear your thoughts.

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

Slider Bag Game Icon

Bag Game – Pictionary Style

This is a fun way to use the Bag Game App to reinforce visual processing and motor skills.  When kids are learning how to create representational drawings (an important aspect of visualization for written and spoken communication), the Bag Game can be played Pictionary-style.  The excitement of the game and multiple opportunities for success take the stress out of drawing.

1.  Separate the group into teams with an equal number of participants.

2.  A child from team #1 chooses a picture from the themed icons in the game and “hides” it in the bag.

3.  Set a timer for a designated amount of time.  You may also choose not to set a timer at all.

4.  The child who hid the icon begins to draw it on a white board, chalkboard or paper for all to see.

5.  As the picture is drawn, teams call out what they think is being drawn.

6.  The team with the correct answer gets a point and a team member from team #2 gets a turn to choose and draw next.


  • Have the child draw for 10-20 seconds and then stop so the other children can ask questions such as “what category is it in?” or “what is it used for?” or “where would you find it?”  Then the child resumes drawing for another 10-20 seconds, when he pauses for more questions.  Continue in this manner until someone guesses the correct answer.
  • Have one child from each team draw at the same time showing their pictures only to teammates.  The team that answers correctly first wins the point.
  • When more order is needed, have each child take a turn asking a question and guessing.  This is an exercise in self-control and listening as the kids need to wait their turn, watch the drawing, and listen to the questions and answers given by peers.

Stay tuned each week as we introduce more fun ways to use the Bag Game App.  We’d love to hear your ideas, too!!

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

Endless Possibilities

As an OT, I am finding the idea of iPad apps helping kids develop fine motor skills or social skills kind of a peculiar concept.  This might sound strange to our readers since I am a co-developer of a soon-to-be-published app for children.  I feel a need to explain myself so please stick with me.  I have a feeling many of you out there will share my sentiments.

Fine motor skills are so much more than touching, swiping, tracing, rotating the iPad, and an occasional pinch of the screen.  Development of fine motor skills requires active in-hand manipulation of a variety of materials for arch development, strength, tactile discrimination, finger individuation, and refinement of grasp patterns.

Social skills are not simply answering questions posed on a screen about social situations, reading emotions displayed on animated or photo faces on the screen, following if/then programs, or social stories created for the iPad.  Although all of these apps can be helpful, nothing can replace real life learning and friendship development, right? So, I have spent a considerable amount of time trying to find ways to use this exciting technology as a means to an end … for fine motor, visual processing, and social skill building.  Here are a couple of my favorite ideas or sequences:

 Use the Tasty Ice Cream app with kids lying on their stomachs for postural strength building or as a barrier game for socialization.  Follow up by making edible ice cream that requires a significant amount of real fine motor skills.  Continue to milk the ice cream idea by opening up a pretend ice cream shop and have a blast!

The Dexteria app has a crab pinching activity which is highly motivating.  Use this to get kids in the mode and then move on to a painting activity that involves holding a small sponge piece between the thumb and first two fingers to dab paint on paper.  The crab pinching app can also be used with a peer to work on negotiating space or taking turns.

As parents and therapists, we are masters of task analysis…identifying the steps and elements of an activity and creating manageable expectations for each child.  As we apply our analytic skills to technology which is increasingly available to families, we will find that this tool is simply another modality to help us better help our children.

by Jill Perry MHA, MS, OTR/L

If you found the ideas in this blog helpful, you will definitely appreciate the activity ideas in the Social Adventures app available on the Social Adventures - all4mychild

Not as Easy as it Seems

by Jill Perry MHA, MS, OTR/L

How difficult do you think a color, cut, and paste activity is for a five year old?  What could be simpler?  Let’s look more closely at skills needed…



  • First, if a sample is presented, the child needs to be able to perceive the spatial arrangement of the pieces.
  • When planning the task with your child, sequencing comes in to play…do you cut first? Or glue? Or trace?
  • Once the sequence is established, can your child organize the task by identifying and gathering materials needed?
  • Tracing requires use of a dominant hand with a mature pencil grasp and sufficient pressure to mark the paper but not so much pressure that the paper rips.
  • Crossing the body midline while holding the pattern can be quite challenging for some children.
  • Scissor use involves correct placement of the scissors on the correct hand, opening and closing the scissors to effectively cut paper while holding and turning the paper with the non-dominant hand in synchrony.
  • Time to organize the freshly cut pieces onto the paper.  Can your child arrange them to look similar to the model – another spatial organizational challenge?
  • Now for the glue…does the glue go on the background paper or the pieces?  Do you glue the top or turn the pieces over?  Use liquid glue whenever possible for the proprioceptive experience of squeezing the glue out of the bottle, the impulse control experience of stopping when enough glue is on the paper, and the tactile experience of actually touching the wet, sticky substance.
  • Patience is often required as the child needs to wait until their project dries.
  • Finally, can your child tell another person how the project was done, remembering and effectively communicating the steps as the project is proudly displayed?

So…next time you do a project with a child, take note of the phenomenal skill required for a seemingly simple task.  Remember to rejoice in the process as well as the product!