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FRIDAY FAVORITES

Every now and then on a Friday we like to post one of our favorite blogs.  This week we thought it would be fun to share this one:

LOW TECH SOCIAL FUN

The tag line for our web site is “Collaborative Tools and Technologies” and I am bursting to write about a collaborative tool that is not based in technology. Our group of 5 year-olds just finished an 8-week project that brought much delight to the kids (and, therefore the group leaders). After playing several different board games that involved dice, cards, and spinners, the kids decided they wanted to make a dice-based game. They talked about all kinds of activities and other things they liked until they happened upon something they all enjoyed – pets. We used the side of a cardboard box to draw a game board. The kids made marks on several spaces that served as the “bad things happen” spaces. The “bad things” were a T-Rex, a cage, a dark cave, and a fire-breathing dragon. Each child chose a “bad thing” which they drew and colored on the game board. It didn’t matter that the drawings were roughly depicted. The kids knew what they were supposed to be and encouraged one another.

Pictures of animals were cut out and glued around the game path to keep things cheery. Game pieces were made by stringing small beads on pipe cleaners and closing them in a circle to become pet collars. The kids talked about making a “good thing” square so they glued a star on the board. If you landed on the star, you got to jump to the other star placed further along the path. They decided that everyone should be able to finish the game, so when they reached the end, their pieces were placed on a “bench” drawn by one of the kids, to watch and wait until everyone completed the game.

Pride, simple joy, companionship, feeling supported, being supportive, winning gracefully, losing gracefully, fun, successful, and happiness are all words that come to mind as I picture the little faces of the kids as they played their original game. Oh…and let’s not forget collaboration!

This 8-week Collaborative Project is one of 4 outlined in our Social Adventures Apps. Find our more HERE.

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

play tent

Bag the Plan and Let the Creativity Begin!

I have been an OT treating children for (gulp!) 25+ years and still enjoy thinking about my clients and planning the “perfect” session. Sometimes, it seems that the best sessions are the ones that happen if I am willing to let go of MY play. Yesterday was one of those days in our Social Adventures group.

Karen and I planned to continue working on the skills we emphasized the previous week with our 5 and 6 year olds. However, when 2 of the 6 children were out sick, the make up of the group changed. In addition, one girl spontaneously began crying and couldn’t tell us why and another tents boy explained that he was tired while a third child suddenly had to leave to go to the bathroom. Karen and I decided to let the kids have “buddy play” time in the gym rather than follow through with our plan since the kids all seemed to need to experience some freedom and success.

I don’t know how, but a camping theme emerged as each child began creating their “tent”. When the girls chose the play tent, the boys began finding items around the room to build their tents. Cardboard blocks, blankets, furniture, and mats all magically became. The kids found items to use for a campfire ring, fishing rods, butterfly nets, and a lake for swimming. They picked berries and cooked, swam and climbed. They worked alone or in pairs at times but always called the others over to share a meal or activity. When it was time to sleep, they made sure everyone was ready to sleep at the same time and to wake up together. The planning, organizing, sequencing, and sharing of all these actions, and using their bodies in space while moving constantly around each other was fantastic! Practice using objects representationally and
sometimes miming as in charades was so helpful to these kids who struggle with visualization and imitation.

Conflicts arose as they usually do when kids play together, however, these conflicts gave us the perfect opportunity to work on all of their goals. We worked with the kids on initiating interactions, helping them ask to join another child’s activity if they didn’t know what to do. We worked with them on advocating and compromising when 2 kids wanted to use the same materials or tent space. The kids practiced negotiating space, as their swim noodles became fishing poles. Throughout the session, each child seemed to need some time alone. We worked with the others in respecting their friend’s need assuring them that the friend would come back when he or she was ready… and they always did! Theory of mind was tackled often from both the cognitive and emotional perspectives. Why is that child mad? Why do you think that friend went to be alone? What do you think that friend wants? We frequently heard, “But I was just going to use that!” and
needed to talk about how other people don’t know what you are thinking.

We could not have planned this activity. The kids generated and executed the plan, which resulted in a tremendous amount of creativity, collaborative play, and feelings of competence. There is nothing like pretend play! Without planning too much, I hope we can do it again next week!

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

*Like the ideas in this post? Check out the Social Adventures App for more activities for children.

Photo by: Lars Plougmann

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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

ideation

Ideation

Do you know kids who:

  • say “I don’t know” a lot
  • copy the behaviors of other children
  • wait until another child offers an answer or idea and then agrees
  • appear a little reticent to play
  • rarely initiate
  • don’t suggest things to do or games to play in a highly engaging environment
  • have trouble sequencing simple steps to a project or physical activity
  • have difficulty remembering what they did last week or yesterday or this morning
  • cannot predict what will happen in a story as it’s being read


All of these behaviors exemplify children who have trouble with ideation; a concept that plays an enormous role in all aspects of life.  Two of my favorite definitions are:

1.  Ideation is the creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas… Ideation is all stages of a thought cycle, from innovation, to development, to actualization. (From Wikipedia)

2.  the capacity for or the act of forming or entertaining ideas (from Merriam-Webster dictionary)

Ideational challenges make learning, social interactions, and physical activity problematic and negatively impact self-confidence and self-esteem.

Here are a few ideas we have tried with children in our groups with moderate to significant success:

  • Practice visualization.  Have the kids talk about and describe things that are familiar to them.  My co-worker, Sue Savoy, MS, CCC-SLP asked kids to describe Dunkin’ Donuts (If you are from New England, you can find a DD just about every 2 blocks!).  As the kids talked, they were able to “see” and describe more and more details such as the color of the sign, where the donuts are displayed, the color of the sprinkles on the donuts, and the people in line.
  • Follow the visualization exercise with a story without showing the pictures.  Have the kids describe the picture in their minds based on the words.  If the story is about a witch with stockings, what color are her stockings?  How old is the witch?  What does her hair look like?
  • Acting out stories is always fun.  Once a story is read, the kids can pick parts and picture where they will be acting out scenes and what they might use for props.  If they haven’t seen the actual pictures of the story, they will feel less like there is a “right” and “wrong” way and will be free to imagine and express themselves.
  • When kids are getting ready to transition from one room to another, take a moment to have them picture and describe the hall – what is in the hall?  Is anything on the walls or a rug on the floor?  What does the room they are going to look like?  Have the kids describe items and location of these items in the room with as much detail as possible.  Tell the kids where you expect them to go when they enter the room and have them visualize themselves going there and sitting down.  See Cognitive Connections and Sarah Ward, MS, CCC-SLP at http://cognitiveconnectionstherapy.com for good information on executive function and visualization.
  • Before playing a familiar game, ask kids to close their eyes and imagine themselves playing the game.  What color is their piece?  With eyes closed, have them describe details of the game board.  The kids can then describe how to play the game – a nice sequencing activity.  While they are imagining themselves playing the game, talk about how they are cooperating with each other and having fun to reinforce the good sportsmanship.
  • Visualization for relaxation can also be helpful.  See www.stressfreekids.com for lots of ideas and resources to help kids practice visualization.
  • Before asking a child to remember what activity they did last week or what they want to do this week, have them close their eyes while providing them with leading cues.  “Let’s see, we were in the gym with the rainbow mat last week and there were big cushions in the room…” If they can visualize the environment, they may be able to “see” themselves there, giving them the context for the activity.
  • Practice “spin offs” of familiar games and activities.  Play tag and then have a child change one small thing about the game such as using a base or playing freeze tag or team tag.  When children with ideation challenges experience success in being original in this small way, their anxiety goes down and self-confidence soars.


A final personal thought:   we are inundated with visual images that are thrust upon us at every turn.  I know…we are all sick of hearing about the negative impact of TV, computers and other technological devices.  However, if we don’t provide our young children the physical, mental, and emotional space and opportunity to create their own images in their heads, how will they develop the capacity for “the creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas”?

Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

Photo by: ralmonline alm

If you like these ideas, be sure to check out the nearly 80 activity ideas for promoting social cognition in our Social Adventures Apps.

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The Power of Visualization

To visualize means to imagine something or to create a positive mental picture of something.  Visualization can be difficult for adults and I have always thought it to be particularly tricky for many of the kids I work with.  These children are in-the-moment kids.  They blurt out comments without thinking, switch the topic of conversation without realizing what they’ve done, and have an enormously difficult time taking the perspective of another person.  While these kids seem quite good at following the train of their own thoughts to imagine something or create an image; their difficulty following along with the thoughts or agendas of others left me thinking that visualization was not easy.  One day, with the help of Lori Lite’s Stress Free Kids Curriuculum, I decided to try visualization with a group of 2nd and 3rd graders.

After a particularly rousing group we asked the kids to lie down or sit with their heads on the desks.  They were instructed to make themselves comfortable, keep their bodies away from other children, keep their eyes closed, be a good friend by not distracting others, and listen.  We then played the 7 ½ minute CD story of A Boy and a Turtle.  Some kids became still instantly, some watched their friends for awhile and some tickled or poked others.  But when the CD ended, all 6 kids were able to get up, go to the door calmly and return to their classroom with much less support than they normally would have needed.

Here is the best part…our friend who tends to talk non-stop, who constantly interrupts, who expresses his own ideas in response to the sharing of others, who works incessantly to make his friends laugh at his silliness, who pokes and prods other children unceasingly…THIS is the friend who benefited the most from the visualization exercise!  He put 2 chairs together and draped his body across them, lying on his back with his arms hanging limply at his side.  He closed his eyes and didn’t move a muscle until the story ended.   He breathed in the colors deeply and released his breath slowly as described in the story.  Now, this child exists in a state of high arousal.   If he can use visualization to achieve a state of relaxation intermittently throughout his day, will his friendships improve?  Will he listen and learn with greater ease?  Will he feel and be more successful in all of life?  I hope so.  I have learned (once again) that it is important to try a variety of strategies even if conventional wisdom and experience tells me not to.  These little, and sometimes big surprises, keep us going and growing.

Check out all of Lori Lite’s CDs, books, lesson plans, and other resources at www.stressfreekids.com.

by Jill Perry, MHA, MS, OTR/L

photo by Rebecca L. Daily

If you like these ideas, be sure to check out the nearly 80 activity ideas for promoting social cognition in our Social Adventures Apps.

Ideation/Perspective Drawing

I am finding many of the kids with whom I work have a difficult time coming up with novel ideas.  This has been happening in the gym, when telling stories, when they are creating Lego structures, or when drawing.  Our social adventures groups provide kids with ample opportunities to build this particular skill…but it has been a tough one to develop.  When they are given an open ended directive, the outcome is often a repeat of a previous idea or activity, a copy of another child’s idea, or a repetitive theme.
During one recent group, together with the kids and my wonderfully creative SLP co-leader, Meghan, we came up with an idea for creating ideas!    Meghan read the book “Not a Box” by Antoinette Portis (featured in our Books4all entry see here).  We then gave each child a piece of paper with the same single-lined non-descript shape and told them to imagine what it could be and then add to the drawing.  After a designated amount of time, they passed their papers to the left and were told to add on to the previous person’s drawing.  Initially, when the papers were set before them, each child attempted to turn the form into what they had initially intended…an angry bird scene, a truck, a ghost, a pool.  After some discussion, we tried round 2 giving each child a paper showing a different form.   We encouraged the kids to look at their friend’s paper when it was set down before them and to try to imagine what their friend was thinking about when they drew it.  Then, they should add to their friend’s drawing.  By the fourth round (over several sessions), the kids were able to take the perspective of their friends and create a novel addition to each picture that was consistent with the original drawing.  A huge side benefit was that the kids also learned to be flexible when their original pictures returned to them looking different that what they expected.
The kids loved this activity and named it, “Not a box drawing” which seemed really appropriate.   I’m excited to try this in other forms to see if it carries over.
Jill Perry  MHA, M.S. 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

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Being Benny

Title: Being Benny

Author: Dan Wetzel

Age: preschool, elementary school

Description: Benny escapes the boredom he is experiencing on a rainy day by using his imagination…

Goals/Concepts:
• Imagination
• Ideation
• Problem solving
• Motor planning
• Creativity
• Categories

Why I like this book: Benny uses his imagination rather than “screens” to make his day more interesting. I like to use this book to talk about using the brain as a tool for eliminating boredom.

Ideas for use:
• After reading, talk with kids about what they would like to be. This can be broken down into categories. (e.g. vehicle, food, clothing, animal)
• After kids have talked about what they would like to be, see if each child can remember one thing a friend wanted to be.
• Discuss similarities in what kids in the group would choose to be or do to build friend files.
• Play charades acting out the pictures in the book.
• Find out what the kids do on rainy days and help them think about other ways to use their imaginations for fun.

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

Please support books4all and order this book from Amazon.com.  Thank you!

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