Sand Box Garden

The Atlantic Magazine posted a wonderful article about the importance of play in helping stem anxiety and depression in kids. You can read the entire article here: All Work and No Play. Basically, kids need less adult-directed time and more free playtime together. As the weather is becoming nicer I love to see kids outside doing what they do best – PLAYING

The Atlantic article lists 5 ways play benefits kids:

  1. Finding and developing a connection to their own self-identified and self-guided interests.
  2. Learning how to make decisions, solve problems, exert self-control and follow rules
  3. Learning to handle emotions, including anger, fear and hurt
  4. Learning to make friends and get along with each other as equals
  5. Play is a source of happiness

In a local school this week I observed a class of 4 and 5 year olds on the playground. A large sand box with sort of dirty, wet sand elicited the creation of a garden. (Self-identified interest). Kids started digging with play shovels. When shovels ran out and kids started complaining, others offered suggestions to use sticks, wait their turn, dig with hands, or take on another job. (Solving problems). Some kids ran around collecting dirty, dead leaves to plant while others filled toy dump trucks to collect dirt and dump it on the planted seeds. (Making decisions). Kids then started talking about what plants they were growing. Some said flowers, some vegetables. It didn’t seem to matter. (Self-guided interests). When one boy began flinging dirt, the others told him to stop and to dig somewhere else. Happily, the child was able to move away and began filling a truck with sand to take to the garden. (Following rules, handling emotions). The sand box was filled with well-organized chaotic play. Boys and girls played together and all seemed to have jobs and ideas. (Getting along with each other). Best of all, they were all happy in their industrious, creative, pretend play.

throw sand

This may seem like a mundane scene that can be found on any playground. However, I wanted to highlight it here because we continue to pressure our schools and families to improve academics and keep up with children in other countries and cultures in math and technology. We also need to let the children play, for within the context of play, kids develop essential skills that enable them to flourish in the global economy. If our kids can learn to discover their self-interests and skills, make decisions and solve problems, self-regulate, handle disappointments, get along with others and find happiness, what more could we ask?




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:


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


What, So What, Now What?

The theme of the first group with our 3rd and 4th grade Social Adventurers was change; how difficult it can be, how resistant we can be to change, and yet, how important it is to learn how to manage ourselves in the midst of these transitions. Change is a fundamental part of each new school year… new teachers, different classmates, new room, new rules, new everything! And our students have a really hard time with change! When I googled “resistance to change” I came across a business presentation that used the words: “What?” “So What?” and “Now What?” as a model for introducing change within an organization. I found it rather fascinating and decided to try it with our group. We use what we call, “Social Catch Phrases” to help our kids remember important principles of social interaction so these simple words fit right in with our typical style.

Meghan and I introduced a group project using the three small questions:

WHAT?: What are we doing? We are building ONE tall structure as a group using clay and tooth picks.

SO WHAT?: We are doing this activity to practice working together as a team. It is important to learn how to do things with other people, how to listen to our friends, respond to our friends, appreciate their ideas, be flexible, and take turns. We want our friends to do the same thing for us and all this takes practice. We are doing this activity to practice these skills in a fun way.

NOW WHAT?: Now we need to plan. What are the steps? How are we going to accomplish this goal?

Then we set the kids loose. There were a couple kids trying to direct everything but basically, each child began building a structure directly in front of themselves with their own materials. We held up the “WHAT?” card and reminded them that the activity was to build only one structure. As they continued to work and become frustrated, the question emerged, “Why can’t we just build our own structure?” We then held up the “SO WHAT?” card, reminding them that they were learning how to work together as a team, to be flexible, etc. The kids began to work together which resulted in some heated discussions over where to put pieces, whose creation would be on top, and where to add elaborate pieces (that did not in fact lead to the ultimate goal of creating a tall structure). The kids’ attention was directed to the “NOW WHAT?” card as they were asked to pause and talk about how they could use what they have already built to produce a tall structure. Is it important that one child’s piece is on top or that the pieces below could support the top and have it stay up? What could they do now to accomplish the goal?

There were a few tears along the way, and definitely some frustration but in the end, the kids accomplished the goal and all seemed pleased with the result.

by Jill Perry, MS, MHA, OTR/L

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


Collaborative Stories – An Adventure in Flexibility

As in most social groups, flexibility is the challenge. In one of our recent groups, we decided to use some Rory’s Story Cubes – dice with adorable illustrations on them, to create a “teamwork story” that required a lot of flexibility, and also allowed us to work on narrative language skills which is always a plus :)


I started the story (which always helps to establish a character, setting and initiating event…another great activity to tie to Mindwingconcepts) by rolling the die. I created a beginning of the story, and then said “beep” and passed a die to the child on my right (this allows the child to be in charge of their own contribution. If they are struggling they can keep it short). He then added on to my story, with the rules being that he had to “connect” the two ideas. This alone is a challenge in flexibility. He then added his part, and said “beep” when he was ready, and I handed another die to the next child, who added on. Jill as my OT co-leader and MUCH better drawer, kept track of the story using a white board, which provided visuals for the kids to help connect the story.

The story went on like this until everyone had a turn to add. Jill ended the story to provide a clear resolution. Throughout the story making process lots of skills were addressed.

  • Keeping it “short and exciting” versus going on and on and on. This encouraged them to read their friends’ body language. Are they  bored? Excited? Should I wrap it up or keep going?
  • Listening to their friends. They had to stay “part of the group” in order to add on to the story and have it make sense
  • Being flexible. The story may not be going the way YOU would have it go
  • Commenting on their friends ideas

We then decided to illustrate the story- but we added a twist. You didn’t get to illustrate your own addition to the story, but the part that happened after you. The kids had to then check in with their friend, and have them describe what THEY were picturing. This lead to great discussion, question asking, description and again, you guessed it….flexible thinking. We always find drawing helps our kids stay regulated as it is inherently therapeutic. An added bonus as we ended our group, and sent them off to their classrooms.

Meghan G. Graham M.S. CCC-SLP

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


Pushing Buttons Part II

Last week I wrote about an activity to help kids understand that it is not affable to purposely annoy or bother our friends.  We may think it’s fun but they do not.  This week Meghan and I tried to concretize the concept by using actual buttons.We asked the kids in the 2nd grade group to recall their friend’s buttons from the previous week.  The first step in not annoying others is to learn and remember what annoys them.  Surprisingly, the kids quickly stated each other’s buttons with better recall than I could claim.Secondly, we explained that we needed to practice playing and working together while being respectful of each other by NOT pushing buttons.  We prepared a mancala game board with the first initial of each child place in one of the mancala board pits.  We placed a handful of buttons in the larger pit at the end of the board.  The kids were told that a button would be placed in their pit if one of the adults observed them pushing a friend’s button.

It was time to play a game.  We used a favorite app, Scribblenauts, which required turn taking, impulse control, listening, ideating, negotiating, collaborating, flexibility, and teamwork.  We truly expected the challenge to maintain considerate behavior would be too great as the kids became involved in this exciting and challenging activity.

I am pleased to say that Meghan and I were in awe as we witnessed the kids supporting each other and working together, controlling their impulses and bodies, and accepting the ideas of others WITHOUT pushing each other’s buttons.  We ended up with only a few buttons in the pits.  There were no other consequences and we pointed out how respectfully they behaved.

We recognize that this activity involved only one hour out of the many hours in a day and we can’t expect this friendly behavior to persist at all times.  However, we also believe the practice, success, and warm feelings the kids experienced is a big step in the right direction.

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

Super Heroes Promote Flexibility

What boy does not crave to be, see, watch, play-act, and create super heroes (sorry to be sexist but my experience leads me to make these generalizations)? The majority of my male students tend to talk about super heroes in one of three ways: 1) describing in detail everything they have seen their super hero do on TV or in books and ONLY that…no original content or elaboration or extension of any concepts; 2) setting up a story without developing the story; 3) making all super hero stories about good guys chasing bad guys without having a plan for what happens when the bad guys get caught. This usually ends up in physical and emotional break downs since there is no established plan but everyone wants things done his way without knowing or expressing what his way is, (sound confusing? It is!).

Today we used the Clicky Sticky Super Heroes app with our social group. The kids talked about and agreed upon a scene. The ribbon at the top of the screen presented a variety of “stickers” to drag into the scene such as, tornadoes, super heroes with capes, bad guys, all kinds of cars, fires, helicopters, even an innocent Girl Scout and old woman sitting on a park bench. The kids then took turns adding one item at a time to the scene. As they added each “sticker”, the kids had to add to the story. If someone added a person or moved the story in an unexpected direction, the others had to go with the flow and conceptualize, shift sets, and be flexible. There were many words such as “cool” and “awesome” mixed in with disappointment about someone else selecting the sticker they were going to choose. In the end, though, everyone was happy with the story. We then went to the gym and acted out their super hero story. This time, the kids put together the set, became the characters THEY created, and acted out their original story with a beginning, middle, and end. And everyone was satisfied. It looks like today, the “super heroes” really did save the day!

Jill Perry, MS, MPH, 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