Category Archives: life

Classic Pastimes for Summer Road Trips

Well, it’s almost summer, which inevitably means it’s time for road trips.  Usually about this time, we pull together some travel tips for families with kids.  This time around, we thought we’d mix it up a little bit.  Or maybe we’re just feeling a little bit nostalgic.  But, our best tip for traveling with kids this summer is to revive some of the road trip games you remember playing as a child.  That’s right, folks! Have everyone put away the devices!  And for even more fun, have the whole family join in and create some memories of your drive alongside the ones you’ll make once you get to your destination.

Milwaukee Cityscapes And City Views

The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways – named for President Eisenhower who championed them. Construction was authorized by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956!

Here are a few to get you started:

License Plate Game

This one is my personal favorite!  Make a list of all the states and check them off as you spot them along the road.  If you check them ALL off, you’ll know you’re on one heck of road trip!  This game is one that you can play through your whole trip, even while you’re busy playing others.  You can even add a little bit of competition to the mix.  When someone spots a new state, write their initials next to it on your paper.  The person that has the most at the end of the trip is the winner.

License Plates

Each one is unique!

Eye Spy

This one is a classic and is great for the young kids, too.  One person silently chooses an object that everyone can see.  (The object can be inside or outside of the car.)  That player then uses the first letter of that object as a clue and the other players try to guess the object.  For example, “I spy with my little eye, something that begins with R” when you are thinking of the word “road”.  The person who correctly guesses the item gets to choose the next item.

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I saw a lot of these growing up!

Going on a Trip

This one can take some thought and is one that can keep the kids guessing for a while.  One of the adults (mom, let’s say) says “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to bring macaroni.  If you would like to go, too, tell me what you’d bring?”  “Mom” has selected an item that begins with the same letter of her name, so she can go.  Any object that doesn’t begin with “M” for “Mom” doesn’t get to go.  Then the kids each take a turn guessing.  Unless they guess an object that begins with the first letter of their name, they are excluded from the imaginary trip. When the guessing comes around again to Mom, she brings another “M” object. “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to bring a movie ticket.”  The kids will be baffled as to why Mom gets to bring such silly things on the trip.  Eventually, someone (Dad, perhaps) will figure out the pattern and begin to play along.  Sam can bring his sunscreen.  Elizabeth can bring an elephant. Etc. etc.  It will take a while for everyone to figure it out, especially if the children are small or you have a lot of players, but once they do, it’s obviously a one-time-through game.  But, you can revive the game by coming up with something else unique to each individual.  For instance, maybe this time I can bring 39 pairs of socks or 39 tubes of lipstick – the unique thing here being age.  The kids might figure this one out quicker. 😉

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Beware of curves!

Car Spotting

Have everyone agree on a make of car – Honda, Ford, Toyota, etc. – or more specifically a model –Chevy Malibu, Hyundai Tucson, Ford Flex – or even something along the landscape – wind turbine, oil well, hay bale (Can you tell we’re from the Midwest?  Your examples might be different.)  Once the car or other item is agreed upon, everyone keeps an eye open for it.  The first person to see each one shouts it out and earns a point.  At the end of the trip (or whenever you’ve had enough of the game) the person with the most points wins.  You can change up the items every now and then, too.

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Ahh! Good renewable energy!

20 Questions

Goodness, this classic is timeless.  And seriously, since kids ask about a billion questions all the time, you might as well make it into a game, right?  So, have one person think of a person, place or thing, and all the other players begin to ask questions about that thing in order to make guesses as to what it is.  The questions need to be ones where a simple yes or no is sufficient.  Players can guess after each answered question.  Play continues until they have made an accurate guess.

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Read a good book along the way!

Family Story Time

This one can be done the old-fashioned way or might be the reason to bring out a device.  Everyone loves a good story and some books are really great for the whole family – the Harry Potter books, Little House on the Prairie or Charlotte’s Web.  Choose one or two books ahead of time and either bring them along or download them on your device.  One person can read aloud to the car or you can take turns by chapter (depending on the ages of your children and the difficulty of the book).  Or, if you want to save your voice, find an audio book version and play it over the car stereo.

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Home, sweet, home for this road tripper!

Just think of all the fun memories you’ll make with your children.  Twenty years from now, they won’t remember whatever game they’re playing on their phones or tablets, but they will remember the silly times they had trying to be the first to spot the next wind turbine along the Interstate!

 

Pets for Kids with Autism

February 20 is National Love Your Pet Day! Pets can be an amazing thing for children with autism, sensory disorders or any number of other special needs.  Animal therapy has increased in recent years to treat a multitude of health conditions, such as cancer, epilepsy, heart disease, emotional and behavioral disorders and chronic pain.  It seems only logical that someone would study the effects of animal therapy on children with autism.

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In 2014, the University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine did just that.  MU’s Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction found that autistic kids who have a family pet at home have more advanced social skills and are more assertive and communicative than autistic kids without pets.

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Dr. Gretchen Carlisle, the lead author, and her team, studied 70 families who have children that are patients at the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.  While most of the families had dogs, several had a variety of other animals including fish, farm animals, rabbits, reptiles, birds and even a spider.

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Dr. Carlisle’s data showed that children who live in homes that include pets were more likely to introduce themselves, ask questions and respond to other people’s questions – all things that can be difficult for children with autism.  The researchers felt that the pets helped to provide an opportunity for the children to interact with others without realizing they were doing it.

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But, Dr. Carlisle cautions that finding the right animal is key and is also different for each autistic child.  Dogs typically are the most common pets, especially for children, due to their energy, affection and playfulness.  But, for a child with a sensitivity to noise, a barking dog may not be the best option.  Cats can be great for a child like this – or rabbits, gerbils, etc.  It’s important to match your child’s needs and personality to a pet that he or she can really bond with.  There are a number of animals that can make really great pets: guinea pigs, iguanas, farm animals (as long as you live in the proper environment for them.)  Remember, someone in this study actually had a spider!

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There are several other studies that conclude that owning a pet can really be beneficial to most people.  Bonding with a pet has been shown to encourage empathy towards other humans.  Pets have been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety, blood pressure and heart rate and can even help children and adults to gain independence that they wouldn’t otherwise have.

There are so many reasons to love your pets and the benefits that they have for autistic kids are just a few of those reasons.  Give your furry friends some extra love this Tuesday . . . or maybe some of their favorite treats!

The information for this blog post came from the following articles.  Read more at the links below:

https://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/autism-and-pets-more-evidence-social-benefits
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/pets-help-autistic-kids-advance-social-skills/

https://munews.missouri.edu/news-releases/2014/1230-children-with-autism-who-live-with-pets-are-more-assertive/

https://blog.brainbalancecenters.com/2014/09/benefits-pet-ownership-children-special-needs

** Photos are from bhmpics.com; copperpointresort.com; dailymail.co.uk and foodexposed.co.za

 

 

Holiday Travel Tips . . . with Kids!

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Does it feel like this year is flying by?  For me, it does.  I can’t believe it’s already time to start thinking about Thanksgiving travel.   Traveling with children can be a challenge, but seriously people do it every year!  Thanksgiving weekend is known for being THE busiest travel weekend of the whole year.  According to AAA, 48.7 million American travelers are expected this year and you can bet that many of those travelers are children.  So, if the thought of traveling with your young family in just a few short weeks gives you the anxiety that it is giving me right now, you might want to check out the tips below before you go.  They’ll help make your trip a little less stressful.

  1. Plan Ahead– Make a detailed itinerary and make sure your children understand each leg of the journey. Rehearse parts of the trip that may give your children moments of anxiety. Take your child on short, practice runs for car trips, or visit the airport ahead of time. Walk through the airport and point out things to your child and watch some planes take off and land. When travel day arrives, the travel expectations will feel more familiar and comfortable.
  2. Arrive Early for Flights– Planning to arrive at the airport early will ensure that you’ll have time to make adjustments for any travel “roadblocks”. Be sure to bring enough activities to keep your children entertained for any waits or delays that may occur
  3. Create Realistic Expectations– Know what your children can handle and what they will not be able to handle. You may need to add extra stops into your itinerary or perhaps travel over multiple days.
  4. Charge Your Devices– Ensure that all your devices are charged and that you’ve brought extra chargers. You won’t want to be in a jam if the children have used up all the battery playing games just when you need your map app to get you to your next stop.
  5. Pack Plenty of Snacks– Pack plenty of healthy, low-sugar snacks that your children are familiar with and enjoy. You never know when a flight will be delayed or if the next restaurant is not for another 100 miles down the road.  Healthy snacks will help keep kids from getting cranky due to hunger.
  6. Pack Your Sense of Humor– Make the trip fun for you and your kids. Laugh with your kids and tell jokes.  Make up road trip games to play with your kids along the way.  It will make the trip more fun, enjoyable and memorable for you and them.
  7. Bring or Buy Special Needs Foods– If your child has special dietary restrictions, be sure to bring things you know they can eat. Special needs foods may be harder to find if you don’t know the area as well as home.
  8. Discuss the House Rules– Make sure your children know what will be expected of them at all locations – how to behave on a plane or in a hotel or even what special rules Grandma has at her house. Knowing what is expected up front will help them to follow along with your expectations.
  9. Do a Safety Check– Pack a first aid kit. Make sure each child has a proper car seat.  Bring all medications your children are on.
  10. Pack Insurance Cards– Just in case you need to visit a doctor while out of town, be sure to carry your insurance cards with you. It will make the process much easier and you’ll be able to save your concerns for your sick child.
  11. Visit a Local Playground– Help your kids create a memory of their adventure. Visiting a playground while on the road or in Grandma’s hometown will not only give them something fun to remember during your travels, but will also give your kids a chance to burn up some of the energy they’ve accumulated while playing 50 State License Plate Bingo in the backseat.
  12. Keep Your Cool!– There will always be things that happen, whether it be a speeding ticket from the highway patrol or a missed connection during a layover. Take a deep breath and go with the flow.  If you don’t stress things that happen outside of your control, you’ll better enjoy your trip and so will your kids.

Remember at the end of the road is Grandma’s special turkey and dressing or pumpkin pie that you’ve been craving for months – as well as hugs and smiles and family memories.  Happy Thanksgiving!

6 Sensational Summer Sensory Activities – 2017 Edition!

Ah summer!  Here you are again and here we are trying to find fun activities to keep the kids engaged.  We pulled out our list of sensory summer activities for this blog, but decided that it would be fun to enhance them a little bit for even more fun sensory summer play.  So, we turned to Google and Pinterest for some expanded ideas.  Below are some of our favorites, as well as the originals, that are both fun and sensory-oriented.

Sand and Water Play

Nothing says summer like sand and water.  Grab some buckets and shovels and head to the beach for some fun and creative tactile input.  But, never fear if you don’t have a beach near your home.  You can recreate the beach with a sand and water table in your backyard.  They don’t take as much sand as a traditional sand box, and can be cleaned out easier so as to not invite an unsanitary environment (think cats, here).  You can also fill the sand and water table with other objects like uncooked rice, beans, noodles or even shaving cream.  At the end of the summer, if the table is cleaned out well, you can bring it inside and fill it with snow!

Alternative Idea

Here’s another option we picked up with a little google search.  Perhaps you need a taste-safe option for a kiddo that may like to sample his sand creations?  The blog A Little Pinch of Perfect has a great recipe for Taste-Safe Kinetic Sand that uses milk powder and vegetable oil.  Make up a little bit of this for your sand table or even use it throughout the winter.  Read the blog for more info and a recipe.

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Play Doh, Gak, Oobleck, Silly Putty

Each of these fun substances offers a different texture sensation to help kids develop normal tactile processing, but also to enhance their creativity and have fun!  You can purchase several of these substances or many of them can be made using recipes found online.  A simple set of cookie cutters, bowls and measuring cups will provide kids with hours of sensory input fun.

Fun Playdough “Ice-Cream Shop” Enhancement

This idea came from A Little Pinch of Perfect again.  Using a little bit of flour with frosting makes a fantastic substance that looks like ice cream, but is a fun and taste-safe sensory playdough.  Kids can play using ice cream cones, cupcake wrappers, sprinkles and candy bits for ice cream shop fun.  And if they decide to taste it, no sweat!  Read more and get the recipe!

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Sensory Scavenger Hunt

Create a scavenger hunt around the yard of different textured items for kids to find.  You can include things to find that are in the grass, mud, flowers and water to give kids a variety of textures.

Sensory Checklist

We love this checklist.  It came from the DoodleCraft blog and is a perfect list of things to find that target different tactile responses.

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Crazy Straws

It’s amazing how much fun kids can have with a straw, but this is such an easy activity.  Just buy a package of colorful and fun crazy straws and let the kids get to work.  They can use their breath to blow different objects around.  It’s also a great way to keep them sipping on water on those hot days!

Pinterest Possibilities

A favorite at our house is a mini boat race.  All you need to do is fill up a small pool with water. (In Scouts, we use rain gutters, but anything that will hold water will work.)  Then let the kids make lightweight boats out of paper or lightweight wood.  (Ours usually come from kits that we get through Cub Scouts, but you can check craft stores or someone handy can help the kids design one.  You can also use all sorts of things around the house to make boats like disposable plastic cups or slices of old pool noodles.  Plain old paper boats work well, too.)

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Water Balloon Fun

Have you ever been to a summer kid-friendly picnic that didn’t have someone pull out a bag of water balloons?  They’re pretty much a given for us.  A fun game for kids that has lasted the test of time is the water balloon toss.  Have two kids stand close together and toss the balloon back and forth trying not to drop it.  Gradually have them move apart and continue to toss the balloon.  Eventually, someone will drop the balloon and get splashed with water.  (Note: Some kids may scare at this at first.  Show them ahead of time what will happen to avoid tears.)

A Whole New Water Balloon World

Oh Pinterest!  Where were you when I was a kid!  Anyway, a quick glance at Pinterest unloads on the amazing creativity all with a little water balloon.  I can’t wait to try the Glow in the Dark Water Balloons, Water Balloon Art and Water Balloon Pinatas.

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Bubbles

Children love bubbles!  Bottles of bubbles are a cheap way to entertain the kids for hours.  Experiment with different sizes and shapes of bubble wands.  Bubble machines are a fun alternative, too.

Fun with Pinterest

Just like all the others, bubbles can also be enhanced by doing a little searching on Pinterest.  We love the idea of Geometric Bubbles for the older kids.  Giant Bubbles and Painting with Bubbles are both on our list of things to try this summer!

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The possibilities are limitless.  We think summer may need to last all year long!

 

Travel Tips for Families with Children

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Are we there yet!?  The end of the school year brings on the beginning of summer travel!  Sometimes travel can cause so much added stress that they are not even fun for the parents of children – especially parents with special needs children.  The point of most summer travel is to have fun and create family memories for both children and their parents.  So, what can parents do to make summer travel less stressful and more fun?  Following this roadmap will help you to avoid many of the stressful detours of summer travel!

Travel Planning

  • Plan Ahead of Time – Make a detailed itinerary and make sure your children understand each leg of the journey. For children that have anxiety, it may help to rehearse parts of the trip.  Take some short practice runs in the car to help the child become accustomed to entertaining themselves in the car.  Visit the airport in advance and point things out to your children.  Watch planes land and take off.  When your trip arrives, the travel expectations you have for your children will feel more familiar and comfortable.
  • Give Yourself Extra Time – If flying, be sure to arrive at the airport well in advance. Although, it does mean extra time at the airport, it will ensure that you have time to make any necessary adjustments.  If you are driving, leave extra early so you can plan to stop several times along the way to stretch your legs or even visit interesting sites on the road.  If you are not in a hurry, the trip will be more enjoyable for all.
  • Travel with Help – If possible, you should plan on at least two adults traveling with your party, especially if you are bringing more than one child, or a special needs child. When things get rough, an extra person who can help with baggage, check-ins or even truck-stop bathroom breaks will help things go more smoothly.
  • Accommodations for Children – If you are using commercial transportation, call ahead to see what accommodations are in place for children. Take advantage of anything that may be helpful in keeping your children comfortable and entertained.
  • Travel During Sleep Times – Many children have an easier time traveling while they sleep. If possible, plan to leave at night or when your kids are used to taking naps.

What to Pack

  • Electronic Devices – Tablets, phones or other electronic devices provide touch, visual and audio input for children. Remember a set of headphones and a pair of sunglasses to help those sensitive to bright light.  Download age-appropriate games ahead of time, or make sure your data plan will be sufficient for your entire trip.  You can also bring a data hotspot.  Ensure that all your devices are charged and that you’ve brought extra chargers, especially if you are sharing devices with your children.  You won’t want to be in a jam if the kids used up all the battery playing games just when you need your map app to get you to your next stop.
  • Snacks – Pack plenty of healthy, low-sugar snacks that your children are familiar with and enjoy. Chewable and high-protein snacks are great choices, as well as things that do not need a lot of prep and can easily be eaten on the go.  You never know when a flight will be delayed or if the next restaurant is not for another 100 miles down the road.
  • Special Needs Foods – If your child has special dietary restrictions, be sure to bring things you know they can eat. Special needs foods may be harder if you don’t know the area as well as home.
  • Insurance Cards – Just in case you need to visit a doctor while out of town, be sure to carry your insurance cards with you. It will make the process much easier and you’ll be able to save your concerns for your sick child.
  • Bring Extra Clothes – Most likely, if flying, you’ll need to check bags. Or, if driving, you may have a very packed trunk with multiple bags.  Easy access to an extra set of clothes for each child will make getting through any mishaps easier and stress free.  Socks tend to disappear easily, so don’t forget a few extra pairs of SmartKnitKIDS socks, too.
  • Toys – Pack several small sensory input toys that will keep your children’s attention for longer periods of time. Choose things that are easy to pack and pick up, but also things that your children already enjoy.  Good examples are Rubix Cubes, rubber band balls and Play-Doh.  You may want to have a few things to play with in the hotel, as well, for downtown.
  • Safey – Pack a first aid kit. Make sure each child has a proper car seat.  Bring all medications your children take daily.

Establish Ground Rules

  • Create Realistic Expectations – Know what your children can handle and what they will not be able to handle. You may need to add extra stops into your itinerary or perhaps travel over multiple days.  Don’t pack too much into your day to overwhelm kids.
  • Discuss the House Rules – Make sure your children know what will be expected of them at all locations – how to behave on a plane or in a hotel or even what special rules Grandma has at her house. Knowing what is expected up front will help them to follow along with your expectations.

Make Memories

  • Pack Your Sense of Humor – Make the trip fun for you and your kids. Laugh with your kids and tell jokes.  Make up road trip games to play together along the way.  It will make the trip more fun, enjoyable and memorable for you and your kids.
  • Visit Local Site for Children – Help your kids create a memory of their adventure. Visiting a playground, children’s museum or other children’s attractions while on the road will not only give them something fun to remember during your travels, but will also give your kids a chance to burn up some energy they’ve accumulated along the way.

Stay Calm and Expect Changes of Plans

  • Remain Calm – Don’t let yourself get discouraged with minor setbacks. There will always be things that happen – a speeding ticket or a missed connection during a layover.  Take each day in stride and enjoy your trip as best as you can.
  • Expect Changes in Plans – It’s okay if you don’t make it to everything you wanted to do with your kids. If you stay calm and continue to have fun with what you do make it to, your kids will build happy memories of your travels.  If you stress about changes, they may, too, and that’s what they’ll remember about your trip.

Following these travel guidelines will help your trip to go smoothly so that all will have fun.  In 20 years, you’ll all be sitting around the dinner table reminiscing about your fond memories of your trip.  So, buckle up and build memories seeing the world with your family.

Guest Blog: Top Five Distractions for Children in the Classroom

From Buzzies.

Parents and teachers know that it can be challenging to keep children focused and on task. Classrooms are full of distractions, especially for children with attention deficit disorders or autism spectrum disorders. It is important to understand why children are distracted so that we can create calm and focused learning spaces.

Here are the top five distractions for children in the classroom, according to Neuropsychologist Dr. Amy Serin:

1) internal distractions, internal thoughts, anxiety, etc.
2) sensory sensitivities, too much noise, light, temperature sensitivities, etc.
3) too much sitting still- kids need to move in order to stay focused. Sitting still for too long makes it hard
4) Sudden distractions- loud noises, other kids chatting, etc and
5) Teacher talking too long…kids attention spans are short and teaching in a way that exceeds these spans will mean distractibility because the methods aren’t developmentally appropriate.

Buzzies can help some children to focus by lessening reactivity to sensory distractions and by lowering stress associated with internal thoughts or distractions. Buzzies basic is a version of Buzzies that children can take anywhere and use in the classroom. Buzzies original and Buzzies basic act passively and in real time, they don’ t just buzz to remind a kid to pay attention. There is nothing like Buzzies! Fidget toys, reminders, teacher prompts, etc. all can be helpful but Buzzies work continuously and in real time to help reduce the stress response, which can lead to better focus in some children.

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SmartKnit DIY: Fun DIY Sock Bouquets!!

As both a Mom and a Daughter, I completely believe in homemade Mother’s Day gifts.  I love getting these sweet gifts from my kiddos and I totally love giving them to my mom and my mother-in-law.  Sometimes the creativity is just not flowing, though, and I look all around for new ideas.  This year the Knit-Rite/Therafirm team got some inspiration from our own products.  The best part is, we were able to use products from several of our brands to create these adorable sock bouquets.  They’re cute and easy enough for the kiddos to do, too.  Watch our demonstration video below!

List of Supplies Needed:

• Socks of multiple colors, shapes and sizes
• A pair of tights, pantyhose or a piece of fabric of similar size and length
• Rubber bands
• Safety pins
• Your favorite vase

We used some discontinued colors of our Preggers and Therafirm brands, as well as current colors of TheraSport, SmartKnitKIDS, SmartKnit and Therafirm.  Happy bouquet making!