Category Archives: life

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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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!

10 Activities to Beat Cabin Fever

Tired of being stuck inside and running out of ideas for indoor play? Grab some household items and bust that boredom with these easy and cheap activities!

#1 Fun with Shaving Cream: Squeeze some foamy shaving cream onto a tabletop, tray, mirror or plastic bin. Encourage your child to use his/her fingers to draw pictures or practice writing letters, words and numbers. Give your child different utensils to use (e.g. eraser end of a pencil, plastic orange peeler) if your child does not want to touch the shaving cream. If your child doesn’t like the smell, place some shaving cream inside a large Ziploc bag before playing with it.

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#2 Bed Sheet Swing: Have your child lay inside a sheet and, with another adult, grab the ends, lift your child slightly off the ground and gently swing him/her back and forth. Count out loud for each swing or incorporate nursery rhymes. Or, play some soft, soothing music and turn down the lights while swinging slowly to help calm your child.

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#3 Pouring and Exploring: Grab some kitchen ladles, measuring cups, pots, Tupperware containers and plastic bowls. Put the items into an empty plastic storage bin. Add some dry foods (e.g. beans, noodles, cereal, oatmeal, salt, rice) and encourage your child to transfer the dry food to and from the different containers. Feeling brave? Instead of dry food, use water and add a variety of cups, pitchers and a turkey baster.

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#4 Parachute Play: Use a flat sheet as a parachute. Throw some balloons or soft, light toys (e.g. stuffed animals, balls, small bean bags) on top and have fun bouncing them around together. Have your child sit underneath or on top of the sheet and shake the sheet fast and then slowly.

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#5 Flashlight Games: If your child is comfortable in a dark room, dim or turn off the lights and have fun playing with flashlights. Take turns shining the flashlight on the floor while the other jumps or stomps on the light. Give your child the flashlight and ask him/her to find an item in the room to shine the light on. Read a book in the dark by shining the flashlight on the words. Put on some music and have fun dancing with flashlights. Make shadow puppets or move your body to make your shadow dance on a wall.

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#6 Cleaning Toys: Lots of kiddos love to help out and often feel pride when they do. So, why not accomplish two things at once? Give your child a plastic bin filled with water or fill up the sink or bathtub. Then, have him/her help wash hard, plastic toys (e.g. Legos, animals, vehicles, blocks, magnetic or foam letters, action figures, dolls). Just add a little soap (kid’s shampoo will also work), water, sponges, rags, toothbrushes and/or dish scrubbers and let your child wash away! You’ll be surprised on how much fun he/she can have. J Place the toys on a towel or tray to dry.

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#7 Buried Treasure: Bury small objects like beads, pennies or, our favorite, wiggle/googly eyes into Play-Doh and have your child pull and stretch the dough to collect each one. Use the empty Play-Doh container as a place to put the found objects. Take turns and allow your child to hide the items for you to find.

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#8 Balloon Play: Blow up some balloons and have fun hitting them back and forth to each other. Kick it up a notch by using fly swatters, cardboard tubes (wrapping paper or paper towel tubes work best) or foam pool noodles to hit the balloons. You can also tie the balloon to a pool noodle to make it easier for beginners.

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#9 Slapping Post-Its: Grab a fly swatter and some Post-its. Use markers to scribble colors, draw shapes and write letters, numbers or words on the Post-its. Then, place the Post-its on a wall or door. Call out a color, shape, etc. and let your child use the fly swatter to slap the Post-it that matches the label. Add a second fly swatter so a friend or sibling can join in on the fun!

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#10 Bedsheet Hammock: Knot the ends of a bedsheet together in the middle of a sturdy table to create a child-friendly hammock! Give your child a cuddly toy and some books or a device to lay back and unwind with for a while.

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About Our Guest Blogger: Melissa Ames has over 16 years of experience working with children with autism, SPD and other needs in both home therapy and school settings. While serving as a dedicated Early Childhood school teacher, ABA home therapist and case manager for home therapy programs, Melissa naturally supported parents of the children she worked with. She observed that parents lack hands-on, ready-made resources to help them be more successful at home, as well as better connect and have fun with their child. Melissa became the change she wanted to see in the world by starting her own company, EarlyVention, which designs fun and interactive subscription activity boxes for children with different abilities and the parents who love them. EarlyVention also provides vocational opportunities for adults with special needs, who help assemble the activity boxes, creating an ecosystem of impact.

 

Groundhog Day

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Do you ever feel like you’re living in Groundhog Day?  You know the movie from the early 90s starring Bill Murray where he continually relives the same day, February 2, Groundhog Day?  Your version probably consists of mornings battling your sensitive child to put socks on.  Then you have to adjust the socks, and adjust them again, and then again and again.  Finally, all the lumps and bumps are smoothed away and the seams are in just the right spot.  Once you have the socks just right, you now have the challenge of getting his shoes on without disturbing your hard work adjusting the socks.  If they move, you’re back to square one.  And that’s only Monday.  And Tuesday.  And Wednesday.  You get the idea.  Your own version of Groundhog Day.

In the movie, Bill Murray’s character eventually breaks the cycle and wakes up on February 3, the next day, a new and different day.  It’s time that your family breaks the cycle, too, so you can move on to a new day – one without the morning sock battle.

SmartKnitKIDS socks are a great way to cure the lumps, bumps and seams for good.  Our kids’ socks feature truly seamless construction, knitted like a cocoon from the toe up.  So, there’s no need for seams, or lines or bumps or any of those annoying things.  Our socks feature Halo Top™ which is comfortable and non-binding and helps keep the socks in place without making indentations.  The yarns used in SmartKnitKIDS socks are made with high tech fibers to wick moisture away from the skin and preventing stinky feet.

These socks may make the difference between living in Groundhog Day or waking up tomorrow knowing that it’s a new day!

Fighting the Sugar Battle

bugsley_boxingThis week (January 18-24) is Sugar Awareness Week.  As a parent, I always feel like I’m fighting a losing battle with sugar.  I’ve heard all the advice about limiting sugar.  I’ve witnessed how sugar affects children from the crazy high to the inevitable crash.

Sugar can do so much damage to the human body – adult and child alike.  The following are truly just a few things:

  1. Impairs Memory and Learning Skills – Studies have shown that a diet high in sugar can slow down the brain hindering memory and learning skills. Sugary breakfast cereal may not be the best start for a child spending his day learning multiplication and division.  Or maybe this is the reason why I feel like a broken record in reminding my child to turn in his homework or remember his jacket, etc.
  2. Increases Tooth Decay and Cavities – Sugar is the most damaging substance for teeth that we are eating. When sugar sits on your teeth, it creates decay more efficiently than any other food.  This is because it provides easily digestible energy for all the bad bacteria living in the mouth.  And since we know that children sometimes are not the best brushers, it’s important to limit how much sugar is introduced to their teeth.
  3. Contributes to Malnutrition – Despite the fact that a high sugar diet contributes to obesity, children can still be malnourished. Sugar provides no nutritional value whatsoever, but just pure energy.  When children fill up on these “empty” calories, they are not likely to get all the important vitamins and minerals they need leading to nutrient deficiencies.
  4. Lowers Immunities – The body is made up of trillions of good bacteria, which help digest food, produce vitamins and protect the body from germs and diseases. But, consuming too much sugar can alter the balance between good and bad bacteria weakening the immune system.  For children, this can lead to chronic runny noses, excessive mucus, cough, sinus infections, croup and acid reflux.
  5. Causes Obesity – Sugar itself doesn’t cause children to become overweight, but they become overweight when they consume more calories than they burn. Sugary drinks and other high sugar treats usually supply more calories than children need to satisfy hunger.
  6. Effects Behavior – Many studies have shown that sugar does NOT cause hyperactivity overall. However, sugar meltdowns are real.  The post-birthday-cake meltdown is caused by the rapid increase in blood sugar, followed by the inevitable drop.

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There are several things that parents can do to help fight the sugar battle:

  1. Read food labels – Sometimes sugar is hidden in foods you wouldn’t think contain sugar like oatmeal and yogurt. Look for words and phrases that signal a food has added sugar, such as: “fruit juice concentrate”; “corn sweetener”; “corn syrup”; “high-fructose corn syrup”; “honey” and “dextrose”.  Avoid foods that have a long list of ingredients.
  2. Know the names of sugar – Food can be really sneaky with the words used to name sugar. Watch out for high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, dextrose, lactose, sorbital, mannitol, malitol, xylitol, honey and sucrose.  All of these are sugar.
  3. Cut down on sugar beverages – Sodas, juices (even 100% juice), sports drinks and smoothies all contain high amounts of sugar. Have your child start with a glass of water before drinking something else, and try to avoid the high sugar drinks altogether.
  4. Be leery of healthy alternatives – Phrases like “sugar free”, “low calorie” and “all natural” can be misleading. These phrases don’t necessarily mean the food is healthier, but rather laden with additives.
  5. Make the change gradual – One way to make healthier changes easier on children is to do it gradually. Add in something healthy like blueberries into their weekly snacks.  Or try mixing their sugary cereal with a healthy cereal until they get used to the healthier option.
  6. Teach children about healthy foods – You’ll want to help your children develop healthy habits that they keep for life. Help your kids understand what good foods do to your body and what bad foods do.

** Disclaimer – Not to take the place of medical advice.  Always consult with your doctor about health concerns.

*** Sources: foxnews.com; parenting.com; healthyeating.sfgate.com; sheknows.com; huffingtonpost.com and centerforparentingeducation.org