Playing Outside At Home

Kids love to play with sidewalk chalk.  Draw a hopscotch on your driveway or your garage floor if is is raining.  Start simple with 2 feet side by side then to 1 foot then to 2 feet and 2 feet again.  This encourages 2 foot jumping and hopping.  As your child gets better balance, draw a hopscotch with several 1 foot hopping squares.

Draw a 2 foot by 2 foot square with chalk on your brick or garage wall if it is raining.  Have your child throw a large ball underhand and over head at the target.  Challenge them to hit it 2 of 5 tries then 3 of 5 tries.  Next give them a small ball and have then throw overhand and underhand to the target.  See how many times out of 5 tries they can hit the square.  Now have your child back up further away from the target and throw.  Draw a line that they have to stand behind to keep them from moving forward.

Bubbles!!  Who doesn't love to play with bubbles!  Catch the bubble on the wand and raise it up high.  See if your child can tiptoe to pop it!  Be sure your child does not pull on your arm to help reach the bubble.  Now catch the bubble on the wand and hold the bubble  about 6 inches off the ground.  Can you child gently pop the bubble with their foot?  This challenges 1 foot standing balance.  Have your child try to catch the bubbles on the wand. This helps them get their eyes and hands working together.

Place a jump rope on the ground and spread it out.  Have your child stand sideways like he/she is ready to jump rope.  Ask them to jump over and back encouraging them not to stop at each side.  Progress them to you swinging the rope in a small arc back and forth (you can tie the rope to the closed garage at one end) and have the child jump just beofre the rope is about to touch them.  This will help them to learn to jump rope.

Draw a square with chalk that is about 1 foot by 1 foot.  Then draw another square about a foot in front of that square of the same size.  Have your child stand in one square and jump to the other taking off and landing on 2 feet.  If your child can do this, increase the distance between the 2 squares progressively. 

Good luck and have fun!!

Easter Egg Activities - by Natasha Salzl

Easter is a great time to do something fun activities while working on fine and visual motor skills as well! Some activities include:

Music Shakers: Make plastic eggs into music shakers by putting buttons, beans, rice and gluing together hot glue.

Easter Bunny:

Glue cotton balls on a foam egg for tail and feet. Bend white pipe cleaner around a thicker pink pipe cleaner for the ears. Stick a pair at the top of the egg. Add wiggle eyes, a small pink pom-pom nose and thin wire whiskers. Place on a cardboard circle with hole cut out for base of egg to rest in. The cardboard can be covered with fabric or lace.

Use different colors

Hide different color eggs. Tell the children what color eggs to look for until all the eggs of each color are found!

4. Draw a map
Keep things interesting by setting up a treasure hunt for kids. Give each child a map using picture clues. Cut out a picture of a chair, for instance, or draw a coffee table to show them where the eggs are.

Written by: Natasha Salzl, MOT, OTR/L

Hiding Easter Eggs for All Ages - by Kim Colclasure

It can be challenging to hide Easter eggs when you have 1 year olds and children over 5
hunting them at the same time. Here's a quick tip:
section your yard out. Use a paint stirrer
with the child's name on it to identify their area to search for eggs.
This will give the littles
ones a chance to explore the eggs and get excited about picking up eggs to fill their baskets--
without the eggs being snatched up from under them. For your older children, up the ante.
Hide eggs up higher, where they have to step or climb up to get them. For the pre-teenagers
who still love to hunt...number your eggs and make it a treasure hunt with the clue to the next
hiding place inside the egg. The last egg can be located in their basket of goodies.

Happy hunting!

Written by: Kim Colclasure, PT, MPT

Recipes for Sensory Play! - by Laura Friedman

These are great recipes to explore sensory play with your kids.  They are easy to make and are items you can usually find around your house!

No Cook Play Dough                                                                       

1 ½ cups flour                                                                                   

½ cup salt

½ cup water                                                                                   

¼ cup vegetable oil                                                                       

Food coloring (optional)                                                           


Mix flour & salt together. Then slowly add the water, oil, and a few drops of food coloring. Knead the dough and keep it in a closed container in the refrigerator.

Peanut Butter Play Dough

1 jar of peanut butter

A few spoonfuls of honey or syrup

Powdered milk, cocoa, or powdered sugar


Mix the first 2 ingredients.  Then add powdered milk until it is a consistency for molding.  Roll, shape, and decorate with raisins, nuts, or other edible items. 


Cornstarch Clay

1 cup of cornstarch

2 cups of salt

1 1/3 cups of cold water


Put the salt and 2/3 cups of water in a pot and bring to a boil.  Mix cornstarch with the remaining water and stir well.  Then blend the 2 mixtures and knead into clay. 

Mold clay/make sculptures and let dry (several hours), then paint the sculptures.  Keep the used portion in covered container or plastic bag in the refrigerator.



1 box cornstarch

1 ½ to 2 cups of water


Add water to the cornstarch until it is semi-firm. When done playing store covered in the refrigerator. As it becomes dry in storage and/or from handling, add water to soften it.


Homemade Paste

1 cup of flour

½ cup of water


Combine the ingredients and mix until creamy.  Store in a covered container when not playing!

What Fun Tactile Play Recipes!! 

By Laura Friedman, MS OTR/L

Fine Motor Activities for Spring - by Hilary Lee

Spring is FINALLY here!  Here are a couple of fun craft activities to bring in the nice weather while working on your child's fine motor skills:

-Handprint flower - Have the child trace their hand on construction paper and cut it out.  Once the hand is cut out, use a pencil to roll up each finger to make it curly.  Get a straw and wrap the base of the hand near the end of the straw with the curls facing out and secure with tape.  Have the child cut out 2 leaves from green construction paper and tape lower on the straw for the stem of the flower. 

-Butterfly coffee filter - Flatten a coffee filter out and have your child color it with markers.  When coloring is complete, spray the filter with a water spray bottle 2-3 times so the colors blend.  Let dry. Once it is dry, pinch the filter in the middle and wrap a pipe cleaner around it 2 times.  Curl the ends of the pipe cleaner for the antenna. 

Written by: Hilary Lee, MPH, MS, OTR/L

Why Does My Child Behave This Way? - by Katy Cavanaugh

Every child has behaviors.  It’s the nature of being a child!  I am the mother of two small children.  I have been a pediatric speech-language pathologist for over six years.  So you can imagine how many behaviors I have seen!  Some behaviors are typical for all children. They don’t always listen the first time you tell them something, and sometimes there are tears for not getting their way.  However, some behaviors are not acceptable, such as aggressive behaviors or consistent defiance.  These types of behaviors could include frequent/excessive crying, hitting, kicking, biting, scratching, and frequently refusing to follow directions or other unsafe behaviors such as running/climbing.  So why, you think to yourself, does my child behave this way?  There is always a reason behind a behavior.  Your child may be seeking your attention.  He/she may be seeking physical movement, a sensory need.  Your child may need a more structured environment.  From my perspective as a speech-language pathologist, your child may have functional communication difficulties.

Communication is key piece of a functional life.  We may not all communicate in the same way, but we all communicate one way or the other.  When a child is unable to functionally communicate, their world is one big uphill battle.  Communication is our way of knowing what a child wants, needs, thinks and feels.  So ask yourself, how does my child get want he/she wants or needs?  Talking?  Pointing?  Get it him/herself?  Crying?  As parents of young children, we are caring and providing for them on a daily basis.  I hear parents frequently say, “I know what he wants; I get it for him.”  As parents, we know our children better than anyone else in the whole world.  So much of the time, it’s true; we do know what they need or want.  But what about those times when we don’t know?  Those are the times when we scratch our heads.  As this begins to happen more often, the child becomes frustrated, and the behaviors can start to escalate or become more frequent.  After a while, the parent is frustrated and doesn’t know what to do.  We have to address the child’s communication challenges.  Try these:

1.    Model the words for the child.  Keep it simple.  “More milk.”  “Cracker please.”  “Help me.”  Have the child attempt to repeat the words.  Attempt is the key word here.  Maybe your child doesn’t have the speech sounds to say certain words perfectly.  That’s ok.  If you say “more milk” and your child says “muh muh,” praise him and say, “Oh thank you for using your words.  Here is your milk.” 

2.    Give choices.  You don’t know what she wants.  Choose a few things in the general area of where she’s pointing.  Ask if she wants one of those.  If so, go back to step 1 and model the words.  Praise the communication attempt.

3.    Show me.  Some children are quick to take your hand and lead you to what they want.  Once you figure it out, go back to step 1 and model the words.  Praise the communication attempt.

**Be a teacher.  We as parents are our child’s first teachers.  In the first 3-4 years of life, they learn just about everything from you.  But, don’t fear!  You don’t have to be a certified teacher or therapist to teach your children well.  One thing we can all do more of is talk to our children.  Children are like sponges.  They tend to soak up whatever is thrown their way! 

·          Share books together every day.  Grab a few free ones from the library.  Read the story.  But don’t stop there.  Forget the words and tell the story just by looking at the pictures.  Describe what you see.  If your child says a word or two, expand on it.  “Ball!”  “Oh yes, the boy is playing ball in the grass.”  “Doggie!”  “I see!  The doggie is eating his food.”  You’re teaching your child vocabulary and sentence structure. 

      Ask questions.  If you’re child can’t answer the questions, that’s ok.  Model the answers for them.  “What are you playing with?”  “Car!”  “What does the car do?  Drive?  Drive car fast!”  “Where does the car drive?  On the road!”  “Who rides in the car?  Mom, brother, sister”  “Where do we go in the car?  Grocery store!  School!  Work!”

·    Tell what you’re doing.  As parents, it seems there is always something that has to be done!  Dishes, laundry, yard work!  The list goes on and on.  Let your child be a helper!  “I’m using warm water and soap to clean this plate.  Then I’ll use a towel to dry it off.”  “Oh, thank you for putting the clean clothes in the basket.”  Just by narrating your actions, you’re teaching your child tons of vocabulary.

***As always, consult your doctor.  Pediatricians try to ask as many questions as possible regarding your child’s development when you visit.  Often, they ask about the child’s communication.  If they do, give a detailed description of how your child communicates.  If they don’t ask, bring it up!  Talk about how your child communicates and ask if it’s age-appropriate.  Don’t be afraid to talk openly and honestly with your doctor about this or any issue.  It’s how you and your doctor can work together to provide the best care for your child.  Your doctor can help you find the people and resources your child needs.  If your child has communication difficulties, speech-language therapy can help you and your child communicate and reduce or even eliminate some behaviors.

Just remember, help is out there for you.  You just have to reach out and ask. 


Written by: Katy Cavanaugh, MS, CCC-SLP

ABC Pediatric Therapy Network

Fine Motor Activities for Preschoolers - by Hilary Lee

Below is a list of activities that you can do at home to encourage the development of your preschooler's fine motor skills. 

  • Play dough - use cookie cutters and rolling pins, pushing and pulling the dough; make snakes or small balls by rolling the play dough in your hands
  • Lacing string on cardboard and stringing beads onto string (or you can use pipecleaners if string is too difficult)
  • Finger paint - practice making lines and shapes in the paint
  • Practice drawing on a vertical surface to assist with proper hand positioning (tape paper on a wall or use an easel)                                                                                                                  
  • Puzzles
  • Blocks - have them imitate simple 3-4 block structures that you make to improve visual motor skills
  • Wikki Stix - practice making different shapes and designs with the Wikki Stix (pictured below) 
  • Zoo sticks - these are chopsticks for kids to use to pick up items (pictured below) and helps with developing hand muscles and with appropriate pencil grasp

                        Zoo Sticks                                             Wikki Stix

           Hog Wild Zoo Sticks Party Set(Pack of 8)                      

Written by: Hilary Lee, MPH, MS, OTR/L

Red Flags for Feeding Concerns - by Christina Sanford

·       “Picky eater” – may not tolerate specific food textures or consistencies (not always sensory related; could be due to oral-motor skills are not typical and child cannot bite, chew, or move food around in mouth to swallow and they don’t like the way a food feels in their mouth so they can avoid a certain textures)

·       Sensory concerns- may not like touching certain textures or having “messy” hands (strong reaction present)

·       Mashing food in mouth instead of chewing using teeth

·       Holding food in mouth instead of swallowing (“chipmunk”- pocketing foods)

·       Lack of control when trying to chew (losing food and drooling while chewing)

·       Biting down on spoon or straws rather than placing lips completely over spoon or straw

·       Choking or gagging on foods

Why? In infants, the suck-swallow-breath pattern in infants may be uncoordinated. The muscles of the tongue, jaw, and lips may be too weak to develop appropriate chewing patterns. Lip closure and the ability to move the tongue around (lateralization) may also be affected.

If you have concerns regarding your child’s feeding skills and mealtimes are frustrating, or your child’s nutrition is affected, talk to your child’s pediatrician and discuss the need for a thorough feeding evaluation.

Written by: Christina Sanford MA CCC-SLP 

Shoe Tying Tips for Success - by Jessi Coghill

Laces frequently become untied because the loop gets pulled too much and the end of the lace slides out.  To avoid this, tie a knot at the end of each lace, close to the tip to serve as an anchor and keep the tip from sliding too far.


When first teaching a child shoelace tying, it may be easier for the child to initially practice with the shoes at tabletop level rather than with the shoes on his/her feet.


Use two different colored shoelaces to practice. Round and oval laces are difficult to tie.  Start with FLAT laces.

Practice, practice, practice.  Practice as many times as they are old each session.


Use a variety of tying materials rather than just shoe laces such as

Macramé cord, ribbon, pipe cleaners, coat ties, a scarf, wrap packages with ribbon, licorice strings, etc. You can lace some of these pieces onto paper plates.


Use VERBAL CUES.  Here is one method of verbal cueing that I have found

helpful. The bunny ears are another method.  The fewer words you use the

better.  To start the instruction: Ask the child to do steps 1, 4 and 7 and YOU do the other steps while the child watches.

    After those steps are mastered then introduce the other steps.

 1.    Make an "X'

 2.    Go under the bridge.

 3.    Optional:  Go under the bridge again!

 This will tighten the first knot of the laces so they don't pull apart and you won't need to hold the knot down as you do the looping.

 4. And pull.

 5. Make a leaf. (the first loop)

 6. Make the caterpillar crawl over the leaf and into his cocoon (wrap lace around thumb and into the hole.)

 7. Make it a butterfly. (Grab the loops and pull)


Avoid giving the directions using "left" and "right".  Many children are unsure of these terms and need to stop and think about which is which.  This is not the time. Start the steps with the child's dominant hand. Be aware if dominance is different from YOURS.


If the pulling the laces apart is difficult, be sure to give your child

plenty of upper body strength "exercises" such as pulling apart silly putty, wheelbarrow walking, zoom ball, playground play (monkey bars, climbing up ladders).


If the manipulation of the laces is difficult, give your child

opportunities to do lacing projects such as  picking up pennies (raisins, cheerios, etc.) one at a time and squirreling them away in the palm, use peg board games, tweezers, legos, make a long rope by connecting pot holder loops, make a rubber band ball.  Make up a large container with rice and place objects in it and play find and seek with the eyes closed!!!! (website that has lots of shoe tying information)

Spring Time Activities

Now that the warm weather is finally here it is time for some outside activities!!  As you know, outdoor activities are a great way for children to stay fit as well as release some excess energy.  Here are some gross motor activities that promote strength, motor planning, balance, reaction time and coordination.

Finding a good jungle gym is often hard to find!  Sharon Woods and Winton Woods are parks in Hamilton county with fantastic jungle gyms.  Pine Hills Park, Heritage Park, Corwin Nixon Park and Fleckinstein Park have great jungle gyms in Mason.  West Chester and Liberty Township have very fun jungle gyms as well as Fort Liberty Park and Keehner park.

When climbing up and down a jungle gym ladder, encourage your child to have their stomach against the ladder.  This makes all the right muscles work.  Going up is typically no problem but be careful when your child is learning to come down a ladder.  Your child may need verbal cues to look where they are placing their feet.  He/she may need manual help to find the step.

Have your child climb up a slide.  This encourages strengthening in the hands and legs.  It also requires them to be aware of their own safety.  Encourage them to look to the top of the slide first to be sure no one is there.

Monkey bars not only develop upper body strength but also encourages motor planning and weightshift so they can move across the length of the bars.

Swinging on a strap swing is grat for grip strength, trunk and abdominal stengthening and even motor planning in order to propel the swing.

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