I Can Pound with Fundanoodle {Video + Giveaway!}

Our second informational video we would love to share with our friends is our I Can Pound with Fundanoodle. In this video we introduce our award wining I Can Pound! kit and describe how it can be used as a differential learning product developing handwriting skills before ever picking up a pencil.

A favorite for our 3-4 year old children who like to hammer and move their muscles and a great letter formation tool for our older age groups!

Watch, share, and enter to win!

Just enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below and leave a comment on this blog post with either your Facebook or Twitter username (whichever you used to share!) and what product you would choose if you won.

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Therapist Thursday: Breathing Exercises for Kids

Today’s Therapist Thursday comes from Mira Binzen, E-RYT, RCYT, a registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance, a certified iRest Yoga Nidra teacher and a professional Integrative Yoga Therapist.  She holds a degree in Child Psychology from The University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development and is co-founder of Global Family Yoga which offers training courses approved for AOTA CEUs. Mira originally shared this post on MamaOT.com. Thank you both for sharing!

Full, even breathing can soothe the mind and body while evoking a sense of calm.  It’s an easy, effective strategy that is often overlooked.

Conscious breathing (simply being aware of the breath) is one of the best tools we have to regulate the nervous system, the home base of sensory processing. We all feel “dis-regulated” at times and it makes sense to have breathing strategies in place.  The more they are practiced, the easier it is to turn to one in time of need.  When a child feels overwhelmed from sensory input, is frustrated with a task, has low energy or too much energy for the situation, or is just feeling a little grumpy, a few conscious breaths can make a big difference.

This is not news to most, but anyone who has asked a child to “take a deep breath” may have come upon some resistance.  It’s kind of like trying to feed a child broccoli.  There has to be a little enticement, a little fun…a little magic.  Here are three simple ways to get your child breathing better.

1. Be a Balloon

Breathing exercises to help kids calm and focus

Crouch down and hug your knees.  Reach the arms up and out as you come up to standing, filling your balloon (that’s you).  Then, let all the air out as you flutter to the ground like a deflated balloon.  Repeat a few times.  Fluttering and flopping to the floor adds proprioceptive input (body awareness) that can also be soothing to the nervous system.   Engage your child by asking what color the balloon is or what you may be celebrating with balloons.

2. Open Your Wings

This can be done sitting or standing.  Just as the name suggests, invite your child to reach their arms out to the sides and up overhead just as a majestic bird opens its wings.  This process stretches the intercostal muscles and invites in a fuller breath.  The breath comes in as the wings go up.  The breath moves out as wings come down.  Repeat several times.  You don’t even need to mention the breath.  The movement facilitates breathing.  Engage your child by asking what color her wings are, what kind of a bird he is or to where she might fly.

3. Sleeping Crocodile

Breathing exercises to help kids calm and focus

A crocodile waits, still and quiet by the edge of the lake… For details on the Sleeping Crocodile please see the original post on MamaOT.com.

“Conscious breathing for just a few minutes a day, several times a day can empower both you and your child to handle fluctuating moods, energy and focus. Full, even breathing is the foundation of well-being.” – Mira Binzen

Charlotte Today: Indoor Activities

Our Director of Monkey Business April was featured on Charlotte Today this morning discussing some fun indoor activities when your monkeys need a break from the heat.

IMG_1403When it is too hot to even go to the pool or a summer storm ruins your outdoor fun, head inside and ignore the screen with these fun, educational and motor sensory developing ideas.

Children need plenty of short, fun activities that will allow them to use their hands and develop hand/eye coordination in a way that swiping a screen just cannot do! And it’s a bonus if these activities also develop and support letter and number recognition and formation, math skills, color identification and more.

{These ideas work with children ages 3-5.}

Letter Recognition and Practice:

Here are fun letter activities for children before even putting a pencil in their hand to write letters. And if your older child complains when it’s time to practice handwriting you can pull out these fun tools and they won’t realize they are “working!”

  1. Use shaving cream on a cookie sheet  or in the bathroom to write letters, sight words and more. IMG_1410
  2. Create sensory bags filled with gel or shaving cream and trace letters of name, names of people in house, vowels, constants, etc.IMG_1409
  3. Hide and find letters with large letter magnets in sand for younger kids or smaller ones in play dough or molding dough for older kids. Turn it into a game to see who can find the most vowels or consonants, once you find them all see who can make the most words out of the found letters.IMG_1407
  4. Use Fundanoodle Muscle Mover cards for engaging activities to get the wiggles out before using the back to build letters with play dough and pipe cleaners.groupmusclemovertherapistthursdaypic
  5. Use Fundanoodle I Can Build kits and I Can Pound kit to build hand strength and letter recognition. Sara Erwin Pounding

Math, Shapes and Numbers Practice:

  1. Use clothes pins for a homemade sorting game.  Roll a dice and use the clothes pin to pick up pom poms or other small items and sort into cups or containers for young children to work on counting and sorting, greater than and less than. With older children you can use cards with math signs (plus, minus, equal) and create simple math problems with the pins or other items. IMG_1411
  2. Use puppets for picking up items to work pincher grip and hand strength.  Use a timer to pick up items and move them into cups and then count the items and determine who has less and more. You can then sort colors and even make charts of the colors.IMG_1412
  3. Have a race to fill cups by having children guess how many beads (or other materials such as beans) will fill the cup then count them to see how close you are. You can also use a dice to roll and fill cups based on numbers or time how long it takes.bead cups
  4. Use Fundanoodle bead cards for shape and color recognition.
  5. Have squirt bottle races  in big pot or the bath tub with floating bath toys. Move the toys with the squirt bottle to the other side (this is great hand strength!) as a race or guess how many squirts it will take or which things move faster or slower. This is also great outside in a baby pool!squirt-bottle-races-2_thumb

What other fun indoor activities are you doing with your children this summer?

To watch the clip from the show click here: http://www.wcnc.com/charlotte-today/Pre-school-games-263497081.html

Therapist Thursday: What Does Sensory Really Mean?

Today’s Therapist Thursday comes from Pam at The Inspired Treehouse, a team of three moms and pediatric therapists who believe that with a little help, kids can build strong, healthy bodies and minds through play. The Inspired Treehouse is passionate about creating activities and sharing knowledge to promote development and wellness in kids.

sensory-processing-1024x1024

Getting messy is a wonderful play experience for young children and highly encouraged here at the Treehouse.  But sensory integration is a lot more complicated than just getting your hands dirty.  Here’s a quick glimpse into the world of sensory processing.

The senses send information to a child’s nervous system where it is then processed in order to generate a response.  A sensory experience can “rewire” the brain, helping a child understand his environment more clearly and making him feel safe.  Or, it can be overwhelming, causing him to become defensive and withdrawn.  And, just to make things a little more complicated, no two children will ever respond to a sensory experience in exactly the same way.  For example, if I offer GAK or putty to two children, one child may squeeze it tightly running it through his fingers, enjoying the cold wet feel.  The other child may drop it immediately, irritated by the same sensation.  This is what sensory means – the way the body receives, analyzes, and responds to the signals it gets from its environment.

Does your child withdraw from certain types of play?  Does he have extreme adverse reactions to certain sensory experiences?  If so, talk to your child’s doctor or school to see if occupational therapy services might be beneficial.  An occupational therapist (OT) is trained in sensory integration and can help you learn to guide your child through sensory experiences in a safe, playful, and non-threatening manner.  The end goal is for the child to have a strong, stable, and healthy sense of himself in his environment.

Encourage your child to experience touch, sounds, sights, tastes, and all different kinds of movement during play.  Thoughtful, guided exposure to playful sensory experiences is the best way to promote healthy development of the sensory system, ensuring that little bodies learn to process, integrate, and generate appropriate responses to the sensory information in their environments.

For further information, visit some of our favorite sensory based articles and websites.
Family Education: What is Sensory Integration?
The Out-of-Sync-Child
Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation

Pam is a mother of two children, Jack (7) and Ella (5) and has  been an occupational therapist since 1997. She has worked in several environments including pediatric inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, step down NICU, and currently school based for the past 8 years. This quote has traveled with Pam to each desk she has claimed while being an OT and helps her stay focused both in her career and as a mom.  “A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person who passes by leaves a mark.” For more information on the therapists at The Inspired Treehouse click here.

Therapist Thursday: Handwriting Struggles in Older Children (part 3)

Hello! And welcome back to our discussion about handwriting struggles for older students. In Part 1, we looked at a bit of research about the importance of legible handwriting, as well as the role that posture plays in an efficient handwriting style. Part 2 peeked into the significance of an efficient pencil grasp and the alternate solutions to a pencil grip.   Let’s continue with a look at Some Solutions that will help older strugglers.

Movement, Vision, and Visualization can open the door to efficient handwriting in fun and creative ways for students of all ages.  Bring the Tether Ball inside by hanging a soft ball from the ceiling on a string, any size from 5-10″ around (or a tennis ball if you aren’t afraid of breaking anything).  Practicing precision eye movements by “keeping your eye on the ball” while tapping it up or sideways in controlled patterns brings movement and vision into play.

vision tracking tube

The Vision Tracking Tube is a fun challenge for older students!

Sensory activities that involve using the hands and fingers, such as kneading bread dough or planting in the garden, as well as large muscle activities such as jumping and reaching in basketball, or running and reaching in tennis, bring movement, vision, and proprioception into the picture.  Drawing letter formations in the air or identifying those that are “written” on your back, as well as “blind writing” (drawing letters, numbers, or pictures with your eyes closed) aid in the development of visualization skills that are crucial for automatic reproduction of letters and words.  And even older students can enjoy using finger paints to practice letter formation, drawing letters in shaving cream, or finding the hidden beads in the Theraputty!  Believe me, even the adults enjoy that!

Finally, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!  No, not by pulling out a worksheet and attempting to reproduce a perfect letter time after time. (I’m not sure any of us can actually do that!) But, instead, by finding writing ideas that will utilize their creative minds to practice handwriting.  Journals, poems, stories, newspaper articles, and letters to relatives are wonderful (and useful) ways to provide meaningful opportunities for older students to practice and hone their handwriting skills.  And Cursive Clubs have begun to spring up all over as fun ways to turn handwriting skills from Practiced to Functional!

Cursive Clubs are great ways to help older children gain confidence in their handwriting skills!

Cursive Clubs are great ways to help older children gain confidence in their handwriting skills!

So, what do you think?  Willing to give it a try?  I hope so because I think that your older students and children will thank you for it…well, maybe not right away, but eventually!  Thanks for reading and I hope to see you again soon!

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in children’s handwriting and offers professional development training in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills.  She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.

 

Muscle Mover Monday…Uppercase H

It’s Monday morning!  Let’s get a move on!

Start your week with Fundanoodle’s award-winning Muscle Mover cards! Children can act out the movement from the cards to get the wiggles out, and then the fun continues by tracing the letter on the back of the dry erase card. Make sure to continue the blended learning by encourage the child to say the stroke movement out loud when they practice forming the letter.

We are going through the letters according to our I Can Write Uppercase! activity book and today’s letter is Uppercase H!

Zip Down

Hop to the Top

Zip Down

Hop to the Middle

Zip Across the Middle

Fundanoodle by Carolina Pad Uppercase H

Snort like a Hippo!

Fundanoodle by Carolina Pad's Muscle Mover cards - uppercase H

Fun with Easter Eggs All Year Long

Now, that Easter is over, what are you going to do with all those plastic Easter eggs? Here are some fun ideas to use the eggs throughout the year!

  1. Take them apart and have your child practice matching the different colors or designs to put the eggs back together. For older children, you could write an upper case letter on one half of the egg and a lower case letter on the other half of the egg. Then, have the child match the upper and lower case letters.
  2. Practice color patterns with the eggs.eggs1
  3. Put different dry materials inside the eggs, glue them back together, and let your child have fun with new sound makers. Some fun things to try inside are: rice, beans, pasta, small beads, a couple marbles, or coins.
  4. Play hide and find. Hide the eggs around your house and then give your child verbal directions on where to find the eggs. This is a fun way to work on following directions!
  5. Paint with the eggs. Open them up and use the open circle side to dip and paint and make circles on paper. eggs2
  6. Use them in sensory bins as scoops!
  7. Keep them in the kitchen for special play when your kids want to help you cookJ
  8. Matching game with a colored dot inside an egg carton and then the child matches the eggs to color in the egg carton. You could also write letters or numbers inside the carton, and then on the eggs too. eggs3

Amy Bumgarner, OTR/L