Advanced Pediatric Therapies

Kid-Powered

Spring Fever: Fun Outdoor Learning

Spring is here!  Check out these fun ideas for outdoor learning and play, now that we can finally get outside.  The article appeared from Rasmussen College.

Engaging Outdoor Learning Activities for Kids

outdoor learning activities for kidsYour three-year-old is literally bouncing off the walls, your kindergartener is running the stairs like he has a personal trainer and you’re just wishing you could steal some of their energy for yourself. One thing is for sure: if they stay cooped up in the living room much longer, it’s going to be declared an official disaster zone.What’s the solution? Round them up and head outside! Not only will it give your furniture a relief but the great outdoors holds countless learning opportunities for your kids.We enlisted various experts to provide some examples of outdoor learning activities to help get you started. Try these skill-builders for preschool-aged kids to help your little ones burn off energy while achieving developmental milestones.

10 Fun outdoor learning activities for kids

1. Texture scavenger hunt

How it works: Place nature objects with different textures in several brown lunch bags. You could put a pinecone in one, a stick in another and a stone in a third. Have your kids close their eyes and feel each object. Then send them outside to find a similar texture. As they find matching objects, introduce texture words like pointy, bumpy and smooth.

How it promotes learning: All of those new words will expand your little ones’ vocabulary. Discriminating between different textures also supports fine-motor skills like coloring and writing, according to pediatric occupational therapist Christie Kiley.

2. Beach volleyball

How it works: Playing volleyball with an inflatable beach ball is another worthwhile activity, says Cara Koscinski, pediatric therapist and author of The Pocket Occupational Therapist. You can also simply throw the ball high in the air for your kids to catch if they are too young to play an organized game. Challenge them to count how many times they can clap before catching it! (Hint: If they have trouble gripping the ball, simply deflate it a bit.)

How it promotes learning: You can probably guess that this game teaches counting and social interaction skills. Koscinski explains that catching a ball using both hands also teaches bilateral integration, a necessary skill for learning tasks such as cutting, buttoning and tying shoes.

3. Pulling weeds

How it works: Yep, this is just what it sounds like! Believe it or not, your little ones can help with the gardening and learn at the same time—it’s a win-win!

How it promotes learning: All that digging and pulling is great for sensory exploration as well as building hand and finger strength, explains Kiley.

4. Pool noodle obstacle course

How it works: Get creative with pool noodles and design an obstacle course. Lay them on the ground, cut them in half, attach them to a fence or hang them from a branch. Challenge your kids to jump over them, limbo under them, crawl around them or walk on them like a balance beam.

How it promotes learning: Getting up and moving helps kids build core muscle strength. Koscinksi explains that this will later be used for completing school tasks seated at the desk.

5. Nature hike

How it works: Nature offers plenty of discoveries for kids. Help them explore by encouraging them to find certain types of leaves, bugs, rocks and flowers.

How it promotes learning: A nature hike encourages observation skills, fine-motor skills, hand-eye coordination and the use of the five senses in exploring, according to Barbara Harvey, author of Journeys Through Parenthood and executive director of Parents, Teachers, and Advocates.

6. Critter quest

How it works: Miriam Manela is the owner of Thrive Occupational Therapy and recommends this activity in her book The Parent-Child Dance. As the “critter,” you slowly inch your way around the yard while narrating your movements. You might say, “I’m climbing up the swing set. What letter does ‘swing’ start with?” Try to work in new words like climb, reverse and descend. Your kids are the “trackers.” It’s their job to follow you with their eyes and think about your questions.

How it promotes learning: Critter Quest improves eye movement and tracking, plus it can be used to strengthen vocabulary, letter recognition and phonetics.

7. Chalk jump

How it works: Koscinski suggests using sidewalk chalk to write numbers and letters in different colors. Then ask kids to jump on the number, letter or color that’s called out.

How it promotes learning: This activity helps develop gross-motor skills, counting skills and letter, number and color recognition.

8. Simon says dance party

How it works: Head outside with some music and host a dance party. Give short instructions for nature-based dance moves, like “wiggle like a worm,” “twist like a leaf” and “flap your arms like a bird.”

How it promotes learning: Kids get to practice following simple instructions while being active. Kiley adds that the dance actions help them develop body awareness, coordination and balance.

9. Hula hoop hop

How it works: Line up several hula hoops and have kids hop into the middle of each hoop with both feet, explains Koscinski. Make it a bit more challenging by encouraging them to hop into one hoop with their right foot and the next hoop with their left.

How it promotes learning: All that hopping builds gross-motor coordination skills, which are necessary for sports and bike riding.

10. Flower artists

How it works: Gather your young artists and some paint (watercolors or liquid tempera) near a flowerbed. Watch them create their newest masterpiece!

How it promotes learning: Kids will hone their observation skills and learn about colors. Kiley recommends offering paintbrushes with a built-in grip to promote a mature grasp.

Let the fun begin

These 10 outdoor learning activities will have you having fun with your rug rats in no time. They won’t even realize you’re teaching them new skills instead of watching them tear up the house.

Your search for educational opportunities for children might be a sign you should be doing this for a living.Learn more about other signs you should be teaching preschool!

Leave a comment »

What is “Vestibular Processing” anyway?

Spinning is super fun!

Spinning is super fun!

The following is excepted from North Shore Pediatric Therapy:

WHAT IS THE VESTIBULAR SYSTEM?

The vestibular system detects movement and gravitational pull, and it provides information regarding the position of our head in space and acceleration and deceleration of movement. It is the first sensory system to fully develop in uteroandis located in the inner ear. The vestibular system has strong neurological connections in the brain and is a major organizer of varied sensory input. This system is considered the most influential sensory system and has tremendous impact on one’sability to function daily. Directly or indirectly, the vestibular system influences nearly everything we do. It is the unifying system in our brain that modifies and coordinates information received from other systems, and it functions like a traffic cop, telling each sensation where and when it should go or stop.  

HOW DOES THIS SYSTEM FUNCTION?

This system affects aspects of physical function like posture, balance, movement, coordination, attention, arousal level, impulsivity and behavior. The vestibular system works with tactile, auditory, and visual information to give us our perception of space and our position and orientation within that space. Children affected by poor vestibular processing may be perceived as inattentive, lazy, overly anxious, or seeking attention. They may have trouble reading or doing simple arithmetic. Functioning at school, going out into the community, performing routine daily tasks, or just getting out of bed in the morning may be difficult for children with vestibular difficulties.

WHAT CAUSES POOR VESTIBULAR PROCESSING?

Poor vestibular processing (or vestibular dysfunction) can occur for a variety of reasons; often, however,children develop a vestibular disorder for no known reason. Possible causes for vestibular dysfunction include: premature birth and a fairly long period of incubation after birth, exposure to excessive movement or invasive sounds as a fetus or infant, neglect (little handling and moving) during infancy, repeated ear infections or severe ear infections, maternal drug or alcohol abuse during pregnancy, or general developmental delay and immature development of the nervous system.

WHAT ARE SOME SYMPTOMS OF POOR VESTIBULAR PROCESSING?

Symptoms and functional difficulties of poor vestibular processing include:

  • Over-arousal or under-arousal
  • Excessive movement
  • Avoiding movement at all costs
  • Difficulty maintaining attention
  • Motion sickness (car, boat, airplane), dizziness or nausea caused by watching things move
  • Excessive spinning or excessive watching of things spin
  • Inability to read or write in cursive
  • Decreased auditory processing
  • Inability to sustain listening without moving or rocking
  • Problems with balance (static or moving) and/or vertigo
  • Difficulty walking on uneven ground, and difficulty navigating stairs
  • Head banging
  • History of traumatic brain injury, shaken child syndrome, ear cuffing, etc.

WHY IS THIS SYSTEM IMPORTANT?

The vestibular system primes the entire nervous system to function effectively by sending messages to the higher centers of the brain. When the influences of vestibular stimuli fail to reach their destinations, they cannot adequately contribute to sensory integration. One result of depressed processing in the vestibular system is hypotonicity (low muscle tone); when this system is not integrating information as it should and muscle tone is decreased, it is difficult to initiate movement or to maintain muscle tension during movement, resulting in significant difficulties in fine/gross and oral motor coordination.

The vestibular system also tells us where we are in relation to the ground, giving us a confidence that if we jump, swing, or somersault, we know we will hit the ground on our way down. Thisknowledge is called “gravitational security,”and with this basic sense of stability, children develop emotional security.

A child with dysfunctional vestibular processing, who does not possess “gravitational security,” tends to be inflexible, fearful and controlling due to the fact that he lacks control over the world around him and how he moves through it. This child often suffers from social problems as well, as he feels vulnerable to unpredictable situations caused by those around him.

Our Approach at APT:

At APT, we treat vestibular dysfunction in a variety of ways.  The most obvious are all the swings, climbing apparatus and tunnels you see around.  But we also address vestibular dysfunction by using auditory interventions, primarily therapeutic listening.   We don’t treat it in isolation either.  Most of the activities we utilize integrate many layers of sensory skills and we work toward what is best for your child.   Please ask us if you have questions!

Leave a comment »