Toys R Us has published a handy guide for selecting and purchasing toys for children with differing abilities. The guide recognizes that each child is unique, and has a different set of abilities, and therefore makes suggestions based on which type of skill you are looking to build. The guide also features safety tips and a listing of helpful Apps. Check it out to help you find the perfect gift this holiday season!
Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)
If you’re a keen and organized shopper, I’m sure you have the majority of your holiday gifts already purchased, and if you’re anything like my Mother had everything done and wrapped in August! However, if you’re anything like my husband, you are waiting until the 24th to think about Christmas.
Although Santa and his Elves are hard at work building the toys your children put on their Christmas wish list, there may be a few items you still need to purchase.
We consulted our talented team of Pediatric Occupational Therapists and are happy to provide you with some fun but functional gift inspiration. These are gifts that are educational and stimulate child development:
1. BOOKS: Although technically not toys, books make an excellent gift. Fostering a love of reading in children from an early age is essential in development of language and literacy skills, while building creativity and imagination. And so many types of books exist! Beyond regular books, pop-up books, and interactive books, there are even books where you can record your voice, or the voice of a loved one into the story so that person is “reading” to your child. This is great for those people in your life who are out of town and are not able to “read” bedtime stories in person.
2. TOYS THAT MAKE THEM THINK: Look for puzzles, games, shaper sorters, science kits and more. Problem solving through play is fantastic for the mind and will help them become independent problem solvers in life. But be prepared to explore and learn with them. Interactive parent-child time through new learning is also essential to development!
3. TOYS THAT GET THEM MOVING: We’re living in the sedentary age of technology where obesity is on the rise. Try some active toys like a skipping rope, scooter, ride on toy, a bike or winter sports gear like skates, skis or snowshoes. But with all riding toys, include the helmet too! Keeping kids active is extremely important for both their physical and mental health!
4. TOYS THAT BRING OUT THEIR CREATIVE SIDE: Fostering creativity in kids at an early age is important for their development. Looks for gifts that will encourage them to be creative like art kits, dress up clothes or crafts and supplies.
5. AN EXPERIENCE THEY WON’T FORGET: Too many toys to choose from? Why not treat the children to an experience instead. Consider tickets to a sporting event, a play, or musical or a child-appropriate concert. Special events like these create fantastic memories and can strengthen family bonds.
We hope you find some gift inspiration from our tips and with you very Happy Holidays!
Originally posted December 8, 2014
Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)
Last year, my September blog was called “Stress-tember”. For many, the September transition brings about new routines, adjustment chaos, and change that can be met with resistance, fatigue and stress. This year I wanted to take a different approach. I thought instead I would start the conversation early and give parents, teachers, and even kids some proactive strategies they can use to manage this transition as smoothly, productively, and as positively as possible.
1. Plan Ahead
The last few weeks of August will go quickly as we all try to cram in those last care-free moments of outdoor time, vacation, and a less chaotic schedule. But, don’t let September catch you off guard! It is best to look at your schedule now and find time when you will be able to fit in back-to-school related tasks. Start with a list of jobs that need to be done to get back-to-school ready. Personally, with four kids, my list includes: closet and drawer clean-out to compile a list of needed clothing items, shoe inventory, looking at our available school-supplies and backpacks to determine what needs to be replaced, and sitting down with each child to ask them about the lunch foods they will happily consume if these land in their lunchbox. With one child transitioning to an out-of-catchment high-school we need to understand her new schedule and arrange transportation including some city bus trials and carpooling. Once we know what needs to get done, we need to have structured schedule to do it. When can we shop for clothes, shoes, supplies, groceries? When the first week of school arrives, it is best to have the shopping done and even meals prepared, so that the stress, anxiety and chaos of the new routine is easier to manage.
2. Get a Family Calendar
Having a calendar placed in a common area (e.g. the kitchen or back hall) can help with organizing weekly plans. Using a different coloured marker for each family member can help you to easily identify who needs to be where and at what time. You can also encourage or assist your kids with keeping track of homework deadlines, school events like picture day, and other social outings. Once school begins, set aside a time each week for the family to go over the week ahead to ensure everyone is on board and prepared (i.e. “we need a birthday present for Tuesday, rubber boots for the trip on Thursday” etc.).
3. Establish Routines
Due to vacations, sleepovers, and the unstructured nature of no school, daily routines are often disrupted over the summer months. A consistent nightly routine for kids is critical to them getting a good sleep. Be consistent with when they are to start getting ready for bed, which nights will be for baths / showers, teeth brushing, and how they enjoy falling asleep (story time, hugs and kisses, that favorite stuffie, nightlight etc.). The importance is in the consistency of the routine as this is what cues your child that he/she is ready for sleep. Set up a routine that works for you and your family and start early. Having an established bedtime routine in place BEFORE school begins will help to make the transition go smoothly.
In addition to bedtime routines, it is important to re-establish what after-school time should also look like. We have our “after school routine” typed, laminated and posted in the back hall. This includes “shoes and back-packs away, lunch boxes emptied, dry snacks and water bottle packed for the next day, paperwork from school in the “in box”, have a healthy snack, do any homework, then play (no technology)! We review this with the kids before school starts, confirm the expectations, get their commitment, and make any changes.
4. Re-Adjust Sleep Schedules
Just as the overall bedtime routine is disrupted during the summer months, so is the timing of sleep. It is important to get back into a regular routine before school starts to avoid tired and cranky kids. A good way to ease into it is to adjust your child’s sleep/wake routine by ten minutes each night, so you can gradually get back to the regular routine by the time school begins. Having alarms in the kids’ bedrooms will help them to wake at an appropriate time so that they are not rushing, skipping breakfast or brushing their teeth in order to make a bus. And watch out for the snooze button! Letting your child delay waking will only become a bad habit harder to break as they get older. Put the alarm clock on the other side of the room if you have to – walking to turn it off will deter them from returning to bed.
5. Honour Your Child’s Anxiety
If your child is nervous or anxious about getting back to school, acknowledge this. Let them know that these feelings are normal. Ask them what you can do to make this easier. If your child is going to a new school or concerned about a new teacher, call the school and see if you are able to visit the school and/or classroom teacher before the school year begins. Or, see if there is a friend also in the same class they can meet with over the summer to ease their concerns. Often just being in the new environment, or being exposed to other kids transitioning prior to the school year beginning can ease fears and calm nerves.
6. Be Consistent
The most important aspect of making the transition back to school easier is consistency. With a familiar and consistent schedule in place, children are more prepared for what is to come which minimizes anxiety, reduces behavioural episodes, and provides kids with clear expectations and structure to their day. And when kids adjust more easily, so do parents!
7. Check your Expectations
Sometimes the worst part of any transition is not having reasonable expectations in the first place. Expect that your kids will need time adjusting, allow them to be tired, out of sorts and cranky, know that you too will need some extra time for yourself to unwind or get some extra rest. Don’t be reactive to the adjustment but rather just acknowledge this as one of the toughest times of the year and accept that in good time new routines will be established and the family will once again be in sync.
So, I hope the above tips will be helpful as you make this necessary transition back to “normal” – whatever that looks like for you. Personally, I will still find September stressful and hectic, but I expect nothing less in a household of six. Like with all things, some preparedness, patience and consistency will make it easier on all involved!
Guest Blogger Jana Maich, Occupational Therapist
Working as an occupational therapist in pediatrics, I am always on the lookout for simple strategies I can offer to parents and classroom teachers that can be easily be implemented. One of the main difficulties expressed to me by concerned parents or teachers is that a child is having difficulty controlling their activity level, focusing or attending, or controlling emotional outbursts. In other words, a child is having difficulty self-regulating.
What does this mean? Self-regulation is our ability to monitor and control our body’s arousal level (in other words, our level of alertness) in order to remain in an optimal state that is appropriate for the current situation. Self-regulation is critical to being able to attend, focus, and learn (1). When our body’s arousal level gets too “high,” we may feel anxious, nervous, or stressed. When our body’s arousal level gets too “low,” we may feel lethargic, sluggish, or tired. Often unconsciously, adults participate in a variety of self-regulation strategies to remain in an optimum state throughout our day. For example, in a boring meeting where your level of alertness may be “low” you may tap your pencil, shift in your chair, apply pressure to your mouth or chin with your hands, or drink water in order to bring your arousal level up. After an intense day of work when you may be feeling too “high” you may take a bath, read a book, or participate in some other sort of relaxation promoting activity (1). There are many ways to regulate ourselves, and just as adults require self-regulation strategies, children do too. Yet, in today’s changing and fast-passed society, children are more stressed than ever before. School demands have increased, daily schedules are jam-packed, and they don’t have as much play or “down” time as kids once did. Unfortunately, unstructured play activities that are critical to a child’s innate self-regulation needs have been replaced by TV and electronics. All of this has ultimately stressed our young generations, resulting in disrupted self-regulation.
Yoga is one activity that has become recognized as a suitable and helpful regulation activity – for people of all ages. (2). For children, yoga offers many potential benefits – both physically and emotionally. Benefits include improved postural control, immune functioning, body awareness, strength and flexibility, emotional control, attention, sleep, and a decrease in stress and anxiety. Yoga is a simple strategy with a variety of exercises that can be completed anywhere including at home, when on vacation, while lying in bed, or as a group in the classroom. Depending on the current needs of the child, there are various poses and breathing exercises designed to bring arousal levels up or down as appropriate. Over time, children begin to develop an enhanced mind-body connection and an improved ability to monitor and manage their own levels of arousal (2).
In my personal experience, using simple breathing strategies and poses in my practice, has demonstrated firsthand how yoga can positively affect children with both physical and mental disabilities including autism, ADHD, emotional difficulties, mental health conditions, and motor coordination difficulties. In older children, learning how to control their own emotions and arousal levels empowers them and creates both self-esteem and self-control.
So what are you waiting for? Search out local yoga programs for you or your child. Try these links: www.yoga4classrooms.com or www.childlightyoga.com. Consider that many places will let you try a class without a commitment, or offer great starter incentives. Or, buy a CD or DVD or check out some poses and breathing exercises via online videos to see if this might work for you or your family.
Check out some of our other resources and articles for kids health here.
(1) Williams, M., & Shellenberger, S. (2012). “How does your engine run?” A leader’s guide to the Alert Program for self-regulation.” Albuquerque, NM: Therapy Works
(2) Flynn, L. (2010). Yoga 4 classrooms. Tools for learning, lessons for life. Dover, NH: Yoga 4 Classrooms.
Are you already hearing “I’m bored” from your children? Day-trips, camps, playdates and family vacation time can’t happen every day, so kids sometimes will have to entertain themselves at home. While it is easy to let your kids fall into a routine of technology time, keeping them active is better for both their mental and physical health. But where can you turn to for unique ideas to keep them entertained and busy? Check out these 20 Summer Boredom Busters from Canadian Family Magazine.
For more helpful information for children and families please visit our past blogs devoted to “kids“.
As mentioned in our post, Help Young Minds Stay Sharp this Summer, it can be difficult to keep children’s minds stimulated during the summer months and often many children suffer summer brain drain. One of the best ways to put a plug on this drain is to encourage regular reading. Encourage your child to set a SMART Goal for how many books they plan to read this summer and keep track using our free printable summer reading log. Be sure to build in rewards when your child is on track and when they meet their goal!
For additional helpful tools for kids and adults visit our Printable Resources Page.
It’s that time again… The report cards are done, the bell has rung, and summer vacation is upon us! Summer is a time for camps, vacations, trips, cottaging and so much more. But with all the fun in store, where do they fit in time to learn? How do we as parents make sure our kids don’t suffer summer “brain drain,” while still ensuring they get the break and vacation they need? Check out the following infographic for ideas to keep kids brains sharp while having fun this summer vacation!
Remember this as a kid? Hanging on for dear life as someone would try to spin you so fast you would become sick or fly off at record speeds. I can only imagine the injury rates that prompted the removal of these from playgrounds.
As parents, we all have a different “danger zone” with our kids. Yet, there is a balance between letting them play recklessly and engaging in the new trend of “dangerism” where we are preventing our kids from taking risks – risks that can be so important to healthy growth and development. Playgrounds are a great source of physical exertion and outdoor exploration, but can also be unsafe. According to Parachute playground injuries account for over 28,000 injuries per year in Canada and that while many kids suffer only minor injuries, approximately 10% are hospitalized for a more severe injury often involving the head. So, how do we let our kids enjoy the playgrounds, have fun with friends, and explore independently while still keeping them safe?
Today, July 5th, is National Injury Prevention Day! Take a look at the following care of Parachute to learn how to create a safer playground experience for your children. Also visit Parachute’s National Injury Prevention Day page to learn how to Stop the Clock on other types of preventable injuries.
In celebration of summer, I wanted to share an infographic on pool safety. These helpful tips and tools are good things to review and consider, ensuring you, your friends and loved ones are safe and enjoy some fun in the sun this summer!