Changing Colors: The Blog of Spectrum Pediatrics

Archive for the ‘Preschool’ Category

March 21, 2017

Bike Riding 101

By Colleen Donley, PT, DPT

Here are a few tips to remember while picking out a bike:

  • Kid’s bike sizes are determined based on the wheel size, not the seat height- wheel sizes include 12, 16, 20, and 24-inches.
  • A child should be able to dismount and straddle the frame while standing flat-footed.
  • When riding, the knees should not be scrunched up under the handlebars or straight out at the lowest position. There should always be a slight bend in the knee.
  • There are different types of brakes- rear-coaster brakes and hand brakes

Before you get into the standard “big kid bike,” there are different styles to help get your child prepared. Here are some explanations of different styles to help you choose where to start and which is right for your child.

  • Pedal and push bikes let your child sit on the seat with their feet on or off the pedals while you push them along. As your child gets accustomed to the feel of movement on the seat and begins to push the pedals on their own, you can gradually fade out how much you push them along. Most of these bikes come with removable handles to convert into a toddler bike.
  • Tricycles have three wheels and serve as great starting points to help your little one develop the coordination to pedal. Moving the pedals requires moving the right and left leg in a reciprocal manner, a skill that many children actually have to learn! Kiddos steer tricycles by using the handlebars only and not by leaning their weight to one side or the other.
  • Balance bikes have no pedals. They let your child develop their sense of movement, momentum, and balance while learning how to steer without the added complexity of a pedal. Many like balance bikes as a first step as they allow the child to keep their feet on or close to the ground for extra stability while they learn to control their body on the bike.
  • Training wheels have become more of a contentious point as the popularity of balance bikes has grown. Training wheels widen the base of support in the back of the bike to eliminate the need for balance while your child masters the coordination of moving the pedals and steering. Many say that training wheels teach the child how to unbalance the bike, as the child will lean their weight against the outer support of the wheels. Then when the training wheels come off, the child has to unlearn to lean against this leverage. So for a child that has already mastered balance on a balance bike, it might be worth skipping the training wheels.

Before beginning to ride, don’t forget the helmet!! Be sure to get the right size by measuring the circumference of your child’s head one inch above the eyebrow. A properly fitting helmet should be placed on top of your child’s head and remain in place as they shake their head yes and no. Head out to an open parking lot or empty tennis court to give your kiddo lots of open space to explore and experiment with speed and steering. Have fun!

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March 21, 2017

Trick of the Trade from Jamie Hinchey, MS, CCC-SLP

Welcome Spring: Picture It!

Now that it’s spring, it’s time to get outside and enjoy the nice weather! As a speech therapist I am always looking for fun and creative crafts to do during my therapy sessions. I love when the seasons start to change, especially from winter to spring. This is a great time to work on sequencing and concepts during my therapy sessions. This “Picture It” craft uses a trick of the trade we have talked about previously: cameras.

For this activity you will need:

  • A camera (on phone or your “old school” camera)
  • Colored pencils or crayons
  • A large piece of white construction paper

With spring, usually comes beautiful days outside. Before going outside, it is helpful to talk to your child about the different seasons and explain now that winter is going away, spring will be next. By using these sequence words (first, next, then, etc.) you can work on time concepts with your child. It may be helpful to talk about what spring means and what you might start to see outside as the seasons change. A book can also be a great way to introduce new concepts, there are a lot of books focusing on spring or outdoor activities. See our previous post on spring books here!

Once you have gone over this with your child, take them outside and take a picture of them in the environment. This could be in the flowers, under a tree, laying on the grass, or at the playground. If possible, print out your picture and use it when you start your “Picture It” craft. If you are unable to print it out, have the picture out so your child can reference this. Ask your child to identify what they see in the picture and draw their own picture of what “spring” looks like to them. To challenge your child, you could also talk about what you might hear or taste on a nice day! This craft can target all areas of development. For fine motor skills, have your child draw with different types of writing utensils or even cut out pieces of paper and glue. For gross motor and attention, work on your child sitting in a specific spot at the table or floor and attending enough to complete the activity. For language development, have your child tell you about what they did outside or retell what happened in a book you may have read about Spring! There are so many fun crafts, but try to use the beautiful Spring weather as a way to get your child outside!

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March 21, 2017

Everything Sprouts in Spring: What makes a good book?

By: Brianna Craite, MS, CCC-SLP

Recently, the therapists at Spectrum Pediatrics had a discussion on “What makes a good book?” We know how important book routines are to develop strong early literacy and pre-reading skills. Books can also help foster hand eye coordination while turning pages. You can practice supported or independent sitting while reading.

Walking into the book section in any store or browsing the library can be overwhelming with the wide selection. Here are a few things our therapists’ thought of especially when looking at the pictures that may ease your search:

  • Bright simple pictures
  • Pictures that include early vocabulary themes like body parts, animals, toys etc.
  • Pictures “tell the story”

As children get older we suggest books with words or phrases that repeat to practice early literacy skills. Check out the list below and you’ll see some of my book choices for the upcoming spring season!

Toddler

Board books are easy for early readers to turn the pages. It is important to look for interactive flaps, bright colors, and spring vocabulary. As a speech therapist, I often recommend that parents label the pictures they see in the book while allowing their child to explore the interactive parts of the book. Using books with interactive flaps can help increase your child’s attention on the book.

Preschool/Kindergarten

While looking for books for preschool age, focus on books that have repetitive words such as I see Spring. The repetitive words are great for early readers. The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle is one of my favorite books for Spring. After reading this book, try planting seeds of your own for an interactive activity to go along with the story! And Then it’s Spring by Julie Fogliano is a great book for early readers, especially when focusing on teaching the concept of changing seasons. Spring is Here by Will Hillenbrand is a wonderful book for introducing spring vocabulary and learning about friendship!

Enjoy your books!

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March 15, 2017

Technology Tuesday: Hello Spring

We found an app that we had to include in our “Everything Sprouts in Spring” series! The “Hello Spring: Preschool Games” mobile application is available on both your phone or iPad. This app is a great way to “Welcome Spring” with your child. The free version of this application allows you to explore the different things you may see out in nature when spring arrives. This includes growing trees, blossoming flowers, and a rabbit that helps guide your child around the screen. By using your finger to point to different areas on the screen, your child can help the rabbit feed baby birds, give water to the flowers, and help dig with a shovel to grow food in the garden. This is specifically designed for preschool and kindergarten children. For $2.99 you can buy in-app purchases that allow your child to design different animals (bees, birds, etc.), learn about where fresh produce comes from, and take care of baby birds to help them grow.

To learn more about the app or to purchase it click here!

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March 6, 2017

Trick of the Trade from Tracy Magee, MS, CCC-SLP

Blankets

This object is in everyone’s house, but it is not usually considered a great tool for learning – a blanket! Surprisingly, this item can provide lots of opportunities for language and movement. Here are a few ways we use a blanket at Spectrum Pediatrics:

1. Regulation – We all have our own unique ways to help ourselves cope with the sensory information that we are receiving in our daily lives. Swinging in a blanket is a great way to help calm a child that might be overwhelmed. The blanket creates a safe cocoon and the linear movement is very beneficial in helping a child overcome too much sensory input.

2. Movement – Kids can make the blanket into a parachute-type game with holding the corners and moving it up and down. Kids can have the blanket “pop” balls out the top or kids can go under the blanket when it rises up.

3. Language – A blanket can provide hours of entertainment for receptive (listening/comprehension) and expressive (speaking) language.

  • Receptive: Practice prepositions with a doll or other object. For example, “Hide the dog under to blanket, Put the doll on top of the blanket.” You can also work on following directions to play the parachute game (“Make the blanket go UP! Make the blanket go DOWN!”)
  • Expressive: Have your child hop on the blanket for a ride, and he/she must tell you where to go. (“Take a right, Go left, Take me to the kitchen!”) Try to work on the concepts of “fast” and “slow” while going for a ride.

These ideas are just the beginning! Talk to your therapist about other ways to use this simple object to create some wonderful learning opportunities!

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February 22, 2017

Tips for Improving Your Child’s Communication

At Spectrum Pediatrics, we often find ourselves talking to parents about small changes they can make during their daily routines to help build their child’s communication skills. Two of our speech therapists are sharing four of their all-time favorite tips for parents. Check out the video below to hear Jamie and Krystina discuss these tips and explain what makes them so important and how to build them into your everyday routine!

Stay posted for more helpful videos on tummy time and feeding behaviors at mealtimes!

February 21, 2017

Screen Time: What are the new guidelines?

By: Tracy Magee, MS, CCC-SLP

Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new guidelines on their website regarding screen time and young children. Previously, it was suggested that children should not be exposed to any type of screen – TV, smart phone, or tablet – until a child was at least 2 years of age. Nevertheless, with technology becoming more and more a part of our daily lives, it is almost impossible to completely avoid screens until a child is 2 years old. Here are some highlights from the newly released guidelines…

1. It is best to continue to limit screen exposure for all kids under 18 months. There is one exception – video chat. Feel free to let your little one interact with Grandma and Grandpa each day! Research shows that babies may not be able to participate in the conversational part of a video chat, but they will be able to benefit from playing peek-a-boo with their relative on the screen.

2. With children from 15 months to 2 years old, it is best to sit and watch an educational program with them. It has been found that a child can actually learn some new vocabulary if the parent is participating in watching the program and talking about it.

3. Children between ages 2 and 5 are able to process at least some of the information that is shown in a television program, yet of course, the screen time should still be kept in moderation. Programs and apps developed by the Sesame Street Workshop and PBS have the most research to prove their highly educational value.

Despite these new educational videos and apps, it is important to remember that kids learn best through human interaction! Keep playing and talking with your child each day!

The organization, Common Sense Media, provides great guidance to parents about age-appropriate television, movies, and smart phone apps. You can access information from them at this website or download their free app here!

 

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February 2, 2017

Disruptive Behaviors and Your Preschooler – A New Strategy is Revealed!

By: Tracy Magee, MS, CCC-SLP

My alma mater, The University of Virginia, just revealed new information about children and disruptive behaviors. Researchers were able to pinpoint a strategy that helps to lower disruptive behaviors in preschool students. You can read about the study here, but I will provide you some bullet points to summarize what is covered in the article.

Some background info:

  • The basis of this study was built on the knowledge that children who exhibit disruptive behaviors (such as being impulsive, oppositional, and/or aggressive) are more at risk for short and long term negative effects.
  • Kids that exhibit these beginning disruptive behaviors are most likely to have interactions with teachers (and adults) that are full of conflict. (E.g. “Sally, no, don’t do that. Jose, don’t throw that! Xavier, stop it!”)

The study:

  • The study’s main author, Amanda Willford, stated that “building a strong and supportive connection with a young child, where teachers get to know and accept the child for who they are, is important for the children’s early success in school, especially for children who sometimes act out in the classroom.”
  • The researchers created three groups to test this theory.

a. “Banking Time” group – Teachers were instructed to let the child lead the play (10-15 minutes while one-on-one).

b. “Child Time” group – Teachers were encouraged to spend time with a child but they were not given specific instructions about how to interact (10-15 minutes while one-on-one).

c. “Control” group – Teachers interacted with the child with no changes.

  • The study revealed that the “Banking Time” group had the most positive outcomes. It is interesting to note that the researchers encouraged these teachers to even refrain from positive praise, asking questions, or teaching skills when playing together.

I feel that this study can greatly help us all as we interact with our children, even if we are not preschool teachers. It exhibits the importance of just playing with your child and refraining from our adult-driven agenda through questions and praise. These researchers have proven that our kids just want us to spend time with them and let us get to know their true personality. So, what are you waiting for…go play!

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January 10, 2017

W-Sitting: What’s the big problem?

By: Colleen Donley, PT, DPT
  • A w-sit is often seen as a very preferred position for play
  • W-sitting can be harmful to the hip and knee joints as well as muscles throughout the legs
  • W-Sitting can have a negative impact on little ones developing appropriate trunk strength and postural control

A w-sit is when a child is sitting on their bottom with both knees bent and their legs turned out away from their body. If you were to look with a bird’s eye view at your child sitting, their legs would make a W.

Before the age of 3, the bones in little ones are still very malleable (aka flexible) and can twist, turn, etc. due to the stresses put on their body. If we let them sit in a w-sit all day, the ball of the femur bone that goes in the hip joint can actually rotate to a more forward position. This ends up looking like the classic “knock-kneed” position when your child stands, their thighs angle inwards so their knees almost touch. Additionally, a w-sit position puts a child at an increased risk for hip dislocation.

W-sitting can also shorten or tighten muscles in the hip and legs. The hamstrings and hip rotators are most at-risk to become tight in kids who prefer w-sitting. Their knees are always bent so the hamstring is put in a shortened position for a long period of time. This can negatively impact a child’s coordination, balance, and mastering other gross motor skills such as galloping or skipping as they get older.

Most often, I see kiddos prefer to w-sit when they are getting tired and especially those with low muscle tone. W-sit can be considered a “lazy position” because the child does not have to use their trunk muscles to sit upright and not fall over when they want to reach for a toy. W-sitting takes away the hard part of sitting and playing! We do not see children rotate through their trunk to reach for toys when w-sitting. This also discourages crossing midline, which is an amazing skill to develop for the growing and learning brain. Also, splaying the legs out in a w-sit creates a very large base of support so the child doesn’t have to worry about falling over when reaching for a toy. Their legs are going to make sure that doesn’t happen but this does not let them develop the trunk stability and postural control to learn how to balance appropriately. Think…if a child cannot balance appropriate in sitting then they will have a harder time learning how to balance in standing as their center of gravity is raised higher.

At the end of the day, it is likely virtually impossible to follow your busy infant or toddler around the house for all awake moments. As they move from crawling to sitting to rolling and back to sitting, it would be exhausting to correct every instance of w-sitting. Of biggest concern is when you might see your little one sitting in this w-position for an extended period of time while playing with toys or hanging out there during story time or a movie break. This would be the perfect time to ask them to “fix your feet!”

Here are some alternative sitting positions to encourage during playtime: Criss-cross applesauce, long-sitting, side-sitting.

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January 4, 2017

Feeding Friday: Family Mealtimes with Tube Fed Kids

Our last post was about the importance of eating together as a family regularly. This is particularly important for kids who are tube-fed, but it is often more difficult. Stringent tube-feeding schedules and extended time spent on the tube feeding itself can make sitting down and eating together feel like either an additional chore, or an impossible luxury. Add in a history of stressful mealtimes that feel like failures, and the result is often allowing tube-fed kids to opt out of the family dinner table. Sometimes medical and behavioral complications have disrupted daily routines so much that family mealtimes have never even been attempted. Unfortunately, this results in a crucial missed opportunity on the road to becoming a healthy eater. In addition to the advantages mentioned last week, kids who are tube-fed benefit by:

  • Being part of a family routine
  • Seeing food as enjoyable
  • Having mealtime expectations that aren’t just volume or eating related
  • Being exposed to a variety of foods through sight and smell
  • Watching parents and siblings eat (research has shown these to be the most powerful tools in the development of healthy eating habits).

Even if kids don’t put a bite in their mouths, there are other measures of success:

  • Helping to prepare food, making it clear that eating is not an expectation. It allows children to feel the pride of contributing and increases food experience. Even young children can tear, toss, stir, scoop and spread with some help.
  • Staying at the table for a certain period of time. Even if it begins at 2 minutes, time at the table can then be extended. If your child shows significant anxiety just with being at the table, this is an even more important step in becoming an eater.
  • Completion of mealtime chores such as helping to set the table, cleaning up the silverware, and helping to pass the serving plates can put the child in proximity to food that doesn’t force eating.
  • Participating in family conversation, even if it begins with one or two responses. Non-food conversation is important for family bonding and for helping the child to become a part of the “eating world” in preparation for becoming an eater themselves.

Talk to your therapist about other ways in which to build up to pleasant mealtimes. Past fears may need to be worked through before any food is part of the equation. If this is frustrating, remember that many families struggle with this, not just families with tube-fed children. If you missed it, check out the resources in last week’s post here.

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