Changing Colors: The Blog of Spectrum Pediatrics

Archive for the ‘Preschool’ Category

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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December 19, 2016

Feeding Friday: Family Mealtimes

According to the Family Dinner Project, which is a nonprofit organization operating from the offices of Project Zero at Harvard University, there are a number of benefits to having a family mealtime. Research indicates that children and adolescents who are part of regular family mealtimes have:

  • Lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression
  • Higher grade-point averages
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Lower rates of obesity and eating disorders

Other benefits include the dinner conversation, which can be a vocabulary booster that is even more powerful than reading. Telling family stories can increase pride in family heritage, resilience through adversity, and a sense of belonging. Finally, don’t underestimate the simple value of time together. This emotional video shows children’s ideas about mealtime with their parents.

Many families struggle with how to get family mealtimes started, and how to manage conversation with kids of different ages. Check out these resources at the Family Dinner Project for helpful resources on building conversation with your child at mealtimes. For a few other ideas on getting mealtime conversations going, check out here or this website!

Stay tuned for next week’s post on the importance of family mealtimes for children who are on feeding tubes.

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December 18, 2016

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

Coloring Books

As a speech therapist, I often find myself working on various activities with children such as puzzles, reading books, or building blocks. Recently, I have been using coloring books in my therapy sessions and I have found that it is a great way to incorporate language and other goals! I start with having the child choose which page from the coloring book if this is a new activity for them. Once the child chooses a page, I will tape the coloring page to the table to eliminate the distraction of picking up the paper off of the table. Choosing one page also allows you to target attention as this will help the child focus on the one task that they are supposed to be working on. I will target receptive language skills by giving verbal or visual directions, depending on the child’s developmental level. For example, “Color the airplane blue and the little girl’s eyes brown”. If you have a younger child you can keep the directions more simple such as “Pick the purple crayon”. If you are working on expressive language goals, have your child comment on what they see in the picture or expand on their phrases when they label. For example if your child points and says “airplane”, expand with “Wow that airplane is in the sky”.

Our occupational therapists also love to use coloring books within therapy since this is a fun and simple way to target pencil/crayon grips for children of all ages. Although this is technically a fine motor task, if your child has trouble sitting in a chair or attending to one activity, use this in a visual schedule or have a timer available. This way, your child can complete the task, but also see what might be next or how much time is left. We often use large coloring pages, but a blank piece of paper is also fine to help build your child’s creativity!

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