Sensory Parenting Blog

We combine Sensory Integration and Parenting from a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and Mother team's perspective.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Outdoor Sensory Activities
By Britt Collins MS, OTR/L


Now that June is almost over you may be getting antsy for some new summertime activities for your child. One thing that can be fun is a small parachute. You don't have to have a lot of kids to make the smaller ones work. Children love to play games with it (run under, taking turns, putting a balloon on top and trying to gently move parachute without knocking the balloon off, running under and sitting to make a tent over the top of the kids and more!)
Other fun activities that can help provide movement paired with heavy work which is calming to the nervous system include:
• big bubble wands
• outdoor water games with hose or water balloons 
• running through sprinklers 
• frisbee toss with partner
• kickball with a group of kids (help teach your child how to work as a team)
• set up outdoor obstacle course for example, a set up a few cones and line them up and have the kids have to kick a ball weaving in and out of the cones, b then jump rope or if that's too hard jump over the rope on the ground using two feet, c hula hoop either hula around hips, or have kids crawl through it while you hold it up, or jump into it and out of it while the hula hoop is lying on the ground, d have the children animal walk to next station. They can snake through grass, bear walk, frog hop, gallop etc and vary depending on physical ability, e toss a ball or object into a bucket or throw a ball into a target that you have set up. 
• if on a playground challenge them to an obstacle course on the actual playground equipment 
• hide and seek or tag (helps children work on winning and losing types of games) 
• swinging at park on regular park swing or if you have access to a tire swing or another type of swing that is different. Make sure you don't allow the child to spin too much and you always want them turn a few times in one direction and then the other so as to balance out their vestibular system
• have the kids or even just one child take a balloon and play "balloon volleyball" gently tossing into the air and trying to keep it from touching the ground. This helps with visual perceptual skills, motor planning and eye hand coordination 
• Pinterest has a ton of ideas for outdoor crafts and tactile activities as well

Of course swimming is a great sensory activity that also helps build muscle strength and coordination. Make sure you lather up the sunscreen and if your child is sensitive to putting on sunscreen you can try the spray or stick tubes for the face or slowly build up toleration trying lotion after baths and get them used to the tactile sensation of having a cream like substance rubbed on their bodies. 
Many times it's too hot to get outside depending on what part of the world you live in. In that case, create indoor obstacle courses for your child and have them relay with friends or siblings. 
You can have them animal walk down the hall or up and down the stairs, then crawl underneath kitchen table, jump from couch to cushions or mini trampoline to cushions, toss ball into target or bucket. There a million things you can do but this is just one example. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Serenity Yoga on the Beach
By Britt Collins MS, OTR/L

I just had the most amazing experience. I am at the beach taking a Yoga course for children with special needs. The course is good but we are sitting a lot while we learn and I needed to get out and move. I walked around the city of Santa Barbara for an hour, watching people at the Summer Solatice and taking in the hustle and bustle. Then I drove the 25 minutes back to the place where I am staying and I decided to walk down to the beach. This beach is pretty quiet and it only took about 100 yards to get to a place away from the few other people also on the beach. I chose a spot to practice my Yoga. 

Now I have done Yoga off and on for years but am recently trying to adapt this more into my lifestyle. I am always learning and growing personally and professionally. 

I was able to calm my mind and think of nothing else (those of you who know me and know I am a workaholic know this is hard for me!) and I practiced through several sun salutations toward the setting sun as well as balance postures. Then I sat to relax and breath deeply the fresh air coming off the ocean waves. 

I cannot wait to continue writing my new book that is coming winter of 2015 Sensory Yoga for Kids! I am so inspired to continue working with the amazing children that I do but incorporate more Yoga into my therapies as well. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Summer Time Fun!
By Britt Collins MS, OTR/L

Welcome to the Sensory Parenting Blog! I am a pediatric occupational therapist and I work with children ages birth to adulthood.  My current focus is 0-3 in home therapy through early intervention and I also work at an elementary school.  I see clients with all sorts of challenges including autism, SPD (sensory processing disorder), Down syndrome, learning disabilities, ADHD, medically fragile, G-tube/feeding issues and more.

Of course as an OT working with children we all have funny stories about our kids and serious ones as well.  I want to share the good and the challenging things about children with special needs in hopes to help your child learn, grow and laugh!

Now that its summer and our school-aged kids are out playing in the sun – what are we going to do with them for all these hours in the day?  If you are used to having your morning work out and then quiet time in the afternoon because your child is in half day or full day school, summer can be fun but become challenging to entertain your little ones all the time!

Being outside is a wonderful thing especially to get your kiddo moving! Don’t forget the sunscreen for your precious child’s skin.  Some children who are sensitive to bright sunlight also may want to have sunglasses and a hat. Your child may be over-responsive and not want to wear sunscreen or a hat! What do you do then!  For children who are tactile sensitive, you have to try and slowly get them used to tolerating lotion on their skin, or play with fun hats and glasses when you are not outside to get them used to wearing those types of things.  Some OT’s will advise you to participate in a therapeutic brushing protocol that can help with many sensory aspects but you Must be trained by an OT and followed to participate in this type of brushing program.  You can also help your child’s sensitive skin by using a loufa in the bathtub and towel rubbing them dry each time you bathe so they start to calm down that sensitive organ. Did you know that your Skin is your largest organ?  It is the first to develop in utero and the main organ that tells us whether things are hot/cold, sharp/dull, safe or not.

Many things can be a fun activity outside for your kiddo but get them moving!  Our children need to move in order to learn and regulate their sensory systems so a playground is a great place because they are usually swinging, climbing, running and digging in the dirt or sand!
If you have a young child and you want to swing them in the baby swings but they are too small, roll up a blanket or towel behind them in the swing and push them gently.  When teaching toddlers to swing in the “big kid” swing, have them sit in your lap first and practice holding onto ropes or chains and teach them they have to hold on so they don’t fall.  Then allow them to slowly try on their own.

WAIT my kids HATES to swing!  What do I do?  If your child is Over-responsive to vestibular (the balance system in the inner ear) they may be hesitant to swing, be tossed in the air, be upside down, climb up high etc.  Some children are fine to spin themselves or turn themselves upside down, but if you are in control of the movement they panic or get that anxious look in their eyes.  You can slowly have the child experience vestibular types of activities that can help regulate their vestibular system.

·      Play with your child in various positions (standing, lying on tummy, lying on back,
·      Have them try summersaults, if they are young help them
·      Try downward dog (yoga pose) add pic here
·      Pick them up and gently swing them through the air like a ticking clock singing helps distract them sometimes.
·      Bubbles
·      Baby pools or neighborhood pools (swimming is really great for sensory regulation)
·      Water games outside
·      Parachutes with other friends (try to put a balloon on top and keep it on the parachute)
·      More ideas to come!