Tips and Guides
Back to school tips
If you have a child with anxiety, going back to school in the fall can be tough. Try these tips:
- Set the tone – Stress is contagious, so be sure your child isn’t catching yours.
- Validate their emotions – While something concerning your child may seem like no biggie to you, it’s very real for them.
- Set expectations – Talk about what to expect when school starts, and create an example schedule of what will happen on a typical day.
- But don’t talk too much – Be careful you don’t amplify anxieties by giving too much attention to back to school. Don’t talk about it too early or too often.
- Start creeping up wake up and bedtimes now – One of the best parts of summer is less rules! However, making sure your child’s sleep schedule is back on track will be a benefit to everyone in the family.
Putting on their own shoes
Putting on your own shoes takes a certain baseline of skills and strength. Children with delays, disabilities and injuries may find it even harder than most. No matter the child, to get the hang of this independent task is going to take practice. Here’s what the OTs at Little Hands suggest:
- Start with slippers – Slippers are easier to get on and off than most shoes. And who doesn’t love to see our little ones in a cute pair of slippers?
- Play with dress up clothes – If your child just doesn’t seem to have the motivation to practice putting on shoes, try with princess, clown or even grownup shoes to make it more fun.
- Support their back – Be sure your child has something to lean against – maybe you! – so they have both hands free and feel supported.
- Try a right/left hack – To help kids get shoes on the correct feet, place stickers or draw big arrows pointing towards each other on the inside of the shoe.
- Don’t help too much – We know it’s so frustrating when you are trying to get out the door, but attempt to work in a few extra minutes to your morning schedule so your child can make mistakes and try again (and again and again and again!)
But never fear! Our amazing OTs have created this checklist for a great homework station for your kids.
- Location, location, location – Ideally, your child’s desk should be separate from their bedroom, the kitchen or anywhere that could distract them. It should face a blank wall instead of a window, and be sure there’s lots of extra space for brain breaks like jumping jacks or marching in place.
- Everything at the ready – Have everything your child might need in a bin under their clutter-free desk. This could be things like their water bottle, snacks, backpack, supplies, fidget toys, etc. This way they will have no excuse to wander off!
- The perfect seat – Be sure to find the right-sized desk and chair. This means your child’s feet should touch the floor, and the desktop should be within a few inches of their forearms when their elbows are bent to 90 degrees. Try an inflatable sit disc on top of the chair to encourage “active sitting.”
Work on catching skills
Catching requires hand-eye coordination, gross motor skills, balance and depth perception. So it’s all about starting small and progressing gradually. Here are some exercises to try:
- Sit on the ground with both of your legs in a V. Then try rolling the ball back and forth to each other.
- Stand and swing the ball towards your child and just have them try and grab it out of your hand to work on grasping.
- Put a tennis ball in an old pair of stockings and try the same swing and catch game, this time slightly more challenging.
- Try a Velcro ball set so the catching part is easier, but the mechanics are the same.
- Once your child has learned the basics, pretend to squeeze your child’s favorite condiment on the ball. Then encourage them to catch the ball “without getting any BBQ sauce on your shirt” so they don’t use their chest to catch.
Most of all – have fun!
Supporting picky eaters during the holidays
If the holidays weren’t stressful enough, having a child with feeding issues (or one that’s just plain picky!) can make them even more so. You worry your little one won’t eat what’s served, get hungry, then inevitably get cranky and act out under the watchful eye of Great Aunt Peggy (who will probably offer unsolicited advice!)
Here are a few tips to help you navigate holiday meals with a picky eater:
- Consider feeding your child before the big meal if you’ll be very off your normal schedule.
- Limit treats and other snacks so they aren’t loading up on sugar and are actually hungry for the “real” food.
- If you are hosting, have your child cook with you and have them suggest foods they’d like to try.
- Bring one thing you know they will eat alongside small portions of the new foods.
- If your child is old enough, have them sit separately from you at a kids table. Not only will you feel less pressure to get your child to eat, but watching other children model trying new foods can be really helpful.
Fun with Balloons
A package of balloons just might be the best $3 you ever spend! Try these fun, easy balloon activities for a colorful way to keep your kids moving on a yucky, indoor-bound day:
- Penguin waddle – Place a balloon between your legs and try to keep it there as you walk. Up the ante by racing!
- Balloon balance – Have your child lie on the floor on their back. Place a balloon on their feet and see how long they can keep it there.
- Keep it up – Throw a balloon in the air and work as a team to keep it up for as long as possible.
- Funnel catch – Have your child throw a balloon in the air and try to catch it using a kitchen funnel. If you have more than one, toss the balloon to each other.
- Balloon pop – You can probably guess how this one works! Stomp, squeeze and claw your way through the rest of the bag of balloons.