Valentine’s Day Activities for Speech and OT

As Valentine’s Day approaches, we’re excited to share some heartwarming and therapeutic activities that not only celebrate the season of love but also contribute to the growth and development of our clients. Join us on this journey of combining affection with effective therapy!

Speech and Language Therapy

Valentine’s Day provides a unique opportunity to explore the language of love. Speech and language therapy can be both educational and enjoyable as we engage our clients in activities that focus on expressing emotions, social interactions, and building meaningful connections through communication.

Activity Ideas:

  • Love Letter Writing: Encourage clients to express their feelings by writing or dictating love letters. This activity enhances language skills and emotional expression. 
  • Conversation Hearts Challenge: Use conversation hearts candy with words or phrases related to communication goals. Clients can create sentences or engage in conversations using these sweet treats.

OT- Sensory

Occupational therapy often involves sensory activities that stimulate and enhance sensory processing. This Valentine’s Day, let’s explore sensory-rich experiences that promote engagement and development.

Activity Ideas:

  • Scented Sensory Bins: Create sensory bins with Valentine-themed scents like roses, chocolate, or strawberries. Clients can explore different textures and engage their senses.
  • Heart-shaped Stress Balls: Make heart-shaped stress balls filled with different textures to provide tactile stimulation. This activity is great for hand strength and stress relief.

OT- Fine Motor Fun

Fine motor skills are crucial for daily activities, and what better way to practice than with Valentine-themed fine motor activities?

Activity Ideas:

  • Valentine’s Day Crafts: Engage clients in crafting activities like making heart-shaped cards, cutting out paper hearts, or creating tactile crafts. This enhances fine motor coordination.
  • Cupid’s Arrow Game: Use a bow and arrow game to target various objects. This activity improves hand-eye coordination and fine motor precision.

Valentine’s Day is not just about chocolates and flowers; it’s about fostering growth, connection, and joy through therapeutic activities. We invite you to join us in celebrating the language of love and the development of essential skills that make every day special for our clients. Happy Valentine’s Day!

By Amy Rawlings, MA, CCC-SLP

San Diego’s NEW All-Inclusive Playground

I recently checked out a brand new playground in Mission Bay that is a game-changer for families with children of all abilities – the all-inclusive playground. I did a bit of research and want to share the inspiring story of the origin of this park and why parents of kids with special needs should make it a must-visit destination.

How did the playground come to be?

The story begins with a shared vision among Mission Bay’s residents – a space where every child, regardless of their abilities, could play together. Turning this vision into reality required financial backing, and Mission Bay’s residents, local businesses, and organizations joined forces in a series of fundraising initiatives. From charity events to donation drives and sponsorships, the community garnered enough financial support to begin the process of getting bids, imagining, and drawing up plans. To ensure the playground met the highest standards of inclusivity, design and accessibility experts were brought in. Their expertise played a crucial role in crafting a space that accommodates children with a wide range of physical and cognitive abilities. 

How is this play area different?

This isn’t your average playground – there are areas where every child, regardless of their abilities, can play and explore. From inclusive play structures to sensory-rich zones, this playground is designed to be a haven for kids of all kinds. 

Pathways are wide and ramps make it stroller-friendly. Kids with different mobility needs can move around freely with wheelchair-accessible swings to inclusive slides and climbing structures. This playground has some cool sensory play zones with textures, colors and engaging sounds that rival our OT gyms at SmallTalk!

Not only is this playground a place for play, but it also offers a bit of casual learning. Info panels and interactive features are scattered around, providing a chance for kids and adults to explore and talk about different abilities in a natural, easygoing way.

If you haven’t checked out Mission Bay’s new all-inclusive playground yet, what are you waiting for? Grab the family, pack a sweatshirt and enjoy one of the best months outdoors in San Diego with very few tourists. :) See you at the playground! 

By Jen Traina, CEO

How Should My Child Swing? Intensity of Vestibular Input    

Swinging, or any kind of movement, provides input to the vestibular system. There are a variety of types of vestibular input, as well as the impact that it has on a person. This can vary depending on how their sensory systems process the information. Our vestibular system gives us information about movement and where our head is in relation to gravity. The vestibular system provides us with information about the speed and direction of our movement. This system provides the foundation for our balance reactions and has a strong connection to our postural control. There is also a connection between the vestibular system and a child’s ability to self-regulate. Depending on the type of vestibular input received, the effect on a child’s brain can be calming, organizing, or altering. The more intense the type of vestibular input, the more alerting the input will be for the child. 

Depending on the child’s threshold for vestibular input, they may require a more intense type of vestibular input in order to register the input. For a child that is under-responsive to vestibular input, that child may need more intense vestibular input such as spinning or swinging in an orbital motion. Some children may also benefit from having their head inverted or being upside down for an increased registration of the vestibular input. For children who are over-responsive to vestibular input, starting with lower levels of input such as up and down (vertical) or front to back (linear) can help increase their tolerance of vestibular input.

Levels of Vestibular Input in Order of Increasing Intensity

1. Up and Down Movement

2. Front to Back Movement

3. Side to Side Movement

4. Diagonal Movement

5. Arc Movement

6. Spinning

7. Inversion (upside down)

High Level of Arousal Protocol: 

  • For children with high levels of arousal the goal of swinging is to provide the sensory system with calming input. 
  • Children with high levels of arousal often respond best to slow, predictable, and rhythmic movement. 
  • Giving your child the ability to self direct their vestibular input may be beneficial in bringing them to the optimal level of arousal.
  • Rhythmic front to back or side-to-side movement can provide calming input to the child.

Low Level of Arousal Protocol: 

  • For children with low levels of arousal the goal of swinging vestibular input is to alert the sensory system. 
  • Children with low levels of arousal often respond to vestibular input that is unpredictable, fast, and angular. 
  • Some children may respond best to input that is received in side lying, rather than in upright. 
  • Spinning can provide alerting input to the child to bring them to optimal level of arousal. 

By Erin Christensen, OTD, OTR/L

Yoga for Kids

There are many great reasons to use yoga with children. Yoga helps develop numerous skills that
our children need and will use throughout their life span. Years ago I took my first yoga for kids
continuing education course. We practiced many of the poses, stretches and breathing exercises as
well as fun ways to engage the children in the practice. It was many years later that I took my first
yoga class, needing to work on decreasing stress and helping with anxiety. Aging takes its toll on
your body in many ways. I had to practice listening to my body and the ways I learned to calm and
tune in were powerful. The class I was taking expanded to doing yoga on a stand up paddleboard
with improvement in my strength and balance. The skills I learned carried over in my practice as a
pediatric Occupational Therapist, as I felt in teaching self regulation skills I was missing helping
them find and listen to their own bodies cues.

Recently there has been such a big increase in children having difficulty regulating and attending in
the classrooms. More children are coming into the clinic experiencing challenges with managing
emotions or even identifying how they feel and what to do about it. Yoga can offer numerous benefits
to children, especially in terms of regulation and attention. Using yoga poses, moves and breathing
practices really supports learning about and listening to our bodies internal cues, clues to what we
feel, what helps that feeling, along with developing strength, balance and confidence to persevere
through life’s challenges. It is easily made fun and helps build connections with the children too!

Here are 10 reasons why yoga is good for children:

1. Mind-Body Connection: Yoga encourages children to connect their minds with their bodies,
fostering greater awareness of their physical sensations and emotions.

2. Stress Reduction: Yoga techniques like deep breathing and mindfulness can help children manage
stress and anxiety, promoting a sense of calm and emotional regulation.

3. Attention and Focus: Practicing mindfulness during yoga helps improve children’s concentration,
attention span, and ability to stay present in the moment.

4. Sensory Integration: Yoga poses engage various sensory systems, aiding in sensory processing
and integration, which is crucial for children with sensory processing challenges.

5. Motor Skills Development: Yoga involves a wide range of movements that can enhance children’s
gross and fine motor skills, coordination, and body awareness.

6. Self-Regulation: Through yoga, children learn self-regulation techniques such as controlled
breathing and grounding exercises that can be applied to manage emotions and impulses.

7. Body Awareness: Yoga helps children develop a positive relationship with their bodies and
enhances their proprioceptive and interoceptive awareness (sense of body position and internal

8. Social Interaction: Group yoga classes offer opportunities for social interaction, cooperation, and
peer bonding, fostering social skills and a sense of belonging.

9. Language and Communication: Yoga sessions often incorporate storytelling and verbal cues,
promoting language development, receptive listening, and following directions.

10. Confidence and Self-Esteem: As children master new poses and challenges, their confidence and
self-esteem grow, leading to a positive self-concept and emotional well-being.

Here are a few fun yoga activities to do with your children:

By Pamela Vasiloff OTR/L

The Power of Play

How to Use Play to Help Children Learn and Grow

To the untrained eye, it may look like a speech therapist is just playing with your child.  You might wonder when the actual learning is going to start with worksheets, flashcards or drills.  But the reality is that children tend to learn more from play than through structured, adult directed activities.

Play can help to increase:

  • social-emotional skills
  • cognitive skills
  • self-regulation
  • language skills

It can promote:

  • problem solving
  • collaboration
  • creativity

The mutual joy and shared connection during play can decrease stress and increase the bond between the people involved. 

When I meet a child during their first speech session with me, it is my job to get to know that child, build rapport, and figure out the best way to help them meet their speech goals.  If I were to make them sit at a table while I proceeded to lecture them and drill them for 25 minutes, some older children might do okay, but most younger children would probably either protest or not pay attention to me because I am not creating any active engagement.  My top priority during my first few sessions with a child is to create trust and connection.  Without that, it is difficult to teach anything.  I do this by finding an activity that brings them joy:  bubbles, tickles, cause/effect toys, pretend play, board games, etc..  Depending on the child’s age and abilities, there are certain activities I know that child will probably enjoy based on my experience.  I start with those, and if they do not work, I try alternatives until I find something that creates joy and engagement.  It is only then that I begin to integrate the child’s speech goals into the play to facilitate learning and growth.  Let’s talk about the different types of play and how you can use them with your child at home to help expand their language skills. 

Types of Play:

1. Physical/Rough and Tumble Play 

Playing on the playground, tickle or wrestling games, pillow fights, lifting kids in the air, hanging them upside-down, using movement or dancing with music, etc.

I personally find this type of play especially effective with children who are difficult to engage (prefer to play alone doing their own thing) or who are sensory seekers (love climbing, jumping off things, crashing into pillows, etc.).   I only do this with children who enjoy this type of play and pay attention to their body language that indicates whether they are giving me permission to tickle them or hang them upside-down.  If a child is turning away or backing away in a non-playful manner, I stop, making sure to respect their boundaries to keep that aspect of trust.  And of course, I always play these games as safely as possible.   

Examples of using this type of play to facilitate language:

  • Hold your hands out like you are about to tickle the child and wait for them to communicate they want you to proceed either through a gesture such as moving closer to you or a word or phrase such as “tickle” or “get me”.
  • Incorporating music- singing a song where there is a part that you tickle them, squeeze them, hang them upside-down, etc.  One I use while bouncing the child on my knees is “horsy, horsy, go to town.  Better watch out or your horse will fall…… DOWN” then hang the child upside-down.  You can wait for the child to say, “down” or gesture they want you to hang them upside down by leaning back. 
  • On the playground while pushing a child in a swing, you can hold the swing/child up so they are about to swing forward or backward (make sure the child is secure) and say, “ready…set…” and see if they can say “go” (or sign or gesture) to indicate they want you to let go.

2. Using Cause/Effect Toys

These toys are simple in that when you push a button, wind them up, etc. they do something fun.  Some examples are wind-up toys, spinning tops, ball poppers, car ramps, bubbles, etc.  These toys are great to capture a child’s attention and increase engagement.  These kinds of toys work better to create engagement when the child needs you to help them operate it.  For example, if they can’t wind up the wind-up toys on their own or they don’t know how to blow the bubbles.  In this case, they will need to communicate with you every time they want you to activate the toy. 

Examples of using this type of play to facilitate speech and language:

  • Using “ready set….” and waiting for the child to say “go” for you to activate the toy, blow the bubbles, etc.  If the child is not saying “go” you can model sign language or model a gesture, then wait for them to use it to communicate they want you to activate the toy.
  • Model describing or action words:  while popping bubbles say, “pop…pop” every time you pop a bubble.  While the top is spinning say, “spin!”.  Always use lots of excitement in your voice to increase attention and engagement.

3. Pretend Play

Pretend play can be done with toys such as people, animal figures/dolls, or vehicles becoming the “characters” in play or the child or adult themselves can be a character such as when playing dress up, playing school, restaurant, etc.  Pretend play creates a safe container for children to explore different situations and emotions and is a great way to learn language.  The first pretend play skills to develop in toddlers usually involve pretending to feed a doll or stuffed animal, or pretending to put them to sleep, or alternatively for the child to pretend to eat pretend food or pretend to sleep.  They might also push a car or fly a plane while making sound effects.  As they gain more vocabulary, they can make the characters talk and have conversations with each other and act out different situations. 

 Examples of using this type of play to facilitate speech and language:

  • As a parent, while engaging in pretend play with your child, it is common to feel the need to ask your child a lot of questions.  For example, “where are they going”, “what are they doing?”, “what color is that?”, etc.  However, questions like this take the child out of the fun and magic they are creating with their pretend world into an interaction where their parent is quizzing or drilling them instead.  It is much more beneficial for the child to have the parent join them in this pretend world by grabbing a toy and also pretending to be a character and interacting with that child’s character.  Modeling language while engaging in pretend play is a great way to teach your child.  For example, if you want to teach your child what to do when you go to someone’s house, you could do this using dolls and a doll house.  Your character could knock on the door, and another character inside the house could say, “who is it?”, and the one outside could say, “it’s Billy”, and then your character inside could open the door and say, “hi!  Come in!”.  Even if your child is not talking yet, you can have your characters talk to their characters to model appropriate language for the situation. 
  • Children also LOVE to experiment with emotions within pretend play.  It almost never fails that when I make my character fall down and cry, the child smiles and indicates they want me to do it again.  Not because they like seeing people cry, but because I am showing them a safe way to play with difficult emotions such as sadness and anger.  In real life, when a child is feeling those emotions, they are in a state of distress which shuts down the logical brain and makes learning pretty much impossible.  By pretending to have characters outside of themselves feeling these emotions, they can play with the cause and effects of emotions, and as a parent you can model ways to deal with them.  For example, when my character falls down and starts crying, I can have another character walk up to them and say, “are you okay?”, and pretend to help them or give them a hug.  This helps with emotional regulation and using appropriate language for emotionally charged real life situations.  These are just a couple examples of the things you can teach children through modeling within pretend play.  The possibilities are as endless as your imagination! 

4. Board Games/Structured Games

These are games that have a set of rules.  It can be a physical game like a sport, or tag, or a board game that comes with a set of written instructions (note:  you do not always have to play with a game according to the given instructions.  You can always tailor these rules to accommodate your child’s abilities and things you want to teach them). 

Examples of using this type of play to facilitate speech and language:

  •  If you want to teach your child cooperation, collaboration, and negotiation skills, you can come up with the rules of the game together.  You can work on skills that these games address directly- such as working on describing skills with games like Guess Who or Headbands in which you must describe a person or noun so the other person can guess who or what you are describing.  Or you can have the child practice a skill before they take a turn in the game (i.e., before you roll the dice, make a sentence about this picture or tell me the opposite of up). 
  • The type of play you choose to engage in with your child should depend on their age and interests.  Watch your child when they play by themselves and see what they tend to gravitate towards and see if you can join them in a playful and fun way to help them learn and grow.

Side Note About Media and Electronic Toys:

Some TV shows, YouTube videos, and electronic toys market themselves as educational and lead parents to believe that if you put your child in front of the TV or hand them the toy and go do your own thing, they will learn something.  But the reality is that no television show or fancy toy is a substitute for engagement with a real live person.  Children learn best with adults who are present and give their full attention.  Speech and Language skills are particularly all about communication, human interaction, and connection, which is best achieved through your presence. 

Playing with your child will not only help them to learn and grow but will also increase your connection to your child and increase joy and decrease stress for both of you.  So, find your inner child and have some fun together!!!

By Hilary Dickey, MS, CCC-SLP

Sensory Friendly Summer Outings

With May gray finished and June gloom nearly behind us, we are ready for summer weather in San Diego! While summertime brings countless fun activities, for many children with sensory processing differences, they cringe at the thought of putting on sunscreen or swimming at the beach. Many children with sensory processing differences are hypersensitive to touch, often referred to as tactile sensitivity. Sunscreen is cold, sand is itchy, and saltwater is sticky. These summertime sensations may be only mildly uncomfortable for most people, but for some children with sensory processing needs, these feelings may lead to confusion and discomfort during everyday summer activities. But with some extra support and planning, we can enable children with sensory needs to join in and have fun! Here are some tips to help your child participate in summer fun:

  • Movement and deep pressure. Light, ticklish touch while sitting down is often what is most uncomfortable for children. Firm touch (deep pressure), exercise (proprioception) and movement (vestibular input) are the types of sensory input that ‘override’ those uncomfortable tactile sensations in the brain. Before applying sunscreen, give your child a whole-body squeeze inside their beach towel. Have a ‘wiggle break’ in the middle of a sunscreen-applying session. After arriving at the beach, play tag or do some running and jumping. Swinging and spinning in the water may be so much fun that suddenly the splashing is alright.
  • Provide choice and control. Show your child two sunscreens, and perhaps they can smell both before choosing between them. Apply sunscreen to the face in front of a mirror so that your child can see what you are doing while you are rubbing it into their face. Rub it in while counting down backwards from 10, stopping for a break at 0 so that your child knows when they will have a break. To minimize sunscreens dripping/running into eyes when swimming, try mineral sunscreens. If your child absolutely cannot stand sunscreen, minimize the amount needed with a long sleeved sun shirt or swim shirt, some longer-length swimming shorts, and a bucket hat. You can even consider going to the beach or a swimming pool during hours of the day with the lowest UV index, like early morning or late afternoon/evening. If your child can’t handle the feeling of water in their eyes, consider having them wear goggles. If your child is sensitive to bright light, bring a beach umbrella, hat and sunglasses. Try water shoes, Velcro sandals or old sneakers if your child does not like being barefoot on the hot sand. By using choice and experimenting with what works best, you enable your unique child to be a sensory problem solver.
  • Start small. Even though your child may be eager to go to a water park or theme park, these places are sometimes overwhelming with crowds, lines, and long walks. Not to mention the pressure to have fun after you’ve spent a considerable amount of money on the family’s admission. You may consider taking a trip to a local splash pad or a neighborhood festival to build your child’s comfort before visiting a water park, theme park, or even a busy beach.
  • Set expectations. Before visiting a new place, consider showing your child photos you find online of the place to help envision where you’re going and what it may be like. Talk about how long you plan to stay, and what you plan to do after the outing.
  • One thing at a time. Apply sunscreen at home or in the parking lot before your child is eager to play. Encourage your child to go at their own pace. At the beach, let your child get comfortable in the sand before suggesting a swim. Perhaps they want to watch their sibling enjoying a ride before trying themself. Don’t pressure your child if they don’t want to try something. For example, if they don’t want to dig in the sand, just give them some time. After they watch you or their sibling build a sandcastle, they may actually join in on their own.
  • Expect challenges and plan for them. Keep spare clean towels in the car and bring a favorite toy. Bring ice water or frozen juices and a favorite refreshing snack. Bring an extra-large towel or blanket to sit or lay on. Know where the toilets are located before you need them. After swimming at the beach, your child may immediately want to go home because now the sand is sticking to their wet skin. If you had planned to stay longer, try to help your child work through this experience. For example, go to the beach showers for a quick rinse of the salt water and have a fresh clean towel ready for drying off before trying again. It may help to have a favorite toy to help ease the process. 
  • If at first, you don’t succeed…keep on trying! Your first summer outing may only last an hour, but by the end of summer you and your family may figure out what type of outing is most enjoyable for all of you.
  • End it with some fun! Celebrate a summer outing (even a hard one) by finishing with something your child enjoys and that enables you to connect. Have a family singalong to a favorite song on the way home or go out for ice cream after the trip. Just don’t forget to pack wet wipes for those sticky icky hands!

By Rachel Marshall, OTD, OTR/L

April is Autism Acceptance Month

Mark Your Calendars, It’s Almost Autism Acceptance Month

Next month, it’s Autism Acceptance month! This is a worldwide event to celebrate Autistic pride and here at SmallTalk Pediatric Therapy, that’s cause for celebration! 

There are many fun events and activities happening next month to celebrate families on the spectrum! We wanted to give you the inside scoop before April rolls around. Join us in some of the fun while we celebrate differences and promote social inclusion and acceptance! 

Local Organizations and Events:

April 1, 2023 Race for Autism

  • WHERE: Balboa Park: 6th Ave & Laurel St. San Diego, CA 92103
  • WHEN: Saturday, April 1, 2023 6:30am to 11:30am
  • WHY?: Kick off April’s AUTISM ACCEPTANCE MONTH by joining us for the 19th annual Race for Autism SUPERHERO 5K and 1 Mile Family Walk in beautiful Balboa Park

Small Talk Pediatric Therapy will be at the Race for Autism! We are Supergirl sponsors for the race, so be sure to stop by our booth and say hi to the therapists. We’re excited to see you there!

April 3, 2023 Autism Acceptance Night – San Diego Padres vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

April 8, 2023 Family Pool & Pizza Party

April 29, 2023 Lights! Camera! Autism! 

Autism Society of San Diego

The Autism Society of San Diego offers support groups throughout the county year-round to provide support to families and their children. More information can be found on their meetup page at: A monthly list of events are as follows:

  • Spectrum Social (group for autistic adults 18+)
  • Spanish Support Group (group is led in Spanish)
  • Adult Information and Support (group for parents and caretakers of adults on the autism spectrum)
  • Coffee Talk (daytime group open to all)
  • Happy Hour (evening group open to all)

By Madison Trussell, SLP-CF

OT’s Favorite Toys

As the holidays approach, we’re hearing many parents ask for gift recommendations! We
thought we’d put together another gift guide for 2022.

Experience Gifts

Your family could make gingerbread houses, bake a family recipe together, or play some
seasonal music while going for a drive to look at the lights in festive neighborhoods. Consider
packing dinner and going to see a seasonal movie together at the Santee Drive in. A family day
trip out to Julian or to Mt Laguna after a big rain to see the snow is often treasured more than
any gift or gadget! Experience gifts are wonderful ways to share new sensory experiences
together, and you can build in options for flexibility to support your children.

Gross Motor Play

For your busy child who seeks movement, consider obstacle course materials like balance
stones or beams, a mini trampoline, a pop up tunnel, or even a three-wheeled scooter or a
balance bike! If you’ve got outdoor space, perhaps consider a climbing dome or a new swing
or trapeze attachment for your play structure. For items that can be easily packed away, we
love the floor is lava game, parachutes, basketball hoops that hook anywhere, and bean
bags. Your child’s occupational therapist would love to show you at least 4 different exercises
for your child on a child-sized therapy ball. Our other favorite balls for indoor or outdoor play
include soft weighted balls, playground balls, and beach balls or balloons for children still
learning how to catch.

Pretend Play

You name it, they’ve made it: doctor’s kits, cash registers, dress up outfits, tool sets, and
sets with pots, pans, and pretend food. Pretend play enables children to experiment with the
social and emotional roles of life. They take another person’s perspective and enjoy controlling
the narrative. Children tend to develop skills in pretend play which start with familiar, everyday
experiences (sleeping, eating.), expand to less frequent experiences (visiting the doctor, going
on a plane). Children may feel more competent acting out scenes of a movie they’ve seen many
times than pretending to be adults they’ve only encountered a few times like a doctor or even a
grocery clerk. Start with your children’s strengths and interests, and build from there!

Hands-On (Fine Motor and Tactile) Play

From creative activities like drawing or painting to scooping and digging through kinetic sand,
play activities that build up the muscles of the hand are excellent for your child’s development.
We love easels you can put outside for a messy paint project or in the house for drawing on the
whiteboard. Some children may engage better while standing and working at a vertical surface
than seated at a table. We love dot-to-dot or maze books for quiet times. For children who
need extra pizazz with this type of play, we love jumbo chalk along with a water spray bottle
to erase, doodle boards that light up or play music when you draw, scratch paper books, and
of course, you can never go wrong with a fresh batch of playdoh.

Food-Related Play

If you’re looking for tools to bring your child into the kitchen, we’ve got a few favorites! Toddler
towers or kitchen helpers can provide opportunity for your child to get in among the action,
drizzling (or dumping!) ingredients together, using plastic tongs to move foods from one
container to another, or even just small measuring scoops and a sponge to play with soapy
water at the sink (and to keep them busy while you cook!). For children old enough to
participate, consider child-safe kitchen knives, shaped like a real knife but with a plastic/nylon
blade, or perhaps pick out a child-friendly cookbook together.

Constructional Play

To support your child’s skills in problem solving, fine motor control, dexterity, and spatial
awareness, consider constructional play materials. We love wooden block sets, lincoln logs,
marble runs, and of course the tried and true lego (or duplo / mega blocks for younger
children). We like constructional play activities that come with picture cards that provide a visual
goal for what to build, like light bright or k’nex, and we also love toys that encourage children
to ditch the models and create their own ideas. And for the child who loves a challenge,
stacking rocks as well as magnet building tiles may build both caution and resilience.

Social and Emotional Play

We love games and materials that encourage expression of a wide range of emotions, like
wooden eggspressions toys, the Big Feelings Pineapple, or books like Grumpy Monkey or
The Color Monster. Board games are a wonderful gift for family fun. For children who often
end competitive games with a chip on their shoulder, we love cooperative board games like
Mermaid Island, Dinosaur Escape, and Count your Chickens. We also love social
inferencing games like Hedbandz or Charades.

For more ideas on gifts specific to your child, check out our article from 2021! If you’d like ideas
specific to your child, please don’t hesitate to ask your child’s therapist for their input.

By Rachel Marshall, OTR/L

Finding Calm in the Chaos

Fall is my favorite time of the year! The weather gets cooler, festivities are all around, and Thanksgiving brings family and friends together. While family gatherings can be fun, they can also be overwhelming for children who get easily overstimulated. This could include reactions to change in routine, loudness, and/or the expectation of conversations with unfamiliar listeners. Here are a few tips to help your child during those unexpected situations: 

Tips for Routine Changes:

  • Make a visual schedule or use a calendar for your child, when the holidays come closer, in order to prepare for various events (Ex: Grandma and Grandpa come on Nov. 20th, Thanksgiving is on November 24th). You can do a fun countdown with your child to encourage anticipation for incoming visitors.
  • Give your child permission to leave a situation if overstimulation occurs. Even adults need a break, so if your child needs time alone for a while in a safe space, it’s okay.
  • Make clear boundaries with family members, so they are aware of expectations regarding your child. Grandmas and Grandpas, Aunts and Uncles love being with their littles, but may forget that your child doesn’t like to be hugged or asked a lot of questions up front.

Tips for Conversation with unfamiliar family members: 

  • Practice using a conversation map prior to visitors arriving where you write down a few bullet points to utilize during conversation. This is a great strategy to use if your child gets anxiety when talking with others. It can be simple and geared towards your child’s interests:
    • Hi, Aunt Sally. How are you?
    • I’m fine, how are you?
    • I’m great. How was your trip? Do you want to see my toys?
    • It was long, but good. Oh sure, let’s go play!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Written by: Caitlin Davis, SLPA

Incorporating basic concepts into america’s holidays

Happy Birthday month to our beautiful country, America! To many families, Fourth of July means fireworks, family reunions, concerts, barbecues, picnics, parades, and baseball games. For our speech therapists, holidays are a great opportunity to target several different language goals such as temporal, spatial, and quantitative concepts. It is important to remember that before a child can use the concept in their speech (expressive language), we must first be sure they have a full understanding (receptive language).

Temporal concepts

Temporal concepts (before, after, during, first, next, last) are words that are used to describe time. Celebrating special days that occur at the same time every year help provide children with a sense of time that passes in the duration of a year. We can converse with our kids about the upcoming holiday and model using temporal concepts. We may also show them a calendar and allow them to flip through and visualize the temporal order.

Verbal model examples: “Before the Fourth of July, we celebrate Valentine’s Day. After the Fourth of July, we celebrate Christmas. First is Valentine’s Day, next is Fourth of July, and last is Christmas. During the Fourth of July, we will have a cookout and watch fireworks.”

Visual examples: Try showing your child a calendar with pictures on each holiday. Allow them to flip through and visualize the temporal order. Start with two holidays and discuss before and after. You can also try three holidays using first, next, and last. For the children that are new to learning the concept, see if they can use their receptive language and flip to the first holiday! To target expressive language, ask your child a question such as “Which holiday comes first?”

Spatial concepts

Spatial concepts (in/out, up/down, on/off, over/under, behind/in front, next to/in between) or prepositions describe an object’s location in relation to another object. Understanding spatial concepts is critical for following directions and describing objects. Just like temporal concepts, we can use spatial concepts in conversation with our children as well as incorporating visuals to aid in understanding.

Verbal model examples: “Let’s shoot the fireworks up in the sky”, “Should we put the flag on the pole?”, “The float is in front of the dancers!”

Visual examples: Grab a cup and any mini object at home. First, see if your child can follow simple directions such as, “Put the eraser under the cup”. Once your child has mastered this, now you can move the object and ask the child “Where is the eraser?”. If you notice that the open task becomes too difficult, you can also provide your child with two options such as “Is it on top or under?”, changing it to a closed question that will be easier to answer while still prompting the child to use expressive language.

Quantitative concepts

Quantitative concepts (a little/a lot, all/none, more/less, most/least) can describe the size and amount of an object. Similar to spatial concepts, understanding quantitative concepts is important for following directions and describing objects.

Verbal model examples: “I hope we receive a lot of candy at the parade!”, “Do you think this is more candy than last year?”, “I wonder who found the most candy”.

Visual examples: Beginning with receptive language, pull out a large quantity of something such as legos, blocks, or marbles. Ask your child to give you all of the blocks, a little bit of legos, and a lot of marbles. You can also try this while cooking with your child; asking for more chocolate chips, a little bit of sugar, and less flour.

Holidays are a great way to organize our year with temporal concepts and use themes to make language concepts more fun for everyone!

Written by: Alexa Murman, MS CCC-SLP

Link copied to clipboard!