Parents have been asking me the same question over the past 2 weeks…Where do I sign up my child for the summer? What is the best camp or activity to involve them in? So I figured I would post my favorite Summer activities for children along with benefits of these activities to help you pick the best activity for your child.
You may want to sign up your children in a camp specializing in these activities or find classes in your community where children can try more than one of the following. I also recommend these throughout the year. I like when children can be involved in activities as part of their natural routine (when possible) rather than through conventional therapy.
My Top 5 Activities for Children:
I love recommending swimming for all its benefits. The water is a calming to the body. It is great for children that need to work on core strength and bilateral coordination. Furthermore, the buoyancy of the water and its resistance provides a non- weight bearing medium to strengthen without hurting joints.
Living in Miami, many of my families have a pool. I recommend it as part of a weekly routine especially for children that need calming! (make sure you give them an activity to do not just splash around)
There are swim camps in our area. You can choose between formal swimming lessons to work on core and coordination or recreational swimming so kids can have fun in the water (my favorite
This is one activity that I highly recommend for children that require more body awareness, coordination, strength, flexibility and balance. I find that boys and girls really enjoy gymnastics. I believe the teacher is key. I like working with a local gymnastics teacher that works with children with special needs at a regular studio. The combination of one-on-one classes and group class is best!
My favorite thing about team sports is the social interaction and camaraderie that children get to experience. Many times I have to work on specific skills with children in my OT sessions so that they can then get involved in a specific team sport. (Talk to your OT about the sport you would like for your child so that you can build skills for improved participation). I like team sports for the obvious gross motor skills that children will work on. But as part of a team, I also like that children have to pay attention to other kids’ body language and that they build s sense of teamwork.
This is a great way to work on fine motor skills as well as express creativity with no right or wrong! This is wonderful for self-esteem (: Through crafts children strengthen little muscles of the hand that help improve dexterity and fine motor skills.
I like to recommend martial arts for children that need to improve attention, body awareness, balance, coordination and graded motor control. This activity works on gross motor skills but in a more disciplined/organized way. This requires children to pay attention and pay attention to their body movements and positions. This is great for children that do things too fast, need to slow down their motor output or need to learn to pay attention.
I want to share a very special activity that we did with the children in MissMancy’s Art Class at the Social Mind Center.
We are so Blessed and fortunate to do our part for the Special Olympics through Art!!!
These snowboards were provided to the Center so that we can have the children paint them and then return them to be used at the Special Olympics!!!!! How EXCITING!!!!! The kids were sooooo happy to be a part of this!
We have many boards to paint but this first one we attempted as a group!
First we painted the boards with a black acrylic paint and let that dry. Then we used blue painters tape (love that stuff!!! See my post on 10 different ways to use painters tape) and created a design on the board.
Children then went to town and painted using acrylic paints! The look comes out uniform because of the painters tape! So this is a great activity for children to paint freely!
I will keep you posted when they hit the slopes!
You can always try this activity on a canvas or on a compressed foam board or any surface that will allow the painters tape to be peeled off without compromising the surface!
1- Tic tac toe: I’m a huge fan of tic tac toe. It’s a great motor planning/problem solving game. You can use bean bags or 2 different colored items to play.
2-Sticky Spider Web: I saw this on handsonaswegrow.com and thought it was such a great idea! I adapted it to meet OT goals. First, i gather magazines and I ask the children to make balls by crushing the paper (this works on hand strength) I write numbers 1 to 10 on the web of tape. Kids pick a card with a math problem and they throw the newspaper ball on the answer!
3-Mazes: I’ve used this as a spider web or you can create a Maze on the floor., place foam letters in the maze. Children have to spell specific words. You can also have children kick a ball or a bean bag along the maze for eye-foot coordination!
4- Figure 8 fishing: create the number 8 with tape. place puzzle pieces in each of the circles. Have children walk along the 8 (great whole brain integration activity) when u say freeze they stop and pick up a fish.
You can do this with foam letters or numbers. Ask children to pick up the first letter of a word OR solve a math problem and pick up the answer.
5- Don’t steal my shape: I make a rectangle on the floor using tape. I place shapes on either side of the rectangle. One child stands in the box while the other is outside the box and tries to steal his shape.
6-Musical x: kids really love this game. Just like musical chairs. I make x’s on the floor with blue tape. I put on the music and kids dance around. Once the music stops they have to find an x to stand on otherwise they leave the game. Continue until the last man standing!
7- Letters on floor and kids lay on it: this is a great group activity to introduce letters.
8- Balance Beam: Make a simple straight line or curved or zig zag and have your child walk on it different ways ex: tip toe, forward heel toe, backwards, sideways, grapevine etc..
9- Paint a design: this is great for kids with very low fine motor skills to create wonderful art. Make a design with blue tape on a foam board (available at craft stores) For instance you can create beautiful chevron pattern or star beams. Have your child use paints or markers freely to paint the entire surface (who cares how it looks) once it dries and you remove the painters tape it will create a beautiful painting. Kids looove peeling the tape too! (Great for pincer work)
10- To facilitate cutting: great way to teach cutting on the line. Place tape along a shape and tell children to cut on the road. The blue tape is a great visual and the thickness of the tape facilitates cutting. Thick stock paper can be expensive s o this is a great way to thicken paper to cut.
Here are 10 Great Ways that I like to use Wikki Stixs (Bendaroos)
1-Place it around the top end of crayons to give children a visual and tactile cue as to where to place their fingers
2-Teach how to color in the lines by outlining a shape with the string.
3- Teach how to trace by placing string outlining the shape (it becomes like a stencil) then have children trace either on the inside or outside border of the string.
4- Use over and over for word match games
5- Draw a design and have children fill it in with wax string or make figurines as it was designed to play.
6- Practice letter formation by writing words on paper and having children use precut pieces of string to form letters.
7- Form letters using foam letters
8-Teach cutting by having children cut along the wiki stick border
9- Play wall tic tac toe. The vertical surface is great for strengthening wrist flexors.
10- Work on motor coordination by creating a path with string and have your child draw a line by staying in the path. I also like using a wiggle pen for added hand control.
Something that has been coming up lately during sessions with my kids is the importance of Categories. When
Children begin acquiring language they first learn to label and name things in their environment. With time they learn to organize the many words they learn into more and more sophisticated categories ex: an apple can be categorized as food, fruit, perishable etc…
As OTs we don’t work explicitly on language but I love funding ways to invitoitdtr speech therapy goals during OT sessions.
Here is a little activity I created that works on teaching categories (SLP goal) while working on pincer grasp and strength (OT goals)
You Will Need:
- Miniature items such as erasers and small toys. (I have transportation and foods)
- Create labels with a visual for each category (in this case transportation and food)
- Adaptive chopsticks
This activity is also available here at Miss Mancy’s SHOP
Place all mini items in front of your child. Have them use the adaptive chopsticks to pick up one item at a time, name it and place it on the label for the correct category!
I love using adaptive chopsticks to teach children the proper way to isolate the correct fingers and strengthen the correct muscles that they need for a proper pincer grasp.
Just make sure that they hold the chopsticks with their thumb and 2 first fingers and all other fingers are tucked in the hand. If the chopsticks are to heavy for little hands to hold, I allow them to use all other fingers however they MUST keep an open web space (i.e. the space between the thumb and index finger that forms a nice open circle when this tool is held correctly)
Working on these muscles is a great way to help children strengthen the muscles used for an efficient grasp on pencils!
I will try to share with you pictures of the wonderful activities that we do during Miss Mancy’s Fun with Science Classes at the Social Mind Center here in Davie Florida. It gets a little busy (and messy (: but i will try as best as I can)
Several weeks a go we began a planting activity with the children at the center. We used regular dried beans including Pinto, Lima, Kidney and Black beans. We placed them on wet cotton balls and allowed them to grow. The children were so excited to see that these seeds truly grew into small plants! Most of them did not believe it would happen!
This week, we continued our gardening project. The children planted the little plants into small ceramic pots. They watered them and some of them painted their pots! Everyone got a chance to take their plants home. We learned about the growth cycle of a plant and how to care for them!
So much fun and such a wonderful sensory activity for the children!
Parents ask me all the time how to motivate their child to learn a new skill that they have no interest in learning. I usually like children to learn skills for the inherent value of acquiring that skill but there are times when a little push in the right direction is needed! I like to suggest this approach for toilet training, getting dressed, brushing teeth, sleeping in one’s own bed.
Here is my approach (it works VERY well)!
It’s important to get your child involved in every step of this activity so that they feel their involvement and become more easily committed to following through. One of the reasons this is so motivating is that it gives the child a VISUAL and KINESTHETIC feedback so they can see how far along they’ve come and how much more effort they need to do before winning the reward.
1- Discuss the desired skill with your child. It must be ONE skill. Keep it short, simple and attainable. Ex: Put on socks and shoes (not get dressed on your own…(this can be a goal when you feel your child is ready but if they are having difficulty getting dressed, break up the skills)
2- Have your child pick their reward. I like to go online and print out 2 copies of the desired reward. For example, we picked a Lalaloopsy Doll.
3- Draw a grid on both pictures. Here I drew 12 boxes for the 12 days that I want to work on it with the child. (If you need more time draw more boxes.)
4-On one image, number each box from 1 to 12 in small numbers AND on the back of the other image mark each corresponding box with number 1 to 12 in large numbers.
5-Hang up the first image (with the small numbers) in your child’s room and cut the other image in 12 boxes. Save the boxes in a little plastic bag or a little box.
6-Every day that your child puts on his socks and shoes, they get to stick a piece of the puzzle on the image. Once the entire image is completed, they win their prize and most likely will have learned their skill!
One of my projects has been to work in collaboration with designer Deborah Dimare to create Sensory Smart Spaces for children with ASD and with Sensory Sensitivities. We were featured on the TODAY SHOW a few years ago during Autism Awareness Month!!! What a great experience!
You Will Need:
- A wand
- Round Thumbtack
- Small magnet
I put a round tip thumbtack and secured it with hot glue on one end and a small magnet on the other end. You can also purchase this wand at MissMancy’s Shop.
Fantastic Ways to teach letter formation:
1. Form letters on your child’s back and they have to guess the letter. I added a rounded tip at the end of my wand to make it “roll” more smoothly on different surfaces.
2. Form letters in the air and have your child guess. I like to do it also as a race between 2 children. Who can name the letter first.
3. Form letters in the pool and have your child guess the letter.
Other ways to use the wand:
4. Use the magnetic tip to pick up bingo chips or magnetized letters as part of an obstacle course.
5. Carry small items from one end of the room to the other or on a balance beam. I like to make little butterflies or birds out of different materials or use mini erasers and ask children to “save” the butterfly across the bridge. This helps children learn to slow down and pay attention to their bodies and movements.
6. The Abracadabra Animal game: Wave your magic wand and name an animal. Your child has to pretend you turned him into that animal and imitate this its walk ex: bird, butterfly, elephant, bear, crab. This is a fun gross motor activity.
7.Tap a balloon to each other. Great eye-hand coordination game especially for children with poor ball skills.
8. Finger Activities: Race with fingers up and down the length of the wand. Begin by holding it with a tripod grasp like a crayon and walk your fingers back all the way to the star and then forward all the way to the tip. Twirl like a baton. These are both great ways to work on pincer grasp which will help strengthen little fingers for writing.
9. Have your child close his eyes. Touch him with the wand somewhere on his body and ask him to then open his eyes and point where you touched him. This is great for body awareness through tactile input.
10. Turn on the music and have your child dance around with the wand. When the music stops they must freeze. They cannot move but if they do, you tickle them with the tip of your wand and they are out of the game. This is a great auditory processing game.