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Friday, July 29, 2016

Summer Picnic—Making it Fun and Memorable! by Trisha Roberts

Summer Picnic with the Family

Who doesn’t have fond memories of a summer picnic? Before the summer escapes, make some memories with your children!  It takes some preparation, but if you enlist the help of your kids, you can make it more personal, exciting and educational at the same time.

Plan a Day:  Will a week night work?  How about Sunday after church?  A Picnic Breakfast could be a fun choice!  How about a crazy midnight (or after dark) picnic under the stars?

Evening Picnic
Picnic Under the Stars!

Plan a Venue:  Is there a State Park or Recreation Center close by?  How about a shady tree on the lawn of your child’s elementary school? You could play on the playground later (check your school’s regulations regarding off-hour usage). Is there a lake close by with public access? The backyard is always a great option as well. Make sure to pack a large, washable blanket or tablecloth if a picnic table will not be available.

Plan a Menu:  How much time do you have to prepare? If you’re crunched for time, most larger supermarkets now have great Deli sections, so why not pick up some fried chicken, family-sized sub, a potato salad, coleslaw, bakery cookies, or fresh pie? If you have more time, let the kids help you plan a healthy menu and then enjoy making and assembling special treats together. Try some fun-shaped sandwiches using a large cookie cutter.  Make hard boiled eggs into exciting shapes with our Star Wars Boiled Egg Shapers! Pour a small amount of Ranch Dressing in individual plastic cups, add carrots and celery sticks and cover in plastic wrap. Cut cantaloupe, watermelon, or other fruit in cubes and skewer on small sticks. 

Picnic Food--Fruit Skewers
Fruit Skewers
                                                       Star Wars Egg Shaper for Picnics
Star Wars Egg Shaper

Finger Jello for Picnics
Finger Jello
Have you ever had Jello Jigglers (Finger Jello)?  They are easy to make by following this simple recipe:  
·        3 packages (3 oz. each) JELL-O Flavored Gelatin
·        4 envelopes KNOX Unflavored Gelatin
·        4 Cups boiling water
·        Mix all dry gelatins in large bowl; stir in boiling water until completely dissolved.
·        Pour into 13x9-inch pan.
·        Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm. Cut into small squares or other shapes by using a cookie cutter sprayed with cooking spray to prevent sticking.

Plan an Activity or Game: Bocce Ball is a classic game that even young children can play and is easily transported to the beach, park, or backyard. 

Play Bocce Ball
Bocce-Easy and Fun for the Whole Family

Bocce Ball for Picnic Fun

Take a Frisbee, kite, beach ball, or spill-proof bubbles.  If there are sideways or paths, why not take the tricycles along?  (See our great, Folding Tricycles that easily fit into the trunk of a car! Or our Glider-Balance bikes!) Take along the binoculars (or the telescope if you’re planning a night event!) for entertainment and education.

Take along a garbage bag to remove your trash and leave the area clean. 

Tell Yogi and Boo Boo Bear Hi!

Author:  Trisha Roberts

Copyright © 2016 TNT Inspired Enterprise, LLC, All rights reserved.

Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Tactile Defensiveness by Trisha Roberts

Our bodies are designed to import sensory information from receptors throughout our bodies, send it to our brains and process that information in order to form a response to that input.  We have tactile and temperature receptors in our skin, auditory receptors in our ears, receptors in our joints that tell us where we are in space, visual receptors in our eyes, taste buds in our mouths, etc. The input we receive helps us adjust our actions, learn about our environment and respond to situations. Problems arise when a person doesn’t process sensory information in the typical way. This article gives a brief introduction to Tactile Defensiveness or TD—what it is and some elementary suggestions that might help families who are struggling.

Some people respond negatively to what the majority of people find pleasurable or neutral.  Tactile Defensiveness is the term that describes a negative reaction to sensory information received by our skin.  (Sensory Integration is a broader term that describes how a person processes all of the sensory information our body receives).  Some children over-react to touch and some children under-react to touch.  Children have a wide range of responses to TD, manifesting emotional and/or behavioral changes from mild fidgeting or restlessness to major meltdowns that seemingly come from ‘out of nowhere’. To the child, the sensation can seem noxious or even painful; they are not trying to be defiant. Further, when children withdraw and do not engage in touch and tactile play, their learning experiences are limited, which can lead to delays in gross motor and fine motor skill acquisition.

There are multiple issues that arise when a child has Tactile Defensiveness.  Children with TD frequently dislike being hugged, kissed, or cuddled, leading parents to feel rejected and inadequate.  Thoughts and feelings surface, like: “I must be a terrible parent.  My child does even like my touch!” Clothing can frequently cause problems for people with Tactile Defensiveness and lead to dressing battles between parents and kids—there is commonly an intolerance to particular textures or an extreme reaction to label tags in clothing or wearing socks.  Taking a child on a family vacation to a sandy beach can cause a major meltdown for a child with tactile problems. The texture or consistency of certain foods can be a problem as well. A child may be intolerant of a food that is slippery (think ripe banana or canned peaches), grainy (think peas or lima beans), foods that are cold or hot, or foods that are touching each other.  Sometimes just switching from one food to another during a meal can be difficult due to the difference in texture or temperature. Bath time can be a battle—splashing water, temperature of the water, nakedness, toweling off.

How can we help children who have sensory processing difficulties? First and foremost, I would recommend a thorough evaluation by an Occupational or Physical Therapist who specializes in Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD).  They will be able to identify issues and design a treatment plan for your child and family.

Some Activities to Try:

  •  Deep pressure (weighted vests, weighted blankets, weighted lap animals) can often help calm a child who is fidgety or irritated.  It helps to “desensitize” a child.

Sensory BlanketWeighted Animal for Sensory IssuesWeighted toy for Sensory Problems

  •  Pushing a wheelbarrow outside, a weighted walking toy, a Tonka truck laden with stones or sand can also be valuable as a way of “grounding” a child and giving their body a better sense of where they are in space.
Tactile Toy
Add Weights to a Walking Push Toy for Increased Workload and Tactile Input

  •  Toys That Provide Proprioceptive Input: A ride on toy (using feet like a “Flintstone Car”) for a young child or using a scooter, scooter board or bicycle for an older child are other activities that may be better received by a child with sensory issues and give their bodies input that can be tolerated.
Scooter Board  Sensory Tool

  •   Spinning on a sit-n-spin or swinging on a swing can provide vestibular stimulation that can be calming and help a child “organize”.
Vestibular Stimulation using a Sit and Spin
Sit and Spin Toy for Providing Vestibular Stimulation
  •  Tactile Experiences:  Rice or Bean containers can help those children who enjoy more of a mess or need increased input to their hands.  Purchase an 8-10-quart container with a lid and bury favorite toys under the rice and let them dig them out.
Tactile Activity for Tactile Defensiveness

  •  Tactile Toys can also help calm and settle some children.  Some types to try:  Squishy Toys, spikey balls, Play Doh, “Slime”, Koosh balls, Silly Putty, or Fabric Books (pages made from cloth of differing textures) can also help calm and settle certain children.

Sensory Toy Nemo


  •   For kids who under-react to touch, they need to be taught safety around things like stoves (all hot surfaces), scratching too hard, or cold weather. An injury or fall that other kids would automatically report to their parents might not even phase a child with sensory processing issues.
  •  Remove tags from clothing or buy shirts without labels.  Purchase seamless socks.
  •   Guide older children in doing things for themselves like brushing teeth, washing their face, combing their hair.  You can instruct them by using a life-like doll.  This can serve to reduce major battles over self-help skills and decrease the number of direct contacts/touches.
  •  Buy plates that have divided sections to keep food from touching.  Allow your child to eat all of one food first before insisting they start another.

Remember that your child is reacting to stimulation they perceive as noxious. Work with your child’s therapists to find the best treatment plan and alternative ways of interacting that will help your child grow and lead a rewarding life. Accept them for the wonderful person they are. Advocate for them. 

Love them!

Author:  Trisha Roberts
Copyright © 2016 TNT Inspired Enterprise, LLC, All rights reserved.

Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Best Toys for Visually Impaired Children-------------or---------- Toys to Encourage your Visually Challenged Child to Move! by Trisha Robert

Toy selection is important for children with low vision

Visually impaired children are typically delayed in the development of gross motor milestones—rolling, crawling, transitions (getting in and out of a position like sitting or pulling to standing), walking and running.

Our bodies are programed to move—most infants are born wiggling and squiggling!  Vision is an important motivator for continued movement in infants and young children. Babies learn to move toward faces, objects and toys they can see. They spy something they want and reach for it.  Then they learn to roll or crawl to capture it. 

When children can’t see the toy in front of them, they don’t know to reach and grasp it.  The most fascinating mobile spinning in a crib, the cutest stuffed animal, or the most intriguing ball rolling across the room will not motivate a child with little or no vision.  Standing and walking can be extremely challenging—who wants to venture into the unknown where each step is a potential stumble and fall? Many children with low vision prefer stationary (read, “Stagnant”!) positions because they have no reason to move or are afraid of moving. This is the primary cause of most of their gross motor delays!

We’ve all heard it said that when we lose one of our senses, our other body senses become more acute to help compensate. Children diagnosed with low vision or classified as legally blind often develop excellent hearing.  Presenting musical toys and toys that rattle or make noises will attract the attention of these children.    

Best toys for Kids who are blindToys for Blind Children

  Some toys have sounds and lights, which are good for children who have some vision, as the changing lights and colors can often attract attention. 

 An increased awareness of and attention to tactile input can be encouraged by choosing textured books as well as stuffed animals that make sounds.  Hard plastic books with music and toggles are well loved by all kids. Textured balls with bells or rattles inside are excellent choices.  

Toy for Children with Impaired Vision

Our O-Balls are easy to grasp and make noises when children touch or grasp them. Traditional wooden blocks with raised letters and numbers are an excellent way to teach children to explore and improve the sensitivity of their fingers, preparing them for future braille reading. 

Textured toys for Children with Vision Impairment

Textured, interlocking floor mats make a great place to play and encourage exploration.  Another good choice is a shape sorter that makes noise when the piece is inserted.

Best Toys for Kids with Low Vision--Textured Floor mat

Believe it or not, some children with low vision can see bubbles! The mother of one of my young visually impaired clients, herself also visually impaired, imparted this piece of information.  Something about the iridescence of the bubble.  I used bubbles with her son and with other clients with low vision and they were delighted and mesmerized, thus motivated to reach and move.  Spill-resistant bubble containers are the greatest!

Best Toys for Children with Low Vision

Low Vision toy

Tips from the Therapist:

·        How to Present a New Toy.  Sit with your child on your lap or place them on their tummy and lay next to them on the floor in close contact.  Talk to them about the new toy or book and place their hand on the item.  Activate the toy or turn the pages of the book and let them feel the texture on the pages. Place their fingers over the on/off switch and each of the different buttons or toggles and assist them in triggering the toy.

·        Encourage Movement Toward a Toy. When your child shows interest in the toy, tell them that you are going to put it in front of them.  Activate the toy and encourage your child to reach for the toy. If they are unsuccessful the first time, help them perform a search pattern with their hands until they hit upon the toy. If they are not yet crawling on their belly, put your hand on the bottom of their feet and let them push against you to move forward toward the toy.  If they are able to sit, vary the placement of the toy—out front, to the right, to the left; turn the music on and let the child reach in each direction to secure the toy and, in the process, learn how to weight shift and balance in sitting.  This is the beginning of orienting to sound.

·        Make Play Areas Safe and Consistent.  Ensure that your child’s play area is free from dangers like unstable furniture or dangling cords.  Don’t change the configuration of the play space, as this can be confusing to children with low or no vision. They will learn that they can roll consecutively 4 times before they bump into the couch. This is especially true when learning to walk.  Children should be encouraged to cruise around furniture repetitively, learning where each piece ends and how far away the next piece is.

There are many wonderful resources available to families of children with vision difficulties.  I recommend checking out your local community or county as well as visiting the American Foundation for the Blind.   The information at Family Connect can be helpful to parents as well.  Connect with other parents struggling through the same issues.

Author:  Trisha Roberts

Copyright © 2016 TNT Inspired Enterprise, LLC, All rights reserved.
Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Pool Noodle Fun for the Whole Year by Trisha Roberts

Activites for yearround fun with Pool Noodles

Pool Noodle Activities
Center hole Pool Noodles
   Pool Noodles are fun summer pool accessories, but they can be used in lots of other fun ways throughout the year.  Purchase some extra noodles now for making exciting activities and games for later. Here are some suggestions to get you started.  You and your kids will have fun making up more games to play outside or inside on rainy/snowy days!

·       JUMPING:

o   Preparation:  Cut 2 pool noodles into fourths using a large, serrated knife (like a bread knife).  Place them on the floor in parallel with 15-20 inches between each noodle. 

How to cut Pool Noodles
Cutting Pool Noodles with a Serrated Knife

o   Play: Have your children start at one end and jump between the noodles.  You can space the noodles farther apart for older children or as young children progress in their jumping abilities. Older children can hop between the noodles or perform sideways jumps.

Juming over Pool Noodles

o   Variation: A more advanced activity is jumping over a raised line or pole.  Make a “Hurdle” by securing a ruler or other stake/dowel rod several inches through each end of the Pool Noodle and then elevating the Pool Noodles by passing them through the rungs of a chair. Have children jump over the hurdle, using both feet for take-off and landing.
Jumping over Pool Noodle Hurdles
Pool Noodle Hurdles


o   Preparation:  Place Pool Noodles in parallel, forming a path or "roadway" or stake Pool Noodles into the ground and use caution tape between the poles to form paths. Make arches with Pool Noodles staked in the ground or attached to Traffic Cones for taller archways. You can place traffic signs at intersections and cross walks to teach biking safety and add fun to your course. 

Pool Noodle Course with Traffic Signs

Pool Noodle Bike Course with Arches
Pool Noodle Scooter Board Course

Pool Noodle Biking Course

o   Play:  Have the children sit on scooters and propel themselves through the course using just their feet.  Have children on their tummy over the scooter and use their arms to navigate the course. Children can ride their tricycles or bikes through the course.

      CHAIR HOCKEY: (a great Party game for 8 or more children)

o   Preparation:  Cut noodles in half; you will need a noodle for each child.  Line up 2 rows of chairs facing one another and spaced about 6 feet apart. Inflate 2 12-inch balloons of different colors. (It would be good to have 1 or 2 balloons as backups in case the balloons pops)
o   Play:  Have the children sit in the chairs facing each other and holding their noodles.  Each row is a team and will be assigned a balloon color.  Two Game Moderators stand at either end of the rows and release the balloon between the chairs.  Each team tries to bat their balloon with their noodles and move it down the row of chairs and out the other end.  The first team to get their colored balloon down the row scores a point. Children must remain seated (You could consider subtracting a point for getting out of their chair.  This keeps chaos to a minimum!).  They can bat either colored balloon to thwart the other team or make progress moving their own balloon toward the goal.  Moderators are available to return any escaped balloons to the field of play.  Game ends when one team scores 10 points.

Chair Hockey with Pool Noodles
Pool Noodle Chair Hockey

·       LACING:

Pool Noodle Discs
o   Preparation: Make sure to purchase a pool noodle with a hole running through the center. Using a serrated knife, cut a pool noodle into 2-inch discs. Find a long scarf or strong cord; feed the scarf through the hole in the disc, and tie a knot in the scarf to secure it to the disc.
Pool Noodle Lacing
Lacing or Stringing Pool Noodles

o   Play:  Have your child push the loose end of the scarf or strong cord through and disc and slide it all the way to the end to join the secured disc.  Continue to feed discs onto the scarf until all the discs have been attached.  Children will enjoy taking them back off one at a time.  This is an excellent way to improve hand strength and eye-hand coordination.  You can practice counting, colors, or sequencing as well!


o   Preparation:  Cut a pool noodle in half. You will need a balloon or ball. Set chairs, traffic cones, or other stable objects on the floor with ample space to move around.
      If you are playing outside, take Pool Noodles and bend them to make an arch, securing them to the ground by pushing them onto tent stakes or sturdy sticks pushed several inches into the ground. (You can also buy an inexpensive packet of “shims” from the hardware store that work well)

Making Pool Noodles into Hoops and Arches
Make Pool Noodle Hoops and Arches

Pool Noodles to bat ballObstacle Course with Pool Noodles

o   Play:  Children will start at the beginning of the course and use their noodles to bat the ball or balloon around the obstacles and through the arches in the course.  For extra fun you could clock their time with a stopwatch and work on increasing their speed with each repetition.

Pool Noodle Arches Obstacle Course

·       BOWLING:

o   Preparation: Cut several Pool Noodles in sixths, making sure that the bottoms are even; place 10 Noodle “Pins” in the classic bowling pin triangle shape (1 in the front row, 2 in the second row, 3 in the third row, and 4 in the back row). You can make “Bumper Guards” by placing a Pool Noodle on either side of the “Bowling Alley” if your little ones have difficulty rolling the ball down the lane. Provide a large beach ball or playground ball.

Bumper Guards using Pool Noodles
Pool Noodle Bowling Pins
Pool Noodle Bowling Pins

o   Play:  Children stand at the end of the “lane” and are given 2 turns to roll the ball toward the pins to knock them down. Older children can practice their math skills by adding points or they can calculate and record actual bowling scores. (Learn to Score Bowling here)


o   Preparation:  Cut a Pool Noodle in half lengthwise.  The two halves can be tapedtogether with a decorative masking tape or laid side by side.  Elevate one end and secure it to a chair or couch.  Let the Finish Line be the floor or another lower surface.  You can make a “Finish Line” sign and attach it to the pool noodle with wooden skewers!

Race Track with Pool Noodles

Car Track with Pool Noodles

o   Play:  Take 2 Matchbox cars (or other cars of similar size) and place one in each side of the groove formed by the half noodle.  Race away!  

o   Variation:  Marbles can also be used to roll down the tracks.

·       RING TOSS:

o   Preparation:  Take 5-10 Pool Noodles and bend them into a circle, securing them together with duct tape to make a throwing ring. Cut a Pool Noodle in half and push it onto a stake secured in the ground to make the target pole.  If playing indoors, use a traffic cone or similar object for the target.

Taping a Pool Noodle into a Hoop

Making a Pool Noodle Ring Toss

o   Play:  Children stand and throw the Noodle Rings over the cone.  Start close to the target/cone and then gradually increase the throwing distance by moving the children farther away.

·       “JAVELIN" THROW:

o   Preparation:  Form a circle with a Pool Noodle and secure with duct tape.  Tie a thin rope around the circle and suspend it in the air so that it hands at shoulder height or a little above. Cut 4 or more Pool Noodles in half.

Making a Pool Noodle Javelin Throw Target

o   Play:  Children stand several feet away from the suspended circle and try to throw the “Javelin” through the target.

These are just a few ideas to get you started.  As always, we welcome your ideas and suggestions to share with other parents and care providers! 

 Have Fun!

Author:  Trisha Roberts
Copyright © 2016 TNT Inspired Enterprise, LLC, All rights reserved.
Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.