By Laura Stubecki
Now that summer is well under way, you may be hearing the dreaded lament “I’m bored!” As the summer gets hotter and you begin to run out of ideas to keep your child entertained, may I offer a few suggestions that are boredom busters and skill builders? Don’t worry, your kids won’t know that you may be sneaking in something good for them! The most important aspect of playing with your children is that it should be FUN (for you too!). Never force your child to do something he/she finds aversive.
Before we talk activities, let’s talk about some of the positions for play. Although much of summer fun involves running, swimming, and other active play, there comes a time for quiet too. Keep the following in mind for those times:
- When working at a table, always use a child sized work table and chair. Make sure your child’s feet touch the floor to offer additional stability and postural support. Elbows should rest comfortably on the table. If your child is reaching up and the elbows cannot bend, the table is too high or the chair is too low.
- Many parents have avoided placing their babies on tummies for fear of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Tummy time is good at all ages and develops muscles in the back, neck and shoulders. This builds a strong foundation for all motor skills later in life. A great way to share a book with your kids or even play a board game is by lying on your stomachs. That’s right! You can do it too! It’s great for adults to continue to strengthen the muscles of the neck and back.
- Side sitting: This position should be alternated to each side to balance the core. Simply sit on one hip with your legs going in one direction and one hand on the ground for support. Feel that core!
- Sit crossed legged with a yoga block or folded blanket under your bottom.
- Remember bean bag chairs? Nothing beats reading a story in a bean bag chair. CAUTION: Not to be used with babies or toddlers under 2 years of age.
This week we will explore a few sensory experiences.
- Tactile (sense of touch): Use a flat plastic tray or cookie sheet and fill with shaving cream. Add in some finger paints and let your child swirl it together. Write or draw pictures. Adding rice or sand will make such interesting texture. Have paper towels ready!
- Olfactory (sense of smell): Get different herbs from your local farm and explore by smelling. A very easy and rewarding herb to grow is mint. Just touching the leaves scents the fingers. It is so refreshing to add a few sprigs of mint to ice tea. To soothe a sour tummy, brew mint leaves in hot water and add a teaspoon of honey.
- Movement games: Roll down grassy hills, tumblesault, playground equipment. On a rainy day, fashion a “road” from couch pillows on the floor and let your child walk the “pillow road”.
- Taste: Purchase a Sno-Cone maker and have your child make unique flavors from juices and fruit. Sno-Cone makers that use a crank turn to shave ice help develop hand and bilateral skills.
- Hearing: Use a kazoo (this is also a great oral-motor game) and play song guessing games. Use music to influence your child’s internal rhythms; such as pop music to get your child moving and meditation music for night time. Each child is different, so this requires experimentation. Practice rhythm games such as “Miss Mary Mack”.
Stay tuned for more ideas in the upcoming weeks.
Laura Stubecki is an occupational therapist and is the Director of Pediatric OT Solutions and Preschool Solutions in Orange and Dutchess Counties.