Thursday, November 26, 2015

Simple Calming Mandalas to Color

Mandala means “circle” or “center.” Coloring mandalas can help to encourage relaxation, relieve stress, facilitate creativity and balance the body.  Here are three simple mandalas to color to help to calm the body.  They are perfect to add to a quiet corner or calm down kit in the classroom.

Check out Yoga Cards at for more activities to calm the body.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Black Friday through Cyber Monday Sale - Dollar Deals!

Check out these $0.99 specials until 11/30/15:

1.  Scavenger Hunts - Encourage physical activity and visual perceptual skills while going on fun scavenger hunts.

2.  Tangrams for Kids - cut and paste puzzle projects for kids.

3.  December Handwriting Activities - over 40 pages of December holiday handwriting templates, visual motor and visual perceptual worksheets.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

10 Tips When Teaching Children Self Help Skills

Here are 10 tips to help teach children to be independent with self help skills and everyday routines:

1.  Make sure you have time to give the child your undivided attention when you are first teaching a new skill or routine.  Likewise, make sure that the child is paying attention when learning the skill.  Minimize distractions and create a quiet environment at first.

2.  Break down the skill into simple steps.  Give specific directions on how to complete each step.  For example with washing hands break the skill into several steps: wet hands, put soap on hands, rub hands together and wash for 20-30 seconds, rinse hands, dry hands and turn off water.

3.  To help the child understand the self help skill provide visual images or photographs for each step.  When each step is completed the child can move on to the next picture.  See below.

4.  Demonstrate each step as you move through the sequence.  Check if the child understands fully before you move to the next step.

5.  Try to use the same wording on each step by step direction for consistency. As the child becomes more independant, reduce the verbal cues until they can be discontinued completely.

6.  Encourage and praise the child for each step that is accomplished.  If a child is unable to complete a step you can help with that one step.  Always work to slowly fade away your assistance.

7.  If able, offer a choice during the to help the child feel more independent.  For the handwashing example, offer two different kinds of soap to choose.  For dressing skills, let the child pick out his/her clothes.

8.  Offer some positive reinforcement.  For example, if you complete a certain number of steps then you will be able to choose a book to read, play with a toy for special toy for a few minutes, etc.

9.  Be patient.   Take your time completing the routine or skill.  Provide extra time to complete the skill.

10.  Celebrate!  When a child is consistently independent with a new skill or routine celebrate the success.  Give the child a reward.  Check out these 30 free or low cost rewards.  

Need visual picture images when teaching dressing skills?  Check out this popular packet - Dressing Skills: Step by Step Visual Directions to Teach Children How to Dress.  Find out more here 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Downward Dog Yoga Pose - Stretch, Strengthen and Relax

This Downward Dog Yoga Pose is a free sample from Yoga Cards. The purpose of the downward dog pose is to:
1.  improve balance.
2.  stretch the back and the hamstring muscles (back of the thighs).
3.  strengthen the shoulders, arms and the core muscles.
4.  stimulate the vestibular system with the inverted position of the head.
5.  relieve lower back compression.

Download the freebie to learn how to do the pose -

Friday, November 20, 2015

5 Tips to Support Risk Taking in Children

Do you allow children to explore enough?  Risk taking is so important in childhood. This generation of children is so shielded from many risks that perhaps you and I were allowed to overcome as we grew up.  Taking a risk and achieving a goal provides a child with a strong sense of accomplishment.  Remember back to when you were young when you climbed a tall tree, scaled a fence or rode your bicycle down a steep hill.  It feels exhilarating that you did it by yourself.  So next time a child is trying a new skill that might be a bit risky try some of the tips before you say "stop":
  1. Observe the situation closely. See if they can do the task safely without you interfering. 
  2. If you need to interfere to ensure safety can you offer verbal suggestions instead of physical prompts?  
  3. It is the same theory when children are learning any new skill assist as little as possible. Even in situations where it may be easier for you to help in terms of speeding up the task or peace of mind. 
  4. Will the child will succeed better if someone else is the teacher?  If you are particularly nervous watching a child perform a certain skill, perhaps ask someone else to work on the goal ie parent, aunt, uncle, etc.
  5. Stop and make sure that you are not saying "no" due to your own fears.  When children walk along in the school or the community, are you especially fearful that they may not make it safely to their destination? Perhaps start off small and follow quite a bit distance behind until you are comfortable that the child arrived to the destination.  In a school setting, send the child back to class alone but maybe call the classroom to let the teacher know the child is on his/her way.  This gives the child a sense of independence.  
What do you do to support risky exploration in children?  

It's a plane..... It's a bird..... It's a Superhero Action Verb!  This download includes sensory motor activities about
action verbs such as roll, crawl, kneel, walk, run, hop, throw, kick, etc.  Practice fine moor, gross motor, handwriting and 

literacy skills with this collection.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Going Outdoors to Improve Attention Span

The Journal of Attention Disorders published research on the benefits of walking in a park to increase attention span. A small group of 17 children with ADHD, participated in a study comparing walks in a park, downtown and a neighborhood. The walks in the park resulted in a significant difference in concentration as scored on the Digit Span Backwards (DSB).

The article also discusses Attention Restoration Theory (ART). The basics of this theory is that interacting with nature results in a type of restoration for the body and the brain. Try to remember a recent event when you spent time outdoors in a natural environment. You may walk slowly and attend to all of your visual surroundings – a bird chirping, a sunset, the green grass of Spring. When you return indoors, you feel relaxed and calm. Now to try to remember that last time you were outdoors in a busier environment, perhaps a city. Your attention may be focused on planning when to cross a street, avoiding cars and other city obstacles. These two environments rely on your brain to use two different types of attention – involuntary and voluntary. Concentrating on topics that interest you or something that grabs your attention involves involuntary attention. Concentrating on blocking out distractions to focus on the topic at hand involves voluntary attention (which can fatigue easily). When the brain experiences involuntary attention it allows voluntary attention to rest and recover.

The authors of this study question whether children with ADHD experience deficits in voluntary attention resulting in the fluctuating attention span that you see in children with ADHD. Therefore, the Attention Restoration Theory when applied to children with and without ADHD can perhaps be very beneficial. Walks in nature are simple to carry out on a daily basis. The “restorative” action of the walks which call upon involuntary attention can possibly help to improve voluntary attention.

With the amount of television and computer time that children are exposed to daily, more time spent outdoors is essential. Here are several ideas to encourage increased nature time for all children:

1. Take hikes and short walks in the woods. If you need a wheelchair accessible path, search state parks for handicapped accessible trails or try bike paths that are paved.
2. Go letterboxing or geocaching – Letterboxing is a great family activity for people of all ages. You can go to for a list of clues throughout the USA. You print off the clues, walk to find them and stamp a marking in your log book.  Use your smartphone or GPS to go geocaching and find hidden treasures.
3. Gardening – plant a garden with children. Plant seeds in pots so that all children can assist.
4. Go on scavenger hunts for outdoor materials – check out Scavenger Hunts e-book for ideas
5. Allow children to play outdoors in dirt, mud and puddles.
6. Go on a bug hunt – see how many different bugs you can identify
7. Start a nature collection such as rocks, acorns, leaves or pine cones.
8. Go fishing, frog hunting, horseback riding or birdwatching.
9. Build a structure out of natural materials i.e. fort, collage made out of sticks or leafs.
10. Encourage teachers and therapists to plan lessons outdoors.

Fresh air makes everyone feel healthier, relaxed and perhaps improves attention. It is a simple way to improve concentration with no side effects (except skinned knees).

Faber Taylor, Andrea, Kuo, Frances E. Children With Attention Deficits Concentrate Better After Walk in the Park J Atten Disord 2009 12: 402-409

Cimprich, B Attention Restoration Theory: Empirical Work and Practical Applications Retrieved from the web on 4/17/09 at

Why not try yoga for its restorative benefits?  Even better, do yoga outdoors to help with focus and calming the mind.  Check out Yoga Cards and Game Ideas at

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Cognitive Orientation to Daily Occupational Performance Approach

Cognitive orientation to daily occupational performance or CO-OP is defined by Polatajko and Mandich as a  “a client-centred, performance based, problem solving approach that enables skill acquisition through a process of strategy use and guided discovery”.  CO-OP is an evidence based approach that has been successful for children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD) and autism spectrum disorder (Rodger & Brandenburg, 2008).
According to Missiuna et al. the main objectives of CO-OP are:
  1. skill acquisition in child-chosen tasks
  2. development of cognitive strategies
  3. generalization and transfer of learned skills and strategies.
There steps to the CO-OP approach include client chosen goals, dynamic performance analysis, cognitive strategy use, guided discovery, enabling principles, parent/significant other involvement and intervention format.
Generally, the CO-OP approach is GOAL - PLAN - DO - CHECK.
Step 1:  The child along with the parents determine a goal or task that needs to be accomplished.  The therapist performs evaluations and assessments to determine if the goal is feasible.
Step 2:  Create a plan together to reach the goal.  To begin, the therapist performs a task analysis of the child performing the skill.  The child can explore different strategies such as body position, attention to the current task, modifications, self talk, self monitoring, etc.
Step 3:   Carry out the plan with the child using the planned strategies to accomplish the task.
Step 4:  Check the plan.  How well did it all work?  What was successful? What can I change? What needs improvement?  This can be done through self-interrogation, self-monitoring, self-observation and self-evaluation.
There are many resources to learn more about this cognitive based approach to achieving new motor skills.  This pdf is a great place to start to explore this approach further -   Polatajko & Mandich (2010). Cognitive Orientation to daily Occupational Performance
(CO-OP). Retreived from the web on 11/18/15 from
Here is a helpful list of peer reviewed, evidence based articles on CO-OP
Missiuna, C., Mandich, A., Polatajko, H. & Malloy-Miller, T. (2001). Cognitive orientation to daily occupational performance (CO-OP): Part I — Theoretical foundations. Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, 20, 69–81.
Polatajko, H. & Mandich, A. (2004). Enabling occupation in children: The cognitive orientation to daily occupational performance (CO-OP) approach. Ottawa, ON: CAOT Publications.
Polatajko & Mandich (2010).  Cognitive Orientation to daily Occupational Performance
(CO-OP).  Retreived from the web on 11/18/15 from
Rodger, S. & Brandenburg, J. (2008). Cognitive Orientation to (daily) Occupational Performance (CO-OP) with children with Asperger’s syndrome who have motor-based occupational performance goals. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1630.2008.00739.x
My Goal Tracker student data collection from

My Goal Tracker:
This is an electronic book of data collection forms for students to track their own progress.  The student can track his/her goals over time, by monitoring the skills over the course of a day, week, month or quarter. This allows the student to get a visual picture of improvement,
decline or maintenance of different skills.

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