Do you have a child (or multiple children) in Preschool or Transitional Kindergarten? This school year poses many challenges for students and parents, and staying interested and engaged in virtual learning will no doubt be one of them. At Walk, Talk, Play, we’ve got your back! All month long we will be providing you with Therapist recommendations for how to prepare your child for virtual learning sessions, as well as tips to help keep them engaged!
1. Picture Schedules/Visual Timers
The concept of time can be very tricky for little ones. In order to make the events of the day more concrete and understandable, you can create a visual picture schedule. This assists with creating a routine to prep your little for activities by allowing them to see what activity needs to be completed and what activity is next. You can include pictures of daily activities, such as putting on clothes, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, play time, outdoor time, etc., as well as pictures of their teacher to represent school! You can either have your kiddo pull off the pictures as the events have happened throughout the day, or leave them in order to reference time concepts such as first and then.
For Coco’s schedule, her mama used long strips of velcro with real pictures, laminated and placed vertically.
Visual timers are also great for beginning to build expectations for attending to daily tasks, as well as transitioning between tasks or away from preferred tasks. There are several apps with free visual timers for kiddos, such as Countdown, and also some great wind up visual timers, like this one from Amazon:
We also like this Calendar from Melissa and Doug. It’s great for practicing the days of the week, discussing the weather and seasons, highlighting special plans or holidays, as well as discussing moods!
2. Heavy Work and Movement Opportunities
We all know that kids need to move their bodies! In order for littles to best participate in a focused activity, we need to provide them with movement rich activities that give them an opportunity to use their muscles, change their head position in space, and give deep pressure touch. This provides their sensory systems with lots of information that is both regulating and alerting. Here are some of our favorite activities to get little bodies ready to learn:
1. Grab some couch cushions or big pillows and make “kid sandwiches.” This activity provides deep pressure touch, which is calming and organizing. Plus, each opportunity your kiddo has to wiggle out of those cushions and help stack up those pillows is more heavy work (proprioception)! Our friends Aydin and Rayon love to be squished together in the pillows. We love those smiles!
2. Spinning and rocking are very powerful kinds of input! When using spinning/rotation always use stop and start movement and pair the activity with visual targeting tasks like throwing bean bags to a basket, or heavy work activities, to fully integrate all that stimulation. Even better, have kiddos power the movement with their muscles. Holden’s mama is doing a great job of stopping the spinning and waiting for Holden to request more.
**If your kiddo has a vestibular processing disorder, please refer to your treating Occupational Therapist for activities with spinning/rotation.
Here, our pal Holden is using a WePlay Rocking Bowl by Sensory Edge.
Coco is using a Dizzy Disc.
See below for recommendations of products on the market.
3. Laundry baskets or boxes are perfect for heavy work to push and pull. Your kiddo can push or pull their container around the house to collect items for play, or to help with the chores. Brothers Adam and Seth are taking turns making a train ride… all aboard!
4. Couch cushions to the rescue. We love having kiddos, push, stack, and build paths or tunnels with couch cushions or pillows. Tons of great opportunities to use big muscles (proprioception) and change head position by bending, crawling, or jumping. Have your kiddo build a pathway from one room to another, make a tunnel that leads to their toys, or stack a giant tower and pretend you are the big bad wolf and huff and puff and blow it down!
3. Flexible Seating
Let’s face it, sitting through virtual meetings is difficult for adults, let alone little friends. Come up with 3-5 rotating ideas for seating for your kiddo and give them a choice between 2 for each virtual learning session.
1. Having your little build a fort is a great opportunity to use some muscles and get creative. Small spaces can assist friends who may get visually distracted by things in the environment, which leads to more focus. Our friend Mav is a pro at building couch cushion forts!
2. Mila is using a big ball for her chair during class. This gives her a chance to get some movement, which helps sustain arousal and attention and activates her postural muscles.
3. Backless seating options, such as stools or floor poofs, give Coco an opportunity to activate her core muscles to stay engaged with onscreen activities.
4. Rocking chairs are another great way for kiddos to move during class. You can use a kid-sized rocking chair, or you may consider using your old rocker or glider and sit with your kiddo.
5. Standing at a desk or table allows for lots of wiggles and is perfect for when working on assignments using materials. Mila is working hard on her cutting skills while participating in class.
Maybe your kiddo wants to sit in a laundry basket with some of their favorite pillows and stuffed animals for extra squishes. Maybe your kiddo likes a wiggle cushion like a Dyna Disc or a Movin’ Sit cushion to sit on or put their feet on in a chair. Get creative with your kiddo to come up with fun solutions that meet your family’s needs!
Experiment with and utilize items you already have at home. Here, Coco is using a poof to participate in a Zoom session.
Or check out some of our recommendations for flexible seating:
Use a Think Worm!
Is your kiddo a squirmy wormy during virtual learning? Try making a Think Worm!
Think Worms can provide deep pressure touch over your kiddo’s lap or shoulders. They can also carry, push, or pull their think worm for heavy work to activate their proprioceptive system. You can make them using a fun colorful sock or even a fuzzy sock for added tactile experience! Try a few drops of your favorite essential oils in your rice/beans for an added olfactory experience!
Check back throughout the month of September as we’ll be bringing you more specific examples of how to prepare your child for virtual learning.
4. Consider Snacks and Drinks
Your mouth has lots and lots of nerve endings concentrated in a small place, which means it is a very powerful place to provide input. Chewing and sucking are both great heavy work activities and can be very regulating.
Try having a few crunchy or chewy food items available for your kiddo during a portion of their virtual class, such as carrot sticks, cucumbers, pretzels, jerky, fruit leather, strips of bagel, etc. You can also provide a cold drink through a straw, such as ice water or a thick smoothie.
WTP insider tips:
- In a rush and can’t make a smoothie? For a quickie thick drink, pierce a big straw through the top of an applesauce container or yogurt container. BIG heavy work!
- Utilize an ice cube tray or a muffin tin to present a small variety of foods that kiddos can munch and crunch on.
- Have a non-oral feeder at home or want some nonfood options? Chew tubes and chewelry are great options for kiddos to get the benefit of heavy work through chewing. Check out all the great options by Arc Therapeutic. We also love to offer bubbles or other blowing activities, such as pinwheels or blowing cotton balls across the table, as part of prep for virtual learning. Focus on those looooooong exhalations for some great regulation. Everybody breathe in and everybody breathe out……
Perform activities recommended by Walk, Talk, Play at your own risk with appropriate adult supervision provided. Walk, Talk, Play is not responsible for any injury caused while performing these play activities.
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