Category Archives: General Blog Posts

DIR/Floor Time Play Blog

Tips for playing with your kids who are 5 and under based on the DIR/Floor Time Model

  1. Follow your child’s lead
    • This is the best starting place for interacting with your kids!
    • Following your child’s lead gives you insight into your child’s interests, what brings them joy and what is meaningful to them. If we follow the child’s lead, we can start on their level and then playfully, respectfully and joyfully build their play skills and ideas from there

  2. Join your child’s world, then pull them into a shared world to build their interactions and play
    • By starting with respecting your child’s motivations you have now been able to peak your child’s interest and using that interest you can pull your child into a shared world where you are interacting and playing together
    • Being in a shared world and interacting together you are able to more readily support your child to
      • Learn to focus and attend
      • Learn to take initiative
      • Learn to have empathy
      • Learn to have back and forth communication through gestures and words
      • Learn to be creative
      • Learn to problem solve

  3. How do we practically put these 2 together?
    • If your child is spinning around and around in a circle, join them! Then build a shared world by playfully stopping them in front of your face, engaging in eye contact and laughter, then continue spinning and playfully stopping them
    • If your child is pushing cars around on a track, join them with another car! Then create a shared world and shared experience through doing a new action with the car, crash the car using silly loud sounds or make it jump over the track, extending their play ideas, tolerance of others and shared interactions
    • If your child is having tummy time and manipulating toys in front of them join them on the floor! Start by manipulating the object (soft toy, block, mirror etc) they are looking at, using lots of fun and silly sounds whilst playing. Then hide an object and return it with a big surprised sound to encourage joint attention and a shared experience

Summary

  • The first point of call is to use your child’s interest and follow their lead. Be mindful that a part of entering your child’s world is tuning into their pleasures, joys, challenges, personality and differences and accepting their choice of play
  • We want to make sure the experience is full of joy and pleasure for both parties. If the play experiences in becoming stressful, consider taking a break and evaluating why the play experience in no longer being fruitful
  • Encourage a shared world by adding to your child’s interest and by using a high affect i.e. big facial expressions, noises, sounds effects and actions to peak their interest and engagement

References

  1. FLOORTIME: WHAT IT REALLY IS, AND WHAT IT ISN’T, By Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D.
  2. What is Floortime?
  3. DIR Floortime courses

The DIR/Floortime model has identified 9 development capacities that children need to master in order to have the right building blocks of play skills and to not push your child outside of their developmental capacity. If you would like to know more about these capacities, please refer to the references above.

COVID-19 Home Activities

DIY Indoor Activity Walk

Winter is fast approaching, but just because the rain and cold is keeping us inside, it doesn’t mean we can’t keep moving! Here is a list of components for creating an activity walk inside your own house! Feel free to chose as many or few as you like, based on how much space you have, and what materials you own. These activities develop skills including: Balance, coordination, midline crossing, proprioception, and other gross motor skills. For some extra engagement and activities, have your children colour in the pictures as you make the course!

Click here to download a copy of the templates.

Starting line:
Start with feet placed on the feet template
Print template 1 and cut (or have your children cut) out each letter and place (or stick) it on the ground. This will mark where to start your activity walk!

If you do not have access to a printer, simply draw and write a “START” and some feet to mark it.
You will need:
– Printer OR Textas
– Scissors
Lilypad Jump:
Jump with two feet onto each lily pad.  
– Set this activity up on carpet, with lily pads stuck down, or jump next to the lily pads to reduce the risk of them sliding out underneath on our jumps –
Print 4 copies of template 2 or draw some green lily pads.

Cut them out and place them a small jump apart from each other. This can move in a straight line or zig zag back and forth to conserve space
You will need:
– Printer OR Textas
– Scissors
Tightrope walk:
Balance across the tightrope! For an added challenge, place feet heel to toe  
Place a piece of string along the ground in a straight, or slightly curving line. You will need: String/yarn/rope etc.
Crab walk:
Sit down with feet on the floor, and knees pointing up. Use your hands to push and lift your bottom off the floor. Then move along in the direction of the walk
Print (template 3) or draw and cut out the crab and the arrow. Place them on the floor in the direction of the walk. You will need:
– Printer OR Textas
– Scissors
Spinning steps:
Step to each arrow, and then complete a spin in the direction the arrow is pointing
Print (template 4) or draw and cut out 6 spinning icons and place them in a windy line moving forwards along the curve. You will need:
– Printer OR Textas
– Scissors
Movement Challenge:
Complete the action on the sign!
Stick a sign of A4 paper to the wall (or pop it on the floor). Write a different challenge on each sign, for as many signs as you want/can think of. Some ideas are:
– 5 star jumps
– Jump on the spot
– Do a push up
– Push on the wall
– Do 2 squats
– Balance on one leg  
You will need:
– Textas
Finish line:
Finish and strike a winner pose! Hands up in the air, do a bow, give yourself a clap, whatever you like!  
Print (template 5) or draw the finish line and a star/trophy whatever you like to mark the finish! You will need:
– Printer OR Textas
– Scissors

Tummy Time Blog

Tummy Time is incredibly beneficial for your little ones! Michelle, one of our OT’s has put together this summary on Tummy Time with some tips and tricks on how to embed this into your everyday routine!

Toilet Training Blog

A few of our very talented therapists have worked together to create this blog with 10 tips and tricks to aid in the toilet training process!

Learning Towers

What are Learning Towers?

Learning towers are simple pieces of furniture that are designed to support children in their independence, and provide access to spaces and environments that they may have been previously unable to access. Some are adjustable to be transformed into tables, and others adaptable as your child grows. These are very safe stools for children, with an enclosed structure allowing toddlers to reach higher surfaces than they may be able to access on their own. They meet both mandatory and voluntary Australian safety standards.

Why are Learning Towers useful?

Children love getting involved in activities with the family, such as cooking, washing up and self-care. Learning Towers provide a safe way for toddlers to engage in these activities, controlling more variables. Some examples are:

  • You can moderate where your child is in the kitchen space. By setting up the learning tower away from stoves and other more dangerous equipment, your toddler can be involved in meal preparation activities, developing their self-care, fine motor, coordination and other countless activities, in a safe environment
  • Your child can engage in activities with you, and learn family traditions, food preparation ideas and develop a sense of responsibility and agency in the kitchen from a younger age. 
  • By engaging in more activities alongside your child, this provides more quality time and opportunity for bonding and developing social skills
  • The structure of the Learning Tower allows your child to give their full attention to the activity at hand, without needing to worry about slipping off a stool, or a chair falling over!
  • Getting children involved in the kitchen is great for supporting picky eaters! Evidence shows that when children cook with their parents, they are more likely to eat healthier food, and felt more positive and in control of their food intake (Van Der Horst, Ferrage & Rytz, 2014)

References:

Van der Horst, K., Ferrage, A. & Rytz, A. (2014). Involving children in meal preparation. Effects on food intake. Elsevier, 79(1), 18-24. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2014.03.030

Natalie

Occupational Therapist

Games to Play with Feelings Disks

Are you looking for some new creative ways to engage your child in conversations about emotions? Here are 10 fun game ideas created by our therapists using feelings disks. The feelings disks can be purchased here.

What To Do In Winter?

Winter can be a hard time to stay active!

Outside can be cold and wet, making it a tough time to keep engaged in sports and other gross motor activities. Below are 15 activities that you can do with your child to help develop their coordination, balance and other gross-motor skills, whilst giving an opportunity for you to spend some quality time with them!

1.    Crazy Catch

Throw a bean bag (or a ball) back and forward to each other. Do a few normal catches to begin, then add in some ‘tricks’ that can be done before or during your throw! Both you and your child can come up with fun new tricks such as:

– Pass the beanbag behind your back

– Pass the beanbag under one leg

– Pass the beanbag through your legs in a figure of eight

– Place the beanbag on your head and turn around

– Place the beanbag on your head, sit down then stand up again

2.    Garbage Collectors

Find some treasures/toys/beanbags around the house, and place them through the activity space (living room floor, playroom, bedroom). These objects are the ‘rubbish’. Find some buckets/hula hoops, and place them around the room to be our ‘garbage bins’

Take it in turns to come up with an action (crawl, dance, skip, gallop). You and your child then do this action as you collect all the ‘rubbish’ and place (or throw for an extra challenge) in the ‘bins’.

3.    Tummy Skittles

You and your child take turns to lie on your tummy on the floor. You can then take turns to roll a ball to hit some skittles placed a few feet away. Alternatively, if you don’t have skittles, you could lie in the same position and throw a ball or beanbag into a target (a box or a hula hoop).

4.    Hopping With The Leader

You and your child lead each other through a series of different hops.

• Hop in place on right foot, then left foot.

• Hop softly so you don’t make a sound.

• Hop side to side

• Hop forward, hop backwards.

• Hop forward and swing your arms.

• Hop five times in a row then change feet.

• Hop quickly then slowly.

• Hop forward in a straight line.

• Hop, then jump, then hop, then jump.

• Come up with some fun hops of your own!

5.    Obstacle Course

Make an obstacle course at home by wrapping wool around bannisters, furniture and fixings. You can also move around furniture and toys like hula hoops for an added challenge!

6.    Statues

You and your child move around the room in different ways (robot, jelly person, different types of animals, hopping, walking backwards) while music is playing. When you shout “freeze” they have to stop completely still. You could also do this where stopping the music means you need to freeze.

7.    Stepping Stones

Set out a course of stepping stones using small mats, pieces of coloured card, hula hoops, plastic stepping stones or cushions. Ones that are flat on the ground will be easier; taller or less stable stepping stones will be more difficult. You and your child can take turns at this activity, and build it together. To encourage them to go slowly you could make it into a game, such as don’t wake the pirate (wolf/witch/etc…) where you turn your back and listen out for the person sneaking across the stepping stones. This activity can work great involving the whole family!

8.    Tightrope Walk

Make a path along the floor using tape or string. You and your child can take turns to walk along it slowly, with the heel of the front foot touching the heel of the back foot, like a tightrope walker. Try to keep the feet straight on the line.

You can add a challenge to this activity by using straight, curved and diagonal lines. You can walk with or without shoes. You can walk, run, crawl or roll, or drive a toy car along it. Draw a design on a piece of card and see if your child can copy this with the string.

9.    Simon Says

Simon Says is a great inside activity to practice moving and listening. Play this game with the whole family. Start with an adult playing as “Simon” and giving instructions (such as “touch your head”). The children follow these instructions, only when “Simon says” is said first. Once your child gets the hang of them, let them have a turn of being “Simon”

10.    Animal Walks

Have some races doing “animal walks” such as:

Crab walk: walking on hands and feet with your back to the ground.

Frog jump: Jumping along while crouching.

Penguin walk: waddling.

You and your child can come up with some of your own animals and imagine how they would walk.

11.         Mirror Mirror

Stand facing your child. You are going to be each other’s mirror. You can be the mirror first. Move your body into different positions – your partner must copy you as smoothly as possible. Now swap over so the other person is the leader.

12.         Dance Party!

Put on your child’s favourite music, and take turns to come up with a dance move for the other to copy! You can dance around the room, or set up some obstacles to move around. You can give guidance such as “lets do a dance low to the ground, lets do a fast dance, lets do a quiet dance”.

13.         Towers

Have your child stand in a positon and pretend to be a ‘tower’. You then pretend to be a giant wind or storm by gently poking and pushing them to try and make them fall over. The point is not for the child to fall but to encourage them to use their core muscles to resist the push and stay upright and very still. You can however push them over every now and again to add to the fun.

14.         Clapping Game

Sit facing the child. Tap your hands on your knees in rhythm with each other. Now try the following patterns:

Alternate between palms down and palms up.

Alternate between tapping on your knees and clapping your partner’s hands.

Tap your knees then clap your right hand to your partner’s right hand, then clap your knees and clap your left hand to your partner’s left hand.

What other patterns can you think up?

15.         Handshakes

Make up a ‘secret handshake’ for you and your child. Start simple with hi-fives and simple movements. Start to add steps to the handshake including fist-bumps, jumps, poses and whatever else you can think of! How many steps can you remember?

16.         Inside Treasure Hunt

Identify a piece of treasure (beanbag/marble etc.). Take turns with your child to hide the treasure, and then give a clue to find it. If a player gets stuck, use ‘warmer’ and ‘colder’ clues to help them out. The hider can also give an instruction (e.g. find it while crawling, find it while hopping), just make sure the treasure can be found while doing that action!

Natalie Freak
Occupational Therapist

Top 5 Strategies for Managing Challenging Behaviours

Occupational Therapists at Building Blocks Therapy work with children and their families, kindergarten staff, school staff and other therapists to manage challenging behaviours. A challenging behaviour is any unpleasant behaviour that is socially, culturally or environmentally not appropriate. This can include hitting, screaming, biting, pinching, thrusting, spitting, slapping, kicking, swearing and absconding.

The following 5 strategies have been recommended:

1.     Become a detective

  • All behaviours have a purpose and determining the reason is crucial to supporting your child to manage challenging behaviours.
  • Often children that don’t have the expressive language to verbally express their emotions resort to aggression and insults to make others feel the same way that they do.
  • Aggression and tantrums provide additional sensory input through yelling, crying, hitting and throwing items which can also be calming. 
  • Children also gain control over others’ emotions and behaviour by demonstrating challenging behaviour. It can be used to intimidate and gain power to have their desired outcome. For example, they may bite you when you say they cannot use their iPad.
  • Children who have difficulty with social interactions may have challenging behaviours.
  • It is easy to assume that your child is being naughty, attention-seeking and a brat. However, look for deeper less obvious meanings such as difficulties with problem solving, anxiety, social skills, communication and/or sensory regulation

2.     Have realistic expectations regarding behaviours

  • Nobody is happy, composed and attentive all of the time and it is vital that this is not the goal or expectation that we put on our children.
  • Show your child that you are not happy all the time and that that is alright.
  • Refrain from using terms such as get over it, move on, snap out of it and calm down as these are not effective for anybody.
  • Some children have a diagnosis that means that their brains have developed differently with more complex neural pathways. This impacts their ability to react appropriately to external stimuli and use a calm and rational thought process to problem solve situations.

3.     Regulate your child before reasoning with them

  • It is pivotal that you reason and explain why the child’s behaviour is not appropriate to teach them to manage their behaviour. However, in order for this to be effective, the child must be calm and able to attend, process and respond to this information.
  • Try a number of strategies to regulate your child after a tantrum, meltdown or conflict such as listening to music, giving them time alone in their room, punching a pillow, doing some colouring in or kicking a ball outside.
  • When you begin reasoning with your child, if they become angry again, then they are not yet regulated so they may need more time.
  • Some children may respond better to doing this in a written format by answering questions with processing time and silence.

4.     Set clear expectations for behaviour prior to the situation where possible

  • Provide limits and clear expectations for things your child can and can’t do in certain situations.
  • This is more commonly recommended in public places such as parks, shops and cinemas.
  • Telling your child that they cannot buy anything from the shop before going to the shop is much more effective compared to once they are in the shop.

5.     Empathise with your child and everything that they may have difficulty with

  • Children’s behaviour is greatly impacted by hunger, exhaustion, boredom and sickness.
  • Children on the Autism Spectrum face a number of challenges that impact their behaviour such as not having Theory of Mind. Theory of Mind is the inability to make estimations of others’ thoughts, feelings and beliefs based on their actions, facial expressions and body language. This makes problem solving and understanding the whole picture difficult.
  • Children with behaviour difficulties often have social challenges as they can be seen by peers as mean, a bully and/or naughty which leads to them being socially isolated.

If you have any concerns with your child’s challenging behaviour, please don’t hesitate to contact and book an appointment with an Occupational Therapist at Building Blocks Therapy.

Claire McGoldrick

Paediatric Occupational Therapist