Tuesday, October 6, 2015

10 Super Stellar Sensory Activities

In their new book, Sensory Processing 101, the authors describe the 8 sensory systems. These are:
  1. The auditory system (sense of hearing) 
  2. The olfactory system (sense of smell)
  3. The oral sensory system (sense of taste)
  4. The vestibular system (how we sense where our bodies are in space)
  5. The proprioceptive system (our sense of the way our bodies move)
  6. The tactile system (sense of touch)
  7. The visual system (sense of sight)
  8. The interoceptive system (general sense of our body’s physical system, such as hunger).
These sensory systems work to take in information from the child’s surroundings and send it to the nervous system, which processes it and generates a response or reaction. Sensory processing, then, is the way the body receives, analyzes, and responds to the information received from the environment. The authors say that, “Thoughtful, guided exposure to playful sensory experiences is the best way to promote healthy development of the sensory systems.”

From Sensory Processing 101, I’ve chosen 10 of my favorite sensory activities that will help your child develop these systems well. There are many more to choose from in the book so be sure to check it out!

Activity 1: (Oral Sensory System Activity) Mouthercises:

Demonstrate each of these sounds and movements and ask your child or children to imitate.
  1. Buzz like a bee.
  2. Make a clicking noise with your tongue.
  3. Pucker up and make loud kissing noises.
  4. Open your mouth wide and say “AAAHHHH!”
  5. Press your lips together tightly and say “MMMMMMM!”
  6. Blow up your cheeks big like a bubble and then use your hands to “pop” the bubble.
  7. Stick your tongue out as far as you can.
  8. Have a silly face contest.
Activity 2: (Auditory System Activity) Blindfold Navigation

Set up a simple, safe course to navigate. Take turns being the leader and the follower. The follower gets blindfolded and the leader gives verbal directions to move around the course, such as “take 3 steps forward and turn right.” You may want to start practicing without the blindfold first, and make sure this activity is always supervised by an adult.

Activity 3: (Visual System Activity) Doodle Guessing Game

Cut out pictures from magazines or use photographs. Gather dry erase markers and clear plastic sheet protectors. Place a picture and a clear plastic sheet protector side by side on a table. Tell the child to find a specific object in the picture.

For example, if it’s a photo of children playing on a playground, ask your child to find the slide. Give him a marker and ask him to outline or circle on the sheet protector where he thinks the object would be if the sheet protector were placed on top of the image. Then place the plastic sheet protector on top of the image and see how the circles match up with the objects.

Activity 4: (Olfactory System Activity) Smell and Feel

For this activity, you’ll need empty containers, cotton balls, scented oils, and objects to match each scent to, such as a lemon and an orange, and so on. Add 1-2 drops of oil to a cotton ball. For very young children, start with familiar scents, like orange and berry. Place one cotton ball in each container, and place the real objects on the table in front of your child. Talk about the items on the table. Then blindfold the child. Give her one of the scented containers with a cotton ball inside and ask her to feel her way around the table to find the matching object.

Activity 5: (Auditory System Activity) Repeat My Rhythm

Tap a simple rhythm on the table and ask your child to imitate it. Then let your child tap the rhythm and you try to imitate it. Start with just a few beats and get increasingly more complex.
Get creative and use household items to create a beat!
  • wooden spoons
  • pots and pans
  • plastic bottles
  • pens and markers
Activity 6: (Vestibular System Activity) Donkey Kicks

Start in a standing position. Lean over and put both hands and feet on the ground. Make sure nothing is behind you! Keep your hands on the ground and jump with your legs kicking behind you.

Activity 7: (Proprioceptive System Activity) Hot Lava

Scatter pillows around the floor. The floor is lava and the kids must jump on the pillows to stay safe. For added fun, mom or dad can be the “lava dragon” who chases them around!
And of course when there are pillows, there will be a lot of fun to be had!

Activity 8: (Proprioceptive System Activity) Bubble Wrap Stomp Art

You’ll need washable tempera paint, large paper, and various sizes of bubble wrap. Squirt the paint on the paper in drops or lines. Cover with bubble wrap and let your child jump all over it with bare feet. Slowly pull off the bubble wrap to see the results.

Activity 9: (Visual System Activity) Mirror Mirror

Have kids pair up (or you be the partner) and designate someone to be the leader of each set of partners. Each set of partners should stand face to face. When the leader changes position, the partner has to mimic the position. The leader continues changing position with the partner mimicking. Switch partners and repeat.

Activity 10: (Tactile System Activity) Mess-Free Finger Painting

This activity is great for children who are hypersensitive to tactile input. Fill a plastic freezer bag with a few drops of two different colors of paint. Tape the bag to the table on top of a white piece of paper and let your child paint without the mess.

Check out Sensory Processing 101 for more great activities plus check lists, reference guides, and even an index of behaviors! These playful activities not only help your child develop healthy sensory systems, but they’re a great way for you to play and connect each day.

Have fun!

As published at Creative Child

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Brain Science That Changes Parenting

I have been fascinated by neuroscience for several years now. In fact, learning about basic brain function and child development is why I chose to leave conventional parenting methods behind. I’m certainly no neuroscientist, and I still don’t understand the deep complexities of the brain, but I’ve come to understand the basics through No-Drama Discipline by Drs. Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne-Bryson.

Dr. Siegel is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine. Dr. Bryson is a psychotherapist and the Executive Director for the Center for Connection. What they share in their book is huge, paradigm-shifting information that every parent needs to know. I’m going to share with you just a snippet that I feel is extremely important. Of course, I recommend adding their book to your library.

Let’s divide the brain into parts. The lower region of the brain is what Drs. Siegel and Bryson refer to as the “downstairs brain.” This is made up of the brainstem and the limbic region. The brainstem is our primitive “reptilian” brain and is responsible for operations such as breathing, digestion, and regulating sleep cycles. The limbic system houses our strong emotions. The downstairs brain is well developed at birth, so your child feels all of the strong emotions from the get-go, but managing those emotions is not a function of the lower brain.

The upper region, or upstairs brain as the authors call it, is made up of the cerebral cortex, the outermost layer of the brain. The upstairs brain is responsible for logical thinking, reasoning, making decisions, planning, regulation of emotions, empathy, morality, and much more, and this is very underdeveloped at birth. In fact, it won’t be fully formed until the mid 20’s.

Why does this change everything?

It takes the information we’ve been fed for years, such as the idea that a child who hits is just being mean and needs punished or that a toddler having a meltdown is being manipulative and needs ignored, and blows it completely out of the water. None of that is true! A child having a downstairs tantrum (true emotional overwhelm) cannot just stop the tantrum no matter how much you threaten or bribe her to, because she’s locked in her primitive downstairs brain and cannot access the part that houses reason. A child who hits someone has lost access to his very underdeveloped upstairs brain and is reacting from his primitive brain. He’s not mean – he’s simply not capable of controlling his emotions and behavior all the time.

Does this excuse bad behavior? Do we just let it go since they can’t help it? ..Finish reading this article over at Creative Child 

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Best-Kept Secret in Parenting!

“It’s the relationship of the child to the adult responsible for their care that is the most significant factor in the unfolding of human potential.” – Dr. Gordon Neufeld

Dr. Gordon Neufeld is a Vancouver-based developmental psychologist with over 40 years of experience with children and youth and those responsible for them. A foremost authority on child development, Dr. Neufeld is an international speaker, a bestselling author Hold On To Your Kids and a leading interpreter of the developmental paradigm.

I recently had an opportunity to listen to him speak on The Great Parenting Show, and what he said is so profoundly important that I want to try and summarize it, because I don’t want this to be the best-kept secret anymore. What is this secret?

It’s the relationship of the child to the adult responsible for their care that is the most significant factor in the unfolding of human potential. 

Attachment, not behaviorist approaches. It’s not the discipline tricks or techniques that we use to try and modify behavior that makes children want to be good – it’s the quality of our relationship! This has the potential to profoundly change the way we parent since much of parenting is still based upon behaviorist techniques that actually erode the relationship.

For example, time-out is a social exclusion technique that is supposed to be emotionally painful enough to deter the unwanted behavior, yet when we exclude children, when we withdraw the invitation to exist in our presence, as Neufeld puts it, the relationship gets damaged. The same is true for removal of items and privileges. When we say to the child, “Whatever it is that you are attached to, whatever you care about, I will take that away from you when you are not good,” this essentially is corroding the very thing that makes them want to be good.

Neufeld outlines the 6 stages of attachment in his book, Hold On To Your Kids, and those have been summarized here. I want to point out for this particular discussion stage 3 - belonging or loyalty.
It is during this stage, which occurs around 3 years of age, where the child begins wanting to be good and do right for the parent if the attachment bond is strong. In stage 5, the child becomes very emotionally involved, giving his heart to whomever he’s attached. Neufeld says, “There is nothing more important to hold sacred than the child’s desire to be good for you…when we have a good relationship with somebody, we naturally desire to be good for them and make things work for them.”

This is where we have taken a dreadful wrong turn in our parenting, because when children begin to test boundaries, we act as though they do not want to be good for us, and we start using tricks and techniques that push them away rather than bringing them close. These techniques – time-out, removal of beloved items, and certainly spanking – make no sense when we understand that the relationship is the most significant factor of all.

This knowledge makes parents then ask the question, “But how do I discipline? If time out and taking things away aren’t good, how to I stop bad behavior?” We ask because we are still looking for tricks! We have been so conditioned to believe that we must do something to the child to stop poor behavior that we cannot rest in the knowledge that a close, connected relationship will cause the child to want to behave.

This, of course, doesn’t absolve us from needing to teach our children how to manage their behavior – that is parenting – but the teaching is done in the context of the attachment. Point the child in the right direction (instill your values, show them what is expected, model well, talk about emotions and behavior) and make sure you have her heart. If you have her heart, you don’t need anything else.
Here is a 3 minute video of Dr. Gordon Neufeld explaining the effectiveness and consequences. There are several other helpful videos found at this link.

This article was originally posted on CreativeChild.com

For more of my Positive Parenting articles featured in Creative Child Magazine, click here.

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