At Thinkering Kids Therapy, we use engaging, motivating, safe and fun activities – Play – to capture children’s interest to actively participate in therapy. By playing, therapists and parents engage children through activities each child enjoys by following the child’s motivation. Play is a powerful tool that makes a great impact in children and parents.
What is play? Play is any activity where our children engage in for enjoyment and recreation, rather than a serious purpose. Play is the universal language, and the truly work of childhood. Play is motivating and fun. It helps support all areas of children’s development including learning how things work, physical skills, the art of thinking, communication, reasoning, problem-solving, attention span, flexibility, social skills and many other skills that are crucial for success in school and in life. Besides, play generates so many opportunities for you to enjoy playing with your child, and for your child to enjoy time playing with you! Just by playing with your child at least 20 minutes a day, as part of your daily routine, you will start seeing positive changes.
Join us next week to continue exploring The Power of Play!
For most of us the holidays bring feelings of excitement and joy, despite which holiday we celebrate. Often, we assume that everyone feels the same way. However, that is not always the case. For children who have Autism, sensory processing disorders, or executive functioning disorders and their families, the holidays may come with changes that can cause anxiety or stress. This includes major changes such as deviations in schedules and routines, decorations that can cause sensory overload (lights, music, fireworks), and spending time with family and friends who may not be familiar to the child’s routine. There are many ways to improve the overall enjoyment of the holidays and reduce the stress and anxiety. Some helpful holiday tips include planning ahead, preparing the child, being mindful of decorations, and communicating with family.
Planning for the holidays requires extra time, but will bring benefit in the end. This can include creating visual schedules for various holiday events which may include shopping, visiting Santa, dinner at a family member’s home, and community events. A visual schedule helps the child know what to expect when out of his/her normal routine. Additionally, allowing extra time for holiday shopping and breaks can be very beneficial for children. Around the holidays there are new sights and sounds which may be overstimulating. When going to various holiday events, creating a “break” kit can allow children to self soothe. Items for this kit may include fidget toys, sensory games, noise reducing headphones, or bubbles.
Preparing children for holiday expectations is monumental in helping them to cope with the stress and anxiety they may experience. Making a social story to explain what might happen and how they can deal with it better prepares them for upcoming events. Gifts under the tree bring excitement and temptation. Talking with these children about waiting to open gifts and doing a visual countdown will help to avoid early unwrapping and provide a time concept of when they can open them. Speaking with children about where they will be going, what they will be doing, and the people they will be seeing provides children with a sense of what to expect. It is important to remember that despite preparing them ahead of time, they may still become overwhelmed or require a break. A good strategy is to practice how to take breaks when needed to calm down if a situation becomes too overwhelming.
Remembering that decorations can be immense and sudden in change. Bright, flashing lights, as well as music can be overstimulating to these children. A sudden change in decoration from their expected norm and environment can be difficult for them; therefore, putting decorations up gradually helps children to adjust slowly. Additionally, children should be allowed to interact with the decorations and assist with decorating to help them cope with the changes.
Lastly, and likely the most difficult to do is to communicate with extended family that will be interacting with the children. Discuss with them the needs of your child, what is overstimulating to them, and ways to assist in calming them. These conversations are hard but need to happen; and ultimately will help avoid overwhelming situation for these children and their families.
Having awareness of situations that may be difficult, coupled with practice and implementation of these strategies can help to alleviate stress and anxiety and ultimately help to make the holidays enjoyable.
We are glad Irma did not cause too many damages to our homes and our city. However, we have been through a stressful time. Being in a hurricane can be very frightening and the days following the storm have been very stressful as a result of having been away from home, damage caused by the hurricane to their home and possessions, traffic challenges, loss of a pet, and loss of power. Some children and their families might be already returning to normal routines by now. Others may still be having reactions to the hurricane and its aftermath that can be affecting their thoughts, feelings and physical well-being. Understanding how Irma might still be impacting your child is important to learn how to support them.
Some common changes in behavior your child might be having are:
Worried about another hurricane coming and the safety of their family, including their pets.
Talking repeatedly or playing about hurricanes.
Extra clingy to family members.
Increasedactivitylevel– moving more than usual or easily withdrawing from any activity.
Showing increasedirritability – getting easily upset or aggressive – screaming, hitting, throwing toys or objects.
Having a hardertime than usual to followinstructions, or to sleep through the night.
Constantly scratching or picking their bodies.
Increased physicalcomplaints (e.g., headaches, stomachaches, aches and pains)
Changes in schoolperformance
Increased sensitivitytosounds (e.g., thunder, wind, and other loud noises)
Changes in appetite – eating more or less than usual
Having a hard time lettinggoofelectronic devices – especially after extensive use during hurricane
How Can You Help Your Child?
– The most important thing to have in mind is to support your child to feel safe and calm.
– Maintain routines as much as possible – including mealtimes and bedtimes. Having a predictable routine provides children with a sense of security.
– Spend time talking with your child to let them know that it is OK to ask questions and to express their feelings. Mealtimes are great times to talk and answer any questions about what is happening in the family as well as in the community. If your child is having a hard time talking about feelings or concerns, initiate conversations with them. Choices can be provided to support the conversation – “I wonder what you are thinking right now, or if you have any questions…. Are you thinking about _________ or ________?”. Remember to answering any questions your child might have in a simple and honest way.
– Follow hurricane conversations with a favorite story or a family activity to help them feel safe and calm.
– Ask your children how they are feeling– “I wonder how you are feeling right now”. Once your child answers (upset, concerned, bored, tired, happy), ask them “Where on your body are you feeling____?” and thank them for sharing that information.
– Let them see that you are really hearing what they are sharing and validate their feelings and concerns.
– Help them come up with games and activities to play together – and that will help them feel better.
– Play games that include movement, heavy work, pulling and pushing– riding bikes, tag, jumping, bouncing, tug-a-war, swings, basketball, pillow fight, being “squished”.
– Lots of sensory-based activities such as blowing bubbles, playing with clay or Play-Doh, throwing and catching a ball, making cookies with parents.
– If your child is doing a repetitive behavior – constantly scratching or picking his body, or engaging on a dangerous activity, have a conversation with them about it. It is important to bring awareness, explain why they are doing that, as well as the consequences that behavior might bring (hurting herself). Ask your child to help you come up with ideas of what to do to avoid getting hurt. Some ideas could be squeezing the body instead of scratching or picking, giving self-hugs, squeezing hands, pushing on a hard surface, or any other idea that includes pushing, squeezing or pulling. Come up with a word – secret code – that you can use to raise awareness, as well as a reminder of what to do at that moment.
– Help your child give back to the community – Make a trip to the grocery store to get supplies and donate to those who suffered severe loss, or gather supplies from your home that you may have bought for hurricane Irma and did not use. Getting involved in helping the community is a wonderful thing to do. They can learn a great deal as well as help themselves to feel better.
For more information about supporting your child, please contact your TKidsT therapist, or contact our center at firstname.lastname@example.org . We recommend you visit our website www.thinkeringkids.com and follow us on Facebook , and Instagram for our greatest and latest updates. We are here to help you!
In lieu of Hurricane Irma we wanted to reach out and provide some hurricane preparedness strategies keeping the needs of your little ones in mind. The hurricane, even if it does not touch down in Miami, will bring changes to our routines and environment. It is important to prepare your children for these upcoming changes.
We ask that you begin to limit their TV as of now. As the storm approaches, more TV segments may be focused on weather updates. Such updates can create stress/anxiety for everyone, including your children. We want to remind everyone to keep calm as you prepare your homes and families –This is the most important thing of all. If you are not calm, your kids won’t be either. Children rely on adults to help ease their concerns.
Our children like things to be predictable and there is nothing more unpredictable than a hurricane. Schools and extracurricular activities will be altered due to the weather. The worse case scenario about any hurricane is the potential for building damage from high winds or flooding, both of which may result in being stranded with no electricity and not knowing what to do or what is going on. Situations such as these are not pleasant for anyone, let alone a child who does not like changes in routine. Besides preparing for the hurricane buying water, food and gasoline, it is extremely important to prepare everyone emotionally.
Please keep in mind to use a positive and calm voice to talk about the hurricane. Talk to them calmly explaining what a hurricane in simple words: “A hurricane is a big storm with powerful strong winds and lots of rain that can be very noisy . . .”–
Explain what can happen in preparation for a hurricane, including people preparing their homes installing shutters, buying gasoline, food and water. During the hurricane, you might lose power: “We might not have electricity, the lights will not work”. There might be a lot of noises that we do not usually hear – “wind blowing, heavy rain, thunder, lightning….”. Let them know you will have to stay inside, to be safe, until everything is clear – “We will need to stay inside to be safe”. It is important to reassure them, as many times as needed, that they will be safe, the hurricane will be over at some point and the whole family will be together.
Describe what they can expect once the hurricane is over. Children may be eager to go outside when things begin to calm, but remember downed power lines, trees and scattered debris can be dangerous. Keep little ones indoors until neighborhoods have been cleared.
If you have to leave the comfort of your home, take your child’s comforting toys (stuffed animal, blanket), any medications – prescriptions and over the counter (Ibuprofen, Advil). Explain to your child why you have to leave – to be safe – where you will be going and what they can expect in terms that they understand.
Have them being part of the preparation. “We need to get flashlights, batteries, blankets, food…..” “You are in charge of ….bringing batteries, water bottles, etc…. to this box”. Give them a job, making them responsible for things such as holding the flashlight or being in charge of snacks. This makes them feel in control.
Include them in possible solutions: “What do you think we can use if we have no lights? ….. If they cannot come with an answer, give your child choices: “I wonder if we might have to use …flashlights or a plant?” “What can we do if it is noisy?”…. “Should we cover our ears with our hands or our feet?”… Have headphones available to ease the sound of thunder with music. Adding humor usually makes everything easier! Please be careful if you use candles. Do not leave them unattended.
Just like a fire drill, a practice drill might help relieve some anxieties about the unknown. Remember to do it in a calm manner. Knowing what to do will help your kids feel in control.
Children may gravitate towards electronics to occupy their free time. You can look into downloading movies or games for your child. Using electronics might be difficult during and after a hurricane due to power outages or lack of batteries. We recommend that you create a bin of items that are comforting for your child and need no batteries or electricity. Just in case…. think about including unplugged activities and toys that are motivating for your child. These items might include your child’s favorite books, stuffed animals, puzzles, and/or board games. These items will be different for each child. One more thing, if possible, have their favorite snacks/food available. Snacks are important too!
If you have pets, reassure your children that the pets will be ok.
Be on the lookout for stressed and or anxious behaviors in your little ones (i.e. pacing, nail biting, skin picking, scratching, chewing, touching everything, throwing objects, screaming, pushing, excessive energy, mouthing inedible objects, etc.). If you notice any of these behaviors, validate their feelings: “It looks like this might be making you feel scared/sad/worried…”. “I know, this is not fun, it is scary….”. Let your children know that it is ok to be scared and that you were once scared of storms too. Keep reinforcing you are there to protect them and they will be safe. You may offer items to help them self-calm, or take a little time to share calming words/thoughts with them. You can also consider creating a “safe” space for them such as a cozy blanket fort or tent. Small spaces can be very calming. Cuddle, offer “free hugs”. A hug will help kids feel safe and calm.
Some examples of unplugged games and activities:
Build a tent city, or a fort using some blankets and chairs. The children can hide from the storm in their tents/fort.
Make shadow puppets using your flashlights
Create indoor obstacle courses – jumping on pillows, crawling under chairs/tables
Sing children’s songs, change lyrics to make it fun, sing slowly, then fast, or take turns singing.
Building cities, building using blocks –
Playdoh and cookie cutters
White board /markers
Coloring books and crayons/markers
Indoor bowling games
Please remember to have batteries available!!!
We would like to remind all families that our center will close for this and future storms following the schedule of Miami Dade County Public Schools. This week we will be closed on Thursday and Friday. We will be back to schedule as soon as Miami Dade Public Schools open.
If you need to reschedule or contact us, please call our office at (305) 200- 3540 or call your child’s therapist directly.