Tips from an OT so that you don’t have to call on us!
1. Play outdoors in nature
Nature is the greatest teacher and the greatest healer. Children in nature are in their element. It is the ultimate sensory experience! Nature can both provide a space for fun, movement, excitement, discovery, play, and it can also be a space for alignment, healing and stillness. I can’t emphasize this enough… get your children out in nature.
2. Limit electronics (read eliminate electronics)
I know that I get a lot of resistance when I say this. Definitely before the age of 2, eliminate ANY screen time. It may look harmless to you but it’s early on hooking babies to not knowing how to entertain themselves. Imagine all this beautiful action they see on a screen that comes to life and now we want them to explore a room on their own when their body doesn’t move as fast, their hands are not yet developed so they can’t always do what they want it to do. Watching a screen come to life is SO much more appealing. Flip the switch, make the world more appealing to them.
3. Open-ended toys
The type of toys our children are exposed to has changed the way they play. Toys that have all the bells and whistles just by touching one button, can look really fun and appealing but they don’t teach any skills beyond cause and effect of pushing that button. The child can then sit back and be entertained doing nothing. An open-ended toy is one that allows for creativity, exploration (stretches the attention span), learning ex: blocks, legos, play dough, dolls, cars.
4. Let them get messy
Getting messy means actively enjoying and interacting with our world. Don’t exchange a neat home and a clean shirt at the expense of creativity, learning, expansion, sensory exploration.
5. Let them crawl
I know that parents are really excited about seeing their little ones stand up and walk. Earlier the better is what they think. As though walking earlier is a metal for being more advanced. It’s not. Don’t skip the crawling stage. Crawling promoted bilateral coordination, reciprocal movements of upper and lower body as well as both sides of the body. It strengthens the shoulders, the wrists while developing the palms of the hands for better hand strength. It also strengthens the core and overall important to brain development.
6. Don’t do things for them.
Get children involved in getting dressed, closing fasteners, opening snacks. All these things helps with motor development ON THE DAILY and will strengthen little hands naturally. I know that we are pressed for time so we do things for children but allow them the time to problem solve, trust their own skills, and improve their independence.
7. Let them be bored
Boredom is a beautiful thing! A child that is bored will find ways to entertain themselves if we set them up for success (without electronics). A bored child all explore ways to play by using their imagination beyond anything that they can learn by sitting in front of a TV. Provide the space and the expectation. A child that is bored is also a child that can learn to sit in stillness. A key quality to have in life.
8. Focus on PLAY not on academics.
Let them be kids as long as possible! They have their whole lives to learn academics but their childhood years will never come back. Don’t rob them from that experience with the focus on mastering concepts. Don’t rob them of childhood play by placing an iPad in their hands. Einstein said it best: Creativity is intelligence at play. Let them play!
9. Encourage physical activity.
Too many children are sedentary. Compounded with the effects of covid that has kept our children at home and in front of a screen all day, children are not even motivated to be active!!! Physical activity builds muscles, coordination, endurance, health, social interaction. It also sows all that energy that gets trapped in the body during sedentary learning (like virtual school) to come out in a healthy way!!! We are seeing so many more children with regulation challenges because of this! Let them be active….outside…in nature!!!
10. Join the wonder of their world.
Being a child is being in awe of the simplest things in life. The chirp of a bird, a butterfly, a ladybug, the thunder, an airplane flying by…all these things are a pure delight to children. Don’t minimize that for them. Try to be as amazed about it as the first time you experienced these things. The world is so magical to children (because it is, we adults just forgot) Keep the magic of childhood alive for them.
If I can sum it up in one word……PLAY!