play therapy

4 Fun Play-Based Activities to Try With Your Child
4 Fun Play-Based Activities to Try With Your Child 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

International Play Therapy Week is just around the corner (February 4th through February 10th), and we can’t wait to get the celebration started! Playing with your child is the best way to work on their developmental skills while enjoying some fun and laughter together as a family. This year, in honor of this wonderful holiday, we wanted to share some fun activities you can try with your child. We just know that you’re going to have a blast trying out these activities with your little ones!

Make Sock Puppets

One great activity is to make sock puppets with your child! Start by grabbing some clean white socks and colored markers. Now, both you and your child will need to draw hair, faces, and clothing onto the socks to make some sock puppet friends! Once you have finished making your sock puppets, place them onto your hands, and use them to talk to each other and come up with a funny story.

Play Hi Ho! Cherry-O

Hi Ho! Cherry-O is a fantastic board game to try with your children. To play, take turns spinning the spinner to find out how many pieces of fruit you can put in your basket or how many pieces of fruit you will need to put back. The first person to fill up their entire basket with fruit wins! Celebrate by snacking on something healthy, or work together to set up a cozy indoor picnic.

Create Paper Art

Another fun way to engage in play with your child is to create paper art. First, grab a piece of white construction paper and a variety of colored construction paper. Next, have your child rip up small pieces of the colored paper and glue them onto the white paper to make a fun and creative piece of art. As a bonus, make your own paper art alongside your child, and then try to guess what each other made!

Become a Superhero

Help your child transform into a superhero by giving them a cape and a mask, and ask them to come up with a superhero name and superpowers. Next, hide some of their favorite toys around the house and tell your child it’s time to save the day! Your little one will then have to reach up high or bend down low to rescue their toys and bring them to safety.

Happy International Play Therapy Week! Follow us on our social media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) all month for toys we love, activities, and more! As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us anytime to discuss if your child would benefit from pediatric therapy. Our team is here to support you and your child in any way we can.

Fun in the Sun With Outdoor Therapy Activities
Fun in the Sun With Outdoor Therapy Activities 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

The weather is warming up, and summer is just around the corner! This can only mean one thing… it’s time to have some fun in the sun with your little ones! Being able to spend some time outside as a family is so special, and believe it or not, there are many fantastic outdoor activities that work on your child’s developmental skills. Whether you’re looking to run around and burn some energy, cool down with water play, or enjoy what nature has to offer, we have you covered. Ready to get started? Here are some of our favorite outdoor therapy activities that allow your family to have some fun in the sun:

Water the Plants: An excellent way to cool down in the hot sun is to have your child help you water the plants using a spray bottle. Walk around the yard with your little one and have them use their fine motor skills to squeeze the spray bottle and water any flowers and trees that they see. To incorporate your child’s speech, talk about what you’re doing and ask them to try and describe what the plant looks like, such as what color it is, how tall it is, the shape of the plant, etc.

Nature Scavenger Hunt: This next activity is one we always recommend families try out during the summer months. Start by grabbing a piece of paper and writing down a list of 5-10 things your child will need to find outside. For example, you may ask them to find something green, a small rock, a flower, etc. Now, your child will have to run around and use their gross motor skills to perform actions such as bending down and reaching high in the sky to collect the objects on the list. Once they’ve found everything, consider rewarding them with a refreshing treat.

Summertime Relay Race: Get ready to burn off some energy and get moving with a summertime relay race! With this activity, you’ll need to set up some fun obstacles that you and your child will have to complete. For example, you could have your child challenge their balance by having them jump over a sprinkler or walk across a chalk-drawn beam. They can even practice their fine motor skills by squeezing a squirt gun to try and hit a target. The possibilities are endless!

Beach Sensory Bin: If the heat becomes too much and you want to bring the fun inside, you and your child can make a beach sensory bin together. Start by gathering a container, some graham crackers, a pack of blue jello, and any small sea animal toys you have. Now, ask your child to use their fine motor skills to crush up the graham crackers to make sand, and let them assist you in making the blue jello to use as the ocean. Finally, pour the “sand” into one side of the bin and the “ocean water” into the other, and watch as your child uses their imagination to play for hours on end.

Follow us on our social media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) all month for more fun in the sun activities, tips, resources, and more! Additionally, please don’t hesitate to contact us at any time to discuss if your child would benefit from pediatric therapy. Our team is here to support you and your child in any way we can.

Celebrating Play Therapy Week With Some of Our Favorite Play Therapy Activities
Celebrating Play Therapy Week With Some of Our Favorite Play Therapy Activities 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

This year, Play Therapy Week is February 6th through February 12th, and we are ready to get the party started! Playing is an excellent way for your little ones to work on their therapy goals while also having a ton of fun in the process. There are so many unique activities and games that you can try at home that will help your children work on various skills, and learning through play also gives you the chance to spend quality time as a family. Ready to have some fun? From playing balloon volleyball to stuffed animal storytime, here are some of our favorite play activities your whole family is sure to enjoy:

Play Balloon Volleyball: Place two chairs 3 feet apart and tie a sheet to both chairs to make a “volleyball net.” Next, blow up a balloon and get ready to play volleyball! Hit the balloon high up into the air to your little one and ask them to use their balance and coordination to try and hit the balloon back. You can either keep score or simply play for fun! Another great thing about this activity is that you can get the whole family involved and play in teams of two or three!

Get Creative With Play-Doh: Get ready to shape, mold, stretch, and roll Play-Doh into some fun objects and shapes. Take turns picking an object to sculpt with your little one, and then do your best to make that item. This activity will give your child the chance to work on their fine motor skills while expressing their creativity in the process.

Stuffed Animal Storytime: Ask your child to grab one of their favorite toys and come up with a story about that toy together. To get the story started, you could ask your child questions such as what the toy’s name is, where the toy lives, what the toy likes to do, etc. Then, if you and your child are feeling up to it, write the story down in a cute book and have them draw the pictures! 

Make Stepping Stones: Gather up some throw pillows around your house, bring them into the living room, and tell your child that you’re going on an adventure! Place the pillows randomly from one end of the living room to the other, but make sure that they’re close enough so that your little one can step from one pillow to the other. Now, ask your child to carefully step from stone to stone without touching the lava (the floor). If they can successfully make it across, move them a little farther apart, and have them try again!

Be sure to keep an eye on our social media (Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest) all month long as we continue to share more fun activities. We’ll also be sharing helpful tips, resources, and more! As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us at any time to discuss if your child would benefit from pediatric therapy. Our team is here to support both you and your child in any way that we can.

Ways to Work on Your Child’s Development Using Their Favorite Stuffed Animal
Ways to Work on Your Child’s Development Using Their Favorite Stuffed Animal 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

Stuffed animals truly are one of a child’s best friends. They comfort your little one in times of need, allow them to express themselves, are an excellent travel buddy, can help them fall asleep easier, and are the perfect playmate. Stuffed animals are one of the most special things in the world to a child and can help them grow in so many ways. We know that children have a special attachment to their furry friends, and considering that National Teddy Bear Day is on September 9th, we wanted to honor their special friend by sharing some ways for your child to work on their development using their favorite stuffed animal. From fine motor skills to speech development to balance and everything in between – your child will love getting to use their favorite stuffed animal to work on developing their skills. That said, here are some of our favorite ways to work on your child’s development using their favorite stuffed animal:

Stuffed Animal Rescue: Find a spot around your home and hide your child’s stuffed animal (make sure it’s in a place they can reach). Then, tell your child that their favorite stuffed animal has gotten lost and they need to be rescued by a superhero! Allow your little one to run around with a makeshift cape and search for their furry friend. Once they locate their stuffed animal, consider switching roles and have your child hide their toy for you to find.

Obstacle Course: In this activity, your little one will need to hop, skip, and jump through obstacles to get to their stuffed animal. Time your child each time they run the course and see if they can beat their time! Even though there are so many fun and creative obstacles that you could come up with, here are some of our favorites:

  • Jump from one hula hoop to another
  • Throw a ball into a bucket
  • Spin around three times
  • Crawl under a jump rope that’s attached to two chairs
  • Do your best dance move

Once your child has completed each obstacle, have them grab their teddy bear and yell the word “done.” This indicates the end of the course and lets you know when to stop the timer. 

My Favorites: Get your child talking to their furry friend by sharing some of their favorite things. Sit in a circle with your child and their stuffed animal, and then proceed to ask your child what their favorite things are. For example, you could ask about their favorite color, food, activity, book, animal, song, and game. Now, have your child answer with their favorites as well as their stuffed animal’s favorites. Once you’ve run out of questions, have your child ask you about some of your favorite things.

What Am I: If your child has more than one stuffed animal, gather each toy and place them all in a bin. Place the bucket of toys in a different room where you can’t see, and then proceed to sit in the living room. Have your child go to the bucket and pick out a stuffed animal one at a time. Once they’ve made a selection, have them run back into the living room and act out the type of animal they chose. Your little one will make movements and sounds of that animal until you can correctly guess the right answer. Repeat until they’ve acted out all the different animals.

Be sure to keep an eye on our social media (Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest) all month long as we share additional activities that your child can do with their favorite stuffed animal friend! As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us at any time to discuss if your child would benefit from pediatric therapy. Our team is here to support both you and your child in any way that we can.

play therapy at home and school
At PTN, Therapists and Teachers are Partners during Your Child’s Journey
At PTN, Therapists and Teachers are Partners during Your Child’s Journey 1000 667 PTN Chicago

Now that the school year is back in full swing, you may be wondering about how much you should be communicating with your children’s teachers. Teachers, after all, are a lot like stand-in parents when your child is at school. They monitor behavior, offer rewards (and sometimes punishment), and can have a big impact upon the interests and habits that your child develops. Those can all be great influences, but if they aren’t lined up with what you’re teaching at home, problems can arise.

The situation only gets more complicated if your child participates in speech therapy or occupational therapy. With so many adults offering guidance and advice, it can be all too easy for signals to get crossed and messages to get mixed. That can lead to frustration for your child and for you.

That’s why at PTN we are so vigilant about working not just with children, but also with their parents and teachers. We see the adults – and older siblings – who spend the most time with our kids as partners in their overall development. By getting everyone on the same page, we can make occupational, speech, and physical therapy for kids more cohesive and effective.

Your Role in Your Child’s Occupational Therapy

The first way that we involve both parents and teachers in therapy sessions is by meeting with children in the environments they’re most comfortable in. That can include both the home and the classroom. We find that working with children on their “home turf” helps them feel more relaxed and confident. It also makes it that much easier for parents and/or teachers to participate. By observing, asking questions, and helping with various play-based therapeutic activities, you’ll be empowered to build upon your child’s development between sessions, and the same is true for teachers.

We also strive to keep the lines of communication as open as possible. We can meet with teachers to keep them up to date on the work your child is doing with us, and we can even provide them with written reports that they can reference whenever they need to.

If your child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), we can provide our input and help ensure that any standards set at home or in the classroom are built upon in therapy sessions.

To learn more about occupational therapy in Chicago, give our office a call. Whether you’re seeking an initial assessment or want to learn about ongoing play therapy, we are happy to answer any questions you may have.

Spring Play Therapy
It’s Time to Spring into Action!
It’s Time to Spring into Action! 1200 600 Triston Kee

The cold of winter is finally melting into the warmth of spring, and the transition couldn’t have come sooner! Your kids have probably been bouncing off the walls inside, so it’s finally time to get outdoors and enjoy some fun play therapy that will get them moving.

Here are a few of our favorite outdoor activities for speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy for kids.

Marco Polo – This is a classic version of tag in which the person who is “it” has to keep his or her eyes closed. To find the other kids, he or she yells out “Marco!” and the other kids have to respond, “Polo!”

A great way to simplify this game and make it a little less frustrating is for the “Polo” children to stay in one place. This makes them much easier to find, and it allows the game to get switched up more often, which keeps everyone happier and safer. Be sure to play this great sensory game in an open space free of tripping hazards, and always have adult supervision.

Scooting around the driveway – A fun way to practice balance skills is to hop on a balance bike, sit on a skateboard, or bring those roller boards outside and scoot around the driveway or the basketball court at the park. Draw lines with chalk to make “roads,” or follow the lines already drawn on the basketball court to add some imagination to your scooting.

Outdoor gymnastics – An open patch of grass is all you need to practice gymnastics with your children. With toddlers, you can lay down and practice rolling around on the grass. With preschoolers, you can show them how to tuck their heads and do a somersault. Your preschooler might even be ready to give hand stands or cart wheels a try (with your help, of course)!

If you make it out to your local playground, give the monkey bars a try, or even do a flip over a low bar. Both you and your little one will get a great, playful workout.

Tummy time under a tree – With your littlest little ones, getting outside for tummy time can be a great change of scenery. If your baby hates tummy time, he or she might tolerate it better when there are grass and flowers to touch, smell, and look at.

Remember to bring a blanket with you and set up under a shady tree to protect your little one from the sun. Baby will also love looking up at the leaves, birds, and swaying branches when you flip over.

For more tips on how to engage in play therapy with your children this spring, contact the PTN team today. Our Chicago occupational, speech, and physical therapists are always here to help!

Feel the Love and Grow with These Family Activities Geared Toward Child Development
Feel the Love and Grow with These Family Activities Geared Toward Child Development 1280 810 Thomas Chibucos

No two children are alike. Every child will develop at his or her own pace, and every child will have certain strengths and certain weaknesses. If your child is a bit behind with their gross motor, fine motor, or speech skills, working with a physical therapist can be helpful. But you can and should also enjoy activities at home that can help promote healthy development.

The best occupational therapy and speech therapy for children is usually play based. Here are a few simple family child development activities that you can do (at little or no cost) with your children to help them grow stronger and more confident in their abilities.

Drawing Rainbows and Racing Cars to Cross the Midline

Some children have a tough time crossing the midline. This means that they have trouble using the two halves of their body together. This is a skill that most children develop by the age of three or four. If your child could use some extra practice crossing the midline, get a big sheet of butcher paper or poster board and have them actually sit on the edge of the paper. Then, give them crayons or markers to make semicircles around their own body. The result will be a beautiful rainbow of color and great practice using their hands on both sides of their body. Be sure to get in on the fun as well with your own rainbow.

You can also practice crossing the midline by making a figure eight race track and running cars around it. You can use electrical tape or masking tape to make a small track on your floor, or use a wooden train set if you have one. By moving cars or trains in a figure eight pattern, your child will move their arms back and forth across the midline.

Playing Hand Games to Develop Fine Motor Skills and Language Skills

Plenty of nursery rhymes and children’s songs use hand gestures. Singing these songs with your children and doing the hand movements with them can help develop fine motor skills and promote better language skills at the same time.

Sing a few rounds of The Itsy-Bitsy Spider, and don’t forget to make rain trickle down your child’s face with your fingertips. Pat-a-cake is another favorite that parents and children can play together. You can also count off the ten little monkeys rolling out of bed on your fingers, or you can make up hand gestures for your child’s favorite song or lullaby.

Crawling Through Tunnels and Rolling on Scooter Boards to Build Gross Motor Skills

A nylon pop-up tunnel can be purchased for under $15, and scooter boards can be found for less than $20. These great toys can be used for all sorts of imaginative active play. Not only will your child (and you) develop important muscles and improve flexibility, he or she will have endless hours of fun in the process. Get on your scooter boards and pretend your living room is a raging river that you need to navigate together. Or see just how much fun your toddler has crawling through a colorful tunnel and playing peek-a-boo at either end. You’ll be blown away by the laughs and smiles.

Beat the Cold with these Excellent Child Development Activities
Beat the Cold with these Excellent Child Development Activities 1200 600 Triston Kee

We know that in the winter months it can feel like your options are incredibly limited in terms of play with your children. But resist the temptation to throw on a movie and call it a day! There are plenty of ways that you and your children can stay active while engaging in therapeutic activities at the same time.

Here at PTN, we believe in supporting development through play. An activity doesn’t need to be specifically designed by a therapist to benefit the development of your child. All sorts of play can incorporate learning, movement, body awareness, and social interaction. Here are some of our favorite winter activities.

If the weather permits, get outside!

If the sun makes an appearance, get your child bundled and head out the door.

  • Ice skate! If your child is a little older, take them to the local skating rink and practice those balance skills while having a great time scooting around. If skates are out of the question, you can also get on the ice in your snow boots and have fun trying to slide from side to side. Remember to make any falls as positive as possible by laughing and making it feel ok (and even fun) to fall down every now and then.
  • Throw snow balls! No need to have any fights. Rather than throwing snow balls at people, have a distance throwing contest, or practice hitting targets like fences or snowmen. Packing snowballs together is a great sensory activity, and throwing will build strength and coordination.
  • Go sledding! Even if you just have a cookie sheet or a trash can lid, sliding down hills can be a lot of fun and burn a lot of energy. Even climbing small hills can help build little leg muscles, and taking turns will help build those social skills.

Indoor fun for extra cold days and nights

When the weather forces you indoors, you can still have lots of fun playing pretend.

  • Stomp like monsters! Use blocks to build towers around the room, then stomp between them like overgrown monsters. Your child will love pretending, and he or she can even knock the towers down with their feet. This is a great way to stay active while practicing those big steps needed to make it through high snow. And building and rebuilding towers will improve those fine motor skills.
  • Put on a puppet show! Give your child finger puppets or a few stuffed animals and have him or her tell you a story using the puppets. Encourage a big imagination and help guide the story if your child gets frustrated or runs out of ideas. Just don’t take control – let them tell their story, and be sure to listen intently. You can also put on a show for your child. Take turns, and have fun with it!

For more winter activity suggestions or to learn about our therapy services, contact our team today!

Top Toys Recommended by Our Therapists this Holiday Season
Top Toys Recommended by Our Therapists this Holiday Season 1000 563 Thomas Chibucos

The holiday season is a wonderful opportunity to spoil your children (in the best sense). You can go a little crazy with presents without any parental guilt and bring some wonderful smiles to your children’s faces. You can also help encourage development by choosing toys that have educational and therapeutic benefits.

As you know, we at PTN are big fans of providing therapy through play, and there’s no reason why some of the presents you get for your little ones can’t support their therapy needs while offering hours of fun. Here are our top choices for developmental toys for kids this holiday season:

Mr. Potato Head – This classic toy is still a lot of fun for both boys and girls. Your child can practice identifying the different parts, clothes, and associated colors of Mr. Potato Head. You can also practice skills like sharing, taking turns, and requesting desired pieces.

Puzzles – Age appropriate jigsaw puzzles are a lot of fun for parents and children to assemble together. You can work together to identify colors, shapes, and objects on the pieces and practice those fine motor skills.

Bubbles – Bubbles are a simple and cheap stocking stuffer that will entertain kids of every age. Blowing bubbles helps kids practice their oral motor skills, and popping bubbles works their fine motor skills. Bubbles are also great for developing social skills like engagement, turn taking, and eye contact.

Crawling Tunnel – An affordable toy that can spark imaginary adventures in the mind of your child, crawling babies to school age children can enjoy this simple sensory activity while practicing concepts like “in” and “out” and building physical strength.

Melissa & Doug Wooden Cutting Fruit Set: It’s hard to go wrong with any toys from Melissa & Doug, but we particularly like this play food set that lets your kids practice their fine motor skills by “cutting” Velcro fruit pieces apart. Your child will (without realizing it) practice skills like sharing, turn taking, fine motor skills, and vocabulary.

Books – It’s never too early to give your kids books. When they’re infants, you can read to them, and they’ll love the musical sound of your voice, the colors of the pages, and the experience of engaging with you. When they’re a bit older, they’ll start practicing pre-literacy skills like turning the pages and making sounds. A bit later, you can practice identifying characters, colors, and objects together. And ultimately, your child will enjoy reading to him or herself, because it will be a familiar hobby that they have always cherished.

These are just some of our favorite developmental toys for children. If your child could use some help with a particular skill, give us a call or send us a note to ask about other toys that might help them grow and learn as they play. Happy holidays!

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