The Importance of Physical Play: Simple Ways to Develop Motor Skills at Home

Some of you may have heard me speak at your child’s Kindy about the importance of physical play and the role it plays in making sure that children have the necessary skills to start school.  Below are some simple ways to develop your child’s gross and fine motor skills at home:

smiling excited kids having fun together on playground

Gross Motor Skills:

If you think back to your own childhood I’m sure you can recall hours spent playing outside on the playground at the local park, on bikes and playing sport with neighbourhood kids.  These tasks allow development of the centres of your brain that are responsible for interpreting movement and body position (vestibular and proprioceptive systems).  They also assist to build sound core strength which is vital for success at school.  Core strength allows children to maintain sitting posture at the desk and for mat-time.  It also gives them a supportive base to carry out gross motor tasks with control.  Without these underlying skills children appear clumsy, fatigue quickly, can’t sit still and produce lower quality written work.

Encouraging Gross Motor Skill Development: 

  • Backyard obstacle courses- jumping, hopping, balancing, climbing, crawling, throwing, catching etc.
  • Playground- slides, swings, monkey bars, flying foxes, fireman’s poles, balance beams, climbing walls
  • Equipment- trampolines, junior stilts, scooters, bikes
  • Weight bearing walks- wheelbarrow walks, commando walks, animal walks (crab, bear, frog, caterpillar)
  • Change the position you complete tasks in- reading whilst lying on stomach, propped up on elbows or writing up against a vertical surface.

Fine Motor Skills:

Again, if you think back to your childhood you may recall things like digging in the sand pit, using hacksaws (My parents used to let my brothers and I saw into an old tree stump,, with adequate supervision of course!) and hammers in the backyard, building Lego, completing jigsaws, creating craft (cutting, gluing, threading and drawing).  These activities ensure that kids develop essential foundation skills such as hand strength, in hand manipulation, hand dominance and bilateral integration.  These allow us to develop efficiency and control for tasks such as writing, cutting with scissors, doing up buttons and tying shoe laces.

Encouraging Fine Motor Skill Development:

  • Make drawing and writing fun by using novelty pens- scented pens, stampers, window pens, wiggle writers, crayons, changer pens, invisible markers
  • Pencil control activities- mazes, dot to dots, tracing, step by step drawings, stencils, colour by numbers
  • Finger and hand strength- pegs, playdough, tennis ball monsters, pop beads, nuts and bolts, finger soccer, spray bottles, water pistols
  • Tool use- hammers, screwdrivers, tongs, tweezers
  • Paper craft- origami, paper plans, paper toys (there are heaps of templates freely available online)
  • Construction toys- Lego, Mobilo, block designs, marble towers

Kate Kleinau- Occupational Therapistkate headshot


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CoordiKids: Childhood Development Programs

There are many vital underlying skills that underpin higher level learning and cognitive abilities.  The Pyramid of Learning pictured below demonstrates the building blocks that are required for behavioural control and academic success.

central nervous system hierarchy

Recently we were lucky enough to meet with Marga Grey, the founder of CoordiKids, an online development program for children that targets the building blocks of sensory motor development. Marga has over 40 years of experience working with children and their families to address learning difficulties.  This is what she had to say about the program:

CoordiKids offers four components that each target a specific need:

  1. CoordiChild – a home based program for families on-the-go and in need of intervention for a child with issues, such as concentration, sitting still, being clumsy, learning challenges.
  2. CoordiClass – a classroom-based program for teachers to provide a quick 5-minute break towards optimal concentration for the whole class.
  3. CoordiKindy – a classroom-based program for educators of 3 – 6 year old children in Kindergarten or Prep to encourage optimal development in the foundational skills necessary for academic learning.
  4. CoordiConsult – online consultations to support our members.

We have compiled, prepared and video recorded activities and exercises for parents and children to do at home in a fun way.  At CoordiKids we are absolutely passionate about giving ALL children the very best chance for success, whether or not they have regular access to a paediatric occupational therapist.  We hope you enjoy the program with your child as much as we have enjoyed seeing the positive results our programs create!

This unique childhood development program has been refined over many years of clinical experiences with children who suffer from developmental delays and learning problems.

All exercises are video recorded and available online on all devices – always ready, wherever you are.  Parents and teachers do not need to prepare, the children follow the video and their hands are free to observe and to support.

CoordiKids is the perfect program to support and compliment therapy sessions.  It will enhance performance in all children, not only those with challenges.  CoordiKids takes pride and care in the accurate grading of the programs to ensure that developmental levels are targeted and reached to enable the child towards optimal functioning and performance.

If you think this program would be helpful for your child, Marga has generously offered for Synchrony OT newsletter recipients to receive a discounted rate of 20% off. Click here to find out more about the CoordiKids program and claim your discount.

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A Peek Inside the Resource Cupboard: 5 of Our Favourite Books for Self-Regulation

Open our resource cupboard and you will find shelves full of books! Story books are one of the best ways to teach and reinforce concepts to kids.  You’ll be amazed at what they can understand when information is delivered in a clear, simple and fun way.

A few of our favourites…

1. Have You Filled A Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids 

Author: Carol McCloudHave you filled a bucket today

This heartfelt book teaches kids the importance of kindness.  We love using this book when we are teaching empathy.  It is wonderful for reinforcing how our actions and words can impact the emotions of those around us.

2. Fear Factor (from the Ant Patrol Series)

Authors: Dr Deberea Sherlock and Aisling MulvihillFear factor

If you have a child who battles with anxiety or negative self-talk this is a great book to have in your collection.  We use this book to assist kids to reinforce how to develop resilience and use a positive mindset to overcome challenges.

3. Size of the Problem: Dinosaur Birthday Party (from the We Thinkers Series, Volume 2)

Authors: Ryan Hendrix, Kari Zweber Palmer, Nancy Tarshis and Michelle Garcia Winnersize of the problem

This book is helpful for working with kids who tend to overreact when they encounter tiny problems.  This book clearly outlines what expected reactions would be to different sized problems. It helps kids learn to identify when they might be able to solve issues themselves and when they might need to ask for help from adults.

4. The Red Beast

Author: Kay Al-Ghanired beast

If you have a strong-willed child, this one is for you.  Lots of kids find it challenging to keep their emotions in check when things don’t work out their way.  The Red Beast is an excellent story for discussing anger and developing strategies to calm down.

5. Homemade Books to Help Kids Cope: An Easy to Lean Technique for Parents and Professionals

Author: Robert ZieglerHomemade books to help kids cope

Of course, there will never be a book that fits every child perfectly. This book gives step by step examples and templates to make it easy to learn how to write your own simple stories to help kids problem solve how to cope with whatever situation they might currently be struggling with.

Happy reading!

Kate Kleinau- Occupational Therapistkate headshot


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Handwriting Ideas For Back To School

As the busyness of Christmas has ended and the new year is well on its way, our focus has shifted to the upcoming first day of school… which means back to handwriting!

Many children may find handwriting difficult or lack the motivation to write. Having your child complete some easy and fun handwriting activities at home in the week leading up to returning to school can make for an easier transition.

The trick is to make it fun or purposeful, so your child doesn’t even realise they are writing!

Writing ideas for kids starting Kindy and Prep:

  1. Drawing, tracing and dot to dots

Practise pencil grasp and pencil control by completing drawings of your child’s favourite part of their holidays, tracing over shapes/lines/words or completing dot to dot activities.

  1. Create name posters for their bedroom door

Get crafty and have your child decorate a poster for their door. Their main task is to write their name. If they are not yet able to write from memory, simply have them copy it.out pictures of silly cartoons or images to use as prompts to write descriptive sentences or stories.

  1. Multi-sensory writing

Writing in different sensations is not only fun but helps to cement motor patterns in your child’s brain. Using chalk, sand, shaving cream, play dough, sprinkle boxes and magic boards are all great options.

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Writing ideas for kids starting Grade 1:

  1. Paragraph about their holiday

Ask for your child to write a journal or a letter to a friend or loved one, talking about their holiday. You could even stick in pictures/drawings to make it more creative.

  1. Wanted Poster

Have your child complete a wanted poster with a picture and a description of who the missing person is, what they look like and don’t forget the reward! This could be of their favourite TV villain or someone they know.  You can find some free templates here. 

  1. Writing out their school list

If you still need to do the school shopping, have your child write down what supplies they need. They can then help collect the items at the shops (the same can be done for grocery shopping).

Writing ideas for kids starting Grade 2 and up:

  1. Storey Dice

Get creative and make or print out different a story dice. Have your child roll a character and location dice and write a short story based on the results. You can print out free character and setting templates here.

  1. Silly Sentences

Print out pictures of silly cartoons or images to use as prompts to write descriptive sentences or stories.

  1. Experiment write up

Have your child write out the instructions for an experiment.  We often make balloon rockets and volcanos here at the clinic.hannah lynch uniform

Happy writing!

 

– Hannah Lynch, Occupational Therapist

5 Tips To Make Christmas Day Run Smoothly For Your Child

Christmas is a wonderful chance to celebrate, look back over the past year and create wonderful memories with family and friends.

However, for many of the children I work with, Christmas Day can often be a very overwhelming experience.  It can be a very busy day that presents many additional sensory challenges with large gatherings, driving to unfamiliar places, loud music and bright decorations.

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Christmas can also be very socially demanding with lots of people and the expectation to participate in traditions that require the ability to wait and self-regulate.  Planning ahead can assist to make Christmas Day go more smoothly.

5 tips to assist your child:

  1. Make a visual schedule of what the day will include and discuss this in advance.  Where possible, let your child know the order of events: when  they will open presents, who will see, what they will eat, where they will be driving to etc.
  2. Don’t feel that you have to stay the entire time if you are going to a family gathering. Maybe aim to stay just for a short while or go for the parts that you know your child can cope with.
  3. Have an escape plan for if things start to get too much. This could be to go to a quite room of the house or a quiet place outside.  It could be to go for a short walk and come back or it could be to retreat to the car and head to the safety of home.  It can be helpful to have some of your child’s favourite toys or activities on hand that can help to distract or calm them down if needed.
  4. Make a short story to explain the etiquette for giving and receiving gifts.  This can include saying “Thank you” and also discuss how to manage their emotions and respond, especially if they receive a gift that they don’t like.  It can be helpful to discuss the escape plan as well so they know what they can do if they need a break.
  5. Use play to reinforce what might happen throughout the day e.g. Use puppets and figurines to play out the steps in the schedule or social story.

I hope that with these strategies you can work towards making Christmas Day less stressful! kate headshot

-Kate Kleinau, Occupational Therapist

Please feel free to ask questions or give me your feedback.  I am always more than happy to answer any emails personally.


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Mastering Motor Skills

Are you concerned your child appear clumsy or uncoordinated? Do they find it difficult to learn new skills or often repeat the same mistakes? Do they struggle to get ready for school on time, have difficulty following multi-step instructions or just can’t seem to get their ideas written down on to paper? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your child may be experiencing challenges with praxis.

I recently attended a two-day course by Lisa Scott which explored DCD (Developmental Coordination Disorder), Dyspraxia and the role of Occupational Therapy.

Happy little boy sit on swing rope

What is praxis?

Praxis is the ability to come up with an idea, generate a motor plan (sequence of steps required to carry out the task) and then execute the movement. Put simply, it is knowing what to do and how to do it. Praxis is important as it enables a child to complete every day activities such as playing, dressing, eating, and engaging in school tasks such as writing, drawing and cutting with scissors. Difficulty with praxis is often referred to as dyspraxia.

What is Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)?

DCD is a motor impairment (in the absence of another diagnosis) that significantly impacts upon daily activities. The extremities of the body (our arms and legs) insufficiently process sensory input regarding movement and touch. This occurs in combination with difficulty planning, sequencing and organising motor movements. Children who have difficulties with praxis or DCD may still be able to complete every day activities, although they may present as clumsy or awkward.

How do difficulties with praxis occur?

In order to plan and sequence effectively, there are many components and underlying skills a child must have developed. These include:

  • Muscle strength
  • Motor control (the brain’s ability to activate the muscles in a smooth, precise way)
  • Motor learning (the ability to obtain a new skill through practise)
  • Postural control
  • Sensory processing (the brain’s ability to correctly interpret information from our movement and touch centres)
  • Body awareness
  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Feedback and feed-forward skills (the ability to make small adjustments to correct movements and predict where the body needs to be positioned at a precise time)
  • Problem solving
  • Executive functioning skills

If any of these skills are underdeveloped, then challenges with planning and sequencing can occur, especially for more complex and multi-step activities such as using monkey bars, kicking, throwing, catching a ball, swimming or riding a bicycle.

Children with praxis difficulties are often very aware that they are not as competent as their peers and quickly learn to avoid engaging activities that challenge them. This can often lead to challenges with behaviour and may even lead to bullying from their peers.

How can I help my child develop their praxis skills?

If your child is experiencing challenges with praxis, there are many strategies that can be introduced to assist with the completion of more complex tasks.  A few ideas to get you started:

  1. Be explicit and break down tasks into smaller steps:
    • Use a “first- then” strategy (e.g. first get your lunch box and then put it in your bag).
    • Count off steps on your fingers (e.g. first get dressed, 2nd clean your teeth and 3rd pack your bag).
    • Use a visual picture sequence or checklist to assist your child to stay on track.
  2. Remind your child to remember what happened last time they attempted the task and discuss what they might do the same or differently this time. A cognitive strategy like Goal, Plan, Do, Check can assist:
    • Goal- what do they want to do?
    • Plan- how are they going to do it?
    • Do- give it a try
    • Check- see if they reached their goal, if they did keep the plan the same for next time, if not, what could they try doing instead?
  3. When learning new motor skills:
    • It may be necessary to physically guide your child through the movement so that their muscles can feel what to do.
    • Use a chant or verbal prompt to remind your child how to position their body or the sequence of movements.
    • Observe others completing the task or use a mirror so they can see how their body is positioned.
    • Once your child can complete the basic movement repetition is key to work towards mastery.

If you are concerned that your child is experiencing challenges with Praxis, please do not hesitate to contact myself, or one of our other therapists, to discuss their challenges further. Occupational Therapy can improve your child’s confidence in fine and gross motor skills, enhance their self esteem, develop their self care skills and enable them to demonstrate their true academic ability.Katt Matthews

Katt Matthews

Occupational Therapist


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5 Ways to Help Build Resilience in Children

“My toddler is terrified of dogs”, “My 4 year old is struggling at drop off for Kindy”, “My 6 year old is having trouble going to sleep at night”. Sound familiar? These are common signs of anxiety in children.

Earlier this year my colleague, Katt Matthews, and I attended a two-day conference in Melbourne by Dr Chris Chapparo which explored the topics of Occupational Therapy for Anxiety and Helping Manage Stress and Resilience in Children.

resilience and anxiety.jpg

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety, which is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome; can present in children across all ages.

Anxiety can present in different ways. As parents/teachers/therapists, it is important that we detect signs of anxiety, so we can therefore implement strategies to build resilience, and reduce potential negative outcomes.

What does anxiety look like in children?

1) Being extremely well behaved and “flying under the radar”

2) Avoiding new things, even if it fun and safe

3) Becoming distressed by changes in routine

4) Identifying the worst case outcomes e.g. “Mum and dad could die”

5) Avoiding situations they don’t like e.g. parties

6) Asking unnecessary questions

7) Difficulty separating from parents

8) Displaying physical complaints (sickness, pain)

9) Being a perfectionist

10) Difficulty sleeping

11) Being argumentative

What can we do to help build resilience?

Resilience is an importance part of development for children, as it allows them to cope with the daily challenges of life. Resilience is the social, emotional and motivational capacity to engage in life. It allows a child to have confidence, be persistent, organised and to persevere.  Resilience allows a child to have strategies to cope with anxiety.

Occupational Therapists can work closely with children to develop strategies to manage anxiety and improve resilience. The goal is to build capacity to make a child “resilient enough” to function. There are basic strategies parents can also implement to aid in building resilience including:

  1. Always pre-warn a child if a potentially anxiety inducing activity is too occur. Explain the process to the child, what they might feel and what you will do to help.
    e.g. “Today we are going to the doctor to have a needle. The needle is really important because it will stop you from getting sick. The needle is going to hurt but we are going to come up with a plan for getting through it together.  When they give you the needle you are going to sit in my lap, I’m going to hold your hand and you are going to look at my as we count to 10 and then it will all be done”
  2. Grade the exposure to the feared item. Slowly increasing expectations in a supportive environment can help a child to adapt and implement strategies to better manage the situation.
    e.g. When learning to use the monkey bars, start by just holding the bar with you supporting majority of the child’s weight. Then complete moving to one bar with support. Slowly increase how far they need to move and reduced the level of physical support you provide.
  3. “Unlearn” anxious behaviours by replacing them with happy memories.
    e.g. Find out what your child is scared of and replace this with something positive, for example if they were scared of a dog at a park and now refuse to go to the park, show the child the dog is no longer there and play a really fun game that the child enjoys.
  1. Provide a child with a safe space to talk about how they are feeling. Children benefit from parents modelling and to have “emotions normalised”. A great way is for you, as the parent to explain to the child how you are feeling in a particular moment, how it feels and why.
    e.g. When in traffic saying “oh this traffic is making me feel frustrated and mad, I can feel my heart racing and I want to yell. I am going to take some deep breathes and think positive thoughts. There is nothing that we can do, it isn’t the end of the world if we are a few minutes late.”
  2. Use mindfulness and controlled breathing strategies to assist them to calm down.
    e.g. Use mindfulness apps like Breathe Think Do with Sesame. Practise using these when the child is calm and make links to how this could be used during challenging scenarios.

If you identify any of these areas as a concern, please feel free to have a chat to one of us!hannah lynch uniform

Hannah Lynch
Occupational Therapist


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A reminder to prioritise your self-care as a parent: Sent with high importance!

Today, like most days, I woke up to my 1-year-old screaming the house down at 4:30am. I burst out of bed to pat his back in an effort to keep him quiet so his screaming didn’t wake up my 3-year-old in the next room – to no avail. My 3-year-old clambers out of bed and the day begins…”Mummy, I want porridge”, “Where’s my racing car?”, “I want to watch TV!” (persistent 1-year-old screams in the background), all before I’ve barely had a chance to rub my eyes and tame my bed hair. Sound familiar?

Never has there been a more demanding role than that of a parent. It takes more patience, energy, sacrifice and unconditional love than anything I’ve ever experienced. And of course, at the end of the day, we love our children and they are totally worth every bit of effort we can afford them. But are parents super-humans? Robots? Inbuilt with a never ending ability to be anything and everything for our kids and everyone else?

The answer is no – a huge, resounding no. We are just mere mortals who eventually run out of patience, energy, selflessness and sometimes even the feeling of love when we are pushed to our limits. But our kids need us. This is why it is just so important for parents to find ways to care for themselves so that they can reboot their ability each day to care for their children. We need to fill our own emotional cup so that we have the capacity to continue to care, love, and nurture our children, even when things get hard.

But how do we do this? Especially when we feel as though we have no time in our day to go to the toilet, let alone to focus on our own physical and emotional needs?! Simply put, as parents we need to practice and prioritise our own self-care. The operative word here is practice. Many self-care techniques are learned skills that we must practice often in order to reap the benefits. The more we practice self-care, the easier these skills will become and the greater impact we will see in our ability to cope and be present as a parent. Self-care is also different to ‘stress management’, where we engage in activities to help us calm down once we are already feeling stressed. Self-care is a much more proactive and preventative approach, equipping ourselves to be more resilient to handle stress when it inevitably comes our way.

parent self-care.jpgThere are many ways through which we can practice self-care, and they can be quick and easy to do. One of the most talked about approaches to self-care in modern psychology is the practice of ‘mindfulness’. This refers to our ability to bring conscious, moment-by-moment awareness to our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and environment around us. Once aware of our internal and external experiences, mindfulness then encourages us to simply accept these experiences instead of applying judgement, that there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to think or feel. Mindfulness brings us back to the present, provides clarity, removes negative judgements and allows us to choose our responses rather than reacting automatically to a given situation. This sounds complicated, but with practice, mindfulness can be as simple as stopping, taking a slow, deep breath, and then bringing awareness to how you’re thinking and feeling in that moment. Once you’re calmly observing your own thoughts and feelings, you then have the opportunity to choose how you will continue to think, feel and respond. You will find lots of information about simple mindfulness practices online, if you’re interested to read more.

Another popular area of modern psychology, that it closely linked with current mindfulness research, is the practice of gratitude. Try thinking of at least one thing you’re grateful for each day, as research shows that cultivating gratitude is associated with an increase in energy, optimism, and empathy (and we all know how much we need these qualities as parents!). Some other well-known ways of practicing self-care include incorporating some light exercise into your day, remembering also to eat well and rest when you can. Try stimulating your mind (especially after you’ve played trucks or tea parties all morning!) by listening to a podcast in the car or while you wash the dishes. Try reading, creating art, or whatever works for you. These activities help to give a sense of self apart from your identity as a parent. And finally, it’s so important to talk and debrief how you’re feeling with your partner, friends, or even seek professional counselling if needed. You will feel more supported and less isolated in your feelings, allowing yourself to gain a sense of reassurance that you’re not alone and this too shall pass.

So, when it comes to parental self-care, try starting with something small and manageable, and to make self-care a daily habit. Go easy on yourself if you forget or don’t find the time here and there to practice self-care, but notice the difference in your mood when you do. By looking after your own needs as a parent, you’ll be so much better at looking after the needs of your children. So, what can you try today to fill your emotional cup?

-Victoria Gibbs, Psychologist from Carers Connectioncarers connection.jpg

Carers Connection offer in home psychology services to children, parents and carers. Whether you are struggling to understand your child and their behaviour or feeling stressed and out of your depth as a parent or carer, our highly skilled team of psychologists are here to help. We are approved HCWA, Better Start, and Medicare providers. To make a booking you don’t need a referral and are welcome to call our office on 0451 377 455 or email connect@carersconnection.com.au


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Overcoming shyness, how can I develop my child’s confidence?

We often work with children who find it challenging to say “hello”, answer questions, speak in front of a group, join in, separate from their parents and participate in new situations.  Shyness occurs when children become anxious in social situations.  Most children will display shyness at one point or another, however for some children it can start to impact upon their ability to interact and participate on a daily basis.

shy child

Children who are shy often experience an overactive fear system. This means that unfamiliar and unexpected situations may in fact trigger a stress response in the brain which activates the body’s fear response to fight, flight, freeze.  If this response is triggered it becomes challenging for children to think rationally and they might become upset, clingy, run away, disengage/refuse to participate or show reluctance to speak.  Some children might even become physically sick.

How can I help my child to overcome their shyness?

  1. Understanding emotions– Help your child understand their emotions by giving feelings names and encouraging them to talk about how they are feeling.  We regularly play games using Bear Cards: Ask your child to identify how the bears are feeling, ask what might have happened to make them feel that way, ask them to think of a time when they felt that way, use the cards to prompt them to show you how they are feeling.  The Zones of Regulation Program can also be an extremely helpful resource in assisting your child to acknowledge emotions and understand how it is impacting their actions.
  2. Validate emotions – Show empathy for how your child is feeling. For example: “It looks like you might be feeling worried about starting school, it is OK to feel that way, I felt scared on my first day too.” Simple validating how they are feeling can make sure that they do not feel alone and can start the conversation for how to go about solving the problem.
  3. Develop understanding by using books– There are a range of commercially available books that are wonderful for assisting kids to be brave, manage fear and shyness and learn about how to act in social situations. A few of my favourites:
    1. Ant Patrol Children’s Stories
    2. We Thinkers!
    3. The Panicosaurus
    4. You could even make your own story using your child’s favourite character- Homemade Books to Help Kids Cope is a wonderful book that provides further advice on how to go about structuring these stories.
  4. Calming strategies– For some children, they may need to be taught strategies to help calm their body down and inhibit the fear response so that they can then think rationally when they encounter a stressful situation. Deep breathing can trick the brain into returning back to a calm state. We often use a free app called Breathe Think Do with Sesame.
  5. Video modellingModel me kids DVDs are great for explicitly teaching social skills such as greetings, answering and talking on topic.
  6. Role play– Use your child’s favourite toys and figurines to practise and prepare for new or stressful situations.
  7. Set achievable goals– Start small and gradually build up as your child’s confidence increases. For example, if you wanted your child to work on greetings, the initial goal might be for your child to say hello to familiar people like Grandma and Grandpa, then you could progress to saying hello to their class teacher, their friends and then eventually being able to say hello to a new child at the park. It is important to provide lots of praise.  Many children respond well to having a reward chart to celebrate their success. kate headshot

Kate Kleinau- Occupational Therapist

Please feel free to ask questions or give me your feedback.  I am always more than happy to answer any emails personally.


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Teaching Kids Self-Regulation: The Zones of Regulation Program

Here at Synchrony OT, we often receive referrals for children who find it challenging to know how to behave appropriately across different settings (home, school, community).

The Zones of Regulation program is a fantastic resource for teaching children how to master the following skills:

  • Sensory regulation: The ability to learn how to manage and respond appropriately to sensory input from their environment.
  • Emotional Regulation: The ability to recognise body clues associated with different emotional levels and understand how others think and feel in response to our emotional state.
  • Executive functioning: The ability to have cognitive control over our behaviour. Our executive function skills include our ability to sustain attention, plan, problem solving and use positive self-talk.  These skills are vital for building a positive foundation for the development of resilience skills.

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The Zones of Regulation categorizes states of alertness and emotions into four colour coded zones.  These zones allow children to better recognize and understand complex feelings and provides them with strategies to help move between the zones.

  • Blue Zone is used to describe low states of alertness such as feeling sad, tired, sick, bored. This is when the body and brain may feel slow and sluggish.
  • Green Zone is used to describe a regulated state of alertness such as feeling calm, happy and focused. This is the zone that children need to be in to socialize and learn effectively.
  • Yellow Zone is used to describe a heightened state of alertness such as feeling stressed, frustrated, anxious, silly, nervous. This is the zone when children may start to lose some control over their actions.
  • Red Zone is used to describe an extremely heightened state of alertness such as rage, panic and terror. This is the zone when children are no longer in control of their actions.

In the program, children learn strategies to assist them to match their state of alertness to the demands of the environment. Identifying the different zones when your child is watching movies or reading books is a great way to develop their ability to identify their emotional state.

Once children develop awareness of each of the zones they are then ready to learn calming and resilience strategies to help them to stay in the ‘Green Zone’. See our blog posts: Raising Resilient Kids,  Deep Breathing, and 5 Helpful Self-Regulation Resources For Kids for strategy ideas.

Find out more about The Zones of Regulation at http://www.socialthinking.com.aukate headshot

Kate Kleinau- Occupational Therapist


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