Fun & Easy Pumpkin Activities

OT Mom says, “It’s pumpkin season!”

And in my house, everyone cheers (even Dr. Dad)!

Pumpkin activities

It’s fall and I am totally on the pumpkin bandwagon. What’s not to love about pumpkins? They’re colorful, tasty, and irrevocably associated with the fall. In my house, we are all about the pumpkin crafts and activities. Here are my favorites so far this year:

Pumpkin Washing Station

Pumpkin Washing Station

We used our sand and water table to make a pumpkin washing station. Baby bubble bath made this activity safe and super fun. We also used wash clothes, a cloth sponge, and a nail scrubber for variety. This was a big hit several days in a row.

Fall Sensory
DecorationPumpkin “Sensory Bin” Center Piece

To decorate for fall and have a hands-on pumpkin inspired activity, I made this pumpkin bowl for our coffee table. As a filler, I used 99 cent foam pumpkins, a few real gourds, and a couple other sturdy wooden pumpkin decorations. They all feel and bit different and are not so fragile that I don’t mind my 2-year-old playing with them. I do have to admit, Dr. Dad does sometimes move this off the coffee table and out of reach when he is tired of finding the pumpkins and gourds out of the basket and across the room. So far, all of the contents have remained in one piece!

Paint a Pumpkin this Fall

Pumpkin Painting

We love painting in my house, so why not paint pumpkins and gourds?!? Last year we picked a nice day to paint outside, and this year we did it at the kitchen table. This year we also used the tiny paints that are connected, as my son is into pouring or mixing all the paint together to make a beautiful brown any chance he gets… check out these other messy play hacks to make messy play a little more manageable.

It's Pumpkin Season!

Tissue Paper Pumpkins

This one is pretty simple too- tear or cut up tissue paper and glue on a pumpkin, as easy as that. We used regular school glue and glue sticks. I love the hidden motor skill practice this activity has. Tearing up the tissue paper involves hand strength and bilateral coordination skills and gluing takes a bit more precision than simply slathering the paint on a pumpkin. We didn’t use scissors with ours, but I bet cutting out shapes or even faces for older kids would be a ton of fun.  While the finished product in our house wasn’t quite what I had in mind, my son loved it, and that’s what counts!

Pumpkin Sensory Bottle
Pumpkin Sensory Bottles

We’ve had a sensory bottle laying around that I made almost a year ago that has and handlful of random small items, mostly beads and the like and rice as a filler. One of the small items is a jack-o-lantern earring, and it’s my kid’s absolute favorite thing to look for in the bottle. So this fall we also made this pumpkin sensory bottle filled with pumpkin decorating filler, Halloween sprinkles, and tri colored dried cous cous as a filler. My kids argued over who got to play with it first, so we used it as “sharing tool.”

Just Explore

I LOVE PILES AND PILES OF PUMPKINS… and so do kids. Visiting a pumpkin patch is an Autumn must if you ask me. The numerous sizes, shapes, and colors of pumpkins, squash and gourds allow for kids to explore these natural beauties. It’s fun to compare the different kinds and sneak in all kinds of vocabulary and concepts with kids, such a big/small, colors, counting, you name it!

Fall explore pumpkins

I’m also looking forward to carving some pumpkins this month as well, playing in the goopy guts, and roasting some seeds. I have a feeling some of the above activities will follow us through fall as we are looking for fun ways to spend the season.  As alway, enjoy & I’d love to hear your thoughts about these pumpkin activities and favorites of your own!

 

 

*Disclaimer: The information presented in the blog is intended for information purposes only. Please consult your physician with any medical concerns and/or for medical advice. The information presented is not intended to be used in place of individualized therapy services, please contact your health care team for skilled therapy if you think it is necessary. Please supervise your children (or friends, spouses, etc)  if you decide to try any of the activities or ideas presented as the author or this blog does not claim liability for possible injury or negative consequences related to the activities and ideas presented here.

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Roll-A-Troll: Movement Break Game

Roll-a-Troll

We recently had a “Trolls” themed birthday party for my two-year-old, and the party planning led me to create the following Roll-a-Troll game to keep my very active toddler, her brother, and their cousins busy and moving all weekend.

The benefits of physical activity for kids, including movement breaks, is undisputed.   It’s recommended that children, ages 6-17 years, should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day- if not more. Further, evidence suggests that classroom physical activity, such as movement breaks, benefit student’s attention, behavior, and test scores. Check out the CDC’s website for more information.

I’ve found that channeling in on a child’s interests gets he or she motivated to participate in activities much more willingly and for a longer duration of time. If you know any Troll’s fans, I think this movement “game” will be a hit. It certainly was a hit at my house!

Roll-A-Troll Movement bReaks Game

I used a 4”x 4” treat box that I on hand and cut pictures from a Trolls magazine to somewhat match my movement ideas. I simply glued a picture on each side of the box, wrote the Troll’s name, and a movement idea.

The six sides included:

  1. Jump- Princess Poppy
  2. Dance- Guy Diamond
  3. Mix a beat- DJ Suki
  4. Stomp or Hide- Branch
  5. Run- King Peppy
  6. Hug Time- Give yourself a big hug (included is a picture of Biggie & Mr. Dinkles)

Alternatives to cutting and gluing pictures, would be to just use stickers, simply write out the instructions, or even use the free printable chart below to play with dice:

Roll a troll

While this game chart is pretty plain, we decorated one with stickers (which also sneaks in some fine motor practice).

Roll a troll printable

To play

Just let each child take turns rolling the cube or die (whichever version you decide to use) and then ALL of the kids involved do that action for approximately 15-30 seconds (longer or shorter depending on the age and attention ability of the kids), then it’s the next kid’s turn. The actual cube (vs. dice) seems to be more engaging for the younger players.

Overall, it was a HUGE success with the group of kids this weekend, aged 2-7 years. I think this would be a hit for classroom movement breaks as well.

Here’s a little clarification on how we did each movement:

  1. Jump– pretty straight forward, just JUMP!  Both feet, one foot, in place, or forward… no wrong way!
  2. Dance– any dance moves that kids want to do!
  3. Mix a beat– reciprocally alternating extending and retracting each arm (like spinning a turn table).
  4. Stomp or hide– either stomping in place or crouching down into a ball (like you’re hiding). The group of kids that I did this with liked both so they alternated between both!
  5. Run– depending on the situation, run in place, or all over (my son does laps around the living room, occasionally).
  6. Hug Time– give yourself a big hug (my kids and nieces hugged each other too).

Roll-a-Troll game

I also love that motions such as stomping and jumping allow for some great proprioceptive input and all the movement stimulates the vestibular system. Check out my other posts about some of the sensory systems and for more fun, low cost activities that have many, many hidden benefits!

If you try this game, I’d love to hear how it went! Enjoy!

 

References

Healthy Schools. Physical Activity Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 9/19/2017 from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/facts.htm

Healthy Schools. Classroom. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 9/19/2017 from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/classroom-pa.htm

*Disclaimer-The information presented in the blog is intended for information purposes only. Please consult your physician with any medical concerns and/or for medical advice. The information presented is not intended to be used in place of individualized therapy services, please contact your health care team for skilled therapy if you think it is necessary. Please supervise your children (or friends, spouses, etc)  if you decide to try any of the activities or ideas presented as the author or this blog does not claim liability for possible injury or negative consequences related to the activities and ideas presented here.

DIY Cardboard Box Carwash

My son (once again) said, “Maybe go to the carwash today.”

OT mom said, “Instead, let’s play car wash!”

DIY CardboardCarwash Toy

My son’s current obsession is anything carwash. Just about everyday, he asks if we can go to the carwash when we are out running errands. His love for playing carwash inspired my latest activity idea: a fun, DIY crawl through car wash!

The kids can play with this several ways: by actually pretending they are the “cars” or using it to wash their big toy cars and trucks by pushing them through. It has proven to be extremely entertaining for their busy minds, and in addition to the great imagination and pretend play engagement it promotes, there are additional hidden benefits as well.

Super Fun & Easy

Crawling through the tunnel gives my kids a dose of proprioceptive input, which can do wonders for regulating the sensory system. Click here to learn more about proprioceptive input.

By weight bearing on extended arms during crawling, it also provides strengthening for the shoulders, arms, core, and even the muscles of the hands. Putting weight through open hands strengthens the arches in the hands- which will be important for the development of handwriting and other fine motor skills.

While pushing cars through the car wash tunnel, you may notice a child using one hand on the ground to stabilize, and the other hand to push the car through. This promotes dissociation of the two sides of the body and allows for practice with crossing midline and bilateral coordination skills. 

DIY

My son didn’t play with the car wash the same way the whole time this evening. He tried to wash his wagon, his truck, and he pretended to be the car. By moving his body (and toys) through the makeshift car wash, he had the opportunity to work on his motor planning  and praxis skills. The development of such skills relies on using novelty in movement sequences.

But the list goes on… we made our car wash “scrubbers,” as my son calls them, brightly colored and slightly different fabrics, so my daughter enjoyed the tactile discrimination aspect of playing with the wash. We added an “open” and “closed” sign for fun (and it stayed open all evening).  I was pleasantly surprised with my kids’ ability to take turns moving through the car wash and sharing their space- a thing I think most siblings have trouble with.

The bonus was that I didn’t spend a penny on this project- I used scrap fabric and a leftover moving box. It feels good to save money and reuse old items.

So here’s how I made it:

box steps 1

I  started with an extra large moving box, with one end taped. Using a utility knife, I cut off the flaps from one side. (Please use caution with the utility knife).

Next, cut out a door for each side. Above the door, cut small holes about 1/2 an inch above the doorway.  I didn’t measure initially, I just eyeballed the size based on the size of my kids and their toys. It turned out to be  about 14 inches wide and just over 17 inches high.

DIY carwash

I used fabric strips to make the “scrubbers” (I had some leftover from another project or you could use scrap clothes, etc). I didn’t measure these initially, but they were about 2-3 inches in width by about 19 inches long.

Once you have your fabric strips, cut a small hole from about 1/2 inch from the end and feed that through a hole in the box. To secure, feed the opposite end of the fabric through the hole and pull snug. Continue until all the holes have scrubbers.

Since kids don’t seem to mind if things aren’t measured perfectly, it was a pretty quick project to complete.

DIY Carwash open

Just for fun I used some scrap cardboard and sticky-back velcro to make an “Open/Close” sign for the carwash. You could easily do this with markers or paint. It’s as easy as that!

If you decide to try this easy, beneficial DIY activity, please remember to keep your kids supervised for this activity!  I’d love to hear how your kids liked it!

DIY-1

*Disclaimer

Please use supervision with this activity, as young children or children with motor skills difficulties may get tangled up in the fabric strips.

The information presented in the blog is intended for information purposes only. Please consult your physician with any medical concerns and/or for medical advice. The information presented is not intended to be used in place of individualized therapy services, please contact your health care team for skilled therapy if you think it is necessary. Please supervise your children (or friends, spouses, etc)  if you decide to try any of the activities or ideas presented as the author or this blog does not claim liability for possible injury or negative consequences related to the activities and ideas presented here.

Messy Play Hacks

OT Mom says, “Let’s use some [insert something super messy; e.g. paint, slime, sand] today!”

Dr. Dad doesn’t say anything but omits a low guttural sound of disapproval. He doesn’t love it when we make a mess. He does, however, help when we do it anyway.

Respect all life.

Messy play activities are excellent for allowing young children to explore their world. Not only does do messy play activities provide an opportunity to develop a variety of senses, they have the potential to promote skills such as fine motor coordination, pre-writing skills, tactile discrimination, and bilateral coordination to name a few.

That being said, we don’t always have the time, energy, or patience for all out messy activities. Last summer we even had our house for sale, and trying to keep it clean with a messy toddler boy and a food-throwing baby was quite the challenge. While attempting to keep our house close to “show” ready, I figured out some hacks to make messy activities possible. I’ve thrown in some bonus ideas to make the most of messy play opportunities.

Take it Outside

If the weather is nice, take the kids outside to make a mess. When we think of painting, we usually don’t think to do it outside, but why not? A little paint splattered into the grass is no biggie. I use a drop cloth on the back lawn and let them go at it. If it’s especially warm, you can  have some water ready outside for easy clean up.

You can also use mother nature’s readily available messy supplies. Kids love digging in the dirt, playing in rocks, or stomping in mud puddles. We recently planted some seedlings and got dirt everywhere, and it just took a quick sweep to clean it up.

The bonus:  Being outside is associated with a lot of perks in itself, such as associations with many positive mental health benefits.

otmomsays.com-4

Take it to the Tub

There are so many fun, messy sensory activities you can do in the bathtub! You can use what’s available commercially (foam soap, bubbles, bath crayons, bath paint) or go a little bit outside of the box.

We use actual kid paint in the bath tub sometimes when we are doing art projects, just because it makes clean up much easier.

The bonus: Using the vertical sides of the bathtub wall also promotes some great motor skills when doing things like doodling with bath crayons.  Writing on the vertical surface of the tub wall allows for wrist extension and promotes proper grasp patterns children need for good handwriting skills.

Box It Up

Speaking of thinking outside of the box, you can do messy play IN a box to help keep it contained. This is a great idea for things like markers, paint, and crayons that you don’t want a toddler getting all over the walls.

The bonus: Kids love to play in boxes and they are inexpensive (it’s also another opportunity to utilize a vertical surface).

COFFEE

Catch It in a Sheet

I love letting my kids cook and bake with me, but let’s face it, toddlers are NOT good at keeping all the ingredients in the bowl. When we bake, I usually will put a sheet or a picnic blanket on the floor and let the kids help mix the ingredients on top of that. While it doesn’t catch every speck of flour, it does help keep the mess contained.

I also use a drop cloth under the area that my kids play with play dough.

The bonus: Kids can help lay out the sheet and make sure it’s smooth. When the activity is done, they can help to fold it up in a way that the mess won’t fall out and help shake it out outside.

Try Some Good Ol’ H20

The absolute easiest idea is to simply use water. Young kids can “paint” with water on construction paper (you can let it dry and reuse it several times). When my older son paints with watercolors (what I believe to be the easiest paint to clean up), my daughter (who is a bit younger) is perfectly happy with just water.

OTMOMSAYS.COM-5

 

There are also watercolor paint books that have just a touch of paint at the top of each page and “magic” water activity books that are low to no mess.

I’ve even taken it up a step with the water messy play by putting a couple thick towels on my kitchen floor to let my daughter use kitchen items and water for pretend play. She likes to pour and stir the water in kitchen pots and bowls with real utensils. She scoops and pours a little water with measuring cups. Sure some of the water spills, but it’s super easy to clean up. Just about a cup of water (and of course supervision) and she is happily entertained and engaged in a great activity.

The bonus: Using water for pretend play encourages creativity and promotes development of social-emotional skills.

Zip It Up

This one isn’t messy at all. It is however, a fun tactile activity that little ones love.  You can use a zip lock bag filled with something squishy (I use hair gel) and add things such as glitter, water beads, or small toys (without sharp or pointy edges).  I’d also recommend taping the bag shut and always supervising kids closely with this activity, in case the bag does happen to get ripped open and since if not used correctly a suffocation and choking hazard. When my son was a baby, I’d tape it to his high chair tray for a fun, easy activity to do while I prepped dinner. If you’re really brave, you can have a young helper assist in making the bags.

Copy of Zip it up

The bonus: Visual perception/discrimination games can be incorporated into the play. Some ideas include: have the child point to all the blue items, identify alphabet beads, squish all the purple water beads to the same side. This activity also provides an opportunity to practice finger isolation to poke at the sensory bag for fine motor development.

Make It Edible

We all have to eat and a lot of young kids are already making a mess, so another option for messy play is to stick them in the high chair or at the table and paint with yogurt, jam, avocados, sauce (whatever you have on hand). This way, if they are in a stage where they’re putting anything (or everything) in their mouth- it’s a good thing!

The bonus: Try to incorporate practice using utensils for fine motor development and promotion of self-help skills. Even if your child doesn’t use a child spoon accurately yet, it’s great to still allow for some practice and exploration of the item.

halfway

Plan Ahead

This may seem obvious, but I’ve learned the hard way. Having your clean up materials at arms length is half the battle. If your doing some kind of wet messy play (e.g. paint, goop, food, etc) have some wet wash clothes or baby wipes nearby. If it’s some kind of dry mess (e.g. rice, sand, etc) have a broom or vacuum ready to go. This way, once the activity is over, the mess can be minimized before it spreads and takes over your house.

The bonus: Having the kids help you gather the needed items allows them to be involved in the routine and can serve as a learning opportunity. Concepts such as before, during, and after can be explained and the preparation, action, then clean up can help kids with transitions between activities.

Clean Up Together

Let’s face it, sometimes messy play (no matter how you plan it or what precautions you take) makes a BIG mess. That’s ok, because there are many great skills to be gained in the clean-up process.

The bonus: During the clean up process, kids get a sense of participation in the family routines, motor skills may be developed, and more sensory input is included, such as proprioception.

Add or Remove Clothing

Either way is a good way to go- Using a smock or an old shirt designated for painting, or allowing for some shirtless messy play, you get a reduction of ruined cloths and:

The bonus: practicing self care dressing (and undressing) skills.

Messy Play-2

Use Everyday Stuff

Messy play can simply be fun, cheap, creative play. There are so many activities you can do using the items you have in your house at any given time. In the kitchen, have the kids explore produce:  pumpkin guts, squishing (and eating bananas), dried rice for a sensory bin, playing in flour, or dried dried noodles. You can head outside to stomp in the mud, dig for worms, or jump in leaves. The options are endless, just look around!

The bonus: by looking at an everyday item in a different way, imaginations can soar.

I hope your next mess is a good one! Let me know how it goes 🙂

*Disclaimer: The information presented in the blog is intended for information purposes only. Please consult your physician with any medical concerns and/or for medical advice. The information presented is not intended to be used in place of individualized therapy services, please contact your health care team for skilled therapy if you think it is necessary. Please supervise your children (or friends, spouses, etc)  if you decide to try any of the activities or ideas presented as the author or this blog does not claim liability for possible injury or negative consequences related to the activities and ideas presented here.