Blog XII:  Pre-Printing made fun!

 Developmentally children need to do a whole lot of scribbling before they can imitate or copy a line.  As well, before a child can imitate letters, they need to be able to imitate vertical, horizontal and circular lines.

So where does one begin?

  1. With a lot of scribbling!  You can begin the scribbling career with offering opportunities for your child to make a work of art with their food on their tray as they get their hands into it.
  2. As they grow older, they can paint on easels and just scribble away making all sorts of downward, horizontal and circular strokes.

When being asked to assist a child to progress through their pre-printing stage in order to make them ready to begin to print, I usually start with painting a large surface.  This activity can be done to song, to music, or it can be covering up an image and hiding it, anything that would make the child enthused about using a tool to cover a surface.

So we can do this type of scribbling for a while, but how do you get the child to be excited about imitating a vertical or horizontal line?

I have used Popsicle sticks with great success.I glued Popsicle sticks to form flowers and then I have invited the child to cover the Popsicle stick with paint using a larger paintbrush at first then moving to a very small paintbrush. I have used the long wooden stir sticks, then the regular Popsicle sticks and finally I have found miniature Popsicle sticks at the dollar store as well.

At times, I have used incentives for some children in order for them to gain that little bit of extra reassurance that engaging in this activity will be brief and they will be able to enjoy a more familiar activity as soon as the task is done.

So from big to small, from scribbling to making a mark with a beginning and an end, the child is invited to engage in tasks that hopefully have meaning to them and that they can complete.

It is so important to know the child before you and their interests and fascinations and build your activities from those observations



horizontal popsicle stick art

vertical strokes

horizontal strokes

BlogXI:  Using a social story to reduce a sensitive gag reflex in a child with sensory issues

I am pleased to be able to share “My Book About Eating” with you all.  I created this story for a typically developping three year old child struggling to progress beyond purees due to an overly sensitive gag-reflex among other things.  Each child has his own history, strengths, interests, abilities, struggles, challenges so the story will not fit all children, but I just wanted to share it in order to provide ideas for others that social stories created for a child in mind are effective.  Even though the child I made this story for, found it a little long, he proceeded to place his food on his tongue as opposed to accepting his spoon in his mouth with his tongue curled all the way up onto the roof of his mouth (an indication of his sensory diffensiveness).  He also was able to put a morsel of a dissolvable cookie on his tongue and was then able to navigate this piece of food to his teeth where he proceeded to mash it all up into a puree! (puree being a texture that he feels safe to swallow). These were all first for him and he displayed much courage in doing all that work!

My book about eating – Social Story


Blog X:  How can I keep handwriting interesting:  January 7, 2015

In my last blog, I illustrated how you can use old business cards to set up a framework onto which your child can practice printing his letter.  It is best if you add a little sticker in the upper left hand corner as well (see previous post).  However business cards and or stickers may not always be available, so I propose to you strategy #2!

Use a regular copy paper and fold in half (as if you were making a card).

Then fold it again in half (now it is folded in quadrants)

Continue to fold in half till you are left with the paper folded in 1/16th of its size.




If you leave the paper folded in the format of this little card (see picture with E) you have a space for you to model how to write the letter, then your child can imitate what you showed him in the proper sequence.  If your child is left handed, then you should place your letter on the right so that he can write on the space to the left and his hand will not be covering the model you just made for him.


You can keep unfolding and refolding the paper to get a fresh place to practice your letters.  On one of these practice sheets, you can practice up to 8 letters!

If you wanted to model writing a short word such as BALL, BAT, HAT, JUMP (I wrote the name BARB) you can also do so if you open up your paper.  Each line has 4 spaces to write your word in.  You can write the first letter and your child can imitate.


Happy Printing!


Blog IX: Paper and Pencil Tasks to promote handwriting: December 28, 2014

 How do you start teaching a child to write?

As a certified handwriting specialist with Handwriting Without Tears®, I will be sharing with you a few strategies to enable your child to initiate the art of handwriting with the least amount of bad habits, setting them up for being a proficient and confident hand writer.

The easiest letters to write are those that are composed of vertical and horizontal lines such as L, F, E, H, T, I.

But perhaps the letters that are more motivating for your child to begin to learn to write are the letters of his or her name.

Do you use tracing sheets, use dotted lines, or dry erase activity sheets?

Do you leave your child unattended to begin to copy those letters?

Consider sitting by their side when they start to learn a letter.

Children will want to start their letters from the bottom up as they start closer to themselves and move the stroke away.  However, to prevent letter reversals and efficient sequencing of letters, we need to teach the child to start from the top, and most often the letters start from the top left corner.

Strategy #1

Use old business cards.

Place a small sticker in upper left hand corner of card.

Show your child how to make an L starting at the sticker.

Draw one big line down and a little line across.

Show him the completed L!

Then it is her turn to start at the sticker, draw a big line down and a little line across!  She will then have been given the proper sequence and language to know how to start the letter L.

The business cards provide the frame onto which the letters will be built.  It will prevent letter reversals from happening as well.

Please note

It is best to engage in this type of activity for only a few minutes and to stop this before your child asks to stop.  It is best to make a letter for only one minute and be happy about engaging in this activity than requesting the child to do more than they are willing to do.  This is what will distinguish for them the joy of being engaged with you as play versus doing work.

business card strategy 1



Blog VIII:   A bit about falling in love with letters…. October 25, 2014

As an occupational therapist, one of my passions (and there are many) is how to get children motivated to write.

How do I define writing?  Am I talking about scribbling, making vertical, horizontal or circular lines? Writing your name?  Writing the name of a significant other?

In this blog, I will focus my strategies to encourage a curiosity for letters and later on words.

  1. Delay offering pencil and paper tasks.  I can focus another blog just on this topic.  Suffice it to say that toddlers do not need to hold markers.  Best they play, manipulate, explore, paint, create with playdough….

2.  Enjoy sensory play: get their hands accustomed to touching different textures, play       games such as cleaning shaving cream off the wall of your tub during bath time…

3. Enjoy making a mess on a big contrasting colored surface: this could be a teaspoon of yogurt on a tin pie plate and swishing it all around, it could be shaving cream on your patio door and making circular motions to the song of the Wheels on the Bus go round and round…

4. Enjoy musical mark making:  Have a really engaging song play (my favorites are I like to Move It or Gangnam Style or Happy!)  Dance with your little one, and then make the music stop!  And just like musical chairs, in order for that music to go back on again we need to grab a marker as fast as we can and make a mark on a shower liner that you have placed strategically on the floor making sure you do not slip or trip over it when you are dancing and having a time with your child (this makes for a great white surface and it is only $1.00 from the dollar store and it is washable as well!:)  The activity could then be graded by upping the ante; now it is not just a mark you need to do in order to get that cool music to start again, it’s a vertical stroke downward that will get it going!  You can encourage further pre-printing strokes as the game progresses: such as horizontal lines, then circles, then circles that start and stop, then oblique lines like sliding down a mountain….

BUT REMEMBER, you must always finish the game before your child wants out.  You do not want him tiring of this game or any pre-printing game for that matter.  It needs to remain fun and if you finish the activity earlier it only means they will be more motivated to engage in it the next time you want to play with it.  This is meant to be fun.  If dancing is not the motivator, blowing bubbles or dropping a car down a ramp into a bucket of water….  It needs to be fun.

So now I hope we got that little one happy and looking forward to making marks, making lines, picking up a tool to make a mark, etc.…

Simultaneously, as these fun activities get inserted into your already busy lives, you can add another strategy.  Have your son or daughter’s name available for him or her to see everyday.  It needs to be uncluttered, contrasting and seen on a daily basis.   You can print their name using Century Gothic font size 200 in bold in landscape on an 8 x 11 sheet of white paper and laminate it (you can get laminating sheets at the dollar store)  They can decorate it with stickers which is great to encourage a nice pincer grasp.  Talk about their name, talk about how neat the first letter of their name is.  Eventually everybody at the table can have their own laminated placemat.  Later on he or she can place these placemat in the correct places….

These two pathways, one to instill the love of making a mark and second pathway, to nurture the love of recognizing his or her own name will set the groundwork for that child to build on their writing and reading skills.  For more strategies on how to have fun and assist your child to move along his developmental potentials, stay tuned for more blogs!




Blog VII:  A bit about picky eating, sensory challenges, dislike of textures, sensory defensiveness…   June 17, 2014


 Playing with food is not something that we have all been brought up to do!

Children with sensory processing challenges may at times refuse certain textures of foods because of the way it feels in their mouth.  Exploring textures by hand may be a less threatening way of coming to understand the properties of that food and eventually gain the courage to actually taste it.

Creating play sessions that are separate from mealtime with no expectations to eat or taste may set an environment where that child, without any external pressure, may begin to explore and be curious about trying new foods.

I propose the following play session for a child that dislikes getting messy and prefers savory and crunchy foods.

Mr. Nibbles enjoys exploring in the garden and today he is looking for some squiggly worms to play with.  But worms live in the dirt….  So lets make some dirt!  In the dirt there is often some mud.  Lets add some mud to our dirt!  It is in the mud and dirt that the worms are happy.  Lets hide our worm in the mud.

  1. Use a small rolling pin to squish the rice krispies into dirt.
  2. Pour the dirt into the plastic cup
  3. Take small spoon and scoop chocolate pudding into the cups
  4. Mix pudding and rice krispies
  5. Hide gummy worm into this mixture.

Will Mr. Nibbles find his friendly worms?

Build Familiarity with New Sensations and New Foods through Play

Children learn to make friends with new foods by playing with them. When they stir, pat, smear, pour, and make designs with an unfamiliar food, they experience the sensory qualities of that food. What color is it? What does it smell like? What does it feel like on the hands? Is it smooth or does it have some texture? Is it wet or dry? They may add other sensations to their play as they lick a finger or take a small taste from the spoon used for stirring. Gradually they develop the comfort to explore the food with the mouth as they begin to eat small amounts.


Blog VI: To cursive or not to cursive?  Is handwriting becoming a lost art?  Is handwriting of any benefit to my child?   May 20, 2014

“Across Canada and the United States, concerns have been raised that cursive is becoming a lost art in an age where keyboards and keypads rule.  However, a handful of states, calling cursive an essential skill, are looking at or have reintroduced it into the curriculum, including Tennessee and California. In Ontario, cursive is mentioned in the curriculum starting in Grade 3, but as one of many ways for students to present their work.  It’s not a requirement, some teachers would love to teach it, but there are so many things that have to be taught that it gets dropped… ”

There are so many benefits to learning how to print and handwrite.  See link below:

Cursive handwriting offers the writer greater speed and ability to put down his or her thoughts onto paper. Especially for the students who are struggling with formation of their printed letters, cursive offers students the ability to focus more on the content and quality of their creative writing and less so on printing which can be challenging for some as it involves so many different starting positions to remember.  Teachers have commented that since their students had been introducted to cursive writing in their Occupational Therapy sessions, it has improved their printing quality and organization of their text onto paper.

“Cursive writing, compared to printing, is even more beneficial because the movement tasks are more demanding, the letters are less stereotypical, and the visual recognition requirements create a broader repertoire of letter representation. Cursive is also faster and more likely to engage students by providing a better sense of personal style and ownership.”  See link below:

Congratulations to my first cursive handwriter graduate!



Blog V:  How can caregivers and parents assist in identifying the feeding readiness of their infant?  How does my child build foundational skills for feeding?  April 24, 2014

Reflexes such as rooting, sucking, phasic bite and tongue-thrust permit the infant to feed initially.  These reflexes need to be integrated in order for solid foods to be introduced.  So eating is reflexive at first.  Often times, when still at the hospital feeding is going well, but when you are discharged home, your baby may progressively develop poor feeding habits.  Transition to voluntary sucking happens in the full-term baby at 2 months of age.  So now, the infant is no longer using his reflexes to suck but rather his own motivation. If the infant experiences discomfort every time or frequently after each feed; the experience of feeding becomes negative.  This could lead to a refusal of feeds, failure to thrive, and anxiety on the part of both the infant and parent…

It is best to identify potential feeding issues earlier than later.  Maintaining or striving for that healthy feeding relationship is always the goal.

Potential red flags for feeding might be:

  • Unable to hold head upright and control her trunk
  • Limited Cognition
  • Tracheostomies
  • Prematurity
  • Reflux
  • Prolonged tube feeding
  • Down Syndrome
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Prader-Willi Syndrome
  • Tongue-tie
  • Cleft Palate



Blog IV:  Straw Drinking – Oral Dyspraxia  April 14, 2014

When a child appears to have a difficulty with mastering the art of drinking from a straw, the first step to take is: to observe why the child is struggling with this task.

The problem could be due to an oral motor skill development problem, making the skill of lip sealing challenging.  It could be a neurological problem or a structural problem.  It could also be a problem with sensory sensitivities to the mouth, which may also hinder straw drinking.

Here are a few tips.

Encourage lip seal by introducing therapeutic face wiping to your mealtime routine.

Help the child attend to his lips by offering a refrigerated teether, or sucking on a freezy.

Play facial games.

Offer his preferred liquid in a drinking vessel that when you apply pressure on it, the liquid will come out of the straw.  Regular store bought juice boxes can easily do the trick.  Once the child gets the idea that this preferred liquid comes out of that straw, reward him for approximating a lip seal around the straw with you squeezing the juice box in order to offer him the liquid.  As his lip seal becomes more functional and motivation remains high, he will find a way to draw that liquid into his mouth with less help from you!

These suggestions are offered as strategies that I have found useful in my practice, I would just like to emphasize that when it comes to encouraging a child to accept drinking a fluid that is not in his safe zone, than caution needs to predominate.  Seeking the assistance of a professional may be warranted.  Furthermore, anything around the mouth is very sensitive and needs to be introduced to the child with his permission.


Blog III: A bit about coloring, a bit more about tripod grasp development, a taste of fine motor development, and a lot of fun time!  March 5, 2014

My views on coloring as an activity for preschoolers is as follows:

If a child enjoys coloring, then it would be a good activity to engage in to strengthen his or her fine motor skills and develop maturity in their grasp.

This will most likely not be achieved by giving children large felt markers.  Little hands require little tools.  When a large tool is given to a little hand, that little hand has no other choice but to grasp that large tool in a gross fashion.  Because markers require so little effort to create a vivid mark, the child is reinforced every time he grabs a marker and makes a mark.  Motivation is key when wanting to encourage your child to develop the maturity of pencil grip that would set him up for success in printing and later in cursive, when they have developed a functional tripod grasp.  Because children today tend not to spend so much time on their tummy, their hands miss out on the opportunity to weight bear against them and develop those arches that allow the disassociation of the working side of the hand (thumb index and middle finger) and the stabilizing side of the hand (ring finger and little finger).  To encourage the optimal development of that hand, the child could be invited to use little tools such as a 1” piece of oil pastel.  If the tool is the just right fit, those working fingers will hold onto the writing tool and the stabilizing fingers are then free to do just that, stabilize the hand on the paper instead of being busy grasping the writing tool in a combination of positions that do not allow for the ease of movement necessary for printing and eventually cursive writing.  So if coloring is a motivating activity, offer cut up pieces of oil pastel, with supervision (this tends to get messy).  The mark they will create will be more vivid than what a wax crayon will allow, the small size of the pastel crayon will encourage proper grasp development and coloring your favorite character when it is cut out and pasted on black construction paper will reward the child for coloring within the lines.

Enjoy coloring time!



Blog II:  A bit about what motivates a child; a bit about isolation of difficulty; snipping, pincer grasp, hand strengthening.  February 20, 2014

Well, this is my second blog.  I was thinking about my desire to share my strategies with as many OTs and parents or caregivers as possible, but there is one stipulation that I need to make clear to all.  Each of these activities came about to fill a need in a particular child.  These ideas that I am offering may not work for all children or may need to be adapted or presented differently.

Once you know what skill you want to target in a play session or a treatment session, you also need to know what motivates or interests the child that is before you.  If the color purple is her favorite color, then dropping blue food coloring drops into a clear dish alternating with red food coloring and making an experiment to get the right purple, may make this activity more engaging and you can then get to work on precision of pressure applied to the eyedropper to achieve the just right amount of food coloring.  If it is a rainy day, you can use the blue food coloring to drop raindrops onto a picture that you already prepared for the child, like a duck in a pond….

Then there is isolation of difficulty.  When demonstrating a task to a child, do not overwhelm the child with to much language.  When you move, do not speak, when you speak, do not move.  Slow is best.  Become fascinated with the movement yourself, and be attentive to that part which requires the most attention, like being fascinated with just letting one-drop fall from the eyedropper instead of squeezing it so hard that all the contents squirt out.  You demonstrating this, with slow, attentive, deliberate action, will call the child to do the same.  I have never been a fan of offering pre-determined lists of activities to parents to develop skills.  Each child is motivated differently, each parent is set up to engage in activities with their child in a different way, they may only have one child or two or three or more, they may dislike messy play or may not have the time necessary to prepare much, so activities need to be suggested that can be done within their present routine.

So now that I have that little lecture off my chest, here is another little strategy I have enjoyed using with clients:

Using scissors tends to be a highly motivating activity with children.  Snipping is a precursor to cutting.  Snipping food is of the highest motivation, especially when snipping bits of food that are favorites, such as cheese strings, fruit by the foot, licorice, cheesies, etc.…  Snipping straws is also a fun activity, especially when the bits of straws go flying everywhere.  Once you snip a piece of straw, you can then use this precious piece of work to make a bracelet for someone special, usually his or her mom!  The threading of the pipe cleaner into the straw piece uses their pincer grasp and the cutting against the resistance of the straw works on their hand strength.  Enjoy!


My first Blog:  A bit about me; a bit about pincer grasp  February 18, 2014

I hve for a long time now dreamed of blogging.  First, I did not know what a blog was or how to find one or how to communicate with it.  I guess I am a bit of a dinosaur that way….  But I remained curious.  I did want to learn how to communicate and learn from a greater community.

Well this is my first attempt at blogging!

I am an occupational therapist.  I am a wife and mother of four.  I am a volunteer.  I love to learn from others.  I love to share.  I love to be of service to others.  Since my children are all grown up, this frees me to do more volunteering.  It also frees me to try to offer a service I always dreamed of offering.  I want to offer pediatric home-based occupational therapy services to families.  I want to be prepared for each of my visits.  I want to be evidence-based and offer choices and avenues for families requesting answers on how to create an environment that would enable their child to be the best that they can be.

Since I graduated from OT school 30 years ago, I have had the privilege of working in many areas OTs service:  acute, long-term and community adult mental health, adult rehab, workmen’s compensation, veterans, ergonomics and for the last 15 years in pediatrics. Life is a journey.  Once a mother, my primary role was that of a mom.  Pediatrics offered time off during the summers for me to spend with my children.  Over the last fifteen years, I have taken advantage of attending numerous professional development courses to offer the best service I can possibly offer to the families I was so lucky to have on my caseload.  I learned that my previous years of OT both in mental health and rehab assisted me in offering services to my clientele.  So now this is a new chapter for me, that of offering private services, using social media, networking, researching, posting, blogging.

I used to keep two containers of what I called my “tricks of the trade” under my desk at work.  I would pull out various different activities to offer as different strategies for families to achieve a wide variety of goals, either fine motor, sensory motor, or feeding skills challenges.  I will also share some of the research articles I am reading, as well as having an ‘applaud’ section, where I can post great sites and ideas I have found while surfing the net!  Well it’s time to start blogging!

Getting that hand ready to hold a pencil:

Use of eyedroppers to drop food coloring onto coffee strainers to make a nice batik type art can be lots of fun.  You can also use eyedroppers to place a drop at a time on a reversed octopus pad.  These simple play ideas are meant to be fun and engage a child to want to do this over again to help build control of movement and grading of pressure on the suction cup.


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