Tag Archives: sensory

Preventing Academic Regression While Ensuring Summer Fun

As the school year comes to a close, families eagerly anticipate the long, lazy days of summer; it’s a time for relaxation, outdoor activities, and family fun. However, the transition from structured school days to a more flexible summer schedule can sometimes lead to a regression in academic skills for children. This doesn’t have to be the case! With a little planning and the right tools, parents can help their children prevent academic regression and maintain or even enhance their skills over the summer break, ensuring they return to school ready to succeed. Here are some strategies that can help.

1. Incorporate Learning into Daily Activities

One of the best ways of preventing academic regression during the summer months is to weave learning opportunities into everyday activities. Here are a few ideas:

Use Learn to Draw Books by eeboo to help prevent summer skill regression

Outdoor Exploration: Nature walks can turn into science lessons. Encourage children to observe and discuss plants, animals, and insects they find. To make critter discoveries even more exciting and educational, check out the Learn to Draw Animals book. Recommended for children age 7+, your budding artist will work on fine motor skills, spatial awareness, and have fun while expressing creativity.

Best Pals Diner Pretend Play that fosters executive function an essential component of academic skills

Picnics: Enjoy a picnic rain or shine with Best Pals’ Diner Pretend Play.  Children will love pretending to have an outdoor dining experience using guest checks, play money, food and beverage choices. Add your own play food for an imaginative new restaurant in your backyard! This activity fosters executive function, creativity, and social interaction, a perfect activity for preventing academic regression this summer.

Cooking and Baking: These activities are not only fun but also educational. Measuring ingredients can help with math skills, following recipes can enhance reading and comprehension, and discussing the process can boost language development. Make pretend food preparation more engaging with Scented Dazzlin’ Dough, which offers a variety of vibrant colored modeling dough that is scented. The resistive dough will strengthen fingers as the children mold “food”. Use cookie cutters to “bake” creative play cookies.

For hands-on cooking experiences with an adult supervising, Stepwise Breakfast and Lunch Cookbooks provide simple esteem-building activities that help children of varying abilities and ages experience cooking. The cooking instructions are arranged with one task per page and are clearly illustrated.

2. Maintain a Routine

SchKIDules; creating a summer schedule helps prevent summer skill regression

Keeping a consistent routine helps children feel secure and can make the transition back to school smoother. A daily schedule that includes time for reading, playing, and structured activities can help maintain the rhythm of learning. Try the SchKIDules Home Collection Combo Pack to help children understand and follow their summer routines. The 72, 2×2 inch pieces are magnetic and laminated. The SchKIDules Sensory Expansion Pack includes 12 activities such as swing, tunnel, chewing, etc. that can be added to the child’s daily routine.

3. Engage in Sensory Activities

Sensory play is not only fun but also crucial for development. It can help with sensory processing skills, fine motor skills, and even emotional regulation; essential components for academic success and perfect for preventing academic regression this summer. Here are a few suggestions:

Sensory Play: Fill bins with rice, dry beans, or sand and hide small toys or letters for children to find. Children love the Mini Animal Assortments; they are an inch or smaller and promote a pincer grasp. Choose Farm Animals, Sea Life Animals, and Wild Animals with 16 animals in each set, or choose an assortment of animals with 12 pieces. This activity can help with tactile processing and fine motor skills, sorting, and verbalization skills. You can add more fine motor skill work by using Gator Grabber Tweezers (ages 2+) that come in a set of 12. For success, the child must use a thumb/index finger grasp to squeeze the tweezer to pick up an object.

Sensory On the Go Camping Fun is designed for the preschool-age child to explore all of their senses, with a camping theme. The child employs fine motor skills and imaginative play in a way that will capture their interest. Parents love the “take-along” feature of this toy that comes with a handy, sturdy carry case that goes into the car, to the park, or to grandma’s house.

4. Promote Physical Activity

Yoga Dice

Physical activity is essential for overall health and can also support academic skills by improving focus and reducing stress. Encourage outdoor play, sports, and exercises that children enjoy. Products like the Yoga Dice: A Fun Game of Rolling and Posing can provide both fun and physical exercise for children ages 6 and older. This movement game helps children try out 36 yoga poses. It is a great game for facilitating motor planning and focus of attention! 

Parachute activities bring group giggles and fun!  All you need is a colorful parachute and a lightweight ball, like a beach ball or foam ball.  The adult leader can direct movements to increase shoulder range of motion (“big up/down”, “little up/down or shake”), strength and stability; facilitate gross motor transitions (“bring the parachute to the ground and now stand up again”); and improve focus of attention and following directions. The ball on the parachute bounces on top as the movement of the children directs its course. Don’t let the ball fly out of the parachute!   

5. Encourage Reading and Storytelling

Reading is one of the most effective ways to prevent academic regression. Create a summer reading challenge with rewards for completing books. Encourage storytelling and creative writing to further enhance language skills.

Books: Therapro offers a variety of books that can make reading more interactive and engaging. Consider the Interactive Reading Books series, which includes books designed to develop vocabulary, sequencing, and comprehension skills. With these books the child begins with matching, identifying, and labeling of objects. Next, the child reads the sentences with pictures, then without pictures and in random order. Meet the Word Family and Who’s on First? are 2 books in the series that work on pre-reading skills, taking children through sequential steps until they are reading words without pictures.

Library: Make going to the local library a special activity. If your child doesn’t have one, sign up for a library card. Exploring all kinds of books will help your child develop a love of reading. Most local libraries also offer free activities in the summer where your child can join other children for fun reading-related fun! These activities encourage active listening, turn-taking, and focus. 

6. Keep it Fun

Most importantly, ensure that learning activities are fun and not seen as a chore. Mixing educational tasks with enjoyable activities will keep children engaged and motivated.

Ending the school year on a high note and transitioning into a summer of fun and learning is possible with a bit of planning and the right tools. By incorporating Therapro products into your summer activities, you can help prevent academic regression and ensure your children are ready for the new school year. Enjoy the summer, stay engaged, and make the most of this special time with your children!

For more ideas and products to support summer learning, visit Therapro. Let’s make this summer one of growth, fun, and unforgettable memories!

Guest Blogger: Filomena Connor, MSOT-Retired

Recognizing Sensory Processing Challenges

Worried that your child may have sensory processing challenges? Here are some patterns of behaviors to look out for that can be indicative of sensory processing differences. 

Sensory Processing Red Flags

  1. Over-responsive to sensory input:
    • Expresses discomfort in response to loud sounds or bright lights
    • Aversive to light touch, teeth brushing, hair grooming, or clothing textures
    • Hesitant to climb and use moving playground equipment (swings, bikes)
    • Gags in response to certain smells or food textures
  2. Under-responsive to sensory input:
    • Constantly “on the move”  
    • Does not appear to register sensory stimuli, such as being touched or bumped
    • Craves frequent or intense sensory experiences (climbing, jumping, crashing)
  3. Motor Skill Challenges
    • Appears clumsy 
    • A limited repertoire of play activities
    • Difficulty letting peers “take the lead” in play
    • Avoids novel play activities or environments 
  4. Self-Regulation Challenges
    • Easily distracted by visual stimuli or background sounds 
    • Becomes overwhelmed, has meltdowns, or avoids multi-sensory environments, such as birthday parties, public events, or the classroom
    • Has difficulty transitioning between environments or activities 

My child shows some sensory processing challenges, what is next?

Just like people have individual personalities, we all have unique sensory preferences. As an adult, you have likely learned to cope with sensory and life stressors by seeking out input (either consciously or subconsciously) that is regulating for your sensory system. For example, you may take a warm shower to relax your body after a long day, go for a run to feel organized, or listen to music on headphones at a busy store. These sensory strategies help “feed” the nervous system and allow you to maintain a functional, regulated state.

Kids need support and guidance to find the inputs that help them feel “just right.” Here are some strategies that are generally calming for the nervous system. As always, these are child-led activities. Monitor your child’s response; if they have an aversive response or just do not like the activity, stop immediately. 

Proprioceptive Input (input that engages the muscles and joints):

Children's Climber and Rocker Board Combo
  • Pushing a shopping cart, carrying a backpack with heavy library books, or climbing on playground equipment 

Deep touch pressure to the whole body:

Rhythmic linear movement:

Sensory Soft Squeeze Seat by Bouncyband®

Oral input:

Chewelry Necklace/Bracelet
  • Chewing resistive foods such as gum, fruit leather, or large crunchy pretzels 

Cozy fort-like spaces:

  • Create cozy fort-like spaces with a pop-up tent or blanket and chairs. Be sure to include favorite stuffed animals, books to look at, and fidgets to squish.
Sensory Dark Den: Indoor Framed Tent

Tactile play:

Happy Senso
  • Explore different tactile bin play such as dry rice, putty, Kinetic Sand, or foam soap. Note: kids who are tactile sensitive may be aversive to this type of play so always invite into play but never force interaction. 
  • Pro tip: If a texture is new, you can put it in a plastic baggie, allowing the child to interact without sticky hands! 

Olfactory support:

  • For children who are hypersensitive to smell: Limit the use of scented sprays, soaps, cleaning products, or candles, and allow fresh air to circulate in your home.
  • For children who are not hypersensitive to smell: fresh flowers or satchels can be useful in creating a calming environment.  Lavender and chamomile are known for their calming properties. Note: Exercise caution when using aromatherapy as children tend to be more sensitive to smell than adults.

Over-responsivity supports:

  • Use noise-cancelling headphones to block out distracting or bothersome background noise
  • Wear a hood, hat, or sunglasses to help mute bright lights or visually busy environments
  • Providing a quiet space with dim lighting to take breaks from a chaotic environment

Need more help?

If you need more guidance, reach out to your local pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in sensory processing and sensory integration therapy. You may benefit from additional parent support or your child may benefit from occupational therapy treatment.  

Guest Blogger: Taylor Mason, OT

Taylor Mason has 13 years of experience as an occupational therapist and is the proud owner of The Nurture Nook, a company dedicated to providing virtual support for parents of children with sensory and developmental challenges.

Everyday Sensory Solutions: The Use And Benefits Of Fidgets

Fidgets are beneficial tools for reducing restlessness, managing stress, promoting relaxation, and enhancing fine motor skills. They provide a tactile outlet for nervous energy, making them particularly helpful for individuals with autism, stress, anxiety, ADHD, or other attention-related challenges. Fidgets also support sensory regulation and self-soothing, benefiting individuals in various settings like classrooms, offices, or leisure activities. They offer a discreet way to cope with restlessness or anxiety, helping individuals maintain focus and overall well-being.

Choosing non-toy-like fidget tools can further enhance their effectiveness. Opting for tools with an inconspicuous design allows individuals to discreetly engage with sensory stimulation. This non-toy appearance minimizes distractions and potential judgments from others, making it especially advantageous in professional or formal environments. Non-toy-looking fidget tools provide a subtle approach that maintains discretion and reduces social stigma while promoting self-regulation, focus, grounding and sensory engagement.

Sommerfly fidget tools, designed by our occupational therapist are known for their top quality construction and materials. Each product is crafted with meticulous attention to detail and made from premium materials to ensure durability and longevity. Sommerfly’s commitment to excellence in craftsmanship guarantees that their products maintain effectiveness and reliability over time, providing individuals with a consistent and superior sensory experience.

Sommerfly Go-Support Wrist Fidget:

girl writing with the Sommerfly’s Go-Support Wrist Fidget™  on her wrist, demonstrating  the Use And Benefits Of Fidgets

Sommerfly’s Go-Support Wrist Fidget™ is a set of two spandex wrist bands filled with calming beads. Resting on beads when typing or writing places the wrist in a neutral position which reduces strain on the hand and wrist that can help relieve symptoms from carpal tunnel syndrome.

Sommerfly Wristful Fidget:

girl sitting with the Sommerfly Wristful Fidget, demonstrating the Use And Benefits Of this Fidgets

Sommerfly Wristful Fidget is a revolutionary spandex wristband designed to promote focus and relaxation. Filled with soothing beads, this innovative accessory provides a calming sensory experience. Worn around the wrist or stretched into the hand, the Wristful Fidget allows you to discreetly fidget with the serene beads, helping you find a sense of calm and concentration.

Sommerfly Focus Fidgety:

Sommerfly’s Focus Fidgety is a practically designed hand fidget that has a wrist strap and finger loop to help our fidget stay on the body.  The Focus Fidgety has a non-toy look which further promotes focus. No more dropped or thrown fidgets!

It is important to note that all occupational therapists are trained in sensory processing and many have extensive experience and deep understanding in this area. Whenever possible, seek guidance from an occupational therapist for individualized sensory recommendations.

Stay tuned for our next installment of Everyday Sensory Solutions by Sommerfly.
For more information about Sommerfly Products visit Therapro.com.

Guest Blogger: Kristi Langslet, OTR/L

Kristi Langslet, OTR/L is the proud owner of Sommerfly, a company dedicated to providing individuals of all ages with sensory needs unique product designs that are meticulously crafted in the USA for optimal quality and construction. Most importantly, Sommerfly’s passion is to serve those who use our products.