26 Jan 2014

Toca Boca Apps: Kitchen Monsters

Kitchen Monsters

This is a fan-post of Toca Boca Apps, specifically their Kitchen Monsters which I occasionally utilize on my iPad with my kids in occupational therapy sessions.

There is (so far) only one app company I truly admire, respect, and enjoy. I’m not a fan of screen-time in general, with the exception of the children who truly benefit/need them to learn, but Toca Boca has won my heart.

I love them. Their kitchen monsters, hair salon, and robots app are my favorites for my children in occupational therapy. I usually use them as an occasional reward activity, although with any luck they will soon do some monster versions utilizing playful letters and numbers so I can use them in a more educational way at times. 🙂

Their kitchen monster one is my personal favorite (Hair Salon is a close second) about feeding these silly monsters. You have a refrigerator filled with food such as meat and brocolli, and you can saute, boil, microwave, chop, blend, whatever you want, to feed the hungry monsters. The monsters like some foods more than others, and may refuse to eat what you make, or even spit it out. It’s so silly and even my children with difficulties with mental flexibility laugh at this game. They LOVE when the monster spits their food out, or occasionally get their feelings (mildly) hurt if they made the monster a masterpiece.

The majority of my children will happily feed the kitchen monsters a single item that they cooked in some manner, such as a chopped up carrot. I have a few budding chefs, however.

One is a 4th grade boy (mother gave me explicit permission to post this) that makes his monster a full-course meal. He’ll saute some meat, boil and season some carrots, find a few other vegetables or items to prepare/cook to make a well-rounded and healthy meal, and then happily feeds the monster his 5-star masterpiece. It takes him quite a while to make the single meal, and he gets very involved in making sure it is delicious. It’s so awesome. I love the care he takes with these kitchen monsters, and his great grasp of cooking as well.

Another budding chef wants to make sure the monster gets to eat a little of every single food available to taste its deliciousness. He put some meat in the processor (if he had processed it just a little it would be ground meat) but processed it to the point that it was liquid, and called it a “meat smoothie” Yum. At the end he was proud he had “made a little feast for the monsters”.

Looove children and their innocent creativity.

Thanks Toca Boca, for amazing apps. I recommend checking all of their apps out and especially Kitchen Monsters and Hair Salon. They are available for iphone and ipad. I love their characters and their absurdity, which is something many of my OT kids need to work on. Although my budding chefs clearly have a lot of creativity!

Another story about my budding chefs who likes to make full-course five star meals,  posted with his mom’s explicit and verbal permission.







Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none

24 Jan 2014

Bathroom sanitizer pass for students

Child leaves hand sanitizer “pass” on their desk while in the bathroom. Genius.

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none

22 Jan 2014

Affirmations for Children/People with Low Self-Esteem

“Blank” Basic Beat

Multiple affirmations and lively beat

I believe in myself

I feel good about myself

These downloadable mp3s are positive affirmation chants, specifically made for me on request by famed drummer Russell Buddy Helm. I had them made for my children who receive occupational therapy services, children who often struggle with low self-esteem. Although they are great for all children and adults alike. While these “power songs” can be chanted or focused on, the intent is for it to eventually just play in the background, if not annoying to the child.



20 Jan 2014

Painter Marker, not Paper, for Student Names on Desks

No more name plates 🙂: Pinterest post

Sharpie Oil Based Painter Marker – No more student desk name tags: Amazon’s sharpie, may be cheaper at your local Staples or something

Picture to come soon that I know I have in my camera. By writing a student’s name on the desk, instead of using paper in any form, you have removed some of the visual clutter and literal items on the desk. Ideally the name is neat and reasonably small and in the upper hand corner of whatever is NOT dominant hand. IE a right hander will have theirs in upper left hand corner. Out of way. Only reason to have it is primarily for random staff that need to see whose desk is who. Like, for example, itinerant staff like me who need to be able to skim the room quickly for a desk and not spend 15 minutes searching desk innards for an OT kid work sample.

If you do want a diagram ON the desk, please make sure its neatly taped down or velcroed down as often as necessary for a kid who has some special needs. Please consider allowing it to be kept in desk, or consider whether child even accesses it. The less on the desk, the better.

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none

19 Jan 2014

Why Motor System Variability Can Be a Good Thing


Really intriguing study/article about how inconsistency/variability is actually teaching us a lot. Click link above for details. 🙂 Interesting to think about from the OT perspective.

"“The analogy I often use is evolution,” Ölveczky said. “In evolution, genes change, and that’s how you can learn as an organism. It’s the same with the motor system. The way the motor system learns is by changing things, not through recombination, but by changing the output, and then carefully monitoring how each of those changes results in better or worse performance.

“This may seem like a fairly counterintuitive finding because you could take the view that the more precisely you can produce a movement, the more control you have, so the better you should be able to learn,” Ölveczky said. “But that’s not necessarily true. What we’re saying is … you need to explore first to find the solution that best fits your needs for a task. Then once you find it, you can exploit it and try to reduce variability. I think this should give people some understanding and appreciation of the errors they make, and that they’re actually, fundamentally, a design feature rather than a flaw in what their brain is doing."

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none

8 Jan 2014

How To Use A Single Toy To Work on Any Motor Skill

Melissa and Doug Bead Sequencing Kit





I recently wrote Melissa and Doug (an amazing high quality brand that is in like every store you will ever walk into, except well, gas stations or something), and let them know I love their products but that they are missing a few pieces. For example, they often have great “extension activities” written on the back of their products that are developmentally awesome and clearly written by someone very skilled. Yet the average person won’t understand WHY these extension activities are helpful/useful, especially in regards to its applications to daily life skills. Many people think play is a waste of time and children are better off spending their time learning their academic skills. These people need education, because play is the number one way that children learn about their environment, and they need really strong foundational skills in their awareness of their own body and brain’s capabilities before they can truly apply it most successfully to the academic environment. All play toys can be used to work on academic skills and/or skills applicable to daily life interactions, with just some creative tweaking.

For example, I took this toy off their site at random and instantly spouted off the following ideas. Their website talks about how it works on matching, sequencing, and fine motor skills. Great, and I realize they don’t want to write a sixty page essay on its other uses. But I can. AHAHAHAAHAHA.  It can be slightly modified – easily and without set-up – to work on many other types of skills. Gross motor, fine motor, sensory motor, ocular motor, visual motor…executive functioning skills, speech skills, general cognition, etc etc.

Alternative uses of the bead sequencing set shown above:
1. Gross Motor: Place 10 beads across room from the set/skewers. Have child hop, crawl, walk, or do other various gross motor tasks to retrieve a bead at a time, to incorporate body movement/strengthening into the task. The stronger the child’s core and body is, the more control they have of their hands (“proximal stability leads to distal mobility”)
2. Social Skills: “My turn, your turn”, used for turn-taking in board games, Lego building, etc. Interacting appropriately with peers in a non-competitive setting.
3. Speech/language (with the sequencing mentioned) as well as executing multi-step directions. “First put on the red bead, then put on the yellow bead.” Or, Now tell me what you want me to do and I will copy you.” Keeping directions in the head (ie get out your coloring book and turn to page 3, then when you’re done cut and glue it…)
4. Visual-motor skills: Do the matching as the toy mentions, but note it’s a pre board-copying skill, with the child moving their eyes and focus from one side to another (and it can be with one further away, one closer…)
5. Visual Motor and Ocular Motor Skills: Teasingly maneuver the beads in slow movements and overhead or in other planes, requiring the child to instinctively reach for the bead while tracking with their eyes and projecting where the piece is likely moving. If the pieces are put overhead, the child has to extend their arm, helping put the fingers in a more precise position, strengthening, changing focus, etc.
6. Creativity/Flexibility/Imagination: Take the beads and use them on dull bamboo skewers and toothpicks and similar tools, placed into leftover electronic styrofoam (done by child themselves if nothing sharp). and allow the child to decorate with the beads, making their own little palaces. Abstract ways to use concrete items.
7. Fine Motor: Hold the bead out to the child, grasping it carefully so only a tiny bit of it shows, and then have the child reach for it (when done in a silly or careless manner, the child won’t even realize it’s on purpose), because only a small bit of it is exposed and it will require a precise grasp for the child to access it.
8. Stereognosis/tactile discrimination: Place the beads into a pillowcase or box. With eyes closed or obscured, have the child feel the beads and figure out the shapes. There are many ways to make this task easier or harder, but it’s an important skill, used for getting our phones out of our purses, our pencils out of our desks or backpacks without looking, etc.


Any OT worth their salt (salts not worth that much these days though, so maybe worth their titanium), would be able to easily rattle off another six thousand trillion jillion zakillion more ideas within seconds. And I never exaggerate. Okay, one time I did. Like sixty years ago.

7 Jan 2014

Bed-making Energy Conservation: OT tip of day

It can be easier to make your bed while still in it. While lying down spread the sheets into their most appropriate areas and then slip out. It’s either good enough or easier to finish. Be like a starfish!

7 Jan 2014

Hire This 4th Grader to Help You Fire Your Mother

Background: John is very angry with his mom about a big decision that was upsetting to him.

Mother reports: “John asked me into his room, shut the door, sat me down at his Lego table and told me he had to “let me go”. He handed me an envelope with some peppermints and bandaids. Compensation, I believe. This week he gave me and Shane (ed note: father) some progress charts. He said we could skip the meetings.”


Jerk Chart

Jerk Chart

Notice the chart that shows levels of behavior:

“Very Bad”
“You’re a jerk”
Unfortunately, according to the charts, his father got to the “You’re a Jerk” level several times. Mom luckily fared better, especially considering this was after she had been fired.
Update: Mom reports that the chart has been modified with a new level below “You’re a Jerk”. It’s “Get Out Now”. Apparently she “fell into that zone” last week. Oh no!

7 Jan 2014

OT Lego Strategies for Children

Dear OT,

My preschooler, John, loves playing with Legos. Unfortunately he gets frustrated because his hands are weak and his fine motor skills aren’t as good as his classmates. Any ideas? – Jane

Hi Jane,
Legos are great for working on many developmentally appropriate skills. Some strategies you can teach your child to make Lego play a little easier include:

LEGO STRATEGIES (Click link to download as PDF) Lego strategies
(Note: Consider practicing on larger Legos first!)


Place the legos closer to his body and make sure they are lower than his arms. He can stand up and push down on the Legos for more strength (thanks to the physics of levers – this is true for staplers and similar items as well).  That way his entire body is being used for the interlocking of the bricks, compensating for his hand weakness.


For the bigger pieces, if interlocking bricks are in correct position, just not fully pushed together, first move the item closer and lower as noted above, then use the flattened palm of hand to press them down firmly. The palm has more force/easier than the fingers. If a tower, it may need to be stabilized with the other hand to prevent tipping over.

If there is empty space beneath part of a Lego due to the design, it can get difficult/frustrating to add onto that Lego area. Temporarily remove that part of the design so that it’s fully on the flat/stable surface. Add on the necessary extra pieces. Then place the entire part back where it belongs.

Jane, I hope this helps. I imagine there are many sites on the Internet that can be explored to find even more ideas. Good luck with John! Therapeutically yours, OT 🙂

PS: There are plenty of OT skills that can be worked on using Legos! Fine motor, visual motor, problem-solving, social skills…let me know if you want more information!


4 Jan 2014

Kids are Awesome: Self-Advocacy Gone Awry

One of my power words of the year is SELF-ADVOCACY. Teaching children to ask for what they want and need to make their lives easier. Of course, when dealing with the awesomeness of children, it doesn’t always quite work as we expect. 🙂 One of my Facebook friends posted this about her child and I laughed hysterically. I screen-shot the status.

So my middle was annoying me and I kissed the top of his head, admittedly to encourage him to be on his merry way and stop blocking my Facebook, but instead he told me he needed another kiss. So I gladly kissed his curly head again and off he went. So I called after him, “I like it when you tell me what you needddddd…” To which he smiled and replied, “I need a rocket launcher and a car and a bazooka and machine gun and a rope…” That wasn’t what I meant.

Children and Self-Advocacy