Practice of Spirituality: Reduce Distraction, Increase Your Joy!

Beautiful place inspires mindfulness and joy.

Out On the Edges of Life Is Where There Is So Much Joy To Be Found.

Everyday, I strive to be mindful of my choices. It’s easiest, of course, when I turn off the devices and don’t over-schedule. As a mom, if I am grounded and centered, the day goes better. As a occupational therapist, it’s the same deal. I can work with my clients more efficiently when I am calm, centered and focused.

I started to wondered if other moms and therapists alike use spirituality in their daily lives. IF they do, how do they do it? In an age where religion and spiritual practice is markedly less evident than the generation of our parents, how were we making it through the day as grounded as our parents? Were we really doing the work as occupational therapists from a grounded place?

I was looking for answers to some of these very questions when I saw that the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association was hosting an upcoming workshop titled “Spirituality in Occupational Therapy.”

As it turns out, I am not the only mom, or for that matter, therapist, that thinks spirituality is an important part of the daily grind. In fact, many of us use it as a coping mechanism, a regular component of our dealings with family and clients alike, and as a buffer to the outside world. When surveyed at the Duquesne University Annual Celebration 2017, during the presentation by clinical scholars studying “cultural responsiveness in current occupational therapy practice”, greater than 80% of therapists reported that they used some form of religion or spirituality during their daily therapy sessions.

As a mother, I often see and hear moms talking about being calm and having the ability to deal with difficult parenting situations. One of the biggest topics on mom blogs and during play-date water cooler talk is how to motivate their kids without yelling! Moms want to know how to live with intention, be more efficient, and be more helpful for their families. They want to feel grounded instead of scattered in a thousand directions. Moms want answers – even moms who feel they are doing a good job. They want to know how to be most efficient, creative and calm.

Moms want to enjoy the bonds they have with their kids. Sometimes, parents are so over-scheduled that they barely remember the amazing connection they once had with their children when they were smaller. There is just so little time and so many more distractions than ever before. Parents want to make life simple. They want to hug their kids, before their kids are grown.

Mindful parents have time to hug their kids.

A Hug Is So Simple, But It Means So Much.

So where can we find answers to all of these questions?

The workshop “Spirituality and Occupational Therapy” strongly affirmed the basic need for spirituality in the lives of both therapist and client. Occupational science is based on the mind-body-spirit paradigm with whole theoretical models based on this paradigm. The presenter, Rebecca Austill-Clausen, drew attention to this basic premise in occupational therapy, much to my delight. It’s what drew me to the profession in the first place.

Ms. Austill-Clausen further reviewed AOTA’s definition of spirituality as “the aspect of humanity that refers to the way an individual seeks and expressed meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connection to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.” Additionally, the 2005 AOTA Position Paper states that “occupational therapy can use complementary modalities in preparation for an occupational therapy treatment session.” In terms of Occupational Therapy, we are literally swimming in a sea of possibility in how we engage with spirit as therapists.

Mindfulness and connection to spirit brings good days.

Decide That You Are Going To Have A Good Day! Connect To Your Spirit!

BUT do we engage with Spirit?

Do we allow ourselves this simple gift or do we see it as a luxury?

Are we addicted to stress and feel strange if we are centered?

Do we force our patients to do exercises and programs simply because they are billable?

Do we ask our patients what gives their day meaning?

In all of these questions I have a hunch that we do the right thing. We are quite smart when it comes to all things spiritual as a profession in general. However, it’s always good to get a reminder to engage with our own spirituality on a daily basis. This type of self-care is an ever-present need for us to attend to, so we don’t burn out.

What results is joy. More joy with family and friends. More joy at work. More joy in our heart! And choices that result in even more joy!

And that is what Rebecca Austill-Clausen exemplified in her presentation. She showed us complementary techniques that brought her joy each day in her own life, that also spilled over into her work as an occupational therapist. Seeing someone be open about what brought them joy was inspirational in itself.

To tell you a little about what I do for a mindful practice, each morning I start my day with meditation. Honestly, without it, I don’t have very productive or calm days. I have noticed a true quantifiable difference. I have also recently cut down on my Facebook and web-surfing time so I can be less distracted from the moment that exists in the physical world around me. My thoughts are more present and not in cyber-mind space. I have time to give hugs and kisses to my kids.

A mindful mom giving her kid a kiss!

A Simple Kiss Goes A Long Way Through the Day!

I have also tried to be responsible in decreasing chaos and clutter in my home and in my head. Less stuff, less shopping, less violent movies, less news feed.  This has allowed me to observe life around me for the gifts it brings and not all the distractions and things to accomplish. Finally, I have worked to reconnect with nature. To take a walk, stop near a stream or enjoy a sunset. Less distraction overall has allowed me to experience nature in a more vibrant way.

The results have been wonderful. I feel like I have regained my sense of direction, with more time in each day, more hope that things will be good, and more self care.

Now, taking you back to the Duquesne University Celebration, with the >80% of therapists acknowledging that they had used spirituality in their daily therapy sessions, I want to challenge you to turn your own spiritual practice and mindfulness up a notch in your own personal life. Why? This will undoubtedly trickle down into your therapy practice and family life, with not only you benefiting, but everyone around you benefiting as well.

You will find that spark of childhood wonder again. I promise.

Mindful parenting can bring a sense of childhood wonder back to your life!

The Sparkle of Childhood Wonder Isn’t Far Away. Find Your Wonder.

It’s quite simply a “feel good” challenge.

13 Minute “Feel Good” Mindfulness Challenge:

Try these simple mindfulness activities for 7 days. Stop. Enjoy. Repeat.

If you try these simple activities for just one week, you will notice a difference.

The “Feel Good” Challenge will run through the Spring of 2017. We are looking for feedback and your own personal stories. Please comment and let us know how this challenge worked for you!

  1. Stop 3 times each day and focus on your breath for 1 minute. Breakfast, on the train, in a meeting, anytime.
  2. Take a walk for 10 minutes. To get a healthy snack, to buy a magazine, to observe a garden or get fresh air and sunshine.
  3. Limit device use. Reduce your engagement on social media by half.

These three activities will take a total of 13 minutes of your day. You may find that by reducing social media engagement you will actually have more time in your day to relax. Try it. See how you feel.

If you miss a day or a few days just add more days until you get to 7. Be easy on yourself, but try to do it for as many days in a row that you can.

There’s no need to journal. You’ll feel the difference and it won’t be easy to forget. You might even decide that you want to continue your 13 Minute “Feel Good” practice well into the future.  I hope it will help you as much as it did me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mindful Music: Jazz Up the Day With Good Songs for Kids!

songs for kids, activities for kids, songs for babies, music for kids

“Is it possible to be mindful when listening to music?”

“Where can a mom or dad find good songs for kids?”

“Since when have good listening activities for kids been so hard to find? “

I hear these questions from parents all the time. I’m glad they ask because it’s easy to direct them toward good resources so their children can learn through listening.

Being mindful when choosing what our kids listen to is important. Kids are ALWAYS listening and learning. The lyrics of the songs they hear inform them about what people outside the family are doing. Hopefully, they are wholesome. Exposure to music when our kids are young weaves them a tapestry of understanding and processing sound that they will compare future music to and will influence their choices. Let’s hope the musical tapestry to which they’re exposed is complex and beautiful.

Most important, who they listen to music with as they grow will affect who they listen to music with when they are older.  Let’s set family musical listening and engagement happen as a part of the daily routine!

Did you know being mindful about music is easier than you think? If your kids have ears, you’re in business. Well, kind of.

As a musician since the age of 6, I knew music was my calling. I went to school many years later, specializing in sensory play to help kids of all ages and skill levels learn. Then several years after that, I was certified to teach Music Together, an organic way of bringing music to kids through the family.  You could say I’ve come full circle.

In all these endeavors, it became clear that in order for kids to learn and use music in the long term, it has to be seen as a family activity. I’m not suggesting that every parent pick up a new instrument, but even the most tone-deaf of parents can select music to listen to and enjoy as a family.

So you might be thinking: just turn on the radio, right?

Nope.

songs for kids, music for kids

Sound Advice on Music for Kids

If you turn on the radio today, many stations play the same kind of music. There doesn’t seem to be much variety. The music industry is primarily about selling music, and music that has “different” doesn’t make many sales. So this leaves us as parents with fewer choices and less say in the quality of music we get to choose.

Many radio stations play music with a specific signal frequency. The idea is to make it not different, but mostly the “same”, within a consistent set of frequencies. All of the frequencies are compressed down into a very narrow listening range (or ‘band’). It’s like taking a mega-sized soup pot of clam chowder, with all its diversity and goodness, and compressing it into a sardine can. Not all that exciting.

These days, Radio is controlled by a handful of huge media companies, and when they realized that the music that people buy is basically “more of the same”, they decided that originality and sonic variety weren’t qualities they wanted to emphasize.  The effect of this is that when you turn on the radio, yours and your kids’ ears don’t develop to nearly their potential to be avid listeners and develop deep appreciation of music, let alone carry a tune or play an instrument.

Below I have a sample of 6 songs in the current genre of modern country music  (which, I admit, I used to like a lot) that, when mashed up together, actually sound like one song. This means that not only are the frequencies used in the music compressed to exactly the same levels, but also that the words and themes fit together topically. Just watch as the song scrolls and the different songs are played simultaneously. Amazing.

Develop Your Kid’s Musical Aptitude:

Musical Aptitude: refers to a person’s innate ability to acquire skills and knowledge required for musical activity, and may influence the speed at which learning can take place and the level that may be achieved. (Wikipedia)

Knowing that kids have a “window” of musical development that hits its peak between 0-5 years of age, what they’re listening to is important. Educational pioneer Maria Montessori refers to this window of opportunity as the “sensitive period.” There are other schools of musical thought that say this period can go well into the 7th and 8th year of a child’s life, and beyond.

Regardless of the age of your child, the answer here to developing musical aptitude is to get your kids listening to good music. Be thoughtful about what music you choose for yourself and your family.

songs for kids, music for kids, songs for babies

Start Early With Family Music

 

Are you ready for some good music?

Your kids are ready!

You think “Where can I get some good old-fashioned music?”

Here are a few ways to be more mindful in your selection of music as a parent:

1. Try visiting your local library’s music section. By that, I mean the grownup section, and check out some CDs! Don’t check too many out of the children’s section.

Kids’ music is so often very basic.  There are exceptions, of course, but it generally means that if your kid listens to very basic music, their ear learns very basic skills. If that’s what you want, then listening to “kiddie” type music will work.

2. Listening to more complex rhythms, sounds, instruments and tonality will develop kids’ ears so they can understand and enjoy these qualities. Adult music in the classical, Jazz, folk, and world music genres will provide you with great choices. If you pick music you like, so much the better. Just make sure the lyrics are age appropriate.

Here are three resources I use all the time. The first two use kids’ songs in complex ways. The third is a masterpiece all on its own, good for activities for kids that involve dancing and painting to music, among others.

For little ones, here is an example of Jazz used to teach babies a greeting that can be used when you arrive home or anytime you and your family is up for some fun and singing! It’s called Welcome My Baby.

A resource for kids specifically that utilizes folk, blues, classical, and a variety of cultures is Music Together. This is one of my favorites, and you can find many resources on YouTube for free!  It called Ridin’ in the Car.

This resource my kids heard for the first time at a free symphony concert. They could not be distracted! It’s great for activities for kids that involve dancing and painting to music, among others. In The Hall of the Mountain King

3. Being Consistent with Music Engagement teaches children to be mindful of what they listen to on a daily basis as they grow.

Make family music time a priority. When you hit the library for books, hit the CD rack too. Go to YouTube and see what you like. See what your significant other likes. See what your kids gravitate to. If your kiddo likes the idea of a trumpet, google search “top trumpet players” and see what you can find out.

There is no doubt that your musical ear will be developing on a growth curve if you take this approach. And remember, even if you don’t love a particular genre at first, music has a way of growing on you.

Just make sure to start the habit of Music Mindfulness-and keep it going. If you should break out into random singing and dancing as well, so much he better! If you start singing in the shower, more power to you. Just have fun.

And remember, your kids will surprise you if you give them the chance.

Your children deserve a good shot at a lifetime of good music.

kids play music, songs for kids, music for kids

Different cultures mindfully chose to expose their children to culturally relevant music and teach them how to be a part of it.

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Doctor Approved Feeding Tips For Toddlers Who Refuse To Eat.

Today’s post comes to you from Dr. Orlena Kerek, who recently released a book called Feeding Toddlers.: A Pediatrician’s Guide to Happy and Healthy Meal Times. Dr. Kerek wanted to share her guidance for feeding toddlers with structured mealtimes and a nutritious variety of foods! If you like the ideas shared in this article, be sure to check out her most recent book.

feeding routines, feeding toddlers

 

What is Healthy Eating for Toddlers?

If you have young children you may be wondering how I can mention the words “healthy eating” and “toddlers” in the same sentence. It is true that most children, especially toddlers, have a natural tendency for sweet and processed foods. Yep, they nag for cookies and refuse to eat anything else.

But children form eating habits from a really early age. As young as 2 or 3. So it’s a great opportunity to mold them and teach them healthy eating habits which will stay with them for life.

toddler won't eat, picky eater
And once you have a structure in place, it’s not difficult or stressful to offer your kids healthy foods.

But what exactly is healthy eating for toddlers? I’m sure you know but I really think it’s worth going over the basics. After all, it’s difficult to teach your kids to love healthy foods if you aren’t presenting them with healthy options.

cantalope is a great fruit for toddlers

In a Nutshell

Healthy eating can be summed up really easily.

Lots of fruit and vegetables. Not so much processed food.

If you stick with this motto, you can’t go too far wrong.

avacado for my toddler

A Closer Look

Lots of fruit and veggies. In fact, roughly half of what you eat should be fruit and veggies. Don’t worry if your kids don’t eat that much. They are learning. Keep presenting healthy fruit and veggies, don’t pressure them to eat and they’ll get there eventually. There are lots of ways that you can offer your kids fruit and vegetables, frozen, fresh, dried, cooked.

Protein. Around a quarter of what you eat should be protein. That’s things like meat, fish, eggs and vegetable proteins such as garbanzo beans. Kids need proteins for growing. Try to offer proteins other than meats.

Carbohydrates. These are your energy source. Things like grains, potatoes, rice and pasta are all carbohydrates. Lots of kids are “carb junkies” and that’s fine. They need energy for all that running around. Just keep presenting them with healthy fruits and vegetables as well.

Dairy. Milk, cheese and yogurt are all dairy products that are full of calcium that our kids need for making bones. (There are lots of non-dairy sources of calcium too.) Most toddlers need 2 glasses of dairy a day.

Water. Water is the best drink for kids (and adults). It is the best way to keep you hydrated. Of course other drinks are fun from time to time but they should be drunk in moderation.

Treats. All those foods that are high in added sugar and fat. Yes, I’m talking processed candy, fizzy drinks, chips, cakes. All those delicious sweet treats. It’s fine to eat these foods in moderation but they generally don’t give you much more than calories. Treats are fine but remember than moderation is the key.

toddlers that won't eat

How Do You Get Toddlers to Eat?

Just keep presenting them with healthy food options. It’s that simple. If they don’t like it, don’t worry and don’t force them to eat it. Be patient and pristine and keep presenting them with healthy food. Eventually they’ll learn to love the healthy tasty food that you give them.

Dr. Orlena Kerek

Dr. Orlena Kerek is a pediatric doctor. She is the creator and producer of SnottyNoses, a family and parenting site. She is passionate about promoting a healthy lifestyle in children, especially healthy eating habits.

She has published 3 books to help you teach your children to eat healthily. Crunch! Put a Stop to Picky Eating and Help Your Kids Love Veggies is aimed at all children. Her latest book is now available and worth a read if you are having concerns or need some inspiration Feeding Toddlers, A Pediatrician’s Guide to Healthy and Happy Mealtimes

how to feed a toddler

For more information visit Snotty Noses: Happy Parents Raising Healthy Kids.

Also, give the Toddler Rice Nutbutter Bars a try from swamimommi.com. It’s an easy to make snack that is tasty and packed with energy and a little healthy protein! Toddlers who have tried them think they are super yummy.

Baby Constipation: Super Easy Constipation Relief for Your Baby or Toddler!

 

If you are ambitious enough to start your baby early on homemade pureed foods or if you are able to find a high quality fruit puree at the grocery store, why not try organic pears? I always start babies on pears when they are transitioning to first foods.  The main reason is that pears are a safe food. The other reason is that pears are a great food to know that baby likes if a case of constipation settlers in.

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Can we do something about this constipation?

#1: Why is pear puree a safe first food for your baby?

While working as a developmental therapist, the Speech Language pathologists would never worry if a little pear juice got in the airway of a child with which they were working. They always told me it was the safest choice because it was most like saliva. I thought that little nugget of insight was quite brilliant. So I used it…and with good results.

#2: Do pears have a laxative-like quality?

Something you probably already know, but just in case you don’t, pears are a great laxative. This goes for adults and children alike. Pear juice, pear puree, and pears all work well to get the mail moving. After a nice meal of pears, most kids and babies have no problems with constipation. If they do, or if their constipation is a consistent problem, the simple pear remedy might not be enough. It’s time to consult a pediatrician.

However, if you are simply wanting to start baby on solids, and you really aren’t concerned with constipation in baby, it’s a great food to try. It can be easily pureed to an almost liquid consistency if it’s put through a good food processor. Add some breast milk or formula for added taste familiarity for baby, and you are all set!

how to help a baby who is constipated, baby laxative

Texture/Consistency Considerations When Feeding:

I usually start transitioning to solids with a texture that is most similar to breast milk or formula. Most nearly a liquid. I always want the first tastes to be fun and an adventure for baby, so giving them a liquid like consistency to start with will not be hard for them to manage in their mouth. I am interested in taste when first transitioning babies because they are still getting their nutrition from the breast-milk or formula they receive.

Over the weeks and months that follow, the texture and consistency can move away from liquid and more towards a true puree, smooth in consistency at first and then with very small lumps. Make sure that the texture is safe for your baby, as each baby has different skills and abilities. I always lean on the side of caution. Go slow, take your time increasing the texture and consistency, and enjoy this very fun time with baby.

I also highly recommend that moms use their finger to provide the puree. Mom’s pointer finger is safe, familiar, and easy for baby to hug and hold while exploring the puree taste and texture. A very small spoon can be used too, but it’s really not necessary.

Sensory Play During Feeding:

I often use toys that the baby enjoys, so we are putting something new (the food)  with something familiar (the toy) so baby can feel comfortable and enjoy the experience. It’s really important that baby can touch the food, smell the food, and get to know the food. I always encourage messy eating, and want those little fingers covered in food by the end of a feeding. There will be plenty of time for manners later. This is food exploration time!

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Once babies enjoy the taste, they will usually take it again and again. But remember it can take a baby up to 15 trials to accept a food. So, don’t ever give up too soon. Keep trying the food, even if at first your baby makes silly faces. Actually, silly faces are what I find part of the fun! The face I get almost every time a new food is offered says something like, “Oh my, what in the world is that!”

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DONE! Yum!

Once baby  enjoys pears, you will have a natural remedy to take care of all your business on the diaper changer. What a difference a poop can make when it comes to a pleasant kiddo! Easy pooping makes for a happy and content baby. Here’s to your Happy Little Eater!

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Thanks mom! A huge poop! I’m ready to take on the world….let’s go!

Let us know at Swami Mommi if you tried pears with baby or if you found another laxative-type food that worked for constipation relief with your baby!

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Feeding Baby: Happy Eating Essentials

how do I feed my baby that is picky?

Messy babies have fun when they eat real food.

This is a guide that every mom should have when they think about how they are going to be feeding baby and their family.

If you are a mom who is curious how to ensure a HAPPY eater, the tips below will help get you started on the right path. These are the essentials for feeding baby first foods. Enjoy.

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Baby feeding should be fun! We hope this guide helps you and your little one!

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Make Blueberries an “Event” for Your Baby and the Whole Family.

blueberries muffins

Weather you are trying to teach your baby good eating habits from the start, or just want to have some summer sensory fun with your family, blueberries are the way to go. They are jammed with nutrients and anti-oxidants and are easy to work with in the kitchen. Plus, a trip out to the farm for U-pick blueberries is a great way to show our kids exactly where our food comes from everyday!

Ideas for Family Activities that Center Around Blueberries

This past fall we went as a family to pick apples on a nearby farm, and having had such a great time with the experience, we decided mid-July blueberry picking was worth a try. Two trips to the farm, 13 pounds of blueberries and two cans of sweet cream later, we find that we are quite a natural picking bunch!

Our first trip was in 90 degree heat, and we literally all almost melted. My husband with the spray bottle, my daughter with her sun hat, and myself with the bottled water in the middle of the blueberry fields to pick the plumpest of blueberries. But all of our “cooling provisions” could not sustain us in the heat, and we left with a mere 5 lbs of berries. Actually, we ate so many directly off the bushes, it was probably more like 5 1/2 lbs.

Several days passed, and my husband’s idea of berries and cream had hit full stride.  We were soon to run out of berries and I knew we would be back in the fields soon.

Friday came with wild storms, and a cooler weather forecast for the weekend. When I suggested that we go pick berries, there were smiles all around. This time, the weather was breezy and sunny. We spent a good hour in the fields and left with 8 pounds of blueberries. On the way home we stopped for another container of ice cream ! Yum!

So here’s a few ideas to make blueberries an “event” in your home too. I start with berries and cream, progress through berry muffins, and end with a song we sang while in the fields. I posted the song so you can learn and sing as a family too!

Berries and Cream
Fresh blueberries
Vanilla Ice Cream
Cute dessert bowls for fun eating!

blueberry muffins for kids, toddler recipes, blueberry toddler recipes, baby food

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins (or try a regular recipe if you are not gluten intolerant)

1/2 cup organic canola or safflower oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
11/4 cups soymilk (or rice milk)
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup Sucanat, date sugar, maple sugar, or org. unrefined sugar
4 cups brown rice flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole fresh-picked (or frozen) blueberries

Preheat the over to 350 degrees F. Oil a 12-cup muffin pan or line it with paper liners and set aside. In a small bowl, mix 2 teaspoons maple syrup or sugar and 1 teaspoon brown rice flour as a topping to drizzle over the muffins just before putting the muffins in the oven.

Mix the oil, syrup, soymilk, vinegar, and vanilla in another small bowl. In a separate, larger bowl place the sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Sift the flour to ensure there won’t be clumps. If you are good with the mixing, and feel it is consistent throughout, you really don’t need to sift. It’s up to you!

Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Do not overwork the batter. If the batter is stiff, add 1 teaspoon of milk at a time. Fold in 2 cups of blueberries and do not overwork the batter or it will turn blue. (This actually could look interesting if you dare try it!)

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups and sprinkle with the topping mixture prepared ahead of time. You may place a few berries on top of each muffin to make them extra juicy on top.

Bake for 20 minutes and rotate the pan a half turn to ensure even baking. Bake 5-6 minutes more or until a knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes, remove from the pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack.

(This muffin mixture was adapted from “Simple Treats: Wheat-Free and Dairy Free Guide to Scrumptious Baked Goods by Ellen Abraham)

Blue Belly Button Boy/Girl (A song/recipe For Fun!)
Once we were out in the fields, we had a blast with this song! With each verse I would pick a blueberry and put it on baby’s  belly button. We would cover it up with her shirt and after each round of the song, we would look to her bellybutton to see if she was the blue belly button girl! She loved it and asked for more over and over again!) The next day, and for weeks to follow, we were singing this song and having fun with these berries in baby’s highchair. I cut them so they were not a chocking hazard, and baby got a great snack with tons of great nutrients and anti-oxidants.

Check out the audio of the song Blue Belly Button Boy here. It’s a fun song about blueberries!

Chorus:
There once was a blue belly button Boy (girl)
Boy oh boy was his belly button blue
If you could see blue belly button Boy (girl)
You would say it’s the bluest too!

feeding baby, baby food, baby puree, developmental milestones for feeding

Feeding Milestones: What do you need to know to feed your baby and toddler blueberries?

Feeding a baby who is just starting solids should try blueberries in a very liquid type puree. Some recommend steaming fruits and veggies before making puree, but I never did. Baby didn’t have any difficulty so I never bothered, but if your baby seems to have digestive difficulty with them, I would suggest giving them a little steam.

Once baby turned toddler, I could cut the berries into tiny bites and put them on her tray. I would usually cut them in half and then cut them again to be extra sure they were not a choking hazard. Remember to do whatever you need to insure your baby or toddler is working with a safe texture or size during feeding. If you aren’t sure what is safe, ask you pediatrician.

I also use puree blueberries and small blueberry bites to practice with the spoon too. Babies and toddlers love the challenge of getting the berries into their mouth and they love to taste the reward too!

So have fun this summer, with baby and the whole family. Make blueberries an annual “Event” in your home for some real down home fun and for a family of happy eaters!

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A Better Way To Swing Your Kids

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If it’s warm or cold, doesn’t matter. Find a place outside to get moving with your kids! It’s good for you and your kids, and babies especially love movement play. Fresh air, natural light, and good old fashioned movement stimulation for the brain! Ahhh….life is good!

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I took my little one and first grader out for a swing ride, and although this may seem simple, there is an easy way to get provide great movement with little effort. All you need to know is the Sensory Movement Hack!

I can assure you these smiles you see are the real deal. Baby loved her time in the swing, as did my first grader, but having a developmental therapist as a mom, well, you get a little more bang for your buck!

The official name for movement input, in sensory integration theory  is “vestibular” input. (OT Nerd Alert!  🙂 The term was first coined by Jean Ayres, Phd., OTR/L, an American occupational therapist, educational psychologist and pioneer in sensory integration theory. She wrote many books and published many research articles in her day, as well as made great contributions to the field of occupational science. She was the one who started it all. Without her, we might not think about sensory play in the same way we do today.

Her groundbreaking book in the 70’s was entitled Sensory Integration and Learning Disorders.

I was fortunate to have one of her colleagues as my master’s thesis advisor. My advisor worked with Dr. Ayres in California for years before switching to University life. I somehow won the lottery to get her as my advisor! Jackpot!

And so began my complete obsession with all things development and sensory. I have been learning ever since, and have enjoyed applying my findings to thousands of kiddos. Let me share my #1 favorite sensory hack for movement play so you can indulge yourself in a little movement play geek-dom too!

Movement Hack for Brain/Language Development

When you are providing linear movement for your baby or child (like swinging!), make sure you stop every 30-60 seconds to ensure that you re-activate the brain. After approximately 1 minute, there is a brain habituation process that happens. Habitu-what?? Brain habituation means that the brain detects the sensory input coming, but quickly gets used to the input and stops sending signals to the higher brain centers. To short circuit this habituation process, you simply have to change the movement.

Remember to keep the movement linear, and simply stop the movement and restart the movement. That’s all you need to do. Tell the brain movement is starting. Then tell it that it is stopping. Then tell it again it is starting over and over, every 60 minutes or so.

Do this in a consistent manner, and bingo, you have sent the upper centers of the brain all kinds of great movement input that not only is calming and organizing for your little kiddos, but also great for developing their gross motor skills. Plus, calm and organized kids = healthy emotional development. 

sensory play movement play

2 common questions I get from parents:

1. Do you have to change the direction of movement? You can if you like. But stop and go movement works the same way.

2. Should I add some spinning or circular movement? Well, you can, but for truly                    calming and organizing input you want to keep it linear.

So, try this on your backyard swing. Try this playfully in a swimming pool as you play tug boat, or in a wagon on a trail. Just remember this hack is a simplicity hack. Simple is best.

For even more giggles for babies, I usually add the game of “stop” and “go” with sign language to engage language skills. I have noticed significant increases in how my baby initiates sounds and words during this type of play. This actually makes sense scientifically because the movement receptors are located in the inner ear, so, of course we see greater language engagement! Movement and language play- all in one!

For my older kiddo, I usually play “red light/green light”. Giggles ensue, I promise you.

One last piece of advice, be sure to have fun!! Make memories with this simple hack, that you will remember long after your kids are grown.

For more fun outdoors,  try to design some fun outdoor time with your kids. It’s Easy!

movement play on a swing