Playground Benefits

by FS&TS

By Kristina LaBarre, MOT, OTR/L

Playgrounds are filled with wonderful equipment designed to help bolster your child’s gross motor, sensory motor, and social skills. The best part is that kids are busy having fun while they are developing their skills in age appropriate ways!  
These are just some of the MANY playground benefits from an occupational therapist’s perspective: 

Proprioceptive processing

This sensory system takes information from the muscles and joints that sends it to our brain to communicate about where our body is in space.  This input is required for coordination, body awareness, rate/timing of movements, and force modulation (the amount of force required for activities). 

  • Activities such as hanging, climbing, jumping, crashing, pushing, pulling help develop this sense

Vestibular processing

This sensation allows us to maintain balance, arousal regulation, spatial orientation, ocular motor skills, postural control, weight shifting, motor coordination, attention, and speech development.  This can be achieved through changes in head position. 

  • Equipment and activities that develop this sense include monkey bars, slides, zip lines, swings, merry-go-rounds, log rolling, somersaults

Tactile processing

This sensory system gives us information about our environment, determine pain, the amount of pressure required for activities, body scheme, and assist with developing fine motor coordination required for writing and completing fasteners.  

  • Equipment and activity that develop this sense include: sand boxes, grass, rocks, climbing on different surfaces

Auditory processing

This can be addressed via filtering out and tuning into certain sounds during play.  Children with difficulties in this area may rely on other senses especially touch and sight during play.

  • Nature sounds can also provide a calming effect.  

Visual system

This system helps us make sense of what we see, assist with spatial relations, and directionality.  

Playgrounds provide opportunities to strengthen the whole body and endurance. 

  • Activities that develop this sense include: climbing, hanging, swinging

Social skills, safety awareness, and attention are also developed naturally at the playground.

Helping a child with strong emotions and few words

by FS&TS

By Christianna Mullins, MA/CCC-SLP

What happens when a child has difficult expressing his or her thoughts, ideas, wants, and needs with language? Frustration. Children with speech and language disorders may not be able to express their feelings with words, but they will find a way to let those around them know how they are doing. This may look like tantrums in young children. It may look like withdrawal in older children. No matter what the behavior is, the underlying issue is important to identify in order to help the child and those around the child.

What may be reasons that the child is unable to express his or her emotions appropriately?

Articulation difficulty

The child's speech may be so hard to understand that other people cannot clearly comprehend what he or she is saying. When asked "what" 2 or 3 times, the child may shut down or begin crying.

Expressive language

The child may not have the grammatical structure to put together a phrase or sentence to adequately express feelings. A limited vocabulary may not include emotion words yet, such as "sad," "hungry," or "sleepy."

Some children have difficulty communicating verbally.  They may have even more difficulty communicating when they are stressed or emotionally upset.

Receptive Language

The child may not comprehend the question "How are you feeling?"

Pragmatic Language

The child may not have the social abilities to appropriately explain his or her thoughts and feelings in an expected way, and may simply scream when ramped up, rather than calmly explaining the need.

Teaching Emotion Vocabulary

So, what are some solutions to these issues? Being assessed by a speech and language pathologist is essential for a child who is unable to effectively communicate at an expected level for his or her age. Speech-language therapy can help with these communication difficulties.

Some things to try at home, however, include written choices, pictures, and drawing.

Written choices of feeling words, including the basics: "happy, sad, mad, hungry, sleepy, scared," along with parent education of situations in which the child may be feeling these, can be very helpful. The child can then point to the feeling chart when experiencing a strong emotion, to help the adult and child form a plan together.

Pictures of children displaying different emotions (aided with words if developmentally appropriate) can be a comforting choice for a child who needs a peer to "understand" him or her. These picture charts can easily be found in google images. 

A feeling chart with colors listed can help, too. Blue may mean sad, red could mean angry, yellow could equate to happy, etc. Families can create their own color chart. Once again, this can aid the child in identifying feelings in a non-confrontational, safe way. 

Along with the help of a speech-language pathologist, children who do not have very many words, but do have strong feelings may be assisted with these strategies. Along with their parent's modeling feeling words for them, the child will be well on his or her way to effectively communicating emotions.

Conversation Uno

by FS&TS

By Kayla Braun, MS/CCC-SLP

A fun way to teach conversation skill, including taking turns, making on topic comments and not interrupting is to use UNO.  In conversations and UNO players need to take turns. In UNO, you have to pay attention to your partner so you can play a card that is similar to the card showing, which is like paying attention to what is said during conversations so that you can make an on-topic and related comment.  

teaching conversation


This game is played the same way as UNO, but has you make comments or ask questions each time you play a card. Before starting the game, decide on a conversation topic. The first player initiates the conversation and each time a card is played, that player needs to make a comment or ask a question related to the conversation topic.

WILDs: If a WILD card is played that person introduces a new conversation topic.

REVERSE: If a Reverse card is played, that person has to make 2 on-topic comments. This can be making a comment and then asking a question (i.e. “ I like to go skiing. Have you ever gone skiing?” or sharing 2 new ideas/comments about the topic (i.e. “I got a new puppy this weekend. His name is Max).

SKIP:  The conversation will skip to the next person.

National Tell a Joke Day

by FS&TS

By Sue Jaeger, MS/CCC-SLP

Today is National Tell a Joke Day

Here are a few joke strips to celebrate!

These visuals are wonderful ways to teach positive initiations, conversational turn taking, inferences, plays on words, and humor!

If turn taking is difficult, you can color code the boxes and assign the speaker to a color...."you do the red boxes, I'll do the blue boxes".  




Social Stories

by FS&TS

By Sue Jaeger, MS/CCC-SLP

Social Stories were created by Carole Gray and are often used in the educational and therapy settings to teach a specific skill, social rule, or concept.  Some children have difficulties with inferential thinking and Social Stories provide a wonderful way to turn an abstract concept into a concrete rule.  They should be written in a positive manner, using specific language, with the emphasis on what behavior SHOULD be done and WHY.    Social Stories do not need to be time consuming or elaborate.  Here is a simple template that can be used for almost any type of social behavior you'd like to address: