Saturday, December 17, 2016

Happy Holidays and 10-Last Minute Gift Ideas from a Holistic OT

May peace and love surround you throughout the year!

For multiple reasons, I made the decision to skip Christmas cards this year. Although I love sending and receiving, it felt good to let go of a task this holiday season and share through technology! 

A smile starts on the lips, a grin spread to the eyes, a chuckle
comes from the belly; but a good laugh bursts forth from the soul,
overflows, and bubbles all around. - Carolyn Birminghan
Just in case you are out and about holiday shopping this weekend or want to do some last minute shopping online, here are some of my favorite gift ideas. They support overall development, skill development, social/emotional and play skills, and a healthy lifestyle. Please note, these are in no particular order. 

1. Zoo Sticks or Fish Sticks - These are probably one of my all time favorite OT tools! This activity promotes a proper grasp, helps to separate the 2-sides of the hand strengthening the muscles necessary for pinching and grasping, which transfer over to an appropriate pencil grip, improved distal motor control and refined skills. These make a great clean-up tool too! Whether you have concerns regarding your child's fine motor skill or not, you can have fun working on these skills with your kiddos - it just takes 5 minutes a day! Remember quality over quantity with this task. 

2. Melissa and Doug Easel - I love working on a vertical surface with kids, especially pre-schoolers and Kindergarteners. It encourages proximal stability and improvements in extensor tone necessary for fine motor skill development. From an ocular motor perspective, it allows children to keep their head upright, brings their vision closer to the task and improves visual stability and eye-hand coordination. Vertical surfaces also support bilateral coordination and midline crossing, to name a few. A great gift that will be used for years and expands a developmental age range. Paint, write, draw, this easel has it all. 
3. Hoot Owl Hoot  (for some reason we call this game Hoot Hoot Owl in my house!) - Board Game by Peaceable Kingdom. This company is passionate about making games that are good for the planet too - read more here. This game is awesome! It's a cooperative game so you win together or lose together, which is a nice change, especially for the extra competitive or emotionally fragile kiddo. This game works on colors, a pincer grasp picking up the cards and owls, visual motor skills, problem solving, turn taking and social engagement. Tip: You can use your newly purchased zoo sticks to clean up the owls and cards. 

4. Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game. Another cooperative game that is great for the whole family. Teach your kids about herbs and edible and medicinal plants starting young. You will learn a lot yourself too! This game also focuses on turn taking, social engagement, and fine motor control picking up and managing the cards. Another planet family game made with eco-friendly materials. 

5. Children's Yoga Songs and Meditations - Teaching children mindfulness at a young age has become imperative in our faced paced, technology hungry society. If you are a parent, educator or anyone working with children, I also highly recommend all of the training and certification programs through Radiant Child Yoga. These trainings have enhanced my occupational therapy practice immensely. You will love engaging with your kids through this CD while teaching them life long skills to access independently. Namaste!

6. Journey to Inner Space - A Children's Yoga Book. This is a wonderful journey incorporating different yoga poses, awareness of breath and imagination, and insightfulness that you do have the ability to slip into Inner Space, which was very close all along! Read some more about the author here.

7. Hammock Pod Swing for your home! This is an affordable way to allow your child with sensory processing challenges get the vestibular input needed on a daily basis. My clients love this swing and it is very reasonably priced. Remember to provide organizing, proprioceptive input following intense swinging or spinning (i.e. joint compressions, squishing, squeezing, steamroller with a therapy ball). 

8. Organic Weighted Blankets - Do you have a child that seems like they are "crawling in their skin", has difficulties settling down and sleeping soundly? Then these may be perfect for you. By combining sensory strategies, a healthy diet and lifestyle changes (that's a conversation for another blogpost) and these blankets into your child's life, their nervous systems will be able to calm showing improvements in other areas of function as well. This company is amazing, all proceeds are donated to help people with disabilities. Their blankets are non-fumigated and non-toxic, so you can rest assure that your child will rest soundly snuggled with these weighted blankets avoiding toxins in almost all other weighted blankets on the market today. Thanks L-oma, we love what you do! **TODAY is the last day to order your blankets to receive them by Christmas, so get out that computer now if you think your child will benefit. Feel free to contact me via phone or email for any questions as well! 

9. Homemade, Organic Deodorant - I get a text or an email monthly asking about my deodorant recipe. Although I can't claim it as my own, this is where I always send the questioner. So, Mama's out there, today is the day to STOP putting conventional, store bought deodorant under your armpits, next to your breasts surrounded by lymph nodes. Aluminum and cancer causing toxins are in each and every deodorant on the shelves. This is a simple recipe that takes about 5 minutes to make and lasts for months. I use all organic ingredients, and you should too! Decrease your risks of cancer, especially breast cancer making this one change today. I use a small mason jar, which fits nicely in our medicine cabinet. You can get affordable, organic coconut oil here and Shea Butter here. Lavender essential oil is my favorite blend for a wonderfully scented deodorant. If you are attending my retreat tomorrow, this may happen to fall into your gift bag as your walk out the door ;)

10. Essential Oil Diffuser - Essential oils have been used for centuries and are essential, no pun intended ;) in your families life, so why not start incorporting EO's this holiday season. EO's are extremely beneficial for children with Autism, Sensory Processing Disorders and Developmental Delays, as they contain healing properties that stimulate, activate, and calm vital neurological signals. When ordering a diffuser, you want to make sure that you do not order one that is made of harmful plastic or other toxic ingredients. The one linked above is a favorite of mine. Dr. Mercola also sells a safe, non-toxic diffuser, which can be found on his website, and on amazon as well. is a great resource if you are just beginning to implement essential oils into your daily life. Happy diffusing!

Well, there you have it, my top 10 list of items for you to give as gifts this holiday season. Although I'm not Oprah, I love this list, as it encompasses my beliefs as a mom, OT, and children's yoga instructor bringing holistic techniques into my practice and our daily life. 

I hope that you have an amazing holiday season with you and yours and you also find peace and calm during a time of year that can also bring stress and anxiety. I will see you in the new year!  

As always, if you have questions or concerns about your child's development, contact me via phone or email.

If you liked this blogpost, don't forget to subscribe to my mailing list here, and I look forward to working with some of you and your children in the future. Services are available in person and via Skype. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Importance of Recess

The other day my oldest son was bouncing off of every wall in our house like a ping pong ball. I looked at him after about an hour and said, "you didn't have outside recess today, did you?" His immediate response, with a bummed face was, "No, it was raining all day." It was an awful rainy/icy day in Vermont leading to an indoor recess, which is actually, and thankfully, a rare occurrence. I'm happy to say that even all winter, the kids get bundled and get out for some much needed fresh air and movement. Now, our oldest is one who needs to move, daily, and it was quite amazing how that day impacted him.

This got me thinking of how many children in today's world are not getting the movement and exercise they need, getting required oxygen to their brains for development, motor skill enhancement, opening learning capacities and emotional regulation to name a few benefits. Vitamin D deficiency is becoming a big epidemic in our world today as well, a culture becoming more and more built on eating processed foods while sitting on a computer or tablet at all ages. The decrease in movement, sun exposure and fresh air is having a real impact on our children. Children are constantly diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, OCD, and Anxiety at alarmingly young ages and are being prescribed meds for these diagnoses. The truth is, increasing movement and exercise, decreasing screen time, and improving a child's diet with whole foods filled with vitamins, minerals and nutrients is all the prescription a child may need, so please consider these options first.

As school systems and teachers across our country have more demands placed on them in regards to budgets, standards and tests, and parents are working more and more to support their families, it seems the importance of play, recess and PE keep taking the hit, impacting our kids. As an OT in the schools, I highly encourage teachers to NEVER, yes NEVER, take a recess away from a student. If it's missing homework, irresponsible behavior, talking out in class, taking away recess will most likely only enhance those behaviors as the child is now losing their movement time for that day, and this may be the only real movement they will receive. Allowing children to move freely, laugh, and run with their peers is allowing them to grow neurologically and physically, and be more prepared for learning when entering back into the classroom. Some tips to combat or calm overstimulation when returning from recess can be:

  • wall push-ups prior to walking through the door 
  • hook-ups giving a nice tight squeeze
  • 3-5 balloon breaths (hold hands at sides and on the inhale, raise arms overhead and blow up your belly like a balloon, hold the breath - clap hands and pop the balloon or don't - exhale, arms slowly return to sides)
  • 5 minutes of lying down listening to meditative music.

I hope that this post has been helpful in encouraging you, whether you are a mom, dad, aunt, uncle, teacher, administrator, to help kids get out there and MOVE, in an unstructured manner. The unstructured piece is just as important, as this promotes imagination, teamwork, creativity and the ability to just be a kid!

As always, if you have concerns about your child's development or would like ways to incorporate holistic therapies into your child's life, please contact me! I look forward to working with some of you in the future!

Friday, November 18, 2016

What I Baked This Week

TGIF! I hope that everyone had a good week. If you follow my blog, instagram or FB posts, it is quite evident that I am super into nutrition and healthy eating. We eat a whole foods diet in our house, and I spend a lot of hours in our kitchen! I like to bake alone early in the morning before anyone else gets up. Over the years I've heard so many people say, I just don't have the time to bake and cook for my family. Taking the time now, not buying anything processed, will buy you and your family more time on this planet, so it's worth every extra second spent soaking beans, baking bread, and buying organic. Unfortunately, the modern family opens bags, eats out, and is missing key nutrients needed for health and not only health, children's development. Developmental delays, sensory processing challenges, allergies, and Autism, are all rapidly on the rise, and I whole-heartedly believe that nutrition is one of the main factors to this increase. 

So, back to the point of this post! I'm sharing some of the recipes that I baked up this week to help you see how easy it can be to bake healthy, gluten free (I think everyone should be gluten free to be honest - but that's a whole other post), refined sugar free goods for you and your loved ones! For baked good, I am a recipe follower, which makes it easy for you! I have my favorites like Against All Grain, Elana's Pantry and Tasty-yummies, but I do stray and experiment from time to time! This week, my kids were the snack helpers at their pre-school, so we made Homemade Bagels, mmmm. The link to the recipe from +Elana's Pantry can be found here. The mini bagel/donut pan can be found on amazon. They also have a large one that I really want to order soon. I love Elana because her recipes have simple ingredients that I always have on hand! Check out her recipe and whip up some bagels this weekend! She has an awesome chocolate donut recipe too :) 

Honeyville Almond Flour

For snack, we sent in Once Again Sunbutter and local apple slices, which are still nice and crisp this time of the year! I have been ordering more and more from Vitacost to save money, and this is where the Sunbutter is from and linked above for you! 


Next up from Danielle Walker +Danielle Walker and Against All Grain are Grain-Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, which actually contain no oats at all. I love Danielle's website, blog and instagram. She healed herself from illness through diet, as did Elana, and she seems like a kind-hearted, amazing woman on a mission that I love! If you haven't checked her out yet, this weekend is the time. I have made tons of her recipes and they are no-fail every time - the whole family devours them from Breakfast to Desserts to Dinners and yours will too! 

Last up, I made Almond Flour Banana Bread. I made this over the summer for my Sensory Camp as well, and the kids absolutely loved it and ate it up without hesitation. Although I didn't this time because there is a no juice and chocolate rule at my kids pre-school, I often add +Enjoy Life Foods mini-chocolate chips to the bread and they make it taste extra yummy! Follow the link here for the gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free recipe. 

I hope this post is motivating and encourages you to bake for your family this weekend. Children are eating for development; brain development, muscle development, sensory development, bone development, and they need key nutrients in their diet daily. Processed food does not provide them with the ingredients that their little brains and bodies need, and children are taking in way too much sugar in america's diet, impacting their development across the spectrum. Pairing these recipes with fruits and veggies are perfect ways to provide kids with healthy snacks between meals! They are also great treats to have on hand as the holiday season is upon us and visitors are coming and going. In Vermont, I'm lucky enough to buy local eggs and honey from our neighbors, maple syrup from our good friends at Bobo's Mountain Sugar and local, grass-fed meats right in town. If you can buy local and organic to support your local economy that is the best! The dry ingredients I do usually buy online to save money for our family, but I also support our local coops as well! Some food for thought ;)

Have a wonderful weekend! 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Expressions from the Heart

Hi Everyone! It's been a while since I've written. This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to take Levels I - III Radiant Child Yoga training with 2 different, yet equally incredible woman. During my Level III training, we needed to do an activity and write down whatever came to mind for the ages presented. We had a certain amount of time to just write, and write from the heart. Today, I am going to share this with you. So much of what I wrote is so meaningful to me, but I think that it can also be meaningful to others as well! I think I took all of me as a mom, OT, new loving yogini and just went with it, so enjoy! I am typing directly from my notebook as well - no edits :)

0-3 Be calm, motor stages as important as emotional stages! Be more of an example daily. Continue to love, snuggle, bond, and don't let these times go. I am their lifeline while also teaching them to be themselves and become independent and grow. My life is happier and more joyous because of these beings and nursing, snuggling and losing myself during these times has been worth it a zillions times over! Yoga calms me and brings me joy, so imagine what it can do for infants and children.

3-7 Increase independence - let them be. All of the light, love, nursing and snuggles begin to take shape and our children grow independence and respect for life, others, nature and their own inhibitions. Be playful yet a little firmer. Give perimeters but lessen the perimeters. Support and love with positiveness!

7-11 How a marriage works impacts children greatly, especially at this stage. Be mindful of children both with and without both parents home or without both male and female energy in their lives. Allow friendships to blossom and respect desires for playdates, decrease parent/family-time or time altogether with peers and family having fun.

11-18 Limits yet openness ~ Acknowledge ego and needs but teach confidence and respect of self. Work on meditation, mindfulness, breathing and yoga to decrease the ego and improve love for oneself. Allow our children to have autonomy, wants, desires and independence while having them continue to have respect, love and compassion for the ones closest to them.

Enjoy your Thursday everyone! Thanks for reading, and, as always, please contact me with any questions, concerns or needs around your child's development, nutrition, or sensory challenges. I am always available in person and via phone/skype. @pediatricplay

Monday, August 22, 2016

Sensory Camp 2016 Day 4

The last day with these guys! It’s been an incredible adventure, and we can’t wait until next summer to climb, explore, munch healthily, become yogi’s and explore through our senses again! I truly could not have made this camp such a success without the help and volunteering of Donna Bonang, Niki Olesky, Eva Morrow, Ilana Kanovsky, and Abigail Schmidt. You helped to make this incredible! Thank you parents for sharing your little guys and girls with us this summer, and a special thanks also goes out to Heather and Hobie for taking the time to walk the forest, choose the perfect trees, cut them down and tow them to our truck to build our balancing tree playground! What an awesome place to live J

Let’s look at our welcome sign – Greeting & water table play with seashells, rocks and colorful buttons; sensory bottles, gardening, snack, yoga, playground and tire play!

Niki & Owen reviewing our schedule

Sensory water table - this was a big hit! 

Making sensory bottles was such a success with this crew. The waited so patiently, socially were amazing in requesting items they needed such as; a funnel or certain color glitter, and had fun interacting. We made a game (thank you Kelly Arace for the idea on how to expand this activity :) turning the glitter into different emotions – sadness, anger, madness, frustration. 

When the glitter is shaken up the emotions are floating all around, but while watching the glitter, taking deep breaths and allowing it to settle, the emotions settle as well! It was so fun watching our emotions dance around the bottle, letting them land and then all chanting, “we’re happy!” The other day my 6-year-old, Henry, was having a tough time and kept going back to his sensory bottle. After using it a few times he came up to me and said, “Wow, Mom, my sensory bottle really works.” YAY! It also helped my 4-year-old fall asleep one day. Sorry, one last story…When we were down at the ocean last week, there were some older kids there, 12-15 year olds. They have been spotted picking up the bottle and watching the glitter numerous times on our trip! Something for all ages and stages and a great way to teach kids how to calm.

Next, we marched off to the garden to tackle the tactile system, work on upper body muscles, proprioceptive awareness wheelbarrowing, pincer grasps pinching, and all while being a team and working together!

I think the photos speak for themselves with this activity. A great sensory experience for kids while also teaching them about sustainability, health and eating well too!

By this point, the kids were starving! Frozen blueberries, blueberry muffins  and cucumber water, yum! This is the recipe that I used for the muffins, but I also came across this one, which I am going to have to try soon! Happy baking to you at home!




As we transitioned to our “yoga grass” the kids found their spaces quickly and nicely and were ultra prepared for yoga time today! Just 4 sessions and it seemed as if they have been doing yoga for years (which is not much for the amount of time they have been on this planet!). We started this weeks’ yoga with a superhero mindfulness activity. After our 4 lion’s breaths, we all listened to the chime of the yoga cymbals talking about how the sound made us feel. Then, we each savored a mini chocolate chip - taking note of what it felt like in our mouths, on our tongue, and how it tasted when we were mindful. The results were incredible from the 4-6-year-olds. Some said that they had never tasted chocolate like that before! Amazing! Our yoga safari was inspired from an Africa yoga class that I went to the night before as part of Africa Yoga Project. If you ever have the chance to experience this, please do! The energy of the class was so amazing and the instructors brought so much of their culture into our yoga room, I can't say enough about it - it enlightened my spirit and all for a great cause. 

#africayogaproject @africayogaproject
Listening to our cymbals
Lion's Breath

Warriors on the safari - Breathe IN & OUT

Frogs hopping along - Breathe IN & OUT
The kids know their routine! Off to the playground, balance trees & tire tower to wait for pick up! On our playground, the skateboard swing, which is awesome for balance is called the SK8swing and can be found on Amazon, of course! We got this as a gift from a special teacher ;) and the kids absolutely love playing on it daily! The trapeze bar is so awesome for core strength and flipping to change up that vestibular system. I love our playground for the kids! 

The tire tower has been such a big success this summer, and it's so easy to
make. You can have fun painting it too! 

Go Owen!
Thank you, Mikaela, for all of your help this summer too!
Henry found a tree frog as our nature based sensory camp came to a
close - perfectly fitting!
Thank you again for sharing your children with us. I can't say enough of how much we loved Sensory Camp and are looking forward to next summer! Enjoy your fall everyone! Namaste!