Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Vermicelli Rice Noodle Play

I've seen so many awesome sensory play ideas around the net involving spaghetti (like this post, and also this one, and how fun does this look?!) but hadn't until today gotten around to cooking up some pasta for the girls to test out.
At the supermarket this week I came across big packs of vermicelli noodles on sale and thought they'd be perfect, not only do they have a great texture but they also require minimal cooking time - 2 minutes steeped in a bowl boiling water and you're done.
The girls really enjoyed this activity and it carried over into a lot of imaginary play and great fine motor practice. At first neither of them would put their hands anywhere near the noodles, using the tongs and the sieves to handle them carefully, but after some gentle encouragement (yeah, I had my hands right in there ;D) they were soon exploring the texture and squishing away.


* vermicelli rice noodles
(prepare in a bowl of hot water, then drain and fill bowl with cold water)
* large tub
* utensils for play; tongs, sieves, forks, chopsticks, small containers etc...

My girls are very sensitive to textures, namely anything squishy or wet. We kept this activity contained in a tub and they explored the noodles in using utensils from the kitchen.
Tongs and chopsticks provide a great fine motor workout and adding small containers and sieves to fill is good for developing hand eye co-ordination.

The noodles had a great fine, slippery texture once cooked. I kept them in a bowl of cold water after cooking to both cool them down quickly and add an extra play element with the water.

The girls spent a long time making 'worm soup' using their tongs and containers.

Adding cutlery to their play was great practice for Squeak who is having trouble with her grip.

Eventually the hands went in, and then it was a squishy squashy free for all :D

At $1.20 for a big pack the rice noodles were great inexpensive fun, and after we were done playing we drained off the water and stored them in the fridge ready for more play tomorrow.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Apple Sauce Icy Poles

The weather has finally warmed up a bit here and the rain has stopped, so the girls have been asking to make icy poles to enjoy outside.
Yesterday we were short on freezer friendly fruit so used some apple sauce we had in the cupboard.

Not only did it make yummy icy poles (the texture was nice and soft and they didn't drip easily) but the girls had lots of fine motor fun transferring the sauce from the jar to the molds using different sized spoons.


* icy pole molds
(ice cube trays or plastic cups would work just as well)
* apple sauce
(either pre made or if you have a heap of apples peel and cook your own)
* different sized spoons
* freezer

Spooning the apple sauce into the molds was a messy but fun activity.

Frozen ready to be demolished :)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Learning With Push Lights

We have been working hard these last few months to get a home therapy routine set up for Squeak, and since she is only almost-three trying to make it as fun as possible!
We are learning letter sounds at the moment and today incorporated some push lights I bought at a local dollar shop a little while ago. They are very easy to find and also very cheap (these were $1 for a pack of two).

Squeak loved these so much that we will be using them in lots of different learning activities in future... as well as just for fun!


* push lights
(ours also required 2 AA batteries per light)
* whiteboard marker
* permanent marker
* picture/letter/word cards

Push lights are simple to operate - press down on the white plastic dome top and it switches on, press again and it switches off.
They are usually in the hardware section of the dollar shop, but I've also seen them in camping and major department shops as well.

Squeak was fascinated by them right away. They were the perfect size for her little hands and easy to turn on and off.

We had a little play with them for awhile until she got the hang of it.
I may have had a little play too, they're pretty cool ;)

Using permanent marker I wrote her focus letters on top of the push lights and turned them on.

We played a game where I would call out a letter and she would find the right light and switch it off. We took turns so she got to use the letter receptively and expressively.

Once we were done with that game I just scribbled over the top of the permanent marker with whiteboard marker and it easily wiped straight off.
You could use whiteboard marker from the outset but I wanted the letters to not rub off as we played.

Next we used our letter sounds cards, placing the push lights underneath each one.

Squeak was so motivated to find the right letter and push the button and her attention throughout these activities was amazing.

Can't wait to use these again, if I can find them that is - they seem to have made their way into the wardrobe with two giggling little 'astronauts'.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Fussy Eating Chart

Like a lot of kids with Autism, Bubble is very picky when it comes to her food. She is sensitive to smell, colour and texture, and for many years she would not eat anything but white or yellow food. Her diet consisted mainly of plain white rice, pasta spirals, cheese, bread, bananas and peeled pears.
She would not have food mixed together and putting a 'new' item on, or even next to, her plate would result in gagging and refusal to eat anything at all.
We tried not to make a big deal out of food and turn mealtimes into a war zone, but it was hard. Everyone wants their child to eat well and enjoy healthy foods.
Of course all children - on the spectrum or not - are different in what works for them and what does not, but I thought I'd share a few tips that have helped Bubble broaden her diet in recent years. Although she will always be picky she now has a lot of new foods she enjoys, eats quite a few different fruits and is much more open to trying new things which is quite exciting for us.
Obviously these ideas are based on our family structure and beliefs, so they won't be for everybody, but hopefully they might inspire some new things to try if meal times are a bit of a headache at your house too.

Separating foods : keeping foods separate on the plate seems to appeal visually to Bubble and also makes the process of eating a meal less overwhelming. We use Tupperware divided bowls when we are out, but at home I like to use small ramekin style bowls which hold a good quantity of food without crowding the plate too much. Have a hunt at your local supermarket or dollar shop, you can usually pick them up in a variety of shapes and colours very cheaply.

New Food Day: in our home Thursdays are 'new food day'. When we do our weekly shop Bubble will choose something new for us all to try. A little portion of whatever it is gets added to our plates at dinner time, but because she is expecting it and has had control over what it is, the resistance is lessened hugely. Sometimes she tries the new food, sometimes she doesn't, but at least it's there on her plate and her interest is piqued.

Fun And Interesting Utensils: give Bubble a bowl of blueberries and she may or may not eat a few. Give her a bowl of frozen blueberries and a skewer to spear them with and she'll eat the whole lot. Get a bit creative with eating utensils and make it fun, follow your child's interests and incorporate them into mealtimes. Try eating large pasta spirals with mini tongs or serve dinner in the back of a (clean!) toy dump truck, even something as simple as stickers of their favourite characters on their cutlery can make things more enticing.

Children's chopsticks are cheap, fun to use and also a good fine motor workout.

Name Labels: Bubble is and always has been very interested in letters. Because of this she learnt to spell her name at an early age and loves to see it written on things! We have used this to our advantage a few times in the form of name labels. Before we established 'new food day' I would take a white sticky label with Bubble's name written on it with us to the supermarket each week and put it on a different fruit when she wasn't looking. Fruits with 'her name on them' were selected especially for her because they were yummy and she loved searching for her name every time.
If your child is pre-reading age any kind of sticker would work, maybe a dot sticker of their favourite colour, glitter stickers or ones with themed pictures/characters.

Vary Your Location: I know a lot of people believe in always eating at the table, so this idea isn't for everyone, but we often vary where we eat our meals. We might have a picnic dinner in the toy room, set up a tent in the backyard if the weather is nice or even take a 'dinner drive' where we pack dinner into foil containers and drive to different places to sit and eat together. Sitting in the car with the windows down next to the beach or finding a great new parkland to sit in while we eat our tea is always a nice change.

Why not use your play tea set for more than just pretend play.

Food Group Chart: Bubble is a very visual person and the best way we have found to get her interested in things is to use visual aids of varying kinds. A while back we implemented a food group chart at the dinner table, which is simply a laminated mat with pictures of different types of foods we would like to encourage her to eat. We have had a few versions of the chart, the first one contained only two different pictures and we have added to it over time.
Bubble has a whiteboard marker that goes with her chart and once she has either eaten all of that food (for established foods) or tried a little bit (for new/unpopular foods) she can add a tick to the picture.
There is no consequence or incentive for getting a certain number of ticks, the act of being able to 'check off' a food group is enticing enough to Bubble luckily but it could be used in conjunction with a separate reward chart of some sort. The important thing is to have that visual cue there on the table, reminding her to try all the different things on her plate, without us having to verbalise it.

We keep Bubble's food chart on a clip board which gets hung on the back of the pantry door between meals.

Any foods that are not included in the meal we put a cross through.

Bubble loves 'checking off' her food chart as she finishes each category. It also gives us a great platform for talking about which foods belong in which groups and why.

Friday, March 2, 2012

'Snowflake' Easter Eggs

Both Bubble and Squeak love anything to do with cutting paper lately, our kitchen floor seems to be forever covered in chopped up junk mail and catalogues! They both enjoyed making paper snowflakes at Christmas time, so we tried a bit of an Easter twist and made some 'snowflake eggs'.
Bubble (4.5 yo) found this activity tricky but enjoyed it enough to persevere, her favourite part was definitely using the hole punch. Squeak (2.5 yo) found the intricate cutting too difficult without my help, but also thought the hole punch was the best thing ever.


* coloured paper
* scissors
* lead pencil
* hole punch

First we folded a sheet of A4 paper into quarters, folding it in half horizontally and then in half again vertically.
Then keeping the 'sealed' side on the left we cut a rounded edge on the 'open' side. When folded out it becomes an oval shape.

Using a lead pencil I drew shapes on the folded paper for Bubble to cut along. She chose which shapes went where and I tried not to make them too small so she would be able to manoeuver her scissors easily (older children could make much more detailed designs).

The girls then used the hole punch to make circles wherever they liked.

When our paper oval was unfolded we had...

a paper 'snowflake' Easter Egg!
I cut the star shapes on this one (they were just too tricky for her little hands) but Bubble found the diamond, semi circle and straight line cuts doable with a bit of patience.

The eggs look beautiful framed on the wall and Bubble made a very cute sign with her sticker book to go with them.

Watermelon Rind Rainbows

As I've mentioned here before, Bubble is very into rainbows. Because of this fascination she sees them everywhere, anything that is remotely arch shaped or coloured reminds her of her 'favourite thing in the world'.
Last night after dinner we had some watermelon and she delighted in lining up the rinds to make 'watermelon rainbows' on her plate. Today we added some paint and paper and made some slightly more colourful versions!


* watermelon rinds
* paper towel or absorbent towel
* paints
* paintbrush
* baking paper
* craft paper
* jar of water
* face washer (for on hand clean up, this activity got messy!)

First we dried our rinds with an absorbent towel and then laid them on baking paper. You could use any kind of surface for them, I used baking paper so we could put them down when they were covered in paint and they wouldn't stick when we went to reuse them.

The girls loved painting the rinds with their brushes and paints.

Then pressing them onto their paper to make the arches of their rainbows.

This was a lot of fun and the results turned out really cute too. Even Squeak (2.5 yo) got right into this activity.
Be warned though it was very messy, especially since we used both sides of our rinds to print with!