Maths & the Importance of Visual Processing

Through play and interaction with their environment children are learning. Children understand space through experiencing and reacting to objects in their environment. Studies have indicated that there is a correlation between spatial awareness and scholastic achievement in mathematics. This spatial understanding is important with objects, such as counters, bears, buttons, beads and can then be transferred for concepts that require spatial imaging such as a number line. Children’s ability to visualise the line and movement along it (depending on the operation, either addition or subtraction) relies on imagining space. The child’s ability to encode spatial information, visualise it, remember that visual picture and mentally manipulate it, is all required to help solve mathematical problems.

Below are some suggestions to help with the development of spatial skills, sequencing, visual memory and categorisation.
¨                 Read books and talk about the details in the picture
¨                 Tell stories, encourage details, so that they are painting a picture for the listener
¨                 Encourage visual imaging by ‘taking pictures in their mind’
¨                 Use items that they have to sort into categories (grouping like objects)
¨                 Play memory games with cards or
¨                 Cover a tray of objects and show for 30sec, then cover again and recall
¨                 Use number cards or magnetic digits and order in sequence
¨                 Use language strengths to count forwards and backwards
Enjoy learning alongside your children as you play.

Gardening With Your Child

Making a garden with your kids is a fun learning experience. Help your child learn to maintain gardens on their own.

Gardening with your child, whether you’re growing vegetables or flowers, can be an educational experience that is also fun. Successful gardening requires patience, dedication, and careful planning.

If you are planning to garden with children it is particularly important to plan ahead. Keeping your child’s skill level and attention span in mind, you will need to plan out an appropriate garden and gardening chores. There are several ways to successfully combine children and gardening. Children can be assigned small chores as part of maintaining a large family garden, children can be given their own small garden plot either within a larger garden or all on its own to maintain, and container gardens are also an excellent option.

Before you head out to play in the dirt, you need to make sure your child is properly equipped! Many chain department stores carry child sized gardening supplies including gloves, shovels, trowels, rakes and other common equipment. Taking a trip to your local library to check out books about gardening, and how plants grow will provide valuable information that will help enrich your child’s gardening experience.

It is also important to settle on a garden plan, and the contents of the garden. Involve your children in deciding what plants to grow. Ask them what vegetable they like to eat, or what flowers they like. Again, having a book to consult at this point is very handy. Children can look at the pictures of flowers, plants or vegetables in the book and use them as a guide for selecting what they would like in their own garden. Research the types of plants you would like to grow in order to ensure that they will grow well in your area and during your current (or intended) growing season.

You will also want to decide with your child if you will be starting your plants from seeds, or if you will purchase potted plants from a local nursery. Starting plants from seeds is more economical and generally offers a wider range of plants to choose from. The experience of planting the seed, tending it, and watching it grow into a plant and bear fruit is something most children enjoy. Some plants are difficult to start from seed, in which case buying a potted plant helps ensure good results, and provides instant gratification for younger children who may be too impatient to watch their garden grow. Once you have your gardening equipment and have decided what you’d like to grow it is time to plan out your garden.

A family garden is a wonderful experience for children. Even the smallest of children enjoy the opportunity to be outside, and toddlers can be given small jobs that will make them feel included. Older children can take an active roll in planning and maintaining a family garden. If you would like to have a large garden, you will need to ensure that as the adult you have the time to maintain it as the responsibility will ultimately fall to you. Children can help with everything from planting the seeds and/or started plants to watering, composting, mulching, weeding and harvesting. Assign each child a daily, weekly, or ‘as needed’ chore that will be their special job. Be clear in explaining the job, and be sure to take the time to explain why that job is important to maintaining the garden!

If your child is old enough to maintain their own small garden plot then the work and the reward of planning and maintaining it will be all theirs! It is a good idea to start small. It is much better to have a small well tended garden than one that is too large to maintain! Your child can be given a plot within a larger garden, or a separate garden of their own. Raised garden beds are also excellent for children since they are so accessible. If you are planning a raised garden for your child, make sure that the width is narrow enough for your child to easily reach the center of the bed. The raised bed can be any length!
Last but not least, container gardening is a wonderful way to create a small, easy to manage child friendly garden that is also space conscious for those who are unable to have large in ground gardens. Many plants, vegetables and flowers can be successfully grown in containers ranging from small to very large. Chain discount stores generally carry a wide range of planters from traditional round pots of long rectangular shaped planters that are excellent for container gardens. Flowering annuals are inexpensive, grow well and look beautiful in pots. There are also a huge number of ornamental plants that grow well in pots both indoors and out. Garden nurseries often carry special varieties of vegetables that grow well in containers. Tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, green beans, squash, cucumbers, leaf lettuce, carrots, radishes, and a great many herbs all do well in containers.

A few other particularly kid friendly and easy to grow vegetables for in ground or raised bed gardens include: carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, peas, radishes, tomatoes, broccoli, beans, onions, watermelon, and squash. What ever gardening method you choose, enjoy the time spent watching your child, and your garden grow.

Is Your Child Really Smart?

You think your child is gifted, but would you like to know for sure? Learn how to assess your child.

Parents are often confident their children are very smart. Children are sponges, eager to absorb as much knowledge as they can, and their mental development is very exciting to the adults around them. So, how can you tell if your bright child is within normal ranges or if you have an extremely smart child? Developmental charts and milestones are useful for a ballpark assessment of your child’s skills. However, keep in mind that these charts are created from averages. So, there is a large range that represents normal development. In the toddler years, being even a year ahead with some skills is probably well within the norm. Children often develop in spurts. A child who suddenly gains a new skill may slow down for a while in other developmental areas. So, consider the overall level of your child and do not just focus on a single area when you do your assessment.

Looking for the following factors may help you determine if your child is extremely smart:- Is your child more than a couple years ahead of the developmental charts in some areas?
– Does your child learn new things very quickly?
– Does your child display extreme motivation, determination and commitment to a certain discipline?
– Is your child exceptional in a particular creative area, for example as a musician or artist?
– Are your child’s reasoning and problem-solving skills exceptional?
– Is your child’s vocabulary far beyond that of his peers?
– Does your child a natural organizer?
– Are your child’s spatial skills exceptional? For example, can she solve “tangram” type puzzles quickly and easily?
– Think about the kinds of questions your child asks; is he seeking depth of meaning or just explanations?
– Does your child display a vivid imagination and extensive creativity?
– Does your child have a high emotional intelligence? Is she empathic and aware of other’s feelings?

In addition, some extremely bright children may show some of the following signs:- An extremely sensitive and emotional nature
– Frustration and boredom with school
– Difficulty relating to peers

The presence of several of these indicative factors might indicate your child is gifted. If your child is school-aged, consider consulting with your educators to ensure school is properly challenging. For children of any age, foster their interests with enrichment activities as well as your time and attention.

Once your child is school-aged, IQ tests can be administered to help indicate mental potential. While IQ tests are not infallible, they can help indicate areas in which your child may have exceptional skills that can be nurtured. Keep in mind however, IQ tests are developed to test the average population; they are not as useful at determining how far above average someone may be. IQ tests should be one tool in the big picture of assessing children.

Realistically, your child is probably not a genius. However, just by recognizing the areas where you children individually excel and giving them opportunities to enhance those skills, you give them tremendous advantages as they develop.

Toys for children with Autism

When choosing a toy for a child with autism it is important to consider how does autism impacts on a child’s play skills. Some of the areas of difficulty include:

Communication

Social interaction

Imaginative play

Sensory Processing/

Integration

Coordination skills

Here are some of our Occupational Therapists suggestions for toys for a child with autism:

Teachable touchable textured squares These different textured beanbags are a great way to encourage tactile exploration. To develop tactile processing skills a child must explore a variety of textures. These bean bags can be a graded approach to touch experience without going down the messy play route.

Jingle Stick

A child with autism often need to be encouraged to engage in eye contact and shared enjoyment of activities. These little bells are a great “high interest” toy which can be used to encourage these skills

Five buses puzzle

This is a great puzzle to develop the concept of big and small. It develops visual skills and sequencing skills. It is a more complex puzzle than standard from board puzzles.

Tangle Jr

This is great fidget toy to improve concentration and can be helpful for children who are anxious. A tangle toy allows for repetitive manipulation which can be soothing and organising for a child

This allows opportunity to develop hand eye coordination skills, bilateral integration skills and your child can create a toy to be used in imaginary play like a car/truck.

Bathing Ducks

A great way to introduce water play. These duck scan be a great way of introducing the bath to children who find bathtime distressing. Playing with the ducks in a basin of water is a good introduction or playing with the ducks in an empty bath.

Conversation cubes

These are great for group work especially for working on social and communication skills of the older child. Take turns in rolling the cube and learn how to create appropriate conversation skills.