Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fun at the Pumpkin Patch

Last October, Lydia was just a month old. I was so excited to take her to different Halloween events, but but obviously it was a lot more for me than for her. This year, however, she loved visiting the pumpkin patch at Bedner's Farm Fresh Market. Check out two of our cutest pictures. Did I mention that I recently purchased Photoshop?? :-)

Next weekend, we are going to a fall festival and maybe the Flamingo Road Nursery. Lots of fun fall/Halloween activities to come!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Review of the Big Toy Book

I contacted the generous people at The Big Toy Book to see if they could donate a toy to Abi's Place (the nonprofit where I work) that I could review for my blog. They responded by sending me the Baby Genius All in One Musical Band, which contains two shakers, a flute, 2 drum sticks, and a tambourine - all within a drum!

This super-cute instrument set is great for all young children, but is especially effective with children who have disabilities. When teaching our children, all of whom have moderate to severe developmental delays, it's often difficult to find toys that are motivating and interesting to them. Most of the toys that do interest them stimulate or calm specific sensory needs. That's what is so great about instruments - most of our children love music, and instruments allow them to make their own music. How does that help the teachers and children? Well, we can teach so many great skills using instruments as the teaching tools. Here are a few:
1. Following one-step directions: bang the drum, blow the flute, shake the tambourine
2. Imitation: the teacher taps the drumstick on the drum and the child imitates that action
3. Communication: for our children, communication usually begins when children are motivated to use their words to ask for things that they want - so they can learn to request music through words, sign language, or pictures

These instruments are so cute, with a child-friendly animal theme. Here's Ryan playing with one of the instruments during our interactive circle time:

Thanks to The Big Toy Book for allowing us to review one of your awesome products! The kids love their new instruments. The Big Toy Book also carries many other toys for children of all ages, including eco-friendly toys, bath toys, board games, baby dolls, action figures, and more!   They also have a great blog with guest bloggers addressing a variety of topics. Additionally, they host regularly-scheduled Twitter parties with really awesome giveaways. This week's Twitter party features Toy Story 3!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Guidecraft Tactile Bars Giveaway - Ends 5/7

This is a very special review and giveaway, one that is close to my heart :-)  This giveaway allows me to share an important part of my life with my readers.

I work for a non-profit organization for children with moderate to severe disabilities - Abi's Place. We provide intense, one-to-one educational and therapeutic services to our children. As a grass-roots non-profit, we host several local fundraising events each year and we submit several grants each month. Every so often, someone does something really amazing for the children at Abi's Place. Guidecraft Toys donated brand-new furniture and toys to our children. They also gave me the opportunity to post a review/giveaway for one of the toys we were given.

We got to review the Guidecraft Tactile Bars. Although these are not specifically designed for children with disabilities, we found them to be very appropriate for our student population. Many children with disabilities (such as autism, cognitive impairments, and physical impairments) have sensory integration difficulties. One common issue we encounter is tactile defensiveness. This is when children are unable to tolerate different textures. They may get upset and/or avoid touching certain things. These children need to be given opportunities to explore different textures in a comfortable, trusting, non-threatening environment. By making it a fun part of play without setting any rules or having specific expectations, children will begin to feel more comfortable engaging in sensory activities. We use the same techniques when encouraging children to engage in other sensory experiences, such as eating a variety of textures, brushing their teeth, and washing their hands.

We wanted to try this item with a child who we felt would benefit from tactile exploration. Caitlyn began at Abi's Place last school year and rarely used her hands to explore items. This school year, she has made amazing progress. She enjoyed the experience of touching each of the textures, soft and rough.

Do you have a child who would benefit from a set of tactile bars (RV $90)? The set comes with two tactile bars, each with 9 textures. It also comes with an activity guide with suggested activities to engage children in sensory exploration. Each texture block can be removed from the bar to be used on its own so that you can introduce one at a time. Textures include a soft cotton, fine sandpaper, cold metal, and bristle brush.

BUY IT! You can find some amazing children's furniture and toys at Guidecraft. They use sturdy wood to construct many of their pieces. Assembly is simple with easy-to-follow directions.

WIN IT! One lucky reader will win a set of two Tactile Bars for a special child!

Mandatory Entry: Why would you want to win the tactile bars?

For additional entries, you can do any of the following (one entry each):
1. Become a follower of my blog through Google Friend Connect.
2. Become a fan of Guidecraft on Facebook.
3. Follow Guidecraft on Twitter.
4. Follow me on Twitter.
5. Become a fan of Abi's Place (the non-profit organization where I work) on Facebook.
6. Grab my beautiful new button, and tell me where I can find it!

Be sure to include your email address with each entry so that I know how to find you. This giveaway will end on 5/7 at 11:59 pm EST. If you are the winner, you will have 48 hours to respond before I choose another winner. Good luck!

**Congratulations to Dina! Thank you to all who participated. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Guest Blogger on The Big Toy Book

I contacted The Big Toy Book to review a toy, not for my daughter, but actually for the non-profit organization where I work. You'll probably see several posts about Abi's Place. I work there not just because I need money (the obvious reason), but most importantly because we really do good work. We accept students who would not have the opportunity to reach their potential any other way. We provide them with high-quality educational and therapeutic services. Each child is assigned to teach teachers, who we train, and the child works with one teacher for a portion of the day and the other teacher for the other portion of the day. Everyone there has the cause in their hearts, and it shows - the child have made amazing gains!

So, I asked the nice people over at The Big Toy Book if I could review a toy for Abi's Place, and they are sending us a great set of instruments (I'll post the review as soon as the items arrive and I get to take some great photos of the kids using them!)  They also asked me to be a guest blogger, and they posted my article today. Check it out:

Building Language Skills in Children with Disabilities Through Play by Dr. Carrie Wells