10 Go-To Travel Activities for Toddlers to Elementary Kids

Traveling with kids this week?

It can be downright craziness! It can literally make any sane parent want to pull their hair out. It can go seemlessly, or it can go down like my last trip….1 million potty breaks, baby crying endlessly, parents rotating sitting in the back consoling said baby, and snacks smashed into the seats.

But whether you’re flying or driving…there are a few activities to make it go a little easier.

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  1. Magnetic Dress Up Dolls: We’ve used so many different ones and even as young as 3 my daughter enjoyed playing with these dress up boards.
  2. Block beads: My kids as young as 1 year old can self-entertain with these beads for awhile. There are alphabet ones, farm ones, butterfly ones, and  more to fit your child’s interest.
  3. Aqua Doodle: A super simple way to allow your kids to draw without the worry of crayons or markers in the car.
  4. Imaginary Ink: Along the same lines as the aqua doodle, imaginary ink pads and magic markers can be great options for mess free coloring.
  5. Usborne Sticker books:Related image
  6. Wikki Stix: I love these for a variety of reasons. I use them in my work as an OT and love that kids can create letters, animals, and so much more with them.
  7. Melissa & Doug Reuseable Sticker Pads: My kids love stickers. And reuseable ones make it even longer lasting entertainment.
  8. Finger Puppets: I don’t know about your kids, but my kids can sit and talk for hours….especially when they can let their fingers talk to their other fingers.
  9. Lacing Cards: Geared towards the older toddler
  10. Busy Bags: Cards, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, plastic spoons, and many other objects can keep a toddler-elementary aged child busy (at least for a little while!)
  11. Bonus Tips: Lots of snacks! Food always keeps my kiddos entertained!

I’d love to hear if you have any other go to activities. And yes, these are all inspired by my OT mama brain too!

Regardless of wherever you are going or how you are traveling, I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

xoxo-

renae

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unsplash-logoHollie Harmsworth

6 Steps to End Picky Eating

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Picky eating is SO hard for parents! It’s the struggle between feeding your child what they’ll eat just to make sure they eat, even if it’s NOT healthy or nutritious versus holding your ground and them not eating anything. It’s a really really hard spot for you to be in.  When I work with some of my clients, families are often struggling with a kiddo who will eat only a handful of items (commonly goldfish crackers and chicken nuggets). And while not all picky eating is that extreme, you may benefit from some of my tips with your own kids.

Here are my top 6 tips to turn around the struggle with picky eating and the endless mealtime battles. They can be exhausting, I know!

  1. Make meal times enjoyable. Meals should be a social experience. Eat together. Talk about your day or what you’re thankful for. Engage. Meals should be a family experience, not with kids eating individually.
  2. You are responsible for providing a meal, and your child is responsible for what they eat. No pressure, no force feeding, no bargaining, no polite bites. It’s hard sometimes to resist the urges, I know!
  3. Keep meals and snacks consistent throughout the day. Both you and your kiddos should have regularly schedule times to eat every 2-3 hours. It’s good for your metabolism, your satiation, energy, sugar levels and so much more.
  4. Always have at least 75% of your child’s plate be preferred foods with 25% being non preferred foods. And try to create family meals that are composed of both preferred and non-preferred foods so you are all eating the same foods. No more short order cooking!
  5. Learn to play with your food. It doesn’t have to necessarily be at meal times but creating spaceships, boats, mustaches or the like with non-preferred foods can desensitize aversions and increase the likelihood that your kiddo will try one those non-preferred foods. I encourage families to play with food in lots of different environments.
  6. Even if your kiddo refuses a food once, feel free to continue to expose them to that food. It can take between 7-10 exposures to determine whether or not they actually like a food or just opposing it because it’s new!

Was any of this new to you? Comment below with what you plan to implement.

P.S.- If you’re looking for an awesome kids nutritional shake, my kids LOVE this one!

Sensory Alert!: Rice Bin

Alright, I have work on the brain! But my work is fun! I love being an OT. Today my daughter and I participated in her homeschool preschool program. We’ve been on sort of a hiatus because of other stuff going on but we decided to do a little today. We read about Joseph in the bible and his coat of many colors. We talked about how his family came to him for food. This is what led us to playing with rice!

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It’s an easy activity. It can oftentimes be a little messy so I try to do it outside but today we just let the mess happen! It’s great that you can teach your kids that it’s okay to explore and let life (and mess) happen and that in the end, you can clean it up again! Isn’t it true? There always seems to be redemption in the end, especially when God is involved (or should I say, invited to be involved!).

We played with the rice for a little while and then we upped the activity by adding food coloring to the rice and making a rainbow of colors (playing off of Joseph’s coat of many colors). It was easy. Just a few drops of food coloring and then stirred it in with the rice. (A word of caution: many kids do not respond well to food colors and additives within their food. While they typically won’t be consuming the rice, it is something to be aware of. In an ideal world, if this had been a planned activity, I would have sought out more natural forms of food coloring.)

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From the OT in me, here is why I love this activity:

  • Tactile-The number one thing about this activity is the tactile exploration. Kids can run their fingers through it, let it drip on their hands, bury their hands, etc. It provides a vast array of sensations. It’s great for kids that avoid sensory stimuli, crave it, or none of the above! Overall, it’s great for the tactile system. Adding other objects into the bin also encourages tactile discrimination, distinguishing between 2 objects through the use of the hands.
  • Fine Motor- While this may be a less of a fine motor activity than others, the clean up is where you can really get into the fine motor. Picking up those small grains of rice is a great pincer grasp exercise.
  • Cognition/Communication- With the colors, you can have lots of conversations about the colors. With other added elements, smells, toys, other objects, there is lots of conversation topics if you are doing this activity together. What about numbers too? Count some of the rice, or objects within the rice? Possibilities are endless!
  • Self-Regulation- It can be a great activity to increase calming in your child. (Ok I have to admit I have had kids with the opposite experience–picture millions of grains of rice flying around the room!). Many kids will sit and attend to this task for a good period of time (ahh! attention to task skills!).
  • Olfactory- While we didn’t do it during this activity today, adding a few drops of essential oils to the bin can provide another sensory input. You can add scents based off their alerting vs. calming qualities (i.e. peppermint, wild orange, eucalyptus may be alerting while lavender, vanilla,or calming blends may provide more calming). The rice of itself tends to have a scent which provide a olfactory sensory component for those who may be overwhelmed by smells.
  • Visual– With the added colors, you can play games identifying colors, separating colors (ooh! that plays with the fine motor pincer too!), you name it! Have fun exploring different objects within the rice. Visually finding objects of similar colors hidden in the rice, etc. There are some great theme oriented rice bin ideas at Imagination Tree.
  • Gross Motor Coordination- My daughter stirred the food coloring into the rice, which demonstrated to be a great task for developing the coordination to stir, without stirring too fast so that all the rice flew out. She was also using her cars to race up a ramp and dive into the buckets too. All great upper body coordination tasks.

Toddler Approved Green Smoothie

smoothie (1 of 5)My daughter goes through phases where she doesn’t eat much at all.  It’s not a pickiness thing so much as just a no food thing.  In those times, I try to make what she does consume as densely rich with nutrients. Smoothies are one of those ways. We try to do a green smoothie regularly (I’d love to make one every day but it doesn’t seem to be that often). This recipe has been my most recent green smoothie with LOTS of various veggies.

Here ya go….

I typically do two steps. The first, I juice some of the harder veggies (beets, carrots, etc) then I blend it with some of the softer veggies or fruits (kale, spinach, banana, etc). You could do the juicing part ahead of time and freeze the juice in ice cube trays, which would save some time and clean up each night.

Ingredients for the Juicer:

  1. 1 Beet
  2. 3 Carrots
  3. 1-2 apples
  4. 1/4 inch slice of ginger
  5. 1/2 cucumber

smoothie (3 of 5)

Ingredients for the Blender:

  1. Juice from the Juicer
  2. Handful of Kale (shredded it off the stem)
  3. Handful of spinach (between the spinach and the kale, I fill the blender)
  4. 1 banana
  5. 1/2 an avocado
  6. 1-2 tablespoons of chia seed or flax seed
  7. 1/2 cup of almond
  8. 1/2-1 cup of frozen berries (helps cool the smoothie as well)

Directions:

Add the greens to the smoothie first and blend with the juice.  This will allow the greens to be as small as possible, then add the rest of the ingredients and blend in increments as needed.

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It’s not the sweetest of smoothies so if your toddler won’t tolerate, add a bit more of the fruits but try to keep the veggies in the majority. If you don’t have all these ingredients (I don’t always), you can play with your ingredients a little.  (For example, in this picture, I didn’t have almond milk to add. Hence the rich purple color.)  Typically the banana adds a lot to a smoothie and is hard to leave out with this much greens and make your toddler still eat it