A Day at the Beach

Beach/Ocean Theme 2015

This week’s beach theme emphasis family fun in the sun and getting outside during the summertime to enjoy family leisure activities. This can involve a lot of work for parents and children, and new experiences can bring about a number of challenges and anxiousness. Using simplified lists with large words and clear pictures as symbols, can help children begin to become more independent in caring for themselves, and gathering their own things.

Packing Beach Bag
Packing our beach bags
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Our List for our Beach Bag

We used a simplified list in the clinic with pictures that allowed children to find what they may need in the house and pack their belongings more independently. This fun activity can develop a child’s confidence, role, sense of purpose, participation, and self-care skills.  Including the child in the process better orients them to the family routine, and the overall flow and transition of getting out of the house can run much smoother, if the children are set up to understand what to expect for the day.

To prepare our bodies and senses for the beach we use our imagination and symbolic play to make the beach fun. To introduce the sensations of the beach we played in a water table, danced to silly ocean songs, regulated with deep pressure massage with sunscreen, and played in a sand sensory bin to find hidden sea creatures. We also increased regulation and calmed our bodies by incorporating large movements such as swinging or rocking before participating in experiences that may cause anxiousness.

Swinging in the Sailboat
Swinging in the Sailboat
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Fishing in the water table

At home, parents can play sounds such as ocean waves, or put sunscreen on themselves to increase familiarity and exposure (auditory, touch, smell) with these sensory experiences.

Once at the beach, playing outside together as a family with beach balls or sand toys is a fun way to increase playful non-competitive, imagination and family interaction.

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Beach Ball Toss

Playing this way with others also allows children to practice turn-taking and requesting based on personal needs, and allows children to have positive interactions with others. Introducing new vocabulary when opportunities for new words present themselves will help your child better express wants and needs.

To practice using our hands and building our fine motor skills, together we made a large ocean mural. We used markers, scissors, stickers, pencils etc. to decorate our ocean animals.

ocean muralThe best part is- that we made it together, and there were many animals in one big ocean. This not only allows us to be creative in arts & crafts, but to come together for a project. This is something you could also do at home. Our mural looked beautiful!

What Do You See?

I Spy Safari Theme 2015
During this theme we continued our focus on visual-spatial awareness and discrimination, motor planning, answering “wh” questions, following directions, furthering complexity of sound productions, and working collaboratively with peers.

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Paper towel roll binoculars

Some sessions started with making binoculars (using toilet paper rolls, tape, string) to assist with visual focus – either for items requested/chosen to find or with referencing peers.

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Reading “What Do You See?”

The first week, we read a book from a multisyllabic lesson created by Communication Window called  “What Do You See?” that used three to four syllable animal names (i.e. elephant, dinosaur, alligator, teddy bear, bumble bee, butterfly, ladybug), which targeted sound productions and articulating each syllable. This was supported with clapping hands for each syllable or touching a dot on a pacing card as each syllable was produced.  Clients were asked “wh” questions such as “What animal likes to eat bananas?” or, “What do you use to take pictures?”

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Finding pink objects

We also watched a couple of different educational videos from Super Simple Learning: “I See Something Blue” and “Walking in the Jungle” (and projected the video on wall for increased visual attention).  These videos targeted finding items of a certain color from a busy background, identifying certain animal sounds, and imitation of movements. The carrier phrase “I see” and attributes such as color, were targeted to increase utterance/sentence length and complexity (e.g. “I see a green tree.”) Turn taking skills were practiced enabling each participant a turn to share what they saw, as the other participants listened.

In the gym, we went on a “safari” finding animals (hidden around the room) in locations that required motor planning, balance, attention to auditory direction, and coordination to retrieve (i.e. pulling oneself closer to the animal while on platform swing, zip-lining down to pit and balancing along edge to reach for animal, and walking along a balance beam with animals along the way to pick up).  Clients were either given a request to find certain animals or they made a plan prior to a movement activity.  They were given a template with the outline of animals to match the shape with the target animal they went to find. Additionally, continued practice with the “I see” phrase and production of multisyllabic animal names. Some clients went on a safari outside to find animals hidden around the campus. Having visual support (i.e. pictures or items to find) can assist with increased attention and spatial awareness when clients are traveling/exploring outside.  Having a “mission” to do together also may assist with social interactions and working cooperatively with peers.

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Feeding the puppets
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Hiding the animals with food

During snack, we encouraged increased food explorations by hiding animals using food and feeding animal puppets with various food options. Additionally, we would encourage making requests for foods they like: “I want ___.” and “More ____ please.”

What you can do at home:

“I see ____” can be used during car rides, at the park, and in other new environments to increase awareness and expand utterances and vocabulary.

Building and Constructing to Spatial Awareness

Building/Construction Theme 2015

The overarching goal addressed during our Building/Construction theme was spatial awareness, the ability to be aware of oneself in space as well as understanding spatial concepts, or prepositions. For more information on spatial awareness, click here.

We began our group with an interactive iPad story (Big City Song, by Debora Pearson). The target goals supported by the story focused on imitation of various sounds and preparation for our pretend play building/construction theme. Next, we went to work! The work activities included building a city with large foam blocks and pipes, using pretend tools, building with recycled goods (i.e. cardboard boxes, wooden blocks, toilet paper rolls, etc.), drawing out a building plan, making requests for blocks/tools needed, and painting/gluing wood blocks.

These activities supported many different goals such as expanding on play interests and pretend play, sharing space with others/participating in a collaborative project, tool use, receptive language (following directions, prepositions – on top, next to, over, under, etc.), and pre-writing skills (awareness and production of lines and shapes in a meaningful way).


For snack, we expanded on the construction theme by building structures out of various food items (pretzel stick “nails,” olive “bolts,” cheese “bricks,” cracker “walls,” and cream cheese/almond butter “cement”).

Goals addressed included tool use, bilateral coordination (requires opposite hand to secure item while using a tool), tactile exploration/tolerance, and exposure to new foods (looking, smelling, moving, touching, etc.)


To further develop these skills, try some of these suggestions at home:

  • Find stories that encourage making a variety of sounds – amp up the volume and affect…”CRASH,” “BOP,” “BANG”
  • Build with recycled or other available materials at home. Be creative! (i.e. making forts, making houses for pretend animals or favorite figures)
  • Using clear language, give your child directions while building and playing (i.e. “Put the bear in front of the house”) and demonstrate if needed (i.e. “I put the bear in front of the house”)
  • Consider following or making a visual plan to support visual/spatial awareness
  • Encourage drawing out plans (using different colors and shapes) for something they are making or building (depending on your child’s skill level) – you may need to demonstrate and do together.