Movement Props and Sensory Integration

With Winter lingering on for seemingly forever, tis the season for sensory dysregulation and cabin fever. Many of my clients get extra wiggly in sessions and groups this time of year. With the cold keeping us trapped inside, it can be difficult to get the sunlight and sensory input that our bodies crave. Luckily, Janet makes some of the best tools to help keep kids active and regulated through, what I think, is the worst stretch of the winter months.

Simple Sensory Rules

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Figuring out how to best provide sensory input to children can be challenging, especially if you are learning it all on your own. Here are some guidelines on how to provide the best sensory experience.

  1. If it is not helping to regulate the child, it may not be the right sensory activity for them.
  2. After a vestibular activity, like rocking or spinning, provide a proprioceptive activity, like the wheel barrow walk or body squeezes.
  3. If you spin, always make sure to unspin in the opposite direction.
  4. Start with a large body activity, like jumping, and end with a small body activity, like using putty or play dough.
  5. Keep it simple and consistent!

Tactile Input – Touching or feeling

One of my favorite tactile tools to use in session are the Bear Paw Creek textured bean bags. With many different exteriors to the bean bag, there are opportunities for every tactile seeker to find a bean bag they like. I have shared in previous posts the ways I use these bean bags in session.

Textured Bean Bags

TEXTURED BEAN BAGS

In addition to feeling textures and squishing the bean bag on the body that I mentioned in previous posts, I like to rub the bean bag on different body parts to provide a variety of tactile sensations and activate the mind-body connection. I use the song “Rub, rub, rub” to tell children where they are going to rub the textured bean bag on their body, in time with the music. I use this activity at the start of sessions to help get kids focused and engaged in the group! This song is featured on my Mini Musical Minds CD which has a variety of songs for sensorimotor skills, instrument play and more!

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[Tweet “Movement Props to the Rescue with winter lingering on for seemingly forever, tis the season for sensory dysregulation and cabin fever”]

Auditory Input – Hearing

Bear Paw Creek has a variety of sensorimotor props, but Janet also sells wrist jingle bells. Jingle bells are one of my favorite auditory stimulating instruments. The sound is strong enough that it activates the auditory processing centers in the brain, but it is not too loud to cause dysregulation or distress. To work on auditory input and processing, I like to play a game called “I hear something playing”.

Jingle Bell Wrist Scrunchie on Connect-a-Band for movement activities

Jingle Bell Wrist Scrunchie on Connect-a-Stretchy Band

Children sit in a circle, each with jingle bells behind their back. I have children close their eyes and I walk around the outside of the circle and tap one child to be the instrument player. I then instruct children to open their eyes and I begin singing the words “I hear something playing” and the child I tapped to be the instrument player will shake their jingle bells softly behind their back. I continue to sing “I hear something playing” and see if the other children in the circle can identify where the sound is coming from. I ask “what can it be?” and “where can it be?”.  Depending on how sneaky the instrument player is, it can take a few times before all the children can identify the sound source. You can also play this game with a variety of instruments and the children have to guess where the sound is coming from and what instrument is playing the sound.

 

Proprioceptive and Vestibular Input – Spinning, rocking, and jumping to feel where our body is in space

I have written many posts about the stretchy band and it is still my favorite sensorimotor prop to use in session. The reason why I love it so much is because it is so versatile! In the posts I mentioned above, I share several ideas to use the stretchy band for a variety of skills. Another way you can use the band to aid in sensory integration is through the inherent resistance of the stretchy band to help sway the body front, back, side to side, up and down, and all around.

I use a simple chant to help guide the direction of my clients when using the stretchy band for sensory integration. I sit on the floor with them and wrap one end of a small stretchy band around myself and one end around my client. I then start chanting “front and back, front and back, that’s how we go” and we move in time with the chant. I gently pull the client forward when I say “front” and they have to pull me and rock backwards when I say “back”. We repeat this idea on the verses “side to side” as well as “up and down”, moving the way the words tell us to move. To add more sensory input, you can stand with the client and add a verse such as “jump and jump” where they have to jump with the stretchy band and bounce it up and down.

Stretchy Band Sleigh Ride with Jingles and Snow

I find that providing consistent sensory input is the number one way to improve overall attention in my sessions and minimize negative behaviors from my clients who have a difficult time controlling their body, especially in a group. Bear Paw Creek’s sensorimotor props make it easy and fun to make sensory integration activities for children of all ages and abilities!

 

On my blog, I’ve shared additional sensory tips and strategies you can use to keep your children, clients and students stay regulated through the last of the cold months. I hope these resources are helpful for you and the children in your life to stay active and engaged. A regulated child is a happy child, and that makes music groups so much more fun!

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Written by: Alyssa Wilkins, MT-BC, owner and founder Dynamic Lynks Alyssa is a passionate Autism provider, Board Certified Music Therapist, music educator and adaptive yoga instructor.

Promoting Social Interactions through Sensorimotor Play

Written by: Alyssa Wilkins, MT-BC, owner and founder Dynamic Lynks Alyssa is a passionate Autism provider, Board Certified Music Therapist, music educator and adaptive yoga instructor.

I work with a lot of young children and children on the autism spectrum. Often this means that cooperative play and typical social interactions are challenging. Activities where we need to play as a group or hold hands are difficult, but sensorimotor props make learning these play skills much easier!

In this post I will share a few ways I use the stretchy band and ribbons to accomplish this goal.

Using the Stretchy Band

I have written several posts: A Stretchy Band for Every Skill and 5 Ways to Use the Stretchy Band about how I like to use the stretchy band, but one way it has been coming into my sessions recently is for classic childhood games!  Something like Red Rover or Ring around the Rosie now becomes a piece of cake for children who struggle with spatial awareness or peer relations.

  • Ring around the Rosie
    • I assign each child to a color and sing the classic rhyme.
    • When it comes to “we all fall down”, I have the children drop the stretchy band to the ground since it can be difficult to get some of my kiddos back to standing.
    • I sing the song several times and always change the ending so instead of “we all fall down” it becomes “we all jump up” or “we all stomp”.

 

  • Red Rover
    • I start with 1 child holding the stretchy band on each end, keeping it taught.
    • We chant the Red Rover song and call one child’s name to run over into the stretchy band.
    • They run as fast they can into the band and get flung backwards by the pressure.
    • That child then helps hold the band and we call another friend over.
    • We repeat this until everyone has had a turn running into the band.

Row Your Boat Stretchy Band

 

  •  Storytelling
    • For fall, I particularly like “Way Up High in the Apple Tree”. I do the story chant-style, but the Learning Station also has a version for those who are unfamiliar with the song.
    • I chant the song while we are all holding the stretchy band in a circle. The kids have to follow my movements with the stretchy band throughout the whole story.
    • There is fun shaking, stretching, climbing in the story so you can get creative with how you all move the band together.
    • Once the children know the chant well, I assign different leaders to chant the song and create their own versions of the movements that we all have to follow.

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Using Ribbons

Ribbons are so versatile, and Janet makes many versions perfect for children of all ages and abilities. The thing I like most about ribbons is that they are visually engaging and give an easy way to track another peer’s movements so you can have extended interactions without many distractions.

  • Shake Your Ribbons
    • This is one of my original songs that I use often in my early childhood sessions. The song instructs children to move their ribbons in different ways.
    • In the song, the children go “fishing” with their ribbons and have to share what they caught with the group.
    • You can use the same chords of the song and ask different children to choose a movement, and all the other children have to follow and copy that movement for the duration of a verse.

 

  • Ribbon Walk
    • Some of my children really struggle with staying in a line or keeping appropriate personal space. I like to use a Ribbon Walk to work on this skill.
    • The children stand in a line and are each given a ribbon. The person 2nd in line has to hold the end of person number 1’s ribbon and keep it straight and tight the whole time they are walking. They have to stand a “ribbons-length” away from their friend in front of them.
    • I put on, or play, one of the group’s favorite songs and they have to follow-the-leader and walk around the room, keeping a ribbons-length of space between them and each friend.

 

  • Mirror my Ribbon
    • For children who are working on engaging in prolonged social interactions, this is one of my favorites!
    • I pair 2 children up and the goal is for them to be perfect mirror images of each other, copying each other’s movements. Often this is done with the children touching hands, but that can be difficult for my little ones.
    • The children instead have to hold each end of a ribbon and use that as a guide to complete the movement of the leader.
    • The leader switches about every minute, so they always have to be ready to lead and follow!
    • I play slow, simple music patterns in the background to guide slow, clear movements.

Ribbon Wrist Streamers

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I hope you can use some of these ideas in your next class or session! I find that sensorimotor props are the most effective way to engage an entire group and get them working on social skills that are usually very challenging. For more songs to use in session, you can check out my latest CD, Mini Musical Minds. I also have an entire curriculum dedicated to social and emotional developmental for children of all ages and abilities!

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A Stretchy Band for Every Skill

A Stretchy Band for Every Skill

Written by: Alyssa Wilkins, MT-BC, owner and founder Dynamic Lynks Alyssa is a passionate Autism provider, Board Certified Music Therapist, music educator and adaptive yoga instructor.

I have been using products developed by Bear Paw Creek for years, and I just cannot get over the versatility of the stretchy band. Whether you are working on motor/physical skills, cognitive skills, or communication development; the stretchy band can do it all! Here are 6 ways to use the stretchy band to work on skills across clinical domains.

1. Cognition – If You’re Holding __________ Stand Up!

This is probably my most requested song in session. I have each child in the group sit crisscross on the floor and hold the stretchy band with two hands. They have to listen to the colors in the song, and when they hear the color they are holding (they might even be holding 2 colors), they stand up and do a dance move!

Stretchy Band Joy

2. Motor/Physical – Bounce it Out

I recently got this idea from a Music Therapy conference from Kathy of Tuneful Teaching. Sitting on the floor, each child holds the stretchy band with two hands. I put on some fun background beats (I suggest using the newest loops on Garage Band or creating your own loops in LaunchPad –  and the children have to bounce the stretchy band to the beat. You can have them bounce high and low, side to side, in and out, make a wave – you name it!

3. Communication – Sound it Out

Beat competency is a precursor for language development. Bouncing to the beat, like we did above, helps prime the brain to take in information and aids in future skill development. Bouncing also provides a visual and tangible prompt for speech skills, which is very helpful for children struggling with the motor planning aspects of speech. You can use the same beats as above and have your children bounce specific words to the beat such as po-ta-to or ma-ca-ro-ni. Or you can make your own song and bounce out syllables, consonants, words, or even whole sentences.

La Puerta Abierta and the stretchy band

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[Tweet “6 ways to use the stretchy band to work on skills across clinical domains; motor/physical, cognitive, or communication development. “]

4. Social/Emotional – Take the Band

I have found that my groups are sometimes the only opportunity a child gets to engage in cooperative play with a peer, since it is provided through an engaging and well-structured medium. I created this song for one of my families, and it has quickly become a hit in all of my sessions. Each child stands and holds the stretchy band, and completes the movements along with the lyrics of the song. I emphasize the idea of working together and completing the move with a friend – which is made much easier by holding the band together.

5. Sensory Integration – I’m Flying

In previous posts, I have mentioned how I use the stretchy band for both vestibular and proprioceptive input through the popular songs Row, Row, Row your Boat and London Bridge. One of my new favorite ways to use the stretchy band is for “flying”! In my individual sessions, I hold one end of the stretchy band and a parent holds the other end. The child steps in the middle and we gently fly them from one side of the band to the other. They are in control of how fast they go, how far they stretch, etc. I sing the song I’m Flying from Peter Pan, at a slow to moderate pace, along with their movements to provide musical structure and anticipation of when the activity will end.

*I suggest using a relaxing activity after “flying” to help regulate the body.

6.  Relaxation – Breathe In, Breathe Out

We practice coping strategies and self-regulation in both my music therapy sessions and yoga groups. Breathing techniques are one of the easiest coping strategies to access, but can be tricky to teach. I love using the stretchy band as a group to show the movement in and the movement out of the breath. Sitting in a circle, each child holds the stretchy band and we stretch the band all the way out with the “breathe in” part of the song, and shrink it all the way in with the “breathe out” part of the song. Check out the song!

I hope these ideas give you some inspiration for your own sessions, groups or classes! I can’t wait to see how you use the stretchy band to target skills in even more clinical domain

You can listen to and purchase the songs I mentioned above for $2.50 each at Dynamic Lynks.

Janet and I are also joining forces to give away a medium stretchy band these three songs!

enter to win medium stretchy band and alyssa wilkins songs 

 

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5 Ways to Use a Stretchy Band

My Fab Five

Written by: Alyssa Wilkins, MT-BC, owner and founder Dynamic Lynks Alyssa is a passionate Autism provider, Board Certified Music Therapist, music educator and adaptive yoga instructor.

This post is all about my 5 favorite ways to use a stretchy band in my sessions, groups, and classes. The stretchy band is an extremely versatile tool and I have seen music therapists use it in a variety of ways. Janet herself has an amazing guide of 21 activities to do with the stretchy band. My measly 5 may be small in comparison, but they are always a hit at my holistic therapy center!

5 Steps to Use Your Stretchy Band

  1. To Make a Circle

This may seem very common sense, but this is one of my favorite ways to use a stretchy band in session. Using the stretchy band makes the circle visual and tangible. I can then instruct clients to sit behind a specific color to fill-in the circle. You can either have the clients sit behind the stretchy band, or have them wrap it around, and behind their backs, for support while seated.

Stretchy Band in Action

  1. One-on-One

If I am working with a client one-on-one, I like to use the stretchy band for sensory integration interventions. The push and pull of the stretchy band can help provide both vestibular and proprioceptive input to clients who may be sensory seeking. One way I do this is first by wrapping the stretchy band around myself and the client, twice. While sitting facing each other with the stretchy band around us, I begin to sing “row, row, row your boat.” While singing the song, we both rock back and forth, myself pushing forward while the client pulls back, then the client pushing forward while I pull backwards. This provides deep pressure input on the back and arms while pulling, as well as vestibular input from the rocking motion.

Stretchy Band Joy

[Tweet “Who knew the stretchy band could be such a strong metaphor for life?” Alyssa Watkins MT-BC]

3.   As a Group

The stretchy band is probably most fun in a group setting, but that is one woman’s opinion. There are so many ways to use the stretchy band as a group, but one of my favorites is while playing London Bridge. I instruct one group member to help me hold the stretchy band and the other group members to create a line behind the band. Myself and my helper wrap the stretchy band so it creates a small circle. We then hold up the small circle and I instruct the other group members to walk under the band and around, single-file. I begin singing “London Bridge” as the group walks under the stretchy band. When I get to the line “my fair lady,” I replace lady with the group member who is under the band at that time. Myself and my helper lower the stretchy band and trap whoever is under the band. While singing “take the key and lock her up” we gently rock the person in the stretchy band back and forth, or front and back. When I sing “my fair lady” again, we release the trapped group member!

4.  To Practice Counting

Learning to count can be challenging for children of all ages and abilities. The stretchy band may not seem like your go-to counting tool, but it is one of mine! First, I have my clients stand in a circle, wrap the stretchy band around their backs, and hold on with both arms. I remain on the outside of the circle so I can lead the intervention. I begin strumming a strong, rhythmic beat and have the group bounce the stretchy band to the beat. I walk around the circle and count each group member in the circle with the beat. This is so I know what number to use in the song, but also so the other group members can have a visual representation of the number being sung and practice their counting skills. I then begin singing one of the many counting songs I use in sessions. For this example, I will refer to “Alice the Camel” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmchQjTqn0U). You could also use “Five Little Monkeys” or any original counting song you have. “Alice the Camel” uses the lyrics “Alice the camel has 5 humps, Alice the camel has 5 humps, Alice the camel has 5 humps so go Alice go!” If I have ten group members, I will sing 10 humps instead of 5. When I get to the line “go Alice go” I have the group lean back on the stretchy band and I choose one group member to let go of the stretchy band and drop to the floor. I then have the group count the remaining number of people in the circle with me to the beat. I continue this process until Alice has no more humps (when there are no more people standing). The song ends with “Alice the camel has no humps, Alice the camel has no humps, Alice the camel has no humps, because Alice is a horse!” I find this line hilarious, I may even like it more than the kids do! I love using this song and the stretchy band to work on counting because it teaches an academic skill though movement, it is constantly engaging, and provides sensory input to clients who need it.

1-2-3-Counting-with-the-Stretchy-Band.jpg

5.   For Yoga

I am not just a music therapist. I am also a yoga instructor, and I LOVE using the stretchy band for my children’s yoga classes. I use the stretchy band in group warm ups all the time. Sitting on our mats in a circle with our legs straight in front of us, we all grab on to the stretchy band and slowly lower ourselves to the ground for a count of 8. We then have to pull ourselves up while slowly counting to 8. The stretchy band provides a small amount of resistance, which helps to engage the core. The band also gives the kids a feeling of safety because they are able to hold onto something as they move their bodies in new ways. This comes in very handy when we are doing poses like tree, warrior 3, and eagle, which are all balance poses. While standing in the circle, we hold the stretchy band taught and flow into tree pose, warrior 3, or eagle. The band helps provide some support to aid in balancing and it also gives us a sense of community, because we all have to work together to hold each other up. With my older kids, I use the stretchy band to teach that lesson. If one person lets go, we could all fall. We have to work together to overcome new challenges. It also helps show that sometimes we need support to try new things and succeed. Who knew the stretchy band could be such a strong metaphor for life?

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These are just some of the ways I use my stretchy band every week. If you do not have this tool in your arsenal, you definitely need to get one! The stretchy band can be used with many age levels and abilities, which comes in very handy in my practice. I specialize in the treatment of children with autism, and the stretchy band can be used to meet so many of my clients’ needs. It can be used for sensory integration, academic and social skill development. It aids in gross and fine motor development, which are all crucial goal areas I work on every day. I am so glad I could share these interventions with you, and I hope they come in handy with your kids and clients!

 


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