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Marwa Abdelbary
BY Marwa Abdelbary

4 Ways to Maintain Therapeutic Progress During Winter Break

We all need a break sometimes, and our children are no exception. For parents of kids with special needs, winter break from school can bring concerns as well as wonderful opportunities.

  • How do you ensure your child doesn’t lose valuable ground while out of school and on a therapy break?
  • What kinds of activities will keep your child and friends or siblings engaged at the same time?
  • How can you be sure this end-of-the-year time off is filled with fun memories and continued progress?

Meaningful moments don’t necessarily require elaborate plans. Going to a specific restaurant to share a meal on a certain day or helping prepare hot cocoa while watching a movie can be traditions your children look forward to with great anticipation. Following steps or doing things in sequence also strengthens motor planning skills. Sneaking in a little therapy work can be fun for everyone.

Here are four basic strategies to help your children enjoy winter break and be ready to return to school when it’s over. Ask your child’s speech therapist, OT, and PT for more ideas based on your child’s IEP goals.

1. Keep moving!

Physical activity may seem like the antithesis of a restful, cozy winter week, but maintaining movement and transitional demands similar to those that kids have during school time is important in order to avoid resistance when getting back to school. It may be easier to just relax indoors, but your children need to maintain their activity level during break so going back to school doesn’t seem physically tasking.

There are lots of movement-based activities kids can be a part of, both indoors and out. Playing in leaves or snow, especially with a parent, can be healthy and memorable. Dancing to favorite music or playing active pretend games can both be done indoors. Be creative, and keep moving!

2. Schedule your sleep.

Winter break is very short, and it can be particularly hard for children with special needs to move quickly back into the school routine if it has been disrupted. Maintaining habits such as bedtimes and getting up early will ease the transition, and ensure that your child is ready to jump right back into learning and therapy.

Depending on your children, there may be ways to incorporate the special feeling of the season into bedtime activities. Reading a book about winter holidays or singing a special song together may be great additions to your bedtime practice. However, if focusing on upcoming events raises your children’s excitement level too much, you may want to reserve those activities for earlier in the day to avoid altering their bedtime ritual in any way.

3. Create something.

Winter time indoors is a great opportunity for kids to work on arts and crafts or decorating. Creating something beautiful for a family gathering can help them feel like they’re a part of the celebration and provide them with a sense of accomplishment that they contributed to the preparations. Kids’ crafts also enhance many skills that are being worked on in therapy, such as fine motor skills, scissor use, writing, and attention to tasks.

For something that’s usually a hit for kids of varying ages and abilities, consider having a Play-Doh activity day. Put some plastic on your table, and clean-up becomes easy. You might consider working around a theme, such as zoo animals, or just go with creative open play. In addition to being fun, working with dough fosters fine motor skills and provides a useful sensory experience. Take pictures of your favorite creations, and you’ll have a memory that lasts a lifetime!

4. Have play dates.

Spending time with friends is a great way to keep children active, social, and engaged in their school lives. Kids usually know what to do when they’re together, but if they struggle to find something to do, look for an activity they can all enjoy together.

A big box of Legos or another kind of building toy can provide endless hours of entertainment. For lunch, set out pizza toppings and give kids balls of dough so they can create their own lunches. If the weather permits, go on an outdoor exploration, and talk with your kids about what you see and experience. Go to an art or science museum or a botanical garden. The options are endless, so start with something you think your children will like, and invite a school friend along for the ride.

Winter break presents the perfect opportunity to create lifelong memories and traditions that children will look forward to with anticipation. Remember, traditions don’t have to be complicated or time-consuming in order to be memorable. In many ways, a tradition is just a routine that’s tied to a special time period. Don’t overthink or worry too much about planning elaborate events to make memories. Memories come with the time you’re spending together.

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Marwa Abdelbary

Written on December 15, 2016 by:

Marwa Abdelbary is a physical therapist and co-founder of Tiny Tots Therapy LLC. Tiny Tots Therapy's multidisciplinary and multilingual team consists of dedicated and talented occupational, physical, and speech therapists; with the collaboration of various pediatricians, counselors, and psychologists, they meet the growing needs for individualized quality therapeutic services for your child.

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