Straw Weaving in 15 easy steps!

Want an innovative way to manage your children?
Try Straw Weaving.
This easy activity has an amazing ability to relax, quiet and focus even your most energetic students.
Used at break time, it helps return children to a ‘just right’ threshold.
Used at recess, it helps avoid the excitability that can build with unstructured play.
Used during instruction, it’s rhythmicity and repetition create a synergistic mental state that keeps hands busy but minds engaged.
It’s a healthy adjunct to behavior management and best of all… kids love it.
You’ll need:
5 straws (cocktail or regular)
5 15″ lengths of black yarn
1 long wire to serve as a needle
1 ball of yarn.
Now watch the video.  Enjoy!

Centennial Vision

So proud to be an Occupational Therapist in 2016.

As we enter a new year, it is thrilling to see how our profession and colleagues are all striving to achieve the CENTENNIAL VISION. Consider this:

We envision that OT is a powerful…

More and more, OT services are recognized for their early and continued emphasis on function and participation, and its holistic appreciation of the mind-body-environmental-cultural-societal interconnectedness

widely recognized…

(See below.)


Yes, we are informed by the neurosciences, our knowledge of development, physiology, physics, behavior and psychology,


We are increasingly deferring to research to guide our clinical decisions.

and diverse workforce…

Look around you. OTs and OTAs today, in your schools, your local OT organizations and AOTA. Our therapists come from the broadest of backgrounds and bring unique insightful perspectives.

meeting society’s occupational needs.

Occupational needs? How does that apply to us therapists working within the educational system?

First, recognize that our society is the school system and our population is the children within them.

As far as their occupational needs, they are threefold. We are charged with helping children:

  1. Reach their educational potential
  2. Access their grade level curriculum
  3. Fully participate in the school environment

But there is that one clause, “widely recognized” that still eludes us. While consumers are increasingly pursuing Occupational Therapy services as the holistic solution to their complex needs, other providers are closing in on our domain.

Please, my friends. Do not be complacent and think that our Centennial Vision will realize itself. It is important that we protect this marvelous profession before others claim ownership of Activities of Daily Living, Leisure and related functional activities.

It is already happening.

Learn more from your state organization. Join your state organization. Attend AOTA’s national convention. We are a marvelous supportive and generous group. Let’s not become an irrelevant profession simply because someone else seized an opportunity to write into their licensure bill practice domains that have historically, empirically and conceptually been ours.

And let’s have a happy, healthy, productive, and widely recognized New Year, everyone.

Personal Exercise Charts

Savon's Exercise Chart

Shpilkas, n. [shpeal-kuz] (Yid. obs) shpeilkas, the state of constant movement; restlessness.

  1. A condition marked by an inability to sit or stand still.
  2. A source of endless exasperation to parents and teachers.
  3. A colorfully linguistic equivalent of more common psycho-educational

terms– hyperactive, sensory-seeking, impulsive, high strung.

While he always looked like he had to go the bathroom, it was determined that what Noah really had was shpilkas.

The treatment? More. More movement. More resistance. More repetitions. More variety. More intensity.

Personal Exercise Charts not only give children the outlet they need, they empower them to take responsibility, exert control and gain insight into their behavior. Assure the kids who may have previously gotten in trouble for being in perpetual motion, “You’re OK. You’re just a kid with a lot of energy. Let’s find a way to get rid of some of the extra energy that may be interfering with your work.”

Then, with the teacher’s knowledge and permission, hang the chart in a pre-designated spot and get ready to demonstrate the first rotation of exercises alongside them. First, note the month and date in the appropriate box. After each routine, have the child place a tally mark next to the corresponding exercise. If one series isn’t enough to satiate the child’s needs, do the entire cycle again.

Teachers may subtly suggest a round of exercises before any lesson, prolonged sitting period, group activity, etc., especially those that have been challenging in the past. Encourage children to advocate for themselves if they feel like they need a break. Once children recognize how ‘their own engines run,’ they begin making huge leaps toward regulating them. When that happens, heap on the praise.

Personal Exercise Charts should be checked and updated regularly. Increase the repetitions and vary the exercises.

Oh… and have fun.

Life After Video Games

Yes, there is more to life than that which ends at the tips of one’s thumbs.

Many kids today only know how to entertain themselves in front of a colorful monitor. Don’t get me wrong. I actually don’t have a problem with handheld interactive video games… to a point. It’s all about moderation. But unless kids are turned onto the options, they’re likely to continue ramping up their ‘engine levels’ through endless thumb work.

And sometimes, what they really need, is to learn how to ramp it down.

Want an alternative that can be done for hours, is productive, relaxing and positive?

Hope you’re sitting. You’re not going to believe this. It sounds too ‘Little House on the Prairie’-like to be true.

It’s crafts. Yep. I’m talking needles and yarn, loops and looms, beads and string, leather and lace.

The amazing thing is that kids don’t know how much they’ll like it until they do it. Especially those rhythmical ones whose repetitive motions lull the mind and body into a Zen state.

It’s been my experience that once kids are turned onto crafts, they invariably ask to do them again and again. They even like taking them out to the playground, working on them during recess and continuing on the weekend. From kindergartners to high school, hyperactive students to impulsive ones, those emotionally disconnected to others riddled with anxiety disorders. It’s a winning alternative for all.

Stay tuned for some easy, affordable and proven ideas.

Bonus Round!

OK… one more exercise each.   I’ll explain a few on the unknowns on the menu.  Don’t want you to get frustrated!


  • Wipe the Board.  Actually, this could be called ‘Help the teacher decorate and clean!’  While many teachers ask for student volunteers to erase the board or assist in hanging work samples, this activity brings the necessity of doing this to a conscious level.  Used as a daily exercise, different students are responsible for washing the entire chalk or white board, stapling displays onto the bulletin boards, dangling pictures from the suspension ceiling frames or otherwise installing educational and aesthetic items around the room.  Encourage teachers to add or subtract materials on a regular basis.


  • Can Can.  Divide the class into 2-4 groups.  Students stand side by side along the front, back and sides of the room, linking their arms over each others shoulders.  In unison, they kick their right legs to the left and then their left legs to the right.  It’s like a chorus line.  Repeat this performance while singing your school song, a top 40 favorite or even Happy Birthday.


  • Yabba Dabba Doo.  Fred Flintstone knew how to have fun.  Using his timeless cheer, instruct student to bend and reach with both hands to the outside of the left ankle.  Shake your hands while down there and say, ‘Yabba!”  Immediately swing your arms to the outside of your right ankles, shake your hands and say, ‘Dabba!’  Then, without hesitation, reach skyward shaking both hands and say ‘Doo!’  Repeat 5 times.  Reverse directions, right ankle then left, and do it another 5 times.  This exercise can be done sitting or standing.

I can feel the energy rising already!

The Coke and Pepsi Game

The Coke and Pepsi Game is inspired by a popular children’s party game, this is the school version.  The goal is to provide six different types of movement experiences.

Start by creating a safe track around the room.  The teacher (or therapist) announces the name of the soda.  Students start moving in a counterclockwise direction on the ‘track.’  Teach one movement at a time so students master it.  Gradually add another and another.

  • COKE.  Clockwise walking.  (Linear movement).  When students hear this, they commence walking forward.  If Coke is announced again, students walk backwards.  Reverse directions each time Coke is said.  Whenever Coke follows a different soda name, the movement is always forward.  It is only backwards when it is said two times in a row.
  • PEPSI.  Jumping up and down.  (Vertical movement).  Students keep jumping until another soda is called.
  • DR. PEPPER.  Turning in circles.  (Rotary movement).  When Dr. Pepper is called, students  slowly rotate in place.  Always be sure to call Dr. Pepper twice so students can unwind.  Help students reverse directions if they don’t remember which way they turned first.  Those that claim dizziness or nausea can stand this one out.
  • ORANGINA.  Push-ups.  (Heavy Work).  Students should find floor space in which they could extend into a full plank.  Modified push-ups with bent knees are acceptable.  So are desk or wall push-ups.  I always tell students that they can chose any variation they want.  It just depends on how much they want to impress me!
  • MOUNTAIN DEW.  Shadow boxing.  (Crash and Bump).  In clinic settings, you may have space for a ball pit, crash pad, large scale trampoline, king sized mattress or punching bag.  In these cases, students can actually ‘dive’ in, reveling in the joy of their full body weight and contact on a forgiving surface.  Otherwise… we’ll creatively resort to simulating the experience as best we can.  So…. Float like a butterflySting like a bee.  Act like Muhammed Ali is watching.  Get those fists rapidly punching the air and those feet hopping as if they’re landing on hot coals.  Quick… a left upper cut!
  • SPRITE.  Ostrich walking.  (Inversion).  Bend fully at the hips so you can look between your legs.  Walk in that direction, in other words, clockwise, around the room.  Look out for cheaters!  Students must have their heads down so they reap the reward.

The movements of the Coke and Pepsi Game are identified by names of popular soft drinks native to the northeast.  You can replace them with your own regional preferences.  Schools on healthy food initiatives can substitute better choices.  It doesn’t matter.  CARROT JUICE is certainly a worthy way of calling for a bunny hop.

Either way, the Coke and Pepsi Game will help kids drink up!

Fishy Face

It’s the antidote for nausea, dizziness or other vestibular dysfunction.

Activation of proprioceptors in a heavy work triad of sensations is helpful in countering the wave of discomfort.

Here is the recipe:

1.  Make a Fishy Face.  Suck the cheeks into the oral cavity.  Move the lips as if to talk.  Keep this going while…
2.  Jumping up and down.  This movement provides deep pressure proprioception through the spine, hips, knees, ankles and feet.  At the same time…
3.  Double fist pound the top of your head.  You can never have enough proprio!

Yes, you will feel silly.  Yes, you may look silly, too.  But after a minute of doing this, you will start to feel better.

Column C


No more static fluid build up.  Let’s start sloshing those semi-circular canals around.

The vestibular apparatus, comprised of the semi-circular canals and the saccule and utricle, has direct connections to the Reticular Activating System.  The RAS is responsible for alerting us.  This is such a primary pathway largely because it is fully operational at 6 months in utero.  All the more reason to make sure that we tap it as fully as possible.  Doing that involves moving our heads in all different planes–forward and backward, up and down, circularly clockwise and counterclockwise, and even upside down.

Sneaking motion or repositioning breaks into the school day without causing classroom chaos is surprisingly self-organizing.  In fact, it is often the pursuit of these very same end results provided through intensive stimulation that allow students to finally be calmed.  To wit… they’ve been satiated.  That’s what they sought in the first place.  You’ve just helped them achieve it in a more effective and efficient way.

Here are some good ones:

  • Squat Thrusts (aka Burpies).  Standing tall, each student reaches toward the ceiling.  Next, squat low, placing both hands on the floor.  Kick your feet backwards so your body is in a straight plank, arms extended.  Jump back into a squat and return to stand.  Reach up.  That’s one.  Do this nine more times.
  • Switch.  Students assume a hands and knees position on the floor.  Instruct them to elevate the right leg hip height and straight behind.  At the same time, ask them to reach the left arm straight in front.  Hold this position for 5 seconds.  Call “Switch!”  At this point, students should extend the left leg and the right arm.  Repeat this 10 times.  Vary the length of holding times.  Sometimes ask students to maintain this position is more challenging than assuming it in the first place.
  • Turn Arounds.  Everyone has to find a spot against the wall.  Both hands should be placed flat at shoulder height on an immovable surface.  Ask the students to turn clockwise once.  Place hands back onto the wall.  Turn again in the same direction.  Do this 3-5 times in one direction, being careful to give the wall a “High Ten” on each pass.  Stop and ascertain each student’s tolerance for spinning.  Turn the same number of rotations in the opposite direction. *  It’s OK to only do one rotation either way in the beginning.  As students become more tolerant of spinning, you can increase the quantity.
  • Ah runs.  Create a track around the room.  Remove all obstacles that might cause a student to trip.  Ah runs can be done with only a few students at a time, or the entire class… one right after another.  Designating a starting spot, the teacher instructs the student to take a deep breath and then commence walking quickly (not running!) around the room saying “Ah!” Realize that the child may circle the room more than once.  The child should stop when they are no longer able to say, “Ah.”  The teacher marks that spot with the student’s name and the number of laps.  At later times in the day or week, teachers can repeat an Ah run.  Students quickly learn how to take a deeper breath so they can better their last run.  Label the spot where each student runs out of Ah.
  • Coke and Pepsi game.  This is a fan favorite.  In fact, it’s typically such a hit, that we’re going to devote a post about it all on its own.  Don’t go away.

* If a student feels dizzy… see the blog on Fishy Faces.

Column B

Midline crossing exercises help the brain to talk to itself… literally.  Repeated traversing of the corpus callosum paves this rural path into a superhighway.

When devising exercises to meet this goal, imagine stabilizing the hips so the right upper body reaches into the left body space and the left upper body reaches into the right.  Of course, to make this meaningful, the head has to follow suit.  This often happens naturally if you incorporate a verbal cue with a visual target.

For instance:

  • Pivot Pass.  This is a paired activity.  Students stand back to back so their heels, butts and shoulders are initially touching.  Then, using a large book or object (i.e. something that must be held with 2 hands), the first student turns right to pass it to the student behind him.  The second student must take it with two hands, rotate and then pass it back to the first student using both hands.  In brief, both hands must be used in order to get full trunk, neck and head rotation.  Reverse directions.  Pass left, turn right.  Repeat several times in both directions.  Increase the speed.
  • Good job, chair!  Staying seated with both feet firmly on the floor in front, each student turns his body to pat the back of the chair on the opposite side, behind his shoulder.  Congratulate your chair on the other side, too.  Repeat 10 X.  It’s important to insist on patting the chair rather than their own shoulder to promote maximum rotation.  Encourage the students to look at the chair, while they are at it.
  • Wallet check.  Like Good job, Chair!, this is a seated activity.  Make sure children have their feet flat on the floor before starting.  Direct students to imagine having a wallet in their back pocket.  Using the opposite hand, children turn their bodies fully so their right hand can pat their left buttock and their left hand can pat their right one.  Cue the children to say, “Wallet?  Check!” each time they pat.  Once again, remind them to look at their ‘wallet.’  After all, you don’t want to lose it!
  • Star bends.  Stand like a 5-pointed star.  Both arms are out to the sides.  Both legs are apart, wider than the hips.  With the right hand, bend to touch the left foot.  Return to your upright star formation.  With the left hand, bend to touch the right foot.  Repeat these movements 10 times in each direction.  Remember… You are a star!
  • Pretzel.  Known by different names around the country, you may already do this one.  Each child stands by their desk.  Instruct them to reach their arms straight out in front, crossing the right over the left.  Turn the palms toward each other, then clasp them together.  Fold the arms back into the body.  Next, cross the right foot over the left.  Count to 10.  Close your eyes and count backwards from 10 to 0.  DO NOT UNFOLD right away.  Instead, uncross your feet and cross the left over the right.  Unfold your arms slowly.  Noting which arm is on top, now place the other arm on top.  Clasp the hands together and fold back into the body.  Count to 10 with eyes opened and in reverse with eyes closed.
Add these exercises to your Chinese Menu.  Model them for your teachers.  Help them identify logical times during their lessons to do so.  They’ll soon see that it is easy to insert worthwhile movement breaks into the day.  After all, these exercises only take a minute each.  But they are compounded experiences.
Optimizing interhemispheric communication can be elementary.  Maximizing attention may start with choosing one from Column A and one from Column B.