Saturday, October 01, 2016

Fun Ways for Kids to Explore & Manage Emotions Using LEGO

Most kids love LEGO. My oldest J claims he loves to play with LEGO, but if I'm going to be honest with you, I'm pretty sure he just enjoys chewing on LEGO more so than just building with it. But that's between you and me.

Regardless, both boys like to play with LEGO so we have been using it to explore and learn about emotions. However, you can also use LEGO to manage big emotions and help kids self-regulate. This list of fun ways for kids to explore, learn about, and manage their emotions using LEGO is perfect for any kid who loves LEGO.

Not all the ideas use actual LEGO bricks, but they are all inspired by LEGO and are tons of fun!

Fun ways for kids to explore and manage emotions using LEGO from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links.

Fun Ways for Kids to Explore & Manage Emotions Using LEGO

1. Building Emotions LEGO Activity - Give the kids a fine motor workout as they build and explore emotions with this simple LEGO activity.

2. Free Printable LEGO Emotions Inference Game - Work on speech, empathy, emotions, and inference skills with this awesome free printable game for kids.

3. Free Printable LEGO "Today I Feel" Emotions Chart - Encourage your kids to talk about how they are feeling everyday with this adorable LEGO man emotions chart.

4. LEGO Drawing Emotions Activity for Kids with Free Printable from Little Bins for Little Hands - Get the kids exploring emotions by drawing them with this simple free LEGO heads printable.

5. LEGO Calm Down Jar from Lemon Lime Adventures - Help your kids calm overwhelming emotions with this simple and beautiful LEGO calm down jar.

6. 3D LEGO Emotion Drawing Activity for Kids - The kids will love drawing different emotions with this 3D LEGO emotion drawing idea.

7. Make a LEGO Emotions Station from Lalymom - Inspired by the movie "Inside Out," this emotions station idea is a great way to explore and talk about emotions with your kids.

8. Free Printable LEGO Emotions I Spy Game - Let the kids search and count different LEGO head emotions with this free printable.

9. Homemade LEGO Calming Stress Balls from Lemon Lime Adventures - When your kids are stressed or overwhelmed with emotions, or even if they need a fidget, try these homemade LEGO stress balls. Draw different emotions on them and use them to explore emotions with your kids.

Awesome LEGO Activity Books for Kids

For even more amazing LEGO ideas for kids, check out these fabulous books:


Other LEGO Inspired Ideas You'll Love



Fun ways for kids to explore and manage emotions using LEGO from And Next Comes L
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Friday, September 30, 2016

Building Emotions LEGO Activity {Fine Motor Fridays}

We've been working on emotions at our house with a variety of activities, mostly with a LEGO theme. For instance, the kids recently drew emotions on 3D LEGO heads and played this printable LEGO I spy game. As another way to use LEGO to explore emotions, I set up this simple fine motor activity for my youngest son.

This fine motor LEGO activity for kids encourages kids to explore, build, and recreate some common emotions.

Building emotions LEGO activity for kids - great for developing fine motor skills from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links.

LEGO Activity for Kids to Build & Explore Emotions

For this activity, I used:

Before presenting this fine motor LEGO activity to five year old K, I built a LEGO head out of yellow bricks on a small green base plate. I then placed the finished LEGO head and the LEGO emotion cards on a tray. You could either present the activity with an emotion already built (like below) or leave the LEGO head blank.

Fine motor LEGO activity for kids from And Next Comes L

The idea is to recreate the emotions on the cards by building them on the LEGO head. It's a great way to work on social-emotional development, while encouraging fine motor skills practice. K wanted to start with happy.

Exploring emotions using LEGO from And Next Comes L

Fine motor LEGO activity for kids from And Next Comes L

Then he worked his way through the other emotions, pausing only occasionally to show off his creations on the LEGO head.

Exploring emotions using LEGO from And Next Comes L

Exploring emotions using LEGO from And Next Comes L

Then K explored a variety of other emotions not available on the printable emotion cards and experimented with making his own creations. He was quite proud of this little guy!

Exploring emotions using LEGO from And Next Comes L

Other Fine Motor Ideas You'll Love

LEGO Emotion Drawing Activity

Pumpkin Collage from Powerful Mothering

10 Black Dots Fine Motor Math Activity from School Time Snippets

Name Bracelet Fine Motor Activity from Stir the Wonder


Cutting Spiderwebs Halloween Fine Motor Activity from Little Bins for Little Hands

Building emotions LEGO activity for kids - great for developing fine motor skills from And Next Comes L
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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Help & Support for Hyperlexia

It seems like yesterday was random hyperlexia support day or something because I was coming across information, requests, and comments about hyperlexia like crazy! First there were some amazing comments, along with some thought provoking questions, on our hyperlexia story blog post

Then the National Autism Association shared an image on their Facebook page about hyperlexia. It was so refreshing to see hyperlexia highlighted in such a manner! And not by me for a change! All I could think was, "It's about time!"

Then later in the evening, a blogging friend sent me a message about a mother in her support group looking for more information about hyperlexia as her child was just diagnosed. This one definitely hit me hard. Because regardless of how much I have written and shared about hyperlexia in the past two years, obviously it is still difficult for those needing the information to actually find it.

And that sucks. 

I know what it is like to be in this mother's shoes. The new diagnosis is overwhelming. The lack of information is frustrating. There's confusion, maybe shock. There's maybe even happy tears shed because finally...finally, there's an answer to describe and explain their child.

So to this mother, and all other mothers out there who are in this same position, the same one I was in two years ago, here is what you need to get the help and support your child with hyperlexia needs, as well as the help and support you need as a parent.

Wow, I got a wee bit passionate there, didn't I?

How to get the help and support your child with hyperlexia needs from And Next Comes L

Professional Help & Support for Children with Hyperlexia

There are many therapeutic options available for kids with hyperlexia. However, not all professionals will necessarily have experience with hyperlexia and oftentimes, they may not have heard of hyperlexia. Shocking, I know...You may need to educate them on what hyperlexia is. You can see my tips for advocating here.

Since most kids with hyperlexia also have the autism diagnosis, a lot of parents seek out various types of autism therapy, such as ABA or occupational therapy. So search for professionals and therapy options that suit your child's needs. Those needs could be speech related, sensory related, social skills related, etc.

Please note that this list is not exhaustive and I am not endorsing any particular therapies below. This list is not reflective of my personal opinions on the particular therapies. It's just here to provide you with ideas. Here are a few therapies to explore:

  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Music therapy
  • ABA
  • Physical therapy
  • Social skills groups and/or training
  • Play therapy

Classroom Support & Home Accommodations for Your Child with Hyperlexia

If your child has just been diagnosed with hyperlexia and you are looking for actionable ideas to try immediately, then here are a few articles that address accommodations and support for school and for home:

Online Support Groups for Hyperlexia Parents

I find it extremely helpful to talk to others who just get it. Others who are raising children with hyperlexia. It's nice to know we're not alone and that others understand the unique abilities and challenges that go along with hyperlexia. You know, instead of people thinking we are bragging constantly or that we drilled our kids with flashcards as babies...yeah, you've had those conversations too? I bet you have!

So whether you are new to the hyperlexia diagnosis or not, then you may find comfort with an online support group just like I have. Here are two support groups designed for parents of children with hyperlexia (educators and hyperlexic individuals welcome as well, of course!):

  1. Hyperlexia + Autism Support Group for And Next Comes L - Come join my small community of parents who have children with hyperlexia and/or autism. There's a wide variety of topics discussed on a regular basis and you occasionally get sneak peeks from me, including Facebook live videos, tips, and photos of our day to day life that I don't share elsewhere. I also crowd source information from this group for blog posts (kind of like I did for this one!).
  2. Hyperlexia Parents Network on Facebook - This group is amazing! It is an extremely active group that celebrates the unique quirks and talents of our hyperlexic kids, while offering amazing support, regardless of what stage or age you are at in your hyperlexic journey. Highly recommend joining this group as it is an amazing resource for parents.
There is also a group dedicated to Hyperlexia Type III (without ASD), but I am not an active member of this group, so it is hard to share my thoughts on it. But it is available as well and may be worth checking out.

Hope you find these resources and ideas helpful!

Other Ideas You'll Love




How to get the help and support your child with hyperlexia needs from And Next Comes L
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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

LEGO Emotion Drawing Activity for Kids

We've been talking about emotions a lot in our house lately. Exploring them through play, introducing emotion vocabulary to expand beyond happy or sad or mad, and for some reason, using a lot of LEGO themed activities to do so. We use our LEGO emotions chart regularly and we play the LEGO emotion speech game often as well. And we've even searched for emotions with this free LEGO emotions I spy game.

But there has been this one idea floating around in my mind for quite a few months now. It's only now that I have brought this idea to life!

Here's how we have been exploring emotions with kids using LEGO.

LEGO emotion drawing prompt - a fun way for kids to explore emotions using LEGO from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links.

LEGO Activity for Kids to Explore Emotions

This activity has been on my to do list for like forever and it worked just as well as I thought it would in my head. I love when that happens!

Here is what you'll need for this LEGO emotion drawing activity for kids:

Make a LEGO head using the LEGO DUPLO bricks and set it on a tray with some the LEGO head emotion cards and a dry erase marker. Optional: draw one of the emotions on the LEGO head before presenting the tray to your child.

LEGO activity for kids to explore emotions from And Next Comes L

I set this activity up for K, who just turned five, and he thought it was hilarious and fun! He started off by drawing happy. Like seriously, how cute is this little squished happy face?

LEGO activity for kids to explore emotions from And Next Comes L

Then he went through the rest of the cards, talking about little details like the eyebrows of the LEGO heads, while copying the expressions onto the LEGO heads. Drawing those details is a great way to work on fine motor skills while exploring and learning about emotions!

Emotion drawing prompt for kids using LEGO from And Next Comes L

Then he also explored his own emotions and experimented with drawing sharp pointy teeth on the LEGO head. It's kind of hard to see in the bottom picture because of the way the dry erase marker drew on (it was kind of faint). But he was ridiculously proud to show off his LEGO man with teeth!

Emotion drawing prompt for kids using LEGO from And Next Comes L

Emotion drawing prompt for kids using LEGO from And Next Comes L

Of course, don't forget to expand beyond the emotions that we covered and let your kids draw whatever they're feeling!

Other Ideas You'll Love



LEGO emotion drawing prompt - a fun way for kids to explore emotions using LEGO from And Next Comes L
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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Easy Pikachu Cake

I am not much of a birthday person. However, one thing that I will do every year for my kids' birthdays is make them a fancy cake. I may not throw them an incredible party, but I always make them a fun cake at their request. They pick the design and I make it.

I am not a professional baker, at all. It's just something that I choose to do for my kids' birthdays. It's fun and the kids adore the finished results! And I get to eat copious amounts of icing and cake scraps once per year, without feeling guilty.

The cakes that I have made over the years have varied. There's been cats, monkeys, 3D bears, 3D pirate ships, math cakes...so many fun ones! I, however, outdid myself this year.

J requested a Pikachu cake for his seventh birthday, like one does when obsessed with all things Pokemon. And it was one of the easiest cakes that I have made in a long time!

Here's how to make a super easy Pikachu birthday cake.

I promise, it's super easy.

How to make a Pikachu birthday cake for a Pokemon themed birthday party from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links.

What You'll Need to Make a Pikachu Birthday Cake

I know that a cake tutorial is a little random for my blog. But, considering I take photos of these cakes every year and share them on my personal Facebook profile, I thought maybe others would be interested in my cake making adventures as well.

Here is what you will need to make this super easy Pikachu cake:

Since I have signed myself up to make two fancy birthday cakes in one single night, due to the closeness of the boys' birthdays, I opt to use a cake mix to streamline the cake making process. Some years I make a pound cake if I need to make a 3D shaped cake, but most years, I buy the boxed cake. However, I always, always, ALWAYS make my own buttercream icing because store bought icing is just gross and doesn't compare. It really doesn't.

Having said all that, use what you prefer. 

Bake the cake as the recipe calls for. You will need to make two 9-inch round cakes. Let cool completely before assembling the cake.

How to Make a Pikachu Birthday Cake for a Pokemon Themed Birthday Party

1. After the cakes have cooled, place one round cake on the tray that you will be serving the cake on.

2. Cut two rabbit-ear shaped pieces from the other round cake. Optional: eat cake scraps.

3. Place the rabbit-ear shaped cake pieces at the top of the round cake to form the basic shape of Pikachu.

4. Make your icing (skip if using store bought). Save a small amount of white icing (roughly one tablespoon or so) in a separate container. You will use this small batch of icing for finishing details.

5. Add some drops of yellow food coloring to your icing and mix until the color is evenly distributed.

6. Add a generous layer of yellow icing to the entire shape of the cake and along all edges.

7. Chill the cake in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

8. Add an additional layer of yellow icing if needed. Otherwise, run a butter knife or cake knife over the entire cake to smooth the icing as best as you can. Optional: lick the icing off the knife to reward yourself for such an amazing job! You deserve it!

9. Add black and red details using the decorating icing tubes.

10. Using a piping bag (or use a small plastic zipper seal bag and snip one corner) to add the white dots to the eyes using the icing you put aside in step four.

11. Chill until serving time.

How to make a Pikachu birthday cake for a Pokemon themed birthday party from And Next Comes L

Other Ideas You'll Love for a Pokemon Birthday Party




How to make a Pikachu birthday cake for a Pokemon themed birthday party from And Next Comes L
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Monday, September 26, 2016

DIY Dust Jacket Puzzles for Kids

I cannot resist buying books for my kids. 

Costco trips result in more books.

And then there's those irresistible Scholastic book orders that I always feel compelled to stock up on birthday and Christmas gifts, knowing full well that they won't get put away until those special occasions.

I am pretty sure that I'm a children's book hoarder at this point. 

However, books are something I always feel are worth investing in, so I'm okay with hoarding them. What I'm not okay with hoarding, though, is the dust jackets from the hardcover picture books. Seriously, why do they even bother putting those on children's books if they aren't going to be attached the book themselves.

They just fall off. All. The. Time.

Thankfully, I've come up with a perfect solution: turn those dust jackets into easy DIY puzzles for kids!

Easy DIY puzzles for kids using dust jackets from their favorite picture books from And Next Comes L

How to Make DIY Puzzles for Kids Using Their Favorite Picture Books

The kids can even make these simple puzzles themselves. And why not? It gives them a chance to work on fine motor and scissor skills.  But I also love that these DIY puzzles can incorporate their favorite book characters!


Easy DIY puzzles for kids using dust jackets from their favorite picture books from And Next Comes L
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Friday, September 23, 2016

Sleep Strategies for Kids with Autism or Sensory Needs

Sleep issues can be common in kids with autism.

Thankfully, J has always been a good sleeper. But he has always been an early riser, regardless of what time he goes to bed. He was also sometimes quite difficult to get to sleep because he would be so fidgety and fired up before bedtime. However, once he was asleep, he was asleep for the night.

So over the years, we have come up with a pretty solid list of sleep time strategies that work for him, as well as for our youngest son, K. The sleep strategies for kids with autism below are things that we do to target a variety of sensory systems: visual, olfactory, proprioceptive, tactile, and even oral motor. They address his specific sensory needs, which is why I think they are effective for him.

Sleep strategies for kids with autism or sensory processing disorder from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links.

Sleep Strategies for Kids with Autism or Sensory Needs

These are the strategies that we use and implement for bedtime success. They work for us. That doesn't mean they will necessarily work for you or your family, but instead, they may give you ideas of things to try.

1. Create a Bedtime Routine

We have a set routine that we follow for bedtime and it has been the same since my kids were newborns. I know this strategy seems like common sense, but I'm always surprised to learn of families who do not have a regular bedtime routine. Our kids thrive on routine, as do many other kids, because it teaches them to know what comes next. There are no surprises. They know that sleep time follows reading books.

If it is bath night, then the routine is as follows:

  • Bath
  • Get dressed
  • Brush teeth
  • Go pee
  • Read books for about 30 minutes or until child falls asleep
  • Sleep time
If it is not bath night, then the routine is as follows:

  • Get dressed
  • Go pee
  • Wash face, hands, feet, etc. with a cloth
  • Brush teeth
  • Read books for about 30 minutes or until child falls asleep
  • Sleep time
We also use an electric toothbrush to provide oral motor sensory input before bedtime as a way to reduce chewing on books or toys during the bedtime routine.

2. Use a Visual Schedule to Reinforce the Bedtime Routine

We don't use our visual schedule as much as we used to when our kids were toddlers. The visual cues helped J tremendously when he was little, especially since our visual schedule used written words and pictures. You can grab a copy of the exact visual schedule that we use here. It is a free printable!

3. Use a Weighted Blanket or Stretchy Bed Sheet to Provide Calming Proprioceptive Sensory Input Before Bedtime

Proprioceptive sensory input is calming for kids and can help energetic kids settle down into a slower rhythm. So if your kids are a bundle of energy before bed, then try squishing them with a body pillow, using a weighted blanket while reading, or encourage them to crawl under a lycra bedsheet (see our DIY stretchy sheet tutorial) while reading.

We have noticed a huge difference in J's ability to settle during bedtime since we started using our homemade stretchy sensory bed sheet on his bed. He crawls underneath and the light pressure is enough to keep him from wiggling and fidgeting during story time.

How to make a stretchy lycra bedsheet for kids


Other alternatives would be to try a weighted blanket or weighted stuffed animal. You could try one of these 13 homemade weighted blanket tutorials if you are the DIY type. If you're not the DIY type, then you can try buying a weighted blanket.

How to make a weighted blanket tutorial


4. Use a Visual Sleep Training Clock

We started off using Momo the Monkey sleep training clock and J used to carry that clock everywhere with him. He never did use it the way it was intended and it eventually it was dropped one too many times and would no longer open and close its eyes.

Monkey sleep training clock for kids


However, when we received Gro-Clocks one Christmas, J was more interested in using it to help him know when it was time to sleep. He still doesn't use it as a visual aid for when it's time to wake up though and likely never will since he's such an early riser, but it has definitely been a great help for settling to sleep.

Gro-clock


The OK to Wake! Clock is another alternative, although we have not used this particular one.

OK to wake clock


5. Get Lots of Fresh Air and/or Exercise Before Bed

Again, this strategy is kind of obvious, but mentioning it because it is still important. We like to jump on a trampoline, go for a bike ride, or even go for a walk before we do our bedtime routine. It's a great way to burn off excess energy before bed and really wear out the kids. The fresh air always helps them sleep soundly for the night.

6. Use a Himalayan Salt Lamp for Better Sleep

I swear by Himalayan salt lamps, not just for the kids, but for me. I always sleep so amazing when we have our salt lamp on for the night. There's lots of health benefits to using a Himalayan salt lamp and we have definitely noticed the benefits ourselves. They also make great night lights too with their soft glow.

Himalayan Salt Lamps



7. Do a Weekly Detox Bath

Every Sunday night, my kids have a detox bath. It helps them settle for the night, but we also see improved focus and mood for the following days. They also get sick less. You can read all about how to do a detox bath and why it's good for kids here.

8. Use Essential Oils to Settle the Kids into a Better Sleep

When the kids are wound up before bed, even after some fresh air and exercise, sometimes they need a little extra help to settle down for the night. A bit of essential oils in the diffuser helps them settle down for the night and even helps them sleep better. You can do something as simple as a drop of lavender on a cotton ball and place it in their pillow case. Or you can try our DIY bedtime blend, which smells amazing!

Other Ideas You'll Love

This post is part of a monthly series called Parenting Children with Special Needs. This month's topic is support and you can find the other posts regarding this topic below.
When Nightmares Become Reality | Every Star is Different
Surviving Night Terrors | Grace and Green Pastures

Sleep strategies for kids with autism or sensory processing disorder from And Next Comes L
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