Pirate Sensory Soup {Water Sensory Play}

By on Monday, June 29, 2015 Be the first to comment!
Summer is in full swing and so is the water play. This pirate themed sensory soup was a great way to turn around a crazy morning. It encouraged lots of fine motor practice, story telling, and exploration of mathematical concepts. And like all of the sensory soups we have done, this sensory soup was quick and simple to set up.

Pirate sensory soup: water sensory play idea for toddlers and preschoolers from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

This sensory soup idea came about after a trip to the bookstore. I was on the hunt for some summer reads about autism and the boys were literally running around and hiding among the shelves. It was hectic and I was getting worn out, so we were about to leave when a staff member flagged us down. She asked if it was okay to give them something that was leftover from one of their weekly story times. I happily agreed since I was so stressed from the experience. She gave them each a bag of pirate loot. Inside the bag were adorable foam pirates, gold coins, and lots of other goodies. They were happy and I was mere minutes away from a quiet car ride.

The boys played with pirates and coins in the car and it continued when we got home, so I decided to turn them into a water play idea for the boys. The result: pirate sensory soup!

To make pirate sensory soup, we used:


Simply toss everything into a sensory bin and it's ready for playing!


Pirate sensory soup: water sensory play idea for toddlers and preschoolers from And Next Comes L

Sensory soups are great because they encourage fine motor skills like scooping, pouring, and whisking.

Pirate themed fine motor water play idea for kids from And Next Comes L

Pirate themed fine motor water play idea for kids from And Next Comes L

Sensory soups are also great for encouraging story telling. Obviously, these stories were pirate inspired.

Pirate themed fine motor water play idea for kids from And Next Comes L

Finally, I love sensory soups because it encourages mathematical learning like measuring, estimation, counting, patterning, and more. The boys used the coins and gems to make patterns and count, for example.

Pirate themed fine motor water play idea for kids from And Next Comes L

Do your kids love pirates? Then they'll love this pirate quiet book page too!

Pirate themed fine motor water sensory play for toddlers and preschoolers from And Next Comes L
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Why I Hated Instagram as a Blogger

By on Friday, June 26, 2015 Be the first to comment!
Summertime is a great time to do blog maintenance and it is usually when I decide to do something completely drastic on social media. Last summer, my focus was Pinterest. I started doing lots of experimenting, deleting of pins, deleting of boards, and that sort of thing. Shortly after, my Pinterest following exploded (you can read more about that here). This summer I have decided to focus on Instagram. I haven't been enjoying Instagram, even though I love photography and I am capable of taking beautiful photographs. So why did I hate it so much? What was I doing wrong?

Why I hated Instagram as a blogger and my new Instagram strategy from And Next Comes L


Why I Needed to Change My Instagram Strategy

I cannot seem to get into Instagram no matter how hard I try and despite everyone I know declaring their love for this social media platform. I love taking photos. And I think that I take beautiful photos. Shouldn't I love a photography based social media platform then? What was the problem?

So I started taking a closer look at what it is about Instagram that I like and what I don't like. Then I figured out one reason why I might not be enjoying this platform: I was simply uninspired. Nearly everything that showed up in my Instagram newsfeed was lackluster or uninspiring or filled with text. I was hardly ever actually scrolling through my newsfeed and hardly liking photos. I just simply did not like what I was seeing. Then I wondered: do others feel the same when they see my photos? Obviously, I hope not.

A few days after I started pondering switching up my Instagram strategy, I read a post about 10 mom Instagrammers to follow. I went through that list only to be further disappointed. One account was filled with photos of kids crying and throwing tantrums, which I will never ever support (that's another story!). Another was basically just photos taken from blogs (shared with proper credit) with zero original photos. Oh and then there were three accounts that were basically linked to or had some connection with the original author. Needless to say, I found only one account to follow in that list and it turns out I was already following that person. So again, I was left uninspired.

Then I remembered reading this blog post about using Instagram wrong sometime last year and some of the key points from it still lingered in my mind. I decided it was finally time to take action and come up with some kind of Instagram plan for my blog.


What Changes I Made to My Instagram Account

STEP ONE: UNFOLLOW PEOPLE

The first course of action was to start unfollowing people. And I unfollowed a lot. More than half of the people that I was following were gone just like that. My criteria for unfollowing and not unfollowing:
  1. Is this person a Facebook friend who often cross posts to Facebook? If yes, unfollow. I can like their photos on Facebook instead.
  2. Is this person a company that I want to work with who seems to follow no one back? If yes, unfollow. I think tagging that company in a photo will be a much more effective way to make brand connections.
  3. Does this person post regularly? If no, unfollow.
  4. Is this person posting lots of photos filled with text, such as photo quotes or screenshots? If yes, unfollow. I want to see photos. PHOTOS, people.
  5. Is this person a fellow blogger that I simply followed because we were doing a Instagram follow thread in our mutual blogging network group on Facebook? If yes, unfollow. I want to follow someone because I truly enjoy their photos, not because I feel obligated to follow them. I hope other bloggers follow me because they like my photos and will interact with them rather than follow me out of obligation and never engage. Also, I am not doing fellow bloggers any favors if I am following them, but never engaging with their photos.
  6. Is this person a blogger who is part of my blogging tribe? If yes, do not unfollow. I will continue to support and engage with my blogging peeps because I love them to bits!
  7. Is this person a supposed Instagram rockstar and I followed them simply because of their rockstar status? If yes, unfollow. Most of these accounts were filled with crap I did not enjoy, especially photos filled with text.
  8. Does the person post nice clear photos? If no, unfollow.
Before I knew it I unfollowed over half of who I was following. My newsfeed already began to look much better. Do I feel bad for unfollowing family and blogging companions? Yes, but my ultimate goal is to enjoy Instagram and see beautiful photos. Those people just didn't seem to fit this goal.

STEP TWO: FIND NEW PEOPLE TO FOLLOW

I started perusing my favorite hashtags and started following new people who had an interest in photography and/or kids activities. Then I would look at who those people were following. Soon I had a whole new crop of beautiful Instagram accounts filling my newsfeed. It was starting to look much more inspiring over on Instagram and I was actually starting to enjoy browsing my newsfeed.

STEP THREE: SHARE MORE OF MY DSLR PHOTOS

My smartphone is already like four years old and it doesn't have the greatest camera, but I kept using it on Instagram because it was easy and convenient. But I knew from the time that I started using Instagram that it was not the quality of photos that I wanted to be sharing. So I have started sharing more photos from my DSLR camera. I have also been deleting photos, on occasion, that no longer fit with my overall strategy.
Instagram tip: Email yourself a copy of your DSLR photos. Then you can download them onto your phone and upload to Instagram.

A photo posted by Dyan @ And Next Comes L (@andnextcomesl) on


STEP FOUR: USE MORE HASHTAGS TO GET DISCOVERED & POSSIBLY FEATURED BY A LARGER ACCOUNT

I'm starting to use more photography based hashtags in hopes that I can get featured by one of these larger accounts and/or gain new followers from other Instagrammers who use the same hashtags. I also use these hashtags to find new people to follow (see Step 2). I also want to start participating more in those photography challenges where you are presented with a theme and have to share a photo based on that theme. Here is an example of my increase in hashtags.


STEP FIVE: KEEP THE TEXT SHORT

For me, the photos should do the talking on Instagram. I rarely read long blocks of text on any social media. So I am going to keep the text that I use to accompany my photos short. One or two sentences max. Here is an example of my short and sweet text.


STEP SIX: POST MORE REGULARLY

I rarely shared on Instagram, maybe one photo every other day. And I did so because I felt like I had to share there regularly. Now my goal is to share lots of photos per day, perhaps a minimum of five photos. I never want to cluster more than two together in a short time span because I don't want to be spammy, but I want to share at more regular intervals. I am sure there will still be days where I post absolutely no photos and that's okay. I don't want Instagram to feel like work.


What I Hope to Gain from this Instagram Experiment

When I first started implementing these changes, I had a lot of people unfollow me. And that's okay. My goal is to curate a gallery of photos that I love and to also attract followers who are actually going to engage with my photos. No point in having a large following if they aren't going to regularly interact with my photos, right?

I am already enjoying Instagram more because now my newsfeed is filled with beautiful photos. And I hope that people are enjoying my feed more because the photos are carefully selected and carefully edited.

And who knows? Maybe my drastic experimenting will pay off again like it did for Pinterest. Time will tell.

Of course, I'd like you to follow me on Instagram, but only if you truly find my photos interesting and beautiful.

Why I hated Instagram as a blogger and my new Instagram strategy from And Next Comes L
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50 Heavy Work Activities for Kids {Free Printable}

By on Tuesday, June 23, 2015 Be the first to comment!
As part of our son's sensory diet, we incorporate a lot of heavy work activities into his day. These activities usually take the form of chores around the house or during play time using heavy objects. These heavy work activities help him focus and/or even calm him if he is headed for a sensory meltdown. So I've compiled a list of 50 heavy work activities for kids that you can try at home and I've even included a free printable list so that you can keep it handy at all times. These activities are great for all kids, even if they do not have autism and/or sensory processing issues.

50 heavy work activities for kids {free printable list of ideas included!} - great suggestions for kids with autism and/or sensory processing disorder from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

WHAT IS HEAVY WORK?

If you have a child with autism and/or sensory processing disorder, then you are likely already familiar with the terms heavy work and proprioception. However, if you are unfamiliar with the term, then heavy work can be defined as:
"tasks that involve heavy resistance for the muscles and joints. It involves proprioceptive input, the awareness of posture, movement, and resistance relating to the body." - source: Heavy Work Fact Sheet
Basically, heavy work activities are used to calm kids, provide input to a child's muscles and joints, and help increase a child's focus and attention.


PLAY TIME HEAVY WORK ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS

Heavy work activities can easily be incorporated into play time. In fact, a lot of the games and activities that your child is already doing at the park can be classified as heavy work. Here are some play time suggestions:

  1. Climb a tree
  2. Push someone on a swing
  3. Play on a teeter totter or seesaw
  4. Build a fort
  5. Obstacle course
  6. Animal walks: crab walk, lizard crawl (uses hands only)
  7. Pillow fight
  8. Pull a wagon or sled filled with objects or with a person riding in it
  9. Play catch with bean bags
  10. Play catch with a large ball
  11. Climb up a slide
  12. Monkey bars
  13. Climb at the playground (ladders, rock walls, etc.)
  14. Hang and/or swing on a bar at the park
  15. Crawl backwards using hands
  16. Carry bean bags
  17. Climb a chair or couch
  18. Carry a pile of books
  19. Push a bobo doll or punching bag
  20. Play statue (adult stands as straight as possible and child tries to push adult)
  21. Carry a bucket of water or sand
  22. Play tug of war - You can use a rope, blanket, scarf, or even our homemade sensory tunnel or homemade stretchy bands
  23. Wheelbarrow walking
  24. Resistance cycling (adult and child face each other, put feet together, and pedal)
  25. Push a door (adult puts resistance on a door while child tries to push the door closed)
  26. Army crawl (no knees allowed)
  27. Hand pushing game (adult and child place hands together and push back and forth)
  28. Dig in the dirt, garden, or sandbox
  29. Do pushups
  30. Squish, knead, and play with play dough or silly putty or theraputty
  31. Ride a scooter board on your tummy and use hands to move


HEAVY WORK ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS: CHORES AROUND THE HOUSE OR WHILE OUT & ABOUT

Involving your kids in chores around the house not only benefits the household and teaches them responsibility, but you are also providing them with the heavy work sensory input that they may need. Things like yard work, laundry, and grocery shopping are everyday activities that provide lots of great heavy work opportunities for kids.

  1. Pull laundry out of the washer and/or dryer
  2. Carry large bottles, boxes, etc. and/or sort recycling
  3. Carry groceries and/or shopping bags and put away groceries
  4. Shovel snow
  5. Rake the leaves
  6. Gather firewood
  7. Mow the grass
  8. Load or unload the dishwasher
  9. Move garbage and/or recycling bins to the curb
  10. Staple paper together
  11. Use a paper punch or hole punch to make confetti out of paper
  12. Rip paper or cardboard
  13. Push, move, or carry large rocks
  14. Push a shopping cart
  15. Vacuum
  16. Sweep or mop the floor
  17. Push a wheelbarrow
  18. Return library books
  19. Push, move, or drag furniture
{Click here to download the free printable.}
Heavy work chores for kids - great suggestions for kids with autism and/or sensory processing disorder from And Next Comes L

Don't forget that some of these 20 oral motor activities for kids who chew on everything can also be classified as heavy work!
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Oral Motor Activities for Kids {Free Printable}

By on Friday, June 19, 2015 Be the first to comment!
Do you have a kid who chews on everything and/or has to put everything in their mouth? My oldest son does. He is constantly seeking oral sensory input. Meanwhile, I tire of hearing myself repeat, "Stop chewing that." Since he has a high oral motor needs, we have to incorporate a variety of oral motor activities into our day. Here are 24 oral motor activities to try with kids who love to chew.

I have also included a free printable list of these activities so that you can print them off and reference them throughout the day. And I've even included some great chewy toy suggestions for those kids who need constant oral sensory input, such as my son.

Oral motor activities for kids who chew on everything - comes with a free printable list of activities and suggestions of great oral motor chewy toys! Great for kids with sensory processing issues and/or autism from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

SNACK TIME ORAL MOTOR ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS

The best way to give your oral sensory seeking kid the oral input they need is to provide a variety of textures and flavors at snack and meal times. Be sure to offer new foods on a regular basis. Here are some oral motor activities that can be done during snack time or meal time.

  1. Eat hard foods (e.g., carrots, apple, radishes, etc.)
  2. Eat chewy foods (e.g., celery, beef jerky, marshmallows, dried fruit, etc.)
  3. Eat crunchy foods (e.g., nuts, crackers, dry cereal, toast, etc.)
  4. Drink a frozen drink like a slush or slurpee
  5. Drink through a narrow and/or twisty straw
  6. Drink a thick liquid through a straw (e.g., milkshake, applesauce, pudding, etc.)
  7. Make an edible necklace with cereal or candy
  8. Chew gum
  9. Eat foods with strong flavors
  10. Suck on hard candies
  11. Eat cold foods like popsicles or ice cream


PLAY TIME ORAL MOTOR ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS

There are lots of simple oral motor activities that you can do without specific toys. A lot of these suggestions work great for when you're in the car, waiting in line at the grocery store, in the classroom, etc.

  1. Blow cheeks
  2. Blow bubbles
  3. Stick out your tongue
  4. Blow bubbles in water using a straw
  5. Play straw games (e.g., use a straw to blow a pom pom across the table)
  6. Blow a whistle, harmonica, or other instruments
  7. Blow out candles
  8. Vibrating toothbrush
  9. Lick stamps
  10. Roll tongue into a circle
  11. Chew toys
  12. Whistle or hum a song
  13. Blow up balloons
Free printable list of oral motor activities for kids who have sensory processing disorder and/or autism from And Next Comes L


ORAL MOTOR TOY SUGGESTIONS

If your child is a big chewer like my son is, then you'll likely want to invest a good chew toy. I hate using that term simply because it always makes me think of dog toys, but that is essentially what these are: toys and tools to chew on. Here are some of our favorites:

Spry Natural Chewing Gum - We choose to use natural chewing gum for our kids. This gum has a great flavor and works great!

Jellystone Robot Pendant Chewable Necklace - This robot pendant is super cute and not too clunky. I do not recommend it for excessive chewers, though, as the robot's feet can be chewed off in less than 24 hours (not that that happened or anything...)

Abilitations Integrations Chewlery Chewable Jewelry - Set of 7 Necklaces - These necklaces make great fidgets too! Highly recommend these. However, these may get caught in hair if your child has long hair.

Chewy Tubes P & Q - These are particularly great for hyperlexic kids simply because they are letters of the alphabet.

Chewy Tubes Knobby Super Chew - Love the texture on these!

Chewy Tubes - These offer lots of different textures to chew on.

Chewigem Dog Tags Chewable Necklace - Another cute chewable necklace to try.

If your kids love to chew on fabric, you could always let them chew on bandannas!

Oral motor toy suggestions for kids who chew on everything - great ideas for kids who have sensory processing disorder and/or autism! from And Next Comes L

Some of these oral motor activities can be classified as heavy work, so don't forget to check out these 50 other heavy work activities for kids!
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Soap Foam Letter Painting

By on Thursday, June 18, 2015 Be the first to comment!
Soap foam is a favorite go-to sensory activity for my boys. We have tried scented soap foam and tie dye soap foam in the past and they focused solely on the sensory experience. Recently, the boys have been playing with our giant box of cookie cutters so I put them to use with this soap foam prewriting sensory activity. The result is lovely and it was a great way for the boys to work on writing the letters of the alphabet.
 Soap foam letter painting sensory activity for kids from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

For this soap foam letter painting activity, we used:


To make soap foam, mix soap with a splash or two of water using a hand blender, electric mixer, or stand mixer. We like to use castile soap and we have bottles after bottles of almond scented castile soap, which is seriously the most amazing smelling soap EVER. So our soap foam also happens to be scented. Mmmm. Also, we have found that using an empty foaming soap dispenser is a great way to make soap foam. I find that using an electric mixer to make a large amount of soap foam can take awhile. However, using a foaming soap dispenser with 2 tbsp of castile soap, topped up with water, works great. Plus, the kids love to help pump the dispenser.

You'll also need to dilute some liquid watercolors with water in some small cups. We like to reuse plastic applesauce cups for this purpose. We made rainbow colors because, well, life is better with rainbows.

Then you just place an alphabet cookie cutter on the soap foam and paint the inside with some liquid watercolors. That's it!

Prewriting sensory activity for toddlers and preschoolers using soap foam from And Next Comes L

Prewriting sensory activity for toddlers and preschoolers using soap foam from And Next Comes L

Prewriting sensory activity for toddlers and preschoolers using soap foam from And Next Comes L

The painted cookie cutter letters look so pretty. I especially loved the rainbow painted W that five year old J did.

Soap foam letter painting sensory activity for kids from And Next Comes L

Soap foam letter painting sensory activity for kids from And Next Comes L

When the cookie cutters are removed, you can sort of see the painted letters on the soap foam.

Colorful soap foam sensory activity for kids from And Next Comes L

Colorful soap foam sensory activity for kids from And Next Comes L

Then when the boys were done painting letters, they dumped the remaining liquid watercolors in and used their hands to mix up some really colorful soap foam.

Colorful soap foam sensory activity for kids from And Next Comes L

Love soap foam? We do too! Try out these other soap foam activities for kids:


Prewriting sensory activity for toddlers and preschoolers using soap foam from And Next Comes L
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Rainbow Chickpeas & Alphabet Cookie Cutters {Invitation to Play}

By on Thursday, June 11, 2015 Be the first to comment!
It has been awhile since we've played with our rainbow dyed chickpeas, which is hard to believe because they're my absolute favorite sensory bin filler ever. The other day I paired the rainbow chickpeas with some alphabet cookie cutters to encourage some alphabet and literacy learning for my three year old. Zero preparation is involved (unless you don't have rainbow chickpeas already on hand, but they only take 3-5 minutes to make), which makes this a quick and simple activity to pull out when the kids are telling me they're bored.

Sensory & literacy activity for kids using rainbow dyed chickpeas and alphabet cookie cutters from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

For this simple literacy activity, we used:



Sensory & literacy activity for kids using rainbow dyed chickpeas and alphabet cookie cutters from And Next Comes L

Simply add the two materials to a sensory bin and get playing. When you push the cookie cutter down, it will fill with chickpeas.

Sensory & literacy activity for kids using rainbow dyed chickpeas and alphabet cookie cutters from And Next Comes L

But three year old K found other ways to play.

Playing with rainbow dyed chickpeas - such a great sensory activity for kids! from And Next Comes L

Then he wanted to spell words. He started with "E-X" and asked me how to finish spelling EXIT.

Spelling words with this simple sensory bin using rainbow dyed chickpeas from And Next Comes L

Then he spelled the words IN and OUT all by himself. I really do think he has a bit of hyperlexia himself, but certainly not to the same extent as his older brother. I love how he initially spelled the word IN in the chickpeas and then OUT outside the chickpeas.

Spelling words with this simple sensory bin using rainbow dyed chickpeas from And Next Comes L

Spelling words with this simple sensory bin using rainbow dyed chickpeas from And Next Comes L

PS: How gorgeous is that last photo?! I am in love with it!

Check out these other literacy activities:


Invitation to play with rainbow dyed chickpeas and alphabet cookie cutters - combines sensory play with literacy learning for kids from And Next Comes L
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Painting with Dandelions {Process Art for Kids}

By on Tuesday, June 09, 2015 Be the first to comment!
There are days were I have zero creativity and can't seem to come up with new, fun ideas for the kids. So, on those days, I often ask my husband to brainstorm with me. Well, this painting with dandelions process art idea is all his idea. He has been listening to me ramble on for months now about how parents love simple activities and that they love activities that use materials that everyone has on hand. And here I thought he wasn't listening to all my blog talk...Anyway, I thought his idea was brilliant and it turned out absolutely lovely! It's a great way to explore nature, explore art, and work on fine motor skills. The fact that it is a frugal and simple helps too. I think you're going to love it!


Process art for kids: painting with dandelions from And Next Comes L
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