Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Family Corner - meals

The usefulness of utensils!

Getting together for a family meal is important in many ways. Not only has it been shown to be a factor in lowering teenage substance abuse, it is also a great time to practice hand skills. How, you say? Encourage your children to hold the spoon and fork appropriately. The grasp of a spoon or fork mimics the pencil grasp. Introduce cutting with a knife to practice two handed coordination. The more kids utilize good hand skills at the dinner table, the better they will be at holding a pencil and using other classroom tools. Dig in!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Cool School Tool - water bottle weights


Weights are a great way to build hand and arm strength, but did you realize they also have a calming, organizing effect? Drink your water and then fill up the bottle with sand or kitty litter. Glue on the cap and you have 1 lb. weight. Use these weights to help a student transition to different areas in the school (especially helpful in keeping those waundering hands off walls and other people).

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Cool School Tool - the tennis ball

Last month the Boston Globe printed an article on two "do-it-yourself" magazines, Make and Ready Made. These magazines are for people who look at everyday items and think, "How else can I use these objects?" They encourage reinvention and reuse - finding the strange but perfect beauty in everyday things. OTs as a group have embraced this concept in order to adapt items to meet their clients' needs. The next several posts will focus on common place objects that can be used a school tools.

The first featured item is the tennis ball. By now you have seen several classrooms with them on the bottoms of chair legs (not our original idea, but certainly admired by us). They allow the chairs to be pushed in with minimal effort and without a sound...a quiet classroom!

Another use is the hand puppet. Cut a slit for a mouth, draw a face and squeeze to open. Have the student store pennies or other manipulatives in them. At home, stick your child's lunch money in and give them a chance to build their hand strength daily.

Find someone who belongs to a tennis club and give them an empty bag to fill up. Tennis balls lose their bounce and they get thrown away.

The Family Corner - pencil skills

Would you like to improve your child's pencil skills in just minutes a day? Before starting homework, try a few Pencil Olympics (see School Function Quick Tip below). If you would like a handout, send a note to your teacher and we will send one home.

The School Function Quick Tip - pencil olympics

Pencil Olympics!

No need for fancy items to practice hand skills needed for writing. Use the common everyday pencil! Pencil Olympics are few quick exercises to do before a writing task with the whole class. They include skiing (walking up and down your pencil with your fingers), the flying camel (rotating the pencil in the air), and weight lifting (straightening and bending fingers as you hold the pencil). Are you curious to see the "triple flip" and the "balance beam"? Come by room 213 and get a handout from Lynda or Beth. We guarantee your students will write longer and more efficiently if you schedule this in your day.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Cool School Tool - golf pencil

Little Pencils for Little Hands
Have you ever tried to write with one of those BIG souvenir pencils? It's pretty unwieldy, isn't it? Well, that's basically how it feels when you put a big primary pencil or a long #2 pencil in the hand of a small child. Have them use a short golf pencil instead. Give them a small hand-held pencil sharpener to sharpen it. It's a great activity to improve hand skills.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Computing for Kids

Children are spending more and more time on the computer. This can cause repetitive stress injuries. It is recommended that you do a quick 2 minute stretch every 20 - 30 minutes. Now you can make your school computer ergonomic friendly. Stretch Break for Kids By Para Technologies is free software that will run in the background and prompt youths to stretch at timed intervals as well as provide ergonomics hints. Check out our links to download your free copy now!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Cool School Tools - seat sack

Are you aways waiting for students to find their assignment notebooks at the end of the day, buried in a sea of loose papers in their desk? Well, look to the seat sack for instant organization! The seat sack can hold items that are used frequently during the school day. Available at Therapro ( and Childcraft (

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Now that it fits, get out of that desk!

After all that talk about good seating and positioning for school function, let's get the students out of their desks! Our bodies were not made to sit for extended times. Did you know that Winston Churchill did much of his work while standing at his desk? Let's explore some alternate positions for school work.

Standing - Choose a tall counter for a work area. Some students have more attention while standing.

Sitting backwards on chair - This puts the body in a forward leaning position, ideal for writing. It also is a good position for squirmers because it "grounds" them.

Lying prone on the floor (often seen in Hosmer hallways or on rugs in classrooms) - This is a geat position for several reasons. First, it stabilizes the forearms so that the hand muscles (not arm) are used for writing. Secondly, it encourages visual attention.

Sitting in a beanbag chair - This provides a comfortable, supported seating option. Great for writing with a clipboard or typing on an AlphaSmart.

If students need to be in a desk for longer than 20 minutes, do a few quick stretches. Yoga poses, chair push ups, and brain gym "tune ups" are some examples. Check in with OT/PT staff for ideas and resources.

"Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on"

But what about tables?

Now that you have adjusted individual desks, what do you do about tables? This can be tricky since they accommodate any number of children. If you have more than one table, you can make them different sizes (one for larger students, one for smaller students). Again, start with chairs that would fit this particular group. Then adjust the table top to be at the height 2 inches above the student's bent elbow when sitting.

If you have multisized students and only one table, fit the table to the larger students (not the adults in the room, however). Then provide foot stools to accommodate the smaller students.

It is so important for feet to be firmly planted on the ground. Come by the OT/PT room and ask for a phone book. When wrapped in ducktape with nonslip material on the bottom, they work quite well as footstools.

The School Function Quick Tip

Place the Paper - Paper should be placed at a slight angle to follow the natural arc of the writing hand. For right-handed children, put the right corner higher; for left-handed, the left corner is higher. The writing hand is below the line of writing. This encourages the correct wrist position (not awkwardly bent in a "hook" position).

Monday, September 26, 2005

Desk/Chair Size

Are the desks all the same size in your classroom?  If so, look at your students.  Have you ever seen such a variety of body shapes and sizes? When it comes to desks and chairs, one size does not fit all!

The chair and desk are the most used items in the classroom.  Just think of the amount of time a student spends at his/her desk.  A little time spent now making adjustments will have big pay offs in attention, written output and overall endurance.  

Look at your students during any desktop task.  Are they sitting on their legs, in order to raise their bodies up? Are their elbows out to the sides with their heads resting on the desktops?  Are their shoulders hiked up as they write?

Chances are that their desks are too high or their chairs are too big.  How do you know what is "just right" if you are not Goldilocks?

Start with the chair.  Feet should be flat on the floor with hips and knees at 90 degree angles. If feet do not rest firmly on the floor, 100% of the student's body weight is supported by a 4 square inch area!  Students should be able to sit with their back touching the back of the chair (be careful of seats that are too deep).  

Once you have the correct chair, check the desk height.  Many students have their arms in a wing position out to the side.  Too high!  The desk top should be 1-2 inches higher that the bent elbow.  

To make adjustments to most Hosmer desks, you only need a large phillips head screw driver (one screw on each desk leg).  Hint...It is a great wrist/hand strengthening activity for the student!    

Check out our new link, Ergonomics for Home and School for an informative article "Everything You Should Know About Ergonomics and Youths, But Were Afraid to Ask." Scroll down to the sections on school workspace and school computer workstations. Families might be interested in sections on homework space, home computer workstations, television and video games, fitness, sports and performing arts.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Backpack Awareness

"Pack it Light, Wear it Right!"

* Aching back and shoulders
* Tingling arms
* Weakened muscles
* Stooped posture

Does your child have these symptoms after wearing a heavy school backpack? Carrying too much weight can lead to pain and strain. How much weight is too much to carry?

A student should never carry more than 15% of his/her body weight. That means a child who weighs 100 pounds shouldn't wear a loaded backpack heavier than 15 pounds.

Strategies for parents and students:
Loading a backpack:
- Load the heaviest items closest to the back (the back of the pack).
- Arrange books and materials so they won't slide around in the backpack.
- On days the backpack is too loaded, your child can hand carry a book or other item.
- Empty out all unnecessary items...don't let it become a dumping ground!

Wearing a pack:
- Both shoulder straps should always be worn. Wearing a pack slung over one shoulder can cause a child to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort.
- Select a pack with well padded straps. Shoulders and necks have many blood vessels and nerves that can cause pain and tingling in the neck, arms, and hands when too much pressure is applied.
- Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly to the child's back. A pack that hangs loosely from the back can pull the child backwards and strain the muscles.
- The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back. It should never rest more than four inches below the child's waistline.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Welcome Back!

Wecome to our new OT Blog. Each month we will post new information related to school function. Check us out!