Sunday, February 23, 2014

ECSE App All Star: Breathe Think Do With Sesame

Not all children who are referred to and evaluated by our team meet the criteria for special education services.   These children were referred because they are struggling with some aspect of development and their parents are often searching for resources and support. I collect parent friendly resources on a variety of child development topics to offer these parents.  Because we evaluate infants, toddlers and preschoolers, self regulation skills are frequently a topic of discussion and concern.  When I found Breathe Think Do With Sesame, in the app store, I knew that I had found a resource to add to my Self Regulation resource list. I plan to share this app with parents, our Occupational Therapy team and Early Childhood Special Educators.  This app is a great addition to our social emotional skills toolbox.  Currently the app is free.    

The app serves two purposes.  It educates parents and caregivers about self regulation skills and it provides opportunities for children to practice the skills in a structured but engaging way.  The Parent section provides tips and strategies for several challenging issues such as separation, persistence and aggression.  This section begins with an explanation of why self regulation skills are important and provides a script of what parents can say to children who are experiencing difficulties in this area.  Finally, a specific strategy in each area is given.  In the aggression section, the strategy provided is tracing a child’s hand and helping him think of 5 gentle things he can do with his hands so he can think of that next time he is upset.  Some of the sections include video clips.  A theme throughout the tips and strategies section is the framework of breathing, planning and doing. In the settings, the app has a personalization option.  Children are prompted to say phrases that will be repeated throughout the activities such as “think of a plan”.  The language can be changed from English to Spanish in the Settings area.  

The child section has 5 activities and features a monster. Each activity starts with animation showing the monster struggling with a challenging issue.  The issues are getting on his shoes, separating from his mother, a tower of blocks that falls, waiting to use the slide on the playground, and being fearful of the dark at bedtime.  After the introduction the screen changes to the monster surrounded by red and looking anxious, upset and/or mad.  The narrator encourages the child to tap the screen to help the monster take 3 breaths through his nose and out his mouth.  The background color changes from red to blue as the narrator talks about the monster getting calmer.  

Next, the narrator prompts the child to pop bubbles to make the monster think of a plan. The monster thinks of 3 options for a plan.  The child gets to choose which plan the monster will use and watch the result.  Self regulation vocabulary, such as calm, frustrated, relaxed, and anxious are used throughout the activities.  

This app is one of many resources Sesame Street offers in the Little Children, Big Challenges toolkit.  I have bookmarked several resources from the toolkit to share with parents.  Do you have any other apps you recommend for teaching and/or practicing self regulation skills? 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Engaging apps for Scribbling and Drawing

Today I am highlighting 2 apps that I would recommend to pediatric Occupational Therapists, parents and teachers of young children, and early intervention providers.  Lazoo offers two apps (currently free) that will get your most reluctant drawers and scribblers motivated to join in the fun. The apps are so engaging, I found myself wanting to try out each scene, looking forward to the animation on each page. The developers were creative in giving a purpose to the doodles and scribbles.

There is a parent section available, which as you know, earns an app bonus points in my book.  The parent section encourages parents to let their child engage in open ended play.  Parents are encouraged to comment on the drawings and examples of questions that can spark some conversations are provided.  Collaboration, creativity, and the process are emphasized.  Here is a quick description of each app.

Let's Color
The app offers over 25 different scenes.  Each scene has a written question or prompt that is read aloud as each word is highlighted.  For the example below the prompt is "These kids are playing in the mud, make it messy!".  The prompt is only read once and there does not appear to be a way to have it repeated.  There are 5 tools available to produce the drawings and there are also stickers for added embellishment. Once the masterpiece is created, the child hits the "GO!" button and watches as her artwork becomes part of the animation. Several of the scenes promote collaboration and imitation by providing more than one image so a parent, teacher or peer can work on one and the child can work on the other.  For example, in one scene the child is prompted to draw hair on a figure and there are 2 figures.

Completed picture from Lazoo's Let's Color app.


This app has several features in common with Let's Color. A friendly voice provides a prompt such as "Draw a squiggly mane to turn this kitty into a lion." In some scenes there is more than one image so a team can collaborate and imitate. The tools and the stickers are the same.  This app is different in that it provides a prompt in the form of a model of producing squiggles in the intended area and there are fewer scenes.

Completed picture from Lazoo's Squiggles! app
Give these apps a try and enjoy the process!