Archive for: Parenting


The ‘Senses’ and Skills of Gardening

Gardening is fun! Photo by Maggie

Gardening is a great, enriching activity to perform, especially for children – not just in the summer, but in the fall as well. Children naturally learn and develop novel skills, through the interactions that they have with their environments. Gardening enables children to build upon these skills in a natural environment and it allows them to be exposed to various forms of sensory input.  

The Seven Senses

We all are familiar with our five external senses:

  • Sight (visual)
  • Smell (olfactory) 
  • Touch (tactile)
  • Taste (gustatory) 
  • Hearing (auditory)

However, we also have two internal, lesser-known senses:

  • Vestibular
  • Proprioception

The Vestibular System is located in our inner ears and is activated when we move our head in space (up/down, side to side, or lateral direction).

The Proprioceptive System is located in the receptors of our muscles and joints, and is activated any time one performs an activity that entails pushing, pulling, or lifting an object (or in other terms “heavy-work” activities).  The proprioceptive system also acts as a regulator. When the proprioceptive system is activated it releases a neurotransmitter, serotonin, which is calming to the nervous system. Gardening is an activity that can provide proprioceptive input, by one actively engaging in the performance of heavy-work tasks (i.e. carrying a filled watering can). A child who may experience sensory processing difficulties naturally seeks out this type of input, in order to help them be in a more regulated state.

The ‘Senses’ of Gardening 

Stop to smell the flowers. Photo by Tetyana Kovyrina

Think about this: Before heading outside, you apply sunscreen (tactile input). When you step outside of your house, you are hit with an array of sensory stimuli (visual, olfactory, auditory, and/or tactile). Initially, you feel the warmth of the sun hitting your face (tactile input). You grab your tools and place them in your wheelbarrow filled with the flowers and herbs you had just recently bought. Then you wheel the wheelbarrow over to your garden (proprioceptive input). You empty out the contents of the wheelbarrow, bend down, and sit on top of your knees (proprioceptive input). Then grab your hand shovel and start digging holes in the soil, looking down at the garden bed below (proprioceptive and vestibular input). As you’re digging, you feel the dirt slightly touch your hands (tactile input). You suddenly hear a bumblebee buzzing past your ear (auditory input). You stand up and look around (up/down and left/right) to see where the bumblebee flew (vestibular input).  And to think, this is just the beginning of the sensory input that one may experience while gardening. 

No Green Thumb Needed 

A green thumb is not needed, but is handy (pun intended). Photo by Dung Tran

As mentioned, gardening works on numerous skills, in a fun and interactive manner. Below is a list of skills (not all inclusive) with some examples that one may be working on while engaging in this activity.


  • Fine motor precision – Carefully placing one seed at a time into individual cells of a seed tray.
  • Bi-manual coordination – Opening up a seed packet – stabilizing the packet with one hand, and utilizing the other to open it.
  • In-hand manipulation – Placing seeds in the palm of your hand, and manipulating one seed at a time into the pads of the fingers to place into a container (palm to finger translation).
  • Promotes grasping patterns (i.e. pincer grasp) – Picking up a seed with the thumb and index finger. 


  • Strength 
  • Endurance
  • Bilateral coordination


  • Proprioceptive Discrimination (the ability to grade force on an object)
    • While removing a plant from a plastic pot, one must grade  their force appropriately. Pulling too hard could result in one  accidentally removing stems or leaves off of the plant.
  • Tactile discrimination (the ability to feel an object without relying on the visual system)
    • Feeling different sized seeds in the palm of one’s hand, without the need to look.






Gardening can also help improve one’s:

  • patience (delayed gratification),
  • frustration tolerance,
  • cognitive flexibility (as one may need to change their original plan), and
  • social skills (if working with another peer or family member). 

Create Your Own ‘Sensory Garden’ 

A ‘sensory garden’ can incorporate a mix of plants and/or garden décor, to provide one with a unique, sensory experience. 

  • Visual  – Utilizing plants with vibrant or different colors, varied heights, or those simply unique in nature, can provide some visual input to one’s garden.  
  • Olfactory – There are an abundance of plants that have scents. Think of herbs that you may use while cooking, like rosemary or basil. 
  • Tactile – Plants with texture – soft, hard, spikey, or bumpy – are a fun way to add tactile input to your garden. Providing different landscape textures (i.e. sand, rocks, or mulch) are another way to provide additional tactile input.
  • Gustatory – Think of herbs, fruits, or vegetables that you can grow, and eventually eat!
  • Auditory – Provide your garden with sound by either hanging up a wind chime or perhaps having a water source (like a small fountain). 

Have fun, and be creative. There is no right or wrong way when designing your own garden!


If you or your child has any allergies (i.e. environmental, oils in plants, insect bites, etc.), there are other alternatives that can be performed (i.e. utilizing faux flowers). 

Due to these unprecedented times, many local garden centers/nurseries are now offering free contactless delivery or contactless curbside pickup to ensure the safety of their customers. 

Common Thinking Traps- Spotting and Fighting Them

According to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors all influence one another. If we reach out to a friend and she doesn’t call back by the end of the day, we might react in a few different ways. If we think, “She’s not calling me because she hates me,” we are likely to feel sad, embarrassed, maybe even angry, and that feeling could compel us to give her the cold shoulder and cut her off. If instead we think, “She’s probably just busy,” we might instead feel calm, and we might decide to stay connected by calling again tomorrow. So something as simple as a thought can have a lot of power over how we see ourselves, how we engage with others, and how we experience the world.

One of the pitfalls we sometimes fall into is giving our thoughts too much power. We have a tendency to take our thoughts at face value and treat them as facts. Aaron Beck, the father of CBT, noticed that many of the people he worked with exhibited consistent patterns of distorted thinking, which contributed to feelings of depression (and behaviors that maintained depressed mood). Beck’s theory, which has since been backed by a substantial research base, suggests that if we can identify and change our maladaptive thoughts, shifts in our feelings and behavior will follow.

The following are a few of the most common thinking traps people experience. As you read the list, try to think back over the past week or two to see if you may have fallen prey to any of these thinking patterns…

All-Or-Nothing Thinking. 

Also known as black-or-white thinking. Where we mistakenly think of situations as binary and overlook the gray area in between. 


  • If I don’t get 100% on my science test, it’s basically the same as failing.
  • If my boss doesn’t give me a promotion, he hates me and will probably fire me.


Drawing broad conclusions from a single event (without enough evidence).


  • I got a bad grade on my science test today. I might as well drop the class because I’m so bad at science.
  • I can’t believe I got passed over for that promotion. I’m always overlooked at work.

Predicting the Future. 

Also known as fortune-telling. Assuming what will happen in the future (usually bad things!) without considering all of the options (even ones that are objectively more likely to occur).


  • I got a bad grade on my science test today. I’m definitely going to fail the class.
  • I got passed over for that promotion. I’m never going to climb the ladder.

“Should” Statements. 

Putting high demands on ourselves or others regardless of the situation (and overestimating how bad it would be if these expectations aren’t met). The word “should” puts a lot of pressure on us!


  • I know I had a lot going on this week, but I should have done better on that test.
  • I should have done more to get that promotion.

Disqualifying the Positive. 

Telling yourself that positive experiences “don’t count” or explaining them in a way that takes credit away from yourself.


  • I only did well on that test because I got lucky. I’m really not good at science.
  • My boss only promoted me out of pity. I’m not good at my job.


Giving greater weight to bad things than may be warranted.


  • I got a bad grade on my test. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me!
  • Jane got that promotion instead of me. I’m completely worthless.

Emotional Reasoning. 

Treating your emotions as facts.


  • I didn’t do well on that test. I feel stupid, therefore I am stupid.
  • I didn’t get that promotion. I feel worthless, therefore I am worthless.

If any of those thinking patterns sounded familiar, you’re already on your way to changing them. Pick one thinking trap that you often fall into and spend the next few days observing it whenever it pops up (“Ooh, that was all-or-nothing thinking!” or “Ah, I’ve got a case of the ‘shoulds’!”).

Once you’ve trained your brain to notice it when it happens, you can start to work on talking back to it – take a step back and look at the facts of the situation. Think about it from someone else’s perspective (better yet, think about what you would say if your best friend were in your shoes… we often think much more kindly towards others than we do towards ourselves!).

The last step is to practice new, more objective thoughts! If you’re working on predicting the future, it might look like this… “I had a thought that I’m going to fail my science class because I got a bad grade on my test today. That’s predicting the future! Let me examine the evidence… Before this test, my average in that class was a B. I also had two other tests this week and was pretty busy, so I didn’t have as much time to study as I wanted to. I’ve never failed a class before, and it’s pretty unlikely I’d fail it this time. Plus, if I’m having trouble understanding the material, I can go to the teacher and ask for extra help. That will probably help me keep my grades up. So, taking it all together, I didn’t do well on this test today, but if I keep working hard and try to get some extra help, I will probably be able to keep my grade to at least a B.”

By going through the motions of catching the distortion and considering all the facts, you are likely to find yourself getting the upper hand over those pesky thinking traps. Be patient with yourself and the process, and remember – thoughts are not facts. If they’re not serving you, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can all be changed!

“I’m Bored”

“I’m Bored”: Down Time and Praxis at Home

Woman in White Long Sleeve Shirt Sitting on Black Chair

As we continue to practice social distancing, we all have a lot more free time on our hands than we are typically used to. While the beginning of quarantine may have been very productive, the motivation for most of us has diminished over the long months. Recently, you may notice that you and your family are having an increasingly difficult time coming up with constructive activities to do and are turning towards technology more and more. This can be particularly true during school breaks that would typically be spent visiting family or traveling, but now are filled with hours of down time. Your children (or spouse) may be coming to you more saying: “I’m bored”, despite having many things to do around the house. This feeling, one we know all too well, can be amplified for children that have difficulty with praxis.

What is Praxis?

Praxis is often associated with motor planning or planning movement, but this is really only the tip of the iceberg. More specifically, praxis is the neurological process where cognition directs motor actions (Ayres, 1985). In other words, praxis is the planning of what to do and how to do it

Man Wearing Black and White Stripe Shirt Looking at White Printer Papers on the Wall

In practice, praxis is the complex series of events that an individual’s body must execute in order to produce a desired outcome.

  1. First, we must conceive the idea of what to do using ideation (i.e. kicking a soccer ball into the net);
  2. Then, we have to plan how we are going to achieve the desired outcome using motor planning (i.e. giving self a running start and kick with your right foot).
  3. Next, we need to execute the movement correctly in order to be successful (i.e. kick the ball with enough force and good aim);
  4. Lastly, we need to be able to reflect on the feedback from the movement to adapt our actions to increase likelihood of success for the future (i.e. kick the ball harder using a longer running start);

For most people, praxis is a complex process that we take for granted since it occurs mostly automatically. However, for some children, learning novel activities is something that requires extra practice and effort due to a missing piece in the multi-step process. In today’s society where a lot of activities are planned and video games have rigid objectives and processes, praxis can be underdeveloped simply because it has not been practiced! Think of riding a bike; while most people learn this skill at a young age and practice it throughout their lives, there are adults that have never learned how to ride! Similarly with praxis, if we didn’t learn and practice this skill as children, we may not have developed it fully.  Either way, working on praxis can help everyone, especially when we think of what to do in down time.

Signs of Praxis Difficulty 

Green and Black Coffee Mug on Air

If your child is having difficulty with praxis, you may observe:

  • Difficulty learning new motor skills or requiring more practice time than their peers (i.e. riding a bike, learning a dance, etc.).
  • Appearring clumsy or uncoordinated.
  • Unable to follow multi-step directions to complete a physical task (i.e. an obstacle course). This becomes particularly apparent with verbal cues (instead of visually demonstration) 
  • Avoidance of gross motor or novel activities.
  • Difficulty retrieving the right materials for a play activity.
  • Appearance of laziness and incomplete work (Caused by not knowing how to start).
  • Failure to perform movement(s) safely. 
  • Difficulty knowing where their body is in space.
  • Frequent falling, tripping, or bumping into obstacles.

Praxis Difficulties & Technology Use

Flat Screen Monitor Turned-on in Office

Simply put, technology is both a blessing and a curse. Even prior to the pandemic, balancing technology and physical play was a common concern voiced by parents. However, during the pandemic, the world has increased its reliance on technology to include almost all daily functions. From attending remote school to having virtual holiday parties, technology has become one of the only outlets to safely interact with the people around us. With this increased reliance on technology, children and parents are having an increasingly difficult time separating the now blurred boundaries between productive technology use and “down-time” technology use. Video games and YouTube videos are a preferred activity for children with praxis difficulties because it eliminates the need to come up with activities to do independently. Technology use also fulfills our natural need for stimulation and impacts the pleasure systems of the brain by releasing dopamine and can, therefore, become addictive. In addition to making children feel good, it is often used more so as a crutch for children with praxis difficulties due to their difficulty with planning and executing activities. Methods to decrease technology reliance include but are not limited to: setting “tech free” breaks, fostering motivation by including siblings, giving explicit ideas of activities, encouraging outdoor play, and setting expectations for screen time and down time.

Home Praxis Activities 

Man in Blue Polo Shirt and Woman in Beige Pants Sitting on Blue and White Mat

Try these activities to try at home to increase praxis skills:

  • Simon Says
    Can help improve ability to spontaneously movement plan and improve body awareness.
  • Floor is Lava
    Can help to improve ideation and problem solving skills determining safe and efficient ways to avoid touching the floor. 
  • Unstable Obstacle Course
    Create an obstacle course with unstable surfaces: walking or climbing over unstable surfaces is a great way to increase strength and motor plan unpredictable movements. 
  • Twister
    Increase body awareness while building upon the problem solving skills to determine the best way to move your body with obstacles. 
  • Yoga Cards
    In addition to the many benefits of yoga, it challenges the ability to process and motor plan actions by giving a visual demonstration of the movement. 
  • Animal Walks
    Increase problem solving and ideation naming an animal and having your child act out how the animal would move. 
  • New Card Game
    Learn a new card game and teach the family
  • Heads Up
    This is a great way to help your child learn how to describe a particular topic/word
  • Mix ‘N Match
    Give your child 5 items and see how many different ways they can use them! For example play dough, a coin, a string, a cup and a marble!
  • Charades
    Can help improve ideation of desired movement and increase problem solving and processing when conceptualizing the other person’s movement.
  • DIY
    Create your own game! Don’t forget to tag us @SascoRiver in your creations.

Tips for Praxis

Woman Holding A Poster On Proper Hand Washing

Tips for children with praxis difficulties

  • Use “first, then” language
    This helps the child understand what sequence they need to complete the demand. For example, “first have a snack, then start your homework.” 
  • Break instructions into parts
    Instead of saying, “go and get your shoes and backpack and go outside”, say “get your shoes”. Once that direction is accomplished, you can continue to the next direction, “get your backpack”, and etc.
  • Give visual cues
    Children with praxis difficulties can rely heavily on their visual system to “mimic” novel motor actions. Giving a visual cue for an action will increase the ease of processing the movement. 
  • Physical cues
    Physically guide the child through the action so that they can learn what the movement feels like. 
  • Repetition
    Practicing the movement allows for increased success rate and increased confidence. 

“I’m Bored” 

Dices and Wooden Pieces on Game Board

Adapt to Praxis challenges during long breaks from school with these tips:

  • Activity Bingo
    Use a blank bingo board and put different activities for your child to do in them, you can even have them help you fill it out. You can give a little extra “tech time” or other reward every time they get Bingo! 
  • Make a visual “menu” of activities
    Sometimes it is helpful for children to visually “see” options
  • Make a new game!
    Keeping things new and novel can increase motivation to participate, including others can also help. For example, have your child make a scavenger hunt for other family members and then take turns doing the scavenger hunt. The act of making it works on praxis and increases the time engaged!
  • Have your child “video” their activity to send to family members
    While this uses some technology, helping your child feel connected to others while doing a physically engaging activity can be more regulating than simply using technology. 
  • Make a visual schedule
    This can help children to visualize when it is time for “tech” and time to engage in other activities. While we typically think of this for scheduling extracurriculars, it can also help to know when it will be time for their “preferred” down time activity is within the house

Further Reading

If you’re interested in learning more about praxis, see these resources:

Sweet Dreams: Helping Your Child Develop Good Sleep Hygiene

Helping Your Child Develop Good Sleep Hygiene

Kids need a lot of sleep. Young children need about 10-13 hours of sleep per day, school-aged children need between 9-12 hours, and teenagers need about 8-10. Although their bodies appear to be at rest during this time (except if they’re sleepwalking!), they are actually hard at work. While children are sleeping, everything they learned throughout the day gets consolidated into their long-term memory (tell that to your teenager next time he wants to pull an all-nighter to study for a test!). Their bodies also release hormones that stimulate growth, repair sore muscles, and regulate mood, attention, and appetite.

Sleep hygiene is a term that refers to good sleep habits. Our bodies make associations between our behavior patterns and sleep routines – and those associations can either help or hurt us! Read on for some guidance on how to help your child maximize restfulness to support their development. And bonus… these tips apply to adults as well!

Be Consistent

It pays to stick to the same bedtime and wake time every day (this includes on weekends!). Our bodies adapt to consistent sleep schedules and will naturally become sleepy at bedtime and alert at wake time if they happen at the same time every day. While it may be tempting to stay up late or sleep in on the weekends, this can disrupt circadian rhythms and throw off the whole cycle. So do your best to keep bedtime and wake time consistent, at least within an hour!

Use Beds for Sleeping Only

Our brains make connections between what we do in bed and what mental state to be in. While it may be tempting for kids to snuggle up in bed to do their homework, this habit could train the mind to perk up (or worse, feel stressed out!) every time they hit the sheets. If possible, keep kids out of bed unless it’s time to hit the hay.

Depending on the setup of your home, this may be harder for some families than others. If your child needs to use her bed for other purposes (workspace, play space, etc.), you can still help her brain differentiate between sleep and awake mode by having a particular blanket or pillow that covers the bed during the day but comes off at night. This way she will still have a cue at bedtime that it’s time for her body to settle down, even if she’s been spending time on her bed throughout the day.

Cut the Screens

Studies show that the wavelengths emitted by blue light stimulate alertness. While this is great during the day, it can really mess up the nighttime routine. Unfortunately, all the devices we use throughout the day (and even some of the energy-efficient light bulbs that are all the rage these days!) are common sources of blue light. So while your child may be excited to play five more minutes of Minecraft before bed, or your teen may want to scroll through his Instagram feed before lights out, these habits can disrupt sleep. To help their brains settle down, try to cut out screen time within an hour of bedtime.

Routines Are Your Friend

The more your brain is exposed to a bedtime routine, the more it triggers sleepiness when that routine is enacted. If every night goes the same – say, a warm bath followed by reading books followed by a quick snuggle with mom or dad followed by lights out – your child will come to associate that series of events with sleepiness. The key is to keep routines manageable, because if you break the cycle, it may disrupt your child’s body’s cue to get tired. So when it comes to bedtime routines, short and sweet is best. Bonus: building in a nightly bedtime routine helps get kids away from screens right before going to sleep!

Use Daytime Hours Wisely

How your child spends his day will impact how he spends his night. It’s important for kids to get sufficient exercise during the day (but not too close to bedtime, because that will stimulate release of adrenaline, which will keep them up!). It also pays to be mindful of what they’re consuming. Avoid caffeinated beverages, such as soda, in the late afternoon or evening. If your child likes to settle down with a cup of tea, read the packaging to make sure it’s decaffeinated. And while chocolate may seem like a special treat for dessert, it can be loaded with caffeine (especially dark chocolate!), so keep portions small or cut it altogether if your child is having difficulties getting shuteye.

Consider White Noise

If your child is a light sleeper, he may benefit from having a fan on or playing a White Noise tape on a device (with the screen off!). Not only will the white noise block out any unexpected and potentially startling sounds, but the consistent hum can help lull him to sleep.

Keep a Notepad By the Bed

One reason children (and adults!) have trouble sleeping is that their minds may race at bedtime, particularly if they are anxious or identify as a “worrier”. During the day, we are constantly surrounded by distractions, so it is easier to escape from anxious thoughts, but at night, our brain takes center stage.

To help your child break the habit of staying up for hours worrying about what the next day will bring, put a notepad and pen by their bed and encourage them to write down any worry thoughts that come up. They can then schedule a time to “worry” in the morning. While this may sound silly, it can actually be quite effective for children to remind themselves in the moment, “I don’t need to worry about this now.” They’ve written it down, so they won’t forget. They can worry about it tomorrow instead, when they’ll be more able to do something about the worry thought.

Don’t Stare at the Ceiling

Finally, if your child is having a hard time sleeping and spends hours staring at the ceiling and waiting for sleep to come, her brain will start to associate bedtime with the stress of trying to fall asleep. If she spends 20-30 minutes in bed without falling asleep, encourage her to get up, walk around, and engage in a non-stimulating activity (such as reading a book) for ten or fifteen minutes. Then, she can get back in bed and try again. If another 20-30 minutes goes by, she should get out of bed again and do the same thing.

While it may sound counterintuitive to treat sleeplessness with less time in bed, the goal is to train the brain that being in bed corresponds to being asleep (not lying wide-eyed in the darkness!). When her body is tired enough, she will fall asleep. And the more the brain gets used to being asleep while in bed, the less time she’ll spend restlessly tossing back and forth. It’s a process that can take some time, but with practice (and following the other tips listed above), the bed/sleepiness association will become stronger.

Sweet dreams!

Did these tips help? Do you have any of your own tips to give? Please let us know! We love hearing from you.

Benefits of Heavy Work

Think about the feeling that you have after exercising or doing yard work: your body is more awake, you’re aware of all the muscles you were using, and your mood improves. These incredible benefits are produced through the work of proprioceptive input and heavy work!

What is Heavy Work?

Junge im Park zusammen mit Freunden beim Wettbewerb im Seilspringen im Sommer

Heavy work is defined as any type of activity that pushes or pulls against the body and/or lifting heavy objects or items. This specific type of movement provides proprioceptive input (sensations that underlie body awareness) to the muscles and joints. Like children need food or water to survive, their bodies require sensory input in order to stay focused throughout the day. Every child has unique sensory needs that can be assessed and discovered through clinical observation. Through the combined efforts of professional intervention and sensory tailored activities, the effects can be instantaneous, effective, and, most importantly, fun!

Who can benefit from Heavy Work?

Watch out for pool sharks though (Photo by VisionPic .net)

Everyone can benefit from heavy work activities! Especially with the sudden transition to remote learning and social distancing, everyone is spending an increasing amount of time sitting still. Movement is a critical aspect of everyone’s routine that is utilized to increase stimulation, focus, and alertness. Children and adults with sensory processing disorder and other mental health conditions in particular can especially benefit from implementing these types of activities into their daily routine.

Benefits of Heavy Work

These are all siblings, I think… (Photo by Karolina Grabowska)

There are a multitude of advantages to incorporating heavy work activities into your child’s daily routine. Heavy work can be used to calm a child’s body through organizing and regulating their sensory systems, subsequently reducing their anxiety and stress. Often times, children with sensory processing difficulties don’t know where they are in time or space. This results in children seeking input through crashing into things, typically in an unsafe and uncontrollable manner. Heavy work activities can be utilized to give children the sense of grounding they are searching for and increase their body awareness. Think about how your arms feel after you’re carrying something really heavy. Even after you put the object down, you can still feel the weight; you’re more aware of the muscles in your arms. This results in a residual effect, where given the right amount proprioceptive input, can prevent sensory overload. This can keep a child calm and focused long after the activity is completed. Additionally, heavy work activities will decrease the need to chew in children who self-regulate through chewing on objects such as their shirts or sleeves. Lastly, heavy work releases Serotonin which is the “feel-good” neurotransmitter and is responsible for improving your mood while simultaneously regulating your sensory system.

Examples of Heavy Work activities:

  • Swimming;
  • Monkey bars;
  • Wall push ups;
  • Push ups;
  • Tug of war;
  • Chewing crunchy/chewy foods;
  • Jumping on a trampoline;
  • Jump rope;
  • Doing chores;
  • Wheelbarrow walking;
  • Crab walking

Tips & Tricks

  • Finding the “just right challenge”! The goal of the “just right challenge” is choose activities for your child that is neither too easy nor too hard. The purpose of these activities is to empower, motivate, and challenge your child.
  • Make the activity functional and enjoyable! It can be difficult to engage a child in an activity if it is simply carrying something heavy. Give your activity purpose! For example, have your child help out with the gardening by carrying items over to you.
  • Don’t use these activities as punishment! Although heavy work activities can be calming for some children, it is important to not have your child associate regulating activities with negative reinforcement. It’s not their fault that they do not know how to accurately regulate their bodies.
  • Have your child complete heavy work activities prior to remote learning! This will increase your child’s arousal and help their bodies stay regulated and organized while sitting still, even for long periods of time.
  • Heavy work activities affect everyone differently! It is imperative that an adult closely watches the child’s reaction to these types of activities. As always, consult your Occupational Therapist if you have any questions about what you observed!
  • HAVE FUN! (:

Want to know more?

Email us at with your question!

Biking (& Sensory)

Riding a bike is fun. It’s a nostalgic, warm-weather activity, passed down from generation to generation. It’s an enjoyable experience on many levels, and can be either an exciting social activity, or relaxing individual experience. It can even be a great way to get in a bit of welcome exercise! Bike riding also stimulates the vestibular system. This system, which is located in our inner ear and detects movement, helps our body to make adjustments and corrections to maintain balance and complete gross motor skills efficiently. This input can be regulating for many, which is why after a nice bike ride it can be hard to get a rider off their bikes, but when they do, they are more relaxed.  

Learning to ride a bike, however, can be a difficult and trying experience for both the child and the teacher. In the end, though, it’s well worth the process. Though the therapeutic benefits of biking are numerous, biking doesn’t come easily to everybody! Not to fear; we can learn together.

Learning to Ride

Toddler's Pink Bike Near Wall

Particularly for children with delayed motor skills, coordination and motor planning difficulties and/or low muscle tone, learning to ride a bike can be challenging (to say the least). At Sasco River Center, we work diligently with your child creating strategies and developing the skills required for them to ride their bikes safely and independently. During bike camp, your child will participate in games, activities, and crafts all geared towards getting your child riding his or her bike through mastering one skill at a time. Learning to ride a bike is beneficial to your child mentally, socially, physically and developmentally. Riding a bike helps to strengthen your heart muscles and build stamina promoting health awareness at such an early age. Children develop a sense of responsibility and independence as well as gain confidence from learning how to ride a bike. Riding a bike with peers and neighbors allows for your child to interact and build social skills with other children in an active environment. Biking is a great activity for a child to get outside while still working on their core strength, balance and muscular coordination, all while having fun!

By the way, there is no “right” age to learn to ride a bike, but if your child is ready, check out some tips below!

3 Secrets to Teaching Bike Riding

Secret 1: Don’t use “training wheels”

No Training Wheels Allowed! | by Steve Nazarian | LinkedIn
  • They teach kids to balance on training wheelsnot on their own two wheels
  • They are slow and inhibiting (even for the best of riders – and I’ve seen some VERY proficient training-wheel riders.)
  • They don’t do corners well, and in fact teach muscle memory of the wrong technique.
  • They become an unnecessary crutch that prolongs a movement towards riding without training wheels at all.
  • Either simply remove pedals from an existing bike, or get a balance bike. (You can get a balance bike on Amazon for less than $100)

Secret 2: Start with developing trust in their own body

The best way to teach a child to ride a bike | Seattle's Child
  • Build up skills. First try having them keep their feel flat on the ground while they walk the bike. This way, they get to experience the sensation of leaning without falling. As an aside, make sure the bike fits properly; your child should be able to stand flat-footed over the top bar of the bike. If in doubt, a smaller bike is better than a larger bike. (As another aside, if you want to see truly AMAZING kids bikes, check THESE out! If I could back in time, I’d get one of them.)
  • Assure them that their feet will keep them from falling as they walk the bike forward and experience the sensation of leaning without falling. 
  • Eventually, they learn to trust their body. It’s at this point when lessons become fun. Students are now motivated and excited to learn!

Secret 3: Be calm, present and patient

  • This is more about you than your Child, but trust us, it helps.
  • The goal is to decrease anxiety and fear, while boosting confidence. Your calm and patient presence helps them maintain the desire to continue working while they experience setbacks and unfamiliar sensations.
  • Our demeanor, particular when children are learning a challenging new activity, very much affects children’s responses to learning something new. 

Biking Fun At Home

It is never too early to start working on skills to help our kids learn to ride a bike.

Here are some activities to work on balance and coordination for our early bikers. These skills will help work on balance, which is certainly one of the most important steps to becoming an independent rider. Here are some biking activities seen at bike camp that you can do at home once your child is ready for the bike.

Off the Bike Activities

Try these to “warm up” our balance before getting on the bike

  • Jumping on each foot 10x with arms out to side
  • Walk across a line pretending you’re on a tight rope with arms out to side

Scavenger hunt

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While on bike, have children go around looking for nature items outside to work on all aspects of biking such as coordination, balance, motor planning and strength. (The child can be scooting, gliding or pedaling)

Red Light, Green Light

Three children practice scooting and gliding on bikes with no pedals

Red Light = STOP, Green Light = GO & Yellow Light = SLOW DOWN.

How To Play: Start with everyone along the starting line, When you say ‘Green Light’ everyone will move towards the finish line, When you say ‘Red Light’ everyone must immediately stop. If players are still moving when you call ‘Red Light’, they must go back to the starting line.

BONUS TIP: To get your child more involved, have them come up with a color and a rule/ movement for that corresponding color to add into the game. 

Want more? Try Bike Camp/Lessons with us!

Do your kids want to learn how to ride a bike? We can help! Sasco River bike camp can help your children gain the confidence and skills needed in order to get pedaling! At the end of bike camp, your child will walk away with not only confidence and a fun experience, but also a biking “license” to remember their hard work and dedication.  Find out more HERE, or email us:

By-Line Note

Though Mark Maidique is listed as the Author, this post was written by a team of Mark Maidique, Teresa Salzillo, and Deanna Lindberg.

Getting On the Same Page: What To Do When Parents Disagree

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They say parenting doesn’t come with a manual. That can feel doubly true about co-parenting. The decisions we make about how to parent our children are so personal and informed by the confluence of many factors… our own values and beliefs, how we were raised, our individual experiences in the world, our present circumstances, etc., etc., etc. The likelihood that two different people will bring identical vantage points to major decisions is miniscule!

Even the most cohesive parental units are bound to encounter times when they simply don’t feel the same way about something that impacts their children. While these differences of opinion at times lead to conflict, they can also open the door to thoughtful conversations about parenting choices that benefit your family even more than making decisions solo!

So to prepare for the inevitable disagreement with your parenting partner, consider the following ways to set yourself up for success when working together to make important decisions about your children:

Before Talking, Do a Basic Needs Check

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Parenting is emotional. Of course it is. After all, we’re talking about your most prized possessions, your biggest responsibilities, the little ones most near and dear to your heart! But when you’re trying to work out a difference of opinion, emotions that run too strong can get in the way of really hearing each other and coming together as a united front.

So before getting into a heavy debate, consider the setting of your conversation. Make sure you’re both really ready to have a calm, regulated discussion by checking in on anything that could make you extra vulnerable to emotions. Are you hungry? (Or hangry??) Are you tired? Are you really stressed out by work? What do you both need in order to be ready to confront an emotional topic of conversation?

It may sound simple, but preemptively addressing your needs by pouring yourself a glass of water, making a quick snack, or going for an invigorating walk can really change the tone of the conversation.

Listen For the Emotion Under the Logic

Young African American man sitting at table and arguing with woman while having breakfast at home

When we disagree with someone, it is easy to respond to their counterarguments by becoming defensive and even more entrenched in our own views. The more we get hung up on the logic of the messages each party is conveying, the less we actually listen to the other person (and the more the goal becomes winning the argument… rather than making the best decision for your child!).

So before you get lost in the details, try to listen for the emotion your parenting partner is communicating. Often times simply acknowledging and validating the emotion that drives their point of view can make a world of difference. For one, it lets the other person know they are really seen and heard. This can help them keep their cool in what could otherwise be a very heated argument. Second, it helps you really empathize with their perspective, which makes you more likely to search for common ground. And third, by setting a precedent of validating their emotion, you are modeling for your partner how to validate your emotion, which will help you both move even closer to getting on the same page.

Let’s say you want to let your child go on an overnight class trip because you feel comfortable with the chaperones and think it would be a great learning experience for your child. But perhaps your co-parent is against the plan. They might provide some logical arguments that you could immediately refute (“He’s not old enough to be on his own!” “He’s the same age as all the other kids on the trip…” “But what if he needs us in the middle of the night?!” “There would be other adults there to take care of him…” “But he’s never been away from home!” “There’s a first time for everything…”), but that won’t necessarily resolve the conflict at hand (there’s always another “but” around the corner!).

Listening for the emotion guiding the debate might look like saying, “I wonder if you’re feeling anxious about him leaving home,” which then gives you the opportunity to validate that emotion (“I get it. It’s totally normal to feel worried about this. To be honest, I’m nervous, too.”). Once the feelings have been brought to the surface and labeled, you can work together to navigate the true issue at hand (finding a way to help you both feel comfortable with your child embarking on a new experience) instead of continuing in a power struggle over the minutia.

Find the Agreement Within the Disagreement

Before you get on the “same page”, you might need to make sure you’re in the same book! Sometimes we get so caught up on the ways we feel different that we neglect the ways we feel the same. Start the conversation by looking for the things you already agree on to help remind yourselves that you are both working together to do the right thing for your child.

Take the above example of the overnight class trip. You might not agree yet on a course of action, but there may be plenty of other things you can voice your agreement about. Perhaps you agree that you both love your child deeply and want to protect him. Maybe you agree that it is good for him to have new experiences and venture outside of his comfort zone. You might also agree that he is working on developing independence and still needs a lot of help. The more you search for common ground, the more connected you’ll feel, and the more motivated you’ll be to find a solution that works for both of you (even if it means coming up with a new answer altogether). 

Which brings us to…

Redefine “Compromise”

Free stock photo of adolescent, afro hair, bed

In the heat of argument, we often get stuck on choosing between Solution 1 and Solution 2. Sometimes we expand our thinking just a little and try to find the midpoint (Solution 1.5?). But the problem with this approach is that it rarely satisfies both parties, which can leave lingering resentment. Instead of thinking of “compromise” as the middle point between two perspectives, see if you can work together to redefine the problem at hand and find a corresponding solution that truly feels comfortable for both of you.

For example, if you simply “split the difference” between your child going on the overnight trip and not going at all by, say, just letting him go for the day portion and picking him up come nightfall, will either of you really feel better? One parent might still feel that the child was robbed of an important bonding opportunity with peers, which could spur further tension between parents moving forward. Or there could be other negative consequences outside the debate at hand (the parents might feel resentful that they have to drive all the way out there to pick him up, or the child might feel embarrassed to get picked up early when all his friends get to stay over).

But if you’ve done the work to acknowledge each other’s feelings and affirm your commitment to uniting as a parenting team, it might be easier to see the entirety of the landscape of this debate. Let’s say you’ve come to recognize that the problem is not whether he should get to go on the trip but rather how to make sure he (and you!) feel ready for this next journey into independence. You might now be able to see new and different possibilities that would help everybody get what they want – maybe you do a practice run of having him stay at a friend’s house overnight before the school trip. Maybe you talk to the chaperones about your concerns and ask them to text you with updates. Or maybe one of you volunteers to chaperone the event!

Whatever the debate may be, try to practice looking at all sides of the situation and asking yourselves what, if anything, is being left out of the conversation. By coming together to see the whole playing field, you might just find a solution you agree on after all!

Anniversary Reaction

It’s March again. Especially for those of us who live in the Northeast, March often brings with it the promise of better days: the sun shines longer each day, buds are slowly peeking out on the trees, and the mercury begins to slowly and more consistently creep up, taunting us with promises of spring after the seemingly eternal winter.

Except, it’s March again. March.

Happy Anniversary

White and Grey Kitten Smelling White Daisy Flower

March: the month the world shut down a year ago. If you’re even remotely active on social media, it’s likely you’ve been privy to the various memes circulating about how naïve we were a year ago this week, how we couldn’t have imagined what was coming, how “feral” we’ve become since a year ago.  Personally, I’ve spent the past week vacillating between feelings of optimism and pangs of angst I can feel deep in my gut when I think about what we didn’t know yet was to come a year ago. I recently resumed a show I’d began watching maybe a month into the shutdown, and, just hearing the theme music, I felt a sense of dread. 

So here it is: the anniversary reaction.

The Anniversary Reaction

The anniversary reaction sounds pretty innocuous, on the surface. For many of us, anniversaries are celebrations: of milestones we’ve achieved, connections we’ve made, or challenges we’ve overcome. But there are times when we can find ourselves approaching the anniversary of an event and feeling anxious, unsettled, angry, on edge, confused, and sad.  It’s as though our brains can sense by the angle of the sun, “This time last year I was made to feel scared. So this is now the time of year I’ll feel scared, even when there’s no apparent external threat.”  And we may have no idea why we’re feeling this way, because our brain doesn’t remind us to connect the dots and doesn’t listen when we remind it we’re actually safe.  Interestingly, often the feelings that come with an anniversary reaction disappear as quickly as they came on, once the days and weeks surrounding the date of the event pass.

This week, as we approach the one-year anniversary (Friday the 13th—how fitting) of the official declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, I imagine many of us are feeling more anxious or on edge than we have in recent weeks and months.  It’s been a long winter—one of the longest I can remember—and the pandemic-based restrictions certainly did not help the days go by any faster.  And yet March is here again.  There is promise of spring.  The sun is hitting at a different angle.  And we’re still in this pandemic.  We are exhausted.  We are tapped out.  And now we’re being reminded constantly, by virtue of the calendar, that we’ve been at this for a YEAR.  But there is reason to hope.

The Road Ahead

Person Standing on Road

Indeed, the days are getting longer and warmer, which brings with it its own optimism.  We can get outside more readily.  Vaccination production and distribution is ramping up.  There is promise that we are approaching the end of this tunnel. 

Let’s keep this in mind as we navigate the unexpected emotions we may experience over the next week/month/season.  We will get through this.  Just because the calendar (and our tricky brains) may say so, we’re not where we were a year ago.  And maybe in coming years, March will be the month we get to remind ourselves how far we’ve come in our resilience.  Let’s plan for it. 

In the meantime, hang in there.

(How are doing with all of this? Let us know in the comments below!)

Anxiety: 3 Tips to Take Control

Anxiety: Three Tips to Help Take Control

Anxiety is an important emotion that evolved for survival purposes. But we often experience it in overdrive, and it can hurt much more than it helps. These days, 18% of the adult population meets criteria for an anxiety disorder (reference: Facts & Statistics). While rates are lower in children, clinically significant anxiety remains one of the most common childhood mental illnesses, impacting about one out of every 14 kids (reference: Anxiety and depression in children: Get the facts).

The good news is that anxiety is often quite manageable. Read on to learn more about how anxiety works and to get some tips for both adults and children to help get it under control.

How Anxiety Is Supposed to Work

In order to understand how to navigate anxiety when it becomes problematic, it’s helpful to think about how anxiety is supposed to work. Anxiety serves as the emotional predecessor to fear. When we identify a threat in our environment, fear triggers our brain’s fight or flight response, which cues our body to mobilize – either in order to stand up to the threat and fight it directly, or to escape it by running out of dodge as fast as we can.

The function of anxiety is basically to be one step ahead of fear – it helps us identify the possibility of a threat in our future and motivates us to plan for it before the threat rears its ugly head. Anxiety about an upcoming test can mobilize you to prepare for it by, say, opening a book and studying. Anxiety about finances can mobilize you to make a budget and plan expenditures. In fact, studies show there is an optimal level of anxiety that makes us our most productive – enough to motivate us to action but not so much that we are paralyzed with fear.

So clearly anxiety itself is not the intrinsically the problem; in fact we need a certain level to be productive. The problem is when there is a mismatch between the intensity of the anxiety we feel and the actual risk of the anticipated threat. The most common mental mistake our brains make is overestimating the likelihood of a threat, and just how bad it might be. When anxiety responds too strongly, it can trigger that fight or flight response in ways that just end up making things worse (such as fighting social phobia by exploding at a peer, or fleeing from a big test by skipping school).

Tips for Handling Anxiety

When anxiety gets out of hand, we need to recalibrate our bodies and our minds. To help you and your child do this, we’ve put together the following tips  (note that these tips are applicable for both adults and children):

Tip #1: Bring Down the Arousal

Anxiety is a physiological emotion. Our bodies mobilize for action by quickening our breath; increasing our heart rate, blood pressure, blood flow to our muscles (cue muscle tension), and sweating; and decreasing digestion and excretion (cue stomach ache!). These physical changes are very helpful if you’re about to get into a big fight or you need to run away from a predator, but they’re not so great when you have a big presentation or a school play.

So when you notice that your body (or your child’s body) seems to be launching into hyperdrive in an unhelpful way, the following techniques can be helpful in bringing the physiological arousal back down to baseline:

Deep Breathing Exercises

The key is to breathe through your belly rather than your chest (this allows the breath to go deeper, which helps bring your arousal down. When you practice, put your hand on your belly to make sure you see it going up and down. Our arousal also decreases more on the exhale than the inhale, so try to spend as long as you can on the exhale. I find it helpful to count – inhale for 4, exhale for 6 (adjust up or down based on your lung capacity!).

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Follow these steps:

  1. Start with your hands – clench as hard as you can for 5 seconds, then release for 5 seconds, and repeat. 
  2. Work your way through your body parts – tense and relax your arms, shoulders, face, stomach, buttocks, legs, and then feet. 

Progressive muscle relaxation (or PMR) serves several functions – it helps encourage your muscles to relax in the moment, it helps train your brain to differentiate between tense and relaxed muscles in the long run, and it keeps you grounded and focused on the task at hand.

Positive Imagery

Think about one of your favorite memories. To bring it to life, I encourage you to engage as many of your senses as possible. Pick a snapshot in time from the memory to focus on, and think about what you were seeing in that moment, what you were hearing, what you could smell, what you could taste, and what you could touch. The more multisensory the imagery, the more you activate different parts of your brain, and the more effectively they work together to override the anxiety response.

Tip #2: Retrain the Brain

Anxiety encourages avoidance, and avoidance encourages future anxiety. When we avoid something that makes us feel anxious (like skipping prom to avoid dancing in public), we immediately feel better, which tricks our brain into thinking we were right to have avoided our fear. The problem is that in the moment, our brain doesn’t think about long-term consequences of avoidance (if you keep avoiding social activities, you might lose out on friendships and experience loneliness).

To break the avoidance cycle, we need to retrain our brain to think rationally about the risks involved. Practice asking yourself, and encouraging your children to ask themselves, the following questions:

  • What am I expecting to happen?
  • What evidence do I have that it’s going to happen?
  • What has happened before?
  • How many times has it happened before?
  • What has happened to other people I know?
  • What else might happen?

Write down your answers to these questions, and use them to determine how likely your feared outcome actually is (it’s often way less likely than our brain tells it is).

Next, make a plan:

  • What’s the worst thing that could happen?
  • What would be so bad about that?
  • What would I do in that situation?
  • What is a coping thought I can have if it does happen?

Tip #3: Beware the “Reassurance Seeker”

A lot of children who experience anxiety tend to seek reassurance from their parents to help them feel better. This is fine here and there, but sometimes children accidentally attribute their safety to the fact that a parent gave them reassurance (they think, “Well, I’m only okay because mom/dad told me I would be…”). To help them feel more autonomous in managing their anxiety, start by asking them the above questions (and practice having them generate the answers themselves). Then, over time, encourage them to start asking themselves the questions.

Keep in mind, when trying to recalibrate your anxiety or your child’s anxiety, that it took a long time for the anxiety to build to the point that it got out of hand. Therefore, it may take a long time for it to return to baseline. 

The more you practice the above skills, the more opportunities your brain has to “relearn” how to anticipate outcomes more accurately and respond more effectively. So be patient, and keep up the hard work!

When It’s Too Much

Sometimes, though, even if we try all the tricks in the book, anxiety can just be too much to handle. If your anxiety is getting in the way of your ability to function in any setting (such as work, school, home, or in relationships), it may be best to seek out the help of a mental health professional.