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August 27, 2015

{Thinking Therapeutically Thursday} Fine Motor Exercise Bucket (with free printables)

If you follow me on Facebook, then you may have seen a post a few months (er, maybe longer) back asking about any interest in me posting things related to what I do in pediatric occupational therapy. 

After thinking about it a while, this was born...

My favorite thing about my job is the ability to be creative and use crafts, games and other fun activities in therapy with my patients. 
For kids, playing is their main 'occupation' in life and so we use play in therapy to facilitate what they need to be working towards. 
Making it more 'fun' and less 'work' helps my kiddos respond more and do so much better in therapy!! 

It's all about taking an activity/game/craft and seeing how it can be used to work on all the goals my kids need to meet. 
And that's what I wanted to share with you!!
I can't promise it'll be every Thursday but I am hoping to get this series up a couple times a month :) 

I'll be sharing fun activities from blogland as well as some of my own ideas and how they can work on specific skills that can help you target them with your own kids!!
So welcome to the very first week of Thinking Therapeutically Thursday!!

Today I'll be sharing a fun 'pre-writing' activity I came up with for my students that work on hand/finger strengthening, facilitating a correct grasp and upper extremity strengthening exercises. 

So many of the kids that I work with struggle with a common school activity: handwriting. 
The exercises/activities included in this 'game' I created are all geared towards helping to develop the muscles in the hands and upper body that will serve as a sort of fine motor 'warm-up' before beginning a handwriting task. 

SO many things go into why a kid might struggle in this area & I created an easy to follow chart that tells a little bit about each of those areas: 

This is a very quick rundown of the main areas & some of the parts that go into them...like I said, there are SO many different components that are taken into consideration. 

So, starting off this year, one of the things I wanted to do for my kids was create some sort of game that made it fun to do some strengthening & warm-up exercises before starting on a handwriting or fine motor task. 

I mainly focused on two areas: 
1. Hand/grasp strength
2. Upper extremity Strength

To prepare little hands for writing, having them do exercises that work their hand and finger muscles are great for increasing the ability to use a correct hand grasp while writing. 

Along with that, it's just as important to strengthen the arms/shoulders/core area of the body to prepare them for things like sitting at a desk, using both sides of their body at the same time & to increase their ability to stabilize their arm/hand/wrist while writing. 

You don't really think about it much, but a whole lot of work is going on for those little bodies to be able to sit at a desk to write!!

The beauty about games like the one I created for this is that you can add to it all the time. 
I threw some activities together that I like to use just to get started but will probably be adding more throughout the year. 

It's quick to put together & I've provided all the printables needed to get you started!!

First things first, you'll need to create your Fine Motor Bucket. 

This consists of all the items you'll need during the warm-ups. 
Have these gathered & set aside in a container or bucket for easy access so you don't have to go hunting for them each time you want to do it. 

Here's what mine looks like at the moment: 

It's super simple and not all prettied up at the moment, but these are pretty common items that most of you probably have lying around the house! 

Supplies needed: 
Small basket or container to hold all your items
Theraputty, clay, or playdough (something that has a little resistance is best)
Pom poms
Large bolt with several nuts
Toy cars
Plastic dinosaurs
A beanbag
Bouncy ball or cotton ball
Mini box/container (large enough for the dinosaurs)

*Remember these are just the items I chose to use in my bucket, feel free to change and add your own to meet the needs of your kiddos :)

The next step is to download my free Fine Motor Bucket Cards that I created and print them off.  
I made them simple black & white squares (mostly because I can't print in color at my schools) and it's easy to see & read for the kids. 

After printing them off, I went ahead and laminated them since mine will be used quite a bit and I didn't want to have to keep printing more off. 
If you don't have access to a laminator, try printing them on a bit more durable paper such as cardstock. 

These are only the ones I've created so far- I'm sure plenty more will be added after a while!! 
I'll try & add them to the link above as I create them :) 

So now that you're all set with your Fine Motor Bucket & your laminated Fine Motor Cards, let's get to work!! 

My plan is to have the student pick 2 cards of their choice before starting a table-top handwriting or fine motor task. 
More than likely I'll have them pick one from each type- 1 hand/finger exercise & 1 strengthening exercise. 
Then I'll pick one of my choice for them to do as well. 

Most of these are quick activities and you'll be done within 3-5 minutes. 
Nice quick prep period before diving into writing. 

To help you understand what to do for each activity, I've written up quick instructions for each task. 
Download the Fine Motor Bucket Instructions here to have on hand when implementing the tasks. 

*I didn't mention it in the instructions, but the 'pinky pinches' exercise is where I would use the pom poms or bouncy ball shown above for them to pinch & hold.*

If you have any questions about any of the tasks, please feel free to comment or shoot me an email about it. 
They are divided into the two categories on the instruction sheet so you'll know how to divide them up for them to choose if you want. 

Have your child do each task for a certain amount of reps or seconds before moving on to the next task. 

Make it fun & exciting so the kids don't feel like it's work!! 
You could even use it as a good motivator or break throughout the day. 

Just like when you're trying to build muscles in other parts of your bodies, your hands & fingers take time & consistency to develop properly and grow stronger. 
Stick with it & have fun!! 

I hope you enjoyed our first Thinking Therapeutically Thursday- I'd love to hear your thoughts & suggestions on things to talk about next!!! 

**Remember when reading/implementing these activities that all children are different and I'm merely giving broad suggestions that can apply to many different diagnoses/situations.**

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July 24, 2015

Gorgeous Coffee Table Makeover: A Clean Slate

To be honest, I didn't know when I'd be getting around to share a new furniture makeover with you guys.

I think I've been putting it off because life has been so hectic & busy lately and I didn't want to start a big project just to not be able to finish it. 

Plus, guys, it's h.o.t. here. 
Sitting outside, sweating it out to paint didn't sound the most appealing.
Especially trying to paint during naptimes and having to take breaks. 
I'm usually a 'crank it all out' kind of person and stopping mid-project drives me crazy.

But I did it. 
And I'm back to being addicted to painting. 

This big guy has been sitting in my garage, and then the storage unit, for almost two years.

It's a beautiful, solid table that I snagged for....you'll never believe it... a whopping 3$ at our Goodwill clearance center several years ago.

I got that thing on our cart and out the door before you could blink an eye. 
There's absolutely nothing wrong with it except normal wear & tear. 

It sat in our garage for a good chunk of time and then made it's way to the storage unit for even longer.
I just couldn't make up my mind on what to do with it and, secretly, I was hoping we'd end up moving and I would want to redo it for us.

But I love our current table a whole lot and I ended up with a pretty good reason to get it out again. 
My best friend is getting married in less than a month and we are working on redoing her apartment to bring some color & well, a woman's touch, in :) 

So we decided that a gorgeous, bright, white coffee table would help a whole lot. 
Cue my beautiful piece. 

If I'd had full creative license, I probably would have been a bit more daring and done something more bright or contrasting :) 
But she needed a pretty white table so that's what we went with. 

It got a very thorough sanding since the past couple years had layered it with dust & overspray from painting. It had a good bit of scratches and dents in it too. 

After a good sanding and cleaning, it was time to get it painted. 
I painted it in Sherwin Williams proclassic enamel paint in "Ultra white" for a nice clean white. 

It took three coats to cover the wood & then I sealed it with two coats of polycrylic. 
Look at this gorgeous thing now...

It's amazing that it's even the same table!! 
It's simple but so beautifully fresh & clean for a much more updated and modern look. 

Those chunky legs are to die for gorgeous. 
I love the details on them. 

Of course I had to move it in for a photo shoot. 
I'm thinking it'll brighten up her living room a lot & with some added pops of colors in the accessories, it's going to be the star! 

Sometimes simple is the best way to go.
You can change out the colors in your pillows, rugs & accessories for a new look that doesn't cost a lot and doesn't involve repainting :) 
For this piece, it's the perfect clean slate for her to start her decorating journey with! 

Here's the dramatic before & after: 

I'm so glad to be back to painting and you can be expecting several more awesome redos coming up!!

I snagged some gorgeous pieces this past weekend and can't wait to share their transformations!!!

Butttt in the meantime, we are off to the beach starting tomorrow which is what I've been looking forward to all year!!

Happy weekend friends! 

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July 15, 2015

Summery Mantle Decor

Hey there friends!!
I really can't fathom how July has almost passed us by. Already.

I realized the other day that I was almost letting another summer pass by without sharing my summer mantle.
Because I never did get around to sharing my summer mantle last year. Bad blogger award over here.

But I figured the middle of July was as good a time as any.
Because if you're like us here in Arkansas, you need something to do INSIDE anyways to survive the crazy heat. 
So go ahead and redecorate your mantle :)
I'm giving you permission. 

Most often when I redecorate my mantle, I shop the rest of my house first.
Am I the only one that keeps random decor 'stockpiles' around the house? 
Most of my roomy end tables have odds and ends in them that I dig around in to get inspiration :) 

This year, I asked hubby to whip me up a faux 'barn door' of sorts. 
So he built me the pretty little centerpiece you see. 
I stained in my favorite dark walnut and set it in the middle of everything to ground it all. 

I'll talk about that pretty green wreath in a hot second. 

That cute 'Everybody love Everybody" printable can be found on this cute blog here
I framed it in one of 'extra' frames that I like to use in different displays during the year. 
I just change the print and fabric and voila! Brand new piece to work with. 

I was pretty much just looking for an excuse to use my new, gorgeous canvas print of baby girl's newborn photo. The blue & yellows in the quilt were basically made to go on my summer mantle so, hey, why fight it? 
I love the open-backed powder white frames at Hobby Lobby, by the way.
Absolutely gorgeous. I own a million. Ok, well just two. 
But I would own a lot more if I had the space :) 

The white vase is a Hobby Lobby find from several years ago that I LOVE. 
The gold box is a Target clearance score. 
And the gold bird and white bunny are both from Hobby Lobby as well.

The books are some gorgeously old books that were already falling apart when I pulled them out of their box.
They are my grandmother's old books that were given to me after she passed away. 
She had tons of beautiful books and I've had a box of them waiting to be used. 
The spines were already off of these so don't freak out on me for destroying them :) 
They were all destroyed and ready for a beautiful display already. 

Those cute little kissing seahorses were a gift from little man on Mother's Day several years ago. 
I always love seeing what the kids pick out when they are given free reign. 
And they were perfect for a little summer flavor!! 

Ok, so about that darn wreath. 
It's taken so long to get pictures up because for months- yes, months- I have been searching for the perfect green wreath to go in the middle of my set-up.
I had my eyes set on a beautiful boxwood wreath from Target but they have been sold out for FOREVER. 
I finally gave up and started searching for a different one but could never find one that I liked, that was big enough and that was reasonably priced. 

So I had officially given up on finding anything and then one random day I wandered out to the mess of a garage and found my planter box that was in 'storage' out there and had some pretty succulents and faux greenery in it. 
Aha! moment came and I quickly and, non permanently, attached it to a wreath form I had. 

It's not perfect but it did the trick and adds that pop of green I was so wanting. 

I'm always in love with the pops of fresh white against my blue walls but the gold really makes me happy this summer too!!

Have you guys changed out decor for summer colors too? 
I'm loving the fresh & simple look that it has going on right now :) 

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June 24, 2015

Dollar Store & Scrap Wood Collage Frame

I've gone round and round on what exactly to call this post but I finally just settled on stating it exactly as it is. 

This is a project I've had in my head for a while now and when summer break finally hit, I finally had the time & energy to put it into action. 

It all started with some black and white cheap prints that were taken at none other than Chuck. E. Cheese. Back when the rain was non-stop, we were desperate for some indoor fun and the kids begged to go. They have this silly photo 'drawing' booth where you can get your picture sketched and printed for one token. Me and hubby had taken Baby Girl in it and gotten a couple cute pics but weren't even going to attempt the older kids because they are so over the picture taking these days. 

We were happily surprised when they came running up to use later with their own pictures they had taken together!!! Then they begged for family ones and I couldn't pass that up. 

So we left happy, tired & with a stack of super cute black and white 'sketches' that I just knew had to turn into something amazing for the house. 

Don't you love when something comes out so much better than what you even pictured in your head??
That was definitely this project for me. 

It took a while for all the pieces to fall into place but once I found the perfect things to use, it was completely worth the wait!!!

I knew I wanted a 'gallery' frame of sorts but wanted simple frames to show off the pictures.
And I didn't want to pay a small fortune for nine frames. 

I kept my eye out at Hobby Lobby, Michaels and even Walmart for some frames that fit what I wanted and never found anything.
Then, running into the Dollar Store one day, I struck gold.
Literally :) 

I found the perfect gold frames and no paint needed. 
Although if you do find the size & shape you like, don't be afraid to spritz them with your favorite colored spraypaint for instant color satisfaction!! 

I also like that these were super lightweight since I was going to be adding them to a wooden background that would be heavy enough on it's own. 

So here's the supply breakdown if you want to recreate your own collage frame: 
Supplies needed: 
*Nine frames in your choice of size (mine were Dollar Store) 
*Desired photos/prints
*Velcro circles (Hobby Lobby) 
*Hot Glue Gun
*Scrap wood pieces
*Supplies to hang your piece afterwards (make sure you get something sturdy enough for however much yours weighs in the end) 

First things first, prep your frames. 
Mine didn't need to be painted but if yours do, go ahead and get that done. 
Then I gently tore off the easels on the backs of my frame. 
Mine were super easy since they were just cardboard and came off very easily. 
Some require a little more elbow grease. 

Next, gather your photos that you want to use. 
If you're like me and are using the cute prints from Chuck E Cheese, I wanted a way to display them without that red border around each of them. 
So I carefully trimmed each picture with a straight edge cutter and cut each of the borders off. 

Then I simply backed each picture with a piece of white cardstock that filled the inside of the frame. 
This created the look of having a matte around the photo without having to pay for one :) 
Fill your frames & set them aside for later. 

Now onto the wooden frame. 

For my frame, I used a bunch of scrap wood planks that I had salvaged from someone throwing away parts of an old fence. 
It's lightweight and was perfect for this project! 

To get an accurate size, lay your frames out on the boards and then measure out how far past the frames you want them to go. 
Use a table saw to cut them to size. 

My boards were a grey/green color so after cutting them down and attaching them together across the back, I took some glossy white paint and painted the entire frame. 
This is where you can get creative with it and paint it whatever color you want, stencil it, stain it... the possibilities are all over the place!! 

After it's painted, distress if desired and then gather your frames to start putting it all together!!

You can go two routes while putting your frame together....
1. Put the frames on it 'permanently' by using hot glue on the backs of the frame to attach them. 
2. Use velcro strips/dots on the backs of the frame to make them removable if you even want to change your prints out. 

If you go the velcro route, my suggestion is to still add a dab of hot glue on the sticky backs before adding them to increase the sturdiness of them. 
They tend to pull off if not reinforced. 

Add your frames to your wooden frame and then stand back to admire your gorgeous finished product!!! 

I'm so incredibly happy with how this little project turned out. 
And so so glad that I didn't give up on when I wasn't finding the right frames for so long. 

I added a cute quote printable in the middle of our frame that I feel like completely sums up those captured moments :) 

The gold & white colors are completely on par with my slight obsession with these colors lately :) 
Since the wood was a roadside find, the total cost of this piece was a whopping 9$ for the frames!! 

And it was a great piece to refresh some of my wall space that had been looking the same for far too long. 
I love walking down the hall and seeing those sweet faces looking at me!! 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on our new piece of art!!

Let me know on Facebook or in the comments below :) 

Do you have a stack of pictures just waiting to be made into a cute custom collage frame?? 
Break them out and get to it. You can't beat 9$ for a frame, right??

Hope you enjoyed & see you soon friends!!

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June 05, 2015

Summer Succulent Wreath

It's summer!!!!!

At least around these parts it is :)

It's finally starting to heat up like a typical Arkansas summer and school is officially out.
I've had several days of professional development to finish but I pretty much feel like I'm on break and it is amazing.

I love being home with the kids and having time during the day to work on projects, clean the house and keep things under control.
It's bliss.

And GUESS WHAT??!?!? 
 I FINALLY have time to get back to blogging a bit! 

I really have been focused on learning more about sewing and working with my embroidery machine...which I haven't shared much here on the blog.

I definitely can try to start sharing some more of my embroidery projects here if you want but they aren't exactly something easy to replicate if you don't have an embroidery machine.
But the projects are super cute so maybe I'll a habit of posting once a week about some of the finished things :) 


I did finish a beautiful summer/spring wreath several weeks ago...maybe a couple months ago.
And I've been dying to share it with you.

Didn't it turn out gorgeous??

I have quite a collection of wreaths going on right now but some of my very first wreaths have seen better days so I've been pulling them out of the stash to give them new looks.

I wanted something with a splash of greenery in it for summer this year and I finally stumbled on some inspiration at none other than the Dollar Store.

Here's the breakdown of what was used: 

*Wreath Form (I like to get mine from Hobby Lobby) 
*Yarn (I used a chunky yellow) 
*Wooden name/sign (mine was purchased on Groopdealz
*Felt flowers
*Button cover kits (from Hobby Lobby) 
*Dollar Store Succulents
*Hot Glue Gun

My main source of inspiration started with the cute, tiny little succulents I stumbled on at the Dollar store. 
I'm obsessed with these cute little plants and couldn't believe it when I found several of them on the shelves there for a buck.

Hobby Lobby sells bigger ones and they aren't bad if you catch them on sale. 
But these were perfectly light-weight enough for adding to a wreath. 

The felt flowers I just threw together. There are tons of tutorials for them all over the place, just search them on Pinterest and you'll have a gazillion ideas for them.
I kept mine simple & added covered buttons in the middle of them to finish them off. 

I kept holding off on putting the wreath together because my wreath form was pretty large so I knew that it needed something else to show off in the middle of it all.

I ordered this customized wooden name off my fave site in the world- Groopdealz.com
 I'm a tad addicted.

You can get cute wooden signs & plaques at both Michaels and Hobby Lobby too.
Go with whatever makes you happy :) 

I stained my sign first with dark walnut so that it would show after it was distressed.
Then used my favorite glossy white spraypaint to add a topcoat.
Sand it down a bit and you're ready for it to become the focal point of your wreath.

Here's a quick step-by-step to guide you through: 

1. Cover your wreath form with your desired fabric, yarn or ribbon.
I chose to wrap mine in a thick yellow yarn. 
This part takes the longest so be patient and sit down with your favorite show :) 

2. Paint/make your flowers.
If you're adding a wooden sign, go ahead and paint it and have it ready.
Then either make or buy some fun felt or fabric flowers to add.
The succulents pop easy out of their tiny pots and I just snipped their stem off with some heavy duty scissors.

3. Position your desired items around the wreath the way you think you'll want them.
I always play with my design before gluing/pinning down so I can fix it the way I want. 

4. Once you have the positioning down, go ahead and whip out your glue gun.
I used tiny sewing pins to add my flowers so I can change them up later.
I used dots of hot glue to adhere the succulents and wooden name sign.

5. Add a wide ribbon at the top of the wreath to hang it from and you're finished!! 

In addition to the cute little succulent plants I found at the Dollar Store, I also added in a few Hobby Lobby succulent 'branches' to the wreath.
I felt like they added a little more variety and interest to it. Made it fuller. 

I'm so in love with the bright pops of color and gorgeous greenery in this summer wreath!!
A word of caution, if your front door gets tons of direct sunlight, be aware that the plastic succulents may fade.
I have a glass door in front of my wreath and it doesn't get tons of direct sunlight so it's been holding up great. 
But just a word of warning :) 

Hope you guys love my spring/summer wreath as much as I do!!
Go dig through your stashes, browse the aisles of your favorite stores and get some inspiration for summer!! 

I have so many awesome projects to share that I finally have time to get on here so keep checking back!!
Happy Friday friends!!

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