Posts found under: Child Development Archives - Page 3 of 4 - CDI Kids

Rethinking The Use Of Technology For Our Children

 Technology is all around us. Children are taught at a young age to use devices for entertainment, education, boredom, and regulation. Opinions are divided on whether the use of iPads or cell phones is an acceptable form of reward or break-time for all children, especially the ones with developmental delays. Hand held devices, such as iPads and cell phones, make it especially challenging to regulate usage. In order to understand the issue these devices create, one must look at the effects they can have a child’s brain.screen

Children respond to video games in part because of the reward center in their brain. The receptors get hit with dopamine (a feel good neurotransmitter) every time they graduate to a new level or earn an achievement. Children with disabilities are especially likely to seek out this type of “reward”, because their natural dopamine/reward system can be sluggish. In other words, they need the increase in neural activity created by the video game in order to feel good. Although they look like they are concentrating when they are playing, it is not attention in the classical sense of the term because there’s a constant reward mechanism at work during play. Take it away, and you often have a melt-down. If the child cannot progress through the game and collect achievements, this also results in frustration and tantrums. He is dependent on the video game activity in order to feel good. The lack of dopamine during non-play time makes it harder to focus and function during other necessary activities. Some experts qualify such behavior as a sign of addiction.

Many children nowadays do not know how to self-regulate without technology. If they are bored, the first thing they reach for is an iPad or cell phone. We adults are the same: texting, or checking emails and the news. But an adult’s brain wiring is well established and a child’s is still developing.

Kids see us and they mimic us. Children learn through observations and experiences. Boredom teaches kids how to be resourceful, creative and self-sufficient. Kids with development delays need to make the brain connections necessary to thrive and progress through their milestones. Healthy brain wiring is built through social interactions, meeting challenges, physical movement, exploration, and trial and error.

In addition to the issues discussed above, multiple studies shed additional light on how electronic devices affect the brain:

    • Early television viewing directly contributes to attentional deficits in children.
    • Data shows that children’s executive functioning (ability to plan, analyze, strategize, and exert self-control) suffers with exposure to fast-paced visuals.
    • Many children on the autism spectrum have an increased risk of seizures when viewing fast paced visuals, such as the ones in video games.
    • Lights from screen devices have a negative impact on the sleep cycle, especially within 3 hours of bed time.
    • Experts found that children with autism and ADHD are more likely to become obsessive and to show patterns of addiction when it comes to video games.


So what does that mean for our kiddos? Should parents ban handheld devices for their children, especially if they have developmental delays? Experts now agree that any child under the age of two should not have screen time. Disagreement does exist, however, when it comes to whether or not parents should use these hand-held devices as a reward or break-time tool for older kids. Since children on the spectrum or with ADHD can easily get addicted to video game playing, it seems wise to limit the use of smart phones or iPads as a reward system. Social interactions, trips to the park, or playing a two person non-technology related game can be used instead. It is true that many apps have been created to increase education and speech communication in children with learning and speech delays. These can be helpful if closely monitored and used in conjunction with a caregiver, a parent or teacher. However, they should not be used to replace social interaction—an already challenging task for many children with developmental delays.


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Mindfulness for Children

Mindfulness practice is a way to deal with stressors, increase emotional regulation, and achieve inner balance.  Most articles about meditation in the news focus on how this simple activity can help adults feel more centered, but mindfulness should be taught to our children as well.

You can think of Mindfulness as a way to observe our inner selves and the sensory world around us. Our kids are very scheduled and many demands are put upon them. Mindfulness can give them the ability to take a step back and enjoy the moment. It strengthens creativity, thought processes and emotional regulation. It is a powerful skill that once taught will be a part of their coping toolkit for life.

Keep in mind that the best way to teach mindfulness to children is for parents and caregivers to model it. Sharing the world in a sensory way (e.g. what you see, smell, hear, touch, and taste) with your child will go a long way to make him/her an observer of feelings and sensations—a great first step to being mindful and to healthy emotional regulation. Here are some other simple and child friendly meditation scripts to get started:
Breathing exercise:

    • Sit comfortably, close your eyes. Imagine your tummy is a balloon. Inhale through your nose and inflate the balloon. Exhale through your mouth and deflate the balloon.

    • Repeat this activity daily and try to increase the duration every time.

    • Some children find it helpful to have a stuffed animal placed on their tummy, this way they can see it go up when they inhale and going down when they exhale.

Happy Place:

    • Make sure your child is comfortable, laying down on a bed, floor or beanbag. Read the prompts slowly allowing for the thought process to take place.

    • Close your eyes and think of a place that makes you truly calm and happy. What is it? Where is it? Can you see it in your mind? Are there other people? Who are they? Can you describe them? Take your time, look around taking in all the details of your happy place. Do you hear sounds in your happy place? What type of sounds? Are there voices? Take your time and listen to the sounds all around you. Are there smells you recognize in your place? What does it smell like? If you move around, are you walking? Are you running? How does your body move there? Does it float around effortlessly? Are you flying? How do you feel moving around this place of yours? Take your time and explore this calming place of yours and enjoy the feelings it gives you.

    • As a follow up activity have them draw a picture of their happy place.


For additional articles and ideas on this subject, check out the following resources:





Screen Time Affects Your Child’s Development


A new poll out of the University of Michigan shows that about 25% of parents let their young children have 3 hours or more of screen time per day. This news is disconcerting given that experts agree that children over the age of 2 should get no more than 2 hours per day, and less is preferable. In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes that children under the age of 2 should not spend any time in front of a screen. Screen time is not only encroaching on other more developmentally appropriate activities, it also affects a child’s emotional and neurological development.

Smartphones and tablets are making it challenging for parents to monitor and control the amount of time their child spends in front of a screen. A Child’s role, starting

in infancy, is to explore and share his world. Television and computer games unfortunately interfere with this natural process. Hours that should be spent looking at plants, people, exploring smells, tastes, textures, nature and playing within the community are instead spent shutting the world out. Screen time provides one way communication, reducing the opportunities for the child to challenge himself and communicate with his caregivers.

Screen time also affects the nervous system negatively. Studies have shown that the exposure to the light coming off of the screens disrupts the natural sleep cycles of our bodies, and children are especially vulnerable. It also can overload the sensory system and make children moody, impulsive and plain tired. Findings also point towards changes in brain structures due to excessive exposure to television and video games.

According to the AAP, children under the age of two should not be given screen time as a form of entertainment, and this type of activity should be strictly restricted in children above the age of two as well. Instead, consider these fun activities to share with your child:

      • Reading books together
      • Touching new textures (soft fabrics, rough fabrics, grass, flowers…)
      • Cooking together (a child can help pour or mix)
      • Coloring or painting together
      • Gardening together
      • Pretend play
      • Playing “I spy” or “20 questions” (with older kids)
      • Playing at the park
      • Beading
      • Playdough
      • In public areas, such as restaurants and stores, teach your child to people watch. Talk with him/her about what you see together.
      • You can also keep his/her little hands busy by playing interactive games such as Pat-a-Cake or Itsy-Bitsy Spider.
      • Here’s a link to some other famous interactive nursery rhymes you can try:


Parents play a key role in helping their children connect to people in their world. Screen-time interferes with language, brain and emotional development. Parents can start by setting an example, they can reduce their own use of computers/tablets, T.V. as well as smartphones. Applying little changes in a child’s routine, such as reading together at the end of the day instead of watching T.V., or having your child help make dinner instead of having him watch a show while you cook for the family, can help promote active versus passive entertainment. Positive forms of entertainment promote two-way communication skills, observation skills, as well as develop his interest in the world around him. Any activities you can do together helps grow your child into a well-centered and emotionally connected individual.



Sensory Issues and Summer

Summer is upon us, children are out of school and parents are looking for activities to keep their little ones entertained. Thankfully the Los Angeles area offers many opportunities for some wonderful sensory experiences to be enjoyed by the whole family. A beach day is a classic summer activity, but kiddos with sensory issues can get overwhelmed by the texture of the sand on their skin, the sound of the waves and even the salty ocean smell. Here are some summer activity ideas and strategies to ensure a fun time in the sun:


Small changes in the environment can go a long way toward helping children with sensory issues have a good time. When a beach day is what you want, a boardwalk or a park by the water can offer a nice compromise. If a child can keep his shoes on, walk on solid ground instead of the sand, climb play equipment instead of making sandcastles, and even sit on a bench in a shady area for some much needed quiet time, he is more likely to stay in balance.

Remember that the proprioceptive system (sensory receptors in your joints that send information to the brain) is an incredible emotional and sensory regulator. All the pulling and pushing that happens when a child climbs on playground equipment helps to keep him emotionally regulated.

But what if your child is sensitive to the pungent ocean breeze? An easy solution is to have him carry a favorite cloth with a few drops of soothing essential oil (e.g. lavender or orange). This way, whenever he is overwhelmed by the strong smell of the air, he can smell the preferred fragrance instead.

Finally, keep in mind that your child will do better if you time your family’s trip to the beach according to his natural rhythm. The nervous system becomes more reactive when we’re tired. If your child has more energy in the mornings but fades in the afternoons, try to plan a breakfast or a brunch picnic by the water. The whole family will have a fabulous time.

Here’s a list of our favorite parks and boardwalks by the water:

A nice boardwalk for the whole family to enjoy a stroll:
Zuma Beach
30050 Pacific Coast Hwy
Malibu, CA 90265

A great place for a picnic, to climb, run around, use the zip-line and more:
Marina Park
Pierpont Ave
Ventura, CA 93001

A wonderful way to enjoy the beach by the pool, offers great amenities:
Annenberg Community Beach House
415 Pacific Coast Hwy
Santa Monica, CA 90402

Wondering what else you can do? Here are some other wonderful sensory rich activities in our area:

To cool off and have fun, take your kiddos to play in an interactive fountain:
Arthur J Will Memorial Fountain
210 N. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, Ca 90012

For a sensory feast, the whole family will enjoy a local farmer’s market:

Introduce your children to where their food comes from, take them to a U-pick farm for strawberries and other wonderful treats:
McGraw Family Farm
1012 West Ventura Blvd

Underwood Family Farms
3370 Sunset Valley Rd

More tips to help ensure a wonderful time:

    • Bring a sensory community kit (a collection of items and toys that your child finds soothing).
    • Bring plenty of drinks and food (thirst and hunger can make anyone dysregulate).
    • Bring sun hats, sunscreen and umbrellas for shade (too much sun exposure can be draining).
    • Bring a change of clothing for your child (children with tactile sensitivities get overwhelmed when their clothes are wet).
    • Bring a set of headphones with your child’s favorite music (it will help tune out the noise from other people or the crashing waves).
    • Prepare your child for what he can expect during this outing, get him involved in making a plan  to help cope with unpleasant stimuli.
    • Do some activities prior to the outing to help him experience some of the sensations he might encounter during your outing.
    • Learn to read your child’s cues; children with sensory issues can get overwhelmed fast.

Summer is a special time for parents and children to have fun and make memories together. Parents have the difficult task of respecting their child’s limits while still providing opportunities to explore and experience the world. This can be challenging—a lot of it is trial and error but remember that you are the expert on your child. The more you can just live in the moment and go with the flow, the more you will enjoy this special time with your child.


Sensory Strategies for Parent

Since OT Awareness Month is almost over, we thought it would be fun to share some OT sensory strategies for parents to enjoy! 

The best way to address your sensory needs as a parent is to:

1. Take an inventory of what activities you find soothing, energizing and regulating. For some parents, taking a bubble bath is relaxing and enjoyable, for others running outside is the most satisfying.

2. Survey your environment – Some adults are aware that noisy environments are draining to their nervous system, while others get energized at parties or concerts.

3. Account for all your senses – smell, visual, sounds, taste, vestibular (motion that affects your knowledge of where your body is in space), proprioception (receptors that let your brain know how much pressure or pulling your joints feel). For example, people who run for regulation are using all their senses during that activity except for taste.

Living SensationallyOnce you have an inventory of the best sensory activities, use it as a go to list for when you need some “me” time. It should help you feel more centered. Here are some of our favorite activities:

  • Listening to music (auditory)
  • Touching Velcro or other soothing textures (tactile)
  • Wrapping ourselves in a heavy comforter (tactile and proprioceptive)
  • Exercising (proprioceptive and vestibular)
  • Playing with clay (visual, tactile and proprioceptive)
  • Painting (visual, tactile and proprioceptive)
  • Cooking (Proprioceptive, visual, scent, tactile and taste)
  • Walking on the beach or at a park (proprioceptive, visual, auditory and scent)

For more on this subject, check Winnie Dunn’s book, Living Sensationally Understanding Your Senses.



 – Alexa Brett, COTA/L, Occupational Therapy Assistant

Each child is unique. Here are some sensory strategies that may work for your child. Try one to two at time. If a strategy does not work, it might at a later date. For community outings, put a sensory kit together with your child favorite activities.

Fuzzy Balls – Fidget Toys: stress balls, putty, fuzzy balls, gel balls, Velcro, plastic figurines, Rubber Gumby bendable,  soft squares of fabric, textured squares of fabric, bag of dried pasta or beans (make sure your child does not put items in mouth), small paint brush, skin brush or toothbrush, popping beads or tubes.

 – Lycra hug:  get a piece of Lycra fabric from the fabric store big enough for your child to wrap it around his body for a self-squeeze

 – Bucket of dry beans, and pasta: let child run his hands through, put beans in small cup, listen to sound the beans make when they fall down. Make sure your child does not put these dried food items in his mouth.

 – Music: some children really respond and organize with music.

 watching-fish-300x300– Bath or shower: let child play with the water and enjoy the many sensations this activity provides.

 – Bean bags: great for the wrap around feel it provides. A child can use them to sit on, lay on, or as a blanket. Some children really enjoy being sandwiched in between two bean bags with parent giving some targeted squeezes on the top bean bag for extra input and regulation. Always make sure the child feels safe during this activity and that your child can safely breathe.

 – Swinging or rocking: linear swinging or rocking in a rocking chair or glider can be calming for some children.

 – Fishes/aquarium: Many children seeking visual input are mesmerized by a fish tank. Before investing in one, take your child to a pet store or an Aquarium and see how he/she responds.

 – Play the breathing game with your child: 

Weighted Vest– Teach your child that his/her tummy is a balloon 

– Slowly take a deep breath through your nose to make the balloon inflate

– Slowly breathe out through your mouth to make the balloon deflate

– Repeat slowly

 – Vibrations: vibrations can be calming for some children. Try a vibrating pillow or a handheld toy massager

 – Deep pressure massage or joint pressure

 – Weighted vest or lap pillow

 – Play the hugging game: go around the house finding things to hug

 – Create a safe hideout for your child, a small space…their own little fort

 – Reduce strong inputs such as TV or screens (computers, ipads, radio or lights)

 – Use white noise music or rhythmic soothing music to help your child calm down

[notice]More information: Child Development Institute is available to answer any of your questions about occupational therapy and to listen to your concerns about your child’s development. For more information on Occupation Therapy, email Director of Clinical Services, Tessa Graham or call 818-888-4559.[/notice]


Brain Awareness Week & Your Child’s Healthy Growth

Brain Awareness Week & Your Child’s Healthy Growth 

Serve & ReturnThe first three years of life are a period of incredible growth in all areas of a baby’s development – especially the brain. By age 3, 85% of the brain has been developed by developing trillions of connections (synapses) between billions of brain cells. March 10 – 16 is Brain Awareness Week. With a focus on the healthy growth young children and supporting the relationships that help their brains develop, we want to take this time to celebrate the wonderful gift of our brain and in particular, early brain development!

At CDI, in all areas of supporting children, parents and families, we focus on the 3’Rs of early development: Relationships, Regulation and Resilience.

Relationships – Consistent, sensitive parents and caregivers who understand that children need safe, supportive and loving relationships provide the context for learning to love and loving to learn. Through these relationships, children learn that they matter and that others are vital to their existence. The capacity to experience sensations and emotions and then bring thoughts to evaluate and plan develops through these consistent relationships.

Check out this great video about how children’s brains develop through relationships:

Regulation – When a parent/caregiver responds to their child’s needs with meaningful attention, they are helping their child learn how to recognize feelings, needs and desires. Millions of these serve and return experiences helps the child’s brain to develop the capacity to recognize emotions and needs, what to do to regulate and act on the constant input of sensory, emotional and social stimuli occurring throughout the day. When the child is back in a calm state, he/she is ready to learn and explore their world!

What is Serve & Return?

Resilience – Not surprisingly, sometimes parents and caregivers miss the mark and don’t respond to the child in the right way. However, parents will be relieved to know that this is exactly what the brain expects! These misses offer the parent opportunities to recover and realign their intentions with the child to restore calm alert attention. Working through disappointment and frustration helps to build resilience in both parent and child.

At CDI, we also bring nature into the learning environment to provide opportunities for excitement and wonder that prime the brain for active and lasting learning. Interacting with the sensations of nature including sounds, smells and touch stimulate multiple areas in the brain that integrate complex systems. Nature offers many problem solving activities such as how to make a sand castle stand, how seeds are planted in dirt, and what makes them grow. These types of activities require focus (calm alert attention) and imagination. By learning about the natural environment, children expand their vocabulary, math skills, planning and creativity.

Our mission is to help every child reach their full potential by supporting the relationships and environments that shape early development. We know that when we invest in high quality care giving and early education experiences, children’s relationships and their environments will be equipped with the knowledge and tools to focus on what every child needs to learn and thrive.

Join us in this work by sharing this knowledge with a parent or caregiver you know and partnering with CDI to provide children what they children need to succeed!

 Joan Maltese, PhD

CDI Executive Director 


Keeping Your Kid’s Mouth Healthy


The American Dental Association has incredible resources for parents that are fun and informative about keeping your kid’s teeth clean! In fact, they have partners with Sesame Workshop, Sam’s Club and MetLife Foundation to develop – Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me, a bilingual (English/Spanish), multimedia program!

With the power of Sesame Street, kids 2 through 5 and their parents and caregivers can watch how to keep their mouth healthy – together!

Check out the videos below! There are also loads of activities, coloring sheets and games that you can do at home, check out the ADA website here.



23 Ways to Show Your Child Love

23 Ways to Show Your Child Love
Megan Lange, MA, ED, CDI Theraputic Group Specialist

  1.  parents-kissing-babyTurn off the television.
  2. Take a walk after dinner.
  3. Write them a note or draw them a picture and put it in their lunch.
  4. Go for a slow walk in nature and let them to explore for as long as they want.  Get down and look at what they are looking at.  Wonder about how and why they world works with them.
  5. Make them laugh each day.
  6. Get down to their level and make eye contact to talk with them when you are telling them something important.
  7. Have a picnic on the living room floor.
  8. Holding-Kids-Back-in-School-RM-articleHave a day where they can eat whatever they want for dinner.
  9. Watch their favorite movie with them.  Make popcorn and let them add flavors- parmesan cheese, butter and brown sugar etc. 
  10. Let them name their creation.
  11. Let them pour extra bubbles in the bath.
  12. Put on silly clothes and have a dance party.
  13. Make up a little game-just between you and them Ex: Alternate telling each other how much you love each other.  “I love you as much as the tallest mountain”, “I love you as much as candy is sweet”
  14. Make up a hand sign that means “I love you” so they can see it when you can’t say it.
  15. Make cookies together and bring them to a local senior center.
  16. Let them help you with a task or activity they ask to be a part of on the days you have extra time. 
  17. When you ask about their day, carve out a few minutes when you are not doing anything else and really listen.
  18. Make them breakfast in bed and climb in and eat it with them.
  19. parentsHoldingKids1Do log rolls down a grassy hill.
  20. Let them help in the kitchen.
  21. Read them an extra book before bed.
  22. Answer all of their “why?” questions to the best of your ability with a smile on your face– and don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” and help them find the answer if feasible.
  23. Go for a walk on the beach together.  Sit or lay down together and close your eyes.  Talk about how the sand feels between your toes, how the air smells salty, how the waves sound coming and going…

Fill your time with moments you want to remember.  They will become the memories of your life.

Do you have great tips about how to show love to your child? Shar your tips and stories with is by emailing or on our Facebook page!


Social Skills – The Power of Rehearsal

RehearsalSocial Skills Tip of the Day – The Power of Rehearsal
 – Megan Lange, MA, ED, CDI Theraputic Group Specialist

Rehearsing scenarios before entering a social situation is a powerful tool to support your child.   If you are going out to eat, role- play you being the waiter/cashier and taking your child’s order.  Have your child use his highest level of communication to place his order; verbally, pointing, etc.  If possible, make pretend menus with your child by cutting out his favorite foods and pasting them on a paper or get copies of menus from his favorite restaurants to practice with.  After a while, switch roles with him and he can be the waiter/cashier and you can place your order with him.  Let your imaginations go wild and play restaurant.  Include opportunities to reinforce good table manners.

Did you know CDI has many different groups to help your child develop social skills? Check out what is now being offered by clicking here!

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