Ask an Expert: Tummy Time

What is “tummy time” and why is it important?

Tummy Time is an important activity for your baby’s development and is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Because the AAP recommends that babies sleep on their backs for safety reasons, babies need enough supervised Tummy Time during the hours they are awake to strengthen head, neck, and upper body muscles. Tummy Time helps to build the strength and coordination needed for rolling over, crawling, reaching, and playing. Remember that all babies benefit from Tummy Time, including newborns. Pediatric occupational therapy practitioners promote a child’s development through activities such as Tummy Time, and they can help make Tummy Time a regular part of your daily routine

Playing with just your imagination: Fall!


(Photo Credit)

When the weather cooperates, fall is a great time for imaginative play outside! With falling leaves, there are many opportunities for language expansion and other developmental goals, such as gross motor movement! Have the kids make a pile with the leaves (or play with the ones you rake) and model for them to practice imitating a variety of actions, sounds, words, and phrases! Target relevant verbs (e.g. jump, fall, rake, throw, etc.) as they jump and play in the leaves. Throw them up in the air, pile them high, watch them fall from the trees, jump and stomp to listen to them crunch, and so much more! They’ll have a blast playing outside with no equipment necessary!

November Toy of the Month: PlayDough!


Playdough is an endless opportunity for targeting a variety of developmental goals, such as receptive and expressive language or fine motor skills.  Your child can use their imagination to mold it into different objects/shapes, or generally play for sensory input and language expansion.

Practice colors by naming them and then having your child identify each one, or have your child label them themselves for further expressive practice. Encourage your child to request, such as signing/saying “more” or “please,” requesting their desired color, etc. Practice acting out/modeling relevant verbs (e.g. roll, cut, squeeze, rip, smash, push, etc.) with the playdough. Encourage imitation of sounds, words/phrases, and actions.

You can make animals/objects with the playdough or find small toys to put in playdough for extended sensory play and to target other vocabulary. Modify targets as your child progresses, this is a toy that can absolutely grow with your child’s skills!

Ask an Expert: Daily Routines?

Help! My toddler often becomes very upset when transitioning between daily routines, such as getting in the car to run errands, or putting the iPad away to take a nap. What should take only a few minutes turns into a 20-minute ordeal! What can I do to make these transitions go smoother for both my child and me?

Typically, children become upset or defiant when they feel that they have no control over a situation, which causes a certain level of anxiety. Having to turn the iPad off at an arbitrary time feels so unexpected that they act out as a way to take back some control. It can also occur when they feel overwhelmed or anxious about what is going to happen next (in their day, or in that specific activity), such as when they have to get in the car. They may not know what to expect at the grocery store, despite having been there many times before. A simple, yet effective, solution to this is to implement a visual schedule into your daily routine. This allows the child to see what is coming next in their day, and gives them some control over knowing if/when an activity will end.It can be as basic as pictures of routine activities (eating breakfast, dropping sibling at school, music class, errands, lunch, nap, etc) taken on your phone or printed from the internet. I have found that phone pictures work best, as they portray the actual objects and environments that your child interacts with. You can print the pictures, laminate if desired, and add Velcro for easy manipulation of the day’s activities. As another option for kiddos who struggle to finish an undesirable activity, you may want to add an ‘all done’ or ‘stop’ envelope at the bottom for your child to deposit the pictures/activities that you have already completed. Add the remaining Velcro pieces to the outside of a manila envelope for the visual schedule, and also on the inside for storage of unused pictures.The picture below offers a great example of a visual schedule, so feel free to check it out and model your own visual schedule from the guide! Happy transitioning.

Playing with just your imagination


95ff6a6f-3813-4c8f-8ead-2d08badc4589Turn this every day routine into a fun way to promote language development and play skills! You can practice taking turns blowing bubbles in the water and have fun splashing mounds of bubbles around. There is so much wonderful vocabulary you can incorporate such a routine activity. Adding bath toys (animals, shapes, colors) can make learning fun! A few examples:  practicing animal sounds, pretending to give your animals a bath, finding different shapes/letters in bubbles. Whether you decide to add bath toys or not, the options are endless during bath time.

October: Toy of the Month

Learning Resources Super Sorting Pie7622115e-060a-4d9a-b545-288961677300

The super sorting pie is a great toy that targets a variety of language concepts. You can practice requesting different pieces of fruit, taking turns taking pieces of fruit out of the pie and putting them back in, and sharing. Additional concepts that can be targeted with this toy can include: same vs. different, color matching, and quantitative concepts (i.e. one vs. some vs. all).

(Photo Credit: Amazon)

September Community Events

Drop-In Art @ The Paintbrush 

Paint, draw, sculpt with play-do, scoop bears from the manipulatives bucket, draw big on the wall chalkboard, make a creative art/craft project to take home, and more.  Mondays & Tuesdays 9:15 AM – 11:15 AM.  All ages.  Free.

Parent & Toddler Yoga @ Lincoln Park Zoo

Connect to nature while exercising the body and imagination with your little one. Toddlers will practice fun animal yoga poses and also engage in activities like guided nature exploration, reading a storybook and more.

September 3rd & 10th from 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM. Ages 2-4 years.  $20/Child.

It’s a Bugs (and Bees!) Life @ Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Secrets of Bees is a highly interactive exhibit using live bees, costumes and props to allow families to role-play and peel back the mystery of bees.

Through October 1st.  $9 – adults; $6 – ages 3 – 12 years; Free – ages 2 & under.

A Detective Game With Three Little Kittens @ Emerald City Theater

This interactive spy story provides the purr-fect opportunity to show your little ones the mystery and excitement of live theatre.

September 12th – January 3rd.  Ages 0 – 5 years.  $15/child; $8/children 1 & under.

Learn and Play Date @ The Natalie G. Heineman Smart Love Preschool

Join Smart Love at a Free Learn & Play Date about Baby Milestones! The play date is casual and will take place in their baby room, a space specifically designed with your baby in mind.  Ages 6 – 11 months.  Free.

Ask an Expert: Communicating with peers

How can I encourage my toddler to interact more with his peers?  

Your child is learning how to engage and play with peers appropriately, so he needs you to model and guide him through that process! You can encourage peer interactions within your current surroundings through seeking out opportunities that allow your child to practice relating to other children. Some ideas include, playing simple turn-taking games with siblings at home, bringing chalk or bubbles to share at the park, or attending a neighborhood play date or library storytime.

DIY “Calm Down” Glitter Bottle!


A “calm down” bottle can be used to help your child self-regulate when becoming emotionally overwhelmed or over-stimulated by his or her environment. Your child will enjoy shaking the bottle and watching the glitter settle to the bottom. Keep them on hand for long car rides, grocery store meltdowns, or as a tool to help your child calm during a “time-out”!

You’ll need:

-Empty water bottle (smooth bottles work best!)

-Glitter glue

-Fine glitter

-Clear gel glue

-Super glue


  1. Clean water bottle and remove labels.

  2. Fill water bottle ¾ of the way with warm water.

  3. Add glitter glue and fine glitter. Shake bottle to mix and melt glitter glue.

  4. Add clear gel glue and fill to the top with cool water.

(You can play with the consistency at this point…more gel glue will make the glitter settle slowly and more water will make it settle more quickly.)

  1. Secure the top back on with super glue.

  2. Enjoy!

    Photo credit: By Inkwina (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s time for a treasure hunt!

Playing With Just Your Imagination:

Hide toys your child already has around your home. You could also extend the activity by having your child draw pictures of treasure that you can then “bury” (hide). As you hunt for your treasure be sure to model questions and answers about where that toy might be (e.g.“Is it under the table?” “No? Let’s keep looking!”). This activity is great for working on asking and answering questions, understanding location concepts, and following directions (e.g. “look on the chair!”).