Tips to promote development while waiting in line with your child

Have you ever found yourself waiting in a long line with your child? This happens even more frequently during the busy holiday season when you’re trying to get all of your shopping done. Here are several fun ideas to keep your child busy while you wait, and an added bonus is that these activities promote development!

1) Scan your immediate environment and tell you child, “I see a rectangle (ex. magazine). Can you find one?” Once your child locates the item, encourage her to find a shape that you can search for. This can also be done using different colors. This is great for your child’s attention span and visual scanning skills.

2) Play several games of Simon Says while you wait. This activity promotes active listening skills.

3) Play the “Rhyme Game” by naming a word and having your child come up with as many rhyming words as possible. Naming rhyming words is great for language skills.

4) Practice counting (this can also be done counting by twos or counting backwards) or have him work on basic adding and subtraction problems to promote math skills.

5) Point out an item and have your child spell the word or one of the item’s characteristics (color, shape, etc.). This is good for language and spelling skills.


Your Baby’s Brain!

When a baby is born, she has 100 billion neurons in her brain. What are neurons? They are the building blocks of the brain! Early in life, the brain forms many connections among these neurons, and connections are a good thing. Why? Research tells us that more connections means greater potential for learning in the future. Can you believe, approximately 1,000 trillion connections typically grow to connect the neurons in the brain during the first 36 months of life? It’s true!  Most importantly, the number of connections that form directly relates to a child’s life experiences. As parents, this means it’s important to provide your baby with excellent nutrition, lots of language, an emotional connection, as well as touch and movement. The more balanced yet stimulating baby’s environment, the more nurturing and supportive interactions provided, the greater number of neurologic connections that form. So now you know that it’s extremely important to cuddle, play with and talk to your baby as much as possible! Have fun!!!

Win a copy of my new parenting book “Retro Baby”

“Put down your smartphone and pick up this book. With plain-spoken, concise wisdom, Dr. Zachry provides vital, research-backed information for parents of young children. Creative, interactive play with other children and adults supports healthy brain development in ways today’s technology never will. “Retro Baby” provides parents fun, money-saving activities that will set their children
up for lifelong success.”

Thanks for this wonderful review by:

Mark Bertin, MD, FAAP
Developmental pediatrician, author of The Family ADHD Solution:
A Scientific Approach to Maximizing Your Child’s Attention and Minimizing Parental Stress, and editorial advisor, Common Sense Media

To win a copy of “Retro Baby,” all you have to do is like the “Retro Baby” Facebook Page by clicking HERE, and send me a message explaining why you’d like to win a copy.  The drawing will be in October. Good luck!!!!


Zachry, A. H. (2013). Retro Baby: Cut Back on all the Gear and Boost Your Baby’s Development with Over 100 Time-Tested Activities. Elk Grove, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics. – See more at:

Reading gives poor children a better chance at success

Early exposure to reading can increase a child’s chances of future academic success. Reading experience, as well as exposure to rich conversations, help improve a child’s vocabulary and ability to communicate.

This is not good news for children who live in poverty. Research has found that there are a dozen or more books per child in neighborhoods with average incomes; however, in poor neighborhoods you will only find one book for every three hundred children. Additionally, there is significantly less conversation between these parents and their children. These issues lead to limited exposure to reading for children living and poverty.

What does this mean? By the time they are school age, these children have 25% of the vocabulary than children from middle-income neighborhoods, which puts them below the national norms with language and pre-reading skills.

Many organizations in the United State are working to decrease this gap, by making books available to those who cannot afford them. They are working to increase the access of low-income families to books. For more information, visit their websites.

First Books 

Reading is Fundamental

Imagination Library

Handwriting Without Tears is a Great Program for Handwriting Instruction

Handwriting Without Tears is a wonderful multisensory writing program for children with special learning needs. This post will share some information about the program and the specific products that I use as a pediatric occupational therapist with my students in the school system.


The Handwriting Without Tears workbook that you will want to use with preschool and kindergarten students is the “Get Set for School” workbook. It’s great because it uses music, movement, building, coloring, and other activities to help children develop color and shape awareness, fine and gross motor control, letter and number recognition and counting skills.For kindergarten students, the “Letters and Numbers for Me” workbook is a must! This workbook teachers correct upper and lower case letter formation as well as number formation. First grade students will move on to “My Printing Book”, and second graders should use “Printing Power”. Finally, there is a cursive handwriting workbook for third graders that is excellent. For more information  on the program visit their site, and to learn more about fine motor skills and handwriting, visit my blog @

Should I hold my child back from starting kindergarten?

Many children just make the age cutoff to start kindergarten, and parents sometimes have a difficult time deciding whether to send their youngster on to school or hold him back for a year. There are pros and cons to either decision, but there are several factors that parents may want to take into consideration when deciding whether or not to move forward with kindergarten.

  • How mature is your child for her age? Does she play well with children slightly older than her, or does she typically play with younger peers/siblings.
  • What does your child’s preschool have to say on the matter? This is usually one of your best sources of information. Your child’s teacher will know if your little one has the social, motor, and/or academic skills needed for kindergarten.
  • Speak to the staff at the new school. Are children often held back? What are the demands for the kindergarten year?
  • Talk to other parents who have held their children back, as well as those who have not. Listen to the pros and cons and carefully consider all of this information before making your decision.

Click here to read a great story that CBS News did on this topic. Be sure to watch the video segment as well.

Sensory Processing Disorder

Does your child dread getting a hair cut? Is it pure torture to wash your daughter’s hair? Does you son complain about the tags in the back of his clothing? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have a child with a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Sensory Processing Disorder, also called Sensory Integration Dysfunction, occurs when someone has difficulty taking in the many sensations from the environment and integrating them in order to respond appropriately to their surroundings on a daily basis. It has been estimated that somewhere between 5 and 10% of children have sensory processing problems. However, the majority of these kids go undiagnosed because many pediatricians and other medical professionals aren’t fully educated about the condition. Fortunately the medical community is wising up on the topic, and there is even discussion about including SPD as a diagnosis in a future issue of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the official manual put out by the American Psychiatric Association for diagnostic purposes. However, for now, the DSM-IV does not recognize SPD as an official diagnosis, which causes problems when it comes to insurance reimbursement for therapy!

In order to understand Sensory Processing Disorders, let’s begin by thinking about the five basic senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. In addition to those, there are three additional senses: the sensory system that processes movement, the system that tells where our body parts are located in space, and the system that lets us know how we “feel” internally. As our brains receive sensory input from each separate system, that input must be interpreted, integrated, organized, and processed efficiently, so that an individual can react appropriately to the input. For example, let’s think about the haircutting example. In the case of a child with SPD, the nervous system is “wired differently” than with typical kids, so that the sensory input is not processed efficiently. Let’s think about the haircutting example. When a little boy with SPD sits in the barber’s chair, the first thing that typically happens is that a cape is place around his shoulders. If his sense of touch is involved, it’s possible that the texture of the cape will unnerve him. Then the “clippers” are turned on, and the noise that he hears is much louder and harsher to his ears than yours. In fact, to his little auditory system, the noise can actually be painful. On top of that, the barber frequently touches him and runs the comb through his hair, adding to the bombardment of negative sensory input that he’s having to endure. No wonder the little fellow hates getting a haircut!

The symptoms of SPD vary depending on which sensory systems are affected. Additional signs of dysfunction may include, but are not limited to poor sleep patterns, clumsiness, and over or under reaction to light, cold, or hot temperatures. Some children avoid certain food textures, and resist typical grooming activities such as hair washing, tooth brushing, or face washing. Many children also demonstrate an exaggerated fear of loud noises and crowds, while some little ones are extremely sensitive to touch and are fearful of playing on playground equipment. Avoiding messy materials such as play dough or finger paints and sensitivity to certain smells are also common. Children with SPD have also been described as having difficulty with transitions, and often complain about irritation from tags in the back of clothing or sensitivity to certain clothing textures. All of these issues can impact a child’s ability to interact with peers, and can ultimately lead to problems with social and play skills.

If you suspect that your child has SPD, carefully consider whether or not the issue is affecting his or her quality of life. If so, treatment should be considered. If you decide on therapy, seek out an occupational or physical therapist who has completed coursework on sensory integration theory and has experience using sensory integration techniques. Why is treatment is necessary? As children are developing, daily sensory experiences are crucial. Kids with SPD usually don’t explore their environments as typical children do, and this lack of exploration can lead to delays with gross-motor, fine-motor, and possibly speech and language skills. Through a thorough evaluation, the therapist will identify where the specific problems are, and determine the sensory input that is most appropriate for each child. During therapy, children will gain the skills needed in order to more appropriately explore and interact with the environment. An experienced therapist knows how to provide controlled input to each of the sensory systems and guide the child in making appropriate responses. It is common for the therapist to work with a little one individually in therapy on a weekly basis, as well as provide a home program to be carried out daily, or every other day. Therapy can last from several months, to several years, depending on the severity of the symptoms and how well the child responds. It is best to begin therapy at an early age, because younger children respond more readily to SPD therapy; however, this does not mean that older children will not benefit from treatment. It only means that therapy may need to be more frequent and of a longer duration.

How effective is SPD therapy? Most research on Sensory Processing Disorder treatment has been conducted through case studies, and has been found to be effective. As an occupational therapist certified to administer the Sensory Integration and Praxis Test and 18 years experience providing therapy, I agree with the research, and I believe in Sensory Processing Disorder treatment. Admittedly, more research needs to be done on Sensory Processing Disorder treatment and its effectiveness, but personally, I have seen dramatic improvement in children who have received therapy on a consistent basis. Parents frequently share stories about how therapy helped their child better tolerate basic grooming activities, which made their day-to-day routines much more tolerable, and even pleasant. Personally, I love hearing how children that once resisted playing on the playground, swinging, or going to amusement parks are now in engaging in, and enjoying these activities. The sense of relief expressed by so many parents and the smiles on the kids’ faces are proof enough for me!

For more information about SPD and some calming sensory activities click HERE to visit my other website.

Visual Perceptual Skills – Give Away!

Visual Perceptual Skills refer the brain’s ability to make sense of what the eyes see. This is not the same as the term visual acuities, which means how clearly a person sees (for example “20/20 vision”). A person can have 20/20 vision and still have problems with visual perceptual processing. Good visual perceptual skills are needed for reading, writing, cutting, drawing, completing math problems, as well as many other skills. A child who has problems with perceptual processing might have difficulties working puzzles, copying block designs, or discriminating shapes, pictures or letters.

Visual Spatial processing falls under the umbrella of visual perception and is the ability understand directional concepts for organizing visual space.  For example, it is the ability to perceive the position of two or more objects in relation to each other and in relation to your own body. For example, if you are walking through a room, you must know where you are positioned in relation to the walls, floor, other people, and furniture in that room. If you have visual spatial problems, you may have challenges with maneuvering through space, with ball skills, and with writing and spacing between words and letters.

Recent research has revealed that the language parents use related to spatial properties causes young children to better attend to spatial information. For example, toddlers who frequently heard words such as “over, under, beside, tall, round, and short” from their parents scored better on spatial tasks at an older age! Additional research tells us that practicing can improve spatial abilities. Since spatial processing is related to success in science, technology and math, as parents, we might as well take steps to expose our children to spatial language and activities!

GIVE AWAY: The winners of the visual perceptual workbook give away have been contacted. Congratulations! Stay tuned for future give aways…be sure to “like” my Facebook page and sign up for my newsletter and you will automatically be entered when I have one!


How to Get Ready for Kindergarten

Parents frequently ask me what their child needs to do to get ready for kindergarten. I like to share this list of 25 “readiness” skills that kindergarten teachers have told me are important for a child to be successful in the kindergarten classroom.

Kindergarten Readiness Checklist

1)    Speaks in complete sentences

2)    Listens without interrupting

3)    Follows two-step directions

4)    Begins to share with others

5)    Is able to recognize authority

6)    Understands concepts such as “top”, “bottom”, “big”, “little”, “more”, “less”

7)    Able to follow basic rules

8)    Recognizes rhyming words

9)    Identifies some alphabet letters

10) Bathrooms independently

11) Button shirts, pants, coats, and zips up zippers

12) Can sort objects that are the same shape, color, or size

13) Recognizes and names at least 5 colors

14) Recognizes own first name in print

15) Recognizes letters in own first name

16) Begins to write some of the letters in own first name

17) Cuts with scissors

18) Trace basic shapes

19) Draws a line, circle, X and +.

20) Works puzzles.

21) Counts from 1 to 10 in correct order

22) Identifies the beginning sound of some words (C is for cat)

23) Runs, jumps, hops, throws, catches, and bounces a ball

24) Knows first and last name of parents

25) Adjust to new situations without parents being there

So get ready for kindergarten by practicing these skills with your preschooler and your little one will have a much smoother transition into school!

Fostering Emotional Development in Children

Do you want to foster your child’s emotional development? Emotional Development in children is very important, so I would highly recommend having conversations about emotions with your little one as frequently as possible. When you are talking with your child, it is important to name emotions whenever possible, whether you are talking about someone else’s feelings or your child’s feelings. This will help your child understand specific emotions, especially negative feelings like anger, fear, or sadness that your child may find disturbing or confusing.

For example, if you are reading a story to your child, define particular emotions, such as, “furious is when you are really, really mad.” It is also important to link events in your child’s life with the emotion that you are reading about. For example, “remember, that’s how you felt when your sister broke your toy truck.” This allows a youngster to have greater emotional understanding. Obviously, as parents, we can play an important role in our children’s emotional development, and having open conversations about emotions is a great way to start!

Healthy and loving relationships help a young child to feel a sense of comfort, security, and confidence. When a child feels secure, they are more likely to form friendships, share emotions, and to deal with difficult situations. Healthy relationships also help children to be more trusting and empathetic.

Here are a few more tips for promoting emotional development in children:

  • Be affectionate- freely give your child hugs, kisses, and plenty of loving “pats on the back”
  • Be there for your little one- always be available for reassurance, providing a “home-base” for your child to always return to if scared or in need of support.
  • Use play- offer puppets or dolls to act out a story about your child’s frustrations or fears, for example, having to share a favorite toy with a peer, or separating from you at preschool. Have your child draw a sad picture when he is feeling down, or make a happy face using finger paints when she is cheerful.
  • Encourage friendships- children need to be around peers in order to practice sharing, taking turns, and resolving disputes. Playing with peers can help your little one develop all of these important skills.
  • Encourage empathy- help your child understand how other people are feeling by describing how others might be feeling in certain situations: For example, ”Susie is feeling sad because she misses her mom. Let’s see if we can cheer her up.
  • Praise for effort- When your child is working hard on a task, praise him for working hard, not for results. Say, “I like how hard you are trying. You are really working hard!”
  • Be a good example- show your child through your actions that there are many healthy, non-hurtful ways of expressing feelings.