My mother knew the importance of using stuffed animals in times of trauma. She made and donated thousands of stuffed animals over 45 years as a volunteer at our regional hospital. The stuffed animals she made were simple dolls, and kids were encouraged to draw on them or just hold them close when stressed. They proved to be invaluable when working with kids and helped caregivers and first-responders to not only identify the problem a child might be experiencing, but also know what path to take in diagnosing and treating a child who has experienced upheaval in their life.
Stuffed Animals Utlized in Times of Trauma.
What is trauma exactly? Trauma is defined by the American Psychological Association as an emotional response to a negative event. It can vary in its intensity amongst individuals, and a person does not have to directly experience an event but can witness it from a distance. This makes trauma both elusive and deeply personal. The effects can be immediate or manifest days, months , or years after an event. Identification is the first step in giving kids the help they need.
Bluebee Pals can be an essential tool in the classroom or the clinic in discovering kids who have experienced trauma or distress. Sometimes talking to an inanimate friend provides the space and unconditional support in which to express oneself. Kids can project any attribute onto a stuffed animal through that thinly veiled line between reality and fantasy to make it so
– “Leo is a good listener, Lily loves me, or Parker gives good hugs and keeps me calm.”
There is also a foundation of science in support of using a stuffed animals such as Bluebee Pals. When we hold something tight against our body, we activate our core. Try it – hold onto a pillow or stuffed animal tightly – feel it? Do you feel it in your belly? That “gut level feeling” comes shining through when activating our core. This posturally supported position can give rise to wakening our awareness as well as a sense of confidence when sharing or speaking. The deep pressure and proprioceptive benefits also release neurotransmitters that help us calm and focus.
Bluebee Pals are an assistive technology device that provides children with the confidence to try something new. And because of Bluebee Pal’s adaptability, he speaks the language of children. Whether it’s learning a new skill from playing an app or the chance to communicate through an AAC program or a phone call, he is a loving and consistent presence that supports children everywhere.
Most kids love to listen to music and sing. Singing is one of the best activities during the holidays for young children and can be done anywhere – in the car when out and about or to reinforce everyday routines at home or school. Singing promotes development on so many different levels. Not only does it build language and vocabulary skills, but also teaches kids about social and cultural traditions, enhances thinking skills and provides an overall sense of well-being. And if fingerplays or movement is added, it helps kids retain the material by synching speech and other sensory systems with the body. Did you know that your Bluebee Pal comes ready right out of the box to help your children learn the joy and comradery of singing with others?
Finding appropriate music can sometimes be hard or frustrating. Here are a few of our favorite ways that bring our Bluebee Pals to life. Follow these easy steps to get started.
- Turn on your Bluebee Pal and pair it with a device. Usually, this is found under “Bluetooth Devices” within the settings tab. Devices such as a phone, tablet, or even an AI device such as Amazon Kids or Google Home can be paired with Bluebee.
- Select your album, playlist, or app, and tap the play button. Like magic, Bluebee will automatically begin to sing. The realistic head and mouth movements will transform Bluebee into a real-life friend.
- Set back and enjoy yourself! You can add microphones to make it authentic. We have found the plastic dollar store type microphones work well as they help amplify voices – but not too loud.
Spotify is one of our favorites as families can search for music or songs, make playlists, or explore playlists made by others. Spotify can either be used as a free service or as a subscription service. The difference being that the subscription service offers the options to download music to your device, listen offline, and to eliminate pop up ads that may interrupt or be inappropriate for kids in play.
Amazon Music, Google Music, or iTunes are all subscription services that function much like Spotify. There are free options to use in home or with a hotspot, but to download music, create playlists to listen offline, and to eliminate ads you’ll need to subscribe.
YouTube is a favored and universal hub for children’s music and educational videos. Be sure to view any music video to check out its content before playing it for a child. Even You Tube Kids may have some content that is inappropriate slip through YouTube’s filters. Report anything that seems off putting.
Whatever your choice, remember that holidays are a time to connect, share, and enjoy each other. Happy Holidays!
Bluebee loves Halloween with all its fun activities. Dressing up and trying out new roles for pretend play gives kids a chance to take on another’s perspective. Young children often have a blurred line between reality and make-believe, so putting on that princess’s dress is the way to being royal – at least for a while. However, there’s a lot of novel stimuli coming at your child during Halloween, so it makes sense to use Bluebee to help your child prepare for changes in routines and what to expect. The Halloween Holiday Apps listed below are all grand ways for kids to explore what the celebration is all about. It also habituates a child to the sights and more importantly the sounds of the holiday. Here are some of our favorite Halloween apps to get you started:
Yum Yum Letters: Learn and Trace by Kindermatica is an outstanding app for beginning to grademovements and make markings within a pathway. Kindermatica has seasonal themes within the app to keep its content current. The Halloween Theme contains a spooky but friendly spider, pumpkins, and atmospheric fun. With Blueebee there to deliver the instructions to the app, your child will be unstoppable. On opening, each letter is introduced as well as its formation. The letter is then formed by using either the finger or a stylus. Bluebee always uses a stylus, and I would encourage the use of one if your child’s hand is ready for a writing utensil. One of the things I love about most handwriting apps is that kids must practice proper letter formation to proceed, and Yum Yum Letters has kids practice the formation of each letter three times with slightly different backgrounds and prompts to help ensure carry-over and promote independence. Once they have practiced, they are rewarded with a game – that furthers spatial skills involving symmetry.
I look forward to Sago Mini Monsters Halloween update every year. This is an app that can be used for children that have mastered single causation in play, and need more of a challenge. The Halloween version has kids bring up a monster face from the green slime pits. He is then dusted off and painted, given new accouterments, and then feed all sorts of treats and goodies. There is a price to pay – and as Bluebee knows – if you eat a lot of treats, you need to brush your teeth. I love how daily routines are reinforced in this app. Brushing teeth is often hard to incorporate into a young one’s day. And practicing this in-app presents an opportunity to familiarize them with the sequence to the task and make it non-threatening. In Sago Mini Monsters, Bluebee plays the music to the app, helping children to self-regulate and attend through the rhythms presented.
Go Away, Big Green Monster! Is an action-packed app that can be Read Along with the exciting author and narrator, Ed Emberley, Read Along with a child narrator, Read by Myself, or have the Story Sung in an upbeat jazzy tune. The benefits to this playing are both learning about the vocabulary for body awareness, but the ability to anticipate and sequence a story. We use this app in therapy all year round as its liveliness is simply infectious.
Trick or Treat Little Critter is an interactive storybook by OceanHouse Media that explains the customs of Halloween to little folks. It describes in detail the expectations and roles to play at Halloween as well as all the great benefits to Trick or Treating. It always amazes me how a few kids have no idea what is going on during Halloween because no one has explained it to them. Often there is not an older sibling or friend that explains what the holiday is like in Kid’s Terms that would make it remotely interesting and something that they should invest time and effort into participating. Too many kids, the thought of dressing up in something uncomfortable, staying out late, and all the noise is just too much. Once they have an idea of the benefits to be reaped in terms of attention, candy, and fun…they are all in. OceanHouse Media is a company that always comes to the rescue in explaining the world and its customs to kids.
BabyLit Build and Play Frankenstein tells the tale of Victor Frankenstein and how he came to make the lonely purple monster as well as a play section of dressing up Frankie. In the parent’s section, there is a summation of the original book. Although the summation is not meant for young children, it does provide parents with talking points of appreciating all life and the richness of our differences the world over.
Revised and updated for 2018
Bluebee Pals took a road trip this week to see Puddingstone Place, a comprehensive treatment center for children with special needs and their families. This amazing center offers Speech, ABA/Behavioral Services as well as Occupational Therapy that transcend typical school-based approaches. Treatment emphasis is on using evidenced-based clinical practices developed at Boston Children’s Hospital. The Visual Immersion System (VIS™) created by the world renown expert on communication disorders, Dr. Howard Shane, is cutting-edge, thoroughly researched, and centers on the whole child. By using state of the art technology, it takes advantage of children’s strong visual preferences in learning. Most of the children seen at the center have a diagnosis of Autism or ASD, but Puddingstone Place welcomes all children with needs and includes seeing children with:
- Global developmental delays
- Intellectual disabilities
- Cerebral Palsy
- Pragmatic Communication Disorders
- Down Syndrome
- …And children with other diagnosed and undiagnosed developmental, sensory, and communication delays.
The Visual Immersion System (VIS™) helps kids become more effective communicators by capitalizing on children’s strong visual skills. Visual supports can be customized using both low tech and high-tech options that makes treatment relevant to each child. The flexibility helps kids to make sense of what is being taught and be able to generalize material to facilitate function. Check out Dr. Shane’s Book on the Visual Immersion Therapy for more information: Enhancing Communication for Individuals with Autism: A Guide to the Visual Immersion System.
On arriving we were greeted by the center’s energetic and dedicated staff. The rooms were open and inviting. It felt comfortable and child friendly. Decorations were cheerful and uplifting without visual and auditory clutter that often distracts or overwhelms children. The staff who are already familiar with Bluebee, fell in love with Bluebee with the newest Bluebees that have both head and mouth movements for more realistic interactions. Heads were spinning with the possibilities of what Bluebee may bring to enhancing the lives of children. Laura Jiencke, the founder of Bluebee Pals and the Bluebee Pals Project, described treatment ideas as well as pictures of the Bluebee in action. Did you know that Bluebee can be used with AAC devices, musical playlists to promote movement, and pragmatic language skills through the use of the phone feature?
Bluebee Pals wants to thank all the staff for their hospitality, and best wishes for success!
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is one of the most beloved stories for preschoolers. It portrays the ability to transform or change who we are and what we can become. StoryToys Entertainment Limited has retained the magic of the book by empowering children to seek out and explore early learning concepts in their app: Hungry Caterpillar Play School. The app currently coincides with international early learning standards and objectives for Preschoolers and contains an introduction to help parents learn how to use the app for the benefit of their children. What makes Hungry Caterpillar Play School so stellar is that the content is continually evolving to stay on top of current evidence-based practices in learning. It is a subscription-based service that can be bought on a monthly or yearly basis. Let’s take a peek inside and see what makes this the first choice for parents.
INSIDE THE APP
There are 5 components to explore each with corresponding songs and activities. By mixing songs, movement and activities, children are continually receiving a variety of sensory input to attend and complete the sections of the curriculum. One of the things I had not recognized when previewing the app before playing with kids is that they audio was designed to help kids remain calm and focused. Although the music is looped, it does not become repetitive as much as it helps to settle and ground children within the activity. Below are the sections that your little one can select.
Colors, Shapes, and Puzzles (Spatial Relationships)
Letter Recognition (both upper and lowercase), Early Tracing, and Name Recognition Activities
Early Math and Pattern Recognition
Books and Stories to both Listen and attempt to recognize words for Beginning to Read. At the beginning to Read section, once children recognize that letters form words they can tap on a word to hear it sound out.
Creativity and Art Center – which allows kids to create their own masterpieces – just like Eric Carle!
A secret center lies in the midst of every selection page. And that is the magnificent array of balls that appear on the screen! They can be counted, sorted, and thrown to one own’s heart delight. I love how kids can be drawn into not only the sheer beauty of color but also learn about the natural world by directly applying some of the concepts they are learning too.
We at Bluebee love this app for its eloquence and its ability to readily engage children. The app is patient and inviting. If a wrong answer is played, the app quietly waits for correction. The subtle message to persist is present by being non-judgmental. Younger children love “doing homework” like their siblings, and we can’t think of a better app to begin their lifelong journey of learning. Bluebee loves to read the stories, sing songs, and sound out letters. Watch him sing the penguin song!!
Mindfulness is an essential skill for kids to be successful learners. But what exactly is mindfulness and why is there such a fuss in teaching mindfulness to young children? Mindfulness is simply paying attention to the present moment and allowing all thoughts and feelings to occur without necessarily taking action. This ability to stop helps to reset and reorganize the body’s systems and is tied in with the ability to self-regulate and self-calm. The present overstimulating and rushed pacing of today’s world lends itself to disorganization. Disorganized kids usually have difficulty with attention, managing needed tools, and completing tasks. Calm kids can focus on the task at hand, see their options, and make better choices.
Kids don’t always need to sit or be still to practice mindfulness. Yoga or other rhythmic movements (rocking or swinging) done in coordination with the breath can also be practiced. These children are holding Bluebee Pals practicing relaxation with Bluebee Pals.
Here are a few apps that Bluebee loves for beginning lessons in mindfulness:
One of the best introductions to mindfulness training for young children is Stop Breathe Think with Sesame Street. Although the app does not support Bluetooth technology and cannot be played through a Bluebee Pal, by having a child hold Bluebee while playing they will receive valuable body input in learning to calm. By hugging Bluebee children will not only benefit from emotional support but also receive nice deep pressure hugs that will help a child focus and calm when viewing the app. The app contains 5 vignettes that are stressful to young children and the stories are all told with vocabulary that is familiar to a young child. In the app, children help a little monster apply strategies to cope with everyday struggles. It’s very reinforcing to help the little monster and it facilitates the desire to try the techniques within Stop, Breathe, Think.
Super Stretch Yoga is a classic app for teaching mindfulness of body. Using storytelling and video, kids learn to imitate motor acts that coordinate with the breath to quiet and focus. In the Adventures of Super Stretch, the emphasis is on trying and being in the present moment and not on perfection. This is a subtle but wonderful message for kids to begin to understand. The app contains 12 poses that are modeled through both animation and viewing real kids doing the poses. The app is free and there are tangible additions such as flashcards and books that can be purchased through the website: www.adventuresofsuperstretch.com. Try having your child teach Bluebee the Poses for some extra fun.
For a more traditional app for meditation, check out Mindfulness for Children. It contains 5 guided meditations and 4 meditations that serve as stories in helping kids to relax in order to go to sleep. Most of the meditations include a body scanning component that serves as a ground or central point of focus. This helps kids stay centered so as to increase awareness of both body and mind. In addition, With this app, Bluebee can act as a facilitator for mindfulness and the screen can be put aside. With Bluebee whispering in your child’s ear, what better way to let go of the day’s struggles and challenges.