Nicole’s Nook: Summer App Recommendations

The summer months are an excellent time for you and your children to enjoy outdoor activities like swimming, bike riding and camping. However, after a few weeks, when the novelty of being out of school has worn off, children can start to get restless. To assist you in your quest to keep your children busy in a productive manner this summer, here are some of my favorite educational apps!

Free in the App StoreTODO Math Practice App

  • ToDo Math: patterns, counting
  • Kideos or YouTube Kids: YouTube videos for kids
  • My First Keyboard: third party keyboard
  • MyScript MathPad: converts your handwritten math equations into text
  • MyScript Memo: converts handwritten notes into text that can be shared
  • MyScript SmartNote: converts handwritten notes into text
  • MyScript Calculator: converts handwritten math operations into text and solves them
  • Endless Wordplay: spelling, wordplay and rhymes
  • Endless Spanish: introduces Spanish vocabulary
  • WriteReader: allows you to create your own books
  • myKidzDay: enables communication between parent and childcare providers
  • Endless Spanish AppPhotoMath (iPhone only): camera calculator, takes picture of equation, displays answer and provides step-by-step support
  • Moca Money: assists in making and counting change
  • Math Shake: help with solving word problems
  • Door 24 Plus: math fluency in all operations
  • Little Story Creator: allows you to create collages and storybooks with videos, photos and text
  • DoReMi Frog: cause/effect music teaches musical notes
  • Fluent Mind Map: helps you generate and organize your ideas
  • Math Slicer: work on addition and subtraction
  • Pizza Fractions and Zap Zap Fractions: naming simple fractions
  • Hooked on Phonics: Preschool and Kindergarten sight words
  • Adobe Slate: create visual stories
  • LumiKids Park: targets visual attention, visual motor coordination and sorting
  • Office Lens: makes pics of whiteboards and documents readable, converts to editable Word and PowerPoint files
  • Alarmed: reminders and timers
  • ATracker: daily task and time tracking
  • Magnifying Reader for Restaurant Bill and Menu: provides light and magnificationDoReMi App
  • DIY Human Body: videos and activities
  • GoTalk Now Lite: augmentative communication app trial
  • iDo Getting Dressed: step-by-step videos and sequences or make your own
  • SAS Math Stretch: elementary math, practice and quiz modes
  • This for That: Visual Schedules
  • This for That: Token Store
  • Wordflex Touch Dictionary: manipulate word trees

Paid Apps in App Store

  • Motion Math (Free to $5.99): variety of math concepts
  • Bugs & Buttons ($2.99): targets counting, letters, patterns and fine motor skills
  • Bug Mazing ($1.99): work on letters, numbers, tracing and colors
  • Sentence Maker ($0.99): create your own sentences
  • Scoodle Jam ($3.99): common core, graphic organizers
  • Sight Words ($0.99): pre-kindergarten to 3rd grade
  • VeryPDF to Photo to PDF ($2.99): converts and exports photos to PDFs

As always, be sure to balance screen time with good old-fashioned gross motor and fine motor fun. When it is time to break out your device, try to make the most of it by finding an app that stimulates and challenges them!

– Nicole Weckherlin, OTR/L

Washington University NF Center Summer 2015 Newsletter

Summer2015NewsletterCheck out the summer 2015 newsletter for some of our most popular research articles, recommendations to improve your child’s ability to participate in sports and other activities, details about upcoming events this summer and more!

Some of the highlights in this issue include:

  • Human Skin Cells Help Researchers Understand Learning Problems in NF1
  • Courtney’s Corner: Improving Strength & Decreasing Pain in Children with NF1
  • Renowned Jazz Musician Plays for Kids at St. Louis Children’s Hospital

Also be sure to take a look at our previous issues!


Courtney’s Corner: Focus on Core Strength to Increase Participation in Activities

Many of the parents I speak with at the NF Clinical Program report similar struggles, “Participating in sports is really difficult for my child; why can’t my child keep up?”  Unfortunately, this question is not easily answered. In the last Courtney’s Corner, I introduced trends we have seen in children with NF1, including decreased strength and increased fatigue and pain.

In this month’s blog, I will address the first steps necessary to increase strength, and lessen the pain and fatigue many children with NF1 experience when completing sports and motor activities. Participating in community sports and activities involves the integration of many body systems to achieve a goal. So, to increase participation in activities, from family hikes to basketball teams, let’s try starting from the ground up. Or, more appropriately, from the core up!

Core strength includes the ability to hold your trunk in a good, neutral alignment while performing various activities. Children with decreased core strength tend to sit with a hunched back and stand with a “sway back.” You may also notice their shoulder blades seem to be positioned forward, out of alignment with their sternum and ribcage.

Why is core strength important? Having a weak core is synonymous to attempting to perform activities from an unstable surface. Think about how much easier it is to shoot a hockey puck while playing street hockey versus ice hockey. What is the difference? Street hockey gives you a stable surface on which to work, whereas ice is much less stable, requiring the work and coordination of more muscles in order to achieve the same shot.

This holds true for core strength. When the core is weak, fine motor skills, coordination and balance are all more difficult. Increasing core strength can be a frustrating challenge because the strengthening exercise movements are often slow and subtle. However, choosing exercises that strengthen  several muscles at once can enable you to make progress more quickly with less time commitment.

Here are some strengthening activities I recommend to start improving your core strength:

Planks:  Create a family competition! Start with a ten second hold the first day, and try adding ten additional seconds each day. See who can complete the most days in a row. Superman Holds:  Lie face-down and simultaneously raise and hold your arms and legs off the ground. For an added challenge, try to hold a ball in between hands and/or feet while holding them in the air. Jelly Bean Holds: A beginning step to sit-ups. Try holding a “jelly bean” position. The goal is to be able to hold this position one second for every year of age (e.g., six-year-olds should aim for six second holds).
Plank Superman JellyBean

Push-Ups:  Push-ups add arm strengthening to core strengthening, which means you get more bang for your buck!

Core strengthening throughout the day:  Consider having your child complete his/her homework while sitting on a large ball. This keeps the trunk muscles active while doing homework, with the added benefit that bouncing while trying to concentrate typically helps keeps kids on task.

Interested in more core strengthening activities? Check out this list of core strengthening exercises from The Inspired Treehouse!

Keep an eye out for the next Courtney’s Corner when we will explore foot, ankle, knee and hip strength!