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The Sonoran Sun Suggestions

Plenty of information every parent can find useful!

DIY Edible Finger Paint with Pudding Cups


  • Vanilla pudding cups
  • Food coloring drops


To make these finger paints takes just a few moments.  I used the food coloring drops you can find in the baking aisle.  We used the neon colors in purple, pink, green and turquoise.  I also picked up the non-refrigerated pudding cups in regular Vanilla flavor.  It seemed to be the whitest color for the food coloring to show through. Here is a table for the drops I added:

Purple: 15-20 drops

Blue: 15-20 drops

Green: 25-30 drops

Red (neon pink): 20-25 drops

Simply remove the lids of the pudding, add the drops, and stir thoroughly.  Add a small spoonful of each color to the paper.  Then, it’s time to finger paint!


One of the great things about language is that it is constantly expanding and developing no matter where you are at in life. Some of the ways adults expand their language is by reading, listening to others talk, and/or speaking with others. For children their language comes from similar situations. Children will hear you talk and pick up on both positive and negative words. They will start to read and ask “what is that?” They also talk with others, siblings, parents, peers, other adults in their lives.

Some simple ideas for at home expansion would be:

Narrating Their Lives:

  • Everyone loves a good narration and doing this with your child can help them hear and relate words to items.
    • Example: “That’s a red ball.” “You threw the red ball!”


  • Not all kids love to listen to books but interacting while reading can be a game changer!
  • While reading you can point to the different items on the page that the story is talking about.
  • You can also pause and ask “Where is the _______?” This helps with your child’s ability to identify objects! Which is a form of expanding.


  • When going through the day, your child might be used to pointing or grunting to receive things they want.
  • You can try to pause before giving them things. This is called a delayed model.
  • Saying “I want.” then leaving a small pause to give your child time to answer. After a few moments you can say “cookie/ desired item.” Before giving the cookie, encourage them to imitate the desired object.

Giving Options:

  • When you might be unsure what your child is wanting or maybe they only have a few choices to pick from.
  • You can show them two items (one in each hand) for them to pick. After they point/grab the item that they want, you can move back to our “pausing” technique.

These are a few easy items to sneak into your daily routine! Hope these tips and tricks help with expanding that language at home. Along with the homework/ assistance that is given to you by a speech therapist.


Bryce Gohn, SPLA


Sensory bins are plastic bins that are filled with various items. Typically, they include dried beans, dried rice, packing peanuts, sand, or water beads. Ideally if you can find a plastic bin with a lid on it, it will make clean up, storage, and transportation of the sensory bin that much easier.

Sensory bins provide sensory input to a child’s hand and upper extremities. In addition, items can be added to the sensory bins to work on specific goals.

For example,

  • To work on Sensory Play with a sensory bin hide items inside the bin (puzzle pieces, small toys, small figurines, Lego pieces, etc.) Next have your child close their eyes and feel around in the sensory bin until they find the hidden items. While doing this, children are receiving lots of sensory input to their hands and upper extremities while having to be aware of what they are touching and notice differences in the items in texture, shape, size, etc.
  • Fine motor skills are another area that can be addressed while playing in a sensory bin. To work on fine motor skills with a sensory bin, try the following:
    • Practice using a pincer grasp (thumb and index finger) to pick up items in the sensory bin as opposed to use a scooping fist grasp. By picking up different items with a pincer grasp, children are able to develop their fine motor coordination. Picking up item like dried beans, dried rice, and packing peanuts with a pincer grasp provide a good challenge. For an extra challenge, try picking up water beads with a pincer grasp as water beads are slippery and smooth and tend to easily slip out of our hands as we try to pick them up.
    • Practice scooping items up with a spoon. Practice using a spoon to scoop up the contents of the sensory bin and then practice spoon control by either slowly turning the spoon over to pour out the contents back into the sensory bin or by transferring the contents of the spoon to another container. Working on these skills with a spoon in a fun play setting will help the child when they are feeding themselves with a spoon.
  • Add an extra challenge to puzzles by hiding puzzle pieces inside the sensory bin. Now your child will get to practice the visual motor skills of putting together a puzzle, in addition to locating the pieces hidden inside the sensory bin.
  • To work on visual tracking and visual scanning hide some items in the sensory bin but leave part of them exposed and practice playing “I spy with my little eye.” This will help your child with their visual tracking and scanning as they need to visually scan the entire contents of the sensory bin to try and find the desired item.

The possibilities are truly endless with sensory bins. Give them a try and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask your therapist.

Mike Jankowski, MS, OTR/L

Occupational Therapy Director


Understanding the difference between reinforcement and punishment –

When we think of the word reinforcement it is most likely looked at in a negative connotation; however, it didn’t start off that way! Kids thrive off of structure and rules. Yes, they like rules –even when they are not excited that dinner comes before dessert. Our friend reinforcement is a huge part of making kids’ lives better!

There is positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement, both are able to be utilized and loved at home, when they are used correctly and in a loving manner. To start, we can look at what the definition of reinforcement is: The process of encouraging or establishing a belief or pattern of behavior, especially by encouragement or reward.

In the definition it is looked at in a more positive light! How can this be? Let’s look at some ways to look at in its true positive nature.

  1. Giving stickers for going potty on the potty (positive)
  2. Getting dessert after finishing dinner (negative)
  3. Pressing a button that makes a loud scary noise (negative)

Positive reinforcement is for when a child has done a desired behavior and you give them something they desire! It is a win/win situation. Negative reinforcement is when an undesired thing is happening and it is taken/finished to make the desired behavior.

Reinforcement is supposed to increase a behavior we want to keep happening. Now, there is punishment and that is when we want to decrease a behavior we do not want to happen. Just like reinforcement has a negative and positive side, punishment does as well. Both can be effective depending on the child’s personality and how they are delivered.

Positive Punishment, adding something that is unwanted.

  1. Rocking on the chair and falling.
  2. Touching something hot and being burned.
  3. Getting in trouble and being put in time out.

Negative Punishment, taking away something that is wanted.

  1. Not behaving well at the store and no longer getting their favorite cookies.
  2. Hitting a sibling and taking the iPad away.
  3. Yelling at someone and their dessert is no longer being given after dinner.


Being able to balance both reinforcement and punishment can be tricky but watching your child’s behavior change depending on the reaction from each will help you know how to handle each situation that comes your way!


Happy Better Hearing and Speech Month! Our speech team at Sonoran Sun Pediatric Therapy is excited to celebrate with all of our families who share their time and energy with us. It can be a lot of work, but seeing children make progress every week is so rewarding. Have you wondered what your child’s “speech teacher” is working on every week? There are so many areas of speech-language that we target with a variety of ages, ranging from Early Intervention (birth – 3 years) all the way up to teenagers. Some skills your child’s therapist may work on can include (but are not limited to):


-social skills

-problem solving

-listening comprehension

-expressive language


The amazing thing about a speech session, is that sometimes children do not even realize that they are doing “therapy”. You may see your child playing with animals to practice sounds, or going down the slide to request “more”, or blowing bubbles to say “pop”. Everything is done with purpose. If you’re not sure what skill your child is working on, please ask! We love to give recommendations for home activities to make speech practice fun and to help language skills progress quicker.

For more ideas on working with little ones at home, please visit some of my favorite websites that I frequently refer families to:


As always, if you ever have questions about your child’s speech and language development, please speak with your pediatrician or come visit us for a free screening!

Better Speech & Hearing Month


It’s Occupational Therapy Month and we want to Spotlight another one of our amazing Occupational Therapist!

Allison Heitzinger is one of our Occupational Therapist. She is a wife and mother of two young children. Allison went to A.T. Still University Arizona School of Health Sciences for her Masters Degree and completed her Bachelors in Psychology at Seattle University. Allison’s hobbies include running, hiking, gardening, cooking, and exploring the outdoors with her family. Allison also spends lots of time neck deep in toddler/preschool activities (frequenting parks, playing tag, building train sets, baking with my kids, and both making and cleaning up messes). 

We are beyond lucky to have her as part of our wonderful staff here at Sonoran Sun Pediatric Therapy!!



It’s Occupational Therapy Month and we want to Spot Light one of our amazing Occupational Therapist!!

Melissa McCormick is our Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, a wife, and mother of two wonderful boys. She graduated at Summa Cum Laude from Brown Mackie College Occupational Therapy Assistant Program. Melissa grew up taking care of her younger sisters and helping out with the children in her mother’s in-home daycare. She developed a passion for working with children at a very young age and has been working with children ever since. When Melissa found out about Occupational Therapy, she immediately knew her purpose in life. She feels very blessed to have a career that focuses on helping amazing children develop skills and self-esteem through meaningful and fun activities. When she is not at work she enjoys spending time outdoors with her family camping in the forest or playing at the beach.

We are so lucky to have her as part of our wonderful staff here at Sonoran Sun Pediatric Therapy!!



With April being Autism Awareness month, we figured we could highlight how Speech Therapy can benefit children diagnosed with autism. Speech covers a wide variety of topics; however one major topic that we work on is pragmatic (social) skills. Children are taught how to handle certain social situations, how to communicate and understand others and simply learn the aspects of life as they come. Children with autism typically have an increased difficulty with communication. Speech Therapy allows them to learn how to communicate both verbally and nonverbal. Verbal communication is helping them understand language, i.e proper grammar(pronouns, irregular/regular verbs), auditory processing and figurative language(idioms, multiple meaning words). As for nonverbal communication this allows children to learn how to maintain appropriate body posture, eye contact and body awareness when in a conversation with others. Sometimes children with autism are awesome with communication and pragmatic skills. They might just have difficulty with their articulation, meaning it can be difficult for others to understand them. Speech Therapy offers children the ability to learn how to understand where their tongue, mouth and lips need to go to be able to produce certain sounds. Speech Therapy provides children with autism the gateway to being able to communicate, understand and learn about the world around them.

Crystal Espinal BS, SLPA


Happy OT Month!

Here is 30 Fun Filled Days of OT Activities for all ages to Celebrate OT Month!

Week 1:  Fine Motor Strengthening Activities

April 1. Do wheelbarrow walks, bear crawls, or play in quadruped (on hands and knees)

April 2. Bath time fun with a spray bottle, water squeeze toys, or squeeze bottles with water

April 3. Pinch, pull, smoosh and smash Play-Doh, Silly Putty, or Modeling Clay

April 4. Build with Legos, Mega Blocks, K’Nex, or Pop Beads

April 5. Play Lite Brite, create a design with golf tees pushed into a foam block, or play with a peg board

April 6. Use clothes pins to pick up cotton balls to glue to a craft (or) tongs to clean up toys after play time

April 7. Complete punch art using hole punch, craft punches with fun shapes (or) stamp art with kids self-inking stampers


Week 2:  Sensory – Messy Play

April 8. Sensory bin play – Hide toys in a bin of dried pinto beans, dried rice, or cooked spaghetti

April 9. Shaving cream art – Create drawings on a cookie sheet, counter top, or window using your hands and shaving cream

April 10. Use your hands to scoop dirt and plant flowers (or) explore dirt and grass with hands and feet

April 11. Use your hands to make homemade cookies

April 12. Finger paint with your hands and feet

April 13. Make mud pies with dirt (or) explore different food textures and make food art

April 14. Make homemade slime and mix it with your hands (or) explore and play with Jello

Liquid Starch Slime Recipe Below


Washable PVA Glue

Liquid Starch


Measuring Cups



Food Coloring


Mix 1/2 C of glue and 1/2 C of water in bowl.

Add food coloring if desired.

Mix in 1/2 C of liquid starch.

Stir thoroughly.

Knead with hands.


Week 3:  Visual Motor and Fine Motor Activities

April 15. String beads, straw pieces (cut colorful straws into small pieces), cereal, or pool noodles pieces (cut pool noodle into small rings)

April 16. Complete age appropriate puzzle, shape sorter, or ring stacker

April 17. Draw a picture of your family, Color inside the lines, play a game of “I Do, You Do!” and have the child imitate your simple step-by-step drawing, or scribble with little ones

April 18. Cut paper with scissors on the line, snip paper with scissors, use scissor tongs with toys or tear paper with hands

April 19. Paint by number, dot-to-dot pages, mazes, or play with cars/trains on a road rug/train track

April 20. Make paper airplanes, make a paper fortune teller, fold paper in half and make a card for a friend, or play pop up pals with little ones

April 21. Play hand clapping games such as Miss Mary Mack, Miss Suzie or Patty Cake


Week 4 and 5:  Self Care

April 22. Buttoning skills – (use larger buttons to make the tasks easier and small buttons for an additional challenge) Activities – Dress stuffed animals in button down shirts, hide toys inside button shirts while playing table top, play with stickers, or put coins or buttons into a piggybank (Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Piggy Bank is great for little ones)

April 23. Scooping with a spoon – Scoop pinto beans with a spoon from a bowl into a jar or ice cube tray, wash small toys and use a spoon to put shaving cream or soap bubbles onto toys, or play with spoons, scoops, and cups in a sensory bin.

April 24. Poking with a fork –Pick up Play-Doh pieces with a fork after play, feed a mom or dad’s puppet hand Play-Doh pieces using a fork

April 25. Pouring – Have a water relay and pour water into cups using various sizes of cups and water pitchers, and then walk the cup to the end of the relay line without spilling; or water plants using a watering can


Week 4 and 5:  Gross Motor Skills

April 26. Play catch using balls, stuffed animals, or balloons, and catch with your hands or a bucket

April 27. Jump rope, jumping jacks, hop scotch, frog jumps, or jump on a trampoline

April 28. Play soccer or kick a ball to each other or to a target

April 29. Play basketball or play bean bag toss and toss bean bags, stuffed animals or balls into a laundry basket

April 30. Go to the park and run, skip, climb, slide, swing, and hanging on the monkey bars


Ideas by:

Melissa McCormick COTA/L
Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant


It is becoming more and more common for Occupational Therapists to include pets in their therapy sessions. Studies have shown the use of pets (dogs, cats, fish, and horses) can be very beneficial in treating for several conditions or diagnoses. The simple acts of observing a fish swim or petting a dog can have a great impact on patients who have anxiety and high blood pressure. For some patients who have a difficult time with social settings, having interactions with a pet may ease the mood and help them feel more comfortable when doing therapeutic activities due to the presence of acceptance and affection.

Some other benefits pet therapy can help patient make improvements on are:

  • Self-esteem
  • Self-worth
  • Building trust
  • Expressing feelings in appropriate ways
  • Communication

Incorporating pets in therapy may not always be the right way to go. You must always consider whether it will be a good experience for the patient. Keep in mind that if someone has a traumatic past with an animal, fear or paranoia with certain animals, it may create more anxiety and be a negative experience for the patient. The last thing to keep in mind is if the patient has any allergies to animals because that may also cause a negative experience.

If you are considering incorporating pets with your child’s therapy, always run it be their therapist first to see if they feel it would be a great fit, especially to make sure it will help with the goals they are working towards.

Sonoran Sun Pediatric Therapy has partnered with someone who can bring in a therapy dog for patients as needed! Ask us for more information.


At Sonoran Sun Pediatric Therapy we consider our staff members as family. Are you looking to join a therapy team to help improve the lives of as many children as possible, while working in a positive work place with ethical values? If so, please click on the link below to see if any current therapist or support staff positions are available.


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