Turn On Your Senses (TOYS); Giveaway and Interview with Dawn Brauer

I came across the website Turn On Your Senses a few months back and loved – not only the name – but the message their founder Dawn Brauer was sending: Let kids play!  I just had to talk with her. And when I did, I was struck by her dedication to children and passion for her work.

Dawn says “Play is becoming a lost art form” and I agree with her. We as parents seem to like the word ‘therapy’ more than ‘play’, but really, when therapy is play, our kids are eager to participate – and it stands to reason that children who are engaged in their own therapy are more successful. Mastering challenges, learning new skills and enjoying the art of play give our kids an optimistic outlook on life – one of the most valuable things for any child to learn.

So, you remember how to play, right? Between all of the appointments, conferences and Google searches, you may just have forgotten (I sure have). But Dawn is here to remind us of the value of play for our kids and give us some fresh new ideas to add a little something new to the same old games.

Oh, and she has also offered to give away FOUR free puzzles from Melissa and Doug – and you KNOW how awesome those are, right?  The more winners, the better -- that's what I say! A big THANK YOU to Dawn for her generosity!

Now, as the playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

So, let’s turn back the clock, shall we?


Please welcome Dawn to HLW3B! I am thrilled to have you here today! Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, your background and your passion for children?

I am a pediatric Physical Therapist on Long Island, NY. I am currently working with the Early Intervention and Preschool populations, but I have worked with school age children and I started my career at United Cerebral Palsy in Commack. I treat all pediatric diagnoses, but I have come to embrace those children with sensorimotor processing issues and I have a strong background in this arena. I have 4 of my own beautiful children – my son, C.J. who is 7 years old, the twins, Alexandra and Tyler who are 4 years old, and my newest little addition, my son Jordan who is 7 months old.

After coming across the book, The Optimistic Child by Martin Seligman, my world changed. I felt that this book was one of the biggest hidden secrets in the child raising world. If you found a book where the cover read – The Optimistic Child: A Proven Program to Safeguard Children against Depression and build Lifelong Resilience, what would your reaction be? We want to give our children the very best of everything. How about giving your children tools to help them create the life of their dreams? You cannot buy that in any store! My life’s purpose, which I am blessed to have discovered, is to educate parents/caregivers on the importance of play, how to choose toys effectively, and how to instill a sense of optimism, resilience, and emotional awareness in their children.

Thank you for recommending a book to help us empower our kids!  I will check it out!  As parents it seems we are always investing in a new tool or toy of some sort, but the ability to use something in multiple ways – like the puzzles you are giving away – gives deeper value to each item. Can you give my readers 3 new therapeutic activities that they can use a puzzle for – besides just putting it together?! : )

My specialty.

1)  You can take the puzzle pieces and either completely hide them or partially hide them in a box full of beans to encourage visual discrimination, (like you do with the books Where’s Waldo,) and tactile discrimination,( like when looking for things in your pocketbook with only your hands,) and the tactile experience of feeling the beans while looking for the puzzle pieces will help desensitize your child with tactile defensiveness or provide stimulation for your kids that are craving tactile input.

2)  You could use a tunnel that you position on an incline using pillows to create a ramp, and you could place the pieces of the puzzle at one end and the base of the puzzle at the other, and the child can crawl up and down the tunnel for upper body strengthening and bilateral coordination while completing the puzzle.

3)  Finally, you could have the child complete the puzzle while lying on their stomach and you could toss the pieces at a distance in front or in back of the child, so that they have to commando crawl and/or pivot in prone to acquire the pieces, to then put the pieces back in while lying on their stomach and strengthening their upper body and provide great input into their upper arms. This is also a challenge for those children with vestibular sensitivities and those children who never crawled and/or have bilateral coordination issues.

I love all three ideas -- and our bean tub could use something fresh in it -- thanks!  Optimism, like any other skill in life, must be taught. With kids that have anxiety disorders, bipolar, depression or a list of other psychiatric issues, like mine and many of my readers’ children, teaching a positive attitude is a daily struggle. How do you teach optimism in your own home?

My biggest piece of advice is to “Be the change that you want to see in the world” – Ghandi.

So, ask yourself, when you are in the car with your children, and you do not make the light, what are the thoughts in your head and/or what are you verbalizing in front of your kids? Are you angry that you missed the light, or that someone in front of you did not go as fast as you would have liked? Do they hear you say things like... “I never make this light!” That is a globally pessimistic statement, and I am sure if you think about it, you have made that light at some point in the past, just not right now. Teach your child optimism, by BEING optimistic. You could also try this activity. If a friend is coming over and they are late, but you have not received a phone call as to the reason, you could guess why they are late.

For example, “Maybe his/her mommy had to run and buy milk before coming over”, or “Maybe they forgot to let their dog in before they left the house”, or “Maybe they hit traffic”. What this teaches the child is this, and we have all been there. You have a friend who you typically hear from at least once or twice per week. A week goes by and you have not heard from them and you start the chatter in your head…”Did I say something to make that person mad at me? What did I do wrong?” etc. etc. You internalize a scenario that probably has nothing to do with you. Maybe your friend received surprise guests from out of town that require their attention, or maybe they have to tend to a very important family matter that is important and taking up all of their time. Just as easy as it is to make up the negative stories in our head, it is just as easy to think of other possible reasons that have nothing to do with us.

This skill teaches them to think of other reasons that something has taken place that has nothing to do with them. So, when a friend at school is not suddenly calling them on the phone, it might not be because of something that they did. At the end of the day, I also ask my children what their favorite part of the day was in an effort to have them go to sleep thinking about the positives of their day which will help them to start off their next day with a great start!

We talk about the positives at the end of our day too!  We call it our "High" for the day.  Great tip!  Will you tell us about your website -- What can we find there? What makes it different?

I want to start off by saying that although our website is still under construction, you could purchase toys and contact me directly for a personal consultation on what toys we have to offer and what toys would be best suited for your objectives and goals. My partner and I, who is an Applied Behavior Analysis supervisor/speech teacher/vision teacher, have specifically chosen toys from various companies such as Melissa & Doug, Fisher Price, Goosie Cards, Chewy Tubes, Moon Sand, Crayola, Discovery Toys, etc. that are great toys for typically developing children as well as children who are receiving some type of service.

We also have sensory toys such as weighted balls, bean bags, theraputty, etc.. The toys that we choose are multi-faceted, engaging, and promote optimal child development in various areas, such as gross motor, fine motor, speech and oral motor development, social-emotional, behavioral, sensorimotor, etc. We are a different toy company because our objective is to educate and empower customers on how to choose toys effectively for future purchases whether through us or somewhere else, the importance of free play, and how to offer tools to your children that will facilitate development of a sense of optimism, self confidence, and fortitude. That is our main objective, we just also love playing with toys!! Take a look at our books section as we really encourage the education of our customers and supporters.

One last thing……Randy Pausch in his book, The Last Lecture, said this, “As I see it, a parent’s job is to encourage kids to develop a joy for life and a great urge to follow their own dreams. The best we can do is to help them develop a personal set of tools for the task.”

Great quote!  Especially for kids that have challenges; overcoming those challenges has to do with learning the tools they need.  Thank you Dawn for taking the time to speak with me here on HLW3B, it has TRULY been a pleasure! Now, I’m off to play!

Now for the free part!

Dawn is graciously giving away 1 free puzzle -- from Melissa & Doug (some of my favorite toys ever!) to 4 lucky HLW3B winners.

Here is how you can can be one of the lucky:

1. You will need to follow this blog (publicly through Google located on the top of the right column) OR via email (please indicate how you follow in your comment)

2. Post a comment for Dawn -- tell us how you'd use your new Melissa & Doug puzzle or how you help teach your child to be more optomistic -- and lastly,

3. Leave your email address so I can contact you.

OK, once you have joined and commented, you are officially entered.

The contest will run from Monday 6/07/10 to Friday 6/11/10 and will end at 7pm PST. The winner will be selected by random drawing, and emailed directly.  If you do not respond, a new winner will be drawn.

Good luck!


Territory Mom said...

I just found you today and joined before the contest was announced, how funny. Love you blog.

Anonymous said...

I'm new around here, and to SPD Diagnosis for my daughter. Thanks for all the input! I love melissa & doug toys and my kids can't get enough of them! The pieces in the bean pool idea is fantastic...I'll be using that one for sure! I follow via email now :)

missykade said...

Dawn, I can tell you work with EI. We currently do all of the suggestions that you mentioned with the puzzle pieces for Lucas. To work on the sensory aspect we hide puzzle pieces in playdough or soft modeling clay to help him with the textures. I follow you through google and don't know what I would do without you. LOL


MomLovesDeals said...

I let my 18 month old, who has SPD, play with the puzzle. He loves puzzles because he can do it alone and actually does it very well!

Natalie said...

I'd love to win a Melissa and Doug puzzle. We have several of them already. I often have my daughter (who has SPD) lay on her belly on her platform swing and put together her puzzles.

Dawn said...

Thanks for all of the comments. Toys are great, and so are the treasures found outside, especially since it is summer! For tactile issues - consider making a bird feeder by filling it with peanut butter, (If child does not have Peanut or tree nut allergies), and let the child take handfuls of bird seed and press them on. Tie the pine cone with a string, and there you have it! For children with bilateral coordination issues, try snapping twigs in half - the resistance is good for strengthening and you have to do it with 2 hands!. For children with vestibular issues - try log rolling down hills and inclines, but be very respectful to the child that is apprehensive and increase in speed, as tolerated! For the child who could use visual discrimination, try painting a rock and hiding it like an Easter egg hunt. For the child who craves proprioceptive input, let them collect the rocks in a bucket or wheelbarrow. For the child with auditory issues - smell flowers, veggies growing in the garden, BBQ foods, as tolerated. Have a great sensory filled summer!

Dawn said...

I apologize for the above error. I meant smell things of summer for the child with olfactory issues. For the child with auditory issues, see if you can isolate sounds of summer - birds singing, frogs croaking, water running, ice cream truck, kids playing, etc.

missykade said...

Thanks Dawn,

You have some wonderful ideas. I will be sure to use them with Lucas.


Patty O. said...

What a GREAT post! I wish I had a therapist like Dawn near me!

If I won the puzzle, there is no end to the playing it would see. My kids adore puzzles, but we also use them a lot in our therapy games with my son who has SPD. We have many swings from Southpaw (our OT is three hours away, so she gives us detailed instructions that we do at home.) One activity we have done is have Danny sit on a platform swing with the puzzle pieces on the floor in front of him. He swings and tries to pick the pieces up off the floor, then place them in the base.

We have also done the activity where we hide the pieces in beans. I think Danny's favorite, though, is when we hide the pieces in a big pile of pillows. Danny jumps on the trampoline 10 times and then crashes into the pile. He then finds a puzzle piece and puts it in the puzzle. We do this as a part of an obstacle course.

Anyway, I follow this blog publicly and my email address is:
Thanks for the great ideas!

m said...

So I've had you on my blog list for a while but just officially added the email follow option! I didn't realize I had that choice! :)

What a FANTASTIC post. Really. As a mother of a kiddo with ASD and a kiddo with WHOKNOWSWHAT we're big fans of puzzles (both kids are obsessed) and working through sensory difficulties. Since puzzles are so motivating I tend to use them loads for things that are really offensive (like gak which, I think, is one of the greatest things ever! sensory seeker here!) I'd love to have a new puzzle to throw into the mix.

And can I say how nice it is to see a professional with such great interest and information?

The being positive is such a 'duh' btw but somehow it never came across to my mind between everything else. To put it into play will help in so many areas.

So thank you! For the post! The give away! The great interview with a great person! All sorts of things! Best wishes!

(email is misformichelle@gmail.com)

Dawn said...

I am truly appreciative of the positive feedback! I am blessed to love what I do, follow my passion, and have such a beautiful family myself. Life is GREAT! Sometimes, we need a lesson in the obvious, in respect to offering positive input to our children. When we read something or someone offers us a bit of advice that hits us like, "I knew that, but I never REALLY thought about it." That, is what I want to offer. Another tidbit is, instead of saying, "BE good", I say "BEhave", because all children, are inherently good. We want to bring attention to their behavior and take it off of WHO they are at the core, which is GOOD. If they are not listening, I would recommend telling them, what you DO want, and maybe avoid telling them to not be bad. So, if they are running with scissors, (LOL), we could tell them how to handle the scissors safely, to walk slowly, and to be aware of who is around them. I am partly kidding to make a point. Just an FYI, we have more than just puzzles, we have sensory toys, books, Goosie cards, theraputty, chewy tubes...etc. Please, call to discuss toy choices and/or issues that might need some input! We are under construction, but we are still here for you and we are building the website! Thank you for your patience.

~Kristen said...

I follow your blog on google publicly and via google reader.

My boys are just starting to enjoy puzzles (my oldest who is 4 especially) we are very new to Melissa and Dough we have two and LOVE them. If we won a puzzle my oldest would put it to good use in very typical ways, my youngest would love to tell me about the puzzle and what colors it has and shapes and anything else going on it in. He is just starting to become more descriptive, so his speech therapist has him point out things in pictures and puzzles on top of doing them and putting them together. I would also love to see the boys (ages 2 and 4) work on it together :) they are at a fun stage of helping each other more and more right now. :)


Hartley said...

Ok, I am going to gush a little here --

I LOVE giveaways, not just because I am sharing something great with some great people, but because we all come together in one place and talk about our kids. In a good way!

Love to hear how all your darling little ones will use these puzzles - and so happy Dawn is here leaving comments! I encourage all of you to give her a call and talk about your kids and their needs -- she truly is a very passionate person with great ideas!

A big thank you to everyone -- and WELCOME to all the new followers. Can't wait to get to know you better!


Em said...

Thank you so much for the awesome ideas! I am always looking for new ideas and things to do...I too am one of those adults who sometimes forgets to just enjoy my son's "therapy" and just have fun! I would LOVE a new puzzle, since Cruise is getting bored of his other ones, lol.

Emily Ybarra