Based in California but educating families throughout the world with her book, Allie and her team are changing the way we engage with our youth.
On the show today, we dive into sensory play, the importance of understanding what our children are seeking, and why it’s crucial that even from birth we are playing with our children. Allie is AMAZING and I am excited to share this episode with you.
- How did you get your start in the space and in your area of sensory integration?
- You discuss the profound impact of play, how much time should parents dedicate to 1-1 play, and starting at what age?
- Are there things parents should do vs things caregivers should do with regard to the type of engaging activities?
- What age do you recommend starting? What if parents haven’t – can they make it up?
- How do you combat screens, and how much are they taking over?
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Podcast Episode Transcripts:
Disclaimer: Transcripts were generated automatically and may contain inaccuracies and errors.
Welcome to the kids sleep show where we help tired children to fall asleep independently sleep through the night and build healthy sleep habits for Life. I’m your host, Courtney Zentz. Now let’s sleep together.
Hey, everyone, welcome to this week’s episode of the Kids sleep show. I am joined by Allie Tipton of play to progress. And we’re going to talk all things ot development and your sweet little babies. So I’m going to turn it over to Ali to introduce herself. And then we are going to dive right into some awesome conversation.
Everyone, I am so excited to be here today. So I’m Ali, birth, I am a pediatric occupational therapist, I specialize in something called sensory integration sensory is my passion. It’s my love. I am also the founder of a company called Play to progress in the author of a book called Play to progress.
I’m excited. I think, a few weeks ago, we hit it off. And we were like we have to talk we have to do this episode. And I think it stems down to the fact that like we both work with babies, right. And I think we realize how important it is for sleep for development for cognitive awareness. Right. And so much is happening those first few years of life that I think sometimes gets overlooked, or it just isn’t talked about, you know, so I want to talk first and foremost with you like, what’s happening those first years, when is it important that we are looking at things a little bit differently with our children and how we interact with them? How we play with them things we pay attention to? Like, is it day one? Or is it when they start kindergarten? We’ll figure it out? Yeah, good question. It is definitely day one. And actually, if you want to go back, I’m a big believer that we should start learning and talking about development during pregnancy. Because I think, once we have once baby is here, it is chaos. It is not the time to be reading all about development. And so I think it’s nice to prepare and do it before. But when we actually talk about a brain, we think of something everyone has heard of early intervention, right. But what do you associate early intervention when you associate associate it with a challenger? Yeah. So we go to early intervention if there’s if there’s challenge that we’re facing, but what about if we shift that and say, Wait a second, all children
benefit from focusing on development early on. That’s because actually 80% 80% of brain of a child’s brain is developed by age three, that’s massive.
90% by age five.
What happens in these younger years is so important.
The first two years of life, a child has in what’s called their sensory motor stage of development. So what does that mean? They’re learning by engaging their sensory system and moving. That’s actually how they’re building these neural connections in their brain. When do they engage their sensory system and move when they play. So play is actually critical for brain development in these early years, but many parents, they just don’t know how to play with their little ones, because it’s gonna look a lot different day one, than it is when they’re five years old. I know I always joke the first 12 weeks of maternity leave, like I was home, I was on maternity leave, and I’m like, I’ll pack the whole house to move because all they do is poop, feed and sleep. Like I got plenty of time. Right. And I wasn’t thinking about ignorantly prior to the life that I’m in now, right like that I shouldn’t be playing with them. I just kind of assumed like, they’re good. Like, they just sit and stare at you and everybody’s fat and happy, right? And it’s knowing what I know. Now in the space that I’m in, you know, so many years later, like, gosh, you know, I tell my sleep clients all the time, like you need to be engaging and talking to and stimulating and just actively aware, I think of any age and what you could be doing to stimulate that development, like sleeps the foundation for a lot of things. And I think, good sleep hygiene, and then an awareness around what you’re doing developmentally with children can be super important. Like what what would a parent do? I mean, you have a newborn right there. Two weeks old parents are getting settled. They want to engage what should you be doing? So first of all, you know, I’m an OT, so of course, I’m gonna go to this. Have to mention it. Tummy time, tummy time, tummy time, or wake windows are very short. When they’re younger. Of course, as you know, I’m an advocate for safe sleep. So we’re not doing tummy time at all when they’re sleeping, but
when they’re awake, I say my trick is right after a diaper change. Think of this, a baby is often wide awake after a diaper change, right? Roll them over and do a few minutes of tummy time. In tummy time, don’t just lay them there and tummy time. Because most of the time, they’re really uncomfortable. It’s hard. You can do tummy time in so many different ways. Grab a yoga ball, do tummy time on the ball, lay face to face with them, and gently seem to them while they’re in tummy time.
Those are all ways that you’re engaging their sensory system, do tummy time on your chest. So many parents don’t know that that’s tummy time, hold them in a football hold and gently rock them while they’re doing tummy time. All of this. This is all engaging their sensory system. And you’re also doing tummy time, which we know is so so important for development. So that’s the very first thing I come to when we talk about play with our little ones is don’t forget tummy time. And tummy time is a version of their play. Yeah, no. And I think it’s important because even eye contact, right? Like I do a lot with parents with youngsters, right? Kind of under six months of age as a predominant amount of asleep clients that I see in the coaching business and like eye contact, like make eye contact with them, like in gate, how do you engage with somebody touch, like your senses, like as you talked about in the book, right? Like, look at them, listen to them, touch them, engage with them, like, all of those things are, are so critical at such a young age, you know, with the kids being home for two years, because of the pandemic. For the first few months of it. I was frustrated. I’m like, I have been here with you all day. Right? And I think it resonates at any age. So it’s a good example. But it’s like, I’ve been here with you all day, like what do you want for me? You know, we’re I’ve been in my office here. So I’m a physical person here. But I’m not engaging with you in any capacity. So no wonder why my three year old was starving for my attention. Because while I’ve been here all day, I wasn’t engaging with you at all, you know? Sure. So I think even with a newborn, or a six month old, it’s kind of the same thing. Like I think that that engagement through our senses touch eye contact, right hearing what they’re saying them hearing you, they’re all things that to your point or stimulating them from, like a sensory standpoint. And if it’s, you know, sensory input output, like, it’s, it’s an interesting, you know, kind of different way to look at things that I think prior to being a parent I never would have thought of right. And even as a parent, I was selfish about it. You know what I mean? Like, I’ve been with you all day. And I’m like that I really haven’t actually. Right, exactly. And it does all come back to I always call them like these thoughtful experiences, right? You can change something like you’re doing laundry that can turn in to sensory play, have your little one right next to you. And of course, at this point, they’re going to be older, pulling the wet clothes out of the washer and putting them into the dryer that’s providing them something called proprioceptive input. That’s wonderful for them. And this kind of brings me before we move on. One thing I want to mention is what do you think of when you think of sensory play. So we’re, of course jumping in to, you know, true sensory play, but I want to just backtrack for a second because sensory is getting it. Hot moment right now, which I love. Because, of course, as a sensory specialist I love you know, any buzz around sensory, but it’s getting it in, in a way that’s only highlighting a few of our senses and isn’t, isn’t representative of what all of sensory plays in true sensory play. So when I’m talking about the sensory motor stage of development, I’m talking about engaging all of the senses, and there’s eight of them. There’s not just five so sensory play is not what do you think of when you hear sensory play? Yeah, I mean, touch, sight, hearing, smell, right? We think of most parents go to tactile sometimes auditory, we’ll hear that a lot to you go to those to let me you know, get some things for them to feel in different things. You’re right, that is 100% part of sensory play. I don’t harp on that piece quite as much. And the reason I don’t is because that’s the one piece I think parents understand. But what sensory play is also it’s engaging a system called your vestibular system, or your sense of movement. That’s, let’s move let’s play that sensory play as well. So when I said, Oh, we’re rocking our baby, guess what? The reason? That is wonderful for many reasons, but one of them is we’re engaging their vestibular system in that moment. So that’s sensory play. You know,
Pull, like I said, pulling the wet clothes out. That’s engaging a system called their proprioceptive system. So that’s, these are two of our hidden senses. Again, sensory play when they’re babies. And, you know, they’re starting to push things and climb and pull up on the coffee table, which everyone starts to be like.
Well, that’s also that pulling as they’re pulling themselves up, that’s giving them sensory input.
So think of it that way, in that when I’m talking about, it’s so important that we engage in sensory play to build these neural connections. It’s Yes, engaging in some tactile play, easiest way of tactile play is as they start getting to the point where they’re eating solids, forget the bed, just feed them naked in the diaper, and let them go for it.
And I think you mentioned something that’s important with that ally, just to not to interrupt you, but just to clear it up or not even clear it up, just actually dive into it a little more. I work with a lot of OTS. Right. And I think there’s a lot of OTs, around the world that do fabulous work. There’s something you mentioned specifically, right, that I want you to talk about and how it’s a differentiator, because I think it’s important parents understand that right? Sensory, sensory play, and like the specialties that you have, are a bit different than what a traditional, I mean, and I’ll let you speak to it, right. But like, what a traditional ot has versus your area of specialty is sensory. Right? Yeah. So you know, ot specializes in all different things. It’s an incredible field, in my opinion. But what I specialize in, there’s, you know, people everywhere that specialize in it something called sensory integration. Okay, so I focus specifically on the sensory system, and how the sensory system impacts development, my personal goal, is, let’s not just focus on the sensory system. Once we know that there’s some sort of challenge there. Let’s get to it before because these concepts that we’re using in sensory integration, they benefit all children. Why? Because a child’s brain quite literally creates neural connections by engaging in sensory play. And so why are we focusing this in using our knowledge that we have sensory to build a really strong foundation for development, impacts a child’s self regulation impacts their academics and impacts their social skills, it impacts their gross motor skills, their fine motor skills, they’re feeding, there’s no area, it doesn’t impact. So to me, and I’m screaming it at the top of my lungs for everyone that will listen to me, sensory play is vital from the day we get home, but it might look a little different than what you are thinking of it as. Now that’s good. And it’s super important, cuz it was something I wasn’t aware of, you know, when I have OTS on my sleep consulting team, you know, and, and so it’s just it’s interesting perspective on just the areas of focus and the ages in which you would want to, you know, work with families, you know, I think babies, right, obviously doing some of those things. What if you’re working parents, I’m a working parent, and I always struggled with this, I would, you know, fly out of work. I would pick the kids at the daycare, come home, make dinner, get the things walk the dog, you know, play do bath time feed nurse pump, you know, and I’m like trying to be rah, rah supermom. And then I’m like, okay, seven o’clock time to go to bed. And I’m like, dang, I played with you for like, 10 minutes today, like mom of the year, you know, but I’m doing the best I could. And so what is a good amount of time? Whether you’re working or not, like, what does it look like? Because it’s, you know, I think it’s quality, sometimes over quantity, right? But what does that look like? Right at the different ages? And you know, the attention spans change, right? So first, Yes, Mom of the year. It doesn’t. You are right, like, mothers are incredible. And as our fathers as our parents juggling so, so much, it does not have to be complex. It can be the most simple thing. You have to cook, great. Let them either play with the empty pasta box, because that’s really fun. And there’s a lot that can be done with that. Or, you know, help if they’re old enough to help you in the kitchen. That’s one of the best opportunities for sensory play is in the kitchen. There’s so much you can do the kitchen, there’s smells, there’s proprioception as you’re cutting, all these different things, give them a job. The other quick thing I’m going to mention and this is really, really important, we have hit this I think place where we think, you know, we always have to be engaging our little ones and right there with them playing with them.
playing with them. Here’s here’s an activity, here’s an activity, here’s an activity. And we forgot about the beauty of boredom.
And what the beauty of independence play. Once a child is old enough, we want them. We want them to have an even have the baby, let them explore. Let them see how something works. Kids are losing the ability to play. And I’m not joking by this at all. I actually think this is a huge thing that’s happening. Kids no longer if a child is bored, they’ll come say, Mom, I’m bored. Can I have my iPad?
Or I’m bored? What do I do? And if you say, I don’t know, go find something. When we were growing up, I grew up in the middle of the Midwest, we I was never inside, I was only outside, rain, snow, whatever it was, I was outside, maybe not rain, that was maybe the one whether we were inside. And, um,
you were always outside creating something, I found my love for working with children as a child through play. Why? Because I grew up in the age when like internet was like, like the dial up, you know, no, we didn’t have you had one family computers, cell phones didn’t exist. So what happened was we played in I personally went to adults, kids learn their interests, through play, and they learn to create ideate. to problem solve, through play. That’s why open ended toys are so so important. And so it doesn’t have to be fancy, give them an empty Amazon box, let them create with it. Let them see what they can explore and find on their own. It’s all about kind of creating the opportunity. And that does not have to be this Pinterest team beautiful thing that you might see with like all the matching colors, it might just be some markers in an empty box. If your little ones crawling, it might just be an empty box, cut out the bottom half of it, like open it so they can crawl right through it like a tunnel. That’s wonderful. Doesn’t have to be fancy at all pots pans, best sensory toy around. Yeah, that’s it. My kids, sometimes they’re like, Mom, I’m bored. I’m like, you can either do something, which is usually a chore. Or you can go outside, you know, like I took some old sheets the other day, and my kids are six and eight. So they’re a little older. But I think to your point, like they’re not allowed the iPads during the week at all. And so they get one hour of iPad time on the weekends, that’s just the way we roll in our house. And so we want them like outside, go on the trampoline, you know, and they’re like, I’m bored. I’m like, go feed the chickens, go get eggs go clean up dog poop, like I shouldn’t, like, go just be a kid. And they get a little kind of pissy about it at first. And then 20 minutes later, they’re out there like, on their own adventure. And like I took two sheets and I literally took a power drill and stuck them up around the play, you know, the swing set, and I was like, get a fort. See later. And you know, they they ended up coming in taking a bunch of stuff. He’s out there like hiding, they’re running around. And then I’m like, what do you do in and they have like, a whole thing going on in their head? And I’m like, Yes, like imagination. Because we were outside all the time as kids, you know, my husband’s like, do you think I saw my dad growing up? Like, I don’t even know who he was. He worked and I was outside all the time. And no, he wasn’t playing football with me, you know. And so I think that lack of imagination of kids like expecting that they’re going to just get handed like activities, you know, like, I gotta go to Michael’s and get a bunch of crafts, my husband’s like, No, you don’t, they can go play on the acre and a half that we have and find some rocks or bugs or something, you know, totally, and I’m gonna bring it back to the city because I live in the middle of Los Angeles, where we’re very tight on space, right? You don’t need a lot of space at all. You don’t need to play room. You don’t need any of that. You honestly need very few toys, but less toys, the better. There’s actually research to support that.
All you need are just a few different things. We want to encourage our little ones starting really young. Let your crawler if they’re looking at the Kleenex box and trying to figure out what do I do with it? Let them figure that out. Right? Let them crawl over pillows. And in start to really explore and figure out how does my body work? How do things work? And that’s where, for me, I’m the biggest advocate to toys without batteries. A toy with a battery will often play for your child rather than your child playing with it. What does that mean? If you have a dog that barks that you push a button and it barks well what is your little one going to do? They’re going to push that button it’s gonna Bark Bark Bark and they’re gonna kind of giggle and watch it. But if you just have a dog, stuffed dog, they’re going to
To take that dog on an adventure, they’re going to make the barking sound. So now they’ve just moved their body.
And they’re using their own beach to make that sound and create that environment for the dog. So we want toys that allow them to play, rather than toys that play for them. That’s so important. Because Can you imagine, remember, we’re building all these connections, they’re learning to problem solve, they’re learning to ideate, that word ideation comes up a lot for, you know, in all of this. So when they’re older,
and they’re faced with a problem in the workplace, and they need to be creative in solve that problem. Where does that problem solving come from? You know, all starts in childhood, it all comes back to play. So that’s, you know, why this is all really, really so important. And why I think we need to be talking about let’s play from the time they’re home from the hospital, being mindful of your environment. And doesn’t you don’t need anything fancy at all. But it’s maybe what you don’t have. That’s better.
And I, you know, I think the next thing I would ask is like, what if you’re a parent now, with a kid, and you haven’t done a ton of the independent stuff, maybe things for whatever reason, were a little heavier on the technology, I know that the pandemic caused a lot of that, frankly, because parents were working or kids were home or, you know, I think just life in general, with the changes in technology have made it more of the go to thing, right. But let’s assume you have a toddler, or a school aged kid. And they haven’t done a ton of that independent play that imaginative stuff, right? Like, how was a parent? Do you come in now and go?
Give me your phone? We’re done now. Right? Like, I mean, for us, we just say you’re not having it till Saturday morning. But you know what, like, as a parent who hasn’t maybe done a ton of that, but they’re like, oh, gosh, I’m listening to this episode. And I see the value in this, and I really have not done the best job. So let me pivot.
It’s never too late. Right?
Exactly. And, you know, I want to say this, I am totally not, you know, a screen shamer I think that
we’re in 2022, kids are going to be on screens for some part of the day, it’s just limited that as much as you can and be mindful of what is happening on that screen. If you can do a TV instead of an iPad, that’s wonderful. You know, I’m not like, oh, my gosh, no screen time at all. Because the reality is, it’s 2022. But you’re right. You know, if you’ve been heavy on technology, if you there’s going to be times where like, maybe you’re going through a tough time at work, and you gotta jump to it for whatever reason, you know, you have no daycare, and your little one is home. Sick, and you know, these times will, will happen. And you know, we try to avoid them as much as you can. But if you can limit it as much as possible, and it isn’t too late. Start now. And maybe your little one needs a little bit of help starting. So get on the floor and play with them. And you tap into your inner child, I work with parents on this all the time. And it’s something that I think can feel very silly, like, What do you mean, you want me to go pretend to be an elephant and crawl over all over the floor. I’m like, That’s what I want you to do. You guys are in the zoo right now.
you know, tap into that inner child, it’s gonna be therapeutic for you to get really, really silly and funny, and don’t worry about the best. It is cool to hear the unique innocence of kids when you do hit that point of like, silly funny, you know, like we have an it’s such a stupid example. And speaking of sick, my son’s going home sick for two days now. It’s really great. So if you hear coughing in the background of this episode, it’s because it’s him in, in his bedroom. But
it we have hardwood floors, okay. And so what we figured out was if my kids are wearing their robes, they can, they’re very tiny, they’re six and eight, but they’re small, they can tuck up in a bowl. And then because they’re tight in the bowl, we have leverage, and we can spin them on the floor, like superduper fast, right? So they love it, because they go down in the entryway and my husband and her I will just take like one of their feet and basically spin them like a top and they get really, really fast. And then they try to like walk around and they’re all dizzy. And it’s like that is not the ideal, you know, bedtime put down process because they get a little stimulated, but it’s so much fun. And then, you know, the one night my husband, I were like, we’re trying to spin me, you know, so I like put my robe on and the kids thought it was funny. I was laughing hysterically. Like it was just being a kid for a second like spin me spin me, you know, and I think sometimes we got to get out of our own way with some of that stuff like that.
It’ll be goofy go cannonball off the diving board go act like an elephant or whatever. Like, there’s something in that innocence of like, just being a kid, as an adult, that is kind of fun. You know, it’s funny. And it’s like, if I could leave everyone with one thing, it would be go play with your little one, like we played as kids, tap into that inner child and get silly, you are going to have the best time as the family, it’s going to be great for your little ones development, but also your relationship with them. And you are also going to have the best time. Yeah, now I love that. And I mean, I am super excited to read your book. So I want to talk a little bit about the book and like, where it came from kind of your history and experience. I know we chatted a little bit about but Ali has a book. So if you’re watching this video, slay to progress, right? If you’re listening, it’s called later progress. So I mean, talk about what you do in the space of working with families out in California a little bit about the business and like the way clients come and engage you in the work that you do is obviously around sensory play as a as an OT, but like a little bit about that. Yeah, so I have a company called play the number two progress. So play number two progress, you can find us at play to dress that calm. That’s what the number two and then what we do. So we do both individual ot so traditional occupational therapy, but we also do a lot of parent and me classes. So we go by stage not by age, so pre crawlers, Prowler, littlest ninjas, little ninjas, where we’re really working on exactly what I’m talking about these foundations, we have a pre preschool program, where we’re helping little ones get into preschool, or you know, not get into preschool, but like set the foundation up.
So that they’re ready for preschool. Then we also do if you’re not in California, we do parent coaching. So meet with you and really talk about this, how to play with your little one, give you weekly homework and really break into that. Do toy room consults and playroom consults, as well as baby registry concepts, all of that good and fun stuff from a distance over zoom. It’s wonderful. And then my book, if you’re looking somewhere like I don’t really know where to start with all of this. That is why I wrote this book. So the book is play T O progress. So I’ll be sure it’s in the show notes as well for everybody. Awesome. What’s up, little man, I know you’re sick. Yes, you can have a cough drop, thank you for asking.
Thanks, have a working parent with a sick one.
in the book, I’m gonna break down the full sensory system for you talk about how you can engage your little one and give you some activities to engage them that are really, you know, just a start to all of this. Awesome. I’m excited to learn more. And I’m so excited you were able to jump on today, because I think it’s helpful for parents to just know, it’s never too late to start. And it’s never too early to start. So, you know, if you could leave parents with one thing, what would it be?
Just play. I think that’s simple. Get on the floor, and play. Don’t you know, turn off all the phones, turn everything off and just spend some time playing this weekend. Cool. Well, I’m excited. Thank you so much for joining everybody. I’m gonna put a bunch of different links here in the episode so you can find ally and all the great resources she has. She’s a phenomenal human being I’m so glad she was able to join us. And I’m excited to see all the good things that played progresses going to do in the coming years because it’s really a fantastic organization. And it’s really opened my eyes to really being a bit more cognizant about how I play with my kids, even though they’re six and eight, it’s still just equally as important. So it’s never too late. We’re not popping out any more babies, but, but definitely making that quality time with the kids now. And you know, just taking a moment to enjoy the fact of the innocence that they have and looking at the world through their eyes has been super eye opening for us. So thank you, Ali, for joining me today. And like I said, I’ll share all the information. And hopefully all of our listeners will come out and find you and look at all the different amazing things that you do for them as well. Awesome. Thank you so much, Courtney.
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai