Parent Education

Mastering After School Meltdowns

School is back in session. New kindergarteners are learning what it means to be a student. First-graders are getting reacquainted with their desks and new classroom routines. The big kid third-, fourth- and fifth-graders are catching up with friends, navigating the schoolyard and digging into their studies and homework. And nearly all of them are coming home and melting down, right?

I hear from many parents of elementary-age children who share similar stories about the challenges they face after school dismal. The struggle is real.

“My son is a kindergartener, and while he’s excited to go to school each day, he’s coming home exhausted and emotional,” said Allison Crumpler, speech-language pathologist and director of clinical compliance for Raleigh Therapy Services. “I know he is trying hard to sit still and pay attention during class and that takes a lot out of a new student. It’s no wonder he comes home ready to fall apart.”

It is common for children, especially for younger students, to come home mentally and physically exhausted from school. Consider your student’s day—new learnings, exciting experiences, and fast-paced transitions. Not to mention, your student may eat lunch early in the day and come home with a hungry tummy. No wonder your little one is tired and emotional and nearing the brink of a meltdown every afternoon.

Hopefully, your student will soon acclimate to the school setting and build stamina to take on school-day demands, and you’ll see her behavior improve. In the meanwhile, here are some strategies to consider as you address her challenging behaviors.

Keep quiet

Sure you want to know all about your daughter’s day and what she did in class, but better to wait a bit before you start your questions. Greet her with a simple hug and positive “hello” and then permit her time to decompress. Give her the time and space to zone out and settle in your home setting and then ask her about class.

Attack with a snack

Does your child arrive home from school starving dangerously close to entering the “hangry” zone? Face that hunger head on with a healthy snack to boost her energy and mood.

Limit screen time

It’s not a bad idea to let your daughter watch her favorite TV show to calm down upon arriving home. However, you should try to limit after-school screen time to a maximum of 20 or 30 minutes.

Avoid overscheduling

Do your best to avoid overscheduling your daughter’s afternoons. She will come home tired from a full day at school and will need free time to wind down and relax.

Make time to play

Try to find time to play with your child—coloring, crafting, tossing a ball, anything she finds fun. Your one-on-one attention will help her reconnect with you and feel less overwhelmed from her school day.

Hunker down with homework

Set up a designated space and specific time for your daughter to do her homework. She will find comfort knowing her homework routine, which will help to lessen her stress for this daily task. 

Stick with bedtime

One, if not the most important, ways for you to help your daughter navigate her new school schedule is to keep her bedtime consistent. Most 5-year-olds need 10 or more hours of sleep each night to feel well rested the next day. A well-rested child will have a leg up on a new day.


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  Filed under: Parent Education, Parenting Tips, Therapy Ideas

Dealing with a Picky Eater

Are meal times a struggle for you and your little one? You are not alone. The struggle to get your child to eat is very real and quite often a frequent frustration for parents of toddlers.

You may have noticed that your child’s picky eating surfaced after she turned one and gained new skills like feeding herself. She’s now aware that she can choose what and how much of something she wants to eat. She now has more “control” over her plate and portions. Some days she may choose to eat a lot, others days she may refuse items that she usually eats without fuss.

Another tactic newly independent eaters may employ is eating only familiar foods or refusing to eat certain foods for silly reasons like color or shape. This behavior happens when a child attempts to create “sameness” to promote feelings of safety and security.

Fortunately, for most children, picky eating is merely a developmental stage that will quickly pass. In the meanwhile, you can help your child get through this pretentious palate phase for more enjoyable mealtime experiences.

Say No to Bribes and Force-Feeding

As easy as it is to offer up a bribe to convince your daughter to eat her vegetables to earn dessert, do your best to resist the urge and endless plate pleas. A child who learns to make deals about eating will also discover the power to make deals and ask for rewards for doing other tasks. Bribes at the dinner table may lead to your child expecting rewards for other things like brushing her teeth, picking up her toys, or cooperating with the task at hand.

You should also avoid forcing your daughter to eat if she isn’t interested or hungry. At her young age, her stomach is about the size of a small, clenched fist; it doesn’t take much to fill it. Force-feeding her will teach her to rely on others to tell her how much to eat and when she is full. Force-feeding can also lead her to eat less and make her picky eating behaviors worse.

Present New Foods Again and Again (and Again)

Research shows that children need to see a new food at least 10 times before they may be willing to try it. Increase your daughter’s exposure to new foods by asking her to help you prepare meals. Give her the chance to touch the food, help measure and stir. She’ll be excited to see and taste the foods she creates.

You can also implement food crafts as part of your daughter’s playtime activities. Let your daughter touch, smell and play with different snack items like pretzels, carrot sticks, raisins, puffs, whatever you have around the house. Seeing different foods in a new light will help her become comfortable with the idea of eating them.

Build A Routine

Toddlers like predictability. Establishing a structured feeding routine with timely snacks and meals will help curb your daughter’s grazing behaviors and allow her to feel hunger that will likely lead her to eat to fullness during meal times.

Serve It All Up

Do your best to offer up a mix of foods with different textures, tastes and smells that your daughter likes and dislikes. Introduce new foods along with the foods she already likes to eat. Give her the same foods the rest of the family is eating in small, toddler-sized portions. Over time, these new choices should become as liked and familiar as her favorite foods.

When is picky eating more than picky eating?

While it is common for toddlers to go through a picky eating phase, it’s important to remember that it shouldn’t last long. If it does, you may want to speak with your pediatrician to determine if your child’s behavior is stemming from underlying medical, oral motor or developmental issues.

You can trust your pediatrician to assess your concerns and help determine if a pediatric feeding therapist should evaluate your daughter to offer further insight into the situation.


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  Filed under: Feeding Development, Parent Education, Raleigh Therapy Services

Getting Ready for Kindergarten

Summer is flying by quickly making way for schools supplies, lunch money, and homework. Some seasoned parents are counting down the days ready for the return of the routine, while others are beginning to prepare their soon-to-be kindergarteners for this new life adventure.

If you are among the latter, we want you to know you’ve got mama friends, family and our entire Raleigh Therapy Services team cheering you and your new student on to school success.

“The start of the school year can cause any parent to stress and panic, especially those sending their little ones off to kindergarten,” said Allison Crumpler, Raleigh Therapy Services Speech-Language Pathologist and Director of Clinical Compliance. “These new students will find themselves in a different learning environment with new teachers, unfamiliar classmates and a wealth of information to learn and retain—who wouldn’t find that overwhelming?”

Fortunately, there are many activities and skills you can introduce now to give your child a head start on all that awaits her in kindergarten:

Holding a Pencil and Cutting

Children entering kindergarten should be able to hold a pencil and cut with scissors correctly. You can help your daughter perfect these tasks by:

  • Helping her strengthen her fine motor skills by stringing beads, picking up small pieces of paper using their index finger and thumb, etc.
  • Working on using the appropriate three-finger grasp when using pencils, crayons, and scissors
  • Letting her practice cutting by asking her to cut pictures out of old magazines and coloring books

Buttoning and Zipping

Kindergarten teachers like students to be able to button, zip, and fasten their clothing before and after using the restroom. Some children will also be ready to learn how to tie their shoes. Help your student grasp these tasks by:

  • Practicing buttoning and zipping clothing items she isn’t wearing
  • Wearing her “school clothes” around the house ahead of time to practice taking on and off, buttoning and zipping
  • Using a shoelace board or box to practice tying shoes

Remembering an Address and Phone Number

In addition to knowing their first and last names, children entering kindergarten should also learn their home address and phone number. Help your daughter retain this information by:

  • Repetition—say it over and over and over again and asking you’re her repeat after you
  • Making up a catchy, rhyming tune that incorporates her phone number and address

Name Writing

A kindergarten teacher will want your child to be able to write their first name on the first day of school. While the writing will not be perfect at this age, it should be legible. You can help her practice writing her name by:

  • Letting her trace her name to become more familiar with the letters and shapes of the letters
  • Using a dry erase board or chalkboard to write her name as it makes it easy to wipe off and start again

Recognizing Letters

Your daughter will learn the letters of the alphabet, including lower- and upper-case letters, during her kindergarten year. You can give her a leg up on letter identification by:

  • Asking her to point out letters in the books you read during story time
  • Using letter flashcards
  • Tracing letters in the sand at the beach or the playground
  • Playing with magnetic letters on the fridge and asking her to find named letters
  • Going on an alphabet hunt through the house to find toys and objects that start with the same letter

Identifying Letter Sounds

In addition to knowing the alphabet letters, your daughter will also benefit from knowing the sounds* that the letters make. Activities you can use to work on letter sound recognition include:

  • Going on a scavenger hunt around the house to find objects that start with named sounds
  • Using letter flash cards to make the sound of the pictured letter
  • Playing rhyming games or asking her to say words that all start with a certain letter sound

As you share letter sounds with your child, be sure to model the sounds correctly. For example, “t” is “t-t-t” and not “tuh-tuh-tuh.”

Print Concepts

Your student will need to know the front, back, and spine of a book along with being able to identify the author, title, and illustrator. She’ll also need to recognize that pages are read from left to right. Help her expand her knowledge of print concepts by:

  • Pointing out the parts of the book and then asking her to identify them
  • Demonstrating that words and pages are read from left to right by using your finger to move along the words as you say them


Your student will know how to count to 100 by the end of the kindergarten school year. Help your child hone in on her counting skills now by:

  • Asking her to count all sorts of items throughout her daily routine—blueberries on her plate, her building blocks, her pile of stuffed animals and more
  • Showing her number flash cards and working with her to put them in order
  • Looking at numbers on a digital clock and talking about the numbers that come next

“Kindergarten is a big milestone for children and their parents. Incorporating some of the anticipated kindergarten learnings at home, will help in the preparation process and hopefully instill confidence in new students,” added Crumpler.


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  Filed under: Education & School, Parent Education, Raleigh Therapy Services