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In today’s episode, Rachel and Jessica have a look at constructional praxis, the neurological process by which cognition directs motor action.
In their conversation, they discuss what it is, how kids engage with it, and how parents can facilitate learning in children.
There are four areas of praxis, namely motor planning, execution, feedback, and adaptation. More specifically, construction praxis is the ability to draw, copy, or manipulate spatial patterns or designs.
You’ll hear about the various ways that kids engage in constructional praxis, like when they draw or play with Legos, and how they can engage in these activities by either copying, executing an original idea, or following auditory instructions.
Our hosts share their favorite games for facilitating constructional praxis with kids, including some original DIY hacks for keeping things fresh.
For all this and more, join us today!
“When we talk about constructional praxis, we are talking specifically about the ability to draw, copy, or manipulate spatial patterns or designs.” — All Things Sensory[02:07]
“Many if not most jobs require some form of constructional praxis – being able to have an idea and put it into action.” — All Things Sensory[12:18]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
[00:00:02] RH: Hey there. I'm Rachel.
[00:00:03] JH:I'm Jessica, and this is All Things Sensory by Harkla. Together, we're on a mission to help children, families, therapists, and educators live happy, healthy lives.
[00:00:12] RH: We dive into all things sensory, special needs, occupational therapy, parenting, self-care, and so much more. In each episode, we share raw, honest, fun ideas and strategies for everyone to implement into daily life.
[00:00:25] JH: Thank you so much for joining us.
[00:00:31] RH: Hey, friends. Welcome back to All Things Sensory by Harkla. This is episode 157. If it's not welcome back, then welcome. If this is your first time listening, we're so glad you chose to listen to us today. This is a good episode to choose to listen to.
[00:00:48] JH: So, we are going to talk about constructional praxis.
[00:00:51] RH: [inaudible 00:00:51]. Say what?
[00:00:53] JH:You're welcome. Constructional praxis.
[00:00:56] RH: Okay, that sounds like a mouthful.
[00:00:57] JH: It is a mouthful. We're not going to say it again.
[00:01:00] RH: We're going to break it down for you though.
[00:01:03] JH: If you're not familiar with praxis, motor planning, all things motor planning, then go listen to episode number 37 because that is where we dive deep into practice, what it is, and why it's important but a quick recap. Let's do it.
[00:01:18] RH: So what is praxis? It is the neurological process by which cognition directs motor action.
[00:01:27] JH: Basically, it is planning what to do, how to do it, and then doing it.
[00:01:35] RH: Basically, pretty simple, right?
[00:01:37] J:Yeah. But listen to Episode 37 because we really explain a lot more.
[00:01:42] RH: There are four areas of praxis. There's ideation, which is being able to come up with the idea.
[00:01:49] JH: Motor planning, which is planning how to put your idea into action.
[00:01:54] RH: Execution, which is performing the activity and getting it done.
[00:02:00] JH: And then feedback and adaptation, where you can reflect and adapt for the future. Yes. So when we talk about constructional praxis, we are talking specifically about the ability to draw, copy, or manipulate spatial patterns or designs.
[00:02:21] RH: This is going to directly relate to visual perceptual skills, so specifically spatial relations, which is being able to see and understand the relationship between various objects.
[00:02:35] JH: Listen to all of that again because it's a lot of words, you guys. When we think about constructional praxis in functional terms for kids because that's why we're here, we're talking about kids, children, we're going to talk about drawing the picture. So not copying a picture but having an idea in your head and putting that idea out onto paper.
[00:03:02] RH: Exactly. We're also going to look at copying or imitating a picture, looking at a picture of a person that I drew, and Jessica would have to copy that.
[00:03:13] JH: We're also going to talk about building with blocks and Legos, so not copying a structure but having an idea of what you want to build with your Legos and taking that idea from your head and building it.
[00:03:28] RH: But also building with blocks or Legos but copying a specific structure. So if I build a three-block tower, then Jessica would have to copy that three-block tower.
[00:03:41] JH: Going along with that, drawing and building from auditory instructions. So if I were to give Rachel instructions to draw a specific picture or to build a specific structure, she could follow those auditory instructions and build or draw successfully.
[00:03:59] RH: And then all things handwriting tasks.
[00:04:02] JH:I mean, that's –
[00:04:03] RH: Enough said there.
[00:04:04] RH: I mean everything relating to handwriting and knowing how to form the letters and where to start them and how to draw them and –
[00:04:12] JH:How to write words, how to write sentences.
[00:04:15] RH: Putting it all together, making sure you have enough space in between the words when you're writing a sentence and where to put the period. Does the period go at the top of the line or at the bottom of the line? So everything related to handwriting.
[00:04:28] JH: I was even thinking, as kids get older, do kids still write essays in school?
[00:04:34] RH: They'll probably type them.
[00:04:35] JH:Type them or write them. Either way, having that sentence idea or that thought in your head and being able to put it out on paper. Then the last one is going to be math, especially higher levels of math, but even just counting, addition, subtraction, and then, yeah, getting into those higher levels of math concepts.
[00:04:57] RH: Yeah, let's not –
[00:04:58] JH:Let's not go there.
[00:04:59] RH: No. This isn't a math episode.
[00:05:02] JH:But it’s there.
[00:05:03] RH: It is. All of these fall into activities that children of all ages can participate in.
[00:05:10] JH: Should participate in.
[00:05:10] RH: I was just going to say, and should participate in. You took the words out of mouth.
[00:05:14] JH: Well, this is why we're a team because we have the same thoughts sometimes.
[00:05:19] RH: Let’s start with infants and toddlers. Believe it or not, infants, Trip right now at eight months old. He's working on some constructional praxis and figuring that out.
[00:05:29] JH: For sure. So just learning about toys and household items and how they relate to one another. You think about an infant who is reaching and grabbing and mouthing objects. That child is learning about those objects and how they relate and how he can manipulate those objects and use them in different ways.
[00:05:50] RH: Container play is big. So think shape sorters, where you're putting the triangle into the triangle spot. If it doesn't fit one way, you have to turn it around and manipulate it and turn the container, so it fits. That's a big one.
[00:06:06] JH: Yeah. Putting toys together and taking toys apart. I'm thinking of, man, back in the day, we had these little dinosaur toys. The head of the dinosaur and the tail of the dinosaur like came apart, and then you could put them back together. They had letters, so you had to match the letters.
[00:06:24] RH: I remember those.
[00:06:25] JH: Yeah, so those types of toys.
[00:06:27] RH: Imitating others during play tasks. Today, Logan, who's seven and a half, was teaching Trip how to bang the blocks together, right? That's a big part of constructional praxis is imitating.
[00:06:39] JH: Yeah. Then then as the infant turns into a toddler and they start using writing materials, learning how to draw, learning how to draw a vertical line, a horizontal line, a circle, and starting those pre writing skills.
[00:06:54] RH: And then language, so imitating sounds and words and putting sentences together. Just watching how our mouth moves and our tongue moves and imitating those movements.
[00:07:06] JH: I was even thinking imitating the different like inflections in our voice.
[00:07:11] RH: Hello.
[00:07:14] JH: Yeah.
[00:07:14] RH: Goodbye.
[00:07:15] JH: Exactly, exactly.
[00:07:18] RH: All right, let's talk about school-aged children.
[00:07:20] JH: This is where my kid is right now, he is seven and a half, almost eight years old. So he's here, and the first one is learning how to write letters and numbers. As a toddler, you have those prewriting skills. Then we get a little bit more challenging and actually form those strokes into letters and numbers to then start forming words and sentences.
[00:07:41] RH: Which, this is ever changing and ever growing harder because of virtual learning.
[00:07:47] JH: Oh, my gosh.
[00:07:48] RH: That’s a whole other topic but just keep in mind that these skills are necessary, regardless of the technology that you're using for school.
[00:07:57] JH: Yup, it really is.
[00:07:59] RH: Also learning math skills. Like we said earlier, counting, addition, subtraction, using manipulatives to learn math skills as well.
[00:08:06] JH: That is huge and that is such – I feel like that is so beneficial, being able to actually count an object and move them from one –
[00:08:15] RH: And touch them.
[00:08:17] JH: Touch them and move them from one side of the table to the next while you're counting them. That is huge. Even going back to like learning how to write letters and numbers, using toy letters like magnets.
[00:08:28] RH: Puzzle pieces.
[00:08:30] JH: Puzzle pieces of those letters and touching them and manipulating them is going to be super beneficial as well. Playing with peers. So we're still talking about constructional praxis, but playing with peers and building forts, building with Legos, imaginative play. All of that goes in.
[00:08:49] RH: Big, big. I don't know why I said that. But anyways, writing tasks, so creative writing skills.
[00:08:56] JH: I kind of mentioned that. Yeah.
[00:08:57] RH: Exactly. Being able to have a story in your head and taking the story from in your head and putting it on paper. A lot of our kiddos who have retained primitive reflexes really struggle with taking those ideas from your head and putting them on paper. Again, those reflexes are really connected to that constructional praxis as well.
[00:09:18] JH: Quick side note, if you are new here, we do have an entire primitive reflex series starting at episode 100. If you're new here, if you're not familiar with primitive reflexes, you should definitely check those episodes out.
[00:09:33] RH: Then after you listen to those episodes, if you want more tips, tricks, and strategies to test reflexes, to implement activities, to integrate those reflexes, we do have a course that you can find linked in the show notes as well, so lots of activities and tools for you.
[00:09:52] JH: All right.
[00:09:52] RH: Where were we?
[00:09:53] JH: I don’t know. Okay. In school-aged children, those higher levels of language development, including descriptive language skills, so having that story in your head and being able to put it on paper. Also important having that story in your head and being able to tell it to someone.
[00:10:11] RH: Yes. There's a lot of games that are great for facilitating those descriptive language skills.
[00:10:17] JH: Is it Pictionary? Pictionary will be the drawing one.
[00:10:20] RH: Yup.
[00:10:20] JH: What’s the –
[00:10:21] RH: We actually did an activity where you had like random things in a bag, and you pulled them out, and you had to like write a story or write a line of a story.
[00:10:28] JH: Oh, my goodness.
[00:10:29] RH: Or stickers.
[00:10:30] JH: Stickers.
[00:10:30] RH: It was part of our sticker mini activity.
[00:10:31] JH: We did do that. We did do that.
[00:10:34] RH: So, lots of things that you could do with that. Okay, next topic. How will this impact our children as they age and become adults? Why is this important for kids to learn? How does it transition into being an adult? Why do we need these skills and why do we want as therapists to incorporate these skills into therapy? Maybe even not a therapist, as a parent, why do we want to work on these skills for kiddos to learn?
[00:11:01] JH: The first one is going to be being able to organize your house. So we're not talking about like keep it clean and organized 24/7 but even just being able to organize your closet, organize your cupboards in your kitchen so that things are easy to accessible to organize your dishwasher. Oh, my gosh.
[00:11:23] RH: I love putting all of the dishes in like perfectly organized and nice and neat. When someone comes in and messes it up, it drives me crazy.
[00:11:32] JH: It’s what having kids [inaudible 00:11:32]. Wait till your kids loads the dishwasher.
[00:11:35] RH: It’s going to be great. I’m going to let them. The next one is being able to manage your bills, so keeping track of bills that you get in the mail and on the computer and if you balance your checkbook. Is that a thing anymore?
[00:11:49] JH: I don't know. I hope so.
[00:11:50] RH: Balancing maybe a software online where you have to – What's the word that I'm thinking of?
[00:11:57] JH: I don’t know.
[00:11:57] RH: Budget.
[00:11:58] JH: Budget.
[00:11:58] RH: Where you have to budget. Yes. That's very important as well and as part of it.
[00:12:01] JH: Yeah. Just managing your money.
[00:12:03] RH: Thanks. That was probably an easier way.
[00:12:05] JH: That’s okay. No, I like how you described it. Just overall work skills. So being able to go out and complete a job to earn some money. Many, if not most jobs, require some form of constructional praxis, so being able to have an idea and put it into action.
[00:12:26] RH: I would say like 99% of jobs.
[00:12:29] JH: 99.9. I’m trying to think of all the different jobs and I'm like, “I don't know what job doesn't include constructional praxis skills.”
[00:12:37] RH: All right, a favorite one of mine is completing house projects.
[00:12:41] JH: Least favorite of mine. I hate it. But being able to like, yeah, put –
[00:12:47] RH: Can you do it, even though you don't like it?
[00:12:48] JH: Yeah, I know. Yes, I can put furniture together.
[00:12:50] RH: Yes. That is important.
[00:12:52] JH: Painting your wall. You're painting your wall right now. That’s a lot of constructional praxis.
[00:12:56] RH: It is. Planting a garden or planting plants. That's a big one too.
[00:13:01] JH: Taking care of animals.
[00:13:03] RH: Yes. Clearly constructional praxis, that skill is required for adulthood and for being a successful adult.
[00:13:12] RH: We just want to take a minute and talk to you about our company, Harkla. Our mission at Harkla is to help those with special needs live happy, healthy lives. Not only do we accomplish this through the podcast but we also have therapy products, easy-to-follow digital courses, and the Harkla Sensory Club to try to bring holistic care to you and your family.
[00:18:00] JH:Listeners of the All Things Sensory podcast get 10% off their first purchase at Harkla with the discount code SENSORY. We'd recommend checking out some of our bestsellers like the Compression Sensory Swing, weighted blankets, or our course on sensory diets.
[00:18:16] RH: Here's the best part. 1% of each sale gets donated to the University of Washington Autism Center to support autism research and fund scholarships to families in need to receive in clinic therapy for their child.
[00:18:28] JH:Learn more about Harkla and all we have to offer at harkla.co. That’s H-A-R-K-L-A.C-O, and don't forget to use the discount code SENSORY to get 10% off your first purchase. That's S-E-N-S-O-R-Y for 10% off.
[00:18:49] RH: And the best part is all Harkla orders come with a lifetime guarantee and free shipping.
[00:18:56] JH:You really can’t beat that.
[00:18:57] RH: No.
[00:18:58] JH:You can’t. Okay, let's get back to the show.
[00:14:31] RH: Let's switch gears, and this is why you're all here. You want to learn how you can promote constructional praxis, what activities you can do. So we're going to rapid-fire our tips, tricks, and strategies.
[00:14:43] JH: Okay. The first one is to play with your child when completing building tasks.
[00:14:48] RH: Wait. You have to play with your child. What?
[00:14:51] JH: I mean, you don't have to. You don't have to do.
[00:14:53] RH: Just kidding. Just kidding, but it does help.
[00:14:56] JH: Even just for a couple of minutes you're playing with some Legos or some blocks, and you're going to imitate each other's structures.
[00:15:03] RH: If you need to step away for a minute, and you can take pictures of something that you build and then give the picture to your child to have them build, then you can say, “All right, you build this, while I'm going to go put the dishes in the dishwasher.”
[00:15:15] JH: Perfect. Break it down if your child is really, really struggling with this to one piece at a time. So instead of showing them a 10-piece structure, break it down to one or two pieces at a time.
[00:15:30] RH: Okay, next one is draw with your child. So imitate each other's drawing. Take turns. I'll draw a picture of me, and then you draw the picture of me. If it's too hard, again, break it down. Let's draw the head together first. We need what shape.
[00:15:48] JH: Then as you're doing these activities, you can start to make them more challenging as your child gets better at them.
[00:15:55] RH: Absolutely.
[00:15:56] JH: So build from a drawing. Draw a picture with your child, have them imitate the picture that you drew, and then have them imitate the picture by building the picture with blocks or Legos.
[00:16:10] RH: Great, love it. My favorite here is build forts and obstacle courses. Create the idea either in your head or draw out your plan on paper. Build it out. Plan it. Go through it together. Modify it. If it doesn't work, we have some super fun cardboard blocks that we're going to link here. They’re ones that I grew up with. I just love them so much. I use them for everything.
[00:16:36] JH: Yeah, it's perfect. This is especially good for infants and toddlers as they're developing language skills, but describe items in your environment. So while you're going on a walk, while you're moving through your house, while you're driving, verbally describe the items that you see.
[00:16:56] RH: And not like, “Oh, there's a tree.” “Oh, there's a tall tree. There's a short bush.” Use those descriptive words, so they realize positional words, spatial relations, that visual perception of their environment.
[00:17:08] JH: Yeah. Then even going further, touch those items and manipulate those items and talk about the different sensory components. What does it feel like? What does it smell like? Can you pick it up, or is it too heavy? Those kinds of things.
[00:17:22] RH: Yup. Themed building activities are super fun. So grab a handful of random treasures from the Dollar Store, around the house. Things like blocks, some coins, and Legos, party favors, different things of different sizes and shapes. Then spray paint them all the same color. So if it's St. Patrick's Day, spray paint them all green. If it is Easter, spray paint them all purple or pink or blue, whatever. Match the holiday, right?
Then you're going to take turns building structures with those items. The key here is to build without the child watching. So have your child copy what you build and then switch places. Have your child build something, and then you copy it.
[00:18:07] JH: I love that idea.
[00:18:09] RH: Is that fun? It takes a little more work and a little bit more setup but it's novel, and you can throw all of those treasures in a box and come back to it later and do the same thing.
[00:18:20] JH: And you can have your child participate in the setup.
[00:18:24] RH: You better. You better.
[00:18:27] JH: All right, really quick, some games that are really great for constructional praxis. The first one is going to be Jenga.
[00:18:36] RH: Lincoln Logs.
[00:18:37] JH: Do they even make Lincoln Logs anymore?
[00:18:38] RH: I found them.
[00:18:39] JH: You did?
[00:18:39] RH: I found them on Amazon. I had them as a kid. These are like old school games that I had growing up and I loved.
[00:18:46] JH: The old ones are the best.
[00:18:47] RH: Yeah.
[00:18:48] JH: Legos, whether they're the big Legos or the little Legos, do both.
[00:18:53] RH: Yup. Marble maze, so the little trinkets that you click together and you drop the marble in at the top. That's a fantastic one.
[00:19:02] JH: Such a good one. So there's a game called Pattern Play, and it's kind of like a puzzle. You have a whole bunch of different colored blocks that are all different sizes, and you put them together on a board. You can either create your own design with them, or there's a whole bunch of pictures that you can copy.
[00:19:20] RH: Those pictures are really helpful to work on that constructional praxis, so they can see the visual, copy it, incorporate it into an obstacle course. The possibilities are endless with that game. We use it a lot in therapy.
[00:19:33] JH: Yeah.
[00:19:35] RH: I think you have this game or something like it where you go –
[00:19:38] JH: There are the kinetic –
[00:19:40] RH: K’Nex.
[00:19:41] JH: I know. [inaudible 00:19:41].
[00:19:43] RH: Well, then maybe you can link that one, the one that you have.
[00:19:46] JH: [inaudible 00:19:46]. So any of those like STEM learning games are going to be great. I mean, just Google stem, S-T-E-M, because those are all going to be great activities and games for constructional praxis.
[00:20:00] RH: Then there's another game. This one, it's kind of random but it's an Angry Birds-themed game.
[00:20:06] JH: All the Angry Birds games are so fun.
[00:20:08] RH: Yes. You basically follow the visual on the card, you stack the blocks, and then you have to use a catapult to like knock over the structure that you build. Well, anything where you have to copy the visual, the blocks, and then knock it over is a great way to work on constructional praxis.
[00:20:26] JH: I'm also thinking from a therapist standpoint for some of our school-aged kids that that game is really – Number one, it's really motivating. But, number two, it's a great way to also work on some fine motor development because you can have them draw the structure, whether you start with maybe tracing the blocks onto the paper or then freehanding it. But tracing can be really good as well to really understand the size and relation of the pieces. But any of those building activities, you can incorporate some drawing as well.
[00:20:58] RH: Yeah. Going one step further, recognizing the spatial relations of if I have to put two blocks on the balancing tower, and they're not in the middle, they're going to fall over, and recognizing that big spatial component as well. Just a lot of opportunities.
[00:21:12] JH: Lots. Then just always verbally describing all of these different things; big, medium, small, tall, short, middle, top, bottom. All of those different descriptions to understand these different items in our environment.
[00:21:30] RH: Yeah. Okay. So like we said, we'll link everything in the show notes. So if you want to check out any of these games and activities, our previous podcast, it will all be linked, so you can easily find it. Just know that all of our show notes are on harkla.co as well, so you can – I think it's harkla.co/podcast. So you can find all of the show notes there and just soak up everything we have to offer because there's a lot.
[00:21:55] JH: There is a lot. Hopefully, this episode was beneficial. Hopefully, it gave you some good ideas. We really want to help our kids develop life skills through play. So the more play you can do, the better it's going to be. The more fun they're going to have.
[00:22:12] RH: After you listen to this episode, screenshot, tag us @allthingssensorypodcast on Instagram. Then when you're trying these activities in treatment or at home, whoever you are trying these activities, tag us, so we can share and teach everybody the benefits and how fun they are.
[00:22:31] JH: Yeah, for sure. Let us know your thoughts. Leave us a review on iTunes, and we will talk to you next week.
[00:22:36] RH: Okay, bye.
[END OF EPISODE]
[00:22:38] RH: Thank you so much for listening to All Things Sensory by Harkla. If you want more information on anything we mentioned in the show, head over to harkla.co/podcast to get all of the show notes.
[00:22:49] JH: We always have the show notes and links, plus full transcripts to make following along as easy as possible for everyone. If you have follow-up questions, the best place to ask those is in the comments on the show notes or message us on our Instagram account, which is @harkla_family. If you just search Harkla, you’ll find us.
[00:23:09] RH: Like we mentioned before, our podcast listeners get 10% off their first order at Harkla. Whether it's for one of our digital courses, one of our sensory swings, the discount code SENSORY will save you 10%. That code is S-E-N-S-O-R-Y. Head over to harkla.co/sensory to use that code right now, so you don't forget.
[00:23:32] JH:We're so excited to work together to help create competent kids all over the world and work towards a happier, healthier life.
[00:23:39] RH: All right, we'll talk to you guys next week.
[00:23:42] RH: Just a friendly reminder, this is general information related to occupational therapy, pediatrics, and sensory integration. We do not know you or your child. Therefore, we do not know any specific needs. Therefore, you should always refer back to your pediatrician and occupational therapist for more information.
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