Ros and Newt have been working hard on their STEAMer Trunks, but they realized after processing incoming requests in the mail at their steamer ship that there was a lot more work that needed to be done. Their club members were asking for specific items outside of the subscription model they were using for their trunks. They turned to Captains Jen and Christa and asked them what they should do. Keep reading to get the subsequent announcement!
We started out our STEAMer Trunks journey on an e-commerce platform that was well known for subscription boxes. We were excited by it and threw ourselves into it. However, we quickly realized that there were some things we wanted to do and that others wanted us to do that just wasn’t possible on that platform. After a lot of thought and research, we made the decision to move our e-commerce efforts to a site that we could control and modify as we wanted. This gives us a lot more freedom to expand and put our efforts where it is important to us. We founded this in April 2016 and one of the first things we did was identify our mission and vision.
Mission: STEAMer Trunks is a monthly subscription service providing educational and experiential activities for children developmentally aged three years to school age to strengthen their relationship with their seven senses and enhance their Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Design, and Mathematics (STEAM) skills.
Vision: STEAMer Trunks looks to strengthen families and children by providing quality educational opportunities for physical, intellectual, and emotional growth, sustainably and ethically.
By expanding to this new e-commerce site, we are going to be able to:
(1) sell and gift PDF files
(2) expand our products to include one-time sales for items like sensory bin starter kits, starter tool kits, or other sensory processing-related products like weighted lovies
(3) add PDF lesson plans aligned with well-regarded standards so that educators and others could use the trunks in their classrooms
(4) create subscriber-only areas where some day we could add videos of the activities and experiments and additional content that was only available to those who paid for a 3+ month subscription during their subscription period
Choosing a name seemed like it took us a very long time. We still wanted the e-commerce site to be related to our STEAMer Trunks Club where people receive monthly packages from our characters Ros and Newt as they live and work in a late-1800s era mail steamer ship. But, we also wanted to be able to expand our offerings beyond just the STEAMer Trunks. Therefore, in keeping up with our story, we decided to name our e-commerce site The Ship’s Hold. This allows us to continue our story with our characters while also expanding out into other products. After all, Ros and Newt are merely stocking up in their Ship’s Hold with all these fantastic products!
We are thrilled that we can now offer even more content! As Jen mentioned, we can now sell and gift PDF files. What does this mean? Even more free content for you! There is a lot on your and our horizon to include extension activities and continual learning! Coming soon, there will be PDFs in The Ship’s Hold that will be available for purchase (and sometimes for free!), extending the monthly STEAMer Trunk Club educational activities. As always, they will be related to early childhood education domains for ages three to school age and will be related to using one or more of our seven targeted senses and STEAM skills.
Excitingly, this new site has allowed us the freedom to create a whole new kit! Joining the tools kits (value, standard, and deluxe) is the new sensory bin starter kit which comes with the tools, bin, and substrate to fully explore any sensory bin theme! It connects perfectly with our STEAMer Trunk Club trunks as well.
In addition to more content and kit options, we have been connecting with some fantastic companies such as: Safari Ltd® (the makers of SafariPedia®, SafariTopia®, TOOBS®, and more), Frontier Natural Products Co-op® (the makers of Aura Cacia®, Simply Organic®, Co-op Market®, and Fronteir Co-op®), Educator Resource (partners with Learning Resources®, Dowling Magnets®, The Critical Thinking Co.™, and so many more.), and Fun and Function. It doesn’t stop there! We are in the process of connecting with more companies to bring you even more value.
If you aren’t already signed up for our newsletter, do so now to receive exclusive freebies and more information about our efforts!
Have you heard? We are now giving out gorgeous free printables to make pre-writing practice a breeze! Get the first freebie by going to our 3 Writing Skills to Practice (& a Freebie) post all about hold, pressure, and steadiness. Want more material to practice with? No problem! We’ve got you covered because we care about your success. Scroll down for two more freebies from our Apple-Themed and Creepy Crawlies-Themed Trunks!
Get the apple trunk and/or creepy crawlies keywords printables by clicking the images below!
Most people aren’t interested in buying sight unseen, so we’ve deconstructed a few past STEAMer Trunks for you. The below graphics will walk you through what is in each of our packages by using two different trunks. We’ll also explain more about the activity’s guide. While the theme changes each month, we stick within these guidelines:
1. Four to six small items to create a thematic scene
2. One larger thematic item
3. One therapeutic or fidget-style toy
4. One 10+ page activity’s guide
While we could describe each of those categories in a lot more detail (trust us, we put a lot of thought into this), let’s jump in with some examples instead.
Last September Ros and Newt sent out a trunk all about apples. It included the activity guide, a large thematic item (two baskets and twelve magnetic, felted apples), small items to create a thematic scene (scented rice substrate sample, leaf manipulatives, and a fulcrum and lever), and a therapeutic / fidget toy (lacing card).
Northern Lights-Themed Trunk
In December, Ros and Newt were awed by the aurora borealis and brought a Northern Lights-themed trunk to all their friends. It included an activity guide, a large thematic item (glow-in-the-dark winter sleigh), small items to create a thematic scene (scented ‘snowball’ cotton balls, assorted regular and glitter pom poms, winter jewels, snowflakes, glow-in-the-dark stars, glowing LED ring, jingle bell garland, snowflake lantern and color-changing tea light), and a therapeutic / fidget toy (glittering snowman calm down jar).
Within each activity’s guide are the following things:
1. A letter from Ros and Newt introducing the theme
2. Item table of contents with suggested retail value
3. An inquiry section to write down one question for further research
4. Suggested play activities with each of the trunk items
5. Open-ended questions within each suggested activity to further play
6. Introduction to STEAM concepts and vocabulary
7. More ideas on substrate and sensory bin additions
8. Two or more rhymes, songs, or fingerplays
9. At least five book suggestions
10. Healthy, themed snack suggestions
11. A sensory education section written by a licensed occupational therapist
12. A mini biography on someone related to STEAM
13. One or more activities relating back to the person in the biography and their life’s work
We hope that you find this helpful! As always, drop us a note if you have any questions.
Value Tool Trunk
A few months back, we introduced our value tool trunk for only $14.95 which includes all the tools needed to explore your monthly STEAMer Trunk. This kit includes a scoop, magnet, dropper, tweezer, and magnifying lens.
Standard Tool Trunk
If you want to go one step further – you can purchase our standard tool trunk which has all the tools the deluxe kit has, and then some more! We updated the tweezers and added a net, horseshoe magnet, and eye loupe! This kit is only $19.95 and can be purchased here.
Deluxe Tool Trunk
But, get this! Our deluxe tool trunk has even more! This kit includes a net, magnet wand, horseshoe magnet, scissor scoop, tweezer scoop, jumbo tweezer, chopsticks, eye dropper, eye loupe, magnifier, mini rake, mini shovel, mini scoop, mini bucket, and color paddles for only $29.95! Click here to get our best tool kit!
Items in your basic tool kit may appear differently than the items pictured here, but they will always fulfill the same function.
It takes a lot of practice in many different scenarios before someone learns how to write. In fact, before learning to write, we need to become adept at many different skills impacted by multiple body systems and senses. In this post, we are going to focus on only three factors: hold, pressure, and steadiness. While these skills are more complicated than a beginning pre-writer is ready for, they are very important. In future posts, we will be discussing more of the necessary skills and the body systems impacted.
Think about how we hold a writing utensil, the pressure we use to get the writing medium to transfer from utensil to paper, and the steadiness it takes to make nice clean symbols. Add in the patience in order to do all three of these at the same time and you’ve got a really complicated task! In practicing the hold, pressure, and steadiness, children are preparing themselves for learning to write.
According to the Institute of Educational Sciences, “hold a pencil comfortably between the thumb and forefinger while resting on the middle finger”. [Source] There are several methods of teaching a child this hand position.
Christie at MammaOT talks about the ‘pinch and flip‘ method on her blog, here. And Meeghan at Sight and Sound Learning has a fun ‘alligator trick‘ on her blog, here. Watch the following video to get visual instructions:
Dry Erase Grip
Try this! Take out a dry erase board and marker and practice the hold while drawing random shapes, lines, or even just making dots. Remember to stay calm and be patient. It may be helpful to use an aid to practice the right grip. Through personal use, we recommend The Pencil Grip Universal Ergonomic Gripper . We believe The Pencil Grip C.L.A.W. or The Pencil Grip Crossover Grip would be good tools as well.
Think about the faint line of a pencil or the snap of a crayon, both due to pressure being applied to that writing tool. Without enough pressure, the tool will glide across the paper leaving little or no trace. With too much pressure, the tool may break and the paper may rip. In a happy medium between too little pressure and too much pressure, we find just the right amount. It isn’t easy to know what that medium is without practice.
Tip! Have your writer practice using a mechanical pencil. If the writer is pressing too hard, the lead will snap and they will have to write lighter. This self-corrective practice may cause some frustration, though, so be prepared to help the budding writer through their frustrations by using coping skills.
Try this! Take out a marker and some paper and make dots by pressing the tip of the marker into the paper. Try varying how hard you press by using light, medium, and heavy pressure. What happens to the size of your dots? Which ones are larger? Remember, we want to aim for a medium pressure when we are writing.
Have you ever tried writing in a moving vehicle with all the vibrations of the road moving your intended lines around? What about writing something down in a hurry? How about writing with your non-dominant hand? In all of these cases, our lines can be wavy or misplaced. It takes a fixed and calm position to write with steadiness. Steadiness is important because we need our writing to be clear so that our audience can read our intended message. No wiggly-jiggly writing here!
Try this! Using a pencil, paper, and something hard to write on (such as a clipboard) – walk around a room and write the sentence, “I am steady!” Then, sit down at a table and place the paper on the unmoving surface. Rest your writing hand on the paper while writing, and place your other hand on the paper to keep it from moving. Write the sentence again. Compare!
Practice your hold, pressure, and steadiness while tracing the vocab words from December’s Northern Lights trunk. Click the image below or the following link to open and print the full FREE PDF: Northern Lights Key Words and Pre-Writing Skills Worksheet. We recommend laminating the sheet so that practice can be redone many times.
We at STEAMer Trunks are delighted to welcome back Sarah Hernandez, a licensed and registered occupational therapist. Sarah is a consultant who is working with us to add even more value to our products. Read below for Sarah’s tips on assisting children with regulating their emotions during a holiday party. Note: Some of the suggestions below are particular to Christmas traditions. Please feel free to adapt for your own traditions, and if you have suggestions for others, leave a comment!
The holidays are filled with cherished traditions, twinkling lights, merry music, and extended families crowding together to enjoy love, laughter, and connectedness. While these experiences certainly create memories for years to come, they also can be challenging for people both little and big. Holiday parties provide extra sensory stimuli at every corner. Our brains work hard to process this demanding, sometimes hectic information – it’s exhausting! Here’s some tips and tricks to help you survive and, dare I say, enjoy the holiday party season:
#1 Bear-y Christmas
Some people love to offer and receive hugs – and some don’t! While some people crave the warmth and closeness of an embrace, for others it can be a difficult sensory experience: the smells and sounds of another body, or the sensation of someone touching your skin or their itchy sweater on your face can be very dysregulating. No one should be forced to hug, but sometimes not hugging is perceived as disrespectful. What’s the solution? Bear-y Christmas!
Instructions: Offer your child a soft bear to hold during holiday events. When it’s time to greet family and friends, your child can give the teddy bear a cheery holiday squeeze, then pass it to Aunt Sue, exclaiming “Bear-y Christmas!” Encourage Aunt Sue to give the bear a hug before handing it back to your child. For additional sensory input, check out DIY tutorials, like this one, for adding weight and calming scents to a stuffed animal. Some suggestions include poly pellets for weighting and lavender essential oil for calming.
#2 Santa’s Workshop
Open-ended art experiences are an engaging way to encourage fine motor skills, handwriting, creativity, sequencing, and motor planning. They can also be very centering and calming. Where’s the most creative place on the planet? Santa’s Workshop!
Instructions: Go to a local store and ask for any medium to large boxes. With the help of your children, create a multi-room Santa’s Workshop. In one large box, provide crayons and ask the children to write or draw their Christmas wishes on the wall. In another box, place a small sensory bin filled with a winter wonderland of experiences (check out the Northern Lights STEAMer Trunk!). In the last box, place Christmas toy catalogues, plastic safety scissors, and glue sticks and ask the children to paste up a production schedule for Santa on the walls of the boxes. Santa’s Workshop will keep your children happily engaged for a long time!
#3 Silent Night
A holiday party can be loud, hectic, and disorienting! Create a quiet retreat for children to escape the bustle and noise. This will give them a chance to regulate and reset before entering back into the family fun.
Instructions: String soft white LED lights in a quiet corner of the house. Add a fuzzy blanket and
oversized pillow, holiday books, and a pre-loaded CD player or portable music player with headphones. Before the event, encourage children to use the space if they are starting to feel frustrated or uncomfortable. During the party, check in with your children – and encourage them to check in with themselves. If you notice them starting to become dysregulated, invite them to join you in the Silent Night space for a quick cuddle.
#4 Snowy Mountain
Deep, controlled breathing is an easy way to provide calming input during a holiday party. Snowy Mountain is a simple exercise to help children focus on their breath in a playful manner!
Instructions: Grab a large mixing bowl, a couple of straws, and some dish soap.
Pour a small amount of dish soap in the bowl, then fill halfway with water. Give your child a straw and tell them to blow a big bubbly mountain of snow! Encourage them to watch as the mountain gets higher and higher, then tell your child to use their finger to ski down the mountain – which will pop the bubbles! Keep a towel close by so they can wipe off their hands.
#5 The Reason for the Season
R. Knost once said, “When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.” We start the holiday season with hope, love, and expectations. However, holiday parties can quickly turn to tears and tantrums. Remember: they are disappointed, too. As a society, we place tremendous value on the perfect presentation of happy, grateful children and kind-hearted, joyful adults. The overstimulation of a holiday party, despite the best of intentions and carefully crafted plans, can be frustrating and overwhelming at a sensory level. Truthfully, their reactions are based in the way our brains are wired: when we’re stressed out, we need space. How do children create space? Crying, whining, yelling, stomping off, melting down – the list goes on and on.
Validate their feelings. Even though it’s the most wonderful time of the year, it can feel difficult and unpleasant at times. And you know what? It’s not just okay – it’s a reasonable emotional response to a very overwhelming event.
Instructions: Place your hand on your heart and invite your child to join you. Eyes may remain open or closed. Using a soft voice, whisper the name of someone or something you love. Pay attention to your heart beat. Find your breath. Stay with your heart beat. Breathe as long as is necessary to feel present and calm. By engaging in soothing mindfulness activities with your child, you are not only modeling appropriate coping skills, but giving yourself space for a calm and centering experience as well.
We hope these simple activities help you this holiday season.
The package, with a cute heart padlock and lock sticker, arrived. Four-year-old Odin, my son, could hardly contain his excitement while waiting to open his very own, special, STEAMer Trunk!
The first thing Odin noticed was a letter from Ros and Newt on the front of the itinerary (12 pages jam-packed with activities, snack suggestions, book ideas, and more!).
Next, he grabbed all the items out of the box. Inside were foam apple leaf manipulatives, twelve felted magnetic apples, two wooden baskets, an apple-scented colored rice substrate sample, a worm and apple core (fulcrum and lever), a wooden apple lacing card, and an apple collector card.
After playing with the individual items for awhile, we decided it was time to put them in our bin and see what fun we could have! We decided to fill the bottom of our bin with some rolled oats and then pour in the scented rice. We liked seeing the speckles of colors throughout the bin as we played. Check out the slideshow below!
Surprisingly, Odin picked up the worm and used it to stir the scented rice into the oatmeal. He also enjoyed separating all the apples into an ice tray by green and red, and the leaves by size. Odin learned about mixing, weight, sorting, and textures! Even better, we hadn’t even dived into all the fun activities in the itinerary yet!
|It’s not too late! Get your apple-themed STEAMer Trunk at The Ship’s Hold, our store. Want to save between $8-13/month? Start your monthly subscription today.|
Were you planning on delighting the children in your life with a fancy-schmancy sensory bin, but then you realized that you’re not sure how much substrate you need in it? Don’t worry! We have you covered.
Look at our example sizes below if you want a quick way to calculate how much substrate you need. We prefer that substrate fills approximately half of the sensory bin, but your preference may be different (in that case, look down at “other sizes”). Our suggestions below reflect filling your bin half-way.
We offer two different ways to purchase substrate: (1) our monthly 4-quart substrate subscription that matches that month’s STEAMer Trunks subscription, and (2) convenient 1-quart packages of colored and scented substrate sold in our store. You can also source your own!
Two Quart Container
The STEAMer Trunk 2-quart monthly mailer has the dimensions 9″ L x 6″ W x 3″ H. For this sensory bin to be filled half-way with substrate you’d need 81 in3. We suggest purchasing 1 of our substrate packages to fill this bin approximately half-way.
2-quart ⋍ 1 substrate package
Seven Quart Container
This Sterilite 7-quart clear tote with a latching lid has the dimensions 14.38″ L x 8.25″ W x 6″ H. For this sensory bin to be filled half-way with substrate you’d need 356 in3. We suggest purchasing 4 of our substrate packages or one monthly subscription to fill this bin approximately half-way.
7-quart ⋍ 4 substrate packages
7-quart = 1 substrate subscription
Fifteen Quart Container
This Hefty 15-quart clear tote with a latching lid has the dimensions 12″ L x 16.8″ W x 6.7″ H. For this sensory bin to be filled half-way with substrate you’d need 675 in3. We suggest purchasing 7 of our substrate packages or two monthly subscriptions to fill this bin approximately half-way.
15-quart ⋍ 7 substrate packages
15-quart = 2 substrate subscriptions
Twenty-Eight Quart Container
This Sterilite 28-quart clear tote with a lid has the dimensions 23.12″ L x 16.88″ W x 6.38″ H. For this sensory bin to be filled half-way with substrate you’d need 1247 in3. We suggest purchasing 13 of our substrate packages or three monthly subscriptions to fill this bin approximately half-way. Alternatively, you can (1) purchase just a few of the colored and scented packages and then fill the rest with the plain substrate (2) fill the bin only 1/4 of the way.
28-quart ⋍ 13 substrate packages
28-quart = 3 substrate subscriptions
Do you have a container that isn’t represented here? No problem! Contact us and we will calculate how much substrate you will need. Want to calculate for yourself? Follow our step-by-step guide:
We at STEAMer Trunks are delighted to introduce Sarah Hernandez, a licensed and registered occupational therapist. Sarah is consulting for us to add even more value to our products. Read below for Sarah’s tips on assisting children with regulating their emotions during shopping.
It’s a tale as old as time – well, as old as grocery stores: you’re almost done shopping for the week and start heading to the register, your little one in tow. At the register, they spot the ONE THING they absolutely need, want, must have in their lives. Of course, the requested item is filled with sugary, synthetically-colored goodness and you gently refuse the purchase. Cue tears, screaming, arched backs, and angry words, along with the occasional package of hurled crackers. Welcome to the Meltdown Club!
There is a difference between tantrums and meltdowns, which we will discuss at a later date. In the case of a meltdown, which is the result of too much sensory stimulation, your best bet is prevention; while you can certainly help support your child after a meltdown, it’s more effective to provide regulation strategies before and during an activity to prevent the meltdown all together. Here are five simple and inexpensive activities to help support your child’s regulation:
1: Alien Toes
Strategies using imagination are a great distraction tool! Alien Toes encourages imagination, deep breathing, body awareness, and whole body relaxation.
Instructions: In a low whisper (this also helps to distract from other stimuli and focus their attention on you), say to your child, “Imagine your toes are little polka-dotted purple aliens. Wiggle your toes and make them dance around! Stretch your toes up so the aliens take a big breath. Breathe in with them! Now, curl your toes down as the aliens sigh a long, slow breath.”
2. Sensory Snack
Ever hear of being ‘hangry’? When we are hungry, everything feels more difficult and frustrating – even things we typically like! Providing a small snack is an excellent way to help your kids stay calm and regulated. You can make it even more fun by adding on a sensory game!
Instructions: Bring a small snack with you. Encourage your child to use all of their senses as they open the snack. How does the wrapper/peel feel? What sounds does it make when you crinkle or scratch it? How does it smell? What colors do you see? Inhale deeply to smell. Turn the snack over and over – what does the shape remind you of?
Keep adding questions that involve the senses to lengthen the experience.
3. Balloon Balance
Oral motor resistive activities are among the most regulating interventions used by parents and professionals. Balloon meditation is a fun way to provide oral motor resistive activities, engage in deep breathing, and support sustained attention.
Instructions: Keep a small bag of balloons with you, and bring one out in a time of need. Have your child blow up the balloon. If necessary, tie the balloon closed for your child. Challenge them to balance them on their fingertip. To lengthen the activity, time them! Set a reasonable time for them to beat, or encourage them to keep beating their ‘best’ time. You can also challenge them to balance it on different body parts like their nose, toes, and elbows!
4. Balloon Release
Progressive muscle relaxation is a tried and true method to encourage whole-body relaxation. The process occurs when a person tenses a muscle, holds that tension, then relaxes the muscle. Progressive muscle relaxation is an excellent way to get proprioceptive input!
Instructions: Offer your child the string imaginary balloon to hold in each hand. Tell them to hold it tight, tight, tight and to not let it go – tighter, tighter – even tighter! After about eight seconds, let your child know they can let them balloons go. Encourage them to look up at the pretend balloons, raising their hands and waving goodbye as the balloons float away. To lengthen the experience, have your child hold tight to their balloons until you place an object in your cart – then they can let the balloons go!
5. Sensory Checklist
Checklists can be an excellent way to set expectations for any experience. Typically, people write out a grocery list before going to the store. Why not add some sensory fun? Empower your child be in charge of the list and let you know when it’s time to do something sensory!
Instructions: Before going shopping, write your grocery list with your child using words or pictures. After every five items, add a fun activity to do! Examples of activities include stomping, skipping, bunny-hopping, joke telling, hugging, song singing, hokey-pokeying, and hand jiving!
Remember – prevention is the key to success!