occupational therapist

Boogie Talk: Occupational Therapist Tips on Teaching Kids to Blow Their Nose

Kids aren’t born knowing how to blow their nose. In fact, it’s not uncommon in therapy centers, elementary school classrooms, playgrounds, and doctor’s offices to see kids with runny, booger-y noses that need blowing. It can be an especially tough skill for kids to master if they have sensory, fine motor, and executive functioning struggles. Fortunately, a FOCUS Fort Myers occupational therapist is here with tips to teach your little one the art of nose blowing.

Blowing your nose is a functional life skill – one that is especially important in a society that is increasingly hyper-vigilant about reducing the spread of germs and communicable illnesses.

Although many of us think about “blowing your nose” as a singular task, a Fort Myers occupational therapist can explain that there are actually numerous steps to being able to execute this skill – some more complex than others. When we break down the act into each of its most basic parts, it’s easier to recognize why kids might struggle with it.

Every time a person blows their nose, they must:

  • Know that their nose is stuffy. This takes the interoception bodily awareness skills.
  • Know to blow the boogers out, rather than sniffing them back up into their nose. This again is an interoceptive skill that requires bodily awareness.
  • Hold the tissue at their nose without merely crumpling it up. This requires fine motor skills.
  • Blow the air through their nose – (but keep your mouth closed)! This requires oral motor skills.
  • Press one nostril down while blowing out the other. This requires both fine motor skills, as well as interoception.
  • Be able to recognize when all the boogers have been successfully removed from the nose. This, again, is an interoception skill.
  • Know how to carefully handle the messy tissue without spreading germs to others. This is both tactile skills as well as fine motor skills.
  • Wash your hands after throwing away the tissue. This requires a number of skills, including executive functioning, problem-solving, sensory-processing, and fine motor skills.
Fort Myers occupational therapist explains nose-blowing

On top of all this, kids are often expected to manage this self-care task while also still remaining engaged – or quickly becoming re-engaged – in whatever social event, learning, or other task they were doing before they realized they needed to blow their nose.

As your occupational therapist can tell you, this can be especially tough for kids with olfactory sensitivities, as they may often breathe through their mouth by default – which makes nose-blowing difficult.

Further, a child who struggles with interoception/bodily awareness, they may struggle to know when their nose is running, full, or stuffed. They may not realize after they blow their nose that they have a booger stuck to their face.

A child who has trouble with executive functioning may not realize that if they don’t stop what they’re doing in class to blow their nose, they’ll end up with a messy/runny nose – a situation that can lead to social awkwardness, as well as the spread of germs.

We recommend using unscented tissues, for starters.

Beyond that, there are a number of nose-breathing exercises we can do in our OT sessions (and that you can do at home) to help kids learn/practice breathing out of their nose. Some nose-blowing exercises:

  • Teach nose-blowing before a child gets sick. Often parents don’t prioritize nose-blowing if there is no stuffiness or congestion because, well, we don’t really think about it when it’s not an issue. But if a child is learning to blow their nose when they’re all stuffed up or already have a runny nose, the experience of trying to breathe while holding their mouth shut and blowing out of their nose can be super frustrating and overwhelming. Try practicing when a child isn’t sick.
  • Practice nose-blowing with the mouth (to start). Show them how blowing air out of their mouth moves the tissue. Then we can move to “using our wind power” to move the tissue with nose air.
  • Use water. Teach a child to practice blowing air through their nose (alternating nostrils) to see how their “wind power” can cause ripples to move across the water.
  • Use a small, crumpled-up tissue piece or cotton ball. Give them a short straw they can put up to their nose to have them hold one nostril down while they use the other to engage in a “cotton ball race.”
  • Use a mirror. With a small mirror, ask the child to pinch one of their nostrils and blow air from their nose onto the mirror. Observe the condensation that builds up from their “wind power.”
  • Overexaggerate. The breathing, the closing mouth, the blowing through the nose without a tissue – make it super-exaggerated to make your point. Turn into a game like Simon Says to help them learn to copy skills like taking deep breaths, holding our deep breaths in, closing their mouth, and blowing through their nose.
  • Teach your child about the spread of germs. Sometimes spending a little extra time to help kids understand why we’re trying to help them learn this skill can go a long way. Your Fort Myers occupational therapist can help by creating a nose-blowing social story – both to explain germs as well as all the steps needed to know when/how to blow our nose.

Remember, these skills aren’t likely to be mastered overnight. But with practice – your child WILL succeed! If you try these tips and still find your kid is struggling, our occupational therapy team at FOCUS Therapy can develop a strategy specific to your child to help them overcome whatever specific element of the task they’re finding especially difficult.

FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

How to Teach Your Kid to Blow His Nose, January 14, 202, By Aleksandra Weber, Parents.com

More Blog Entries:

Tantrum or Sensory Meltdown? Fort Myers ABA Therapists Explain, July 31, 2022, FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers Blog

FOCUS Fort Myers ABA and Occupational Therapists on Expressing Feelings vs. Energy on the Autism Spectrum

As our FOCUS Fort Myers ABA and occupational therapists can explain, lots of kids with autism and ADHD have difficulty recognizing or describing their emotions. There’s actually a name for this: Alexithymia.

It’s not a medical condition in its own right, but lots of neurodivergent people describe it as very real, characterized by substantial and continued difficulty with emotional awareness. It was detailed in a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Some neurodivergent people who experience alexithymia say that it’s easier to discuss feelings as levels of energy, which can seem a bit more tangible than emotions.

Our FOCUS Fort Myers ABA therapists and occupational therapists recently came across a resource created by the therapy consultants at AutismLevelUp.com that describes the various energy levels, and it inspired us to create our own visuals/explainer.

This idea of identifying energies versus feelings closely relates to the Zones of Regulation that our therapy team uses frequently. (i.e., Blue Zone 🔵 = Sad, Tired, Bored, Sluggish; Red Zone 🔴 = Mad/Angry, Scared, Out-of-Control; Yellow Zone 🟡= Frustrated, Worried, Wiggly, Silly, Excited; Green Zone 🟢= Happy, Calm, Focused, Relaxed).

Every person may have their own unique manifestations of these various zones or energy levels (i.e., one may become hyperactive when they are overly-tired – perhaps because they’re overstimulated).

The bottom line is that any time we can help kids better identify their feelings and/or energy level, the better able we are to help them learn the most effective self-regulation strategies.

Self regulation plays a key role in relationships, well-being and overall success in life. People who are able to manage their emotions and control their behavior are more prepared to manage stress, deal with conflict and achieve their goals.

FOCUS Fort Myers ABA therapy
FOCUS Fort Myers occupational therapy
FOCUS Fort Myers aba therapy

If you have questions about the Zones of Regulation, identifying energy levels, or setting self-regulation goals for your child with autism and/or ADHD, our FOCUS Fort Myers ABA therapists and occupational therapists are here to help.

FOCUS Fort Myers offers ABA therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, feeding/swallowing therapy, and physical therapy to kids throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Alexithymia and Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Complex Relationship, July 17, 2018, Frontiers in Psychology

More Blog Entries:

FOCUS Therapy Only Schedules Evaluations if We Have Space to Treat Your Child, Aug. 1, 2022, FOCUS Fort Myers Therapy Blog