Starfish Therapies

March 14, 2012

Ideas for Weight Bearing – Arms

I usually spend a lot of time thinking about legs and weight bearing and weight shifting because I’m often working with kids on walking or balance or other skills that require them to use their legs.  Well sometimes we need to work on weight bearing through their arms as well.  This could be to work on shoulder girdle (the shoulder blade area) stability, core strength, weight shifting, or encouraging the use of one arm if it is a little weaker to name a few of the reasons.  Here are some ideas that we have used:

  • crawling, bear walking, crabwalking – over level ground or uneven ground or cushions.  This will help with weight shifting as well as strengthening.
  • push ups – to make it fun for kids I will often help them out by stabilizing them at the hips and using bean bag bugs and have them try to ‘kiss’ the bugs
  • wheelbarrow walking – to make it easier hold the kiddos closer to the hips and level to the ground, to make it harder hold them closer to the feet and at a bigger angle to the ground
  • bean bag toss (or other throwing game) – have the kiddos lie over a bolster, peanut, cushion or some other item so that they have to hold themselves up by the arms.  Then they can try to throw bean bags at a target or make a pyramid with cups and have them try to knock those over or even set up bowling pins and roll balls at it.  For best results have the kiddos switch hands so they will work on weight bearing on both sides.
  • bombardment – a game we made up that has the kiddo in the same position as the previous activity and then roll balls towards them and have them try to stop them and roll them back to you.  You can create points and everything.
  • ball on a wall – I don’t have a real name for this one but I will have kids keep a ball on the wall with their arm fully extended.  They have to try to roll it around and keep it in a 12″ x 12″ square for a certain amount of time.  You can change the size and weight of the ball to make it easier or more challenging.  You can also have them try to coordinate a ball with both arms at the same time.
  • steamroller – Have your child lie on a foam roller, bolster, peanut, or small therapy ball and have them use their hands to walk their body out as far as they can.  You can have tape lines on the floor to see how far they can make it without collapsing, and then of course walking back.  You can also have a toy out in front so then they have to weight shift onto one arm to use the other arm.

That’s just a few of the ideas that we’ve used.  I’m sure more will come to me later but I would love to hear the things you have done for weight bearing on the arms!



  1. Besides tummy time, do you have any ideas for weight bearing to strengthen a brachial plexus injury in a 10 month old?

    Comment by Amanda — March 16, 2012 @ 6:15 pm | Reply

  2. I have a 7 yo student whose neonatal reflexes have def NOT fully integrated..any ideas? Have been working on core strengthening, Ready Bodies movements etc..he prob will now qualify for PT, thank goodness..thnx, Debbie COTA/L

    Comment by Debbie — March 17, 2012 @ 12:55 am | Reply

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