Starfish Therapies

April 26, 2012

The Effects of Environment on Movement

Environment can play a large role in movement.  If you want kids to move in a certain way, one of the things you can do is set up the environment so that movement is encouraged.  Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • I wanted a kiddo to work on reaching in sitting and moving out of sitting.  They were really good at sitting still and playing with toys that were right in front of them.  In order to encourage more movement I took the toys that they preferred and moved them just out of easy reach.  This way if they wanted the toy they had to move outside their base of support or stability and either use their other hand to prop themselves or reach with both hands and then use their trunk muscles to move back into sitting.  If I move the toy even further away they need to reach even further beyond their base of support and eventually move onto their belly.  Sometimes they need a little help doing this and you can show them how to move to where they want and then continue to set up the scenario so they have to move.
  • Another kiddo came in and was working on pulling to stand and cruising.  Dad reported that in order to help her do this they had put a lip on their coffee table at home so she had something to grip on for these activities.  When we started working on these skills we didn’t have a surface with a lip and it became challenging for her to pull to stand or even cruise without gripping onto a support surface.  The flat surface was too hard to manage.  To give her some support and success I lowered the height of the support surface so that she was able to use a smooth surface to generate the movement.
  • I had an older kiddo that I was working on walking with their feet pointing forward rather than turned out.  By having them walk on a balance beam it encouraged their toes to point forward.
  • I wanted to encourage more crawling with another kiddo to work on reciprocal coordination and trunk control.  Now that this kiddo was a walker they didn’t want to crawl as much so in order to get more crawling we used tunnels.  They couldn’t walk in the tunnel so they had to crawl.  We were able to put the tunnel on inclines and over uneven surfaces to work on this skill even more.
  • Another kiddo wouldn’t side step so we made really narrow pathways that they couldn’t walk forward down and had toys at the other end.  In order to get there they had to sidestep along the path.
  • An example from fine motor is when working on tripod grip for writing, if you make the pencil/writing utensil really short, the child has a much harder time using a compensatory grip and is encouraged to use and practice the tripod grip.

I could probably go on and on about changing the environment to work on a task but what other scenarios have you used to encourage movement with kids just by moving around their environment?



  1. It is my opinion that this is an area where therapists can make real change. The environment can be changed to achieve a motor skill or make it easier. I could go on a long rant about this topic but just want to briefly say that changing the environment is where therapists need to offer suggestions. In addition, changing the environment includes changing adults behaviors. Here is an example – my youngest daughter receives speech therapy. The speech therapist helps us so much by teaching us how to change our reaction to the baby. We have all noticed significant changes that I do not believe would have occurred had we not changed the environment (meaning our communication habits).

    Comment by Your Therapy Source — April 26, 2012 @ 10:08 pm | Reply

  2. Manipulating the environment is an area where therapists really can make significant changes rather quickly. One can make suggestions to change actual placement of items, change objects or tools or change their own behavior. For example, from a personal perspective my youngest child receives speech therapy. The therapist offers many suggestions for us to change our behavior to encourage communication. During week one we noticed significant improvements.

    I could go on and on about this topic and why I believe this should be our focus as therapists in the schools and the home. We should be instructed parents, staff and the children themselves how to change the environment in order for the highest level of independence. Great post!

    Comment by Your Therapy Source — April 27, 2012 @ 12:29 am | Reply

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