Starfish Therapies

August 13, 2017

Find the Bucket

IMG_4595

We love collaboration with other providers. We are lucky enough to have an OT company that we reciprocally share space with. This allows us to pick their brains and them to pick ours. One day they were talking about using our platform swing and how to work on visual motor skills and this activity was born. We of course have adapted it depending on what exactly we want to focus on that day, but I’ll give you the basics and then you can adapt at will!

We set up the platform swing and place a bucket of some sort underneath it. The child shouldn’t be able to see the bucket when the swing is at rest, but it should be right at the front of the swing so its easy to find when the swing is moving. Get some balls for the kiddo to drop into the bucket once the swing starts moving. This gets them to work on their visual motor skills, their timing, their motor planning and coordination.

To take it a step further you can change what position you have the child in on the swing. For our kiddo we start in prone prop, then move to quadruped, then high kneeling, then half kneeling. This lets them work on core strength, and balance.

We have the kiddo reach for the ball before they are able to drop it in the bucket. This encourages weight shifting, reaching, hand-eye coordination. They also have to hold their balance while they are weight shifted and the swing is moving which helps with righting reactions.

The dropping the ball in the bucket while the swing is moving, is of course the fun part! The kids find it hilarious to ‘find the bucket’ and get super excited whenever their ball makes it into the bucket!

Has anyone else done an activity like this? What variations have you used?

August 6, 2017

Feed the Woozle

Another game I have never played, but one of my therapists found a really fun way to use it to motivate one of our kiddos to work on stairs, and more specifically stairs while carrying things. You can take the general idea and use it for other activities you are trying to get kids to do!

We put the Woozle at the top of the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs the kiddo gets to roll the dice and figure out how many pieces of food he gets to take up to the Woozle (1, 2, or 3). [Note – also working on counting and numbers]

Once that has been determined he picks the food (which have amazing names – a favorite is the Lemon Flavored Underpants) and puts them in a cup (we use stacking cups). [Note – also working on fine motor skills]

He then carries the cup up the steps to the Woozle to feed him. The trick is that in order for the Woozle to know that its the kiddo approaching to feed him, and not a ‘bad guy’, he has to step on the taped x’s. Which of course encourage reciprocal stepping (occasionally the x’s get missed and we use our judgement if we want to repeat or let them go, especially if they are doing reciprocal anyway). [Note – and visual processing, coordination, motor planning, balance]

Once to the top, he feeds the Woozle and then comes back down the stairs holding the empty cup to fill back up with more food. [Note – also works on floor to stand and stand to floor each time, or squatting]

I don’t know about your kids, but ours think this is hysterical and love picking out which food they are going to give him, and they find it funny when he only gets one piece of food. Little do they realize that means they have to do more reps to get rid of all the food!

What other ways have you used Feed the Woozle?

July 30, 2017

Jumping Path

jumping path

As I was browsing through Facebook the other morning while trying to get my morning started (yes, this has become my new snooze button), I saw a video someone had shared of kids using a jumping path. I thought is was so great that I took a screen shot of the video and brought it into work so that we could recreate it. Luckily, we have cut out feet that we had purchased at a conference a few years ago so this project didn’t involve much planning.

It is such a simple idea yet so great in that it works on many skills. A few of those skills are:

  • Jumping – This one is pretty obvious. However, we have kids that struggle to keep both feet together while jumping (they do more of a staggered jump), and we are always looking for new ways to get more repetitions of jumping in. This is an easy way. Even if all of the feet were facing the same direction (forward, or backward, or to the right, or to the left) they would still get jumping repetitions in.
  • Motor planning – The child has to look at where their feet are, look at where the next feet are, and plan how they are going to get there.
  • Spatial/body awareness – The child has to understand where they are in space in relation to where they want to be
  • Coordination – Getting their body to move in the way they have now figured out they need to move to get to the new set of feet
  • Balance – It can be a little more challenging to jump and land on a precise location and stay there than to just jump forward and land wherever you want

Has anyone else tried this activity? Do you have any variations? I did figure out that you can make it easier or more complex by how you place the feet.

  • Having the feet all pointing the same direction is the easiest.
  • Next would be having them pointing at 90 degrees from each other (forward, right, forward, right)
  • Clearly having a pattern of only two directions (see above) is easier than multiple directions
  • The hardest would be a completely random path with 90 to 180 degree turns throughout and going in all directions

July 23, 2017

It’s All About Motivation

Adventure

Many times I get asked about what kinds of activities we do with the kids, or how we get them to do what we want them to do when it may be hard work for them. The answer is always the same, it’s all about motivation. If you can make an activity into something that a child wants to do, then they will work hard at it, and usually repeat it multiple times.

I had written two posts a while ago about when we used songs to motivate kids that you might find interesting.

Well one of our other ways is to use obstacle courses, which we have talked about before. But how we make those obstacle courses fun is what this post is about! Here are a few ideas!

  • American Ninja Warrior Junior – I’ll be honest, I’ve never watched American Ninja Warrior. That being said, I’ve noticed a lot of our kids have, and they love it! We have been able to get more leverage from that show for motivating kids. We have done it in obstacle course format where we time them on the course (but they lose points if the quality isn’t there, so they don’t just rush through). We have created training programs for it so that the kids do exercises that will help them be American Ninja Warriors and then they get to create a course at the end of the session for fun. But the ‘training’ is where they put in the work. Although, even the courses they create are pretty challenging and work on the things that we would want them to work on.
  • Adventures – Some kids like to go on adventures. This could involve crossing a bridge (balance beam), climbing mountains (stepping stones), navigating the swamp or quicksand (crash pads), traversing lily pads (spots), rescuing friends (climbing up and down stairs), going into the dungeon (stepping up and down a ‘curb’ type step), setting off the flare for the support team (stomp rocket), using the magic key to open the secret door (making a basket with the basketball while standing on a balance board), crossing the forbidden forest (walking over a yoga mat with obstacles underneath to make it uneven), and the list could go on and on. Usually we have friends we rescue (a puzzle with animals, bean bag animals, stuffed animals) or we go collect treasure (a puzzle with different shapes) and the child gets to choose which we are doing on that adventure. That way they also have to go through multiple times.

What are some fun ways you have motivated kids?

 

July 16, 2017

Yoga for Kids

 

If you were to ever come to one of our kids yoga classes, don’t expect it to be the same as the yoga class you go to. In fact, I was sitting in our office one day while yoga was happening and all of a sudden I hear ‘Green Light, Red Light.’ I look at one of my co-workers and ask ‘since when does yoga involve red light, green light?’

This is a class for kids of all abilities and ages and we have had just that. We’ve had a 13 month old up to a 12 year old. There have been kids who are typically developing and we’ve had kids in wheelchairs due to cerebral palsy, kids with Down Syndrome, kids with autism, and many more. Its fun to watch them all interact and learn the poses.

So here are some of the ways we get the kids to engage in yoga:

  • Red Light, Green Light – Everytime red light is called, the kids have to do a pose. Sometimes they get to choose, sometimes its called out to them.
  • Twister – While not traditional yoga poses, by playing the game the kiddos get to put their bodies into different positions and hold the poses. It helps with their body awareness, balance, strength, and coordination, to name a few.
  • Alphabet Yoga – We found a handout from youngyogamasters.com that has alphabet yoga poses. The kids take turns picking words to spell (generally they like to spell their names) and they go through the poses!
  • Freeze dance Yoga – We play some music to let them get their wiggles out and then stop the music and yell ‘Freeze’ and then pick a pose for them to do. And then they get to dance again until the next freeze!
  • Birthday Cake Breathing – We have the Melissa and Doug birthday cake and we use it to practice deep breathing with the kids as they blow out the candles. We have also used it to pretend its a different animals birthday and do the animal poses for their birthday!

We have also used ideas from the Yoga Cards from Your Therapy Source!

What are some of the ways you have incorporated yoga for kids?

July 12, 2017

Gross Motor Groups

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 11:44 am
Tags: , , ,

gross motor play

We are lucky enough to be able to offer developmental play groups that are broken up based on skill. We have chosen to divide them as pre-crawlers, pre-walkers/new walkers, and toddlers. This gives parents a chance to self-select for where they think their child would fit best. Each week we have a different topic we look at and can have some talking points on. Since we are mostly PT’s though, its easy to gravitate towards gross motor play. So its been fun to watch kids grow and interact through gross motor play.

We have done our best to set it up as a ‘free’ play environment where the kids can play with areas of their choice. What is nice is to see them try to imitate their peers. So, while one kiddo may not be interested in going up the ramp or through the tunnel, often by the end of the session, they are attempting to do it because one of the other kiddos is doing it.

It also allows them to show interest in a toy or activity even if they aren’t sure they can be successful, or may be hesitant to try. When we see them show interest in the activity we are able to help facilitate them playing so that they can be successful. So, even though its free play, it still has support for the kids so they can learn and refine new skills.

You don’t have to have a group to incorporate this into your play at home. Set up an environment, inside or outside, with various games/toys/skills that may be new to your child, or they may still be working on. Let them gravitate towards items of their choice but be there to support them when they need it. You can encourage use of items that may be more challenging by putting a favorite toy there, such as at the other end of a tunnel, or at the top of a ramp.

How have you encouraged gross motor ‘free’ play with your kids?

July 2, 2017

Crossing Midline

twister yoga

Crossing midline is the ability for your hands, feet, and eyes to move across your body. Being able to cross midline is an important skill for children to develop as it is needed to complete everyday tasks such as, putting on shoes, reading, writing, and ball skills. Crossing midline includes visually tracking. Visually tracking includes your child’s ability to move their eyes across midline without moving their head, which is an important skill for reading. Being able to cross midline allows for your child’s brain to make connections from one side of their brain to the other. Children who have difficulties crossing midline typically do not have a dominant hand, may often lose their place while reading, and may have difficulties throwing and catching a ball.

Here are some fun activities that you can incorporate into your child’s playtime to encourage crossing midline:

  • Popping bubbles: Blow bubbles and encourage your child to reach across their body to pop the bubbles. Make sure that your child pops bubbles with both hands.
  • Drawing figure eights: You can have your child draw figure eights on a piece of paper or for some added fun have them draw figure eights in shaving cream
  • Bean bag games: Have your child reach across their body to grab a bean bag and then throw the bean bag at a target. Make sure your child is using both hands to grab bean bags.
  • Windmills: Have your child stand with their feet a bit wider than shoulder width, have them try to bring their opposite hand down to touch their opposite foot. Repeat this exercise 10 times on each side.
  • Play twister: This is a great game to encourage your child to reach across midline with both their hands and their feet.

June 25, 2017

We Love Squigz!

Squigz

Yes it’s true, we do. Not only do we love Squigz but the kids love them, which is probably part of the reason that they are at the top of the list for our therapists’ favorites. (and no, this is not a sponsored post)

Squigz are basically varied shape toys with suction cups on their ends. They stick to windows and mirrors and themselves. They are great motivators for kids because of their fun shapes and colors. We have used them to help motivate kids for all sorts of things such as:

  • Cruising – We set them up on the windows or mirror and have them move along the row pulling them off. We also will have them go from standing at a bench or other support surface to transition to the window or mirror to practice cruising between support surfaces.
  • Standing – You can practice transitioning sit to stand/stand to sit from a small chair or bench to the Squigz at the window. Also they like to stand there and pull them off which helps to work on standing tolerance and balance. The extra effort of pulling them off the window also provides perturbations to their balance.
  • Stairs – If you have a window or a mirror at the top of a stair case you can use them as motivation to crawl or walk up and down the stairs. Especially if you put a new one up every time they get back to the bottom!
  • Bilateral Coordination – This can happen when the kids are sticking the Squigz together, or pulling them apart, or using a stabilizing hand on the wall while they pull one off the window. You can get creative with having them reach up and down and across. You can also see how many they can stick together to make a chain!
  • Squatting – With your kiddo standing by the window, you can have the Squigz on the floor so they have to bend down to pick them up and put them on the window, or take them off the window and bend down to put them back in the container.

How do you use Squigz?

June 18, 2017

Pop Goes the Bubble

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 12:03 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Who doesn’t love bubbles? A lot of the kids we work with do! Here are some things that you can work on with bubble play:

  • Reaching – You can do this in almost any position.
    • Sitting – For little ones just learning to sit you can start by blowing bubbles all around them and having them move their arms towards them. As they get a little more stable you can blow the bubble and catch it on the end of the wand and hold it further away from them so they have to reach outside their base of support. You can have them reach up, forward, to the side, across the body, diagonal, pretty much any direction! For kids who are sitting in chairs you can do this as well. Make it even more difficult by putting them on a bench where their feet don’t touch, or on an unstable surface like a peanut, therapy ball, or dynamic sitting cushion. If you want to control the challenge, you can have them sit on a therapy ball and change their position while they try to reach. This can really work on the core muscles.  Make a game out of it, see how many bubbles they can pop in a minute. Then you get some counting in too!
    • Standing – All the same ideas as above except in a standing position. You can use spots to help them keep their feet in place so they have a smaller base of support, or you can use more than one spot so you are changing their foot position while they reach. Maybe even use a twister board and have them change their foot position and each time they have to pop a bubble. You can make it more challenging by having them stand on a balance board, a bosu, a dynamic disc, on top of stepping stones, on a balance beam, the possibilities are endless. You could also have them stand in more challenging positions such as tandem stance or single leg stance while reaching.
    • Kneeling  – The same ideas apply to kneeling. You can do short kneeling, tall kneeling, half kneeling. Change the surface, change the leg position, etc.
  • Single Leg Stance – What better way to pop bubbles than with your feet? Bubbles are a great way to get kids to stomp and when they are purposefully stomping they are generally holding their foot up a little bit longer than if they are just walking. Also because they are trying to stomp on the bubble they are more deliberate and trying to find their balance. You can have them go one bubble at a time (possibly holding it on the end of the wand) or you can blow a whole bunch and have them stomp through the bubble fields. You can make it more challenging by having varied surfaces that the bubbles are on so they have to stomp up onto a step or onto a mat, or down onto the ground from a slightly elevated position.

  • Squatting – Great time to get in squatting practice, or floor to stand/stand to floor practice. If you blow the bubbles towards the floor they may attempt to get to them with their hands. Then the next time you blow them up high and have them stand up for them. As long as they are entertained, you can get a lot of reps in this way! If the bubbles aren’t going where you want then you just need to catch it on the wand and hold it down low or up high for them to try to pop.
  • Other – There a ton of other things too such as oral motor control from blowing the bubbles, and breath control for the same reason. Visual motor, Fine motor control, and coordination for dipping the wand into the bubble juice and bringing it to their mouth.

What are some of the things you work on with bubbles? What are your favorite activities?

 

June 11, 2017

Kneeling: Exploring New Heights

High kneel 3

Kneeling is a great position to help progress developmental milestones, as well as a way to work on strengthening hips and core. Depending on the activity it can also be a great way to work on arm strength.

Getting into kneeling allows kids to work on transitional movements, provides a new way for sitting, lets them explore balance and balance reactions, is a precursor for activities like climbing and pulling to stand, and it lets them see whats on a level above the floor providing them a different way to engage with their environment and toys.

Here are some ideas for kneeling:

  • Unstable – Use something that isn’t stable such as a cylindrical toy, a foam roller, a ball, or even a push toy. All of these will vary in their instability and you can also create some stability by holding it still while they get used to it. This allows them to play with flexing and extending their hips, weight bearing through their arms, activating their core for balance reactions as they try to find midline or a place of stability by moving the object forward and backwards. A toy like this one also has the added fun of sound!
  • At a higher surface – You can find a surface that is not too high and not too low. It can provide stability to allow them to play with their toys or even bang on the surface. With this they are learning balance also. Every time they lift their hand or engage with their toy they need to find a way to stay stable or they run the risk of toppling over and not being able to play. Once they start to learn that toys and fun are up off the floor this can lead to exploring and figuring out how to get into kneeling!
  • Transitions – Kneeling is also a great position to be able to transition into various positions. As you can see in the pictures kids can use kneeling as a way to play and to move into other positions. Set up toys around your child that they have to manipulate or move and weight shift to be able to access. Let them explore their movement and problem solve how to best interact with the toys. You can help them by showing them how to get into a kneeling position and see what they do from there.

     

There are lots of ways to modify these activities (and tons more that I’m sure I’ll think of as soon as this goes live!). I would love to hear how you incorporate kneeling into your child’s play!

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