Starfish Therapies

October 15, 2017

Halloween Inspired Gross Motor Games

Looking for some fun things to do with the kids that are Halloween Themed and will work on those gross motor skills? Check out these games!
Pumpkin Bowling: You can literally use a small round pumpkin or you can use a ball that is orange (if you don’t have one – get creative and make one to look like a pumpkin)! Have your kiddo stand at the designated spot (you can literally use a spot if you want), if you want to get really creative you can make it a gravestone or something else Halloween themed! This is where you can challenge their balance. Have them stand on on one foot, in tandem stance, or stand on a balance board or dynadisc, have them stand backwards and roll the ball through their legs – the point is get creative and have fun! Have them roll the pumpkin to knock over the ghosts. This can be paper towel rolls or white cups with ghosts faces drawn on them. You can stack them in pyramid style or set them out in traditional bowling pin formation. We’d love to see pictures of your set up!
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Spider Web Walk: We’ve talked about this one before and there are lots of ways you can make it more or less challenging for the kids. Use tape to draw a spider web on the floor and find challenging ways to walk around the web. Read more here.
Painters Tape
Witch Hat Ring Toss: Buy some witches hats or cover athletic cones in black construction paper to make your own. Same as with pumpkin bowling (read above for ways to work on balance) create a starting point and then have your child try to throw a ring onto the witches hat. You can have one hat that they have to get multiple rings on, or have multiple hats set out that they have to try to toss towards. Let’s see how many ringers they can get!
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Pumpkin Patch Stomp:  Blow up some orange balloons (you can draw on them if you want to make them look more like pumpkins) and try to stomp on them! To make it a little easier you can put some sand or water in the balloon so they won’t move away as easily. The more air in the balloon, the easier it is to pop, but if it is less full, its easier for the child to get and keep their foot on it. You might want to have a mix of balloons to vary the difficulty.
Pumpkin Walk: Have your child try to walk across the room, or on a balance beam while balancing a baby pumpkin on their head. You can also change this to Witches Hat Walk and make a witches hat out of an athletic cone and do the same thing (the hat might be easier for the little ones because it has a flat bottom)
Spider Web Crawl: Use toilet paper or white streamers to create a web across a hallway. Have your kids try to crawl over and under without breaking the web! For some other ideas read more here.
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September 29, 2017

Balance and Vestibular System Ideas

balance
Balance is an important part of movement and safety and is a requirement for every day activities. Balance can involve keeping two feet on the floor, or even standing on one foot. There are many activities that require balancing on one leg. Some of these are: running, stairs, kicking, and walking in varied directions.
Try these activities to improve your little one’s balance today:
  • Popping bubbles: Have your child stand on one leg, and use the other foot to try and pop a bubble.
  • Kicking a ball: Practice standing on one foot for 5-10 seconds prior to kicking the ball to your partner.
  • Balance beam: Make your own balance beam by using a pool noodle. Practice walking up and back. If this gets too easy, walk backwards!
Some of our older blog posts that address balance are:
The vestibular system is one of our key components of balance and helps individuals of all ages maintain visual stability. Children may experience deficits with their vestibular system for many reasons, and these deficits can impact their ability to actively participate in age appropriate activities and recreation. Here are some ideas for stimulating your child’s vestibular system:

September 13, 2017

Single Leg Stance

We often have parents come in and ask for us to help their child be able to stand on one foot better. Usually they have heard that this is a skill that all children should be able to do. But why? What does standing on one foot help with? Here are some of the skills that are improved when single leg stance improves:

  • Going up and down stairs
  • Kicking a ball
  • Stepping over obstacles
  • Getting dressed
  • Standing up from the floor
  • Hopping
  • Skipping
  • Walking with a narrow base of support (i.e. on a balance beam)

 

So what are some activities that could help your child to improve this skill? Here are a few:

  • Toe taps – Place a spot in front of your child and have them tap their toe on it. Make it a game by calling out numbers to see how many they can do. Or switch it up between left and right foot. You can do this on the ground, or raise the height to make it more challenging. You can also move the target from in front to diagonal to the side. ToeTaps
  • Foot on a ball – Find a ball and have your child try to hold one foot on top of it and maintain their balance. You can time them to see how long they can go for, or have two people doing it at once to see who can last the longest. Make sure to switch up feet. Softer, squishy balls are easier to balance while larger, firmer balls are harder to balance on.
  • Popping bubbles – This one is fun because what child doesn’t love bubbles? Blow bubbles and have them try to stomp on them to pop them! SLS bubbles
  • Stepping over obstacles – Have your child try to cross a room while stepping over obstacles in their way. You can use small books, pool noodles, toys, groceries, or anything that you can think of. Shorter and narrower are easier than taller and wider. Also make sure it is a stable obstacle and not a ball that will roll if they bump into it. You could also use painters tape to make obstacles across your hallway so they have to step over varied heights of tape.
  • Yoga – Tree pose is one of our favorites. Kids like to imitate it and they can ‘cheat’ by putting their foot down close to their stance foot if the knee is too challenging. single leg stance

What are some ways you work on single leg stance?

September 4, 2017

Fun with Painter’s Tape

Painters Tape

Looking for easy and fun activities for your kiddos to do at home? All you need is painter’s tape and a little imagination! Here are four different gross motor activities with simple set ups to work on balance, strength, motor planning, coordination, and body awareness.

  1. Weaving through spider web:  Use a hallway to span tape from one wall to the next in a varied pattern as seen in the picture. Have your kiddo step over, army crawl under, and crouch through to get to the other side. Giving them a chance to problem solve how to get from one end to the other works on motor planning and being able to adjust their body and avoid contact with the tape challenges their awareness of their body in space. Here are some posts on painter’s tape spider webs, and jungle vines (just adapt for painters tape)!
  2. Walk the line: walk forwards, backwards, sideways:  The beauty of painter’s tape is that it can easily be applied and removed from so many surfaces. Regardless of your floor type, you can create patterns on the ground for your kiddo to walk across. This challenges their balance and ability to move with a narrower base of support. You can also have them hop on one foot down the line or hop back and forth between lines to build strength and power. You can add more variety by having your child walk backwards or sideways! Here are some other post on similar ideas such as balance beams, more balance beams, and jumping paths – just adapt and use painter’s tape!
  3. Spider web walking:  In addition to lines, you can create a spider web out of tape and challenge your child to walk on the line to get different critters within the boxes or you can have them jump from box to box to avoid touching the spider web! Here is a longer post on this idea!
  4. Tic tac toss:  Take the tic tac toe game off the paper and turn it life-size by taping a grid on the ground. Use two different color bean bags to duel it out amongst family members or friends. If you want to add more physical challenge you can incorporate similar concepts to what is explained above including walking heel to toe to your chosen box or hop from square to square to drop it in rather than tossing.

Now grab some tape and let the fun begin!

August 27, 2017

Squat, Stand, Tip Toes

 

One of our previous PT’s stopped by and brought us a 10 year birthday present (We had just celebrated our 10 year anniversary). She was so excited when she saw the Little People Stand and Play Rampway because she thought it would be great for kids to use to work on standing, squatting, transitions on and off the floor, and more. And yes, we have used the toy in the way we thought, although we’ve also found its good for tip toes as well! Sometimes we are inspired by a toy and sometimes we have an idea and find a toy that will help motivate. This happens to be one of those times that we were inspired by a toy!

As you can see in the picture, we set it up on a support surface so that the child would still have to get in to standing to reach the top. An added bonus was that she had to get up onto her tip toes to reach. To work on being all the way down on the floor transitions, you could have the car end up under the bench. They may try to reach in squatting, which also is good for them to do, but many times they will get onto their hands and knees or into sitting so they can reach a little easier. Then they have to practice the transition from the floor into standing. If they choose to stay in squatting they get to work on balance and stability while reaching outside their base of support.

What are some of your favorite toys for working on standing, squatting, and tip toes?

August 20, 2017

Jungle Vines

 

We love taking students for their clinical internships. They often bring fresh ideas to our treatment plans. This is an exercise that our most recent student came up with, and of course we have all found a reason to use it with our kids! Feel free to change the name of it, this is the name we use when it is part of an Adventure for one of our kids.

We take our climbing net and we string it up parallel above the floor in our Universal Exercise Unit. The height can vary depending on the skill of the child. For some kids, having it lying flat on the floor will be challenging enough. You can also use an agility ladder for this activity, or create a grid with tape. (we have done a similar activity with tape across a hallway but made it more of a maze)

Because we like to get in multiple repetitions we usually have a toy with many pieces (such as a puzzle or animal bean bags). Then the child can ‘rescue’ friends, or a monster, or whatever they feel like.

It works really well for working on single leg stance as the child usually takes some time when lifting their foot up to clear the obstacle and then place it in the next hole. It also works on balance (one foot and two feet) while they plan their next move and use precision to make it through the jungle. Of course there is motor planning and coordination as they pick their path through the jungle and figure out how they need to move to get to the other side, and then actually execute the plan.

What other ways have you done activities like this?

August 13, 2017

Find the Bucket

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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 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?

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