Starfish Therapies

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?

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
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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

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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!

April 8, 2017

Fun with Balance Beams

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 11:39 pm
Tags: , , , ,

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I don’t know about you but balance beams are one of our staples to use with kids. As I was writing this post, I looked around and realized just how many different ones we have, and we actually use them all!

Clearly having a kid walk on a balance beam will work on their balance.  If forces them to narrow their base of support which challenges their balance. You can make it as easy or as difficult as you want.

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Some things to take into consideration when you are selecting which beam to use:

  • Wider is less difficult than narrow
  • Firm is less difficult than soft and squishy
  • Straight is less difficult than curved or zig zag
  • Lower to the ground is less difficult than higher off the ground

That being said, there are times we will use one that is more challenging than you would think appropriate for the child. We might use a higher one, even though the child is still struggling with one low to the ground. This could be because when it is low to the ground they try to go too fast, or step off too easily.  When its higher they may slow down and take more deliberate steps.

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I’ve been asked why we don’t just use some tape on the ground. Well we do, but that doesn’t have the same effect as being elevated off the ground. When the child is off the ground, most times, they have a sense of it and are more cautious. It can work on their confidence for novel situations, or even help with their fear of falling as they practice being successful over and over.

We have several kids who like to move, and use movement to find their stability. They actually have a harder time doing things that require them to be still. By giving them a balance beam to walk on, they are challenged and most often have to slow down which can help work on their static stability.

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Now walking is the easiest way to use a balance beam. Its the most common way we use it, but that doesn’t mean its the only way. Some of the other ways we have used balance beams are:

  • Side stepping – Have the child take sideways steps to the left and the right to cross the beam. This works best if they are going out and back so they get both sides, but if they are only going one way, just have them switch the direction they are facing as they walk each time.
  • Blindfolded – This helps to work on their awareness of their bodies and decreases their ability to use vision to help their balance. Check out our post on using animal masks to work on balance!
  • Squats – As the child walks along the beam they can squat down to pick up treasure in front of them, or they can turn to the side to pick up treasure on the floor.  Usually treasure is a bean bag or a puzzle piece or a Squigz or whatever has captured their fancy that session!
  • Catch – Have the child stand on the balance beam and play catch with them. If there isn’t anyone spotting them make sure they are in a safe place if they lose their balance
  • Backwards – Walking backwards is another challenge to balance and body awareness. A fun way to incorporate it is to have the child go through the ‘adventure’ backwards. Anything novel usually captures their attention for a short period of time!
  • Jumping – We have jumped on them like bunnies, jumped over them like obstacles, and used them to practice side to side jumping.

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What are other ways you have used balance beams?

 

April 1, 2017

Today I Sat Up

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I love having friends and family who have little ones who are growing and moving through their milestones.  And I especially love when they say I can use their pictures and videos.

When I saw this video of this little one sitting up, I thought it was great. He is a fairly new sitter and you can see him working on exploring his movement. He shows rotation, and reaching outside his base of support, and coming back up to the middle, and propping for some extra support. As you can hear in the video, he found a new limit. He was able to reach a little further and return to the middle without falling down. But it was all the times of reaching and falling down that helped him to gain the skills to know his limits and to know what muscles he needed to turn on to keep himself from falling over.

As he feels more confident with his sitting he begins to release his degrees of freedom. So when he rotated to reach for something he was relaxing his trunk because he didn’t need to hold it rigid to stay upright. He is able to begin picking and choosing the muscles he needs to be successful, rather than turning them all on and having limited movement.

If you get a chance watch some little ones as they begin to master a new movement and you will see them slowly relax and be able to have fluid movement rather than tightening up all their muscles to try to maintain control.

February 12, 2017

Eccentric Abs (and no I don’t mean odd!)

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Our abdominal muscles (or Abs) play a big part in our core muscles.  They aren’t the only part but they are a piece that makes up the whole.  It requires coordination of each of the different muscle groups to help create a stable foundation so that we can move our arms and legs effectively.

What do I mean by eccentric abs?  Well when a muscle contracts it can do it a few ways.  One of those ways is eccentrically.  This post about squatting helps to explain the difference between eccentric and concentric muscle control.  But basically, eccentric contractions, or slow lengthening of the muscle, helps to give us control.

When we do sit ups we are asking our abs to perform concentrically, or to shorten.  When we do planks, we are asking them to perform isometrically, or to stay the same length to hold us stable.  So when do we work on them eccentrically, and why is this important?

Well we use our abs eccentrically also.  We use them to help us control our movements. Think about balance.  If you get bumped and your top half is moving backwards, you want your abs to be slowing that movement down until they can use a concentric contraction to bring you back up to midline. When I started thinking about this, I started wondering how I could help kids practice eccentric control.  For our quads (leg muscles) its easy, we practice slowly sitting down in a chair, or do squats, or slowly step down from a step.  If we ask people to slowly lower down from a sit up position, they will definitely work on it some, but chances are they are going to use their hip flexors (the front of their hip) to help control.  Especially, if its a child and they need us to stabilize their legs.

So, how do we focus on the abs and not get primarily the hip flexors? Well one way we came up with was doing a ball pass.  This can be done in sitting, standing, high kneeling, half kneeling, or whatever position you want to try where the trunk is upright.  Make sure the child is guarded properly to maintain safety, and then have them reach back over their head with both hands to get a ball from someone behind them.  They can then throw the ball at a target in front of them.  After you do a bunch of repetitions this way, have them start with the ball in their hands and then lean back to try to drop in in a basket behind them.  Not only will this engage their abs, but they will also get to work on balance in whatever position you have them in.

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