Starfish Therapies

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!

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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 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?

May 29, 2017

Transitional Movements

2017-03-28 23.23.452017-03-28 23.23.502017-03-28 23.23.28

What are transitional movements you may wonder. They are when a kiddo moves from one position to another. This can look like rolling, getting in or out of sitting, getting in or out of quadruped, getting up into standing, getting back down to the floor from standing, and the list can go on and on.

For many kids learning to transition between positions comes easily to them. However, this isn’t the case for all kids. There are many reasons that some kids may have to ‘learn’ how to transition and move. Some of those reasons may include weakness, motor planning challenges, increased time in ‘positional equipment’, and many others.

Transitions are important because they help your child learn how to move. They begin to understand that they can explore on their own. They can increase their independence with exploration and expanding their curiosity.  It also helps them to learn more about their bodies as well as cause and effect. They learn to grade their movements and how to problem solve. They begin to understand and develop body awareness.

How can you help your kiddo develop and work on their transitional movements? Rather than pick them up and place them in a new position, help them to move into it. Another way is to set up the environment so that they are encouraged to explore. Here are a few ideas:

  • Rolling – Instead of picking your kiddo up and placing them on their belly, use a toy and get them engaged and then help them roll over onto their belly so that they can get to the toy. Even if you don’t have time to get them engaged, you can still help them to roll so that they start to learn there isn’t some magic force that moves them from one place to the next!
  • Sitting (from the belly or the back) – I’m probably going to start sounding like a broken record but the same ideas apply for all the areas I’m going to mention. Instead of picking your baby up and placing them in sitting, help them to get into the position on their own.
    • You can do this almost anytime you are changing their diaper, just help them to move into sitting before you pick them up rather than picking them up from a lying down position.
    • If they are already maintaining sitting independently you can also work on this from a sitting position. Have them lean over onto one arm and have a toy in front of them so that they have to push back up to get into sitting to reach for it.
    • When your kiddo is in a sitting position you can help them move into a lying down position. You can also have them try to do this by putting toys just a little further out of reach so they have to move from sitting onto their belly to get it.
  • Quadruped – This is similar to going from sitting to on the belly. If they are already sitting put your leg on one side of them and put a toy they like on the other side of your leg. Encourage for them to reach for the toy so they move over top of your leg (you may have to help them at first so they know what to do), keeping their legs on one side and their arms on the other. As they get stronger and willing to try the movement more you can take your leg out of the way. They may go all the way to their belly a few times but that’s the fun of trial and error and how they learn.
  • Standing – Again, it’s all about finding what engages your child. Use an elevated surface that they can pull up on (not too high but not too low) and place something they really want on top. Help them to figure out how to pull/push into standing so that they see they can get to the toy they want!

As you noticed a lot of the concepts are the same. You want to make sure that their toys aren’t always right within their grasp, make them have to work a little to get to them. Don’t just pick them up and place them in a position, take a few extra seconds to ‘help’ them move to the new position. They begin to understand how to motor plan and problem solve so that they will begin to want to move and explore!

February 19, 2017

Using a Swing to Work on Jumping

We have recently had several kids who are struggling with jumping.  Sure, they clear their feet when they jump, but they are relying on using their hips to lift their feet, rather than push off through the toes.  And learning how to land so that they are primed to either jump again, or absorb the shock, has also proven challenging.

So we decided to brainstorm one day and one of the suggested ideas was to have the child lie on their back on a platform swing, move them forward so their feet are touching a wall, and have them push off.  As they swing back they will practice absorbing the shock and then pushing again.  By having them lie down, their body is in a similar position to if they were jumping in standing. We found the kids loved it.  We had to show them a couple of times what to do, and occasionally slow the return down while they were still getting the hang of it, but once they figured it out, they were self propelling themselves on a swing.  I don’t know about you, but a majority of our kids love to swing.

Of course, then we decided to get creative.  We had them sit at the end of the platform swing to do it.  We also used a typical playground style swing after the platform swing.  We still had them practice pushing off (and work on the components of jumping) but by having them sit up and hold onto the ropes, they also began to work on the idea of controlling their momentum and how to move their trunk so that it could carry over to swinging at the park.

If kids are working on single leg hopping, or leaping from one foot to the next, you can also do all of the above and have them work with only one leg, or alternate legs (and that sneaks in some coordination)! Also the repetition is great for strengthening their legs and core.

If your swing isn’t set up so that a child can push off a wall, you could also have someone hold a large therapy ball at the end and stabilize it so they could push off of that. Because it has a little more give, they won’t get the same force but it mimics the feel of a trampoline.

Has anyone else tried something along these lines?  Have you modified it in other ways? We’d love to hear from you!

February 25, 2016

Participation and Children with Coordination Challenges

A walk in the rain to dance class

I was recently at our Combined Sections Meeting for the American Physical Therapy Association and I sat in on a talk called ‘Developmental Dyspraxia: Sensory Considerations for Motor Skill Development’.  It was presented by a PT and an OT.  It was a great presentation and looked at some of the various types of dyspraxia that are out there and how they are similar and how they are different.

Here is the definition of Developmental Dyspraxia that they used: ‘the failure to have acquired the ability to perform age appropriate complex motor functions.’  The definition of Participation they used is: involvement in life situations and includes physical, social, and self-engagement in activities.’

What struck me most about this talk, and my biggest take-away was the fact that kids with Developmental Dyspraxia, or coordination challenges, can find a back door into Participation through social engagement.

We talked about Participation in a previous blog post but I wanted to revisit it for a second.  Participation is one of our main focuses when we work with kids.  We are helping them with various skills so that they can find a way to belong and contribute to their community throughout their development.

In this day and age, a lot of kids are enrolled in a plethora of after school and weekend activities. For a child who struggles with gross motor or other aspects of development, this may not be fun for them and they may feel isolated or left out, they may also not want to go or participate.  And this is why I loved the take-away I had from the talk.  If we alter the activity so that the child finds it enjoyable and they find a sense of belonging or community, they will enjoy participating in the community.  As they enjoy participating they will want to participate more, and they may even be willing to try activities that are challenging for them.  And now you have started to create a cycle of success.

An example could be: your family loves to go bike riding in the park but your middle child struggles to ride a bike and doesn’t want to do it.  What if you switched to taking a walk in the park as a family so that you were all able to participate and have fun?  If they enjoy it they are going to want to go the next time.  Maybe one of the times they will want to ride the bike for part of the time.  You have just helped them to enjoy being outside with your family, so they are active, even if it isn’t riding a bike, and through this enjoyment you are fostering their desire to continue to be engaged in this activity.

I’m not sure if I’m making sense. I’ll try again with another example.  You really want your child to be on the soccer team.  Whenever they play soccer they struggle to keep up and they end up sitting on the sidelines or they feel that their teammates get frustrated with them.  They start to push back when it comes time for practice and games until all of a sudden they just want to stay home.  What if you got them involved in brownies or cub scouts, or informal play groups, or maybe some type of martial arts?  They could develop a sense of belonging with a group/community that they enjoy belonging to.  With enjoyment they may be willing to try playing soccer with their friends or siblings just for fun.

The key is, we want kids to want to engage in their community and with their families and peers.  Finding social outlets to get kids involved can be a great step in this direction and then introducing the activities they find to be challenging.

I hope I didn’t make this too confusing, I was just so excited when I heard it that I wanted to share.  I would love to hear stories of how you have successfully navigated supporting your child to participate meaningfully in their community, however they define it.

March 31, 2014

Fun With Finger Play

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 1:48 pm
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finger play
Our hands perform intricate movements that allow us to manipulate various objects around us. Our hands provide us with opportunities to interact with and learn from the environment. Hand function is dependent on several different factors. The large upper body muscles in the trunk, shoulder, and forearms provide strength and stability to push, pull, lift and hold. It is also important to develop strength in the small muscles of the hand in order to position our hands in precise and delicate ways.  Finger plays are a great way to promote improved hand skills. Some of the benefits of Finger plays include:
  1. Develop arches of the hand. The arches give the hand a rounded shape and help to position the fingers for accurate use.
  2. Develop finger isolation skills. The thumb, index and middle finger need to be able to be able to perform small accurate movements while the ring and small finger are tucked toward the palm. It is important to be able to move each finger individually in order to complete mature grasp patterns.
  3. Develop the web space. The web space is the space between the thumb and index finger. The web space is important because you have to keep it open and rounded (like an “ok” sign) to perform precise movements such as picking up small objects from the table.

 In addition to hand improved hand skills, finger skills facilitate improved ability to follow directions and improved imitation skills. Finger plays are a fun and exciting way to interact with your child while at the same time encouraging skill development.

Funny Bunny:

(Author unknown)

Here is a bunny (Raise two fingers.)
With ears so funny (wiggle raised fingers)
And here is a hole in the ground. (Make hole with fingers of other hand.)
At the first sound she hears,
She pricks up her ears (Straighten fingers.)
And pops right into the ground. (Put fingers in hole.)

Ten Fingers:  I have ten fingers    (hold up both hands, fingers spread)

And they all belong to me,  (point to self)
I can make them do things-
Would you like to see?

I can shut them up tight   (make fists)
I can open them wide    (open hands)
I can put them together   (place palms together)
I can make them all hide  ( put hands behind back)

I can make them jump high   (hands over head)
I can make them jump low  ( touch floor)
I can fold them up quietly   (fold hands in lap)
And hold them just so.

Three Balls:

Here’s a ball     (make ball with thumb and index finger )

And here’s a ball   (make ball with other thumb and index)
A great big ball, I see   (put arms up and touch fingers over head)

Shall we count them?
Are you ready?
One, Two, Three    (make all three balls in succession)

Open/Shut Them:

Open, shut them, (open and shut fists)
Open, shut them,
Give a little clap. (clap)

Open, shut them, (open and shut fists)
Open, shut them,
Put them in your lap. (place hands in lap)

Creep them, creep them (walk hands up body to chin)
To your chin.
Open your mouth,
But do not put them in.

Roll them, roll them, (make rolling motion with hands)
Roll them, roll them,
Roll them just like this.

Wave them, wave them, (wave)
Wave them, wave them,
Blow a little kiss! (blow a kiss)

Where is Thumbkin?:

Where is Thumbkin? (put both hands behind back)
Where is Thumbkin?
Here I am. (bring one thumb out front)
Here I am. (bring other thumb out front)

How are you today sir? (bend one thumb as if talking to the other)
Very well I thank you. (bend other thumb as if talking back)
Run away. (put first thumb behind back)
Run away. (Put other thumb behind back)

Repeat with: Pointer, Tall Man, Ring Man, Small Man.

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