Starfish Therapies

June 7, 2017

Apps for PT and Kids

jump jump froggy
Its always fun to find new apps to use with kids. They like the variety and its nice to challenge and engage them in different ways. Here are a few that our therapists have found recently! We’d love to hear what apps you have been using!
Physical Therapy For Kids (By Preferred Mobile Applications LLC) $6.99
The Physical Therapy For Kids App was created by a yoga instructor and a Physical Therapist to aid pediatric physical therapists in working with their patients. This app has fun images to provide as visuals for 56 different exercises that help kids practice gross motor strength, balance, and coordination activities. Select a picture and tap it repeatedly to see the animation of the exercise.
Recommended for children ages 3-12
Jump Jump Froggy (By Timothy Charoenying) Free
This app features four fun activities: Jump up, 30-second speed hopping challenge, sit-ups, and push-ups. Fun animations come to life with each activity; the on screen action is a direct result of the player’s engagement in the activity. Kids can play to beat their high score and there is a multi-player mode so kids can compete with their friends and family.
Recommended for children of all ages
Super Stretch Yoga (By The Adventures of Super Stretch LLC) Free
This fun app created for kids provides an interactive experience for doing yoga.
Using storytelling, animation and video examples, kids can practice 12 different yoga poses (there are videos of children performing each pose). You can go through all the poses at once or choose 1 pose to do at a time and repeat as often as you like.
Recommended for children 3 and up
Toca Dance Free (By Toca Boca AB) Free
This is a fun app help kids practice motor planning and coordination. It is available as a free version. In this app you dress your dancers and choreograph a dance.  Then a video is made of the completed dance.  Kids can watch and learn the dance created and can pause the video or repeat parts to practice at their own pace.
You can even choreograph movements like squatting, jumping or crossing midline to work on certain PT goals.
Recommended for children ages 6 and up

March 19, 2016

Sport Specialization in the Young Athlete

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 9:10 pm
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Sport Specialization
It seems that children are being forced to specialize in one sport at a younger and younger age. There are various travel teams and summer leagues that you, as a parent, might feel the pressure for your child to join, because this will give them a leg up on the competition. It will get them seen by the right recruiters and your child will be given a scholarship for college.
Well… not necessarily.
Children who specialize in one sport are 70-93% more likely to be injured than those who participate in multiple sports. They are also more likely to burnout from stress and are often the first ones to quit. Most college athletes actually come from a multi-sport background.
So when should a child specialize and how much time should be spent in a single sport? Here’s what the research says:
  • Before 12 years old – 80% of time should be spent in different sports or deliberate/free play
  • Between 13 to 15 years old – 50% of time should be spent in a single sport and the other 50% of time in different sports or deliberate/free play.
  • 16 years old and up – 20% of the time should be spent in different sports or deliberate/free play.

Get more information about sport specialization here

April 11, 2013

Guest Post from Denmark – Olympic Game Day

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 6:30 pm
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Slide 1

I’m a pediatric physical therapist from Denmark and I paid Starfish Therapies a short visit last fall. I have always thought that it is very exciting and inspiring to see how other PT’s work and luckily Stacy and the Starfish Therapies team were very kind and showed me around and answered all my questions.  I especially like the idea of having a blog where you can reach out to parents, caregivers, teachers and colleagues and exchange knowledge and ideas. And now I’m very excited because Stacy has asked me to do a guest blog.

I want to tell you about an Olympic game day that was arranged at my current workplace Borneterapien – a Danish Pediatric Rehabilitation Centre ( In pediatric rehabilitation we believe that it is important to identify local networks for families with disabled children. In Borneterapien we have experienced that the parents need information about opportunities for recreational activities and social participation. We think that participation in activities and sports is a great way for children to form friendships and develop skills.

So basically we wanted to create a context in which children with disabilities and their parents were able to network with equals. We thought that an Olympic game day would be a splendid way to accomplish that.

On September 7, 2011 the first Olympic game day took place. Thirty-eight children aged 1½ – 14 years and their parents participated. We divided the children in a preschool group and school group. In each group children were allocated in subgroups of 3-6 children according to their functional and intellectual abilities. The activities included horse riding, relays, 100m run, orienteering race, pulling car, obstacle courses, swimming etc. All children participated in 2-3 activities. Afterwards we had a medal ceremony and all children, parents and therapists had lunch together.

The Olympic game day turned out to be a really great success. All parents expressed that the event was a good experience for both children and adults and they felt that it had been very rewarding to meet other children and their parents. The parents especially liked to see their child being happy and excited. All the children expressed that the event had been very good and that it had been very much fun to meet the other children. The top three experiences stated by the children were: 1) To pull car; 2) To receive a medal and 3) To compete in relays.

What started out as a onetime thing has now become an annual tradition that the children, parents and therapists look forward to with joy.

How have you tried to facilitate networking between children and parents? Any ideas?

Best wishes,



About Michelle Stahlhut:

Michelle graduated from Metropolitan University College, Denmark with her Bachelor in Physical Therapy and from University of Lund, Sweden with her Master in Medical Science. She has worked in preshcool and school settings as well as a rehabilitation setting. Michelle has primarily worked with children with cerebral palsy, developmental delay, developmental coordination disorder, autism and Down syndrome.

Michelle believes that it is essential for the pediatric physical therapist to create opportunities for the children to participate and interact with their environment. With mutual respect and presence she feels that the therapy truly makes a difference.

January 9, 2013

Play This, Not That

I am so excited to have Dana from Embrace Your Chaos guest posting here today!  She is a mom and an occupational therapist and has some amazing ideas and great things to share so make sure you check her out at Embrace Your Chaos.  I hope you enjoy her post here as much as I did! (PS – I included the photos)

Just as there are better choices for the foods that we eat, there are also better choices for the types of things our kids play.  Some salad dressings are better for us than others, some brands of chips are better than others, and even some fast food burgers are better than others.  In just the same way, some board games are better for development of your child’s skills, some organized sports are better for our kid’s gross motor coordination, and even some video games benefit our kids more than others do.


As adults with tons of responsibility and long lists of “to dos,” we tend to forget about why play is so important for kids.  Some of us get caught up in running errands and in the things we have to get done while some of us tend to over-schedule our kids, both resulting in less time to engage in play with our children.  Play is a vital part of a child’s life for many reasons.  It develops creativity and social skills.  It provides a natural context for the child to learn and problem-solve.  It motivates kids to challenge their gross and fine motor skills.  The list could go on and on.  While it is our responsibility as adults to go to work, pay the bills, and clean the house, it is a child’s primary responsibility to learn and grow through play (while also helping to clean the house from time to time).


It is even more important in our current society that we, as parents, encourage our kids to play.  With growing expectations at school, entailing more time at the table and more homework, and with the growing fascination of electronics, our kids are engaging in play less and less.

Corbin - Construction

With all types of play, including electronics, there are some choices that are better for encouraging development of our kids’ skills than others.  When thinking about play, consider these factors:

  • What are the sensory experiences?  How many sensory systems does the activity incorporate?  Does it get the child moving, exploring, and touching?  Also consider if the activity is too over-stimulating, which many video games tend to be.
  • What are the physical components?  Does the activity challenge the child’s coordination, balance, strength, and/or endurance?
  • What are the social opportunities?   Does the play activity provide opportunities for turn-taking, sharing, group problem-solving, or conflict resolution?
  • What are the cognitive aspects?   What are the opportunities for problem-solving, for following multi-step directions, for learning to sequence, and for learning other concepts and ideas?
  • What are the fine motor and visual motor components?  Does the activity work the small muscles of the hands?  Does it develop the manipulation skills needed for a good pencil grasp? Does it encourage the eye-hand coordination skills needed for handwriting development?  Does it improve the fine motor skills needed to manipulate fasteners, tools, and other small objects?

Some of these components may be more important for some kids than others.  Some children may need more opportunities to build their gross motor skills while other kids may be struggling more with their social skills.  It is ALWAYS important to give a child opportunities to create and choose his or her own play activities; but, there are also times when it is appropriate to provide direction to ensure their play tasks target the areas that will benefit them.  Take video games for instance.  The Wii will provide a greater challenge to your child’s coordination and gross motor development than the X-Box.  “Mother May I” may engage more cognitive and sensory-motor skills than “Tag.”  And gymnastics may provide more calming and organizing sensory input for your child than soccer.

corbin cake18

Most of all, don’t forget the importance of all types of play.  And remember that play is one of the best ways to foster your child’s development and target the skills your child needs.  When thinking about how to best encourage your child’s skills through play, remember these different components to find those activities that provide your child with the “just right” experiences and challenges!

Be sure to check out Embrace Your Chaos’ “101 Ways to Play” series to find great play activities and learn more about how play can foster your child’s development!

December 13, 2012

Snow Ball Fight

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 12:00 pm
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snowball fight

This is such an easy and fun game.  My nephew brought over an actual Snow Ball Fight set but you can just as easily do it with newspaper crumpled up.  We had fun chasing each other through the house trying to hit each other with the snow balls.  In doing so we were getting the following benefits:  cardiovascular (there’s lots of running – especially up and down the stairs – when you play with an almost 9 year old), throwing, environmental awareness to avoid obstacle and avoid getting hit, catching (if I was lucky enough), and pretty much any gross motor movement you can think of to hide or get out of the way (jumping, crawling, squatting, etc).  My favorite was when I had possession of all the snowballs!

What versions of snow ball fights have you had?

December 12, 2012

Magnetic Toy Imaginary Play

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 12:00 pm
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I have always wanted to play with Magna-Tiles especially when I have read about them in blog posts or heard parents talking about them.  I decided to buy a set and had my nephew help me check them out.  He of course was excited (and he’s almost 9) because he had played with them before.  He even tried to convince me to give them to him!  At first we just tried out building structures and seeing what we could come up with.


Then he went into the closet where his toys are and came out with this other cool toy that I had never seen before.  It was SmartMax Set.  It had two sized pillars and a bunch of balls.  All of which were magnetic.  We combined it with our Magna-Tiles to create a really cool structure.  I will admit it collapsed on us quite a few times until we figure out exactly where the magnetic attraction would be greatest to combine the two toys.


And then, of course we had to add figurines because this became a fortress with a force field and in the Magna-Tile box were prisoners who we were trying to free.  What you can’t see off to the right became pyramids which is where the controls were kept so that could deactivate the force field and rescue the prisoners.  As you can see we had a guard inside the force field as well.


I love engaging in play with my nephew because I am amazed by his imagination every time.  I also loved playing with these toys because we got to practice problem solving (when they kept crashing on us), fine motor skills for building, bilateral coordination using helper hands (because otherwise its awful hard to maintain this structure while connecting the pieces).

What magnetic toys do you like?

December 10, 2012

Birthday Party Fun – Game Ideas

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 4:49 pm
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party games party games1 party games2 party games3 party games5 party games6

One of my good friends was prepping for her daughter’s 8th birthday party so I went over to help so that we could spend some quality time together.  I loved the game ideas she had come up with for the kids and I think that in addition to birthday parties they are great ideas for working on other skills.

  1. Balloon Pop Spelling – We wrote individual letters on pieces of paper and folded them up and put one each inside of a blown up balloon (yes, I got to blow up almost 100 balloons – the things we do for spending quality time with friends)!  We did enough for four teams.  The object is for the kids to pop the balloons and look at the letters until they came up with the letters to spell her daughter’s name.  Now for kids who are sound sensitive you could use plastic easter eggs.  For kids who aren’t yet spelling you could put sight words in there and have them match them up or you could use colors or numbers or any variety depending on what you are working on.  You could also have each team try to spell a word using the most letters (kind of like a version of Boggle) and see who gets the longest word.
  2. Ball Toss – We got together buckets and some soft squishy balls and then the kids were going to be divided into groups of 3.  One child would put the bucket on their head (using hands to stabilize – I tried without hands and it didn’t work very well), one child would stand at the line and throw the balls trying to get them in the bucket and the 3rd would chase after the balls.  Each child gets 1 minute to get as many balls in as they can (you can change the time depending on the age group).  This is a great way to work on throwing skills and team work, plus it keeps the kids active with having to chase after the balls.
  3. Tissue Box and Ping Pong Balls – I have no idea what this one is called but basically you empty out tissue boxes and then you thread a belt through it so you can secure it around the child’s waist (with the tissue box in the back).  You then put several ping pong balls in the tissue box and they have to move around until they get all of the ping pong balls out of the the box.  They aren’t allowed to use their hands to help with shaking the balls out.  This is great because they have to get creative with moving in all different ways in order to facilitate getting the balls out of the box.
  4. M&M Transfer – Open up a bag of M&M’s and put some in one ball.  Give the child a straw and have them try to transfer all of the M&M’s into another bowl by sucking through the straw and securing the M&M to the end of the straw.  You could just have it as an activity or you could make it a race between several kids.  This is a great way to work on oral motor skills.

I believe there were going to be more games (as you can see from the pictures) as well as free time using tumbling mats but those were the only games I was lucky enough to help organize!

November 9, 2012

Scaterpillar Scramble

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 10:59 pm
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I just discovered a new game, thanks to one of our OT’s.  It’s Scaterpillar Scramble by Hasbro.  Of course looking at it with a PT mindset, I love it because it has lots of marbles that a kiddo can try to use which means lots of repetitions of any activity I want them to do because of course after each repetition they get to put a marble on the caterpillars hand!  The OT side of our office love it for different reasons.

They love that the tweezers/tongs let kids work on the mechanics of a tripod grasp. It is a pretty light tweezer/tong so if you are looking to work on strengthening you may need to pick up a separate one elsewhere.  It also requires precision and fine motor control.  When kids are working on control its amazing how many of them (and adults too) have increased shakiness in their hand.  You can limit the frustration by only putting one or two marbles out and having the kids try to place them on the bottom hands (which are easier) and then they can have the caterpillar dance (if they tolerate sound well) when they complete the specified number so they get a built in reward.  You can increase the challenge by increasing the number of marbles, having them move up higher on the caterpillar hands, and/or having it ‘dance’ while you try to put the marbles in place.

The marbles come in different colors because the game is meant to be a race between players but the colors can provide a good visual cue for the child as they work on their visual motor control by trying to precisely place the marble on the hand.  If you have two kids you can have them work on turn taking putting the marbles on.

I love discovering new games!  What have you used this game for?

November 8, 2012

Toys, Toys, Toys

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 4:06 pm
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With the holiday season upon us I thought I would talk about some different toys and games we use and how we use them.  I find that many parents will ask us what they should get for their child so I figured I would share our collective insight into some of our favorite toys over the next couple of weeks.  Since we have already written about a lot of games and toys I will do a few posts with links to the information on those toys.  Here are 10 for today!

Super Skipper



Lamaze Spin and Explore

Red Rover the Toy

(image retrieved from

Connect Four

(image retrieved from

Giraffalaff Limbo


Pop Tubes

Suction Cup Balls


October 31, 2012

Some Thoughts on Perplexus

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 12:00 pm
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We have a few of the Perplexus models here because I think they are really cool. For those of you who have never seen them they are a clear globe with a complex track inside that is broken up by colors and you need to keep a small ball on the track from the start to the end.  It is a great way to work on motor planning, visual motor skills, and bilateral coordination.

I recently decided to try the ‘rookie’ with my kiddo who has spastic quadriplegia CP.  I wasn’t sure how it would go based on his physical challenges but I knew intellectually he was bright enough to know what to do.  It was really interesting to watch him try to work it out.  First I demonstrated it to him and he talked me through which way to turn the globe so that the ball stays on the track.  He was able to verbally instruct me as well as point to the direction of movement that I needed to move the globe.  Clearly he understood the concept of it.

Next I gave it to him.  He concentrated so hard on it but had a really hard time moving the globe within his hands.  It was easier for him to keep his hands stable on the globe and try to twist it.  When he did this the ball frequently fell off the track.  I began working with him on how to turn the globe within his hands.  I used some hand over hand and step by step verbal cues and he began to get the hang of it.  He needed to use a lot of extra stabilization such as with his chest and his chin while he attempted to move his hands without the globe moving with them.  He also did a great job of maintaining an upright posture while doing this activity.  He has a tendency to slouch when sitting in a chair and performing activities with his hands so it was great to see that this game allowed him to maintain his postural stability much better than normal.

I would say with a kiddo like this the motor planning required for the bilateral coordination of his hands and then integrating the visual is what it really works on.  Whats great is that because it is broken up by color you can create goals such as get to the red track and then get to the purple track, so that they don’t get frustrated when the ball falls off the track.  When I did step in and help a bit I had him continue to direct how we should turn it so that he was able to continue his intellectual and visual problem solving.

How have you used the Perplexus?

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