Starfish Therapies

December 30, 2017

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2017

2017-03-28 23.24.31

It’s been a few years since we did a top ten list at the end of the year (that may be because for a few years we weren’t very consistent with posting). Since we managed to get out a post every week of this year (yes, we are patting ourselves on the back) we thought we would take a look back and see what posts were the most read by you our readers!

Here are our top 10 overall from 2017:

10.  Encouraging Rolling From Back to Stomach

9.  What Does High Tone Mean?

8. Easter Egg Hunt For Motor Skills

7.  Having a Ball with Core Muscle Strength

6.  Avoiding the ‘Container Shuffle’ with Your Baby

5.  My Child Isn’t Rolling Over:  Should I Be Concerned?

4.  A Multi-Tasking Activity

3.  A Glossary of Sitting

2. What Does Low Tone Mean?

1.Motor Learning: Stages of Motor Learning and Strategies to Improve Acquisition of Motor Skills

Interestingly enough, all of these were published prior to 2017, so I decided to dig a little deeper and find out our top ten that were published in 2017. Those are:

10. Halloween Inspired Gross Motor Games

9. Single Leg Stance

8. Transitional Movements

7. 10 Things You Didn’t Know a Pediatric PT Could Help With

6. Crossing Midline

5. Taking the Vision out of Balance

4. Core Workout: Hungry Hippos Meets Wreck it Ralph

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

2. Ideas to Target the Core

1.Righting Reactions

Happy New Year, thanks for a great 2017 and we look forward to seeing you in 2018!

December 9, 2017

Holiday Gift Giving Guide

twister yoga
It’s always amazing how fast the year goes by and how quickly another holiday season is already upon us! With that said, it’s time to start thinking about what gifts we can give to the children in our lives that they are sure to love but that will also encourage practice of motor skills and/or general physical activity.
Here are a couple of ideas to get you moving in the right direction!
  1. Pewi Ybike Walking Buddy and Ride On Toy: This is great for babies/toddlers in the pre-walking phase as they can work on reciprocal stepping using it as a ride on toy and can also use it as a push toy building balance and control.  It’s a little on the pricey side but toddlers will continue to enjoy zooming around on this one way beyond those first steps!
  2. Teeter Popper: We haven’t had the opportunity to try this one out but this wobble board looks like all kinds of fun.  It can promote sitting and standing balance, core stability and provides plenty of sensory feedback since the suction cups on the bottom pop as kids make the board move. Check out the video on amazon through the provided link for a demonstration.
Here are some of our Favorite Toys that can be used to encourage gross motor activity:


  1. Squigz
  2. Stomp Rocket
  3. Laugh and Learn Piggy Bank
  4. Stacking Cups
  5. Twister
  6. Melissa and Doug Puzzles (musical instruments, shapes, farm animals)
  7. Feed the Woozle
  8. Cones and Hurdles
  9. Spots
  10. Stand and Play Parking Garage
  11. Balance Board
  12. Monster Feet
  13. Yoga Ball
  14. Ring Toss
  15. Hippity Hop
  16. Scooter Board
  17. Activity Table
  18. Balls of all kinds (o-balls, playground ball, gertie ball)
  19. Hopscotch
  20. Activity Cards

November 19, 2017

Carnival Games

Are you working on ball skills with any of your kids? Looking for ways to mix it up? At one of our recent group sessions, we had the kids play ‘Carnival Games.’ They were working on the same skills but we changed the context and to them, it was a whole different ball game (pun intended)!

Here were some of the games we did (we’d love to hear of any suggestions you might have so we can add to our repetoire):


  • Bowling – Line the pins up and have the kids practice underhand bowling. They get two chances to get the pins down. You can add visual cues such as a tape line to help them with their aim. Or two staggered spots to help them with their stepping into the roll. You can also change the size of the ball. They could start with a larger ball and use two hands to roll it (sometimes this helps them understand the concept of rolling a little easier). As they progress the ball can get smaller. For a real challenge have them stand on one foot or in tandem stance (one foot in front of the other) so they can work on their balance.
  • Knock the Cans Down – I’m sure there is a more official carnival name but we’ll just go with this! You can stack cups into a pyramid or you can use bowling pins like we did and recreate the bowling formation. They get two chances to knock everything down. As you can see we also added a visual cue behind the pins to help with aiming. You can use staggered spots on the floor to help with stepping into the throw. You can switch it up and work on overhand or underhand throwing. To challenge the balance, just like with bowling, you can do single leg stance, tandem stance, or you could stand on an unstable surface like a balance board or a pillow.

bucket toss

  • Bucket Toss – With this one the child is trying to get as many balls into the bucket as they can. They get a point for each one. You can mix it up if you want to work on underhand or overhand throwing. And you can challenge balance just like in Knock the Cans Down! Change the size of the ball or the density of the ball. You can use an o-ball for easier gripping or a ball that is deflated slightly to make it easier to hold onto. Lots of ways to vary the activity. And, you can use the visual cue on the wall to help with aiming!
  • Hit the Spot – This game works on passing skills. You can put one or multiple spots on the ground and have the child work on bounce passing the ball to you while trying to hit the spot. Pick a number of times and they get a point for every time they hit a spot. If you are using multiple spots you can increase the challenge of the game by calling out what spot you want them to hit when they pass it. It also works on catching because you will be passing the ball back to them. They can have some fun with telling you what spot to hit also!

What are some other games you would include in your Carnival Games?

November 12, 2017

Thanksgiving Themed Games

Turkey Hunt
Thanksgiving is a time we all love gather with friends and family. Here are some fun ideas to keep the kids (and adults!) entertained and active during the long Thanksgiving weekend:
Turkey Tag: Make small turkey faces or attach some multi-colored feathers or cut pieces of construction paper to clothespins and clip on to the back of everyone’s shirt. Everyone has to run around, trying to grab the others’ feathers! Some ways to play: once all pins are off of someone’s shirt that person is “out” or collect 5 to “win”
Variations: Mix it up by working on other gross motor skills and instead of running, change it to hopping, or skipping, or galluping, or turkey walking (looks like duck walking).
Turkey Hunt: Hide different style/colored turkeys around backyard. Make a checklist to check off what ones are found/seen. Download the free printable above here
Variations: Similar to our gross motor easter egg hunt, you can put a gross motor activity on each turkey, or create a chart that corresponds to each number so that when everyone gets back with their turkey’s you can do the gross motor activities (i.e. jumping jacks, hopping on one foot, standing on one foot, jumping up in the air, etc).
Stuff the Turkey: Make a large turkey out of brown grocery bag and two small lunch bags to make the legs on top of the turkey. Use balls of paper to toss into the turkey-who can “stuff” the turkey with the most filling?
Variations: Stand on one foot or in tandem stance when throwing, throw overhand then underhand, throw under legs or over head from behind
Turkey Waddle Relay: Place inflatable turkey or a balloon between legs, and waddle like a turkey to a designated end point and back. Make this into a family-style relay race!
Variations: waddle backwards, hop, waddle sideways, hold it in your hands and ‘duck’ walk
Turkey Walk: Great for younger kids, ask kids to walk around a designated space acting out different types of turkeys. Examples include: happy, sad, tired, scared, excited, big, little, silly.

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!
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!
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.

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
Tags: , , , ,

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?

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