Starfish Therapies

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 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?

July 12, 2017

Gross Motor Groups

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 11:44 am
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gross motor play

We are lucky enough to be able to offer developmental play groups that are broken up based on skill. We have chosen to divide them as pre-crawlers, pre-walkers/new walkers, and toddlers. This gives parents a chance to self-select for where they think their child would fit best. Each week we have a different topic we look at and can have some talking points on. Since we are mostly PT’s though, its easy to gravitate towards gross motor play. So its been fun to watch kids grow and interact through gross motor play.

We have done our best to set it up as a ‘free’ play environment where the kids can play with areas of their choice. What is nice is to see them try to imitate their peers. So, while one kiddo may not be interested in going up the ramp or through the tunnel, often by the end of the session, they are attempting to do it because one of the other kiddos is doing it.

It also allows them to show interest in a toy or activity even if they aren’t sure they can be successful, or may be hesitant to try. When we see them show interest in the activity we are able to help facilitate them playing so that they can be successful. So, even though its free play, it still has support for the kids so they can learn and refine new skills.

You don’t have to have a group to incorporate this into your play at home. Set up an environment, inside or outside, with various games/toys/skills that may be new to your child, or they may still be working on. Let them gravitate towards items of their choice but be there to support them when they need it. You can encourage use of items that may be more challenging by putting a favorite toy there, such as at the other end of a tunnel, or at the top of a ramp.

How have you encouraged gross motor ‘free’ play with your kids?

July 2, 2017

Crossing Midline

twister yoga

Crossing midline is the ability for your hands, feet, and eyes to move across your body. Being able to cross midline is an important skill for children to develop as it is needed to complete everyday tasks such as, putting on shoes, reading, writing, and ball skills. Crossing midline includes visually tracking. Visually tracking includes your child’s ability to move their eyes across midline without moving their head, which is an important skill for reading. Being able to cross midline allows for your child’s brain to make connections from one side of their brain to the other. Children who have difficulties crossing midline typically do not have a dominant hand, may often lose their place while reading, and may have difficulties throwing and catching a ball.

Here are some fun activities that you can incorporate into your child’s playtime to encourage crossing midline:

  • Popping bubbles: Blow bubbles and encourage your child to reach across their body to pop the bubbles. Make sure that your child pops bubbles with both hands.
  • Drawing figure eights: You can have your child draw figure eights on a piece of paper or for some added fun have them draw figure eights in shaving cream
  • Bean bag games: Have your child reach across their body to grab a bean bag and then throw the bean bag at a target. Make sure your child is using both hands to grab bean bags.
  • Windmills: Have your child stand with their feet a bit wider than shoulder width, have them try to bring their opposite hand down to touch their opposite foot. Repeat this exercise 10 times on each side.
  • Play twister: This is a great game to encourage your child to reach across midline with both their hands and their feet.

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 11, 2017

Kneeling: Exploring New Heights

High kneel 3

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!

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

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!

May 22, 2017

The Power of the Calves

star jumps

I don’t know about you, but I have had many children over the years that really struggle to use their calf muscles in an efficient and effective way. This could be due to many reasons but there is probably some underlying weakness and coordination challenges. I have seen this a lot in my kids who are toe walkers. Now I’m sure some of you are saying ‘wait but they walk on their toes, doesn’t that mean they use their calf muscles and they should be nice and strong?’

Not necessarily. Because they tend to walk on their toes (this may look like they are up high on their tip toes or it may look like a shuffling walk with the foot mostly flat but never getting a heel strike first) they aren’t moving through the full range of motion at their ankles and so their calves are only working in a very small range. For the kids up on their tip toes they are really strong in that one position but they would fatigue pretty quickly if you were to ask them to do multiple heel raises in a row. For kids whose feet look flatter but they are still not hitting with their heels first, they are tending to constantly stop a ‘fall’ forward by catching themselves on their foot and then ‘falling’ forward onto the next foot. They aren’t using their calves to help them push off to lead into the step, but rather ‘falling’ into the step.

So as you can see calves work in two ways, they help to control your step forward by supporting your body weight as the muscle slowly lengthens, and they also help to push off by shortening the muscle to give you power to go into the next step. These are also helpful for jumping and running activities to name a few.

Hopefully all this is making sense. I really started this post to give you some ideas for how to work on the calf muscle to help your kiddos use them more effectively and efficiently!

  • Scooter Board Push – I was inspired when I came across this post. I have a few kids that I have been trying to get creative on ways to work on their calves. I actually tried this one out and the kiddo I was working with loved it! He loves to do puzzles so we put the puzzle pieces on one side of the room and were assembling it on the other side of the room so he had to push me back and forth to get all the pieces. Because of the size of the room we had some extra challenges because he had to turn a corner as well causing him to work on his motor planning. In the beginning he had some trouble and would try to go down on his knees to push or I would help him too much so he was just walking and not pushing through his feet but he eventually got it and was so excited when we would get going fast and when we could turn the corner without running into the crash pad! I completely recommend this activity. Just an FYI, carpet causes them to work harder!
  • Wall Push Offs – You can do this one on a scooter or a swing. With a scooter you can have competitions to see how far you can push each time and if you can get further than your last time. Or you can set up bowling pins that when they push off the wall they have to try to knock them over and see how many tries it takes before they’ve knocked them all over. You could also use an exercise ball and have them push off of that and see how many pushes it takes to get down the hallway, and then try to get fewer pushes on the way back! Obviously you would have to move the exercise ball to them each time and hold it stable while they push.
  • Furniture Gliders – With the smooth side down on the furniture gliders, have them put their hands on the top side. Then create a course with painters tape and have them push their hands all along the path. The key is to make sure they are pushing with their feet and not dropping down onto their knees. You can change up the course and make it straight lines, curved lines, zig zag lines, or have it be a treasure hunt/maze where they have to follow the lines to get to bean bags or puzzle pieces and then they bring them out of the maze before going back in to collect the next one! If you don’t have furniture gliders you could do this with bear walking but its definitely more fun with being able to push yourself around! You could also try putting their hands on a scooter and pushing that way if you don’t have furniture gliders!
  • Step Downs – Stepping down slowly really helps to work on having the calves control the body weight as it lowers down. That being said, this is often hard for kids to control. We have tried putting a stomp rocket on the ground below the step so they have to step onto the stomp rocket to get it to go. If possible I recommend doing this without rails. You can change the height of the step to make it easier or harder. And the kids love to shoot the stomp rocket. We generally have targets that we aim for. You can give points to each target and have them try to get a certain number of points by hitting them with the rocket.

What are some ideas you have for calf strengthening with kids?

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