Starfish Therapies

October 8, 2017

Dribbling a Ball

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We were recently working on ball dribbling skills with some kiddos. They had been practicing them off and on for a while but were still finding it hard to dribble the ball while walking down the hallway. So, we decided to spend one whole session devoted to bouncing the ball and progressing this skill. To do this we looked back at the how motor learning occurs and started with blocked practice of the basic skill and slowly added to it to get to the skill we wanted. The best part was that at the end of the session the words ‘that was easy’ were actually spoken – this was so great because when we first said we were going to go out and dribble down the hallway that same child said ‘oh no, that’s hard.’

  1. Using a spot on the ground and the wall behind the child we started with bouncing the ball in place on the spot. The wall was used to help provide a cue to stay up tall as there is a tendency to bend at the waist and get closer to the ball rather than bouncing the ball hard enough to come back up high enough. We let the child choose how they wanted to bounce the ball and it usually started with both hands bouncing the ball and then catching it and then bouncing it again.
  2. Next, using the same props/cues, we progressed to bouncing it with two hands up to 3 bounces. This way they were working on continuous bouncing and not bounce and catch. Once 3 was mastered we slowly progressed until we got to 10 successful bounces.
  3. Next, using the same props/cues, we repeated the above step but by bouncing with one hand. We continued to progress this until we got up to 10 successful bounces with one hand.
  4. At this point we moved into the hallway (and this is when the words ‘oh no, that’s hard’ were spoken). We had them dribble the ball while walking for up to 3 bounces. Most used two hands and we let them. Again we slowly progressed until we got to 10 successful bounces while walking.
  5. Next we decreased to one hand and repeated the above steps until we got to 10 successful bounces while walking. This was when it was declared ‘that was easy.’

At this point the child began dribbling the ball the full length of the hallway. What was fun to see was that there was control of the ball. Even when it bounced slightly to the left or the right, they were able to maintain control and keep dribbling forward!

Now, in subsequent sessions we will have to continue to practice this but ideally we can begin to decrease the number of steps and then begin to generalize the skill and introduce different games that involve dribbling.

How have you worked on dribbling with kids?

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September 4, 2017

Fun with Painter’s Tape

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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!

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

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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 2, 2017

Crossing Midline

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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.

May 29, 2017

Transitional Movements

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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!

April 1, 2017

Today I Sat Up

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

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

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

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

March 12, 2017

Development of Refined Movement

I recently saw a video a friend posted of her son learning to commando crawl.  I immediately asked if I could use the video because I thought it was so great.  Luckily she said yes and you can see the video in this post!

What I loved about it is that with almost every move forward, he almost topples to the side.  He then has to bring his head and trunk back up to the middle for the next pull forward.  But because he hasn’t refined his movement yet, he goes too far and topples to the other side.  What’s great though is that every time this happens, his body is storing the information on how much effort he needed and it will begin to give him feedback to limit his movements so that he stays more in the center.  You can see in the next video clip (only 5 days later) how much less he falls to the side and how much faster his movements have become. And then in the next one (only another 5 days later), he is a commando crawling master!

We have all experienced this.  When we are learning a new skill, we are like the first video clip.  Our movements are clumsy and unrefined.  We use bigger, less efficient motions than what is required.  But each time we practice we refine our skills a little more so that soon we are efficiently performing the new skill.

It is for reasons like this that it is important to give babies and all kids, opportunities to explore their movement.  They are learning how their body works and creating new pathways that give them just the right feedback.  If they are never given the opportunity to practice it takes them longer to develop skills.   By overshooting over and over, they are learning from each movement to make the next one even better. This carries over to almost any new movement we are learning, whether we are a baby, a toddler, a teenager, and even possibly an adult!

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