Starfish Therapies

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 18, 2017

Pop Goes the Bubble

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 12:03 am
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Who doesn’t love bubbles? A lot of the kids we work with do! Here are some things that you can work on with bubble play:

  • Reaching – You can do this in almost any position.
    • Sitting – For little ones just learning to sit you can start by blowing bubbles all around them and having them move their arms towards them. As they get a little more stable you can blow the bubble and catch it on the end of the wand and hold it further away from them so they have to reach outside their base of support. You can have them reach up, forward, to the side, across the body, diagonal, pretty much any direction! For kids who are sitting in chairs you can do this as well. Make it even more difficult by putting them on a bench where their feet don’t touch, or on an unstable surface like a peanut, therapy ball, or dynamic sitting cushion. If you want to control the challenge, you can have them sit on a therapy ball and change their position while they try to reach. This can really work on the core muscles.  Make a game out of it, see how many bubbles they can pop in a minute. Then you get some counting in too!
    • Standing – All the same ideas as above except in a standing position. You can use spots to help them keep their feet in place so they have a smaller base of support, or you can use more than one spot so you are changing their foot position while they reach. Maybe even use a twister board and have them change their foot position and each time they have to pop a bubble. You can make it more challenging by having them stand on a balance board, a bosu, a dynamic disc, on top of stepping stones, on a balance beam, the possibilities are endless. You could also have them stand in more challenging positions such as tandem stance or single leg stance while reaching.
    • Kneeling  – The same ideas apply to kneeling. You can do short kneeling, tall kneeling, half kneeling. Change the surface, change the leg position, etc.
  • Single Leg Stance – What better way to pop bubbles than with your feet? Bubbles are a great way to get kids to stomp and when they are purposefully stomping they are generally holding their foot up a little bit longer than if they are just walking. Also because they are trying to stomp on the bubble they are more deliberate and trying to find their balance. You can have them go one bubble at a time (possibly holding it on the end of the wand) or you can blow a whole bunch and have them stomp through the bubble fields. You can make it more challenging by having varied surfaces that the bubbles are on so they have to stomp up onto a step or onto a mat, or down onto the ground from a slightly elevated position.

  • Squatting – Great time to get in squatting practice, or floor to stand/stand to floor practice. If you blow the bubbles towards the floor they may attempt to get to them with their hands. Then the next time you blow them up high and have them stand up for them. As long as they are entertained, you can get a lot of reps in this way! If the bubbles aren’t going where you want then you just need to catch it on the wand and hold it down low or up high for them to try to pop.
  • Other – There a ton of other things too such as oral motor control from blowing the bubbles, and breath control for the same reason. Visual motor, Fine motor control, and coordination for dipping the wand into the bubble juice and bringing it to their mouth.

What are some of the things you work on with bubbles? What are your favorite activities?

 

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!

April 25, 2017

The Value of Peer Play

peer play

I was recently at a school working with a kiddo. This child has made huge gains and is now easily able to access her school environment. The one area that is still a slight struggle is the play structure. She is able to do all points of access on all the play structures in her school. The challenge is that she doesn’t want to. And she doesn’t want to because she thinks she can’t. Even after doing it successfully she will still not want to do certain ladders. The other challenge is that if I push her, there is a potential for a meltdown. So I have walked the fine line between challenging and stepping back, in order to boost her confidence on the various ladders of the play structure. Now don’t get me wrong, she will do the stairs, the slide, and most standard ladders. Its just when they look a little different that she doesn’t want to do them.

So, back to my story. This day, while we were heading out to the play yard for recess after doing some work in the motor room, her friend from her class ran up and asked her to come play. They usually play together but it generally involves running around and trying to tag each other. This time her friend wanted to go on the play structure. She went with him and she climbed up the stairs and then I could see him coaxing her to do the ladders with him. He got her to climb down one ladder and then patiently brought her to each ladder and stayed with her the whole way up, encouraging her and showing her how he did it. There were times she would only go up about two steps and then come back down and run away. He was able to run up to her and bring her back in a way that she was still having fun and laughing, that I wouldn’t have been able to do. She didn’t realize he was making her work, she just saw it as playing with her friends.

Its moments like this that I love being able to step back and observe the kids I work with interacting with their peers. This interaction was just as, if not more important, than the time I spent with her.

What are ways you encourage peer play and then step back and let them go?

March 5, 2017

Monkey Bars

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 12:00 am
Tags: , , , , ,

We get a lot of kids who want to get better at monkey bars. Its something that their friends and classmates are doing with ease and they are struggling back at the first monkey bar, or having to have someone help them across.  Here are some ways we have found to help them:

  1. Get used to swinging/holding onto one bar. This could look like holding onto the first monkey bar and letting their feet swing once, twice, three times, or more.  Or have them hold onto an overhead bar for a count of X before they drop down to the support surface.  This gets their hands and arms used to gripping onto the bar and supporting their weight, as well as the feeling of having their feet unsupported
  2. Use a trapeze. We have a small trapeze that we let our kids swing on.  Some of them struggle with the core strength to pick their feet up off the ground to swing.  We have remedied that by putting the trapeze close to a wall and using a large therapy ball or peanut.  We have them hold onto the trapeze and help them get their feet onto the ball.  They then get to push off and swing back and forth as many times as they can.  They begin to start trying to get their own feet on the ball which supports their core strengthening.
  3. Knee walking or walking. We are lucky enough to be able to recreate monkey bars indoors and we have a treatment table that we can put under it.  We could also use a balance beam or any other elevated surface so that their feet are supported while they traverse the monkey bars.  We then have them work on reaching through with their hands so that only one hand goes onto each bar.  This lets them practice the coordinated movement of reaching through with their hands, and looking at the next bar, without the added strain of supporting their own body weight.
  4. Swing through. I know reaching through to the next bar so that only one hand is on a bar at a time may seem harder, but we have found it to help the kids we work with.  When they get two hands onto the same bar their tendency is to turn off their core.  This stops any momentum they have going and have to generate the energy all over again to move to the next bar.  By swinging through and only putting one hand on each bar they are working on the efficient use of momentum and keeping their core engaged which decreases the work on their hands and arms.
  5. Practice, practice, practice. Lots and lots of repetitions of all of these techniques as well as just going across the bars.

I don’t want you to think we forgot about core and upper extremity strengthening, because we didn’t.  We focus on those areas as well, but I limited this post to working on the actual monkey bars.

What are ways you have successfully worked on monkey bars with kids?

December 14, 2009

The Importance of Playing

Playing is an important part of childhood development.  In fact, it could be said that playing is the job of a child.  Unfortunately, in society today we are so busy that we look to avoid what can be perceived as  a waste of time.  This is actually far from the truth.  According to this article there are several key points to playing that may not be considered when it is being replaced by an ‘educational’ activity.  These points are as follows:

  • Play allows a child to be ‘in charge’
  • Play allows a child to learn about their world by looking at cause and effect as one way
  • Play builds self-esteem
  • Play builds social skills
  • Playing with parents helps a child develop superior social skills
  • Play allows an opportunity for a child to work out their feelings
  • Play helps with language development
  • Play allows a child to grow (even beyond their years) by using pretend
  • Play stimulates your child’s creativity

This site provides several articles on childhood play and one of the articles lists  some tips on how to make the most of play time with your child.

  • Follow your child’s lead, it doesn’t have to be the ‘right’ way to use they toy, they may have a new way
  • Go slowly.  Try not to show your child how something works everytime, the key is to provide just enough help so that the frustration doesn’t get overwhelming
  • Read your child’s signals, it can tell you what activities they prefer
  • Play it again!  The more a child practices a new skill through repetition and master’s it the more likely they are to take on new challenges and therefore continue learning.

In addition, it discusses the importance of ‘rough and tumble’ play in infants and toddlers.  In infants this looks like touching, laughing, and holding while in toddlers it involves climbing on the furniture and on people, tossing kids in the air, running, jumping, chasing, wrestling, crashing into pillows and piles of blocks, kicking balls, throwing things, etc.  Some benefits of this type of play are:

  • emotional such that your child is having fun, enjoying themselves and life, releasing energy, reducing tension and practicing self-expression
  • social such that is encourages cooperation, sharing, turn taking, conflict resolution, development of leadership skills, control of impulses and aggressive behavior
  • educational by experimenting and taking risks, practicing skills, building self confidence and self esteem, enhancing communication skills, developing persistence and promoting attention regulation

In Topics in Pediatrics, published by the American Physical Therapy Association it warns to never underestimate the power of play.  In play a child uses their higher order thinking skills, and as an adult if we are playing with them there is a balance where we become ‘encouraging playmates.’  This means that we get to be ‘encouraging playmates.’  The terms Free Play and Therapeutic Play were also further looked at.

Free Play is spontaneous, intrinsically motivating and self-regulating.  This type of play encourages and enables a child to explore their capabilities, experiment with objects, make decisions, study cause and effect relationships, learn persistence and realize consequences.  In addition it can help a child to cope with anxiety, frustration and failure.

Therapeutic Play is used to provide motivation, get the child’s attention, and provide practice for motor and functional skills.  It is a tool to promote sensory processing, perceptual abilities and cognitive development.

On Sunday December 20th in the Bay Area there is a radio show with a call in segment looking specifically at the importance of play for childhood development.

Let Kids Play is a site devoted to encouraging play in children, including kids with disabilities.  In their newsletter this week they talk about the initiative that is being spearheaded by the NFL, United Way and President Obama to get the message out about the importance of playing.

Locally in the Bay Area Palo Alto is creating an accessible playground for all ages.

In summary, play is critical for children to develop many skills.  In addition to promoting gross motor skills it also encourages creativity, role playing, study of cause and effect, how to deal with failure such that persistence occurs. Play is also a great way to encourage repetition to the point of mastery, it makes learning fun.  On top of all that it is a great chance for you to interact with your child to let them take the lead and see what they can teach you!

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