Starfish Therapies

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

  • 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?

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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.

November 4, 2017

What Contributes To Your Child’s Balance?

balance beam 1

There are three main components that make up a person’s balance. These include: vision, somatosensation, and our vestibular system. These components need to work seamlessly together in order to allow both adults and children to maintain their balance in all different environments and scenarios.

 

Vision is pretty simple: what you’re able to see with your eyes allows you to keep your balance. You may notice that your young child needs to look down more frequently, especially in newer environments. Somatosensation is what we are able to feel, and particularly important for balance is what we are able to feel with our feet. This comes in handy for walking across uneven surfaces, such a grass or dirt. Our proprioceptive receptors are able to detect changes in terrain and accommodate accordingly. Finally, our vestibular system is what is located in our inner ear. This system allows us to detect changes in movement and motion, and accommodate accordingly.

 

If one component of balance is unavailable for use, the other two must compensate for this loss. Take vision for example: When you are walking at night or in the dark, your vision is at a disadvantage, and therefore, the vestibular and proprioceptive systems have to compensate for the corresponding loss of visual input. Many people, children included, may tend to over-rely on vision, particularly if the other two components aren’t functioning properly. It is therefore essential to ensure that all three components are contributing to one’s balance.

 

An example of the development of the somatosensory component is evident in young children when they are first learning to stand. You may remember your child rocking back and forth from their feet to their heels. This allows the child to gain knowledge of their limits of stability, and is also providing essential somatosensory input. They will learn to associate the feeling of being too far on their toes with a loss of balance, as well as going too far back on their heels. This discovery play is essential for all children, and helps to develop a sense of what appropriate balance feels like!

 

The vestibular system becomes essential for maintaining balance during movement.  The development of this system can be enhanced by encouraging  your growing child to participate in activities that involve movement—such as swinging, jumping, and playing catch!

 

It is essential to encourage kids to explore and discover their balance! Some activities that encourage balance development include: standing on one foot, walking along narrow surfaces (such as along curbs), jumping off higher surfaces, standing with their eyes closed, and walking along uneven or unsteady surfaces (such as grass or tan bark or over pillows at home).

Here are some older blog posts that address activities that can work on balance!

October 29, 2017

Core Workout: Hungry Hippos meets Wreck it Ralph

I happened to walk by another one of my therapists using a really fun and creative way to work on core strength with kids. I know I have done my share of walkouts over a ball or peanut with a kiddo but this was so much more fun. In addition to working on the core, it also works on upper extremity strength, shoulder stability, and motor planning.

She helped to stabilize his feet on the ground while both of his hands were on a scooter board. There were several bowling pins set to the front and to an angle from the kiddo. He had to hold his core tight while pushing the scooter board out to knock over the bowling pin and then bring the scooter board back. The goal was to see how many he could knock over at a time. They had a target number and he ‘won’ that round if he hit the target number. You can always tell when a game is fun when they want to do more rounds even though they say on one break ‘this is hard.’ I’m pretty sure I would have trouble doing even one repetition!

Here is a brief video of the activity.

Has anyone else tried any other variations of this? We’d love to hear about them.

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!
IMG_5195
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!
IMG_5194
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.

October 8, 2017

Dribbling a Ball

IMG_5143

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?

September 29, 2017

Balance and Vestibular System Ideas

balance
Balance is an important part of movement and safety and is a requirement for every day activities. Balance can involve keeping two feet on the floor, or even standing on one foot. There are many activities that require balancing on one leg. Some of these are: running, stairs, kicking, and walking in varied directions.
Try these activities to improve your little one’s balance today:
  • Popping bubbles: Have your child stand on one leg, and use the other foot to try and pop a bubble.
  • Kicking a ball: Practice standing on one foot for 5-10 seconds prior to kicking the ball to your partner.
  • Balance beam: Make your own balance beam by using a pool noodle. Practice walking up and back. If this gets too easy, walk backwards!
Some of our older blog posts that address balance are:
The vestibular system is one of our key components of balance and helps individuals of all ages maintain visual stability. Children may experience deficits with their vestibular system for many reasons, and these deficits can impact their ability to actively participate in age appropriate activities and recreation. Here are some ideas for stimulating your child’s vestibular system:

September 21, 2017

Wheelbarrow Walking

wheelbarrow walking

Do any of you remember doing wheelbarrow races as a child? I do! I remember thinking it was hysterical that someone was holding my feet and I was racing someone else on my hands. Well, as much fun as that was, wheelbarrow walking is actually a great tool to incorporate with kids to help them get and stay strong.

Wheelbarrow walking works on strengthening the arms and the core. It can also support coordinated activity because of the need to walk reciprocally on their hands, while keeping their head up to see where they are going, and keeping the core muscles turned on so that the person holding their feet can better support them.

I am a big fan of multi-piece toys such as puzzles and shape sorters. They naturally build repetition into an activity. For instance, you can put the puzzle at one end and the pieces at another end. Place one puzzle piece on your child’s back just like they were a wheelbarrow picking up a load. Then have them walk on their hands to the other end to put the piece in the puzzle. Turn around and head back for the next piece. Keep repeating until all the pieces are replaced.

So how do you vary this by child? That’s easy!

  1. Distance to walk – Start with shorter distances. If they are doing really well you can increase the distance by moving the puzzle board just a little further away.
  2. Number of repetitions – Start with carrying just one piece back at a time. If they seem to be tiring, start adding more than one piece to the wheelbarrow. This way they still complete the puzzle but you have decreased the number of repetitions.
  3. Where you are holding them – The closer to their arm pits you provide support, the easier it is for them. The closer to their ankles that you provide support, the harder it is for them. Just like goldilocks and the three bears, you want to hold them in just the right spot. This means that they can walk on their hands without letting their belly sag towards the ground. If you see their belly sagging (or back arching) you may want to move closer to their arm pits. Once they have mastered keeping their core strong, you can slowly move closer towards the ankles.

There are other variations to make this fun besides just completing a puzzle or a shape sorter. Here are a few ideas I had:

  1. Treasure hunt – Start with a treasure list and have the items hid in the room that you are in. Have them walk on their hands to collect the treasure. They can hold the items in the ‘wheelbarrow’ while they collect each of them.
  2. Race track – Create a race path that is clearly marked and use a stop watch to see how fast they can get around the race track. If they have to pause on the track it’s like taking a pit stop. Clearly, they’ll want to take less pit stops to get faster times. Be careful they aren’t going so fast that they start to sag at their core.
  3. Staying in place – Rather than walking on their hands, have them assume the position and put papers with different colors or letters or numbers in front and to the side of them. Call out a color (or number or letter) and have them use their hand to touch it. You can get tricky by telling them what hand to touch it with (similar to twister).
  4. Going backwards – You can do almost any of the above ideas backwards. It’s a great way to make the activity novel. You can also combine forward and backwards to make it extra tricky!

Since you are the one that will be helping, you want to make sure to take care of your back as well. Be careful that you aren’t bending over to support them. Use a rolling stool or a scooter board, or walk on your knees (but I would recommend knee pads if you are going to be doing this a lot).

September 13, 2017

Single Leg Stance

We often have parents come in and ask for us to help their child be able to stand on one foot better. Usually they have heard that this is a skill that all children should be able to do. But why? What does standing on one foot help with? Here are some of the skills that are improved when single leg stance improves:

  • Going up and down stairs
  • Kicking a ball
  • Stepping over obstacles
  • Getting dressed
  • Standing up from the floor
  • Hopping
  • Skipping
  • Walking with a narrow base of support (i.e. on a balance beam)

 

So what are some activities that could help your child to improve this skill? Here are a few:

  • Toe taps – Place a spot in front of your child and have them tap their toe on it. Make it a game by calling out numbers to see how many they can do. Or switch it up between left and right foot. You can do this on the ground, or raise the height to make it more challenging. You can also move the target from in front to diagonal to the side. ToeTaps
  • Foot on a ball – Find a ball and have your child try to hold one foot on top of it and maintain their balance. You can time them to see how long they can go for, or have two people doing it at once to see who can last the longest. Make sure to switch up feet. Softer, squishy balls are easier to balance while larger, firmer balls are harder to balance on.
  • Popping bubbles – This one is fun because what child doesn’t love bubbles? Blow bubbles and have them try to stomp on them to pop them! SLS bubbles
  • Stepping over obstacles – Have your child try to cross a room while stepping over obstacles in their way. You can use small books, pool noodles, toys, groceries, or anything that you can think of. Shorter and narrower are easier than taller and wider. Also make sure it is a stable obstacle and not a ball that will roll if they bump into it. You could also use painters tape to make obstacles across your hallway so they have to step over varied heights of tape.
  • Yoga – Tree pose is one of our favorites. Kids like to imitate it and they can ‘cheat’ by putting their foot down close to their stance foot if the knee is too challenging. single leg stance

What are some ways you work on single leg stance?

September 4, 2017

Fun with Painter’s Tape

Painters Tape

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!

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