Starfish Therapies

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?

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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?

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?

 

May 14, 2012

Encouraging Standing on One Foot

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 7:17 pm
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Standing on one foot is a common skill that kids should develop.  it starts to generally emerge during the second year.  Standing on one foot involves a child’s strength, balance and overall body awareness.  It helps with skills like skipping, hopscotch, hopping on one foot, getting dressed while standing up, going up and down stairs, and any other skill that involves a child having to lift one of their feet off the ground while the other one stays on the ground.  As kids are able to stand for longer periods of time on one foot you will see their walking become more ‘mature’ because they can take a longer step as well as narrow their base of support.  They will also begin to run more efficiently.  Here are some ways that we have found to encourage standing on one foot:

  • Tree Pose –  I found I was having a hard time getting kids to understand the idea of holding their foot up in the air and not putting it back down immediately so one of my kids parents had made a comment that it looked like ‘tree pose’ so I started incorporating that in.  I would show them the pose and they would try to imitate me (now, I am not a yoga person so my tree pose basically looks like my putting my foot up so it is resting on my other leg).  The kids would actually try to hold it a little longer because they were trying to imitate.  We started adding counting in to work on progressing the time out.  Also, because they had their foot resting against their other leg, they were giving themselves some extra stabilization.  I would help at the hands if needed but I tried to see what they could do on their own.  Once the kids understood the concept of tree pose I carried it over for other activities.  When I was trying to work on hopping on one foot it became ‘tree pose-hop’, or when I was working on hopscotch we said ‘two feet, jump to tree pose, jump to two feet’.  You can also change out the visual you give them.  You can try flamingo if you want for one foot standing as well.
  • Stomp Rocket – The stomp rocket is one of our favorite toys and it works great with standing on one foot.  We will often let the kids get the hang of the stomp rocket first and then have them try to hold their foot up for longer periods of time before they are allowed to stomp down on the toy.  They may need a hand hold to try to get the hang of it but eventually and will slowly increase the amount of time that they can stand on one foot.
  • Toe Taps – If you put a step (or elevated surface) in front of a kiddo and have them tap their foot on the surface and bring it back down, they will work on their single leg stability.  The higher the surface the harder it is for them.  You can play around with moving it to the side or behind as well and see what the results are.  I would start lower and keep increasing the height as they get better at it.  You can put targets on the step and have them try to squish bugs or pictures or have a bowling pin they have to topple over with a light touch.
  • Kicking a Ball – Kicking a ball is a good way to start getting a kiddo to purposefully stand on one foot. In the beginning they will try to walk into the ball but if you only let them move the kicking foot they have to actually pick the one foot up and leave the other foot on the ground.

What are some ways you have found to work on standing on one foot?

February 6, 2012

When all things aren’t equal – Legs

I recently had a parent ask about ideas to help her child who has weakness on one side of her body more than the other side.  I figured I would write about some of the ideas that I use although please be aware that there are a ton of ideas and it depends on the developmental stage your child is at and specifically what skills they are working on.  For this case I am going to give ideas for kids that are working on skills such as walking or stair climbing.  I’m going to look at ideas for encouraging the use of both legs more equally. (In order to differentiate the legs I will talk about them as the weaker and stronger leg, hopefully this does not offend anyone)

Climbing – I love having kids crawl up and down steps.  This is a great way to work on both sides of the body together but still encourage them to activate the side that is weaker.  It works on developing reciprocal activity (which is needed for walking and crawling) as well as motor planning, coordination and leg strength (especially the butt muscles).  Make sure your kiddo is switching legs as they try to crawl up, using one knee on the next step up and then shifting their weight onto that leg as they bring the other leg up.  Make sure they are shifting their weight onto the leg that is leading so that they are practicing weight shifting as well as taking maximal advantage of the opportunity to develop leg strength.  They may need a little help especially if it is the weaker side.  Make it motivating by putting a favorite toy a few steps above them or using a toy with multiple pieces that they need to go up and down to get all the pieces (i.e. puzzles).

Up and Down Hill – Walking up and down inclines can also work to help your kiddo develop strength equally on both sides.  Especially on the way up they have to engage their butt muscles in order to keep their balance and on the way down they need to maintain control so they don’t crash.  You can have them walk or crawl up and down the hills.

Step Ups and Downs – If your child is standing and walking already then working on step ups and downs is a great activity.  I like to use smaller stairs and encourage the kiddo to go up leading with their weaker leg and come down leading with their stronger leg.  This way the leg that isn’t as strong gets to develop strength and power as it lifts the kiddo up to the next step and it develops control as it lowers the kiddo down onto the next step.  If your kiddo can ‘cheat’ while on the stairs then find a few phone books you can tape together or a step stool that is at a height that is challenging but they can have success (usually with a little support).  When I work on these kind of skills I pretend we are going over a mountain and usually I have bean bag animals or puzzle pieces on one side and their ‘home’ on the other side so that they think they have a purpose in going over the step over and over.  Same rules apply, stepping up you put the weaker leg on the step and going down you leave the weaker leg on the step.

Single Leg Stance – Now this can be challenging if your kiddo can’t fully stand or balance on one leg by themselves yet.  Here are some ideas to help that skill evolve as well as work on keeping their weight on the weaker leg.  You can have your kiddo stand with the stronger leg up on a slight height like a phone book or a step stool and play with them.  If they have challenged balance you may need to stand close by.  You could have them stand like this while playing with magnets on the refrigerator, drawing at an easel, playing games on an ipad, etc.  Just make sure they aren’t leaning on the support surface too much!  Another way to encourage single leg stance and shifting onto their weaker leg is to use a stomp rocket.  The stomp rocket is a toy that is so much fun!  Have them use their stronger leg to stomp on it which makes them have to stand on their weaker leg.  As they get better at this you can have them hold their foot up for a count of (1,2,3,etc) before they are allowed to stomp.  Depending on how good their balance is you may have to give them a slight hand (not too much support) while they balance before stomping.

Kicking a ball – Have them practice kicking a ball.  You can have the ball be standing still or it can be rolling towards them (depending on their level).  In order to pick their foot up to kick the ball they will need to balance on their weaker leg.

The above ideas all can help with stability and strength on their weaker leg.  If you are looking to have them work on lifting their foot more with things like walking then you can reverse some of the activities I listed or you can also try some of the ideas I talked about for improving foot clearance.

Please share other ideas!

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